Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Lets ...

... get this show on the road.

See y'all in a few hundred miles.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Heading north

Thanks to supermoving and flickr for this image.

As Yazz once so brilliantly put it ... the only way is up.

So, we are heading North ... to Glencoe.

Me, my housemate, Ruby, my van ... 511 miles each way ... actually more as we're stopping off in the Yorkshire Dales on route and at Kendal on the way back ...

The van has been cleaned, waterproof clothing has been packed, windscreen washers filled, dog toys stowed, maps printed ... and most importantly a 9 hour playlist has been created and put onto my iPod. We have gone for a scottish theme with the music ... Deacon Blue, Del a mitre, Tom Clelland, Aztec Camera, Roddy Frame, John Martyn ... I am looking forward to having an excuse to sing badly for hour after hour. With the right sound track the M6 is my time machine.

I've packed my guitar, my capo and even a spare set of strings. Pen knife, compass, lunch boxes.

We're not leaving for another 35 hours and I am damn near ready to GO.

I'm excited about meeting up with friends and relatives seen too infrequently. I was born in a place called Bellshill, just outside of Glasgow, but left to come south when I was only three. We made pilgrimages back a few times each year until I was a teenager ... and whilst the journey was challenging, my recollection is that it was always something I looked forward to - desperate to have time playing with cousins and best friends.

As I drive from Grandparents to aunts to family friends ... Strathaven, Coatbridge, Carnwath, Lanark ... the area has a familiarity with an odd quality, most of this landscape having been imprinted in my mind whilst I sat behind my dad in an old Ford Cortina or Granada Ghia. I'm almost shocked when I step out of the driver's door and find my own car instead.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A tale of two toads (and a dragon)

It's been a critter themed long weekend here, beginning with this friendly toad hanging out by the garage.

Not the kind of toad that is suitable for a toad-in-the-hole, which Ruby was dutifully keeping an eye on incase it hopped off my plate into her mouth ...

After the sad loss of two of our chickens to wanderlust, we finally constructed a chicken run outside of the chicken shed, primarily out of the slats from a long-deceased single bed frame (and of course 10 meters of chicken wire). Unsurprisingly, Ruby has already dug her way in ... scattering Nancy under the shed (yet to emerge ... what noise do I have to make to attract a frightened chicken?) ... and so revisions and additions have been made, and hopefully our run is now boxer dog proof!

With the wind blowing a little colder here each day, we also fitted a new cat flap over the hole in the back door, which Ophelia has mastered with incredible speed and bravery - I am so proud!

I've been training Ruby to come back to a whistle. She does turn up after a little while to receive her piece of cheese, but not before Ophelia has run to greet me and jumped up for a cuddle. Even if the cat is quite some distance away, she never fails to attend to the whistle ... I knew siamese cats were trainable and attributed dog-like traits, but this is surely beyond normal feline behaviour?

Much more cat like was her attraction to this huge (for Surrey) and skittish creature - surely more dragon than fly?

I'm not generally one to be intimidated by creatures with so much less spine than myself ... but this thing eventually got the better of me, and I have to admit that we stereotypically called on the services of the nearest being possessing a Y-chromosome. Many thanks to our ginger tom-cat Frank for coming to our rescue!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sorry, it's time for The Game

I can only apologise. It was going to happen eventually. The Game has been driving me crazy for about eight months. If you're of a fragile disposition or prone to schizophrenic states of mind in the presence of a double-bind, look away now.

The Game is very simple. It only has 3 rules and requires no special equipment.

Rule 1: As soon as you know about The Game, you are playing The Game.
Rule 2: Whenever you think about The Game, you lose.
Rule 3: Your score is the amount of time you have been playing since you last lost The Game.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Itch here

This is absolutely stunning.

I'm not sure if enjoy would be the right word. Admire ... perhaps.

Please come back and tell me your thoughts ... if they can be captured in words.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Nested menus (2) ...

Nested menus ...

Last night I had a dream that the reason that the chickens had run away was because I had failed to choose the correct setting on my laptop.

Do quote me ...

Aha! I am listening to the AA Gill Desert Island Discs repeat, and I have heard the quote I wanted to share but somehow forgot. He is talking about his writing - he suffers from quite severe dyslexia, and so his writing is actually spoken, dictated initially to himself and then down the phone to a copy taker for publication.
"words on a page are dried speech - they are desiccated speech ... you should be able to add your own head, and what you get back is a voice"

I just love that image.

I tried to record it but the sound quality on BBC Radio Player this morning is quite horrific ... so I've abandoned that.

Another little jem - more in the 'too clever for words' style I attribute to AA Gill ...
"I avoid clichés like the plague"

From now on I shall cease avoiding AA Gill like the plague, and instead make an effort to rehydrate his words with the gentle, self-effacing, curious tone that I heard in his interview. I suspect he will read quite differently now that I know that Pulp - Common People is one of his Desert Island Discs :)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sighing and snoozing

Ruby can sigh in an unnervingly human way. As if she has just reached the end of a particularly troublesome train of thought, perhaps worrying about the gas bill or the rising damp or whether the planet is already beyond saving in this generation ...

But, whatever her worries, they certainly don't keep her awake for long.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I noticed that a few people visit my blog each day by googling 'daily straying'.

So ... this gave me a kick up the bum to get on and register and ... both of which will now land you here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Cheese scones

One of the strongest childhood memories I have is of making scones with my granny.

I guess she has been gone for a decade now, and her difficult mental health situation made for little contact for quite some time before that ... but wind back about 25 years, when either things were easier, or I was less aware of difficulties (probably both) and I am standing on a chair in her kitchen so that I can reach down into the mixing bowl on the counter to rub the butter and flour together with my enthusiastic, un-coordinated hands. I remember holding my sticky fingers apart to be wiped and washed when the mixing was done. And that ten minutes in a warm oven seemed like an eternity ...

I am not sure I have ever made scones outside of that relationship before today. Of course, we never made cheese scones. Ours might have had raisins in from time to time, but were definitely sweet, destined to be slathered in home-made jam. I seem to remember that rather than butter we used a margarine called Stork. Isn't it odd, the details we remember versus the ones we forget?


Edit: On MB's suggestion, here is the recipe :)

225g self-raising flour
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
40g butter (or a little more)
50g cheese - finely grated, plus a little more for the top
1/4 pint milk

• Preheat oven to 220 C.
• Sieve flour, salt, baking powder and mustard powder into large mixing bowl.
• Add butter and rub together with your fingers until it turns to breadcrumbs.
• Stir in the grated cheese.
• Slowly stir in the milk, adding a little at a time, using a metal spoon, until the mixture is just gathering together enough that you can ball it up with your hand. You may need to vary the amount of milk slightly.
• Ball up into a loose dough.
• Press or roll gently on a floured surface until about 2cm thick.
• Cut out shapes with cookie cutters - you can re-use the extra bits, but they'll fall apart slightly.
• Add the really crumbly left over pieces for the dog.
• Place on a greased baking tray.
• Brush the top lightly with milk or beaten egg yolk. Sprinkle a little extra cheese.
• Bake in the oven at 220 C for 10 minutes.

Eat warm, with butter, watched closely by a salivating boxer dog.
Give the dog her extra pieces. Feel warm inside.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Desert Island Discs

My eight desert island discs (with sound clips for the aurally-fixated)

The love song:
With or without you, U2 . . .

The childhood memory:
Our House, Crosby, Stills & Nash . . .

The song I wish I'd written:
I know there's a word for this, Aimee Mann . . .

The voice I wish I had:
Chuck E's in Love, Rickie Lee Jones . . .

The guitarist I wish I could play like:
May You Never, John Martyn . . .

The track that reminds me it's never too late to start:

Country Music Once Again, Tom Clelland . . .preview site

The song guaranteed to cheer me up:
I want you back, Jackson 5 . . .

The poet:
This Charming Man, The Smiths . . .


I'm still thinking about my book and my luxury!

Don't quote me ...

This morning, driving back from Wales, I was listening to Desert Island Discs on Radio 4, and AA Gill said something so wonderful, so moving and so overspilling with previously unrecognised truth, that I made a mental note to make sure to post it here.

And then I forgot it.

Ho hum.

It was good though, and the best DID I've heard in a while - so if you're near a radio or the interwebimajig at 9am on Friday, do tune in to hear the repeat of the show. For reasons best explained by Chasing Daisy you can't get the show as a podcast or on the BBC's listen again service.

I will try to record it myself on Friday and ahem share it a little perhaps.


and now, I am off to come up with my own list. 8 tunes, 1 book, 1 luxury.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sticky ends

No sign of Henrietta or Hilda thus far. A great deal of wandering through our woods with the dog tracking back and forth has turned up neither chicken nor a fox-generated flurry of feathers. Perhaps they are safe but lost.

It seems though that they were not the only creatures who did not make it safely home yesterday ...

It's a dangerous world out there.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I am a terrible parent

Henrietta and Hilda are missing.

And Nancy was in a neighbour's garden.

2 chickens roosting safely in the hen house. 2 chickens out in the woods (3 acres ... what were we thinking?) to fend for themselves against the local foxes. I shall lie awake all night listening for the sounds of murder.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Sunday brought torrential rain to some parts of Surrey. My housemate and I had gone to Cardiff to watch the footie, and returned to find all reasonable routes home had been blocked by localised flooding. In Ash and Chobham and Brookwood, the drains had failed and were spewing water back on to the road. After hours of detours and queueing whilst half-drowned coppers waved us cheerfully in various directions we finally made it home. That evening I packed a few things up because I was due to be working at her office on Monday.

At 8.30 am the call came to say that during the night the river behind her office had burst it's banks and the whole place was 14 inches deep in river water and raw sewage. By the time we reached the office a few hours later the water had mostly drained out, leaving this distinct tide mark for all (and insurers) to inspect.

Total devastation inside. It's a magazine company so years of back issues have been destroyed, hundreds of out-of-print reference books, photographs, not to mention carpet, files, printers, furniture. The annual audit had been completed on friday and the paper work was neatly sitting in cardboard boxes on the floor. Ouch.

So, we gathered what my housemate needs to get the next edition to print on time, and she has decamped here to my home-office, which has a spare desk that I use for freelancers anyway. I shall quite enjoy having her here I think :) And she already has urgent work in her intray ...


It feels like magic. Eight jars of sticky, golden, sweet jelly. Actually, make that seven and three quarters ...

I guess I did know when it was ready :)

Saturday, August 12, 2006


We took the plums off our tree today. Precariously perched on our roof, reaching over the tree to grasp fruit that was so ripe it was falling under the extra weight of a few raindrops. Having gathered as many from tree-to-hand-to-bowl as our reach would allow, I enlisted gravity for the final few handfuls. Shaking the tree and covering my head quickly as they bounced around me. Racing Ruby for the treats on the floor - I topped our basket up to 7 pounds.

4 pounds are sitting in a pan on my stove. Jam making is in my genes. My mother's family were fruit farmers, and my aunt, who lives on the farm, makes thrice her own body weight in sweet conserves every September.

I am a virgin jam maker. My jars are sterilised and waiting for the yellow lava cooling in the pan. I have no thermometer so I had to rely on my aunt's advice: you'll know when it's ready. I hope I live up to my heritage!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Bubble chasing

Bacon flavour doggie bubbles ...

Edit: It seems that I am meeting with an uncanny degree of disbelief ... so here is a retailer where you can buy doggie bubbles in Bacon, Peanut Butter and BBQ Chicken flavours!

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Eggs 1, 2 and 3

After a little clucking ...

And they reminded me of the fabulous 'A dozen rejected eggs' by photographer Liv Pennington.

Chillin' out

Yesterday I popped up to London to hang out with a friend who's home is in Camden. We wandered up to Chalk Farm to indulge ourselves at the fabulous Marine Ices (also called Casa Manzi), this homely italian gelateri has been in situ opposite the Roundhouse since 1930 and they've certainly benefitted from the practice!

I was whisked back to childhood shopping trips to Brent Cross, where the bribe for a whole day of good behaviour was a Banana Split. With nuts please.

Casa Manzi also has a good reputation for cheap and tasty pizza and pasta - including the wonderful sounding "Spaghetti with Scampi".

Casa Manzi,
8, Haverstock Hill,
0207 482 9003

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Chickens in motion

I can't believe it's nearly a month since we started getting the chicken shed ready for our feathered visitors.

Today, our friends who are lending us our four chickens came to inspect facilities, and we were able to take custody of our birds. They have been chosen specially as those who will most benefit from a respite ... in particular Henrietta, who is such a favourite with the cockerels that she has no feathers left on her back.

We are now officially running The Chicken Priory.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Wag and Bone Show

This morning Ruby and I tipped up early at The Wag and Bone Show - a huge doggie carnival in aid of several major animal charities. 7000 pups, 13,000 folks, dog-fashion shows, training, fly-ball, agility, assistance dogs, and dozens of stands selling everything from organic chow to terrier tu-tus.

Ruby is a sociable dog, and had said hello to so many hounds in the first quarter hour that she thoroughly exhausted herself.

There were dogs and people of every shape and size, colour and age, and it was particularly encouraging to see so many with visible disabilities - both dogs and people. Ruby barely bats an eyelid now at a dog with wheels as well as back legs, or a missing front limb. The three legged agility dog team were really impressive!

Being friends with some of the organisers, Ruby has scored a lot of freebies this year - favourite so far are the doggie bubbles - like the ones I had as a kid, but in 2 flavours - bacon and peanut butter!

Other visitors to The Wag and Bone Show:
English Springer Spaniel Puppy Kimba
Jake and his mum Sandra took a lot of pictures!
The Oldies Club were there helping older dogs find homes

Cat amongst coats

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"Cuba with drizzle"

... Sunday Herald Political Editor Douglas Fraser's beautiful description of Tommy Sheridan's vision of Scotland as an independent socialist state ... as heard on The Today Programme this morning.

The current factions-within-factions state of left-wing Scottish Politics is somewhat evocative of that wonderful scene in The Life of Brian ...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Promises ...