Sunday, 10 December 2017

4 down 4 to go

Panto. Wow. I don't even know where to start. Here?

This is the pit. Technically not a pit, but in the wings. There's no room and there's up to 8 of us squashed back there. We have to file in and out between songs and try not to fall over cables or each other. It's - cosy.

The Arden Theatre is cosy too. It seats 98 and there's not much of a backstage. When we come off we file through the bar (stopping, generally) and wait in the foyer to go back again. Someone has a script and we spend most of the time going "Where are we" and trying to remember to whisper. And drinking. Of course.

We often get a bit carried away...

and we're regularly told off for making too much noise.

Rage Against the Panto Band Photo

Jess came up with the band name from a band name generator she found online and Neal designed and made tshirts. We start off in all black and change into our band shirts in the interval. We are all very very silly. 

Everyone in the band except for me is an extremely accomplished musician. I am definitely the weak link but I am just keeping quiet and hope no one notices. It is so fun to play with musicians this good, and I'm having an absolute blast. The music is lively - it's a rock and roll panto so we play songs like We are the Champions and Rock Around the Clock and Shake Your Tail Feather. 

Panto itself is something else. Neither Neal or I had ever really seen one, not growing up in the UK. They are hilarious. This is Brits like you've never seen them before - audience participation is mandatory and enthusiastically embraced. They shout and boo and hiss and cheer and at one point even allow themselves to be dragged up on stage to do the Shake Your Tailfeather dance. British people. I spend most of the performance laughing my head off.

It's hard work though. Last week we had rehearsals Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the performances Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You can't hear a thing on stage and you really have to listen. The actors range in age from about 6 to 70 and often start songs at what appear to be completely random points. There is one song that we have still not landed the ending even once yet (much to Ben, our leader's disgust - "what is wrong with you lot?" he groaned tonight). We were all tired today. We missed a cue and had to be prompted by one of the actors. We missed an entrance and had to do an undignified rushing in at the last minute. But it's all good fun, and a very good laugh. 

4 more to go. 

Friday, 1 December 2017

wah wah wah wah

So I am playing the trombone in the pit band for the Faversham Arden Theatre's Christmas Pantomime, Little Red Riding Hood. I know, I'm not sure how either. Drinking in local pubs can be dangerous. Let's just leave it at that.

Anyways, they want a "sad trombone" sound for one of the jokes - a "wah wah wah wahhhh". I don't know how to make this noise so I looked it up on youtube. People, did you know that there is an entire world of funny trombone noise videos? I kid you not. I found what I was looking for -

 but then I found this:

and the world is just a little bit brighter now.

Happy December - let the games begin!

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Christmas Lights

It was freezing cold but that doesn't stop Faversham turning out in force for the Christmas Lights switch on. The brass band started playing at 430, and Santa came out at 5.

Santa waving at me!


and after!

Night market (the hot spiced cider with a shot of rum was just the thing)

Last year after pulling on my cheap nylon santa hat on for the millionth time I decided enough was enough. Am I not a knitter? What was I doing wearing this garbage? So this year I knit myself a special santa hat for the brass band Christmas gigs - I just made it up pretty much - no pattern as such, and it's topped with a divine alpaca pom pom from our amazing local wool shop.

All in all a very good start to the festive season. Neal and I are both playing in the band for the local theatre's pantomime (Little Red Riding Hood with a rock and roll theme!) so this afternoon it's off to rehearsal for that. Full steam ahead!

Friday, 24 November 2017

and so it begins

Tomorrow is the Christmas lights turn on. Again! Already! How can this be? I just blinked and it was August. Tomorrow marks the start of the slide into insanity that is widely seen in households that combine Christmas season overtime with participation in various musical endeavours that require rehearsals, practices, and eventually Christmas performances culminating this year in an already dreaded 6-shows-in-4-days starting on 14 December. On top of the 4 shows the week before, 2 additional rehearsals, 2 work Christmas lunches, a Knit Night Christmas party, and - oh yeah, work. Neal's working 6 day weeks and the house is slowly but surely turning to the dark side. At least now we have a dishwasher so there will be no more wineglass meltdowns this year (recap: "I have two degrees how can I be incapable of cleaning a bloody wineglass?")  It's the most wonderful time of the year indeed.

Work is crazy because we are starting on site two weeks from Monday.

Bear with me for a moment while I remind myself not to hyperventilate and have a large slug of wine. OK. We can continue.

It will be fine. I am learning a lot (COUGH). I have spent the last two weeks running around like a headless chicken trying to solve problems I didn't even know I had - and that, I suspect, is setting the pattern for the year ahead.

By Friday my poor brain is so knackered that I am reduced to inarticulate gibbering by 4pm. This evening I sat down to do the last finishing on a Christmas knitting gift that needed a hanging loop sewn on. I did a magnificent job - really taking pride in doing it thoroughly - "no way is this going to fall off" I thought as I stitched away. "Look," I said, holding it up proudly, whereupon Neal nearly fell off his chair laughing. I had sewn the loop to the wrong side. Very thoroughly indeed as it turned out. "Muppet," he said lovingly, still laughing.

And that about sums it up. It's been a remarkably dry Autumn, which is probably terrible for agriculture but has been very nice indeed for long runs. The dark is closing in but this side of Christmas I don't mind so much somehow. The pubs have their fires roaring, knitwear feels snugly, and beef stew and ham hocks taste fresh and exciting. You'll remind me of all of this in February and I will wonder what on earth I saw in it all, but for now, it's all good.

Friday, 27 October 2017


I miss writing. I didn't realise it but I really do. I had to write up a report this afternoon. I've been putting it off (it's not just the blog I avoid!) and finally I just sat down and started to write and it FELT SO GOOD. This word? That word? Is this what I really mean? Is that the right phrase? Can I say it better? Make it more active? Clear? Ah it was great. I may have gotten a bit carried away (instead of 'Pros and Cons',  I listed 'The good, the bad, and the ugly'. I am not entirely sure I will get away with that but what's done is done).

So here I am. I miss you :)

I was so exhilarated after sending my report that I busted through several difficult emails, sent a few update messages, and decided that I had accomplished enough for one day and I should stop while I was ahead. I caught an early train, came home, and went for an afternoon run in the autumn sunshine. The run was a bit of a slog (it's been a long week and by Friday afternoon I am tired) but the views were unparalleled and it was just what I needed.

Happy Friday people! Have a good weekend! See you soon x

Friday, 28 July 2017

well that went to plan, didn't it?

have you been enjoying my regular updates?!

i know - you know - summer, work, chaos, etc etc etc

i have a brief moment of calm just now. n has gone off with h&j to collect young f from holiday day camp (as h&j's car has rather inconveniently decided to die). i am sitting on the sofa with a gin and tonic (is gin one of the best inventions ever? i mean the wheel is useful and all - but - in terms of just making everything seem a little more bearable - surely gin must be right up there). it's been a long week at work - i have several projects all on the go and it is exciting and fun and exhausting and i love it really but i am tired. i have been to london most days over the past weeks and i am london'd out (samuel whatshisname was wrong - you can still tire of london and be perfectly ok with life in general. also i can't be bothered to look up his name. you shall know me as the ignoramus that i am). i have also frankly had enough of people. i love them too but good heavens they are a needy lot, aren't they? always complaining and asking stupid questions. it's a good thing it's friday really, all said.

unfortunately the machine-dying has not ended with our friends car as n's pc also kicked the bucket this morning. went to the hard drive in the sky? pining for the uranium mines of uganda? anyways it appears to be dead. expensively dead. this after just replacing two pairs of spectacles (so so not cheap) and so many other bits and pieces. we are very fortunate and i know it but we are also very skint and i do worry sometimes. i am not sure how we are going to fix this but i guess i don't have to know right now - we'll work it out - we always do. maybe this is just what life is. new and unusual ways to haemorrhage cash until you die. in which case i am succeeding beyond all expectations!

they are home now - i must go and pour some lifesaving gin for us all (not f, obviously - he gets apple juice). heavens knows we need it...

Monday, 26 June 2017

update - finally!

i've gotten myself into a bad loop - i want to tell you about what happened next after my last post but i keep putting it off and then i want to post something else and i don't because i haven't told you what happened yet. i realise it doesn't actually matter but for some reason i seem unreasonably attached to the linearity of it (not a word? tough). so - i will bite the bullet and unjam the logs (and mix every metaphor available to me in doing so).

after my nice relaxed post i had a nice relaxed evening and went to bed early. at around 230 i woke up hearing rushing water. that's some rain i thought groggily, then i FELT water, on my foot. suddenly, horribly awake, i leapt out of bed, turned on the light, and immediately turned it back off again because there was water streaming down through the light fixture. i ran upstairs - there is a loo above the room i was sleeping in - no taps on or anything but i could hear water. i ran down to the boiler and turned it off just in case and by the time i got back to the corridor outside my room all the lights and power in the house went out and there was a horrific WHHUUHHMP sound (which it turned out was the ceiling of the room i had been sleeping in moments before crashing to the floor).

clearly this was not good. i knew i had to get young f out of there so after making sure he was ok (sleeping soundly) i ran next door to the neighbours who we know as well - the kids all play together. they were immediately helpful and amazing and made a bed for f on the sofa while i went back for him. i carried him over the rubble and we went outside and played "walking outside in our bare feet isn't this fun!" (oh it was so so so not fun!)

once he was ok we tried to figure out what was going on. no one could reach h&j as their lovely boutique hotel had no phone signal and no one answered the landline. we worked out that a pipe under the upstairs bathtub had blown but we couldn't find the stopcock (!!!!!!!!!) to turn the water off. finally someone from southeast water was able to talk us through turning the water off on the street, and the rushing water finally blessedly stopped. at one point the neighbour and i were standing in the street staring helplessly at water literaly gushing out of one of the landing windows. it was beyond awful.

another hour later and a walrus-moustachioed angel arrived in the unlikely form of a southeast water emergency engineer. he found the stopcock, capped the broken pipe, punctured holes in the ground floor ceiling (thus saving that from collapse as well) and was so calm and good natured and matter of fact that i could have married him on the spot. he turned the water back on for the street and disappeared.

somehow a signal made its way to j's phone and he rang - completely freaked out by the 526 million or so missed calls and garbled text messages on both their phones. they drove straight home, and to this day their only concern was that f and i were all right. we're fine  but - ah - your house - ....... your house is not fine.

and we are fine. f thought the whole thing was a fantastic adventure and has shown no sign of trauma whatsoever. i am glad to know my adrenaline system works (!!) and although i still jump at the sound of unexpected water, i have no other ill effects. there was a slab of plasterboard across the pillow if the bed i was sleeping in so heavy that it needed 2 contractors to remove it so it was a lucky break to wake up when i did. apparently litres and litres of water were coming through every second, and if no one had been home the whole house would have flooded. insurance has covered the cost and although it has been a nightmare for h&j the work is pretty much done now.

luckily my plague of stopcock mishaps ended there and life has been much less eventful in recent months, although i have added “stopcock location” to my list of must have information for any premises I may be responsible for at any point.

whew. all caught up. we can now return to our regular posting!

Friday, 17 March 2017


i'm babysitting young f tonight. it's his dad's 50th birthday so they're off to a posh hotel to celebrate with dinner and a night away. after an evening building lightbulbs (disclosure - i had no idea what he was doing - his electrical knowledge surpassed mine some time ago and my role is wire holder, tape cutter, and general enthusiast), he's gone to bed without complaint. his bedtime story is the lion the witch and the wardrobe - good heavens - it is really quite scary! edmund nearly had his throat cut tonight! i don't remember being scared when i was a kid and i read those books over and over again. now i'm drinking a lovely glass of wine (his parents bribe me shamelessly) and watching tv. it's a flashback to how i spent many evenings as a teenager except there was no wine then and in my memories i was always watching moonlighting. it can't all have been moonlighting but that's all i can remember.

it's been a trying week. last friday the stopcock under the kitchen started leaking - well - it may have leaked for ages but that was when we finally figured it out. cue limited water, and what quickly became a complete (yet typical) british farce trying to get it all sorted out. it took until tuesday lunchtime, involved 2 plumbers and the water company, and included the phrase "we think we've found the external stopcock but there's a car parked on it". i had an awful cold so i was less annoyed than i might have been about having to work (sneeze and splutter) from home for two days whilst a parade of muddy-booted plumbers and water men traipsed through the house but it didn't do much for my general mood.

and today my phone died. it just won't turn on at all - it has bricked. as in might as well be a brick. i bought it off a colleague a few years ago so i suppose it has had a good life - but - dear god - i really do everything on my phone now. i keep reaching for it. f's house doesn't even have a land line so we are reduced to updates through my laptop and facebook messenger. i hope i can figure out a way to fix it as spending a few hundred quid on a new phone is not in my budget plan in any way. on the other hand, maybe a phoneless weekend will be quite - well - if not nice, at least liberating. i sure am used to being connected all the time though. i feel a bit - shipwrecked. slightly bereft.

i wonder what i was worrying about when i was watching moonlighting. school probably. growing up. pining for adulthood (i was never very good at being a kid). i'm glad it's now, and even if things are frustrating sometimes and there's bits of adulting that are ridiculous and even faintly psychotic, it's much much better than i could have ever imagined back then. it's probably good to remember that every so often.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

the highlands

wow. wow wow wow wow wow. i was prepared to be impressed but wow. neal's cousin lives an hours drive north of inverness. it's not in the middle of nowhere, because we drove to the middle of nowhere and it took about twenty minutes, but it's close. they live in the most charming, cosiest house i have ever seen. it is heated with a wood stove and a rayburn (a sort of wood stove/boiler/magician combo), stacked with books, and "guarded" by brodie, a rescue german shepard who is my new best friend.

i am brodie, and these ears do not scratch themselves, you know!
outside the house is a whole bunch of this:

on sunday we went on a road trip further north. we made a big loop through unapool and kylesku, around scourie and down past loch shin, through laird and back to ardgay. mostly i was too busy rhapsodising about the colours and the light and the moss and the heather and the light - did i mention the light? and i didn't take very good pictures but this gives you an idea.

that night we sat up in the "summer house" drinking whiskey and talking - they were such fantastic company and great story tellers. hearing about the characters they've met and how things work in this environment - it was a fascinating window into another world and the hours flew by. we braved the cold (although we did have a fairly good whiskey insulation!) and looked out at the stars - no light pollution there - just bright bright stars as far as you could see.

on monday we woke up to this:

and after a few walks in the woods we went up to the beach at dornoch - all soft sand and gentle dunes and a sky that went straight to the arctic circle!

i had no idea there was that much space in the uk. we really are all crammed in down here. coming back to the south was a bit of a shock - gatwick being rather horrid at the best of times. luckily our friend picked us up from the airport and drove us home so we didn't have to face london after our weekend of serene calm.

it feels like we've been away for a week. i'm so glad we finally made it up for a visit - i have a feeling this will be the first trip of many. i hope so. there's a lot of exploring to be done.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017


my cold is still little (yay!). it is just enough to drag me down a bit - not enough to be actually sick. at work today, brooke and christina diagnosed this as classic man-flu which at least made us all laugh. i have to be up early tomorrow - i have a safe cracker coming to one of our sites to bust into 5 safes for which we have no keys. surprisingly few questions have been raised about this entire escapade - not from the company who supplies the safe-man nor from anyone who has signed off the purchase orders. i asked if it would be noisy and they said "not if he can pick them - otherwise he'll have to drill." i admit, i am curious.

in light of this i have declined to join n who has gone off to hear some of our friends playing in a pub tonight. the amazing terry, in fact, who did our kitchen. small town england is a small world. i have to run tomorrow as well - and since i need to be on an early train and i'm meeting a friend for a drink after work - that means hauling my running gear into work and running at lunch. phhhttttpt. i shouldn't complain - i work close enough to regent's park to run there and down the regent's canal - past london zoo and camden market. it's a run many people would dream of - but i hate getting all sweaty and the showers at work are cold and you have to stretch on the bare (dirty) lino floor. but, as per yesterday's post, not running is no longer an option.

i am more excited because we are going to inverness on saturday for a long weekend. how thrilling is that? i've never been north of edinburgh or glasgow in the uk and n's cousin, whom we are going to see, lives some way north of inverness. we bought cheap easyjet tickets ages ago but - as the last 6 weeks have disappeared into the ether - suddenly it is upon us.

i am determined to be healthy and have a very good time indeed. so early to bed for me, and running at lunch time. at least "man-flu" doesn't slow you down too much!