Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Gallery - My Backyard - Everything's Coming Up Roses

I decided to play by the rules for The Gallery today so instead of sitting on the sofa browsing through old snaps, I removed by bum from the seat and have wandered round 'My Backyard' to bring you a few photos of the roses which have started to bloom. It's a fabulous day here in South Lincolnshire and for once the wind seems to have died down so the plants aren't being battered.

On my little jaunt I also came across a rather interesting display left by the kitchen fitters on the back step. I think they've tried very hard to design a contemporary look and I'm so pleased I've asked them to fill the vases in the living room too.


Sunday, 22 May 2011

The day I walked on Vatnajokull Glacier

The Family Burgess on Vatnajokull glacier
I read this morning that another volcano, Grimsvotn, has erupted in Iceland, this time under the Vatnajokull glacier in the south east of the country. I've been there, walked on the ice of that very glacier in the summer of 2007. I thought I'd share my memories of the day: - 

The last of our pre-planned activities - a 3 hour glacier hike - which is classed as "easy" on the website. Always slightly dubious when they tell you this but I'm getting used to the knot in my stomach before these sessions and I've survived the snow-mobiling and the whale-watching so far. Arrive early at Skaftafell camp site and meet our guide who measures us up for crampons. Initially thought they were bits of crunchy bread you sprinkle on soup but discover they are special metal spikes which fasten round your boots, designed for walking on ice. They reminded me of the metal roller-skates I used to have when I was little: the type you had to adjust to fit round your shoes and your mother always complained when you wore them with good shoes and scuffed the leather. We were also equipped with pickaxes. At this point I'm rather wary as the idea of needing such equipment seems to suggest we're not going for a gentle walkabout. I'm slightly reassured by the sight of another family with two children younger than mine and as we are bundled into the minibus to be driven to the edge of the glacier, I'm resigned to the fact that I've got to just go for it. With this more positive attitude I'm soon clambering out of the bus and keen to get going.

As we approach the ice, the wisdom of wearing crampons becomes clear..... ice is slippery! We are taught how to walk with the crampons on our feet and there is a definite knack to it. Each step has to be deliberate, lifting up from the knees like a puppet on strings. Going up a steep incline requires a waddling gait, a bit like Charlie Chaplin; downhill necessitates small deliberate steps, using the pickaxe behind you to stop you falling forward. It's rather weird walking on the ice which is black with ash in places, and a beautiful blue in others. I can hear water running underneath my feet and the guide is at pains to ensure we don't divert from his trail or we will fall down a crevasse. After a while I find this whole experience quite exhilarating and, for once in my life, I don't seem to be the hopeless idiot at the back with no aptitude for the task in hand. Striding out like Ranulph Fiennes, amazed to be on the third largest icecap in the world, I absolutely love it. It's hard work but the views are stunning and I'm so pleased I didn't bottle out.


Thursday, 19 May 2011

The kitchen's coming on nicely

The plasterers arrived on Monday. A mouthful of teeth between them and a hearty two sugars each in their tea - balance has been restored after the no-sugar, smart, neat-bummed brigade from last week.

Can you spot the ceiling in this photo which has been skimmed? Rory came home on Monday night and thought the brown ceiling was really cool. I told him it was temporary.

The dust is getting everywhere. We have arches between the kitchen and utility room but also between the kitchen and the hall. The temporary curtain we have rigged up is worse than useless: it may, in fact, be wafting the dust further up the stairs. The chaps have put another sheet up in front of the curtain. It helps a bit although yesterday I walked through it and it unravelled and fell on my head, covering me in plaster dust. I said 'bollocks' quite loudly and I think they were shocked as they had mistaken me for a lady.

Yesterday we started to have 'things put in' to the kitchen! Hoorah. Slightly unnerving that the units coming in are not much different in colour to the ones that went out. We seem to be keen on maple in this house. Dougie is now saying we should have just changed the bloody doors.

So what's next? Appliances to be fitted, new floor, lights and counter tops still to be done. Another week maybe? Then the decorator comes to paint it.

We also have a white elephant living in the bathroom. See its trunk coming down through the ceiling searching for water? Feeding him on microwave meals at the moment, but he, like the rest of the family, is tiring of ding ding food and he tells me he fancies a trip out to a restaurant on Friday. I told him I'd book a table.


Monday, 16 May 2011

A conversation I wish I'd never started - No. 2

You may remember the first 'conversation I wish I'd never started' with my teenage son. The inability of my addled, middle-aged brain to connect with  the sharp, intolerance of youth. Here's another one from this morning at breakfast.

Me:  I just heard a good song this morning from Radio One's Big Weekend
Son: What was it?
Me: I can't remember.
Son: Who was it by?
Me: The Foo Fighters.
Son: Was it Everlong?
Me: No idea.
Son: Well, how did the song go?
Me: I can't remember now.
Son: What, nothing at all?
Me: No. Say a few more of theirs.
Son: Pretender? Best of You?
Me: Doesn't ring a bell. Actually it might have been Chasing Status?
Son: Chase AND Status
Me: That's what I said! What do they sing?
Son: Let You Go? Blind Faith?
Me: Oh I don't know.
Son: Mum, you're really annoying. Try and think.
Me: I've got it! It went "I've got a feeling...oooh....oooh.....that tonight's gonna be a good night"
Son: That's the Black Eyed Peas.


Thursday, 12 May 2011

One lump or two?

Monday morning, 8.15, the process of demolishing our old kitchen began and, save some cupboards we are going to use in the garage, it ended up in the skip that was delivered mid morning.

The kitchen fitters - plumbers, electricians etc - are a tidy bunch. As they destroy the old units, they clean up after themselves and try and keep the dust to a minimum. They even look smart. No hairy bum cracks on show, no bellies blamanching over their belts, no honking armpits. You could take them home to your mother and she'd be delighted.

Yet what has surprised me more than their appearance and neatness, is the lack of sugar in their tea. What's the world coming to? Of the five blokes working here today, two have coffee with no sugar, two have tea with no sugar and one has tea with half a teaspoonful! The only one having a decent amount seems to be me. They even turn down my offer of Breakaways and Hobnobs.

I mentioned this on Twitter earlier this week and @Shar13 told me her plumber only drinks Green Tea: she had to get some in specially. @PippaD was horrified and questioned whether they were real workmen. This was quickly followed by concerns from @kelloggs_ville who urged me to ring the sweet tea police and get out now as they were obviously fake. Apparently unless they accept bacon butties and tea you can stand a spoon up in, plus 3 sugars or more, they aren't going to do a good job. @PippaD agreed that butties go down well but that her builders were fond of lattes. Lattes?? Soon they'll be wiping their feet and hoiking up their trousers, said Pippa. There was much virtual head-shaking on Twitter as @kelloggs_ville thought Bernard Cribbins would shudder at the thought.

Indeed he would.


Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Gallery - Chilled out - Ladyboy

It's not often you have your camera primed and ready when an unexpected photo opportunity comes along. A few years ago I was lucky. We were staying at my parents for the weekend and I was fiddling about with the camera, deleting old shots, when I looked up and saw my husband transformed into a beautiful woman. I can't believe he was holding the magazine so that his hairline seamlessly matched that of the model. It was rather creepy but I thankfully avoided yelping in order to catch him before he moved.

I thought the shot was perfect for The Gallery this week, the theme of which is 'chilled out'. A man having a lie-in reading his mother-in-law's Prima magazine seems pretty chilled to me.


Monday, 9 May 2011

Goodbye Old Kitchen

As I sit here typing, our old kitchen is being demolished. I can hear the chap downstairs chipping away at old tiles, unscrewing units from the walls and smashing the brick island into rubble. Most of our downstairs rooms are open plan so we have concocted a curtain to screen off the kitchen from the hall. The words 'wind' and 'pissing in' spring to mind.

We narrowly avoided divorce proceedings over the last two weekends, trying to clear out kitchen cupboards. We had a method of sorting into 'keep', 'charity', 'recycling' and 'Newcastle' piles but each time we emptied a cupboard, it necessitated finding space somewhere else in the garage, shed or house to store the clutter. This explains why Dougie fell out of the loft last weekend.

The Newcastle pile is an interesting one. Mum and a selection of aunties and cousins have shown interest in some soup bowls, serving dishes, numerous tea sets and three sets of curtains. I'm sure they have quite enough of their own chintzy crud already so I'm tempted to say this is an excellent example of taking coals to Newcastle.

We have decided to keep the Simpsons' donut-maker (used once) and the ice-cream machine (twice) but have dispensed with the pasta maker (in reality a tiny mangle) and Le Saucier (the electric equivalent of a wooden spoon). The unused electric fondue set has had a temporary reprieve in that it has moved to the shed, which inevitably means it will eventually be thrown away in about five years time. It has joined the fish kettle and the microwave plate heater on kitchenware death row.

We have enough mugs to supply coffee for a national meeting of the W.I. so have sensibly decided to temporarily keep all the novelty ones (those which came with an Easter egg) to serve teas and coffees to the 'men' as they work. We will then do a bit of a Zorba to celebrate when it's all finished.

The pantry was an embarrassment. Out-of-date lentils, Jamaican ginger cake and some fusty infused oils were summarily dispatched to the bin, along with a ton of fruity tea-bags and a few old bottles of unidentifed liqueurs which we might have slurped if we could have removed the tops.

As the kitchen is now out of action we have set up a catering area in the 'posh room'. I'm rather proud of the fact that we have a coffee station and a buffet table complete with microwave. I'm thinking of turning it into a bijou B&B by having a basket of pastries, mini pots of jam and bowls of sliced fruit.

The novelty is bound to wear off.


Friday, 6 May 2011

Happiness is a good book

Spotted above a shop in Copenhagen - this perky lady enjoying the pleasures of a good book.

Feel free to add your own caption or suggest what she might be, erm, reading?

Update: I'm going to add suggestions from Twitter and elsewhere:

@tattooed_mummy - Great Expectations

This lead to me going all Dickens and wondering about A Tale of Two Titties?


Thursday, 5 May 2011

Mum's Gone to the Spalding Flower Parade

Last weekend was quite something wasn't it? The Royal Wedding on Friday ended up being so addictive that most of us were glued to our TVs whether or not we had planned to do so. I would have been glued for longer but husband, in a concerted effort to distract me from my telly watching, decided to fall out of the loft. He was fixing a light I think, hadn't put the ladders up properly, they slipped away and he tumbled out of the hole, scraping and bruising his arms in the process. Bloody man, can't give me five minutes peace.

The huge national event of Friday was followed by a sizeable local event on Saturday. The Spalding Flower Parade has become one of our traditions since we moved to the area in 1988. Going over 50 years now, the parade used to be massive, with thousands of visitors descending on the town to see all the floats which were traditionally decorated in tulip heads, when the bulb business was at its peak in this part of the Lincolnshire. Now there are not so many local tulip fields so the heads are brought in from Norfolk but, even though the scale of the event has reduced over the years, it is still quite a spectacle.

In 2006, having watched for many years, the Burgess family began to get involved in the event. In that year, my amateur dramatic group, SADOS, had a music trailer in the parade to publicise our forthcoming musical, Oklahoma. Dougie and I helped to decorate the float, pinning tulip heads onto polystyrene boards. It was a laborious and intricate job: back-breaking work sitting on upturned crates in a cavernous dusty shed. Once decorated, I sang with the cast on the float as it travelled for three hours around the town, Dougie was a steward and leaflet-hander-outer and we managed to get Rory onto the float to wave, even though he wasn't part of the cast. Both lads were heartily sick of "The Farmer and the Cowman Should be Friends" by the finish. In 2007 our show was The Witches of Eastwick. The photo here shows me and another of the three witches doing our stuff to entertain the crowds. This was the year that Rory joined a local kids' drama group so he was having a ball on his own float instead of listening to me shrieking.

This year there wasn't much local involvement as regards drama groups, schools etc which I think is a pity and hopefully will be reinstated. The floats, on the theme British Icons, were impressive as always and Dougie certainly enjoyed the Samba dancers in their revealing outfits, as did some old gentlemen in the crowd near us who perked up dramatically and almost required medical attention.

Rory went to the Parade with his own friends this year. I saw him pass us at one stage and I caught his expression which seemed to say, wave at me now mother at your peril. I waved.

For your delight I have managed to put together my shots from the day in a slideshow. Never done this before so, if it works, this could be a regular thing. Let me know which is your favourite float.


Monday, 2 May 2011

Mum's Gone to Copenhagen - Final Part - Noma next time

The adolescent Merman

Getting lost can often be a good thing. We decided to return to the city centre via a different train station, Hellerup, as the Bodyworlds exhibition (see Part Three) was equidistant between two. We took a right turn and then, for the hell of it, carried on walking down a residential street to see where it took us. A minute later we were on the beach! Where did that come from?

The sea was calm, the sun was actually quite hot and we really weren't dressed for a day at the seaside. The Danes seemed equally surprised and there was much rolling up of trousers and unfurling of scarves. A few brave souls walked out onto the jetty and took a dip, for all of five seconds before coming out blue and shell-shocked. Rory did his Little Mermaid impression on the rocks and we found an ice-cream hut next to a park, selling Mr Whippy-type cones. It was just like Whitley Bay.

We asked directions to find the station (well I asked directions: Dougie would have walked for the rest of the day hoping for divine navigational inspiration). Had a bit of a domestic as Dougie thought I'd dragged us onto the wrong train then later, as we approached our stop, we suddenly had to make a dash for the doors: we were convinced we'd stopped in a tunnel but it was only dark because we were still wearing our sunglasses. Felt like proper chumps.

Ten minutes later we were supping a Danish lager, lounging in the comfy chairs in the hotel's courtyard. As the world's best restaurant, Noma, was fully booked, we plumped for a meal at the nearby Spanish gaff, Pintxos. Not doing very well at experiencing the Danish cuisine. We should have dined on pickled herring and foraged fungi during our trip but had so far eaten pizza, sirloin steak and tapas.

Our final day was another cloudless one. Before heading to the airport we visited a very cute castle, Rosenborg Slot, looking like something out of Hans Christian Anderson folklore. The highlights? The huge silver lions in the throne room, the crown jewels in the basement and the glass tableware, including, bizarrely, glass cutlery. Ouch.

This was Good Friday so the nearby King's Gardens were packed with Copenhagen's families enjoying the day off. What was so lovely was the lack of shrieking and yelling you might get elsewhere. How do the Danes do it? Their children played happily but quietly: no whinging, no raised voices from adults or children. Must be all that cycling they do: exercise and plenty of fresh air. Though I know it's more than that - it's just their nature and I'm envious.

A beautiful airport where, for once, we chose to eat before we went through security. Where that might have been a good idea in Madrid or Montreal, here in Copenhagen it was a bad move. We could have dined in noodle restaurants, cavier bars, pastry shops and all manner of gorgeous eateries: too bad we'd had a pizza and coke meal deal at the 7/11 before checking in.

Flying our plane home was a female co-pilot: rather nice, for a change, to hear her fabulously jolly-hockey-sticks voice over the tannoy. At Stansted we pulled up a few yards short of the bay. Supposedly a problem on the ground but Dougie and Rory chuckled about the female pilot's parking difficulties. I had to put up with comments like "Oh the pilot must be saying: move over darling, I'll take it from here" and "Good job she doesn't have to reverse". It was like sitting between Richard Keys and Andy Gray.

As we were about to leave the plane, Dougie couldn't find his passport. He swore blind I had it in my handbag and if there wasn't so much rubbish in it I'd be able to find it. I swore blind that I didn't have it, it was in his bloody rucksack. The argument continued through clenched teeth until everyone else had left the plane.Then I heard the words, "Oh it's in my pocket". My heart was still pounding as I had to restrain myself from punching his lights out. The poor steward stood nervously by the exit saying, "Hope you've had a good flight" as I stomped down the steps, hissing at my shame-faced husband, "You absolute f**ker". Which is so unlike me.

I'm sure you've all given up on this post already as I know it's too long but, for my own purposes, I want to remember everything about this holiday: we experienced so much in such a short space of time. And we still didn't see everything we wanted to. Next time I'd like to visit The Black Diamond (the new granite extension to the Royal Library), the Royal Palaces of Amalienborg and the Danish Design Centre.

I also missed seeing the Carlsberg Glyptotek which is a shame because it's the best art gallery in the world.....probably.