Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Once, twice, three times a (pregnant) lady...

I have just done yet another pregnancy test (my fourth) and yep, still pregnant. I went out at lunchtime to buy the tests and I went to the Central Library, my most favourite building in Bristol, and did the test there.

I also looked in lots of books to reassure myself that the relative lack of symptoms I'm experiencing is nothing to worry about. I discovered that this time next week, I will be out of the realms of possible ectopic pregnancy, and my risk of miscarriage will be 15%. That's 85% likely that my pregnancy will be a goer - hooray! Pretty good odds.

Throughout my fibroid investigations, the most useful thing I've done is to have contacted other women in the same situation through Yahoo groups. I've had the sweetest emails and the most sympathetic and helpful responses.

Today I got this email from a lovely American woman called Erin:

It IS VERY SCARY... but, but, but, try not to stress out too much or worry.
You can totally do this. I have to say that my fibroids (6 of them) are all
really big (the smallest is 7cm, the largest 14cm), and I gave birth 19 days
ago to a very healthy, perfect baby girl!

My pregnancy itself was characterized by fear. Fear in the beginning of a
miscarriage, fear midway of giving birth way too prematurely, then fear
towards the end of complications of giving birth. Although I did enjoy the
pregnancy, I realize now, I should not have spent so much time worrying.

Please do keep in touch, as I know it feels VERY LONELY and scary to be
going through this.

I have a positive feeling for you though.

Best of luck!

Isn't that just such a sweet email? It really helped me when I was feeling so down. Plus it made me realise that other people have bigger problems (and bigger fibroids) than I do, and they are still fine.

Here's another from a woman called Samantha:

I made it through pregnancy with large fibroids, both interior and exterior to the uterus. The real issues are conception (well, implantation) and your comfort. YOu made it past the big hurdle already. :)

Good luck, and if you ever need a sympathetic ear - I'm here. Congratulations!!!

In amongst the worrying, I'd sort of forgotten that I should be congratulated and excited, for god's sake! Which is sort of what Larisa is saying with this brilliant piece of advice:

Being pregnant is really wonderful time, so enjoy everything as much as you
can! Do not stress over things that you do not have control over... that
would be my biggest piece of advice.

That has really helped me to realise there is no point in worrying because what will be will be. I have to just try to take it as it comes, and have faith that the odds are overwhelmingly for a healthy, normal pregnancy.

I'm booking a dating scan for the week after my birthday, which will mean I'll be 8 weeks pregnant. Can't wait to see my little muffin on telly!

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

5 weeks and 3 days

Still very excited although it's killing me not being able to tell anyone. I nearly told my dad at the weekend, had Ben's sister and her husband both ask me whether I was pregnant (because I wasn't drinking) and so had to lie, and so many times I've nearly said something about pregnancy at work.

I've bought books and yoga videos already, and have had my free mum-to-be bag from Lloyd's Pharmacy, and feel a bit like I've joined an exclusive club. Most of my waking hours have been spent on the internet reading everything I can and looking at maternity clothes - very excited that this means a whole new wardrobe.

The excitement is mixed up with a real fear that washes over me like a cold wave that the fibroid is going to cause problems, or even that I have had a missed miscarriage and wouldn't even know about it. It's pretty horrible.

We went to the doctor on Friday to register my pregnancy, and she asked me to call her when I'm 12 weeks gone in order that she can schedule me in with a consultant obstetrician - reading between the lines I think I'm a high risk pregnancy because of the fibroid.

So I'm swinging from being thrilled and over-excited to not counting my chickens and trying to pragmatic and cool about it all. But really, it's like saying I haven't revised before an exam because when I'm out of the danger zone I'll be telling everyone I come into contact with. And the likelihood is that I'll be fine. I'm sure all women in the early stages feel this way - it is a bit of a comfort to know that whatever you go through in life someone will have been through the same.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

I am pregnant!

I found out yesterday that I am 4 weeks pregnant! I had my suspicions, which were confirmed with a pregnancy test done at work in the loo. I only had my reflection to celebrate with until the evening, when I could tell BV. I decided to wrap the positive test up and give it to him as a present. The excitement really got the better of me and I had told him that I had a pressie for him, and at the end of the day I couldn't wait for him so I went to stand on Pero's Bridge to see him coming. He stopped to talk to the Big Issue seller which was sweet and made me so glad that I am having a child with such an incredible person - sweet and kind and generous and all of those things.

He approached me and we stood together at the centre of the bridge while he ripped off the wrapping paper. I think it took him a little while to sink in - it was dark and he didn't realise what it was for ages. When the penny dropped he let out a whoop and hugged and kissed me. Then he started crying. We both stood there for what seemed like a really long time grinning at each other and saying we couldn't believe it. But it's true. I did another test this morning to confirm and, once again, a positive result, this time a really strong line appeared.

Ben spent all evening saying that he knew that it wouldn't take us long - it happened the second month we tried - and calling me Mum, which was funny.

And this morning I got my first horrible taste of morning sickness, which was vile. But in a funny kind of way made it feel all the more real. I am finding it so difficult not being able to tell anyone though, and eventually had to email Sebastian, my herbalist, who has been treating me for the monster fibroid.

At the moment I am glad we chose to try to conceive rather than opting for surgery, but I might well change my mind as the pregnancy progresses. There may have been implications with the surgery that I wasn't prepared to accept - not least the massive doses of Lupron each month for three months before the surgery which would have given me a medical menopause. Anyway, it's irrelevant now.

When I spoke to the consultant about the fibroid she confirmed that it is a pedunculated subserosal fibroid, so it's on a stalk sitting on top of my uterus. All of the reading I've done around the subject suggests that these are least likely to have a direct effect on pregnancy and the development of the baby (eg submucosal fibroids can increase likelihood of miscarriage, preterm labour and need for c-section), but that the main issue is degeneration of the fibroid. This would obviously put me in a great deal of pain, but this pain can be managed, is temporary, and could end up solving the problem if the fibroid degenerates and dies completely.

I am going to make an appointment with my doctor to have the pregnancy confirmed and to discuss the impact the fibroid might have. I imagine they may want to monitor me more closely in order to find out how the fibroid is behaving. I suspect it is enjoying the increase in hormones as my stomach feels a lot bigger and tighter already, although this could be bloating/water retention.

I am also going to keep track of my developments here, both in terms of the baby and the fibroid. What an exciting time...

Friday, 20 October 2006

Knitty monkey

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Here he is at last! The monkey I've been knitting since December 2005. That's longer than it took for Charlotte to grow her baby, Noah, the recipient of the monkey.

Noah was born on Saturday and is a little dude.

I am an auntie!

More monkeys - wool and fur

Monday, 11 September 2006

Further to my last post...


Much as I detest Ruth Kelly, and this does seem to be based on economics alone, this can only be a good thing. We'll see...

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

I am woman, hear me grumble

Good grief - I cannot believe the fuss surrounding Katie Couric, America's first woman to anchor a network news broadcast alone. And the fact that her network digitally altered a picture of her in one of its publications to make her appear 20lbs lighter.

What a joyous time to be a woman.

I have been investigating veganism, after reading the horror stories involving the amount of pus in milk due to 1 in 3 cows in this country having mastitis at any one time. That's something to think about, eh?

And that led me on to reading about one of the ethical arguments for veganism that is put forward by third-wave feminists - most livestock is female, kept in an extended post-partum state, used and objectified in the same way as women.

Friday, 25 August 2006


I have discovered and am loving a version of 'Sin City' by Beck & Emmylou Harris. Divine.

Tuesday, 15 August 2006

The main stage at WasFest


Wow - the best fest ever.

Friday, 4 August 2006



Windy Joyners

For my mother-in-law's sixtieth birthday we went away for the weekend to an organic hotel and restaurant in Herefordshire, which was rather lovely. We ate and drank and walked and chatted, and when the boys went to a local pub to drink real ale we went back the hotel. I spent a splendid couple of hours reading the Guardian in the bath, and then watching 'Back to the Future' on telly with a nice cup of tea.


Tuesday, 18 July 2006

I lost her near fantasy island. Life has not been the same

Absolutely beautiful and unexpected. I loved it most when I overheard the people behind me asking how this happened, and wasn't it a tragedy?

Here's more about the piece:

Wednesday, 5 July 2006

Helluva holiday

A week after we'd moved house we went to France with Matt, Jess, Greg and Anna for a week in the sun. It was absolutely brilliant and completely hilarious.

We flew from Bristol with Matt and Jess and it felt as exciting as being on a school trip. Greg and Anna flew from Luton and met us at Nice airport, and we hired a big Ford Galaxy people carrier. We'd timed our journey incredibly badly in terms of the World Cup and drove like the wind in time to catch the second half of the England-Ecuador match. Because we arrived on a Sunday night there were no shops open, so after the match we strolled up into the village and ordered pizzas to take back to the house. We ate on the terrace and watch the sun go down over the hills and chatted late into the night.

The following morning, it was back to old Nice for a mooch around the antique market, followed by lunch at Le Pain Quotidien, a souvenir water bottle and a long conversation about football with the waiter in French. Then we went to the beach and lay there for hours, sploshing around in the sea and reading. The evening was spent cooking and playing rounds and rounds of hilarious drunken Balderdash, everyone's new favourite game.

Tuesday we hung out by the pool, having fun with our Spiderman lilo which was bought for less than 5€ from Leclerc which rules (terrific fish counter), and then went for a meal in Fayence. When we were driving into the village we saw a little boy who'd been knocked over in the street, which was absolutely awful and really shook everyone up. A little later we saw him walking into the ambulance, so we knew he would probably be ok. The meal wasn't amazing... typical French uncomprehending response to vegetarians meant our starter was a mountain of lettuce with dressing and our main course was boiled rice with boiled vegetables and no seasoning whatsoever. Unbelievable. France were playing Spain and we sneaked into a bar to see what the score was. The French way of watching football in public is pretty much as far as you can get from the way we do it. It was mainly men who were all sitting down in silence, many with small dogs under their arms. Very odd. So we went back to the house for more Balderdash and the French won, resulting in much tooting of horns around the hills.

Wednesday we went to the lake (Lac St Cassien) and hired two pedaloes - girls v boys. Much harder work than they look but we did have fun. Spidey came too, and then the boys hid behind one of the bridge supports, leading Anna to call them 'complete nobs'. That evening we played Murder by the Mob - hence the hilarious costumes you see above.

The setting: Chicago in the late 1920’s is overrun by the mob, most of whom have been invited to 'Spudsy' Malone’s party. However, when the Don welcomed everyone to celebrate the invention of his new potato alcohol drink, he wasn’t expecting any of them to ‘do him a favour’ and shoot him in the chest.

Ben was BILLY BADA BING “The Kid” – Mob Leader, Matt was SAM ANNELLA 'Fat Sam' - Restaurant Owner, Anna was BELLA BURLESQUE 'The Legs' - Escort & Dancer, Jess was MO DOWN 'The Emerald Queen' - Irish Mobster, Greg was TONY TRICEPS 'The Amoeba' - Henchman, and I was CANDY CAPISH 'The Bust' – Gangster‘s Moll.

Sam made amazing pasta and Bella made a helluva salad, and I was the moiderer. We all had much too much of Spudsy's new potato alcohol drink.

Thursday we went to Cannes and hung out on the beach. It was utterly roasting. Matt had a disappointing croque monsieur and got cross with Jess because he got sunburnt. Ben spent the whole day reading Charles Bukowski in the shade of a palm tree, with a very friendly man gradually making his way up the beach towards him. Jess and I took Spidey to Italy, and eventually persuaded Max to go in the sea where we saw the funniest swimming costume ever.

Friday - Jess, Matt, Ben and I went to see 'Black is a color' at the Fondation Maeght which was fantastic. It was the opening day of the show and there was a cellist and pianist playing in the courtyard, the whole place was buzzing with people and the show was really interesting and some pieces were absolutely lovely. The sculpture park was amazing as ever. We drove home through the back roads looking for ice cream but not finding it (although we did a drive-by of a snack shack in a lay-by), and spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool.

Saturday was spent lazing around by the pool, although Greg, Ben and I went to Seillans to see a Robert Doisneau exhibition which was pretty amazing too. Saturday evening we watched the sad and sorry England-Portugal match which left us all stoney-faced. But we soon got over it by going for a glorious meal at the Italian restaurant, Au Rendez-vous, followed by catching the end of the France-Brazil match which was being projected in the village square. When France won it was a great feeling of vicarious glory, and there was much tooting in the hills that night.

What else?
We found out that the French for weirdo is 'drole d'oiseau' - funny bird.
'J'ai trente ans' was a constant refrain from Matt.
Yachts - WOW!!!
Anna needs to put her bikini top back on if the conversation gets serious.
Matt does a great impression of Gnarls Barkeley.
Greg makes an excellent barbecue.
Jess accused Matt of seeking 'cheap thrills' when he offered to sun cream her bottom.
Sagittarians RULE!

Thursday, 22 June 2006

New house

Eventually, after a horrible 6 months, we got the keys to our new house! Completion date coincided with probably the busiest date of my working calendar - the launch of Architecture Week. I had to be in the Centre at 7am to be interviewed for BBC Radio Bristol, to work all that day including a private view of our Architecture Week exhibition until 8pm. Somewhere during that day Ben and I managed to sneak out for an hour to collect our keys and take a first look round our new house. It was at the same time exciting, intimidating and a massive relief.

I got horribly drunk at work and was not very helpful when Mum picked me up from work and drove me to the new house where we opened a bottle of bubbly and got even more drunk in the garden, before heading back to Clevedon where Ben's parents laughed at my tipsiness.

Saturday morning we were on the road by 7am as we had to pick up our plants from Simon and Nancy, who had been plant-sitting them, by 8am. Then the removal men were moving us into our new house at 9am.

They were done by 1pm and it was a scorching hot day. Charlie and Chris brought round some lunch for us and we ate in the lovely big garden of our new house. It was amazing. I made a promise that I would never forget the feeling of excitement and relief that I felt that first day.

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Clevedon sunset

We spent a fortnight living in Clevedon with Ben's parents. A fortnight during which we had sold our house and were waiting to buy our new house. A fortnight where we were home-owners no longer. Quite an odd feeling... I think they call it limbo.

Actually it was a really lovely time after all the crap with the house. Felt a little like being on holiday by the seaside crossed with returning to tormented teenager status. We walked by the pier at sunset, we drank Pimms in the garden, we took the whole family out for curry (Posh Spice in Nailsea - can thoroughly recommend it), and we had the loveliest of weekends. With nothing to do and no DIY to preoccupy us, we went to Jess and Matt's to watch the first England World Cup match. Not an amazing game but quite a harrowing half-time spent in the garden trying to work out what to do with a half-dead rat that Frankie had been playing with (answer: scoop onto a trowel and fling over into the cemetary).

Then we drove to Scriv's house for a barbecue which was absolutely hilarious. Anything Scriv is involved with seems to be hilarious by default, but extra hilarity was provided by Scriv's flatmate Kev who at one point got so drunk that he fell in the flower-bed and couldn't get out.

On the Sunday Ben and I went for lunch at Quartier Vert (is there a better restaurant in Bristol? I don't think there is), bought the papers and sat on the Downs for a couple of hours watching the world go by. Heaven.

Monkey wasn't as resistant to Clevedon as we'd anticipated and was event quite sociable towards the end of the fortnight. All-in-all, a relaxing limbo.

I don't know how we're expected to produce a grandchild if we're given bunk-beds to sleep in though.

Saturday, 27 May 2006


I was getting a bit cross about the fact that after June I will have used up nearly all of my annual leave, and there are so many places I want to go and it's all SO unfair. But then I started working out how much of the world I have been lucky enough to see, and I felt really rather guilty.

Here is a list:
France - more times than I can remember, lots of different places
Spain - mainland, and all four of the Balearics (Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera)
Italy - la Cinque Terre, Tuscany, Elba
Amsterdam a couple of times
America - a lot of the USA. 3 months driving across 32 states and clocking up over 7000 miles. But also separate holidays to San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Santa Fe, Boston.
Toronto, Canada
Mexico twice - Juarez and the Yucatan peninsular
Malaysia - Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi
India - Kerala

And here is where I still want to go:

I think my carbon footprint might already be that of a giant, so those exotic destinations will have to wait. Exploring our own fair island is the priority for now. And getting rid of the car too.

Thursday, 18 May 2006

Just like a little girl

I walked through the park on the way to work this morning, and it seems to be that time of year when all the plants that I remember as a little girl are out in force. Dandelion clocks, buttercups and that sticky vine you can throw at people's clothes and it sticks.

At this moment in time I wish I was a little girl, that someone else was in charge of sorting out all the shit that comes with life and that I was blissfully unaware, skipping through the grass and counting what time it is on a weed.

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Happy birthday

Today is my boy's birthday, although I probably can't call him that anymore considering that for the next 7 months we will inhabit different decades - me in my 20s and he in his 30s. Very strange indeed.

I was so excited about seeing whether he liked his presents that I didn't really sleep very well - a bit like Christmas Eve - and woke him up at 7am with gifts, cake and sparklers. The cake was a brownie with raspberries, and presents were: Penguin by Design, a 1920s easel for him to resume drawing and painting in our new attic garret, sorry, bedroom, and a commissioned piece from Alys Paterson, who is a genius. Royal Mail let me down though, and there are two more presents to come that remain secret.

Tonight we'll be dining as a family (Joyner side) at Cafe Maitreya which we're both looking forward to tremendously. Ah, birthdays... sometimes I think other people's birthdays are more fun than your own.

Happy Birthday Benny V! Can I see some ID please?

Monday, 15 May 2006

The Waughs

The BBC and its various incarnations have had a mini-Waugh season, with a couple of brilliant programmes about the prolific literary dynasty. All very interesting and I want to know and read more. I have a copy of 'Vile Bodies' and one of 'Brideshead Revisited' but haven't read more than a few pages of each. When they are unpacked, they'll be the first books I pick up.

Shame there wasn't more about Nancy Mitford in the programmes though.

Friday, 12 May 2006


I shall be very sad to leave this house. 13 days now until that moment will be here. I do love our house so much, especially at this time of year with the blossom in the garden.

I know our new house will be great but it's a stranger at the moment, which is kind of scary. And it doesn't have perfect little frames for air guitar solo performances.

Tuesday, 9 May 2006

My exhibition... up and running now, and looks pretty good. There are things I'd do differently and lots I've learnt, but the main thing is that it's done. The private view was great - around 175 people came and it felt full and bustling all evening. Snaps to my family who came and saw and supported, and to my lovely friends Ali, Ian and John who all came too. So nice to see everyone and a nice chat really took my mind of the stress of it all. That, and the lovely Severnshed cocktails.

And oh my god, Ben is amazing. He's been so brilliant to me - advising me on curating the exhibition, helping with the install itself, popping air bubbles in the floor, nursing me off the sofa when I got home late at night wired, tired and hungry. And the beautiful flowers he bought for me yesterday were sublime. Peonies. My very favourites. What a catch. I'll have to make his birthday next week an extra special one. It is the big 3-0, after all.

Thursday, 20 April 2006

Eek! My exhibition!

I walked through the Centre and looked up and saw three bloody massive ones of these. They are advertising the exhibition I'm curating at the moment which opens on 6 May. That does not give me long.

I am, frankly, terrified.

Sunday, 16 April 2006

Upload THAT

Claire came to stay and on Saturday night we met up with Jess, Matt, Joe, Kate, Scriv and a friend of his, Nigel, to see the Glastonbury film at the Watershed. It was very jolly, and certain parts of the film were hilarious - in particular, the family who cleaned out the loos, and the Stereo MCs. It did feel like being there almost, especially going with the people we'd really been there with most recently. Lots of jokes about casseroles, wet-wipes, mixing desks etc.

The Watershed bar were even serving Brother's Pear Cider which was terribly exciting. Joe and Matt both bought a bottle of 7% festival strength, and were ready to dance all night in front of a generator (or in someone else's car?). The subject of blogs came up and Scriv expressed his confusion, claiming not to understand the difference between a blog and a forum and a Word document, and had us all in stitches.

The film obviously had a profound effect on me as I dreamt I was taking part in a game featuring lots of naked people. To be in with a chance of winning I had to put clothes on as many of them as possible. My subconscious mind is obviously a prude.

Friday, 14 April 2006

Good Friday

It was.

We drove up to Oxford on Thursday straight after work to visit Anna and Greg in their new house and new city. Their house is amazing - massive and really modern, and with some truly incredible kitchen fittings.

After a huge glass of champagne and chocolate eggs, we went into town to eat at a beautiful North African restaurant called the Kazbar (some of the best tapas I've ever had) before heading for the Zodiac to a club called Disques Vogues which was basically like a wedding reception. This is exactly my favourite kind of club... a bit like the wine bars at Glastonbury. I wasn't drinking but had a brilliant time nonetheless, and even managed a dance. Well, a sober shuffle anyway.

The following day we strolled down by the river and back to the house, before Ben and I went into Oxford to see the rare, wild snake's head fritillaries at Magdalen College. They were absolutely beautiful, although I think Ben might've been a little underwhelmed. The weather was glorious, and lunch was taken in the Vaults cafe by the Radcliffe Camera. It was all terribly civilised.

Sunday, 9 April 2006

Kite-flying, or how to have an argument quickly and cheaply

I'd bought Ben a kite for Christmas - a slightly random present as he's never mentioned an interest in kite-flying but I thought it might be a fun thing to do.

Oh I was wrong. For its inaugural flight we went out into Victoria Park, neither of us really knowing how to kite-fly. According to the box, this kite was 'fool-proof'. It also had no instructions.

We arrived at the top of the hill where the wind was gustiest and Ben held the controls and I held the kite. The idea was that we both ran until the wind picked the kite up, then Ben would perform all manner of extreme stunts. So we both ran until the wind picked the kite up, then Ben ran some more, then the kite came down. This happened about 10 more times. I got slightly irritated because I thought that perhaps you're supposed to start with the string short, then lengthen it as the kite picked up. I realised there was only one way to clear this up once and for all - call Sam Storey.

I phoned him. He basically told me that Ben's way was the right way. Ben was fuming. I was tetchy. The wind was not consistently blowy. We decided to call it a day.

I think Ben was most cross that I felt I had to phone my brother. But Sam is a font of random knowledge. Just yesterday I called him to remind me of the name of Billy Connelly's house. It's 'Gruntfuttock'. Who else would know that?

Friday, 7 April 2006

Small or far away?

A website made by my brother's friend, Cat. I have a slight fetish for things that are absolutely tiny or giant and oversized and this is just the perfect and very natural home for my 'interest'. Ben just missed out on buying a giant box of matches on eBay, which would've been brilliant. Ho hum.

Monday, 27 March 2006

Green Man

Thinking of going to the Green Man festival in August. Bert Jansch is playing, which would be amazing.

I particularly like the sound of the "new range of vegetarian and meat stalls, from Paella and Organic hamburgers, through to fresh vegetables, salads and Mexican dishes."

And this too:
The DJ tent will see 3 days and nights of Folk and Psychedelia, led by Andy Votel and Peter Paphides, and B-Music will take over the Cinema for an evening of ‘Psychfolk Commune Films'. Highlights in the Literature tent will include Joe Boyd on making music in the 1960s, while Mojo will be adding to the fun with their Interview sessions.

Roll on summer.

Sunday, 19 March 2006


As you can see from the time of this post, the jet-lag is still with us. We're both feeling knackered and really depressed at coming back to this cold, grey, rule-bound country.

India was the total opposite - hot, vibrant, chaotic. A complete bombardment of every sense with no respite. Everything is louder and brighter, more intense, which did get a bit much every so often, but now seems strangely addictive. We are suffering withdrawal symptoms, both from the curry and the country.

Some memories from the holiday:
- The drive in from the airport, with enormous speakers with bhangra blaring and neon lights flashing, even at 5am. Seeing people up and about, smartly dressed, herding cows or carrying baskets on their heads.
- The food, oh the food. Just about the best I've ever had, and I didn't mind eating curry for every meal - in fact, it seemed obvious and right. So many different vegetarian options and such delicious flavours. We did a cookery course too, so will attempt a few sambars, avials, and thorans, although they're bound to be depressingly unauthentic.
- Seeing dolphins playing in the Arabian Sea
- Keralan sunsets
- The children - so lovely and inquisitive and polite (most of them). Such beautiful smiles.
- Elephants. Wandering down the road, and as part of festivals. My favourite moment was hurtling down the road in a rickshaw one night in search of the elephant parade. When we finally found it and joined the procession I remember just grinning from ear to ear - totally exhilirating and unlike anything I've experienced before. (After a while we did get elephant-fatigue. One conversation actually went something like this: "Apparently there's another elephant festival tonight. Can you be bothered to go?")
- The chocolate cake at the Teapot in Fort Cochin
- Shopping in Ernakulam. One of the most hectic, hot and bothersome few hours of my life, but utterly fascinating. The spice markets, the shops full of pots and pans, the jewellery. Made me wish I could carry more home.
- A coffee shop in Jew Town, Cochin. Ben asking where the loo was and being whisked off down the street on the back of a scooter to the owner's art gallery.
- The breakfasts at the Vashti Art Cafe
- Jai and Laila, one of the families we stayed with, telling us tales of India, of being in the Navy, and eating their delicious food most of which they grow on their farm.
- The Ambassador cars, the auto-rickshaws, and the Enfield motorbikes. The incessant beeping, the total lack of any kind of road-rules, the sheer terror of being in a car facing an oncoming bus on the wrong side of the road showing no signs of stopping.
- Our hilarious taxi driver who clearly had no idea where he was going and took us two hours in the wrong direction. Asking every single person we encountered for directions, and getting out for many regular cigarettes. The family who were shy but then had their photo taken with us and showed us how cashews grow.
- Seeing familiar foods actually growing: pepper, vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa beans, mangos, nutmeg, jack fruit, rice, bananas, and millions of coconuts.
- The coconut pickers of Philip Kutty's farm shinning up the tree and sending nut after nut crashing down. Then hacking them open with machetes for us to drink the coconut water. Seeing countless coconut pickers with giant metal baskets overflowing with fruit, balanced procariously on their heads.
- The duck herds pootling down the backwaters herding hundreds of ducks in front of them.
- The beautiful saris and their beautiful owners. Like butterflies walking down the street.
- Constant comparisons to Glastonbury Festival!
- The ayurvedic hospital and the extraordinary massages we had there. Utterly invigorating and disturbingly thorough. The hospital itself was like a serial killer's lair, and the old-fashioned contraptions scared the life out of me. But the two women who massaged me did such a fantastic job and my blood had no choice but to reach every part of my body with renewed enthusiasm.
- Amazing floating flower arrangements everywhere we went.
- The newspapers.
- Swinging in hammocks reading our books at Mankotta House.
- Travelling from Alleppey to Cochin, and then Kottayam to Trivandrum by train. The amazing curry from the Pantry Car.

I'm sure there are many more which I will post when I think of them. It was an incredible fortnight, which was both relaxing and exhausting.

Our appetite for curry was matched only by our appetite for literature. We consumed:
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Marikami
Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
Watching the English by Kate Fox
Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland
The God of Small Things by Arandhati Roy

and I'm about to start Chasing the Monsoon by Alexander Frater, and watch Gandhi. We are converts to the great land.

Indian newspapers

So strange. Written in a bizarre old-fashioned English, with a total lack of analysis or comment. Here's a favourite:

Just when everyone was grumbling about the red-hot summer ahead, the rain gods decided to pop a surprise - and a wet and noisy one at that, which had everyone wishing they were holding an extra-large umbrella and a thick wad of cotton.

Unexpected thundershowers which battered Thiruvanathnapuram on Friday had people rushing helter-skelter for cover. Caught unawares, commuters managed to hug shopfronts until the rains - which lasted for one-and-a-half hours - abated, but most of them got drenched in the 'blitzkrieg'.

Replete with lightning and thunderclaps, the showers began at 12.20pm and fizzled out by 2pm, but the sky remained overcast throughout the day. In many parts of the city, electricity supply and telephone connections were hit. Officials at the Department of Meterology attributed the rain to the presence of moisture in the air.

Monday, 13 February 2006

Braces and Brownies

A very hectic weekend, which began with a tremendous performance from our talented pals The Fallout Trust. I discovered that both Winter wives and I were all Ghillie Dhus at Brownies which made Kate scream.

Saturday morning we viewed one of the most dull houses so far on our new home quest, before returning to ours for pancakes and muffins with Kate and Joe who had stayed the night at ours. I couldn't quite believe that we had to suffer two lots of noisy neighbours - that was a very special treat.

Saturday afternoon we went to visit an old family friend, who has recently left his wife and now lives an 80s bachelor life in High Kingsdown. We visited to see the changes he's made to the house, as we're interested in buying one of the same houses in the development. Some of his ideas were nobby beyond belief but some were great, such as the giant glass extension and the full height ceilings upstairs thanks to removal of the attic space. So when we came to view the house for sale we had a much better idea of what could be done with it. At the moment it's absurdly over-priced and we'd have to get it down, but it's a strong contender. It would be amazing to go from a 2-bed terrace with teeny garden quite a way out of town, to a 3-bed detached house with big garden and garage, within walking distance of everything of interest in Bristol. After we viewed it, we decided to knock on the door of another person I know who lives in the development and who is part of the residents committee. She lent us the original marketing brochure from 1971, which is absolutely fascinating. The show home pictures even featured 3 pieces of furniture that we currently have in our house - that made me laugh a lot. If we do end up buying it, our furniture and that house would feel like we'd stepped back in time 30 years.


Thursday, 9 February 2006


Bristol may be the place ambition comes to die but it's also the place where a giant shark fin emerges from the docks on a sunny Thursday afternoon, causing mass hysteria on the quayside. People were even screaming.

I love this town.

Tuesday, 7 February 2006

House for sale

Crikey. Selling houses is such a weird thing - so important but it can happen so quickly.

We knew we'd be putting it on the market this week, so last week was spent clearing and sorting and fixing until it looked completely perfect. Estate agents came round and valuations took place, and then we had a couple of prospective private buyers viewing the house on Friday night and Saturday morning. Friday night couple were rather snooty and we didn't take to them at all, which made no odds considering they'd decided they wanted to live in Totterdown anyway. Saturday morning couple were totally different and seemed really enamoured with the house, even going so far as to ask whether I am an interior designer! Our asking price was just a bit high for them, which was disappointing, although I told them to take the information away with them and mull it over.

Lo and behold, Sunday afternoon they rang and offered us the asking price. Just like that. And came for a second viewing which seemed to go just as well as the first. I don't like to jinx things but it seemed to happen so quickly and so easily, particularly as he is a surveyor and she is a legal secretary, both professions that are required for a house move. So we're now in the process of buying and selling, as we're planning to buy the house over the road (however ridiculous sounding that is, it's really quite sensible - a house we've always loved, two and a half times the size of ours, we know and like the area, no need for estate agents or removal vans).

The wheels are in motion, and we're hoping to be in by Easter.

I won't half miss our dear little house though. Washing up on Sunday night with the garden fairy lights on reminded me of having friends over in the garden when it's warm and what a lovely sociable house it is. Which led me to think about how it will be when they have parties and whether they'll invite us and we'll be in their house with all their friends and the days of it being our house and our friends will be but a distant memory.

Monday, 6 February 2006

Save our library!

I went to the Central Library at lunchtime. It's my all time favourite building in Bristol - such beautiful art nouveau detailing, the brass lettering on the doors, glorious sea green tiles in the foyer and the smell of teak which hasn't changed since I've been going there, which is near on 25 years. The layout has changed in that time, with the children's section being relocated and the new addition to the end of the library (and CCTV installed!), but to me it feels like the same place we used to go and borrow so many books.

I'm so glad that the Council have decided not to relocate it (for now) - it would be the biggest loss to central Bristol I can imagine.

Friday, 3 February 2006

Thursday, 2 February 2006

Loving cup

Our second wedding anniversary and we went to Bath on the train (it was like 1994 all over again) and ate at Demuths.

So much food and wine and it was lovely going out just the two of us and on a school night.

I still have a fire in my heart and a butterfly stomach and needles and pins and the seven deadly sins and all that stuff for my boy, even after 12 years.

Wednesday, 11 January 2006


...Is one of the first days in a while to be truly bright and sunny and lovely. After four or five days of drizzly nothingness waking up to wispy cirrus across a blue sky felt like such a treat. It sounds ridiculous but it felt a tiny bit like Mexico - a touch chilly but absolutely beautiful and clear and optimistic.

I think I might have been trotting down the road to Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I have invested in one of those alarm clocks that wake you up with a sunlight bulb that gradually gets brighter over half an hour. Let's hope it does the trick. Or that these dismal months to come are sprinkled with days like today.

Monday, 2 January 2006

New Year

We set off around 10.30am on 30 January for our Lake District adventure, with Jess and Matt driving and a car so absurdly crammed full of stuff I thought we'd never even make the M32 let alone driving 40 miles shy of the Scottish border. The journey wasn't bad... a bit of a long haul and crazy to think it would take the same amount of time to fly to New York, but we kept jolly and played games and ate bonbons to pass the time. Quite frightening that we left the M6 at junction 40, and the journey still had an hour and a half to go. Such a long way.

When we got to Nether Wasdale we dumped our stuff at the Screes Inn where we were staying for the first night and then headed for Shepherd House, the cottage belonging to Kate's people. Quite the most charming cottage you can imagine, but it made me sad to think about their wedding back in June and the horrible date clash which meant we couldn't go. So the first evening was spent welcoming and introducing and eating and drinking at the Strands.

Saturday morning we breakfasted with Ness, Rosa and Guy Fisher and had a jolly good chat about allotments, before heading back to the cottage. I made a start on the cranberry and cardamom tart for supper and then we struggled into our waterproofs and wellies for our New Year's Eve walk. (Don't we all look so old and sensible and grown up?) Such a great walk which was punctuated with stone skimming and kissing gates. Two or three hours later and we arrived back at the Screes for a soup lunch and Rosa and Guy's pub quiz. Our team, Dogs in the Bar, consisted of me, BV, Jess and Jey, and we managed to lose quite spectacularly. There was a hilarious twist of fate which meant that, due to my erroneous marking, a tie-break situation occurred and the cup had to be transferred from one team to another. Some very poor sportsmanship was on show, which added to the hilarity of it all.

Then it was back to Shepherd House for cooking and costuming. Ben and I had tried to organise a meal that would be enough for 15 people, would satisfy both meat-eaters and vegetarians, and would be easy to cook in an unfamiliar kitchen. We settled on sausages, baked spuds, lentils in red wine, braised leeks and peas, and apple horseradish sauce. The kitchen was a tranquil place to be, and visitors would pop their heads round the door to ask if there was anything they could do to help and remark on how calm we all seemed to be. We had a few helpers chopping veg and sorting out snacks and it was all most amiable. In fact, it felt a bit like a commune.

Ness had written the most incredible Murder Mystery game for us to play (she had to write one because you can't buy them for 15 people) which we began over supper. She'd even brought fancy dress items to complement eveyone's costumes, which were hysterical. Joe (Lord Snottsbury) had a monocle, moustache and tails, Matt was hilarious as Parson Cyril Parsnip complete with moustache, cardigan and recorder, Ben was Seth Scythe the grave-digger and was just the funniest with his beard and hump, but poor Guy C, aka Damson Flan, had to dress as a woman and ended up looking like Les Dawson - blonde wig, huge eyelashes, and a lot of red lipstick all in his (real) beard. Damson had to retire to bed early due to a migraine though, which was a shame as his/her accent and improvisations were terribly funny. Turns out the murderer was my husband, Rusty Tankard (Si), whose outfit was more Hulk Hogan than rustic pub landlord.

After supper we went out into the garden where Si had lit a bonfire, and we sang songs with Guy F and Rosa and Matt on the guitar, Jess on the violin, and Ben on the wine bottle/wooden spoon percussion. More fizzy wine was drunk, and just before midnight Kate managed to rouse Guy C from his headachey slumber. At midnight Si and Caroline's firework display exploded into the dark and silent hills, and a hearty rendition of 'Auld Lang Syne' was sung. I love that moment - it's just so optimistically happy. More songs were sung, and Jey and Jess played while Kate and Joe re-enacted 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' in a slightly bizarre fashion.

Then it was time to go back indoors to play pass-the-parcel with forfeits, and dance the night away. Particular highlights include 'Raspberry Beret' and 'Rebellion (Lies)', Ben's backing vocals to the latter had Jess and I bent double with laughter, especially his ingenious use of the kitchen door.

Around 3am and much of the dancing had subsided, except for Joe, Guy Fisher and Si. I thought everyone had gone to bed, and I got up for a pee only to spot the three of them in Guy's car outside the front door singing along to my ipod. This continued until about 9am...

The rest of us got up around 10.30 and hung out in front of the log fire as Andy and Emma prepared breakfast. It was the most beautiful clear and sunny day, and the sky was the brightest of blues. After breakfast we all went and sat out in the garden with the sun beating down, as Guy C set up his winter Olympics games, and an impromptu game of frisbee materialised. The games began with another glass of bubbly and a cheap biscuit selection pack we'd brought. Jess and I were on a team with Jey, Joe and Guy C, and we were determined to win this time after our shocking efforts with the pub quiz. The first round didn't bode well - a sack relay race. Our team (Wales) was doing ok until my go... skirts and sacks do not mix. Andy lapped me, but luckily Guy's incredible technique ensured that we came second and not last. This was followed by human Scrabble - another of Ness's splendid contributions. Once again, Wales weren't doing particularly well with 'Jump' and 'Mops' being the sum total of our efforts. The next round was helped along by a tot of Amaretto and another biccie. Wheelbarrow darts was won in quite a spectacular way by our team - the unbeatable combination of Guy and Jey taking it in turns to push Jess in the wheelbarrow. And the hoopla, too, was a triumphant moment for Wales. So despite my appalling efforts we eventually managed to win, which was great.

All that racing about wore us out so we headed back inside to sit by the fire. It was mainly us girls and we read and I knitted and it was so quiet and calm and peaceful. Just lovely. Si, Caroline, Jey, Guy, Ness, Guy and Rosa were all staying in a camping barn a few fields away, so they took their stuff down there while we chatted and warmed ourselves by the fire. On their return we bedded down for film, pizzas and a lovely Amaretto and lime cocktail. It took a little while to whittle down the shortlist of films, and to eventually decide on 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' (with a cry of a very Bristolian 'RAIDERS!' to signify a particularly exciting moment) followed by 'Ghostbusters' (ditto 'BUSTERS!'). Two brilliant films and such a lovely end to the start of the year, all warm inside and out.
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