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I Like Stuff

Posted on: Monday, 23 April 2012

When you're about to move, you need to start looking at things carefully. So says my mum, anyway. You need to have a clear out. 'Can I live without it?' you must ask yourself. 'Do I want to pack it and ship it? Do I want to pay to put it in storage*?'

*pester parents to keep it in their garage for me.

I like stuff. I always have. From the age of 7 or so I curated an impressively extensive collection of animal figurines which continued embarassingly far into my teens. If only I'd had the foresight to hang onto it; my dressing table is really missing out on a chipped squirrel. Really. I was physically pained by the donation of a stuffed hippo (enormous, useless) to a hospital play area. I almost made my mum go back for it...but didn't. I'm telling you; a life lesson was learned right there.

What I'm trying to say is, I'm emotionally attached to things. Silly things. And I'm obsessive about lists and bits of paper and...well, crap, really. Crap in a really neat pile, though. Love a bit of a contradiction, me.

I go into other people's houses and marvel at how minimally they manage to live. But I just can't manage it myself. Where are their (really neat) piles of crap? Where are their envelopes with doodles and To Do lists scrawled on the back? Where are their ornaments?

We had Harry from a removal company around last week. I walked around the house with him pointing out things that we loved, things that we wanted to take. The big things, I realised, we're not so bothered about. We're leaving the (hideous SCS) sofa (bought with a hangover on a Very Bad Day - that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it) and the armchair. We're leaving beds. On the other hand, though, we're taking a brown anglepoise lamp that Adam's friend fished out of a skip (thank God!) and some duckling ornaments that I bought at a carboot sale for 40p when I was ten (I LOVE them). We have postcards stuck everywhere. Things hanging up and that. It's all about the bits.

This fixation with STUFF is perfectly exemplified by the fact that I bought a typewriter at the weekend. A fecking TYPEWRITER. And a wooden sledge (to put TOWELS on in a BATHROOM, all right? It has a perfectly valid function, OK?). And a little yellow milk jug with a lovely little handle (but then I put the other two milk jugs into the car boot sale pile in the cellar, so again, totally FINE). And I loved them all. I was delighted with my purchases. I left the Antiques Bar near Leamington Spa hugging myself with joy/like a loon thinking of my booty (booty in the piratey-treasure sense of the word. Ho ho.)

But even after a mammoth kitchen-clearing-out-session (Bedders: Shall we wipe out the cupboard bottoms? Laura: Are you my mother?), there's an awful lot of sorting to do. What to keep? What to store? What to ebay? What to chuck into the car boot sale pile? I'm really, really trying. Honestly. I told you about the milk jugs, didn't I? I get the feeling it's going to be a loooong process...

Favourite Weekend Purchase

Posted on: Sunday, 22 April 2012

Just what I need when I'm moving to another country. Couldn't resist, though.

Things that make me VERY excited.

Posted on: Saturday, 21 April 2012

So I bought a bicycle. Afer all my banging on about how wonderful it would be. A folding bike. A bloody Brompton.

And it is in sage green (like this one) and makesmewanttodieitissoveryverybeautiful.

I went on a 'test-ride' around Leeds station (and a policewoman rolled her eyes at me for being on the pavement). I picked every little detail myself out of a catalogue. Oh my goodness.

Now I just have to wait ten weeks for them to make the bloody thing. Gaaaah.


Posted on: Wednesday, 18 April 2012

My favourite Hay-on-Wye purchase of the weekend.

The Irish, Sean O'Faolain.

On Gaelic:

"It has now gone underground; it is, so to speak, being forgotten consciously; it still beats like a great earth-throb in the subconsciousness of the race. The Irish language is thus becoming the runic language of modern Ireland. Only a dwindling few can think overtly in it; all of us can, through it, touch, however dimly, a buried part of ourselves of which we are normally unaware; through Gaelic we remember ancestrally, are again made very old and very young."

On Irish Nationalism:

"Ireland has learned, as Americans say, the hard way. She is like a brilliant but arrogant boy whose very brilliance acts as a dam against experience; who learns everything quickly, except experience. Our Nationalism has been our Egoism. It was our lovely shining youth. Like all the appurtenances of youth it was lovely in its day. After its day is passed to attempt to wear it is a form of 'Death in Venice', a middle-aged man raddling his cheeks to keep his youthful glow in times of plague. Ireland has clung to her youth, indeed to her childhood, longer and more tenaciously than any other country in Europe, resisting Change, Alteration, Reconstruction to the very last."

"I'm not homophobic but..."

Posted on: Tuesday, 17 April 2012

I've been back in the homeland, a.k.a. the North East.

I went out for some food with some school friends. I say food. Food was consumed. Some wine, too. Well, mainly wine. And so the conversation weaved through its usual course: gossip, gossip, such-and-such from school, ooo-where-did-you-hear-that? Facebook.

Ah yes, good old Facey B. Accomplice in so many tales of social woe.

Alex spoke up: "Did you see that __________ posted a Coalition for Marriage petition on his wall? I've deleted him."

BOOM. That's the sound of my head exploding.

via pinterest

Now, don't go getting any ideas that this is some yob I went to school with and keep on my Friends list so that I have a stash of grammatically dodgy status updates to give students to correct a'la Wayne Rooney's tweets.

This man is intelligent. He's a nice guy, actually. I like him - or should that be liked him? I don't know; I'm confused. I feel like I imagine my dog used to when it saw another animal on the television and tried to go behind it to find its little friend. I just don't get it. No matter how I try to understand it, I can't. It makes my head ache.

Seriously? You think gay people shouldn't be allowed to get married? Really? Actually REALLY?

via pinterest

I went onto Facebook to find the link. I almost didn't believe it was there. Sure enough, there it was in black and white (or green and white, actually - I'm still trying to figure out the rationale behind that colour combination - 'Nah, red's not good.' I reckon the PR manager said. 'Too many associations with burning in hell. Black? Nah. Makes it totes obvs that we think gays are evil. Green? Green's good. Like environmentalists. Caring. Non-threatening. Not right-wing nutters. Let's go with green.')

I had a look at the Coalition for Marriage website. DON'T PLAY POLITICS WITH MARRIAGE it thunders vociferously. ONE MAN + ONE WOMAN screams the accompanying headline in block capitals.

There are four key columns to the thinly-veiled homophobic outcry 'argument'.

1) Marriage is unique.
2) No need to redefine.
3) Profound consequences.
4) Speak up.

Now, the gist of these four arguments is as follows - I'll save you the neutral rhetoric they employ and cut straight to the chase:

1) Marriage's been around for ages, just like sexism and famine in Africa and the Antiques Roadshow. 
2) Those gays got all their rights when civil partnerships came in. Why redefine? (err, hang on, paging the Logic Police! Can't we just reverse this argument? Why NOT redefine, then?)

3) Straight people will be sidelined. Oh, you might think you're safe, straight boy.But just you wait till gay marriage comes in. They'll be teaching your kids about gayness in schools. They'll take your job and giving it to a gay person who DRESSES BETTER THAN YOU.  

4) Their piece-de-Daily-Mail-resistence is that people should be able to air their (wholly irrational and sinister) views about gay marriage without being constrained by political correctness. Okey-dokey-pig-in-a-pokey. 

Alongside these four cornerstones of logic and reason (!) are some sneery comments about 'politicising marriage'. Yes, politicians probably DO sense a positive PR opportunity in speaking favourably about gay marriage. Yes, they ARE probably attempting to distract us from our crappy economy. And? Is that a good enough reason not to talk about gay marriage? Because there are other things on the political agenda? 

via pinterest

I could go on (believe me, I could). But Martin Robbins does it rather well here. And a letter from Fiona Apple has summed up her view recently on the lovely Letters of Note blog - 'Love is love, and there will never be too much.'

OK, so I'm Catholic. I've written about that before. And despite my sporadic church attendance, being a Catholic is important to me - even though these days I'd be lying if I didn't say it's as much of a cultural thing as a faith thing. And, of course, I know that Catholicism isn't gay marriage's biggest fan. But - wrongly, I now realise - I'd assumed it was one of those things the Church reconciled itself to just about giving up on, like Absolutely No Sex Before Marriage, Young Lady/Man! and No Birth Control For Me, Thank You! I thought it was just another embarrassing admission they'd swept under the carpet along with paedophilia scandals and harbouring Nazis and not believing in dinosaurs. Hush hush, we've done away with that now.

via pinterest. i needed some light relief by this point. 

But nope. It seems like there are people who still think like this.

And as for the Facey friend? My finger's itching over the delete button, too. But then what does that achieve? I don't know. I feel angry - no, angry's too strong a word; I don't have any fire in me for a huge blazing row. I'm irritated, maybe. Frustrated by people's...narrow-mindedness. Confused. Why do you care what kind of sex other people are having and with whom? Because that's what it essentially boils down to. A man living with another man or a woman living with another woman and doing the gardening and watching X-factor and OH MY GOD THEY'RE GOING TO BED TOGETHER. 

So, yeah. Irritated. Confused. But mainly I think I'm just a little bit sad.


Collective Nouns

Posted on: Saturday, 14 April 2012

The lovely Penny sent me this picture from Test Space in the Corn Exchange, Leeds.

I should get one, eh?

It got me thinking about my love of collective nouns. One of my teachers at school had a huge poster of collective nouns on her classroom wall and I bloody loved it. It resurfaced in my NQT year when another teacher in my department managed to lay her hands on one - needless to say, I was hugely jealous.

I love them. Hence the blog title - although owls are a little 'trendy' these days (there are a LOT of patchwork cushions about), I do like their big eyes and their sombre bookish faces.

Birds tend to have great collective nouns. A murder of crows, for example. An exaltation of larks. A squabble of seagulls. But this website has some super (and lesser-known) ones.

My favourite? I love the Shakespearian tone of 'a cowardice of curs'. The playfulness of 'a mischief of mice'. Anyone for 'a leash of greyhounds'? And the sheer lunacy of 'a blessing of unicorns' appeals, too.


Insult of Choice


Posted on: Friday, 13 April 2012

In time-honoured Bedford Tradition (see here, here and here) we have spent the holidays in a country cottage/B&B drinking wine and eating party food.

This time, we've been to Hay-on-Wye.

I've wanted to visit there for possibly my whole entire existence and now I've been. Hurrah. Another of life's ambitions fulfilled.

Now all I need is to go on a helicopter ride with Frank Bruno a'la my Jim'll Fix It letter of 1989 and I'll die a happy girl.  

Hay-on-Wye is a town that's known mainly for its literary festival, where Guardian-reading liberals descend once a year in droves to wax lyrical about books 'n' stuff. You're probably aware. It's lovely. It has a Herefordshire postcode but is very much IN WALES. The woman in Flow was quite adament about that. They have the most amazing rang of kooky independent shops (kooky in a good way, not an irritating Phoebe-from-Friends way). They also have a anti-supermarket campaign that Bedders was pretty keen on.

The beard-knitter ratio was pretty high. The vegetarian ratio was even higher. We drank real ale and ate cake, I tried on a People Tree dress and we purchased some wee tumblers to drink wine out of European-stylee.

And the bookshops. Oh Lordy, the bookshops.

The Hay Cinema Bookshop is a NEVERENDING LABYRINTH OF JOY. It has several levels, wooden floors, that authentic musty smell and feels like it might just welcome dogs*. Richard Booth's Bookshop has plants and posters, battered leather armchairs, a cafe and a CINEMA. Barnabee Books (no website, but this person's obviously a fan) specialises in old Ladybird books.

'When did we forget about books like THIS?' I asked Bedders. 'The People Who Help Us series! I had these! I totally forgot they existed!'

Do you remember these first time around?

It's the 80s, and yet there's a male nurse on the cover! Go, Ladybird!

I loved Ladybird books. I cannot believe I'd forgotten them. I had squillions. And googling 'Ladybird books' has proven that spoofsters are a fan of them, too. This blogpost raised a larf ('How It's Done: Surfing For Porn' = NICE). 

Anyone remember this? It was probably my favourite:

The soft cardboard covers, the smell, the pixelated covers - ah, man.

What are you feeling nostalgic about?

I want to ride my bicycle!

Posted on: Thursday, 12 April 2012

Now read that in a Queen-style falsetto.

Thank you. As if there was ever any other way.

T'is the holidays. School holidays can only mean one thing: SORTING YOUR LIFE RIGHT OUT. And one of the tasks I've undertaken during these holidays is to THINK ABOUT MOVING TO BRUSSELS.

Just think about it, mind. Not actually do anything about it. Well, that's a partial lie - I've done a couple of things. I've made some lists (love list-making, me) and I've thought about riding a bicycle.

You know, it's going to be great. In my imagination, my hair's flowing over my shoulders like a silken shawl. I'm navigating the cobbles with the expertise of a mountain goat. I sweep around the corner, park up outside the local Boulangerie and - after some witty French banter with Baker Jean, naturellement - buy one of those baguettes to put into my wicker basket.

Oh, it's going to be super! And it's definitely not going to be arduous or sweaty riding the aforementioned bicycle! Nope! Not at all! I've even got a bicycle - a totally inappropriate 1940s one with dodgy brakes!

Gee, I can hardly wait.

You see, one of the major perks of going to live in Brussels is that we won't need a car. My school is 20 minutes tops from the city centre and is on a major tram route. Hurrah. Bedders - who currently loves his LIFE if his annual mileage comes in at less than 30,000 - will no longer be grabbing 40 winks in laybys at various points along the A1.

I think this calls for a bit of Pinterest bike-perving.

Seriously, though, I need a hybrid (I think). And Brussels is pretty flat (I think). So all should be good, yeah?

Brummie Love.

We were lucky enough to be invited to the lovely Susie and Maurice's wedding over the Easter weekend.

Susie and I were NQTs at a school in Leeds and worked together for three years, which passed in a whirlwind of Ofsted, car-sharing and house parties. Then I left for another school and she departed for far more exotic purposes: travelling the world. She took on a job in a Birmingham pub to raise some much-needed cash, met Maurice behind the bar, fell head over heels....and went travelling anyway. Those nine months she was away, said Maurice, made them.

Maurice is a Brummie with a penchant for singing UB40 on karaoke. He also said that he was happier marrying Susie than when Birmingham City won the cup. Aw. Susie is a GOOD EGG - like, a lovely, hippyish, here's-my-last-fiver, I-really-want-to-come-on-your-hen-do-but-I'm-skint-so-I'll-get-the-Megabus kinda girl. It was a totally ace, unpretentious, WE LOVE EACH OTHER kind of day. Susie and Maurice loving each other, that is - not Susie and I. That's be weird. Huzzah for them.

She's also an art teacher whose talent is sickening. Sickening, I tell thee. Are these not the most adorable place settings you've ever seen?

And she made her own bouquet and table flowers out of origami paper. Grand, eh?

*flower shamelessly stolen from table.

We've been on holiday to Herefordshire for a few days. Photos and whatnot to follow.


Posted on: Monday, 2 April 2012

So. We have been to Brussels this weekend for a bit of a scout around da hood. Da hood we might live in. In September. Argggh. 

FYI, that was the noise of excitement/strangulation. 

Oh, you haven't been paying attention? You don't obsess over the minutiae of my life? How very dare you. Allow me to fill you in. 

1) Bedders got a job in Brussels. A supremely wonderful job in agricultural policy. Cue the Halleluiah Choirs. 

2) Then I got a job in Brussels. Like, last week. I still need to explain more about that. I will.  Cue the Jurassic Park theme music

Suddenly our Whole Ruddy Life has changed and I'm having all of these idealistic notions of parquet flooring and open-plan living and roof terraces and big windows and beer in the park ('...because that's what they DO in France!', I proclaimed last weekend. 'Err, you're in Belgium,' Bedders retorted), writing a book and Jaysus wouldn't that be marvellous? 

So yes. We were there this weekend. And amongst everything else I've been doing (it really has been crazymaniatastic in Bedfordville), I HAVE DOWNLOADED HIPSTAMATIC. 

Yes, I am well aware I'm about fifty billion years after everyone else. Seriously. When I got my iPod shuffle in 2010 I thought I was the cutting edge of hipness. Alas, I no longer labour under that illusion.  

So here are a few Hipstamatic treats from this weekend. 

Clockwise from top left. The Grand Place. Tulips, obvs. We bought Clare some winter roses and anenomes and then left them in the apartment. Doh. I am the worst sister ever. I am SO excited about having a bike. My new school is 6 miles away from the neighbourhood we're looking at and I'm having (perhaps slightly unrealistic but nevertheless delightful) visions of cycling to work, geeky helmet and all. War memorial. After my Pat Barker-inspired WWI musings I looked at them with fresh eyes. 

Ah. Now. If you ever go to Brussels (and you MUST, it's lovely), you need to go to this shop. The owner is impossibly chic and has impeccable taste (aside from her blatant love of wicker fans, which I wasn't feeling so much) and you could spend a LOT of money here. We restrained ourselves to the following...

It is BEAUTY INCARNATE. Bought with wedding euros, so it's Totally. Fine. Yeah?

And these plates, which make me so happy I could cry. Nearly. They are so square and so colourful and so European. 

I hope you all have some exciting Easter plans. We have a wedding (the lovely Susie Smith will become Susie Murphy - or Smurphy. Huzzah.) and a trip to a Hertfordshire cottage. And then Wales next weekend with the ma, for what is becoming an annual pilgrimage. I think we'll leave Snowdon this time, though. 

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