Thursday, September 28, 2006

Is this the world's ugliest house?

I challenge you to find an uglier one

Another product warning

Do not be seduced by 'Options' wicked white chocolate hot chocolate drink sachets.

I bought a selection of sachets last week and have enjoyed the delights of mint madness and outrageous orange hot chocolate drinks. However I have just made the white chocolate one and it's all gone a bit wrong.

For a start there's the colour. It looks like the water you get gathering at the bottom of your dish washer when it's full of dishes but before you turn it on. You know, dregs of tea and cereal milk with unidentifiable floating bits. It also looks like very thin cheap chicken soup. It is slightly greeny and watery.

The taste does vaguely resemble white chocolate I will admit, but it is sooooo sweet. Basically it's sugary water.

I feel a bit sick. And cheated out of 22p. Now I know why it's called wicked white chocolate. urgh.

Monday, September 25, 2006

GM cats? What is the world coming to.

This morning, as I struggled into consciousness, I heard something very weird on the radio.

In America you can now buy Hypoallergenic cats.

I checked out the website of the breeders and it would seem that these cats are nearly $4000 worth of fluffy, non sneezy itchy cuteness. They claim the cats are not genetically modified, but genetically divergent.

To me the notion of a 'lifestyle pet' seems wrong; surely a living breathing animal shouldn't be reduced to a fashion accessory - but then I got thinking about the reasons for having a pet in the first place. I suppose on one level any animal you choose to bring into your home and care for will change your lifestyle, whether it be pure bred, hypoallergenic or moggie.

I started wondering if our hens were 'lifestyle pets'. After all, we chose them on the basis of their egg colour, a genetic difference that means Omelet lays blue eggs - very fashionable and expensive to buy these days, Scramble lays white eggs, and Margo lays dark brown eggs. At some point in the history of chickens someone selectively bred those birds to produce those egg colours. Am I as bad as the folk who will rush out to buy a non itchy kitten?

Then I pondered the reasons for getting the hens in the first place. We want to eat free range eggs from happy hens who are well treated. What a fashionable notion. What an admirable lifestyle.

Despite this comparison I don't think I have crossed the line into the chicken equivalent of Paris-Hilton-diamond-wearing-miniature-handbag-dog just yet. If I was getting a new cat, I would be getting it from the RSPCA, and I doubt very much if it would be hypoallergenic. In fact if Nicks's last RSPCA cat is anything to go by it would be the exact opposite - a moulting, dribbling, incontinent moggie with a kind heart.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Rainy Sunday

I love rainy Sundays in autumn.

It's the perfect excuse to wear your pyjamas all day, put the lamps on and bake in the warmth of the kitchen. Radio 4 is also obligatory for the day to be complete bliss.

This morning Nick has made a quiche with onion, goats cheese and roasted red peppers. yum. He is currently using up the rest of the pastry to make lemon curd tarts.

I have made a very elaborate and tricky recipe which I will relay here:

1) Take half a packet of marshmallows and half a packets of butter toffees.
2) Melt in a large pan
3) Add 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder
4) With the heat still on low, add lots of rice crispies and mix until coated.
5) Press into tin
6) Eat in large slices when cool.

Delia eat your heart out.

Even though it is pissing down, the hens are out in the garden eating anything they find. I suspect they are too thick/greedy to sit under the covered area we so painstakingly constructed for them.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Catch up

About time! At last, Nick's employment at the BBC has proved materially advantageous. On Thursday he was given free tickets for a performance of a classic 1029 silent film 'New Babylon', with the BBC symphony Orchestra playing the score by Shostakovich.

It was quite amazing to have the orchestra playing in perfect synchronicity with the pictures, and the music itself was fantastic. However I have to admit I found the story a bit difficult to follow. The programme states:

Set in the heart of Bohemian Paris in 1873, this politically-inspired melodrama unfolds in a series of bizarre tableaux, entirely characteristic of Soviet avant-garde cinema of the 1920s. Shostakovich's first full length score for a silent motion picture, New Babylon is wildly satirical and the score is often extremely funny even on its own.

That's all well and good, but I know nothing about Franco-Prussian politics of 1873. Or Bohemian Paris for that matter. Silent movies can be hard enough to follow at the best of times and I knew I wasn't going to cope after about 3 minutes. You see, if I concentrated on listening to the orchestra, which was stunning, then I lost the plot of the film. If I concentrated on working out what the hell was going on with all the depressed looking soldiers, men in tops hats and can-can girls, then I felt I missed out on the music. I never have been good at multi tasking.

Despite those misgivings I thoroughly enjoyed the event and it scored highly on the Entertainment-Economy scale. (mainly because it was free) Points were deducted due to the uncomfortable seats at the Glasgow City Halls. Very beautiful building though.

Our cultural coffers are overflowing at the moment as that was the second concert in a week. Last Sunday we went to the Usher Hall in Edinburgh to hear the Royal Scottish National Orchestra with the Nation Youth Choir of Scotland. This was particularly enjoyable for me as they were performing one of my favourite choral works, Bernstein's Chichester psalms.

In preparation for our diving holiday today we made an expensive trip to the dive shop in Edinburgh. For our last dive holiday in the warm waters of the Maldives, we bought 3mm 'shorty' wetsuits. Today we were hoping to buy 3mm 'long johns', sort of neoprene dungarese that could go under our existing shorties to make them warmer for the Red Sea.

Naturally the shop didn't have anything suitable and we ended up buying a 5mm full wetsuit each. We tried on every suit they had in our sizes, and waddya know? the expensive ones were the ones that fitted! I was desperately trying to convince myself that the £99 suit fitted but the legs were 4 inches too long, I was being choked to death and the only place for my boobs to go was under my armpits. Not a good look.

Nick was having similar problems. His legs are quite short and shoulders quite broad in proportion to the rest of his body, so he had to try on lots of suits until he found one that fitted properly. Oh, and guess what, it was the same as mine.

Excellent. A sub aquatic his-and-hers nightmare. No-one will take the piss I'm sure.

We are now the proud owners of 3 wetsuits each. Not bad considering I have only ever done 30 dives in the whole of my life. We have super thick 7mm long johns with 7mm jackets which we used in South africa where the water was 9 degrees. Toastie warm but it's quite hard to move in 14mm of neoprene. Mine is lovely because I had it made to measure, even so, imageconsciouss girls should steer clear.

Then we have our thin 3mm short ones for warm tropical seas. These are the type of suits it is possible to look good in because they are tight enough to hold in your stomach flab, but not so thick to add too many inches in waist circumference.

Now we have our new 5mm suits we are kitted out for just about any occasion. Other dive related purchases were a suunto gekko, and dive torch. The Gekko is a dive computer which dramatically increases the safety of scuba diving. (Mum, I know you'll be glad to hear that.) I had an old one I bought second hand, but it broke and since diving with a computer I couldn't be without one now.

The main danger with Scuba Diving, apart from drowning or being eaten, is the bends. When you breathe compressed air during a dive your body absorbs more nitrogen than normal. The deeper you go the more nitrogen you absorb into your blood stream and tissues. When you ascend it gradually dissipates out again. You have to come up slowly to allow the nitrogen time to get out of your body. If you come up too fast then bubbles of excess nitrogen start forming in your body, starting at your joints. This is really painful and can kill you.

You always have to calculate before a dive how deep you will be going, and for how long in order to determine how much nitrogen you will absorb, and how long it will take to leave your body. If you do more than one dive in a day you have to take this residual nitrogen into account on the second dive and dive shallower.

There are tables and calculations to allow you to work all this out, but a computer is more accurate because it measures what you actually do, rather than what you planned to do while sitting in the boat.

It measures your depth, your dive time, tells you if you are ascending too quickly, and warns you if you need decompression safety stops. After the dive it keeps on measuring your residual nitrogen and takes this into account on all subsequent dives. We dive using nitrox, and enriched air mixture which decreases the chance of getting the bends but increases the chance of oxygen poisoning. Luckily the computer measures all that for you too.

My final bit of news is that I have been invited to display my quilt in an exhibition of local patchwork. For some reason this really made my day and my delight far exceeds the prestige of the event. It's just nice to be asked.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

And now, time for today's chicken news....

Following Tuesday's Scramble attack, Nick was left shaken by his experience. After consultation with a chicken expert friend, it was revealed that this behaviour may have been caused by Scramble's over amorous imagination. It appears that she considers Nick to be her Cockerel.

When interviewed Nick declined to comment, but the proud, slightly smug look on his face betrayed his true feelings on this subject.

Scramble also declined to comment, being fully occupied in digging a hole in the lawn.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Chicken news

Scramble2 has decided that having her wings clipped will not stop her relentless attempts to get into Next Door's garden. She just flaps harder.

Nick was freaked out last night when, after attempting to feed Scramble2 a raisin, she flew straight at him. He shrieked, instinctively put his arms up to shield his face, she crashed into him and then fell on the ground. Nick then spent all evening wondering why Scramble did that, and was she trying to attack him.

Margo and Omelet's voices have now broken. Proper clucking was heard at 6.30 yesterday evening.

This concludes today's Chicken News.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Holidays are here again

Well, not quite, but we have just booked a weeks scuba diving in the Red Sea in 5 weeks time and I am very VERY excited.

We are going on a 'liveaboard' which means we stay on the boat all week, enabling us to do 3 or 4 dives a day over a large area, in between eating and sleeping. This is the best way to squeeze in as many dives as possible, but you do run the risk of being stuck in the middle of the ocean for a week with a bunch of nutters and no escape. Worth the risk though.

Here is a picture of our dive boat, Infinity.


Naturally 11.33 was far too early to eat my sandwiches.

I decided to wait until 11.38 and then tucked in heartily.

Too early?

Is 11.33 too early to eat my lunch?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Day out with my parents

My parents came to stay this weekend, and on Saturday evening we went to hear Iain Banks speak as part of the Linlithgow Book Festival. (Iain Banks is the author of the Wasp Factory, the Crow Road, Whit, and others.)

We nearly had an embarrassing disaster. My mother, bless her, got it into her head that we were going to hear Ian Rankin speak, another Scottish author who writes the Rebus detective series. She has read a number of Ian Rankin books, and was spouting off about how she had heard him on the radio recently. It was only on the way to the venue that I discovered my Mother's mix up with the Ian/Iains. She was planning to ask Iain Banks about the eventual fate of Rankins's aging policeman hero - Thank God we put her right before she piped up in front of a hall full of people. I might have had to disown her.

Yesterday we went on a little trip to see the Falkirk wheel. Under normal circumstances I suspect this could be a nice day out. As it was the wheel was broken and was standing motionless in the drizzle.

'Never mind' we cried in our optimistic way, 'let's go and look at the exhibition!' The centre piece of the exhibition was a working scale model of the wheel. 'The next best thing to seeing the actual thing', we thought. Unfortunately this was also broken, and was standing motionless in a smudgy glass case.

'Oh well' we said, optimism wavering, 'lets have a look at the displays' The very expensive looking interactive displays were broken. Luckily the coffee machine in the cafe was working and we had a nice drink, walked around the wheel in the drizzle and went home for a nap.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Interesting phenomenon 7

Yesterday I was browsing through the local pet shop looking for poultry related products. Then I nipped to Sainsburys to get some cinnamon and raisin bagels for lunch.

Driving home, fresh bagels on the seat next to me, I realised:

Cinnamon and raisin bagels smell exactly the same as that distinctive pet shop odour that comprises bird seed, bags of hay and hamster droppings. Weird huh?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wing clipping

Scramble2 learnt how to fly the other day and discovered that on the other side of our 7ft fence is a hungry chicken's dream - Our neighbour's prize winning garden.

Before she started to make regular lunch trips over the fence, and to maintain good neighbourly relations, we decided it would be wise to clip her wings. I did plenty of research on this matter, and the first website I came across nearly put me off altogether. I opened this link and was concerned to see that the list of essential tools I would need for the job included pliers, the phone number of my vet and a wall mounted dispatcher! (This is a device that enables you to break a chickens spinal chord effectively)

I only wanted to stop her demolishing my neighbour's begonias, not send her to the celestial allotment in the sky! All that talk of siphoninging blood' and 'dying within minutes'...

Luckily the next site calmed me down a bit, and the third site had a handy diagram showing where to cut, so we attempted the operation last night. The worst part was actually catching the little buggers.

Nick grabbed them in turn and held them firmly on the patio table. I held out the right wing and cut off the feathers as shown on the diagram using the kitchen scissors. It was a bit hard to see exactly where the blood in the feathers started, but there seemed to be no pain and no syphoning blood so we must have done it correctly.

Anyway, it worked because all 3 of them tried to fly away as soon as we let go of them, went crashing down lopsidedly, looked very confused, and went to bed early in a huff.

I just hope it's enough to overcome the allure of the garden next door

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Important reader poll

Please help us solve an ongoing marital dispute by telling me your opinion on this very serious matter.

Should space in a double bed be divided up 50-50, or allocated on a proportional basis determined by the size of the occupants?

I think it should be 50-50, and regularly point out to Nick that he is encroaching on my half of the bed. Nick responds by saying that he is quite alot wider than me in the shoulder area and therefore he should be allowed a larger proportion of the width. Lots of elbowing ensues.

Please respond in the comment section either:


By the way, you don't have to have a blogger account to leave a comment, just click on 'other' then you don't have to sign in.

Nowt so queer as folk

My desk is directly under the front window of our office, which is on the High Street. We have a window display with photos and drawings of our projects, with little captions to describe them.

People stop and look at the display all the time and I am amazed at some of the comments that come drifting in through the window. I am sitting 1 metre away from these people, in full view, and yet this is what I have overheard in the last week:

'ooooh... (really sarcastically) ...Prestigious medical centre with fabulous double height reception and waiting area, eh? Who do they think they are?

'huh, they like to blow their own trumpet a bit don't they?'

'Barn conversions? (incredulously) All they've done is stick in some big windows and tart it up a bit. I could do that.'

'what are they? Architects? ...don't think much to that house there...'

I don't think it's that unusual to be proud of the service you provide, and display examples of your work to the public, is it? And how exactly do they expect us to describe our projects, if we don't say they are good? Maybe this is what they are expecting:

'Photos above show our moderately successful medical centre in run-down area of central Scotland. We got a special grant so spent the money building a double height reception area. Don't know why we bothered. It's full of coughing and spluttering chavs who would never notice their architectural surroundings anyway. Should have just bunged up a portacabin and spent the rest on a holiday.

Image to the right shows a partially complete marina on the west coast. It is not finished because it went way over budget and the client ran out of cash. The materials we specified looked cool and contemporary but due to cuts in the budget the substitutes requested by the client look cheap and nasty. Ah well, bit disappointing but never mind.'

The next person who makes some snidey comment at my window may find me leaning over my desk, parting the blinds and saying 'oh hello! It appears that you have some expert knowledge on all matters architectural! Perhaps you would care to come in for a coffee and discuss where we are going wrong?'


PS. Just for the avoidance of doubt, the above comments about our projects are wholly fictional and do not represent the reality. Naturally ALL our projects are marvellous, finish on time and within budget. The comments are written purely for comic affect and should not detract from the briliant design output of this small yet thriving practice. Thank you.

Oh and by the way, I have redesigned the disgusting hideous houses I was moaning about the other day. Much better now.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The ultimate comfort food?

Nick was away last night so I indulged in what must be the ultimate comfort food.

step 1. Go into garden and pull up red onion and big King Edward potato.
step 2. Fry onion and boil potato.
step 3. Mash potato, add sinful amounts of butter and fried onion.
Step 4. Eat in front of telly wearing pyjamas.


New friend.

Scramble2: (coming to stand on kitchen doorstep) Hello.
Me: hello! What are you doing here?
Scramble2: Just come to see what's going on.
Me: Oh, not alot. Do you want some corn? (holding out corn in palm)
Scramble2: Oh no thanks. I just want to stand here and look at you with my head on one side.
Me: OK then, but you can't come in.
Scramble2: why not?
Me: Because you projectile shit every 10 minutes, that's why.
Scramble2: Yeah, sorry about that. I've dropped a few on the patio as well, you'll have to hose it down later.
Me: (thoughtfully) Was this chicken thing a mistake?
Scramble2: How can you say that? I'll get a complex. I'll go into melt-down like Scramble1. I'm a sensitive being you know, with feelings and needs.
Me: Right you, out my kitchen!
Scramble2: oh look, a twig! (peck peck)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Oh nooooo

It's finally happened.

I have sold my architectural soul to the devil. I have designed an estate of noddy houses. For a developer. They look like all the other bloody awful noddy houses you see springing up everywhere.

I am ashamed but it is what my client wanted. It's a really hard call because the British public think they know what they like, but in actual fact they only like it because that's all they get offered.

When you analyse developer housing lots of them have a gable on the front with some sort of wrap around roof forming a porch. If you make a house with the eaves line running along the front (gable at the side) people don't buy them because they think it looks like a council house.

I tried to design something a bit different and my client took the drawings to an estate agent to get the houses valued. The comments came back requesting a gable on the front and more regular windows - they thought their customer base wouldn't want anything too 'radical'. I gave up and drew what they wanted. Or thought they wanted. I feel a bit dirty.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

More chicken pics

The girls have been rummaging in the garden for the first time. They are a bit thick so it's quite a palarva getting them back in again. They seem to be able to remember how to get OUT but not how to get in. They insist on wedging themselves round the back of the run where I can't reach them, getting in a flap and squarking indignantly.

The middle picture shows them all squashed together in the dust bath. They get in here then start wriggling furiously, flicking the dust over themselves with their wings. This is how they keep clean. I mix louse powder (nice) in the dustbath so they treat themselves for any little nasties.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Lunch Envy

Omelet: (whilst foraging finds slug) mmmmm, slug! (peck peck)
Margo: What have you got there?
Omelet: (running to the other side of the run) Nothing for you.
Margo: Slug! You've got a slug. Can I have some slug? Slug!
Omelet: (running back) No way, get your own slug.
Margo: Slug! Can I have some? Can I have some slug? Slug?
Omelet: (Running away then trying to eat slug quickly)
Margo: Slug! Can I have some slug?
Omelet: (gulp)
Margo: Twig! Can I have some? Can I have some twig? Twig!
Omelet: Get your own twig...

etc etc etc
Life is simple when you are a chicken.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Lunch disappointment

Me: Thanks for making my lunch this morning.
Nick: That's ok Honey!
Me: (merrily packing my bag and going out the door)
Nick: (guiltily) erm.., I hope it's ok...
Me: Why?
Nick: I didn't actually make your lunch this morning. It's the sarnies I didn't eat from yesterday.

I suppose beggars can't be choosers.


Just a word to the wise, dear readers:

Do not, under any circumstances, purchase Tesco Healthy living Maple cereal bars.

They are truly revolting, in looks, in taste, and in texture, Particularly texture. It is like a cross between compressed cardboard and the sweeping from the bottom of my chicken coop. It looks like that too. The taste is really really sweet, but in an artificial mapley way.

The fact that it is in the 'healthy living' range does nothing to score back any points previously lost. In fact I feel even more cheated because I have just needlessly and unenjoyably consumed 100 calories I could have used on chocolate.

This bar has nothing to commend itself and should be withdrawn from sale.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mass Murder

Fingers crossed but the hoovering and spraying seems to have killed off the biting critters that were lunching on our blood last week. No bites yesterday or this morning. My Boss was the worst affected last week, with his buttocks proving to be very popular with the flea dining fraternity.

It must be a strange and exotic life being a flea.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Chicken troubles update


Just after typing the previous post I received the following email from Dave, our chicken friend. (Friend who keeps chickens, not a chicken who is a friend you understand.)

Just a wee update on the poorly chook: I gave her small sips of water with honey and a tad of sugar in until darkness fell last night. She didn't really take any herself, just what I could get down her neck. She was still lifeless at 8pm last night.

Today went out just after 8am expecting the worst.

The little Bugger was standing in the box looking at me as if to say 'where is my grub?' ..... Dashed back to the house to get my camera to take a pic as proof: SHE'S ALIVE AND KICKING.

Left her to rest all day. By 3pm she was sitting on the top of the box so I opened the pen door, she hopped down and has been happy as Larry since

Good old scramble 1. I am so relieved, but feel a bit guilty about liking Scramble 2 a bit more.

All this fuss over a chicken eh? Just ate one of her cousins for tea.

Chicken troubles

We have had a bad few days with our new hens.

About 3 days after moving into their new home with us, Scramble the Leghorn became more and more quiet, not wanting to come out the house, and eventually she stopped eating.

She just stood with her feather fluffed up, wings drooping, and generally looking depressed.

We didn't know what to do. We isolated her from the others with food and water, but she just kept getting weaker and weaker until she couldn't stand up. It was heartbreaking and we felt terrible.

Dave, who gave us our hens, was brilliant and now Scramble is back with him in his hospital wing, having intensive care. Despite being all floppy her eyes were still bright and her comb still looked good so he thought it was worth persevering a bit longer. I'm not sure how she is tonight.

Dave thought that it was the stress of moving had tipped her over the edge. Our other two birds, Omelet and Margo, are absolutely fine; active, growing like mad and becoming very friendly. I have tortured myself wondering what I did to stress Scramble so much, but as Dave reassured me 'thats chickens for you'.

Dave really kindly gave us another leghorn, who we have called Scramble 2. She seemed to slot right into life here, and it also perked up Omelet and Margo too. Scramble 2 is infinitely more outgoing than Scramble 1, and doesn't get spooked as easily.

I would like to say that everything is good now, but it's early days and Scramble 1 looked ok at first. I will be holding my breath until the weekend.

I knew that keeping chickens wouldn't be all plain sailing but I didn't expect such heartbreak in such a short time. We love having the birds in the garden and I can't imagine being without them now, even after just 8 days.

I hope you don't think I'm a terrible person. I promise I did my best, and I would never intentionally do anything to harm my beautiful hens.

Here is a picture from this evening showing Scramble 2, Omelet and Margo devouring some leaves we've discovered they love.


I probably shouldn't be admitting this, but what the hell.

We seem to have an infestation of some biting critters in our office.

We are all bitten to buggery, mainly on our legs and bums, which seems to suggest they are living in the carpets and chairs. Yuck. Jenny has been hoovering like a maniac and applying stinky flea stuff.

No-one is accepting responsibility. I'm sure it can't be me because Nick doesn't have any bites, nor do we have any dogs or cats, but I have surreptitiously treated my hens just in case. he hem. Little darlings.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Finished (At last)

I have finally finished my first patchwork quilt.

It took me bloody ages.

I pieced together the top using a sewing machine, but all the rest was done by hand, including the miles and miles of hand quilting. I must have spent at least 200 hours on this quilt. Here's a detail of the corner:

It was supposed to be a small lap quilt to have on the sofa but it kept on growing and growing as I added more borders. It's now 2m x 1.4m and is big enough for both of us to fit under, which is a good job considering the film Nick made me watch last night.

It was 'The Decent', a proper horror monster movie about group of young ladies (Nick would say 'totty') who go caving in an unmapped cavern system without telling anyone where they've gone, get lost, then trapped in, run out of torch batteries, then get eaten by cave dwelling monsters who hunt by sound.

It was horrible and I hated it, but it was brilliant, if you know what I mean. Most horror films are just a bit silly, but this was actually truly scary and I did scream twice, which never normally happens.

eeugh, I feel funny just thinking about it. (Shudder)
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