Mud On the Road

Don’t ride too close to the kerb.

Look! I Made Green

With Apologies to Lord Percy

Sunday, 8th January 2017. 14.30.
Look! I have made green.

I was given a Nutribullet raw food blender this Christmas. It’s taken Him and me two weeks of intensive research and extreme shopping to reach the moment today when we finally felt confident enough to invert the plastic thingummy, press down hard on the electrical housing and produce our first home-made, whole food smoothie.

 According to the evangelical Nutribullet booklets, we have only to sip from the cup of our home-made smoothie and we will cross over into a promised 
land where Nutribullet types are forever young, fit and healthy and World Peace has been secured.


We’ve made the smoothie. Now we just have to drink it.


The smoothie pictured in the booklet is an attractive blackberry colour.
Our smoothie is grey-brown.
It is not especially smooth.
It is gritty.
It is like liquid concrete.
NB As a means of getting our smoothie into your mouth, sucking works better than sipping.
We’ve made it and so we drink it  anyway.
It tastes, sort of, healthy-ish.

16.00 – I make a second one.

     I branch out and make a second one. The second smoothie has no nuts or seeds. Only spinach, cucumber, mint, apples and  ginger. And lime. It sounds delicious. I am sure it will be delicious. To make sure it is delicious, I add more spinach. And a bit more cucumber. I flip the plastic cup over like a practised mixologist, fix it into its housing and press down hard to pulse. I am become The Pulveriser.

‘Look,’ I say proudly to Shedley. ‘I have made green.’

And it is oh so very green. Like, Alice on her big adventure, we drink the green.
It's exceedingly fibrous. Thin filament strands of green  are lodged in my teeth. I feel chlorophyll spring within me, start like sap in my veins.

If we drink enough green we will photosynthesise.

I decide to make a third. A different colour this time. I reach for a carrot.

I have also made grey-brown
7 hours later.

We appear to have survived first contact with the Nutribullet though we can’t guarantee our  survival for another 53 hours.

This is because it can take up to 53 hours for a single nut to pass through the digestive tract of a human body. I read it online. Today we have emptied more nuts and seeds into our bodily cavities today than most squirrel families consume in a year.

I transgressed against one of the Nutribullet’s  Commandments which warn you that, if eaten whole and in sufficient quantities apples will kill you thanks to the cyanide-forming amygdalin contained within their pips.

We have attacked our poor unsuspecting insides with an arsenal of wholefood including cyanide forming apple pips. The night ahead may be a long one.

Monday 9th January. 13.00 The Bad Thoughts

Recordable outcomes for the benefit of the Nutribullet experiment, must include the fact that I woke eight times in the night. But it was a Sunday night so that was not unusual and, on each occasion, I went straight back to sleep. Which was unusual.

Usually, on a Sunday night if I wake up I stay awake. Usually with my mouth and my eyes wide open in a silent scream of abject terror. I can't go back to sleep because I am terrified I won't go back to sleep and will feel tired at work all day and cumulatively tired therefore for the rest of the week.  

The fear of feeling so very very tired eradicates sleep and brings on the Bad Thoughts which, like an entire cavalry charge, gallop thunderously about in my head until exactly 6.45 am when I suddenly feel inexplicably drowsy and drift off into the deepest sleep from which nothing and no-one can rouse me.

Last night none of this happened. We both slept well. Despite having nuked our digestive systems with enough vegetation to reforest the Congo. 

19.00 Après Nous, Le Déluge

The house has not fared so well. The corners and spaces that had revealed themselves once the Christmas tree and decorations and fairy lights had been tidied away, have been buried all over again, this time by a tsunami of  whole food ingredients for the Nutribullet.

Wherever you look there are bags of spinach and loose carrots and avocados and pears and bananas. Seedless grapes have rolled under the microwave, cox apples loll about by the kettle. Cartons of almond milk which I've decided I don't like and cartons of coconut water which I've decided I do, are blocking access to the washing machine.
Like a demented hamster, I've had to hoard all the nuts in the cupboard under the stairs where I'll forget I've put them. We'll search fruitlessly for months and then suddenly discover the cache in December when we go to fetch the fairy lights and decorations for the tree. By which time they'll have passed their sell by dates.

But we won’t mind by then because we'll have been transmogrified by gallons of slightly gritty Green, thanks to which we will be reaping the rewards of perpetual youth and physical vigour and that old chestnut, World Peace. 

Surrey Hills
But, I Am Not A Mote
I Love the M3
I Love the M3
Eggs, by Floyd
The Good Workman 
Poor, kind Mrs Harris
Working From Home
Rescuing the swarm
Day of the Bee,  Part 2
Eaten Alive!
Nigella, our little black hen
The Unusual Incident of the Chicken
Rise and Shine!
Rise & Shine!

After A Shooting

At Copenhagen Central Station, still bleary from the 3 am start to Gatwick, we sit and drink ginger lattes and smoothies at a Joe and the Juice Bar overlooking Tivoli Gardens.

     The barista is Swedish and cute and professes not to speak Danish and keeps muddling up the coffee orders.

He makes smoothies which promise to cure hangovers you never knew you had from a menu which includes confections of mint and spinach,sporting spritzy names like 'Sex Me Up' and 'Prince of Green.'

     The former is too much to contemplate after the Easyjet queues and mercifully turbulence –free, flight into Kastrup airport.

Goodbye to all that

9 am   

Alderdale Bed & Breakfast in Luss.
Delightful and dog friendly.
We leave Luss after breakfast and set off on the magnificent road to Skye via Rannoch Moor, Glen Coe, places and landmarks with evocative, magical names like Loch Lochy and Glengarry and Eilean Donan...

        The last time we attempted to journey together into the great MacStretches, we’d planned to camp. Under canvas. In October. The notion being we might avoid the worst of the midges.
        For that great adventure, Shedley bought a pop-up tent with the aim of saving himself the protracted, onerous and largely solitary labour of erecting the big tent on single-night-stop-overs.

 Our first and, as it turned out, only single-night-stopover, was still in England. We had lingered to admire the Angel of the North and so were in Northumberland when it began to get dark and we thought we should find somewhere to stop for the night. 

        As we entered a surprisingly full campsite it began to rain heavily.
        It rained especially heavily on Shedley who, 20 minutes later, was still outside in the rain. Having casually popped-up the pop-up tent in three seconds as promised by the instructions, he was having considerably more difficulty inflating the airbed which did not want to be inflated and sought only to fight him and do mischief.
        I stayed in the dry car with the dogs. I brewed tea and listened to the dismal weather forecast on the radio and my husband's cries, strangely muted by the wind and the rain.

Not Going Abroad

Into the North
 7.00 am
The Christmas Tree, Luss, Loch Lomond
Tiny place, big tree, bags of style and Christmas cheer
        Shedley looks relaxed. We’re on target to leave at 8.15am. He’s busy priming the two Global Positioning Systems. We own four but he’s agreed to leave two behind.
        We’re driving to the Isle of Skye for a week. We've rented a cottage in the Bay of Portree where the garden gives directly onto the water and the shoreline and thus everybody else's gardens. This promises to be scenic and also mildly terrifying with the dogs.
      To break the journey of some 650 miles and ensure we see the spectacular scenery of the final 150 miles, we're staying overnight in a place called Luss on the shores of Loch Lomond.  And we're stopping for lunch in Hale, deepest Wagland to drop in on old friends, see their new home and make the most of a rare opportunity to catch up on each other’s lives.
        The plan is to be with them 1pm-ish and be back on the road by 3pm. I feel confident we will make this...

Good Bad Ugly Bags

     The sandbags are gone.
Line of duty
Crack troops

     For months they were stationed in their hundreds, the length and breadth of the High Street.  Suddenly, last week they disappeared - collected in a single day, removed to some mass sandbag repository or wherever sandbags go to die.

     Oh dear, I think I'm missing them.  

     I'd got used to dodging them on my way to work. They moved those sandbags: they moved in mysterious ways. A sandbag you might have seen curled hard against an air brick one day, would reappear the next, slumped in a flower bed or parked on a grassy verge.

All Change

Donald Rumsfeld & The Little Mermaid 

     Thanks to the publishers Taschen who sent me their lovely book to review, I gave myself an early Christmas present yesterday: I stopped. I switched off the pre-Christmas To Do list. I lay down in the middle of Sunday and I read The Little Mermaid, The Nightingale, The Princess & The Pea, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina  and The Ugly Duckling. All fairy tales by Hans Christian
Josef Paleček © 1981 NordSüd Verlag AG, CH-8005 Zurich, Switzerland
Anderson, all gathered with several others such as The Little Match Girl, in Taschen's ravishingly illustrated new book, edited by Noel Daniel (see below).

     You'd think fairy tales in the afternoon should be read to a child, to a Small But Mighty Nephew or a Little Niece. And I will share the lovely book with them when they come to stay the night. I really will. If their fingers are not too sticky.
     But yesterday I read the book alone and the charm of the stories combined with the gorgeous pictures, reminded me of  the pleasures of a magical December weekend in Prague: Christmas markets, sleigh rides, live music in the Old Town Square; sparkling ice and pillowy white snow; cinnamon biscuits and mulled wine, hot and deliciously spicy.

In-Car Karma

     We're looking after our neighbours' cat while they are on holiday. We just got back from our own trip to a sun-drenched island and while we were away the neighbours with the cat took care of our bantam hens – feeding and watering them, letting them out into the garden each morning,  making sure they were tucked up safely in their hen house every evening; generally enabling me to sleep easy in my bed in Malta, over 1,000 miles away.
A Luzzu fishing boat in a blue, blue sea
Holiday Bliss in Malta

     When another neighbour heard about the mutuality of our pet care arrangements she exclaimed, in an emphatic,  Spirit of the Blitz voice:

      'Ah! Reciprocity. Marvellous. That's how it should be.'

     This morning, while clearing broken boughs and branches and twigs and leaves from the drive of a third set of neighbours, I thought about this whole reciprocity thing.

Unripen At Home

Unripening At Home

Apple picking at The Leckford Estate
   I can't see the morning mists of September without being  reminded of the fortnight I spent picking apples a few years ago in the orchards of the nearby Leckford Estate - Mother ship and HQ of the mighty Waitrose.

     I was paid as a piece worker - per filled crate of apples, approved and ticked off by our gang master - though I don't think she called herself that.

     For the life of me, I can't remember the exact pounds and pennies per crate, but I do know it was considerably less than the minimum wage and that it took me two and a half days to get up to the kind of speed and rhythm by which I could fill more than one crate in an hour and thereby hope to make the desired £6.20 - or whatever the minimum wage was back then - for my 60 minutes of non-stop labour.