The internet is amazing…

it even sends me tea.

Well, almost.

After popping up in the latest issue of the very lovely Oh Comely – in which I attempt to offer some solutions to sleeplessness – my not-so favourable verdict on chamomile tea caught somebody’s eye.

Hayley, an avid reader of Oh Comely and representative of master brewers Teapigs (a name so cute and ridiculous I was immediately hooked), did some pretty impressive e-detective work to track me down and get to the bottom of this…

Answering Hayley’s email we agreed that for the majority chamomile tea by other brands tastes like “pond water”. But it didn’t end there. No. Tea-enthusiast Hayley, following the brand’s motto “drink real tea/no more dusty bags”, very kindly offered to send me an alternative chamomile tea – made with real flowers – right to my door.

What a woman.

Teapigs’ adorably named Dream On offering really is much better. Even if I do think we’ll never be bosom buddies…

And their beautifully packaged and creatively categorised range – many of which were included in my loot – are most definitely future favourites of mine. The New Grey Earl Grey, Morning Glory Everyday Brew and Lazy Days Lemon and Ginger, to name but a few.

Time to stick the kettle on again…

*

(Big thank you to Hayley again)

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a bundt note

It’s officially autumn.

And therefore, okay to add copious amounts of various spices to butter, eggs and sugar. Yum.

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Hip hip

Hooray?

26 arrived around this time last week and it would be an understatement to say I wasn’t ready. Quite literally. My body ached and my twin sister woke to find she couldn’t move her neck.

So this is post quarter-life, huh?

Things I have discovered approaching this great age: I can’t eat as much carefree, I can’t run full-stop and a minimum of eight hours of sleep each night is required to feel human.

Worrying.

Not like really worrying but in a sense that when I try to defy these age-related rules I am annoyed I can’t. My 16 year-old self definitely could of have.

You’ve changed. I’ve changed. (Okay this is getting confusing).

Still, I can’t let this birthday go without mentioning some of the rather amazing gifts given to me, even if it is a little unbecoming…

(cats and collars)

(Violet, from the lovely Bilberry Grove)

(just cos)

*

27 I’ll be ready.

Probably

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say hello

… to my (not so) little friend.

In case it wasn’t obvious by now, cats are quite important to me. Especially this one:

(Pete)

Yes, I’m going to be the crazy old lady door-to-door knockers avoid through reputation alone. And I’m going to enjoy it.

The reason I’m posting about him? Well, it’s been a busy and upside down few weeks which has left me with little time to post about much else…

And I thought he just deserved it, okay?

Lately he’s been developing some worrying signs of human behaviour. Like eating human food – chips and croissants, mainly. But also getting closer and closer to saying ‘hello’ in meow form. Maybe it’s time he started playing with cats his own age, and, erm, species. Sadly I won’t be be turning into a cat any time soon…

The same breed as the ‘Essex lion’ (before jibes about his weight start) he’s also akin to the lovely Justin Vernon’s cat.

Cat play date Justin?

(worth a try)

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‘ave a butcher’s

Look. I am very excited EastEnders is on SEVEN times this week. Eight if you count the double bill Monday. I am excited my soap heroine Shirley Carter is a massive part of this. And if you don’t like or watch EastEnders I apologise and promise not bring it up again. Much.

But in honour of such an occasion let me explain why I love it so…

1. Shirley – (see pic for details) If Rod Stewart had a twin sister she would be it.

2. It was a part of my childhood – really. I even have a letter from my mum informing me she’d tried taping it for me when I was on camp. It’s the bread and butter of most nights – however sad this makes me seem…

3. Chryed – it’s all so beautiful. If they could have babies it would be beautfiul. Unfortunately I was living in another country at the height of Chryed mania and missed a good (again, beautiful) chunk. Still that didn’t stop my sister skyping it over, internet permitting.

4. Wellard – this makes the list purely for the fact my friend got so bored in her job she went onto EastEnders’ website and found out Wellard was actually a female dog. Amazing. This trivia she dropped into conversation like it was general knowledge. And I love her for this. It even has its own wikipedia page. Take that life.

5. Dum dum dum dum dum dumdumdumdah – okay: the theme tune. One of the easiest scale-based tunes to play on piano, many after school afternoons were spent entertaining my piano teacher’s dog when she wasn’t in the room. Lucky for me she didn’t own a TV and so I came across as a brilliantly gifted child.

If she could see me now.

*

These are just five of many reasons. I can’t justify it any further. And I think we’ll all agree it’s important I don’t.

I’ll leave the final word(s) with Shirley…(Hoorah!)

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A step in the right direction

It all started when I was about six.

As far as I can remember anyway. “Would Mrs Shepherd please come to the information desk, your daughter is waiting for you.” I had dawdled a considerable enough length for people to be concerned.

In my defence who doesn’t want to dawdle in Ikea? And as a slightly odd six year old obsessed by magic tricks and witches, I wanted to discover whatever I could.

My mum said I wasn’t even crying when she found me. I was a natural dawdler.

The history of my earlier dawdling is somewhat patchy. Between seven and twelve I dawdled a lot with my dad. If he was going anywhere I would go. And I mean these were largely terribly boring places – car boots, supermarkets and DIY shops. I liked the feeling of getting out though, always in my purple velvet ‘nan’ slippers. I wasn’t ready to make that break from home yet.

But I am not sure this really constitutes as genuine dawdling. It was simply laying the foundations for my later years.

When I finished college I was going to university. The perfect place to dawdle. But I had begun to be a slight dawdler in my head, often referred to as a ‘daydreamer’. Though I wasn’t really dreaming (in the day, anyway). I just wanted to make sure I was dawdling to the right places.

So I took a year out and dawdled in the right directions, made my mind up about a career and therefore, closed the door on that dawdle. This sudden revelation allowed for some recreational dawdling. Like people who join slimming classes and when they’ve been really good one day, “bank” their calories.

With free dawdling time most definitely banked, my friend and I had decided to travel around Germany starting off in Paris. It was the peak of my adult dawdling, which sounds more deviant than it was…

We found places we hadn’t planned and met people we hadn’t expected to. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. I’d missed people back home as well as really enjoying myself, so learnt dawdling in the literal sense maybe wasn’t a long term pursuit of mine.

As a student I dawdled from one degree (and city) into another; not in a negative way. Because I think sometimes, and for most people I know, it’s a necessary path. So many people I knew didn’t get on with their course, and I don’t think they should have necessarily given up – I didn’t. I gave teaching two years. A slightly longer (and successful) dawdle from which I had lots to take with me.

Many years on I’ve a lot to thank Ikea for. People think dawdling is bad for you. And as children we’re told not to dawdle at the back. At the risk of sounding terribly twee, what they don’t realise is those are the ones that are thinking.

I definitely do not have all the answers. But I am sure a healthy dose of dawdling now and then does you good.

So next time you see a dawdler, be kind. We are a misunderstood group.

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Like This

(one of many beautiful postcards from David R. Morgan’s book-in-a-box, Newman)

Things I like usually include cats, glitter, more cats…anything that journeys into twee-dom, really. But me twee? Nooo. No. Maybe.

New independent just-outside-of Manchester-based press, Like This, are an exception to these guidelines (even if I think they could do with a little glitter and/or cats…)

Producing beautifully made short volumes, pamphlets and books of prose and poetry – this press is all about work that doesn’t mind experimenting with both its content and image. Hand-printed, hand-torn, hand-bound and all round, handmade versions available, as well as printed copies, it’s safe to say they’re giving you permission to judge these books by their covers.

Having stuck my head firmly in Threadbare Fables by Ian Seed and Waterloo by JT Welsch, I predict great things to come. Waterloo especially beautiful with copies of old photographs and forgotten images illustrating the pages.

Their Book-in-a-box series has just launched with David R. Morgan’s, Newman, leading the way. I’m super excited to see it and suggest you do the same.

The message is clear: Like This Press. Easy. Peasy.

(JT Welsch’s, Waterloo)

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Boiling an egg is actually quite hard

It is. (Shut up it is)

At almost 26 I felt a little ashamed I had to google how to boil an egg. I even failed at that and had to ask my mum. Yup. This is not the first time I have failed as an adult.

And this got me thinking about what else is hard. You know, things as ‘adults’ we should immediately acquire the skills and knowledge for when you turn a certain age. Because life is actually kind of difficult when you factor these in …

Cleaning

One of my friends cleaned their window with oven cleaner. They know who they are. If you’re reading this and you’re annoyed, tough. I did tell you not to. I’m not even sure I can excuse this one. All I can say is, he most definitely just saw ‘cleaner’ and that was enough.

One of the most stupid cleaning moments I’ve had was while I was living alone in Paris. Parisians do not have the best plumbing. A girl I met there told me her electric generator loomed over her shower. She was risking her life each time she showered. Which was actually real dedication to being clean.

But for me, my kitchen sink stopped working. By that I mean it was blocked. By that I mean I blocked it. So I went and bought something, pour un-bloquer. This was serious looking stuff and I believed in it. Unfortunately it’s seriousness was also my downfall. I failed to notice a huge corrosive sign on the back. Red, angry and telling me something. Moments of internet translation later I realised this was most definitely, a. going to strip my hands, sink and throat (if I let it) and b. was NOT for kitchen sinks.

I spent the last few weeks using my bathroom sink to wash up in. Massive fail.

Cooking

Someone else is going to steal the limelight on this one. Because I’m actually a pretty good cook. Unless you count the time I set the oven on fire and two fire engines came, which wasn’t really my fault…

No, who isn’t a great cook is my dad. I remember we made fairy cakes once when I was about eight. The kind that comes in a packet because I guess one day my mum thought we should be doing more things together. Which we did. Car boots and trips to the dump. (Yup, the dump)

(quality time had moved on from this, unfortunately)

We had flour, icing sugar and those tracing paper pictures you could eat. Both the flour and icing sugar bag looked very similar and I guess it wasn’t really his fault. But, he baked the icing sugar. After that we didn’t bake again.

This isn’t really cooking? Okay he once gave me pink-ish chicken. We were all concerned. But I ate it out of love because it was a meal only my dad and I were having together. He seemed upset about it. I later discovered both of us had asked my mum on separate occasions if we’d be okay. We were.

…Ironing and Washing

Ironing should be easy. I iron my hair and that works pretty well. Washing should be easy. I wash…myself and that also works pretty well.

Most of the time when it comes to my clothes, it doesn’t so much. I’ve always been told the creases will eventually “drop out” but generally they have a habit of “dropping in”, uninvited.

I spent a good three years of my student life not ironing at all. I was sort of disturbed at university people did. Because unless you iron your clothes you don’t know the difference. Most students definitely use their ironing board as a makeshift bar. And they would be right in doing so. As a “proper” adult I can’t get away with it anymore. (Mum is especially opposed to bar idea, pfft)

Washing is easier. I actually don’t mind it. My failings worked in my favour recently when I shrunk someone’s jumper I “borrowed”. It’s now the perfect fit (and crime).

*

I fail at a lot of other things. Like, directions. Talking, some days. Getting up. Especially getting up… And not forgetting, opening jars

Feel free to tell me what you fail at… I’d like that

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Cute as …

A budding Francophile, I am guilty of going on a little bit about France. Well, Paris. But most things are just prettier there.

My sister and I agreed the other day, if our day-to-day lives have to be kind of boring they should at least be pretty.

And okay I said this just before I bought these: handmade sugar buttons from Parisian lovelies, Belle de Sucre. But it’s a point-of-view I feel strongly about. Probably.

I haven’t figured out just quite what I am going to do with them yet. But maybe that doesn’t matter.

When you’re that cute, who cares?

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A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION TO PARIS

“It rains a lot and the streets are covered in dog poo”, something Bethany said to me in our fourth writing class. She was right. It took me all of three days to find both these things out. Both I should add at the same time. I thought of Audrey Hepburn’s performance as Sabrina. I was going to need my brolly.

I was living in the fourteenth arrondissement. Something I would always confuse with the fourth, le quatrieme arrondissement, when talking to old women on the Metro. I actually felt I lived in the thirteenth because I lived nearer to Chinatown if you walked straight. But you can’t do that in Paris because everything is wrapped around each other; and so is easy to confuse.

My district, or rather my Metro stop, didn’t exist the year before. Christine, the friendly though frustratingly logical German girl in my block informed me we were living in a part of Paris denied to those who rode the Metro the year previously. I didn’t know how lucky I was.

My main street, my rue, was Avenue de France. At first this seemed pretty ridiculous to me. Like living on England’s Avenue. Like something out of The Truman Show. And I was waiting for the sky to ripple the way our school play sets did and I’d have to go home and tell people Paris wasn’t actually where I thought it was; and they’d tell me they knew because of course, I was on The Truman Show.

Getting back to Bethany and my writing class, this felt a little more Parisian.

‘Writing by the Seine’ it was called, housed in the most prestigious bookshop people who like bookshops, and Paris, knew. Shakespeare & Company. We were its company for fourteen weeks. We’d meet and share our stories. And sometimes we’d read each other’s out – not giving it the right voice or intonation the person who’d written it had intended, when they had created it.

The weeks were split in two parts and each branch brought new people, apart from a few who like me, clung on. We were different but similar in that we had wanted to write and paying for it gave us the right to do so.

But I was officially there to study, étude, étude Anglais. This amused pretty much every French man or woman I met. My reason being it was a choice to study there or in Manchester. Which I think they understood. I still got nicknamed ‘the girl from Manchester’ in the bookshop round the corner from my university. (I wasn’t even from Manchester)

I found French people to be passionately proud of being French. Most anyway. I remember going to Christine’s apartment on my first week and being introduced to all her European classmates. One French guy inspected my bottle of wine and told me I should buy only, produits Francias. I’d bought almost the cheapest bottle because that’s what you do when you don’t really understand wine. I don’t think he really understood wine either.

Though I had to give it to him, he and Avenue de France were keeping my Parisian fantasy alive.

I took French classes but dropped after a month or so. I’d missed the first term and was barely talking at all. I’d gone thinking I’d pick it all up and then hidden in an English writing class and gained English or English speaking friends. But two months into my adventure I was speaking a little more. I’d made friends and was continuing my education, mainly of le gâteau.

(Paris knows how to do parks)

Sometimes I found French people like to hide the fact they can’t speak English. They also like to hide the fact they can. I thought this was pretty silly.

University commitments were different to those in England. And classes different too. Participation at home is assumed to be equal. People talk generally for the same amount of time. In Paris, Professor Jean-Paul bellowed at us for the duration. Slipping into French occasionally and declaring at the end we’d do more of the talking next week. It was our fault. But I got the best marks I’ve ever received there, so he had the right approach.

My university building was in the Le Marais, the fourth arrondissement. Unlike the grandeur of the Sorbonne I was hidden amongst windy roads and enjoyed the zigzag nature in which I travelled in to get there each day. You had to know where you were going to arrive safely. I punctuated my classes with cakes and felt my thighs expand daily.

I had a balcony off my apartment but it wasn’t how you might imagine. I was living in the developing part of Paris. Developing because I got the feeling someone had neglected it for a long time before and only now were people okay to live and arrive there safely.

And just as I had adjusted I had to leave. I enjoyed the square gardens, the old cinemas, the parks that I came across when dawdling, the subtle differences between boulangeries and navigating the Metro on the same map I started with. I left wanting to return and as if I’d barely touched Paris at all.

Je vais manquer la pluie. I’m going to miss the rain.

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