Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Can You Guess What It Is Yet #2?

I hate fun fairs.

I am totally risk averse and have never been on a normal-flesh-coloured-knuckle ride, never mind a white one, in my life. At best I'll throw darts for goldfish or hook ducks for cuddly toys. Oh, and I have been known to gobble a candy floss on occasion

Also people tend to die or get injured when I'm there, so it was with some trepidation that I accepted an invitation to Alton Towers last weekend with Two Socks, Bli Guinness and Amazing Dave. 'I'm only looking at the gardens though', I warned them.

In the end, Two Socks buggered off to London with the entry vouchers, so the three of us set off for Grasmere instead.*

Led Zeppelin, Metallica and AC/DC provided the soundtrack, and I provided the packed lunch (not a picnic according to Dave, on the grounds that we didn't have a tasselled tartan travelling rug).

We headed for Easedale Tarn, trying to avoid Bli's extensive wind display, which was impossible, even upwind of him. The tarn was reached easily and we rested for a few minutes to watch a couple of brave souls taking a swim.

With time on our side, we continued upwards. At a particularly breezy and desolate spot we turned to look back down towards the tarn. It was spectacular. There wasn't another human for miles and the silence was broken only by Bli's backside.

As we scrambled back down in the warm sunshine, an impromptu dip in the Tarn to cool off was mooted. There was talk of dangling and paddling, but I insisted that only a full dip would do (unless the water was icy).

In the end, I swam, Bli waded and Dave dozed on a rock. The water was fantastic. Clear, exhilirating and shared only with a few other ducks. I felt revitalised, alive, and happier than I'd been in weeks.

Back in Grasmere we bought Sarah Nelson's famous gingerbread, which is unequivocally the best I have ever tasted and went for a couple of pints of the black stuff.

All in all a brilliant day.

We walked back to the car to head home, when I stopped in my tracks outside an art gallery, unable to believe my eyes at the sign outside.

Now, we'd already passed a shop called Rock Bottom and were disappointed that there were neither sculpted nor candied rears to be had. But this was in another league altogether.

Now I definitely don't remember climbing that, I thought, as I peered closer.

* Just as well, as there was a fatality at Alton Towers. I'm seriously jinxed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

44 Things

1. I draw smiles in my Guinness
2. I am slightly colour blind
3. I was a finalist on The Weakest Link
4. I once said I Love You to Ian Botham
5. My favourite food is sausage and mash
6. I have a phobia about balloons
7. I can do the Rubik's Cube
8. I love the perfect stolen kiss in The Wedding Singer
9. I have tiny feet
10. I carry a Mighty Sword*
11. Technology baffles me
12. I am a blood donor
13. I speak fluent french
14. I don't like tomato ketchup
15. I would love to have a tattoo
16. I rub my nose after playing a pool shot
17. Old Trafford is my favourite place in the world
18. I drink warm milk at bedtime
19. I would like to model for a life class
20. I own a set of flying ducks
21. I have medals for ballroom dancing
22. I am terrible at geography
23. I am proud to be Welsh
24. My talisman is a tiny wizard.
25. I know how deja vu works
26. I make great cheesecake
27. I remember everything
28. I am completely buoyant
29. I do not park
30. I love the Beatles
31. I hate shopping
32. I have no pain threshold
33. I once held a tarantula
34. I shared a lift with Brad Pitt on my honeymoon
35. I wish my teeth were straight
36. I cry at Coronation Street
37. I wear red underwear to football
38. I get cranky when I'm hungry
39. I know the secret of happiness
40. I hate being tickled
41. I can say the alphabet backwards
42. I like toy boys
43. I hate fun fairs
44. Today is my birthday

*Aka Swiss Army Knife

Monday, August 11, 2008


We welcome Torres and Emma - Chilean Ground Squirrels - aka Degus (or NotRats as they have recently been christened) to Friendly Drive.

JP and Tiddler have been keen to have pets for sometime since the demise of the ants and I refuse to allow evil rabbits in the house - it's bad enough just to rodentsit everybody else's. At the local garden centre they have Degus. They're like Dwarf Chinchillas on speed - about the size of rats, but with furry tails with a brush on the end.

With JP's birthday last week, we collected the two six month-old female NotRats, complete with cage, special sugar-free food, toys, hay, sawdust etc. A luxury two-storey accommodation has been set up in the sun room.

Torres and Emma appear to be settling in and will allow us to handle them, grinning all the while with their orange teeth.

The real issue is poo. They seem unwilling to go within the boundaries of the cage. Small mouselike droppings are appearing at a disturbing rate, up to 8 feet from the cage.

My main concern is how on earth they are doing it.

1. Are they presenting their backsides to the wire mesh and firing at will? Is it some kind of bizarre South American pissing contest, if you'll forgive the pun?

2. Are they spitting them, in the absence of cherry pits?

3. Have they hired a pixie cleaner to keep their luxury interior pristine?

4. Have they buried a miniature bazooka in the sawdust, smuggled in by guerrilla rodents, in preparation for defending themselves against invasion by the evil forces of rabbitdom and the poos are for practice?

5. Are they doing their business, then picking it up in their hands and throwing it, like a shot putt?

Which gives me this week's millionaire idea.

Is there a market for Animal Excrement Olympics? I could train mine by painting targets on the floor of the sun room for them to aim at, create special diets to produce perfect size/weight/aerodynamic ratios and invite the world to send contestants.

There must be a lottery grant available for this. Torres and Emma were born in the UK, so would qualify for Team GB.

We could even attract sponsorship from Flash and Domestos, or in a perfect synergy of branding - Toilet Duck

I pen my letter to the Olympic Committee for 2012 and sit back to wait for the money to roll in, all the while avoiding the far-flung dung.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Gotta Light?

As kids we camped a lot - in open fields with torches, tiny primuses and smelly ex-army sleeping bags, directly on ground sheets in little ridge tents - and LOVED it.

So last week I decided to borrow a load of camping equipment off Guide Leader, Sister in China organised the food* and the Ginger One dug out some familiar-looking rusty primuses. Our respective Little Ducks were beside themselves with excitement.

We head for Anglesey.

Guide Leader's equipment is a small 6-man tent with assorted chairs, table, airbeds, groundsheets, sleeping bags and so on. We couldn't have done it without them.

Unfortunately, 7 people and 3 dogs make for some overcrowding, and when the heavens open on Tuesday, we acquire a gazebo from the local Focus store - the cheapest, plastic one, with fake Playschool windows.

Bear in mind that we have already borrowed from other campers an electric hookup cable, fridge, swimming shorts, pint glasses, airbed stoppers and plasters.

I consider whether to spray Chez Chav on the side of the gazebo, as it nestles between high-tech pod tents and tourers with oversized awnings.

However, the Biggest Headache of the Week award goes to lighting.

On Sunday night after putting the kids to bed, Sister and I cannot get the borrowed light to work, so we sit in the tiny communal area of the tent (pre-gazebo), on folding chairs, with tins of beer in the arm rests, reading** by torchlight - his a low-beam cheapie tucked under his chins and mine a wind-up high-beam from the glove box, whose charge lasts two pages at a time.

So Monday, I set out in search of a gas lamp and some airbeds which don't go down in the night.

Monday night at dusk, we settle in the tent again, same chairs, fresh beer and Sister assembles the gas light. He burns the mantle off, replaces the glass and asks me for the gas canister.

'Gas???' I reply.

The silence echoes for a second evening to the tune of a wind-up torch.

Tuesday, I set out in search of gas, but no-one stocks the non-standard canisters for yesterday's bargain discontinued light. So on Tuesday evening we sit in the gazebo, drinking beer in the rain under the apricot glow of an brand new electric Argos table lamp - another bargain.

On Wednesday I return to camp in triumph with correct gas canisters...

.. only to discover that the Ginger One has gone home with our only lighter!

* 'I'm in Tesco - I've got beer and crisps - is there anything else we need?' - (pauses to consider) - 'No.'
** - Equal Rites - Terry Pratchett (him), The Jennifer Morgue - Charles Stross (me), if you're interested***.
*** - NB, and if you're not interested, please feel free to skip footnote #2****
**** - oh, too late - sorry.