Wednesday, 13 November 2013

i just wanted to hold you


Let's talk about books. Whilst I am not a technophobe by any means, I have never really got on board with the Kindle concept. I happily make use of my phone, tablet, pc and, at least before its demise, laptop, on a daily basis. I online bank, online shop and even did a whole masters degree online some years ago. However, there's certain things that I just don't like to digitise. I have always been a stationery geek, and although I have a backup electronic calendar I prefer the paper version in the filofax I bought myself when I started my new job, and I take comfort in writing with fountain pens, and using pretty notebooks.

I am an avid reader, or at least I was when I was younger. I dare not say I do not have the time, as this thought provoking post from Kelly recently made me recognise that not having time for something is generally quite a subjective matter. As I said in my response to the post, we seem to be a society that equates being busy and stressed with a life that is important and meaningful, and not having time to do the things we enjoy seems to be a way of quantifying how busy, and therefore how important, we are. I thought the post was right, if you want to do something, generally there are ways to make time. We decided to learn Italian recently, and now take two hours each week to go to classes. If you asked me each week to give up two hours I would undoubtedly feel it was a big commitment, but we manage to make the time, and very much enjoy it. Similarly, some people will sit and wait for an appointment, or commute and sit playing on their phone. Others see that as an opportunity to partake in a personal hobby, be that listening to audio books, or in my case, I often write (and then delete) blog posts when I am on a train.

I digress, as is my habit. What I was going to say is that I have always loved reading, and as befits my somewhat addictive, I've started so I must finish, personality, once I am engrossed in a book, it is usually finished the same day, even if it means reading until the small hours. I don't read so much recently, but more because I never know where to start with choosing some books. Reading blogs makes me realise how much reading other people do, and how well read they are, and I would like to start making time to read.

I am the proud owner of a Kindle, which The Husband bought me one Christmas. He had thought, quite reasonably, that my love of reading and my love of technology would combine into a love of e-books. He, misguidedly, thought my loud comments about not wanting a Kindle was an extreme attempt at reverse psychology, or me trying to dissuade him from buying me such an expensive present. Cue an awkward moment indeed on Christmas morning, as I laughed aloud at the Kindle box, incorrectly thinking it was a joke. He had also bought it a very beautiful case, exactly the style I would have picked, but I don't think he expected it to be more pleasing than the contents!

I do use the Kindle, mostly when travelling, and can see the value of transporting several tomes in something smaller than a magazine. I enjoy it, particularly the joy of downloading and reading books for free, especially the classics (The Husband downloaded Frankenstein for me to re-read after we saw the play). For me though, I would always choose a book. I have piles of them, shelves stacked, some unread, some with spines that are splintering from overuse. I like the weight of a book, feeling the paper, judging how much more there is to go from the thickness of the pages. I bargain between myself and the page numbers, just ten more pages, just one more chapter. I like things to be tangible, palpable, to buy a book and feel like I actually own it. Sometimes, traditional is best.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

if i had anything to say

(Travis - Something Anything)

I cannot think of anything to write. That is not strictly true. I have started this post no less than five times now. So far it has been about the following things:

The fact that this weekend has felt longer than usual and why I think that is. If anyone is interested, my hunch is that having something planned on a Friday night and something planned for a Saturday morning helps. Not very insightful, or interesting. I wince with boredom just writing those two sentences, let alone a whole post.

Following this post I have a few more things I feel like I want to say on the topic. These posts may yet materialise, but there is something I keep trying to write about the division of labour when both partners work, and also something along the lines of this reply to Harriet's comment.

Last Saturday, when things seemed to go wrong, and not quite to plan, and generally a bit disappointing all round. This post was going to include a witty take on going for bridesmaid dress fittings, which at the time I thought would make a pithy post, but now I can't really find a way to make it work. I feel guilty writing a post about the experience in tones that are anything less than positive as I feel like it would somehow be being mean to my close friend who is the bride, even though she knows nothing about this blog. The fact that she was a bridesmaid for me last year makes me also feel that I have no right to moan, even light heartedly, about the process of being a bridesmaid at all. However, the basis of the post was about the sample dresses all being in an American size 2 and 4, which means however pretty they look on the hanger they are not a becoming sight on my English rose hips. It does make one feel like a bad bridesmaid, for not being that particular brand of bony beauty that is de rigeur for bridal parties (and life in general). Furthermore there seems to be a cruel irony in the new trend of vintage tea parties alongside the dress fitting, putting biscuits and cupcakes on offer whilst showing someone lots of dresses that are too small strikes me as a weird mind game to play.

Finally, two attempts to write about a restaurant. I have a phone full of pictures of lovely food from lovely places we have eaten, but still feel too much of an amateur to actually write anything amounting to a review. After the disappointments of Saturday (and having bravely resisted the biscuits and cupcakes at the dress fitting) this was the meal that saved the day and put the smiles back on our faces. Having stumbled upon it when the place we planned to go was full (told you it was one of those days),they were obviously busy too but rearranged some bookings to fit us in, and we ended up on a cracking table by the window. Having arrived damp, dreary and having had a decidedly unsuccessful few hours, we left well-fed and in a much cheerier mood. When I was waitressing as a student, my mum (wise lady that she is) told me the best service is when you can go to a restaurant feeling grumpy, and end up leaving feeling happy (though I'm sure she put it more eloquently than that). She is, as ever, right. In a bad mood, it is easy to feel dissatisfied with even the smallest details when eating out, so somewhere must be really good to impress, let alone turn that mood around. The Hub, in Liverpool, did that for us, and meant that the night at the theatre that followed (still not confident enough to write a review of that either) was all the more enjoyable than it might have been. Good service, delicious, well-cooked food, and a great atmosphere. It really does deserve writing about, so in lieu of a longer review, The Hub  comes well recommended from me, and, to round up this post, some pictures of our sharing starter, and my beer-battered fish and chips.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

you'll be the prince and i'll be the princess

(Taylor Swift - Love Story)

Harriet at Is There A Plan B recently mentioned NaBloPoMo, which was an entirely new concept to me. As it was the 2nd of November by the time I read about it I thought I had failed at the first hurdle by not posting every day (looking back now I realise I had actually posted on the 1st already so I was even more silly to give up so quickly). Luckily for me Harriet is aiming to post twice a week during November, and, considering I also have an exam I should be revising for, this is probably a more feasible option. So more regular posts for November, if not every day.

When the laptop was dead, and the PC was yet to be resurrected, there was a post I bookmarked, specifically so I would find it when my technology was working more effectively. Written by Hannah, at Muddling Along Mummy, it lamented the myth of the happy ever after ideology presented in Disney classics, as a less than realistic representation of adult relationships. It triggered for me some similar thoughts and also brought to mind a magazine article I read recently.

I don't know which magazine, or the interviewee, (I realise what a terrible attempt this is to sound well read), I vaguely think it was a businesswoman in an article illustrated with pictures of her posing in various rooms of her home, and I may have read it in the kitchen at work one lunchtime. Anyway, these are minor details, what was said is the one thing I can remember (sort of, I am also paraphrasing, having tried to find the quote by googling potentially relevant words and "magazine article" and failing miserably). She reflected, having been asked what advice she gave to young women, that they shouldn't marry young, because what appears attractive when you are young, is not what you find attractive when you are older. In marriage, romance comes from someone who gets up in the middle of the night to feed the baby, and shares the housework. I found myself nodding vigorously, I am only 27 but have always been old-headed (and definitely knew The Husband was a keeper when he would help me tidy my teenage bedroom).

I agree with Hannah. In fact I would argue that it is far beyond Disney that the problem stretches. The majority of the classic love stories, and their presentations of romance, fail to focus on the drudgery of domestic life as the ideal scene for love to blossom. There is the Romeo and Juliet model, where all protagonists are part of the social elite, such that cleaning and working are never part of the picture. Alternatively, there is the Cinderella classic, where one character (usually the woman) is saved from a life of such hardship by falling in love with somebody who is part of the social elite, and so cleaning and working are no longer part of the picture.

As a romantic at heart, who thoroughly enjoys the classic love story in any guise it isn't a complaint. But, having been married eighteen months, it is difficult to trust that your marriage is "successful" when love seems to be presented in a way so far removed from daily life. The Husband and I get in from work, cook a meal, see to the dog, work out whether it is bin day, check we don't urgently need to shop or iron, tidy round and go to bed, destined to sleep and repeat. It is easy to feel dull in comparison to the conventional depiction of newlywedded bliss.

I don't think fairy tale romance is any bad thing, but it is just a story. Real love needs to be fixed firmly in reality. I think love is mostly about sharing the mundane and the everyday with someone, and finding pleasure in the small things, them usually seeming better, or more bearable, because that other person is by your side. Romantic gestures, for me can be as simple as The Husband having cooked dinner when I am late home. It is about sharing the load because you care about the other person, more than you care about yourself.

Friday, 1 November 2013

an ending fitting for the start

(The Libertines - Can't Stand Me Now)

We went watching Frankenstein last night, it was the cinema screening of the National Theatre production. It was an excellent choice for Halloween, and a brilliant adaptation of the book. I studied it at school and loved it, and now I want to read it all over again. It asks such deep questions about humanity and morality, and the ethics of scientific endeavours. I noticed when we got in we both seemed to make even more of a fuss of the dog than usual, I wondered if subconsciously we were both guilt-ridden about abandoning our creature!

The production had the actors playing Frankenstein and the Creature alternate the roles each night. The screening in the next few weeks shows the casting the opposite way to last night; I'm  tempted to go and see it the other way around. The production was directed by Danny Boyle in 2011, and it was also interesting to watch it now, following his celebrated Olympic opening ceremony, as you can see some of the beginnings of  it in elements of Frankenstein. The industrial imagery and the incredible lighting designs would both have fitted straight into the ceremony itself.

The man under the stairs at the bookshop does not work on Fridays. I didn't get to thank him in person for the lovely job he did of binding my dissertation. He was right to be proud of his gold lettering, I was right to hope that he would look after them.

The admin lady in the University Department does not work on Fridays either. I left them on her desk, I arranged them neatly, I pondered whether to write her a note, but it was blatantly obvious from my name printed on the cover, and the spine, too, for good measure, who had left them there. It felt rather anti climatic to leave them there, in silence, and slip away.

Walking to the car I discovered a hole in my shoe. I realised that is something you only ever find out when it is raining. I wasn't wearing socks. I blame the dog for the hole, she has a fondness for footwear. Back in work I submitted my research for an international conference. There was a box asking if I was under thirty. I am. It meant I could be considered a young researcher (I think they are awarding prizes). I like that in some circles I am still considered young.

I had to go to a meeting with some of my senior supervisors in my soggy shoes. I managed to tie back my hair, which had frizzed fantastically in the rain. I had forgotten about my hands though. The bright red nail polish which had felt bold and brave when I applied it on Sunday night, and which pleased me on Monday morning, has not lasted well throughout the week. My left hand has survived better than my right so I spent the whole meeting trying to pick up my cup with the wrong hand.  I couldn't work out how to hold my pen so that you couldn't see my nails, and probably made myself far more conspicuous with my bizarre contortions.

It was all very silly as I actually had a lot to contribute, and I can only hope that what I said was more easily memorable than my hands. I think I will go for a subtler colour this week just to be on the safe side though. On my journey today I passed the pub again, I honestly happened to go the same route, it wasn't a deliberate diversion. The pram had gone, though the pub still stood empty. It suddenly all seemed like a lot of worry about nothing, but that does tend to be my way.

I dedicated my dissertation to my mum. It is probably the best work I have done, it seemed only fitting to acknowledge her with it, my mum who has always taught me to do my best, has supported me in striving to be my best, and has always in life given me her best. We both had a little cry when I pointed out the page and it didn't feel anti climatic any more.

Monday, 28 October 2013

the rain floods gutters

(James - Sometimes)

The storm that was predicted didn't ever hit in our part of the country, although I'm not sure it was ever thought that it would. Even so, there has been a sense of foreboding about the day, as though the wind might pick up speed at any moment. The clouds overhead have seemed heavy with threat, and although the storm never came, the rain did. I had to do quite a lot of driving today, and the journey this morning was dismal. The rain was heavy and the cars on the motorway appeared to be driving on water, each set of tires leaving small waves in their wake. Through the spray, the red lights of the vehicles in front became a guide, mapping the contours of the road ahead.

Despite the grey it has been a successful day all in all. I have submitted final copies of my dissertation for binding to a man who appears to live under the stairs in a bookshop. The Harry Potter of the bookbinding world perhaps, maybe the Kindle is his Voldemort. He was proud of his gold-embossed lettering and sewn cloth covers. He only takes cash which he keeps in one of those lockable money boxes. I like to think he will take as much care of my dissertation as I did.

On the drive from the University I saw a pram outside a pub. It was eleven in the morning and there was nobody around. It was a jarring sight, an empty pram outside an empty pub, and I haven't been able to forget it. The pram was modern, brightly coloured, and difficult to miss, perhaps that is why it caught my eye. Although empty, it did not seem discarded, it looked too new for that. I can't help wonder if there is a story, and wonder if anyone else walked by and stopped, if it registered with them as out of the ordinary, as it did for me. I have the remnants of a passage from a book about empty prams and bad luck swirling in my head, but I can't pull it together or remember where it would be from.

I am writing this post on a word counting website for the first time. Since my laptop died a few weeks ago I tried to write posts on a tablet using the app version of this website, but the posting and formatting wasn't the most intuitive process. However, having resurrected the old desktop PC, or should I say, The Husband having resurrected the old desktop PC, I am enjoying working, and writing, at a desk again. Perhaps that is why I have managed two posts in two nights, although no promises that it will continue at quite the same rate.

What I like about this website is that, as well as counting the words, it also analyses the frequency of keywords in the writing, and works out which words are occurring most commonly within the post. I can see this becoming interesting in the future, particularly on days like this when I'm writing without a real sense of where the content might be going. I'm sure some psychoanalysis beckons based on my most used terminology, at the very least some version of a word association game could be construed. My top three words at the moment are:

although empty writing

Make of that what you will, although (there I go again with that one) I have to say it isn't the most auspicious summary for a blog post. Not exactly sounding like a riveting read based on that. I have half written so many posts and often feel like they don't quite amount to enough to justify a post, particularly one that has to be seven hundred words long. I think perhaps all I really wanted to write about today was that pram. I wanted to record it, share it, remember it. It seemed so poignant as I passed it, yet I'm not sure why, maybe it was the incongruence of it, or the sense of abandonment. It isn't on my normal route, I'm not even sure I could find my way back there. I hope it isn't still there.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

enough hours in the day

The clocks going back always feel like a much better idea than the clocks going forward. Whenever the clocks change it always seems like a trick of the mind, as though just for two days of the year, on a minuscule scale, we have suddenly learned to time travel. However, as somebody who constantly wishes I had a Bernard's Watch to conjure up a pause button for the clock, time gained feels much more magical than time lost. There's also less potential for embarrassment this way round. Turning up an hour early for something can be potentially disguised, and is in most cases more forgivable than arriving an hour late. Arriving late for something when the clocks go forward makes it abundantly clear to everyone that you are the person that forgot. Perhaps worse still, I vividly remember one year wanting to get up to do some schoolwork at 8am. Having got up at 7am believing the clocks had gone forward, I later found they had actually gone back. Doing homework at 6am on a Sunday morning has to be the ultimate daylight saving failure.

If one does negotiate the transition through time successfully, there is a much more positive feeling when the clocks go back. The air is filled with the sense of a little time gained, people seem better rested, or more productive, and the dark mornings and dark nights seem like a comforting prelude to wintry days spent wrapped up outside or curled up inside. Compare that to the sleep-deprived faces of spring, heavy eyelids and general disorientation that arises from unceremoniously having an hour deducted from your day. It seems a bizarre way to mark the season of new awakenings really, blundering around short of time and short of sleep, but maybe the bright(er) days that follow make it more tolerable.

I have enjoyed my extra hour today, although I haven't decided where it occurred. I resisted the urge to sleep in, and somehow it seems I have noticed my extra minutes all the more for that. I got up bright and early and raced through the revision I wanted to do. Getting up early, and working at the weekend without procrastinating are both unheard of for me, but perhaps I was ensuring I didn't waste the gift of time. 
Maybe the time we spent walking the dog is where the hour went. We walked to the train station, collected a thick wad of tickets for a variety of trips I will be taking in the coming months. The machine spat them out one by one, dates, times, stations, a pack of orange cards forming the calendar of my life. Coming back we headed by the lake and through the park. Muddy leaves squelched underfoot and we both staggered back each time the puppy threatened to jump up, joyfully imprinting paws onto our legs. The park ranger wasn't so cautious of his clothing, patting her head and asking her age as she bounded around his boots. We saw two squirrels, but she did not, although her beagle instinct caught their scent and she circled round the bases of the trees  with nose stuck to the ground.

Perhaps our spare hour was spent over lunch, using vouchers provided by my wonderful mum, to have a delicious and cost-free two course meal. We rarely eat out just the two of us, and the chance to do so was very welcome, as was the free food! I like the thought of losing the hour to a wonderfully cooked roast dinner, and some quality time with The Husband catching up and also practicing our Italian. It is funny which bits we each remember, between us I think we could just about make ourselves understood, although neither of us enjoy the grammar. Even if the hour went to being stuck in traffic on the way out I wouldn't mind. The blustery day, blowing the burnt orange leaves from the trees was lovely to observe, adding to my sense that winter was well and truly coming.

Or perhaps the time has been gained here, enjoying the opportunity to write these words, revelling in not an hour, but a whole day well spent.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

gone so fast

I am sitting counting the minutes until September is over. I have a revision course to book onto, for which there are only a small number of places, and booking opens on October 1st. I have my email written to request a place, so all that remains is to press send at 00.01.

This month started in Sicily, where we spent a week after the dissertation was handed in. Since we returned home it is almost unfathomable how much has happened, now I sit and think of it. Shortly after our return The Husband's grandfather passed away. It was not unexpected, but perhaps sooner than anticipated. It was only a few days later, following an assessment in London, that The Husband was told he was now fully qualified in his profession, following fifteen exams and three years of studying, whilst also working. The celebrations were understandably a little bittersweet, coming as they did so soon after such a loss.

In September we have also started taking Italian lessons, the second of which was tonight. It has been good to be back in the classroom, and as the classes are held at a local school, I mean that literally as well as figuratively. As The Husband and I met in school, it has been quite funny to sit next to him in "lessons" again, and it's nice to have something planned together each week.

We have also begun puppy obedience classes, although we haven't been back yet as we didn't feel Millie had learnt enough since the first class to go back. Next Saturday is the day! Millie is keeping us, and the wider family, busy! She is incredibly beautiful but certainly has a strong personality. We are making some progress with puppy training and she has definitely settled right in. We took her to the beach recently and she thoroughly enjoyed the sand, but wasn't so sure of the sea.

As well as my dissertation viva, I have started back at work full time, and we are slowly getting accustomed to the new pace of things. We have also had a number of birthdays, including The Husband's, to celebrate. I have been trying to make more of an effort to cook more on a daily basis, so I have also been trying to meal plan and shop for specific recipes. So far it is working well and we are having a much greater variety of meals, rather than the same few old faithfuls on rotation.

In the last week I have seen a NTLive screening of Othello at the local cinema which was fabulous. We are booked to watch the repeat screening of Frankenstein at Halloween too, which I am very excited about! I studied both texts at A-Level, but have never seen either performed, and it made me want to search out my old essays and re-read them all. I also saw an incredible production of All My Sons at The Royal Exchange. This was the other extreme, as it was a play I had never read, never seen and knew very little about. It was a phenomenal performance with a really strong cast, and made for a great night out with my lovely mum. A few weeks ago we also saw Daniel Kitson's new production "Tree" at the Royal Exchange. This had quite a different feel from his solo work, as it was a two part production, but it was no less brilliant than we expected. We have seen a few of Daniel Kitson's pieces over the years, having first seen him at Latitude Festival in 2010, and he never disappoints. My mum and stepdad went to watch on another night, and I was nervous as it was on our recommendation. I needn't have been, they loved it.

Actually, now I think of it, it isn't surprising that September has gone so fast, being as full as it was. I love this time of year and the gradual transition from new term optimism, to festive excitement, all with the promise of a new year just beyond. It is so easy to pass through the days, months and years and feel that time is rushing by. One of the unexpected joys of having a dog is the fact that it forces me to be outside more than I would, and in doing so I feel much more aware of time passing, weather changing and nature shifting seasons. It punctuates the days, ensuring a chance to notice, and appreciate, life.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

your best intentions may not be enough

It was never my intention to be away for so long. Time seems too easily to be slipping away these days. Life is busy and to-do lists are ever-expanding. Consequently, writing has seemed an unaffordable luxury. It has been missed though, and so as time is the only real expense I decided to spend a little this evening. The fact that I am laid up in bed with a grotty cold has been encouragement, keeping the brain moving even if the body isn't.

The dissertation is done. I was working up to deadline, as previously predicted. More due to reworking it more times than I anticipated than because I left it all to the last minute. It appears to have been worth it, as I got a distinction, both in the dissertation and in the degree overall. Beyond my immediate family, I haven't told anybody that. It is always a difficult balance between sharing such news and sounding like a show-off. The Husband has also come to the end of his training recently (in an entirely different area) and passed everything with flying colours, so we have both had good news in recent weeks.

The summer seemed to pass us by in some ways, spent as it was, for me, hunched over the computer editing and re-editing my ideas into something that would pass for academia. The back-to-school sense of September also feels to have dispersed all too quickly, with only my newly-acquired and pleasingly well-stocked pencil case as a reminder. This September, returning to work full-time brought with it some new purchases of office wear, a reorganisation of my stationery supplies, and a hopefulness that was bolstered further by my degree success. I was full of such good intentions.

A few weeks in and the intensity is hitting a little hard. It is typically a two hour round trip each day and I perhaps underestimated the impact of a daily commute. I am also working (already) towards an exam in January so revision has kicked in immediately. The cold likely hasn't helped. The new outfits and well groomed appearance of my first few days back, which gave me an internal sense of semi-professionalism, have been quickly replaced with a red nose and clothes chosen for comfort. I am hoping that a quiet weekend will see me right, today has included pyjamas and a duvet, and tomorrow I have the day free to get reorganised and back on track. Perhaps October will be this year's September.

I have always been a fan of new starts and fresh beginnings. New weeks, new months, new seasons, new years. I like the potential they present. My first revision session for the January exam was recently held at my old university, actually in the building where I attended all of my teaching and lectures. I love my alma mater, I love the city, I love the buildings, I love walking from the station to the campus and seeing memories on every street corner. Feelings rush back as my feet fall on pavements so often walked, and I skip between years, going from 17 to 24 in a matter of minutes. Interestingly I was born on the same road, those memories are not mine, but my Mum, too, has whole stories lived along that street.

The day of the revision session turned out to be the first day of the academic year. A smiling young man on the train was commuting for the first day of his degree, a quieter chap sat by the window studying the campus map. Those familiar streets were filled with fresh faced students, eagerly making eye contact with everyone, each stranger potentially a new best friend. I saw two boys, really just boys, comparing notes on how little sleep each had had. To me, they both looked far too fresh faced not to have slept for at least twelve hours.

The welcome posters were in the foyer of my building. It is nine years since I arrived there, a fresh-faced girl, just a girl, who could go to lectures on little sleep. It is even longer since I attended for my interview, nervous but enthusiastic, and even before that were open days, and tours of the university that would eventually become home. I am not where I intended to be. The 18 year old who walked in as a fresher nine years ago never imagined this path. I think, though, she wouldn't be surprised. I was headed here all along.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

sweetheart, there's no one else in the world

(The Eels - Millicent Don't Blame Yourself)

So it feels like this blog is turning in to one long excuse for not posting. I have a pretty good excuse this time though. A four legged, big brown eyed, floppy eared, gorgeous excuse. Allow me to introduce Millie.

Our family dog died when I was eleven, and I don’t think there has been a day in the intervening 16 years when I haven’t wanted another dog. Having been in our house for three years, and just celebrated our first wedding anniversary, The Husband finally agreed we could get a dog. This was in part to do with the fact that he promised me one for our first anniversary and did so in front of some close friends, so there was no backing down really!

We went to the local shelter and they had two litters of puppies. We looked at the puppies, we looked at the rest of the dogs, we went back to the puppies. There was a litter of Basset Hound cross with Labrador (or a Bassador as they are apparently known). There were two left. Then there were six Tricolour Beagles which the shelter thought may be crossed with another breed, but they couldn’t be sure what. Both litters weren’t available for rehoming until the next day.

We went home. We read about Beagles. We read about Bassadors. I spent the whole next day being incredibly productive to try and pass the time until The Husband got home. We went back the the shelter and there were still both types of puppy. We looked at the girl Bassador, we had a little cuddle. Then we had a little cuddle of the girl Beagle. And she didn’t get put down again until we were home.

Millie has been with us for five days now. Life has changed. We are valiantly trying to toilet train her with fluctuating levels of success. She loves playing fetch, but hasn’t quite grasped the idea of bringing the ball back. Her favourite thing to eat seems to be the plants in the garden. We have a constant monologue of “Good Millie”, “No Millie”, “Drop Millie”, “Out Millie”, “Good Millie”, “Here Millie”. I had the inevitable delight of traipsing dog dirt into the house without realising it, and whilst trying to clean that up she proceeded to wee on the floor. We are constantly trying to take things out of her mouth that she shouldn’t be eating and replace them with things she should.

Goodness knows how we would be with children. We have spent every night since her arrival Googling various things about dog behaviour and training, and the conflicting advice is unending. She likes to chew, and nip, at hands and ankles (and everything else). So far all of the following things have been advised on various websites:

·         If you don’t STOP IT RIGHT NOW she will be a violent adult only with MUCH BIGGER TEETH
·         Squeal like a puppy when she nips
·         Growl like a dog when she nips
·         Say a high-pitched ouch when she nips
·         Make your hand go limp when she nips
·         Say No and move your hand away
·         Sat No and walk away for fifteen seconds
·         Say No and walk away for ten minutes
·         Say No and sit on a high counter where she can’t reach you
·         Spray her with water
·         Put lemon juice/bitter apple in her mouth
·         Hold her mouth closed
·         Whatever you do don't hold her mouth closed
·         Roll her on her back, look into her eyes and say no until she breaks eye contact
·         Absolutely do not roll her on her back
·         It’s normal and she will grow out of it

We are bewildered and bemused. Goodness knows what the neighbours think of my squealing puppy impression. We are keen to be good puppy owners. We are also a force to be reckoned with when it comes to clean ups and air freshener, whirling round like an ultra-hygienic version of batman and robin wiping, drying, spraying and scenting. She has already stolen our hearts, and a few tea towels. The training (both the nipping and the toileting) will take time. In the meantime there is no greater contentment than cuddling a sleeping puppy.

Monday, 22 July 2013

what do i know

(Keane - Bedshaped)

I have a few posts I am itching to write, but some online events yesterday have left me tentative about typing. Without going in to specifics I watched a developing debate on twitter with an increasingly tight knot in my stomach.

I am very non-confrontational, and worry endlessly at the thought I may have caused anyone offence, even inadvertently. Although I love a good debate, it’s more, much as with this blog, the construction of an argument, and bringing together of words and ideas that I enjoy rather than being pitted against any opposition.

Yesterday a blogger published a brief post about a restaurant, with some (in my mind) lovely pictures of the food eaten. The post didn’t really review the food, but was reasonably positive about it, whilst also including a little social commentary about the local area, and why the new development where the restaurant was located meant that, although he enjoyed the other branch of the restaurant in another location, this venue was not one he would revisit.

I only saw this post because the chef responded on twitter incredibly angrily, being affronted by the threat on his livelihood, and with some fairly choice language, soon joined by his followers in denouncing the blogger. It left me cold. It reminded me of all of the things I hate about the internet. It has continued to cloud my thoughts.

There was a suggestion that bloggers are self-absorbed (or words to that effect, I am avoiding going reading it all again). I completely agree. For me blogging is exactly that. That’s why I started it. The chance to devote a little time, regularly, to myself, to writing about things I enjoy, and enjoying the process of writing itself. Anyone who writes a blog, assumes, I think, that someone else might be interested in reading it, that’s why it is public. So that point I concurred with, but I didn’t necessarily see it as the insult it was perhaps intended as.

What has been mulling around my brain was the assertion that the blogger, having not trained as a chef, and not owning a restaurant, had no right to comment negatively. This perturbs me. As with many professions, I have trained for many years to be considered competent to perform my role. Again, as with many professions, my role involves providing a service to the wider public. Many of those people do not have the same depth of knowledge as I have gained through my training (although many do, I must quickly point out), and therefore their perceptions of any experience come from a different context to my own. Does this make them invalid? Does it mean that I am automatically right? Absolutely not.

Criticism (and I am talking generally now, I still can’t see any criticism of the food in the original blog post) is never easy to hear, but I don’t think being the “expert” provides exclusive rights to being critical. I think that sometimes having years of training, having technical, specialist knowledge of a subject, can make it difficult to see the lay perspective. And when a profession involves provision of a service to the general public, surely that lay perspective is of paramount importance.

I want to post about my recent trips to the theatre, and recently visited restaurants. As I said here I don’t under any circumstances consider myself an expert, I just want to reflect on some memorable experiences I have had. Others might possibly find them interesting, possibly not. However I want to do so honestly, I don’t want to censor my opinion for fear of a diatribe, or causing unintended offence. The prospect of a “flame war” (thank you Good Gobble for the education) leaves me terrified. Ultimately, as many have surmised, I think the response did more damage than the original post ever could. I intend to write my posts. Not as an expert, not claiming to be a critic. Just as a member of the public. I won’t criticise unnecessarily, but I don’t intend to lie for fear of retribution. That is a worrying trend, if the only valid opinions belong to the experts. At least, that’s my, inexpert, opinion.

Friday, 19 July 2013

it's all about the go go go

(Paloma Faith - Upside Down)

It has been a wonderfully busy few weeks. It is becoming apparent that having lots of lovely things to blog about also means that there is much less time free to do the blogging. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about blogging, in fact I would go so far as to say I have been missing it. I think in part, my self-imposed minimum word count has been rankling a little. I longed to check in with a few lines, but couldn’t quite fit in a full seven hundred words. However, I am here now and very happy about it.

So what has been keeping me so busy? Many things, the majority of which will feature in their own blog posts in the coming days (or, more realistically, weeks). But let’s do a brief run down, to provide an aide memoire for me, and to tempt you back for future posts. There was a lovely sunny weekend, involving baking, family gatherings, best friends, the Wimbledon final, fish and chips in the garden, late night drinks and trivial pursuit. It seems a world away now. It one of those lovely weekends that happens rarely, busy, but somehow in a relaxed, reinvigorating way.

It was our first wedding anniversary the following weekend, and we rented a cottage in the Cotswolds. It was a lovely trip, and felt like a real holiday. The weather stayed wonderful, and we enjoyed picnics, badminton, and mini golf. We also had some fabulous meals, and a theatre trip. We did a mad dash home on the Sunday night, which was our anniversary. We actually had another night booked in the cottage, but knew we had a lot to do on the Monday, and decided we would have a midnight flit (well, nine thirty) and we got home just in time to toast our 365th day as Mr and Mrs in our own home. It is hard to believe we have been married a year. In some ways the wedding feels like years ago, so much has happened since. In other ways it feels like we spent so long planning the wedding, that its still difficult to realise it is all over. We couldn’t believe how many other people remembered, we are very lucky to have so many thoughtful friends and family.

Since we got back, work has been taking priority. I found out that I had passed all the exams for my degree, which is brilliant news, but also shifts the focus onto completing the dissertation as well as I can. The dissertation is involving some pretty intensive bouts of computer-time, which is possibly another reason the blogging hit a hiatus. I still maintain I am not really a hot weather person, but it feels scandalous to sit staring at a screen all day and all night when the sun is shining, so we have been trying to get out, even for a quick walk, each evening.

We have lots more lovely plans coming up to break up the next few weeks, which otherwise will consist almost entirely of hammering out this dissertation. As soon as it is handed in we have managed to book two weeks off together, and so I’m hoping a last minute break somewhere sunny will present itself.
This feels like a bit of a rambly post, with nothing much to say, but I felt that a little wittering was necessary before I launched straight into a recipe or a restaurant post. Just to practice my writing again, more than anything. So many lovely blogs are out there, it is difficult not to come to write and give up, feeling like an amateur in comparison. There have been a few half-written and subsequently deleted posts in recent weeks, succumbing as I do to self-criticism.

However there have been so many things to be grateful for, so many happy occasions in recent weeks, I want to take time to write about them. Now I have this space to record things, I should overcome my fear of failure, and recognise what pleasure there is in documenting daily joys, however small, and enjoy the creativity blogging brings. So there will definitely be more posts soon.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

take a little time out

(Newton Faulkner - Ageing Superhero)

Just after we got married last July I started a new job, which involves, for the first year, completing a master’s degree. The academic in me has been thrilled at the opportunity for further study and I have enjoyed writing assignments and attending lectures. I also wonder if perhaps it is what finally encouraged me to start the blog, realising how much I had relished the writing process. There has been another, substantial, benefit to this period of study, which has been the opportunity to work from home for a number of days a week. Having worked very long hours and done shift work right up until two days before our wedding, this has felt like an incredibly blessed way to start married life.

However, the impending return to being out of the house five days a week is causing some consternation. I’m not altogether happy about it, and this in itself is surprising me. I am quite comfortable with the idea of staying at home full-time. It isn’t an option financially, so it is only daydreams, but it is a daydream I find a little disturbing. I know my fifteen year old self would be astonished. I was a fervent feminist as a teenager. I wasn’t any kind of activist, I didn’t rally or campaign. But I was raised in a family of strong women who instilled in me a sense that women are equal and that the world was my oyster. I believed I could do anything I wanted, and that it was my right as much as any man’s to be educated and employed. It wasn’t a novel concept in the 1990’s but it was one I was very much aware of.

I have a very vivid memory of a conversation with my mum in which I said that I couldn’t imagine ever going to work and doing a job I didn’t enjoy. Perhaps it was idealistic (I was only about seven, my cynicism was not yet well-developed), I certainly wasn’t taking into account the much more practical reasons why people work. I think now and realise I am lucky to enjoy my job and find it interesting. For a couple of years that absolutely wasn’t the case. I studied for years and then found my chosen career was particularly unsuited to me. During that time I think home, and we had just bought this house, our first together, became a refuge. Family and friends became a harbour, repairing the cracks in my casing before encouraging me back out into the storm. Meanwhile there was gradual hope for a new path, which I only discovered and set out upon with their guidance and support.


Perhaps I feel I owe this home, to stay with it and look after it, like it looked after me. Perhaps I realised (even more than before) that the people around you are more important than any job, and so I want to treasure them with my time. I don’t have children, that is a debate for another day. But I know my mum raised me single-handedly, whilst working every day, and I couldn’t have asked for a happier childhood or a better mum. I don’t doubt given the choice she would have preferred to be at home, and she was strongly supported by my grandparents, but I have such a strong female role model in her, I know the value of money, the rewards of hard work, and the best way to be a parent. So again, I find these thoughts of staying at home unnerving.

I wonder what happened to the fifteen year old who wanted to change the world, to make her a woman who is happiest cleaning the kitchen. I read about Wendy Davis in awe. I admired her immensely, and saw my younger self in her approach. Perhaps once studying is over, the opportunity to work on things full time will reawaken that desire to blaze ahead in the world, burn my mark on the pages of history. Perhaps. I enjoy my job, I enjoy my home, I love my family and friends. It isn’t world changing, or history making, but perhaps my greatest achievement is happiness.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

pick and choose

Weeds are speedy little things aren’t they? As thrilled as I am with our glamourized garden, the joy is being dampened slightly in recent days. I am slowly realising that although the plants are blooming, daubing the ground with colour, uninvited foliage is also sprouting at an alarming rate. I had somewhat neglected this part of gardening before, I much prefer a world where things stay as you left them. When we had finished it was perfectly pretty, and whilst I had accepted that the colour was seasonal, I hadn’t factored in that it would soon be covered up by weeds unless I fought them off regularly. I have rather got the bug though, and look forward to venturing out, trowel in hand, to restore order amongst the florae. It won’t be this evening though, as the skies are busy helping me out, kindly doing the watering on my behalf.

Injuries abound. In the last 48 hours I have elbowed a wall, right on the corner (the fact that I am a builder’s granddaughter made me look this up, the proper term is the arris, according to the wonderful world of Wikipedia), I have trapped my finger between two doors, and I have taken a chunk out of my thumb on the corner (arris?) of a door frame. Doors and corners appear to be causing me problems. I am bruised. All of these injuries hurt when I press on them. So I keep pressing on them, so I can say that it hurts, and therefore feel sorry for myself. I nearly caused injury number four a moment ago trying to walk with pins and needles. The Husband told me to hop and I couldn’t work out which way to do it so it didn’t hurt. Co-ordination has never been a strong point. My feet never seem quite able to catch up with my brain, and consequently my arms rebel and do their own thing.

I am acquiring a taste for bananas. They are another of my dislikes, purely textural, I find the flavour quite enjoyable. I froze some. This was a second attempt. The first two I recently popped into the freezer whole. Whole and still in the skin. I didn’t exactly think it through. I realised as I went to peel one that it had not been an entirely successful endeavour. I then tried to defrost them. The final product was thrown away. This time though I peeled and portioned my bananas. I had a few slices last night, it was like incredibly easy ice cream. Even more of a revelation came this morning. I have been a fan of cold oatmeal for a few weeks. I mix a normal portion of oats and milk cold, add fruit and leave in the fridge overnight. It’s a lovely summer breakfast. The other day I had apple and cinnamon. This morning’s banana and honey was delicious.

I’m currently sitting in our spare bedroom. We are waiting to get a quote for some study furniture. I’m hoping if we can get it done fairly soon that the spare bedroom will soon look something like a bedroom. At the moment it resembles a bizarre store room/library. My vantage point in the middle of the floor reveals a treasure trove of the weird and wonderful. An electronic drum kit I bought on ebay, and gave up on as soon as I realised The Husband was better than me. An alarm clock in the shape of R2D2. A plethora of books, CDs and computer games spilling off every shelf. A sleeping bag. A printer. A coin sorting jar that automatically calculates the value of the contents. Monopoly, trivial pursuit and cranium, all in different parts of the room. Two picnic rugs. I do not plan to store these things in our study, just that the process of moving the books will force us to sort through the associated detritus. I am fairly minimalist, The Husband is a hoarder. Although it may not sound it from that list, we tend to strike a happy balance. By which I mean I ask him to throw things out and he asks me to not look in the loft.

Monday, 1 July 2013

it could put creases in the rain

I am not in the habit of disappointing my mother. She has always celebrated every small achievement and let me know how proud she is of me. I was not a child who was starved of affection, constantly seeking acknowledgement. I had plentiful amounts of praise, and still do. It has made me somewhat hooked on getting good feedback, but I also think it has given me self-confidence and security.

However, I have one significant failing. (Not just one, I’m sure there are many if I sat and thought about it, but I fear that may quickly decimate the self-confidence my mum has spent years building up so I shan't). In this regard I know for a fact she is ashamed to call me her daughter. I cannot iron. Honestly, this is not a case of will not masquerading as cannot. It is just one of those things I am unable to do.

I do try. The first time I was let loose, I decided to practice on my school tie, promptly melted it into a scarred, scorched, strip of fabric and had to wear a jumper all summer just to keep the mutilated material tucked in and out of sight. It wasn't that typical teenager trick of doing something badly so you don’t get asked again. Even now I can’t iron. The Husband practically dives past me towards the ironing pile when I announce my laundry based plans, to protect his clothes from my advances. Mum has a startling (to me) ability to iron a shirt with razor sharp creases in the sleeves. By the time I have finished you can concertina the cuffs.

So in our house The Husband does the ironing. I am quite envious. Of the household chores it is quite a good one. You can watch a film whilst you work. It is pleasantly productive. You start with a pile of clothes and by the end it has transformed into a wardrobe of ready to wear outfits. The fruits of your labour are apparent for all to admire.

It is admiration that I would happily receive. Mum is always impressed when I tell her The Husband has done the ironing.  “Wash, Dry, Iron clothes and Put Away” was a constant on her to-do lists when I was growing up. It is a very satisfying task to tick off. Being up-to-date with the ironing is a laudable aim. I understand that. I like to start and finish something. I hate putting all the ironing away (I am allowed to help with that part) and then finding a freshly discarded pair of socks in the laundry basket. The ironing never remains up-to-date for long. There isn't really an answer, apart from not washing clothes, which still isn’t really an answer.

I am not someone who can wear things without them being ironed. And I am definitely not someone who can iron things as they need them. I shudder at the thought of a never-ending ironing pile only being depleted one item at a time. I couldn't fathom it. Completely ignoring the fact that I find getting up and out of the house in some semblance of a reasonable outfit and being at my destination vaguely on time traumatic enough each morning. If I thought I had to lift out the iron and ironing board aswell (because they have to be put away when not in use obviously) I would quite definitely just not get up.

As a way of appeasing my guilt, we bought a steam generator iron recently. The Husband is enthralled. Everyone who visited got a demonstration. By introducing a gadget, suddenly ironing was cool. Added to that our recent subscription to Netflix, and honestly, it became a Friday night favourite. I did several hours of ironing the other day, in an attempt to get in on the action. The new iron was brilliant. I watched a great film. The ironing was up-to-date, it was a huge achievement, and my mum was impressed. Then The Husband came to wear a freshly laundered t-shirt. He tried really hard to hide his abject horror but I know him too well. I am back on putting-away duty.

Monday, 24 June 2013

been people watching again

I am currently sat outside a cinema. I have been for two hours. I am not some bizarre cinema-watcher (although I have been today). And, at least for the moment, I am not sitting typing to hide the fact that I have been stood up. The real, entirely uninteresting reason, is that I arranged to meet The Husband here at half past six. My appointment this afternoon finished at half past two, but was close to the cinema. Rather than drive home and back again I decided to come here and do some work on my laptop.

It is phenomenal how much I have done. I’m guessing because my laptop is disconnected from the internet, and I have turned off mobile internet browsing, preserving battery for when The Husband might text. Which he just did, incidentally. He is stuck in traffic. Ho hum. I now realise I will not be able to post this until later (due to aforementioned laptop disconnection). However I am two hundred words in, and have time to pass (more than I thought from the sounds of that text), so I will continue, and you will simply have to suspend disbelief and imagine that I posted this the moment I finished typing.

It has been a rather pleasant afternoon’s work, with the radio on in the background, suspicious looks from the passing pedestrians aside. Admittedly a Cineworld carpark is not the usual location to write a dissertation in the middle of a Monday afternoon (or any other time for that matter). And if I was being completely truthful a cup of tea and a few biscuits would have been a nice addition. I’m not planning making this a regular revision haunt, but for today it has proved a success.

The obvious question, if you were the critical sort, would be why we didn’t just meet at a cinema nearer home. The answer is that I am easily swayed by a good deal. We sign up for free preview tickets of films and we have tickets for The Internship at this particular cinema tonight. When I say we, it is important I clarify (particularly as she has now found this blog) that my mum has signed us up, and checks for tickets, and the only work I have to do is walk the ten doors to her house and pick up the pre-printed slip that she has text to say is waiting for me. Spoiled doesn’t even cover it.

I am getting slightly distracted by Ralf Little talking about being a procrastinator on the radio – somehow feeling his successful career validates my own bad habits. It is interesting being sat outside a cinema. Couples arriving for afternoon dates, parents and children running in for an after-school treat, groups of friends kicking a ball up to the door and disappearing inside. I have seen quite a few people go in and then leave again. This is an anathema to me. I cannot fathom going to the cinema without checking what is on and what time it starts. I might be a procrastinator, but I am also a planner. I think very carefully about things before I don’t do them.

There is also a man, on his own. He stands on the steps and plays with his phone. He has looked at the posters a few times. He has headphones on and would look entirely at ease, except for the fact that his head whips up every time a car pulls up. First date? Second date? Have I got it completely wrong? It’s a funny old feeling that I remember well from my own first date, with The Husband, no less, at a cinema. The butterflies in the tummy, hoping they are going to turn up, but nervous about what to say when they do. My head is synchronised with the man on the steps. Looking up expectantly at every car that arrives. More than eleven years on I still have butterflies, but there are no nerves now. And there is a blissful comfort in knowing that he will, without question, be here.

Honestly and truly, with perfect Hollywood timing, as I typed that last word The Husband arrived.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

just wait a minute

I am a perfectionist, and a procrastinator. It is not a winning combination, but I think the two traits are irrevocably linked. Every time I describe myself as a perfectionist I shudder slightly. This is due to an indelible memory from school, when I did just that and another pupil shouted loudly to the class that I thought I was perfect. Cue much embarrassment, and trying to correct the whole classroom but to no avail. Isn't it odd what memories remain when other, much more significant, events have long-faded.

Anyway, I was trying to write a post that didn't reference memories, as I fear it is already becoming a repetitive refrain, but it appears I failed in the first hundred words. I’m starting to wonder whether I have a penchant for living in the past. Anyhow, this post has been a few days in the making, several car journeys, a bout of baking, and this morning’s shower have all heard me playing with phrases and snatching at snippets of ideas. I have hit a hiatus, struggling to write without a theme. That doesn't surprise me. Even with university assignments, I find picking the topic the hardest part; once it’s done, the writing comes very easily. Eventually.

I do not, have never, been good at doing things in advance. I don’t ever miss a deadline, but let’s just say I’m the master of the all-nighter. As my mum kindly says, when I’m in impending-deadline hysteria and she is inevitably picking up the pieces, it obviously works for me. I enjoy academia, I tend to get good marks. I don’t doubt though, that my family wish I would do it with slightly less drama, and fewer sleepless nights. Colleagues have identified me as “pressure-prompted”, I hadn't heard this before, but I like it. My current dissertation supervisor shares my work habits (I fear that means that he and I are another combination that is less than ideal), and he calls it “working to deadline”. I like that too, it makes me feel efficient and perfectly-timed.

I just can’t abide starting things and not finishing them. If I do something, I like to do it completely. I have always been like this. I think I was the only teenager whose mum dreaded it when I offered to tidy my room. She knew that it would unavoidably involve a three day endeavour, in which every drawer, cupboard, nook and cranny would be upended into the middle of the room, ready for re-organising and sorting. It was always wonderful when it was finished, and I give her a guided tour, proudly pointing out every freshly folded top and alphabetically arranged bookshelf. In the preceding few days though she just learnt not to look. I think she has repeatedly rued the day she told me “if a job’s worth doing it’s worth doing well”, oblivious to the literal interpretation that would follow.

Undoubtedly, the need to do something so thoroughly, makes starting it impossible. It feels so insurmountable that I leave it until I no longer have a choice. Until then, it looks like such a huge undertaking I’ll always opt to put it off just a little longer. I occasionally wonder if there is also an element of self-protection in my procrastination. A fear of failure can be dampened if I choose to leave things to the last minute. That way, if I don’t do as well as I’d hoped I can console myself with the knowledge that I didn't really give it my best shot. I don’t know if that’s true, it seems at odds with my perfectionist personality (*shudder again*), but not inconceivable.

I read an article recently that suggested breaking things into smaller tasks with shorter deadlines. It’s nothing ground-breaking but it seems to have stuck. It’s a good compromise. I still get the adrenalin-induced surge of activity close to my self-imposed deadline, but the overall task gets done in steps rather than a final flurry of panic. It seems to be working. But the true test will come in August. If I go off radar the week before my dissertation deadline, then it would seem that old habits are dying hard.

Monday, 17 June 2013

popcorn from the candy stand

(The Drifters - Saturday Night At The Movies)

When we got married we had mixed feelings about whether to use a gift registry service. We didn't want to ask for gifts, particularly as many guests were travelling long distances for the wedding. Additionally, we had been engaged for two years (exactly, we got married on the same date as The Husband proposed), and moved in to our house the week after our engagement, so we had already acquired most general household items. The simple answer would have been to not do one, but there was one big problem. We really didn't want to miss out on running round the shop playing with the scanning machines.

So as it was, we had a day of scanning things, and I then had another day of deleting all the things that The Husband added when I wasn't looking. We made the gift list available if people specifically requested it, and were overwhelmed with peoples’ generosity. One of our guests kindly bought us this popcorn maker from our list. I remember my Dad seeing it when he visited us and asking whether we used it much, and the two of us responded so emphatically, whilst giving such an enthusiastic demonstration, I think he was on the verge of buying one himself.

My love for home-popped popcorn goes back to a very special person in my life, my Gran.  I know already she will become a recurring theme on this blog, and I cannot even begin to do justice to what an influence she was to me in a post about popcorn, so I will try, instead, to stay on topic. Gran had a way of making anything she did seem like the greatest treat imaginable, planned entirely for the purpose of having fun with you. She was also the coolest Gran in the world, she was the first person I knew to have a computer or the internet, she bought me my first computer (an Amiga – if you’re interested in retro gaming) and first mobile phone, she knew more about RAM and PC specifications than most adults half her age and even taught me to play computer games (you cannot even imagine how well she and The Husband got on).

So it is no surprise that Gran was twenty years ahead of the game with popcorn too. One day when I was visiting she lifted out a bag of kernels. It occurs to me now she must have intentionally gone to buy them, specifically for the purpose of an afternoon of fun, so that we could share a new experience. I wonder if she had any idea what memories she was making for me. I remember the big heavy bottomed saucepan, a dash of oil, and the rattle of the kernels as they poured into the pot. Shaking in salt and sugar, feeling like she was imparting an amazing culinary secret when she told me they brought out the flavours in each other.

I remember taking it in turns to agitate the pan, holding the handle in one hand and keeping the lid in place with the other. The surprise of that first pop hitting the lid, listening intently for the next ones to follow. Which they did, single snaps at first, followed by a crescendo of explosions, an unexpectedly loud eruption of noise. It gradually ebbed away, looking at my Gran in the silence, reaching for the cover, only to be interrupted by another rogue kernel misfiring late. The joy of finally lifting the lid and seeing a full pan of popcorn, flowing over the sides, it was like the easiest magic trick in the world.

Popcorn will always be one of my favourite snacks, and I get that same childish excitement every time we lift out our big red pan. The Husband and I both stand with stupid grins waiting for the first pop, and laughing at the scattergun of kernels against the lid. Standing in front of the stove listening to that noise, smelling the popcorn, shaking the pan, I am always transported to my Gran’s kitchen, and that feeling of her standing with me, sharing with me a secret, making even the simplest of things seem magical.