Old knickers and new friends


A bus in summer

At this time of year, waiting for the early morning bus at 0645, every day I notice the changing light.

This morning, for example, I had enough light to make out the dim, grey footpath and so avoid the drifts of last year’s old leaves and follow the dips and falls of the tarmac without stumbling.

Waiting for my bus I listened to a cacophony of birds; mostly their calls are a mystery to me, but I am able to pick out the owl from a nearby farm and the cockerel from another. They hoot and crow in some kind of avian version of duelling banjos, while their cousins of hedge and field whistle and warble freestyle feathery jazz.

On the bus I watch the palette of the sky build from charcoal through pastels to acrylic blues. The pink and lilac and lemon drain away as the day begins, leaving only a passing memory. Most of the other passengers are in thrall to small screens of worldwide information and miss the world unfolding.

The cars parked by the roadside are coated in crispy shells of frost this morning, which looks very pretty until you need to clear the windscreen and persuade the door to open. Early drivers scrape unenthusiastically, vandalising the intricate lace-work as their breath and the car’s exhaust steam in unison.

I wish the driver would turn the heating up, or at least not leave the door open while we wait at the bus station. She is warm in her cabin and forgets we are exposed. My feet are unresponsive blocks of ice, although once in the office I will regret my winter layers.

Off the bus at last, fumbling with ticket and lanyard and lunchbox and phone, walking briskly to thaw my feet and warm my body, thinking ahead to tea and logging in and emails, meetings, databases thinking ahead to people around me and cake shared and stories told.

A P Green Knickers front 300

“I can’t believe I’m almost twenty one!” said in the horrified tone of the young, gazing upon the serried ranks of aged oblivion before her, not saying but thinking “Will I end up like them?”

“Twenty one? I’ve got knickers at home older than that!” exclaims the crone to my right.

We three crones exchange glances of misty-eyed remembrance of being horrified at twenty-one.

All three of us roar and cackle, then I answer the phone on script.

“Crone Team, EBL speaking, How can I help?” while beside me the other two rock in silent appreciation of our wit and wisdom.

Rounds of tea mark out the day, then back on the bus, rewinding the morning journey, light fading backwards and more smudges of coloured sky, richer red and purple and apricot before the light fails altogether. Yet still there is enough light this evening to avoid the drifts of last year’s leaves and follow the dips and falls of the tarmac without stumbling.

At home, kicking off shoes, pulling on pyjamas, catching up on all the adventures of the day. A letter from the tax office claims I owe them money. My payslip includes a tax rebate of money they owe me. The two amounts are similar and will take time to sort out for no gain to either of us, but it could be worse.

I sit with hair washed, snuggled in my dressing gown and am thankful for a day of many small pleasures, of old knickers and new friends.

May your days be full of the small joys that keep us sane.



Newborn Knitting

EBL returns trailing clouds of glory, to assuage your hunger for tidings of her adventures. At least, that is the dream I had last night. Alternatively, it seemed like a nice time to drop by and say hello, share a quick cuppa and even a couple of quicker tales of existence beneath the heels of oppression (or “work” as They like to call it). As if I can have my being validated by something as boring as a payslip, a piece of paper which purports to evidence the transfer of zeros and digits across the ether from an employer’s bank account to my bank account. It’s only when I raid the hole-in-the-wall that I ever get to hold a fraction of those alleged numerals in my hands, the majority of them flying straight back out into the ether and across to other alleged accounts belonging to energy companies, the council, the mortgage lender, insurance companies and so on. Honestly, it’s a scam.

It’s been a busy month and really this post is no more than another place-holder to let WordPress know I am still alive. And a chance to say thank you to all my dear new readers who have decided to follow me this month. Clearly you will not be expecting an actual post, so I hope the shock is not too much for you.

neonatal knitted squares

I thought I might go with a knitty theme this time around. I have been knitting again, as the British summer has not been so overwhelmingly hot as to prevent me. I did a little work on a jumper – more of that in due course when there is something worth showing – but more importantly I discovered a brilliant scheme at Leeds  Hospital neonatal unit. They use knitted squares to help mother-infant bonding. Because parents can’t hold and bond with their very poorly babies, the staff lie the babies in incubators on a knitted square, and get the mother to wear another one next to her skin. When she visits they swap the squares. This comforts the baby and also amazingly helps mothers to express milk as well as learn their baby’s scent. Fabulous!

There’s more info on their public Facebook page for anyone else who fancies giving it a go!

Calling all knitters! Have you heard about our Neonatal Units’ bonding square project? One knitted square of…

Posted by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust on Sunday, 2 August 2015

Obviously this makes me think of my mother quite a lot. I was a premature baby and my mother didn’t get the kind of support now available, which may well explain our rather strained relationship. A knitted square or two might have been a benefit to us both. She was, however, a keen knitter of squares herdelf; in her case to make blankets for the chilly elderly. For those interested I did write about it once.

In other news I have had laser treatment on my right eye so can now see again well enough to read, knit more than a square, type, and generally participate in humanity. This may or may not be a Good Thing.

Sigoth and I are contemplating some changes in our home arrangements, and are trying to finish the last bits of decorating and furniture moving so we can make better use of the living space now that we are Home Alone. We have been poring over the bills, changing energy suppliers, cancelling superfluous subscriptions and generally getting Affairs in Better Order. There’s a first time for anything.

Meanwhile I hope you are well and finding good things that make you happy. Tell me more, if you feel so moved. It would be good to catch up.



The Sealed Knot

The Sealed Knot is a Civil War Re-enactment Group. When we talk about the Civil War we mean the one we had in the 17th century after which we gave up on republicanism as a bad job and set up a global empire instead. That turned out well.

I do understand that the rest of the world is not blessed with being British. In fact, I am not even sure whether I mean British or English when I say this. As a nation within a United Kingdom of other nations, I am so confused as to my national identity that I can’t even tell you where I am from. It all depends on context.

The question “Where are you from, EBL?” elicits one of the following responses:

If the question is asked by a foreigner and I am abroad, I will say British.

If the question is asked by a foreigner and we are in the UK, I will say English.

If the questioner is British and we are in England, I will say Yorkshire

If we are in South or West Yorkshire, I will say North Yorkshire

If we are in North Yorkshire, I will say “village near t’ Moors”

If we are close to my village I will say its name

If we are in my village I will say “I was born near London” and be subjected to much hilarity and ritual abuse. After that we all have a pint and take the piss out of Westies (people from West Yorkshire). It might be worth noting that the pint could comprise either tea or beer, but not usually both at the same time.

So imagine my joy at falling over a meme on Facebook about British Problems. I have to confess I am guilty of pretty much all of them, so now I know that I am in fact British.

It turns out there are lots of these on the web but I thought I would share a couple here as a warning to anyone who might be planning a visit to our sceptred isle, set in its silver sea.

I was looking forward to a nature documentary but when I sat down to watch it the narrator wasn’t David Attenborough

Honestly, if the national religion in this country is the NHS, then the national voice for all things furry, scaled, feathered or generally of the living persuasion is David Attenborough. You all know it’s true. The BBC exports enough of his stuff to the rest of you. His hushed tones allow you to share his reverence and awe for the natural world in all its quirky, stupendous glory. As a nation we are honoured to have him as one of our own.

If you visit us, however, we are not all like David. Oh no.

I live outside the UK so when I say “With all due respect” no one realises I’m insulting them

This is something visitors need to look out for. Listen for tone of voice or heavy sighs, and perhaps look for crossed arms or hands on hips. When Brits speak loudly and slowly it’s because they think you are slow of English or that you are a pain in the neck (or both).


I phoned Netflix customer support, which is US based; they were so overly polite I thought they were being sarcastic and hung up

From this you can assume that customer service in the UK is of a different nature to that of the US. It might not be as bad as in Paris, but only because we keep apologising while stitching you up. I don’t know what your own country is like and I’m sure it varies in different parts of the world, but if you had a line representing the best and worst of US customer service, British customer service would be off the scale at the worst end. If we do it really well, you might not even know we are mocking you.

Don’t be fooled by the fact we apologise for everything either. In fact, I suspect the whole “Nation of Sorries” thing might take an entire new post, so that’s all for now. I need to go and tidy up before the cleaner gets here. I wouldn’t want her to find the house a mess.

How British are you? It’s not a matter of birth but of attitude!



In the night garden


Sometimes I don’t sleep very well. In fact, quite often I don’t. It may be age or hormones or stress. Who knows? Certainly not the medical profession.

I lie awake trying not to disturb Sigoth very much. Often I fail because one of the ways I can get back to sleep is snuggling up and listening to his breathing and heartbeat. Naturally this disturbs him and then we both lie awake for a while until he falls asleep again.

Sometimes I try and do some relaxation exercises. I breathe in. I breathe out. I bring my mind back to the breathing. It doesn’t often work.

Sometimes I go through the alphabet thinking of girls’ first names or boys’ first names, or fruit and vegetables, of films or TV programmes or books or authors. I am surprised at how successful that can be, even when I go through the same old list for the third time that week. I rarely have to do more than two or three alphabets in any one night, but if I get through the third I know a fourth will not help me.

After all that I listen to the night noises, straining to hear what is happening around me. The mouse clog-dancing in the loft; the dog in the village barking at some disturbance or dream; the sleepy grumble of a bird in the lilac tree annoyed by the barking; an owl hooting; perhaps a fox barking in the distance, disturbing the dog. A car or lorry might rattle past, on a mysterious errand at three in the morning. The wind whistles a bit around the chimney and argues with the trees, which shush at it like an elderly librarian. The house itself grunts and creaks as it fidgets and tries to reach an annoying itch. The clocks downstairs chime every half hour. Some nights I can hear the earth herself spin.

When even the everynight sounds do not lull me back to the land of Nod I have to get up and move about a bit to persuade my body that I really am tired and need to go to sleep. I might get a glass of water from downstairs. I might take painkillers if my shoulders are aching.

Sometimes I walk about the house, embarrassed at the constellations it contains. In almost every room there are small, glowing lights from electrical items left plugged in. I mean, I care about the earth and climate change and all, but it is so much easier to leave the television on stand-by. What can I say? I am Evil Personified. There are routers and hubs and the television and the hifi and laptops and mobile phones and radios and DVD players and games consoles, all sucking up the coal-by-wire or whatever it is nowadays, as if it was going out of fashion. In fact it probably is, and if you are reading this by clockwork computer and candlelight, I’m sorry I wasted your power. Then there are the street lights outside making the garden, front and back, blaze like Wembley Stadium.

A few years ago I would often walk out into the garden at night to look at the genuine constellations above. It made me feel better to see the Plough and the Pleiades, or Orion’s Belt, or whatever I could identify. If I am stardust, then those are my distant cousins.

But then some more houses were built behind our house and although we were promised low lighting levels, it turns out the council actually meant we didn’t need to use our own lights because they would provide a full service for us. When we get up at night we don’t have to put lights on. The streetlights outside provide sufficient for all our nocturnal needs. Do I sound a little curmudgeonly here? Yes? Good, I meant to.

This Blazing Glory notwithstanding, I went out into the garden a few nights ago. It was unseasonably mild for a March night, and I thought some fresh air would do me good. I stood on the grass and closed my eyes to listen, feeling like Mr Bear in “Peace at Last”. It was a quiet night, no real breeze and no real rustling. I am sure the small, anxious inhabitants of the night time garden were frozen to the spot as I lumbered about. The clouds meant the temperature was warm but the starview was non-existent. Certainly there were no hedgehogs rustling or cats wailing or birds cheeping or sun shining. Even the owls were on a break.

I sighed and went back inside, At least Sigoth wasn’t snoring.

What do you do on sleepless nights? Help me out – I need some suggestions!



Back to work blues

I haven’t exactly been singing “Hey Ho” as I trundle off to the mines, but today was my first day back to work since I had my operation, It’s been a good three weeks in total and I have still not had time to get bored at home.

Admittedly much time has been spent swinging my arms in circles because that’s what the very nice young man at physio told me. I’m a sucker for those baby blue eyes. We’ll see what new nonsense he comes up with on Thursday when I have my next follow up, but meanwhile my arms are now capable of rotating in three and possibly even four dimensions.


I wasn’t keen on going back to work, but I have my duty. There are still mortgage payments to make after all, and if we lost the house it would be embarrassing having to leave the demented mother by the side of the road for the council to collect. Especially now they only come fortnightly.

Still, one of the most fantastic things about my job is that I am primarily home-based. In simple terms it means I can work in my pyjamas. I don’t. But I could.

What I did wear, though, to keep myself cheerful and my toes toasty, were my Christmas present slippers from an Offspring. Every time I felt a bit fed up today I wiggled my toes and when I looked down at my feet the slippers made me smile.


It wasn’t snowing at all today, but I still hummed a little hum and was glad my toes were warm.

The more it snows (Tiddely-Pom)

The more it goes  (Tiddely-Pom)

The more it goes on snowing  (Tiddely-Pom)


And nobody knows  (Tiddely-Pom)

How cold my toes (Tiddely-Pom)

How cold my toes are growing (Tiddely-Pom Tiddely-Pom Tiddely-Pom Tiddely-Pom)


I hope you are all warm and toasty – especially those of you caught in the terrible winter weather in various parts of the world. How do you keep warm and cheerful when all about you are conspiring to bring you low?



A Day with EBL

You know what it’s like – lying in bed at 3am unable to sleep for some reason or other. It wasn’t a Wednesday morning but it certainly has been on other occasions. And all I could think about was the song by Simon and Garfunkel. And that led to an idea for this post. It’s not very original but I am not here to be original, witty or clever, and doubly not so at 3 o’clock in the morning. If you are after that kind of shenanigans, I suggest you go elsewhere. Try Googling it.

I often wake up unfeasibly early and wait for the alarm. In the summer it can be quite pleasant because I can listen to the feathered psychopaths yodelling outside the window. In winter, as now, it is merely dark and cold, and all I can hear is the mouse in the loft. Note to self: check anti-mouse measures. It’s not like we don’t put up warning signs and use a sonic mouse device to send it away. At least it’s only in the loft, and not on the stairs….

As I lie in the dark I am waiting for the alarm to go off at 6 am. Well, that calls for a little daydream believing, I think. I try not to tap my toes in case I disturb slumbering Sigoth. Lucky Sigoth and his slumbering.

So finally it’s six o’clock and I rise, wipe the sleep out of my eyes, and head for the shower. Sigoth makes me a cup of tea, otherwise I won’t get out the door. Bless him. He doesn’t even drink tea; only coffee. It’s his one flaw.

Dressed, showered, tea-ed up and teeth brushed, it’s down stairs for a few minutes of the breakfast news. This helps me to establish whether (a) there has been a national emergency which might allow me to stay home, and (b) keep an eye on the time. Usually there is nothing more interesting than finding holes in Lancashire.

I get to the bus stop at 6.45. This can be quite eventful. Sometimes there is an owl vs cockerel duel going on, trying to see which can shriek the loudest. Once or twice I have been greeted by a peacock and his missus. The other day it was an East European lorry driver who was lost, asked for directions then couldn’t understand the answer. I drew him a map in the light of his headlamps. Truly all life is here, while the rest of the village slumbers.

The bus gets me to the train station by 7.15 and my train comes at 7.23. It’s usually on time these days although it goes through rough patches. They often seem to lose the driver on a Monday morning.

The station is crowded with school children heading into town because they attend one of the independent schools. That’s “private schools” in plain words. Where I live there are quite a few comfortably-off folks, who wouldn’t dream of letting their children attend the local school, even though it is above average. In the case of the Catholics who want a Catholic school, I have a little sympathy. Otherwise, not so much. I should know – I went to such a school.

Usually I can find a seat on the train, although it is always busy. As well as the children, there are lots of people commuting to work in one of the cities along the route. I like earwigging on their conversations, but am less happy when someone falls asleep on my shoulder. Especially if they dribble. I only think of this song here because I seem to recall an advert for British Rail that used it. Anyway, I like it (the song of course, not the rail journey).

After an hour or so we reach the city I am commuting to. I scramble out, pushing past standing commuters, suitcases en route to the airport, and confused travellers who don’t use this train on a regular basis. Then it’s up the stairs or escalator and across the bridge to fight my way through the ticket barriers and out. The office may be almost in sight – what joy!

The office is actually a 10 minute walk away and I will usually pick up lunch and a coffee on the way because I won’t get time to go out at lunchtime. And by now that early cup of tea is wearing off and I need a caffeine injection. One morning the machine was broken and I had to make do with decaffeinated. It tasted fine but lots of my colleagues kept asking me if I was alright as I looked so tired. I had several cups of tea made for me. Bless them all.

Most of the time I am in the office I am in meetings or being chased up and down by people needing me to tell them something, Overall, it’s quite manic, whatever the day of the week.

Regular consumers of this blog may recall that I am an IT project manager (among other things). Much of the time I am required to act as a translator (from geek to human and back), a complaints bureau (have you tried switching it off and on again? Really, it will probably work!), a mind reader and a gazer of crystal balls. I try to hold it all together but sometimes it goes wrong.

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist a second Led Zep. Be grateful I haven’t made the entire post a Led Zep tribute. Now there’s an idea…)

After a frantic day I get to rewind the whole journey in reverse, although without the coffee. Otherwise I wouldn’t sleep. Oh, wait.

Let’s finish the working day as we started with S&G.

At last I’m home with Sigoth and what could better sum that up than Beethoven?

Obviously there is the demented mother to feed and water, but she has her own song, that I have also mentioned before.

It’s funny how these songs are mostly not ones I would ever choose for a Desert Island; a number of them I haven’t actually heard in years and it was entertaining finding them again on YouTube. But they did seem to just pop into my head as I went through the day’s schedule. Looking back at the list, it appears I am working in a parallel universe which is at least 30 years behind us. The tunnel near Garforth must be a wormhole. It explains everything.


B4Peace: Keep saying it and it will come true

Last year Kozo, over at Everydaygurus.com set a challenge to write a blog about peace at least once a month. He provided prompts to get us thinking and so a movement was born. This year we carry on, spreading the love across yon t’Interweb; for January Kozo has proposed we write about a thought we will keep in mind for the year to try and bring about peace. The premise is based both on Buddhist tradition and modern neuroscience which jointly conclude that we are what we think. So let us think, and be, Peace.

Kozo’s mantra is “Abide as the stream of love”, and those of you who have been with me a while may recall that there is a poem I particularly adore which seems to reflect this thought. I will do no more here than point you once more to “Valedictory Sonnet to the River Duddon” by Wordsworth, which includes the immortal line

“Still glides the stream and shall forever glide”.

Wordsworth wrote this when he was moving from his home of many years (I think it was from Dove Cottage to Grasmere, but it isn’t important as such) and was concerned at leaving his favourite walks and places for creative exercise. He wondered if, in leaving his genius loci he might also leave behind his Muse. Thus he was drawn into contemplating his mortality and chances of immortality, either through a religious lens or a legacy of poetry. Wordsworth was not very humble from what I can see, and expected his poetry to live on.

Watching the river he understood that life went on, with or without him. I talked about my own views on life after death recently in my first post for the Quaker Alphabet project, so won’t bore you again. In fact, this rambling introduction has done no more than set the scene for the mantra that I use when practising any form of mindfulness or meditative activity. You may or may not be relieved to hear it isn’t Wordsworth.

When I first started trying to incorporate regular meditation/mindfulness into my routine I used various recordings from the Internet to help me learn to focus. I live in a rural area and although there is in fact a meditation group in a nearby town, run by the Buddhist Centre at Pocklington, nevertheless I have never managed to attend because I am usually away for work during the week. So I make do and mend by using that ever reliable and trustworthy resource known as YouTube.

One of the files I found (and I can’t remember which it was so can’t include a link) talked about a loving universe surrounding and upholding you. I find this concept comforting, and try to think about it as I settle into any period of meditation. To help me do so I tend to use a certain phrase – breathe in the love.

breatheinloveThis helps me to focus on my breathing and to calm myself down so that I can sit quietly. Iy also allows me to recognise that I can find support and help if needed, and that I am not as useless as I tend to assume. I have been known to sub-vocalise this phrase when facing something particularly irritating during the daily grind. On one or two occasions it has helped but usually I admit I leave it too late and the lava is already erupting before I try and shut it down, by which time mantras just don’t cut it at all.

So why am I suggesting it might be useful for me to carry on doing this? Well, I suppose I’m not saying that exactly – although I will carry on. What I am trying to say is that I believe that if more people practised meditation or mindfulness, with or without spiritual overtones as they see fit, the more peaceful the world would be. If more of us tried to do this, and kept trying to remember our mantras sooner than later, then we might have fewer angry words and sulks and hurt.

“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” Dalai Lama

And he should know.

Now if you don’t fancy meditation, and lots of people don’t, that’s OK too, because that is why poetry was invented. Perhaps you can use a simple mantra just on its own. One that helps you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, and blaming it on you. One that reminds you that you, too, are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. One that encourages you to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone. In short, one that holds you close, like a bridge over troubled water, when life is getting too difficult and people are doing your head in and all you want to do is channel your inner toddler, lie on the floor and have a massive tantrum. We’ve all been there. Don’t pretend you haven’t had days like that. It’s OK. All I’m saying here is, a mantra can help, sometimes.

Other Bloggers for Peace can be read here; read and enjoy and find inspiration for your daily heroics.

You are amazing.



The List and I

I’m pretty sure at least some of you recognise my friend: the To Do List. Naturally before Christmas I compile one, and it’s a thing of beauty. It has time segments and cross referencing and dependencies and contingencies. Names are allocated to jobs. Tasks may be crossed out vigorously when completed or hesitantly drawn through if not quite up to standard. Often they are annotated as a cascade of sub-tasks becomes necessary.

The Christmas List (and to be fair it’s really also a New Year and Beyond List) seems to realise a life of its very own. It sulks when I don’t give it my full attention. It nestles in my lap purring as I type frantically at the keyboard ordering from the supermarket or the gift retailers who are going to make Christmas achievable for me this year. To be honest I think it’s a cat in disguise. I can sometimes feel its claws as it pads round in a circle on my thighs, finding just the most inconvenient spot to rest, like on top of the keyboard. I don’t have a cat any more since I developed an allergy so it fills a niche.

Today was a good day though. Today I completed all the time-critical essentials. As I typed the final question for the Village Quiz on Friday I felt the weight lift from my shoulders. The list hissed a little as I crossed off the last item in the MUST DO category. (Did I mention categories? I have those too.)

I gave it a severe look.

“Now then, little list,” I admonished (for it was indeed much smaller than previously). “You and I have made a great team over the past month or so. Don’t spoil it now. I’d like to remember this as a successful venture. Who knows what we’ll get up to next year?”

The list sulked a bit and pouted.

“You still have to phone your friend about that visit, and finish the knitting for the imminent arrival of Baby A. Don’t think you can ignore me.”

I sighed.

“Look, list,” I said. “I know I have to do those things. But they are not as time critical as all that. I can leave them until tomorrow. The baby isn’t due for a couple of weeks, and I have almost finished. Plus the visit isn’t until April!”

“Tomorrow,” the list sneered. “Oh yes, good idea. Leave them until tomorrow. Don’t come crying to me when you are up against the clock.”

My lists tend to the sarcastic; I simply cannot imagine where they get it from.

EBL’s To Do ListSo that’s what I am going to do: leave things until tomorrow. This afternoon I have sat around watching bad TV and playing games on my phone. Now I have enjoyed a restorative cup of tea and slice of Christmas cake (thanks to the list it was a beauty this year – plenty of topping up throughout November and December made it moist and slightly more alcoholic than is good for me.). The natural progression is to have a little natter with you before I do in fact concede and pick up the list again. After all, we are friends. We have just had a minor disagreement about priorities today.

Tomorrow, as the list observed, I have much to do. But as Scarlett O’Hara would say, “Tomorrow is another day.” We can begin each day afresh.


Fluffy bunnies

“Fluffy bunnies” is a term we use in our household to denote a sudden and unexpected change of direction in the conversation. As an example, imagine you are driving along with your Significant Other, talking about interesting and important things to do with Life, the Universe and Everything. One of you suddenly exclaims “Ooh! Look! Fluffy bunnies!” and points excitedly to some smallish brown mammals in a field at the side of the road. If you are lucky the Pointer will not also be the Driver.

Thus a post will start out musing over fund-raising, Robbie Williams, Muppets and Saturday afternoons then end up discussing the relative merits of the gnarly-buttocked cyclist and feminine beauty routines. If that’s your cup of tea, make sure you are sitting comfortably and I’ll begin.

Last night was the monthly Village Quiz, which Sigoth and I write to help raise funds for the support of said institution. It’s usually pretty well-attended, although last night happened to be a bit thin on the ground. Nevertheless, Much Fun was Had by All. However, last night was also the night the BBC was showing Robbie Williams at the London Palladium singing swing and collaborating with the Muppets. Who could resist? And thanks to the wonders of modern technology, in particular BBC’s iPlayer, I didn’t have to.

So night wore into day and Saturday dawned. Naturally it started with a List. Saturday almost always does in my experience. I had correspondence to sort out, some technology to wrangle, an Anglo-Saxon document to download and a bit of on-line retail research to perform. Once these chores were done I could sit back and relax. Sigoth also got through his list in time for lunch, after which we sat and watched Robbie strut his stuff, and chortled at Fozzie Bear’s jokes, Miss Piggy’s singing, Gonzo’s chickens and Statler’s and Waldorf’s sniping. Saturday afternoon heaven! Did I mention the roaring fire? No? My bad.

So far, so good. The day was going to plan. My list for the afternoon (oh yes, I don’t just have A List, I have Time-Bounded Lists, with deadlines and even, occasionally, risk logs) contained some allegedly pleasant but necessary activities, one of which was to take time out to remove my nail varnish. I know, most people don’t have to put that kind of thing on a list. I do. I’m not very good at the feminine arts, and only recently discovered nail varnish, but I’m enjoying it as a novelty for the present. It’s shiny and pretty and makes a change. It’s just that it takes a bit more management oversight than I would like in an ideal world.

Of course, just when it seems safe to go into the water, the Great White bites you on the bum. I got distracted by catching up on other people’s blogs. I have fallen terribly behind lately, what with Work and Stuff, and I wanted to read what people had been writing while I was away. It was great to pick up the threads again, and I spent a goodly while at it. Some of you have been awfully prolific.  I am ashamed even more by my lack of contribution.

Time went gone by, in its timey-wimey way, and I needed to do other things. My nail varnish slot was past. Well now, what’s a girl to do? In my case it’s sit down and write a blog about it instead of doing the actual thing required.

Bikes in London and CopenhagenThat made me wonder, philosophically speaking, why I am so resistant to spending that time on myself. I like the nail varnish, I actually do, to my utter surprise. I like the fact it has lycra in it, to make it harder wearing and last longer. I amuse myself by thinking about the miracle of lycra and its many functions from adorning my nails to adorning the gnarly buttocks of road warriors on fantastically over-priced bicycles. I mean, how much do you have to pay out to cycle from A to B? How many gears, when you get right down to it, do you actually need for cycling up the High Street? I’m pretty sure three is more than enough. And the clothing! Compare London cyclists with Copenhageners as in this picture. It’s enough to make Gok Wan weep. The English just aren’t very good at style; it probably explains my nail varnish issues. Any excuse.

And so, my dears, I have fluffed my bunnies. I have navigated skilfully from a morning of productive activity to an afternoon and early evening of time-wasting and prevarication. Now I have to cook my mother’s tea and then it’s over to Strictly and Borgen. It’s a question of whether I can multi-task between the tangos and waltzes in order to de-polish.

Do you put off minor tasks for no good reason? Do tell!


Misty wanderings

The other day Sigoth and I went Christmas shopping. It’s a little early for us, but I had an unexpected day off work, and time is galloping by in the run up to seasonal festivities. Mostly I have placed orders on-line, hoping that the pictures of the products do not lie. However, where stocking fillers are concerned nothing beats a trip to town.

That’s not what I want to tell you about though, you will be pleased to read. It was the journey back that I wanted to share, although to no great purpose.

North Yorkshire landscapeI live in a small village in North Yorkshire, and I love the peace and quiet we enjoy for most of the year. I particularly like the serious quietness of winter, when the earth settles down for a snooze and the cold freezes all the frantic activity of nature to let things take a rest. At this time of year, in our northern hemisphere, the light is relatively brief. So as Sigoth and I were driving home at about 3.30 it was already getting dark.

Sigoth remarked that it was only 3 weeks until mid-winter after which the days would start to get longer again. He is a creature of the sun and light and warmth, and he is looking forward to spring.

I sat and stared out of the window at the hills around us. There were no lights along the road, or across the fields. Everything was grey and there was a slight mist forming. It was ancient. This was the experience of our forebears, as they too prepared for a feast to shut out the worst of winter. I was glad I did not have to worry about wolves.

The hills rolled onwards forever, smudged in grey. Briefly I did see a light in a distant farmhouse but soon it was hidden by the trees. The road was unusually quiet so there were not too many headlights coming towards us.

Sigoth said he didn’t remember it getting dark quite so early.  I disagreed.

I thought back to 3.30 on winter afternoons when I was at school, cycling home in darkness and sleet, my knees blue and my hands frozen into position on the handle bars, my books dragging me back. When I got into the house I made tea and toast, or hot chocolate and a bacon sandwich, trying to thaw my unresponsive fingers as I waited for the kettle to boil.

At the top of Golden Hill we saw the local market town spread out ahead of us. The lights glowed in the fuzzy air, each with its own perfect halo. We carried on past town and headed for our village. There’s a point along the main road where you can see the houses on the ridge like a line of lanterns showing us how much further we need to go.

Our house was dark, except for the annexe where my mother sat with her electric coal fire and chatty television, dozing in her chair. We unloaded the car and gave thanks for the ancient Aga warming the kitchen. Of course we made tea.

The garden was invisible now as the mist and dark grew heavier. The house enfolded us against the cold and wolves, and I drew the curtains.

Sigoth planned when he was going to go and get the Christmas Tree. I put the shopping away and together we made chowder.

On Thursday night the pub is having a curry night, so we’ll walk through the village, stumbling in the dark and slipping on the old fallen leaves and the mud, while we look for constellations in the sky (unless it’s cloudy).

The dark and misty hills reminded me of Hardy’s poem “The Darkling Thrush” partly because of the opening lines, but also because it ends on an uncharacteristically cheerful note for Hardy.

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

And so, in darkness and in light, may we all sing joyfully.