Upcycling last weekend

Saturday and Sunday. The Weeked. “Le Weekend” – if you are French, “Friday to Monday” if you are frightfully “U” and called Mitford. 2 days in which to do enjoyable things that you don’t do during the week. William Brown was absolutely right here – they are not long enough.

Saturday was spent in the lovely little West Lothian town of Linlithgow. How did I manage to miss this place? Old buildings with crow-step gables, council plantings of “3 varieties of cereal crops, interspersed with bee-friendly plants” – no serried ranks of red-geranium-white-allysum-blue-lobelia in a predictable Union Flaggish design. A vintage Fishvan – glass-sided old style ‘bus and a counter covered in cracked ice and a lovely variety of fisheses both with and without scale, precious. Smily men – 2 in boaters and clean white coats, collars and ties and no fishy aromas wafting around the streets. Either very fresh (hooray) or very ummmm.

And three craft shops. Three! Patchwork, knitting and general haberdashery (there is a 4th- beading supplies, but I did not get that far) each recommended the other and I wallowed, drunk with joy in fat quarters, double knitting and buttons and interlining. Just so you understand, there is no John Lewis near chez moi. 66 miles to Edinburgh, 65 to Glasgow or 56 (really? just looked that up, I am surprised) to Aberdeen. So this plethora of haberdashery in one street is a Utopia. Sigh…

A lampshade frame was not to be had, but the Patchwork lady suggested a wee keek in the charity shops. And so I did, CR-UK got it in one. I trundled out with £2.50’s worth of lampshade. Covered in the most deeply unattractive maroon shiny fabric. Resembling a ripe, thrombosed haemorrhoid. Hideous. But it can be up-cycled, I believe, firmly, with a following wind, some spare fabric from the horde (blue gingham – I have in mind). And it will not cost £76.50 which a certain indulgent magazine was advertising, only this month. It may resemble a dejected J-cloth, with undertones of piles, if the whole thing does a wheels-up. We live in hope, however, and it will be “Better Than Nothing” (maternal quoting).

Onwards to the great ambition to fit into That Dress. I found a new and exciting way of measuring my risk of something cardiac-diabetic-joint-failure nasty. BMI (which suggest normal, healthy) is OUT and height/waist measurement ratio is IN. A bit of optimistic tugging on the tape measure did not avail, difficult to cheat when you cannot see over your buxom parts. So a blind-faith and follow the instructions measurement was duly entered along with the height (I am the Tallest of my Line – this measurement is non-negociable, 5’3″, mother is 5″1 (and an half)” and wee grandad was 4’10”) Nice design – a little turny-round thing until you got “your” numbers in. Then the moment of calculation (cue blue chasing its’ own tail icon) and “Consider Action”. That was it, no buttering of parsnips, leading up the garden path or breaking bad news, sensitively. Straight between the blubber rolls, off your tail-feather and Do Something. So Sunday – all aboard the velocipedes and Off on a Family Bike Ride. In the local countryside. Swoon now, Boris – this is how we do it outwith the metropolis. 5 miles later I returned, having realised that the bicycle saddle was the Thing of Satan and had to walk the last 500 yards for fear that my bones upon which I sit were about to erode through my gluteus maximuses (maximi?). Later piteous noises on social networking suggests that I need to either have something called a “Manta” – I like this image broad and floaty, sting in the tail, or something whose name might be “wiggle”. I will have to go back and verify.

Other than the discomfort in the hindquarters, which was mild, it was a successful bike ride. A yellowhammer was mistaken for an escaped budgie, someone’s perfectly laid out kitchen garden (Monty Don’s corduroy trouser and potager effect has made it north) ogled at, over the manicured hedge, a Welsh collie who came out to say “hello” was returned through his garden. The Labrador and Alsation bayed over the un-jumpable fence, clearly enraged by the Welsh chutzpah. Soup lunch at the local bistro, jolly scrummy.


Per ardua ad astra – primo

Let’s sing of our tradition

We of the Girls’ High School

Of pioneering courage, of loyalty and zeal

That’s something like the first few lines of the school song. The School. 4 years spent absorbing learning in that bit between Moffat Street and Thing Street was, the one where Forsyth and Beit House tipped out. An interesting melting pot; day scholars and boarders, at that time it appeared that “ne’er the twain shall meet” such was the presumed auto-superiority of each group. Not so now…

Like most curate’s eggs there were good parts and bad. Teachers, that is – the deeply terrifying doyenne of Room 5, who despised anything below the top 5% of the ‘A’ stream and would have preferred to spend all her teaching time with the 6th Form. A year of studying The Amazon and Australia – an peculiar paring, left me with a cold shudder every time a buttress root or The Great Desert is mentioned. Even cathedral flying buttresses conjour up the unutterable misery of those lessons. The sure knowledge that whatever you did, would be unsatisfactory, in the extreme. Later one understood that said teacher had a deeply miserable home existence, but the rank unfairness still, rankles, rankly. The science teacher, another “teach by humiliation” proponent. The chickens did rather come home to roost here. The lovely experiment involving vacuum pumps and old paraffin cans was run. impressed we were. Then for reasons best known to Seth, Anubis and Horus, the repeat experiment was varied by dint of swopping paraffin can for laboratory flask. Glass. For the use of. The inevitable implosion of glass flask (exhibit A) giving way to the decrease in pressure from pump (exhibit B) was entertaining, for one split second. Then all hell broke loose –  screaming, ululating teenage girls threw themselves in all the four directions. The (merciful) one injury – a lacerated ear lobe bled like an eviscerated porcine, fountains of claret….and the operatics reached greater and greater pitched of hysteria. Teacher, gathered all her wisdom, knowledge and experience and Bellowed for Silence. The noise and movement ceased, brushes were fetched, injured ear dispatched for attention in the Sick Bay and the lesson went on. Clearly the ‘Elf and Safety Elf was not released from its’ genie-like bottle until decades later, when such a slip-up would have made headlines in someone’s later chipwrappings.

In contrast – another teacher of geography, in later, happier years, made her lessons come to life with slides which she carefully gathered every time she set foot outside the home country. Switzerland! Alps with marvelous upthrust intrusions and folds of rocks and terminal morraines. Wonderful words which made the mystique of “overseas” all the more tempting. More locally, patient explanation of the geology beneath our brown, lace-up school shoes. Flecks of mica, raw asbestos, pyrites, igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic …a litany of terms which delighted the ear. For the minority, I fear. I hung upon every word and listened like an owl. The class divided into the swots, the middle and the tailend. This uneven and out-of-step chongololo meandered along, the front end listening, the centre: half an ear open, hoping that osmosis would make up the difference and the tail frisked flirtatiously in the van, discussing whatever the latest scuttlebutt had come there way and Boys. Not a co-educational establishment, these Y chromosome-enriched beings were geographically distant, forbidden and therefore utterly fascinating. The osmotic-reliant centre portion, I imagine were also absorbing scurrilous details sniggered upon from the rear ranks, which might explain their distraction from all things geological.

And then there was Games. What possessed the school to apply that light-hearted term of description to double periods of grimness? In summer – tennis and swimming. Winter, hockey and netball. Apart from the addition of a series of periods in the Gym, that was it. Nowt else. Aziko. Of the 5 potential methods of suffering, the lowest spot was assuredly occupied by that armed combat sport of hockey. Here we go, tra la! there are rules and sides and positions and Marking Your Opposite Number. which makes not a haggis of a difference whatsover when you are faced with brawny 5’8″ (cubed) Amazon bearing down at remarkable speed, brandishing a curved wooden weapon, with which she is propelling a hard, white ball apparently at your Head, as if her virtue depended upon it. The only option to ensure that your amygdala stayed put in your skull and did not go flying (wheeee!) like some airborne offal, was to sidestep, briskly. And then absorb the wails of dismay from your team members’ frantically retreating rumps, as they pursued said silly white sphere and tried to get it back. Again. The sight of those bristly (mottled by exertion and excessive hormones) thunder thighs between the short green pleated gym skirt and long white socks was enough to unman Atilla the Hun, should he have found himself facing the U13 A team. Netball occupied 4th position, it was crowd controlled on a nasty hard court painted with arcane symbols, lines , semi-circles and probably, curcubites and ankhs. Same blether about rules and stuff, no weapons of the hand, just a large brown ball, which was required to be put into a daft string net which lived up a pole. Much leaping about and passing of said ball was to happen, dribbling (not with fear, this time-much) but No Running With the Ball (well, why in Hades name not? It happened some time ago and a whole new bloodsport emerged. Rugby) So the Amazons (again) had height upon their sides and worse, much worse than the jostling and shoving when like a sardine, caught between opposing whales, was the eau de Mum Roll-on and sweaty armpits. At nose level. Lovely. All good, clean (clean? CLEAN?) fun. Tennis hovers in position 3. Which was more than the balls did. Untaught, ignored and overheated in the blaze of the sun my partner(in crime) and I whacked balls inaccurately and enthusiastically into the hedge of conifers beyond the wire netting , the footpath from Thing Street and against the school perimeter. There, in the lovely resinous shade we would (apparently) be seeking energetically for the ball (see sanctions). In truth we poked about half-heartedly with the racquet head and nattered. The Games teacher did not seem to mind, she had other more sporty fish to fry….
Position 2 – swimming. Sounds wonderful – loved mucking about in the lovely cool water, nearly every suburban garden had either a pool or a neighbour with one. Happiness was an inflated tractor tyre inner tube. At school, one had to swim Lengths and Train for the annual Watery WetFest. The School Gala. Five houses pitted against one another for individual prizes, team cups, team spirit and on and on it went. The first and only gala – I nearly met my maker in the hideous traditional “Crocodile Race”. Picture this , a long line of green bathing costume and rubberhat girls. Top end, some aquatic Amazon with shoulders as wide as the Limpopo, honed by years of hurtling up and down the length of the pool doing butterfly. Then a diminishing selection along the years and abilities until the Tail-end Charlie, Form one lightweight cannon-fodder. Qui s’appelle, Moi. When I was not being heftily booted by the tummy by the legs in front I was submerged beneath the chlorine as Belinda Butterfly launched herself UP towards the finish line, dragging her madly clinging to the waist of the girl in front and breaststroke legs (no screw-kicks girls!) in her not inconsiderable wake. So the tail, outswum,outweighted and outgunned on all flanks sank, spluttered and clutched. A bit like an animated drogue. Adding nothing to forward progress. Henceforth, I became a non-swimmer. Interestingly, this reverse evolution went unnoticed. So finally – gymnastics. Occurred in the gym – so no sun to roast one, required defying gravity and becoming airborne in various manners. The enjoyment was solely due to my diminutive size, horse-vaulting and bar-walking and scrambling up those ladder things on the wall was relatively easy. At last, the hockey and netball heffalumps and supershoulder swimmers were reduced to size…They sweated and heaved and landed “plop” on the top of the horse, fell off the bar and wept at the bottom of the ladder things. Demonstrating due empathy I sniggered (quietly) and made encouraging “Oh do try again, Sh………., I’m sure you can!” noises (loudly) . Quid pro quo.

Soap opera

The bar of soap vanished from my bathroom today – it had been snaffled by the larger male for his shower. All very laudable, but I’m sure the same thing happened last week. What does the chap do with bars of soap? Eat them? Spend time carving them into interesting shapes with the Solingen steel safety razor blade? It may explain why male ablutions last so much longer, are more splashy and generally puzzling. I suppose I should delight in the fact that the larger male emerges, pink, clean and slightly damp around the edges, but…

So I opened a new bar of soap, cunningly hidden at the back of the bathroom cupboard. It is neither elegant, nor ordered but hides things very nicely. Put that in your pipe and smoke it neat-freaks. Tomorrow, I will indulge in longing looks at tidy and serried rankly cupboards and sigh, as things fall out of mine and roll about on the floor. It occurred to me, as I fought with the cardboard box (good packaging, can be used as a fragrant firelighter when the woodburner is next lit. (Probably next week, unless summer comes back, we had it on Saturday, so that might be our ration) and then the inner-silly-cellophane wrapper, no scissors in the bathroom, they have eloped with the kitchen scissors, I presume. The larger male was much dismayed when he couldn’t find them last night and had to separate the sausage links with a knife, prior to creating Toad-in-the-Hole. The sillyphane was much resistant, it rustled and squeaked and refused flatly to open. So I poked a hole in it with the eyebrow tweezers. Why, I ask, should a bar of soap need sillyphane? I have memories of soap from childhood. It came in three flavours:

Pears – exported from Down South and kept as dry as poss and only used, sparingly on my pink hide and small sister’s eczematous skin. It lived in a cardboard box until it was reverentially opened. “Sanctions” were mentioned in muted tones, all the adults would nod seriously and we children would watch wide-eyed and oblivious. Who or what was Sanctions? He must eat soap (much like the elder male appears to now) and this must be prevented At All Costs. He was also known to eat the high quality chocolate which didn’t get bought, but “brought back” mysteriously. So all the local good quality stuff must also disappear into the chops of the beast, leaving behind the brown, sweetened candle wax called Black Magic. There must have been something arcane in its’ manufacture, it did not taste nice and lingered on the tongue way beyond any other confectionery’s abilities.

Sunlight – long green bars with lovely primary coloured wrappers. Carved up with a very sharp (Do Not Touch, you will Not enjoy Going To The Hospital) and elderly knife into utilitarian squares, which washed everything from the “smalls” (done by hand and hung discretely over the bath, not on the line. For reasons of dignity and maggot flies, I believe.) to the floors and the entire integument of the house-maid, who lived in the small house at the bottom of the garden, behind a hedge and Out Of Bounds. Nettie/Veronica/Mary Must Have Her Privacy. Nosy Parkers Will be Found Out. Compliant as children, we didn’t venture near.

Mottled Blue – evil stuff which was made by hand on Aunty Mary’s Farm in the Vumba, consisting of animal fat, wood-ash and lye, possibly with some “Washing Blue” flung in for good measure. Evidently cleaned the paint from the Cortina at one point. But was considered to be an otherwise excellent aid to cleanliness.

Praise be for an itchy scratchy sibling, or I might have been subjected to its’ ministrations, or that of its’ more verdant relation, Sunlight. It has a peculiar smell – which inhabits many corners of kitchen cupboards throughout the world. I have some here, it is much favoured by the inevitable mice. So it lives in a tin, which concentrates the aroma wonderfully, but you have to be careful, and not put your nose to close to the first blast on lid-removal. A painful cure for a congested sinus.

Not one of these splendid saponin-rich aids to cleanliness needed any more than one wrapper. The evil mottled blue was fortunate if it was swathed in old copies of the Rhodesia Herald – I received a ticking off of majestic proportions for making dolly bedclothes from sheets of snaffled “Wish” (the luxury you can afford) and was told that On the Farm in The Vumba, sheets of Newspaper were cut into squares, perforated in one corner and hung on a string for use on the Long-drop. So clearly we were very privileged to have access to “Wish.”  On reflection , I can see now that Salisbury domestic plumbing would not have coped with even sanctions grade newspaper in any amounts. But the thought of even being reduced to this degree of rurality was awe-inspiring. So the mottled stuff must have sat resplendent and rodent proof without such effete nonsense as wrappings. And I was reduced to re-rolling the dolly bedclothes back onto the roll in the loo, for re-use.

So please, manufacturers of soap-substances of this millenium, consider reducing the amount of sissy-swathing you apply to your bars. Sillyphane can be used for other things – I am at a bit of a loss to imagine what, exactly and let us use our resources a little less frivolously. Nothing quite like shortages to make one think, (even if Sanctions was to me, at that stage, a soap and good-quality confectionery devouring behemoth) I do so detest unnecessary waste.

passing go and hoping for £200.00

well, just look at me and my bad self! All by myself – well – with one assist from the happiness engineer – I have entered the jolly world of blogland. I shall weep bitter tears if this is not so.

Now – what to commit to this post? All is well in my corner of the world. yesterday met up with a pal whom I have not seen since 1972. A real treat and so lovely to meet with such an upbeat person who enriched my day so much. Still surfing on the delight. Thank-you Sharon – we will not leave it another 40-odd years.

I made reference to That Frock. It is lovely – A tea dress to delight the eyes, but I am too roundy round the blubberzone to fit it. Curses, precious. So having identified the motivational goal, here goes….I will wear said dress and not need to resort to whalebone corsetry to make the magic happen. The Ninendo Wii – afterwards known as “The Widdle” as the rude thing calculated my age at 65. Beast. The bicycle will be wheeled out and I Will Not Abstract the small son’s jar of Nutella and Eat It. With A Spoon. Revolting woman.

Even if my prancings create mini-tsunamuses in Arbroath, I will persist. I will.