Tag Archives: Slaithwaite

You’re So Vane

19 Sep

The other day I embarked on a blog, prior to opening my birthday presents of 2016. Well.  Yours truly was delighted with the fact that even more ‘needed’ and ‘odd’ gifts came her way. So here goes …

I’ll openly admit to anyone that I’ve never been reet-impressed with status symbols, brands, the latest in whatever consumerist tosh that far too many people in western society tend to be. But I’d be a filthy liar if I didn’t confess to you that when my birthday comes around, I do tend to ‘ask’ for a specific present (or three.) Not because I’m Ms Greedy Guts Materialist – honest – but because I simply think to myself, ‘weeeell, if they’re going to be daft enough to get me a pressie, they might as well get me something that I need.’

Little man chops wood! Cuckoo drives husband insane! What more could a girl want.

Little man chops wood! Cuckoo drives husband insane! What more could a girl want.

Do note here – the word ‘need’, as opposed to ‘like.’ It has proven to be the bane of my life and has turned me into the dullard Puritan that I am today. Sadly, my daughter seems to have taken on this very same attitude. A recent visit to her grandparents, ended up with Nan having to practically staple various purchases shop-buys to her grand-daughter’s forehead in order for them to be accepted (‘I’ve never known a child to say ‘no-thank-you-I-don’t-need-anything’, with every other breath!’)

But honestly, it’s not all just self-denial and flagellation here in our little household (for example, child number two is now turning out to be Mr Capitalist Commercial-Pants, as any self-respecting psychoanalyst would have warned me would have happened, years ago). But that blip aside, yeah – we may not chuck money around like some do on birthdays and anniversaries. But we do have FUN and we do BUY STUFF for each other. Still, it’s usually something er… well. To put it in the world of a close relative ‘Something completely weird and odd. Very much like you. You’re special!’

And I’ve only got myself to blame for such back-handed comments. Because I always make a point of remembering to ask my nearest/dearest for what I would most like to see, wrapped in the newspaper (I kid you not on the latter remark.) And the wee wish-list doesn’t usually contain what most women my age are hankering after (or ‘needing.’) In fact, the most bog-standard birthday present that I’ve ever requested was in response to a best friend asking me what I wanted. ‘Er, I just ran out of body moisturiser.’ I told her. ‘Good God, woman!’ she said, ‘That’s the most boring present ever! Are you sure? Last year you wanted me to get you a pair of purple tights. What is WRONG with you?’ ‘Look,’ I replied. ‘It’s what I NEED. Okay?’ She then proceeded to tell me that I was the easiest person ever to buy presents for. Because she also knew that I’ll happily accept second-hand moisturiser from any charity shop at the end of anyone’s street.

But it’s a bit of a different story for the other half and the kids. Because I subtly point out things that I NEED throughout the year. And then they forget. And then I try not to sulk about it. I mean, you’d think that I was the centre of their world wouldn’t you? I don’t ask for much in life. Well sadly, yet again I have run out of cotton wool buds, white knickers and Pears soap. Or perhaps they only tend to remember the much more whimsical stuff that I’ve taken a fancy to. So here – just to prove to you that I am entirely easy to buy for – is my top list of really ace pressies from my family.

1) Headlice Treatment
Purchased for me by Mother. At the time, I had no children, I had never suffered from headlice and I certainly hadn’t indicated in any way, shape or form – that I ‘needed’ the above. However, Mum being Mum – she figured that because I was living in sub-Saharan Africa and working with street children, there would come a time that the little giftie would be both welcome and useful. And yup – what can I say? Mums are ALWAYS right.

2) Ceramic sculpture of a milk bottle

We actually have old-fashioned pints delivered to us. But this artist re-creates both.

We actually have old-fashioned pints delivered to us. But this artist re-creates both.

In Slaithwaite, one of the villages next to us, there exists a little gem of a shop -‘The Emporium’- which displays the wares of talented local artists. One of my favourite shelves contains the work of a woman who studies old milk bottles and the more modern plastic versions. She then makes these incredible ceramic milk bottles, with labels that have very ‘local and political’ messages.

Mum makes the kid drink rancid milk. Allegedly.

Mum makes the kids drink rancid milk. Allegedly.

All about the decline of the local producers versus the scary supermarket stranglehold. My fella remembered how enamoured I had been with her efforts and presented me with one. They are so very realistic and of such good quality, that it has taken my little boy three years to be able to stop saying ‘You’ve left the milk on the book shelf again, Mum.’ And for me to suddenly realise why he always refuses to have milk on his cereal.

3) A Cuckoo Clock

There has always been a deep-yearning in my soul to have something/anything mounted on the wall with a small apparition that pops in and out of it, as if by magic. I would definitely have settled for an old-fashioned wooden weather house. But if I remember correctly, my other half accused them of being sexist inventions ‘because the man is the one who appears when it rains and when it’s sunny the woman appears in a frock. Plus it would be factually incorrect because no matter how warm the sunshine is, you’re always bloody complaining that you’re cold.’ Anyway, I’m equally intrigued by cuckoo clocks and after many years of lusting after the one at Buffers Cafe in Bolton Abbey, I finally got my own. Huzzah! (Although it’s more often ‘yah-boo’ – because my husband doesn’t like the disturbance of the cuckoo popping out every half an hour. It’s like living with a Brummie version of Victor Meldrew, I tell you.)
Still, the cuckoo clock has also provided a bit of inspiration for the title of my next book. More on that soon.

4) A Trip to Bradford Industrial Museum.

One of the best museums in the North. And free, my friends ... free!

One of the best museums in the North. And free, my friends … free!

What else can I add to this? Other than it’s ace. It’s free. And we didn’t take the kids. The only disappointment was that the Toby Inn just next to it was shut. But you can’t have the moon on a stick, can you?

5) A Tour of Wentworth Woodhouse
This year’s birthday pressie and one that was actually suggested to me by a nice chappie at the gym (and no no no … ‘A Tour of Wentworth Woodhouse’ is NOT some sort of Huddersfield double entendre!) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Diamonds-Rise-English-Dynasty/dp/0141019239 Me and some of the gym bunnies in this part of west Yorkshire like to lend each other reading material that happens to stretch our brains beyond ‘Running Like a Loon Weekly’ and ‘Muscles For Brains Monthly.’

Great book. A Must-Read for anyone who cares about issues of rich vs poor.

Great book. A Must-Read for anyone who cares about the issues of rich vs poor.

So I was very grateful to be lent ‘Black Diamonds’. It turned out to be a great socio-economic perusal of the Fitzwilliams – the family who made their moolah out of the coal mines of south Yorkshire and of the poor sods who had to do the lumping and the dumping. It’s very rare that Wentworth Woodhouse throws it’s doors open for booked tours… the place is still all a bit cloaked in secrecy. And it’s only taken my other half two years and four reminders of just how much I ‘NEED’ this tour for my birthday present – i.e ‘for my mental wellbeing, dear! And yours – so I stop having to remind you…’ etc etc.

So in a few weeks time I may well be able to tell you a bit more about the experience. And whether or not the Brewer’s Fayre nearby is closed pre or post-tour (I swear that my husband fibs about these ‘closures’ – in order to save himself a bob or two.)

6) The Weather Vane

You have to *see* where I live in order to imagine the climatic conditions that we’re faced with at times here. Slap bang facing Saddleworth moors in the bosom between the ‘Two Valleys’ of west Yorkshire. So Mr and Mrs Wooden Old Weather House would really and truly have been able to stand up to the fast change and pace in the way that the wind direction and force changes here (and that’s before we’ve eaten the kidney beans). And oh, my heart’s desire! For years I’ve secretly been *needing* one of these. And 2016 finally brought me one. Thank you, thank you – one and all. The swankiest weather station that a young(ish) lady could ever have lusted after …

Cannot wait to see this erection in my garden.

Cannot wait to see this erection in my garden.

7) The Dead Pig

And last but by no means least, I was promised ‘A Dead Pig.’ The children cunningly employed an environmentally-friendly approach to present wrapping (a suit protector – now redundant- I mean, who wears suits these days?) And then they more or less convinced me that it was an en0rmous ham joint ‘you know – a dead wild Boar – like in ‘Asterix’.)  Interestingly however, it turned out to be a bulk-win of …. body moisturisers and soap.  The kids it seemed, had swept the boards at their primary school Summer Fair. Just what I always *needed.*

C'mon. It really DOES look like it contains a dead pig, doesn't it?

C’mon. It really DOES look like it contains a dead pig, doesn’t it?

 

Chocs Away!

19 Jul

Well, I thought that ‘Chocs Away’ was a much better title than ‘All About My Book Launch.’  If you are a newcomer to this blog (welcome pals!) then you will soon discover that my daughter has dyslexia and that it leads to many interesting ‘language moments’ … (See ‘Be Enterprising’ blog below.)

As we were chatting about the book launch in the run up to it all, I could see the cogs and wheels turning in my girl’s mind.  She is now (at the age of 9) beginning to realise that she does have a special relationship with language. A wonderful mynah bird gift and a strong tendency towards taking things very literally.

So I was rather chuffed when she said; ‘Okay, I realise now that you’re not really going to fire your books off into the air for people to catch them. Like a bride at a wedding with her flowers. ‘Cause, anyway – that would be really stupid as the building is right next to the canal,’

‘Good!’ I said. ‘We call it a launch because … like a rocket or like a ship. Or a missile – we want to put it out there. Get it started off.’

‘Chocs Away!’ shrieked the 6 year old (no idea where he got that from.)

‘Yes…..’ I replied.

‘Wow!’ she continues.  ‘So, are we going to be having a load of chocolate there too?’

I gave up trying to explain more at that stage (although it did turn out that the choccy analogy was a good one as the key protagonist in ‘Mind Games and Ministers’ is a woman who is running a chocolate social enterprise Up North.) Still, my budget didnt stretch to giving out complimentary chocolate bars – but my lovely guests did get to go hyper on some very posh coffee, on the best cakes ever to tickle the tastebuds of west Yorkshire folk (courtesy of Ma Longden) and to hear me doing a reading from my book.

Incidentally, for me – the most fun bit about having had a book published is the reading aloud to the audience thing. At kiddy bedtime, my other half often tries to prevent me from reading to them (‘They’re too old! They can read now! You get all giddy and an hour later you’ve got them looking at youtube on the film version of the book!’) But I just love to read aloud to them (unless its Michael Morpurgo which my daughter has banned because ‘even you with your weird voices mum, can’t make his stuff exciting for me. Soz.’)

So the best bit about the book launch was that I got to play at bedtime story reading AND unlike kiddy-bedtime, I got to swear throughout it!  Reading - lady behind me already asleep?

What else was special about the launch?

Give me Da Moolah! (And I'll lose it.)

Give me Da Moolah! (And I’ll lose it.)

Well… my kids attended (and behaved themselves. Although you should never let a 9 year old with dyscalculia collect money from your book sales. We still don’t know where the missing tenner is.) My parents were there and worked like trojans in order to make the place look dazzling (despite rather too many of my writer friends being arty-farty types who wouldn’t know an honest day’s work if it hit them.)  Everyone enjoyed the fact that we were in the middle of a brand new Coffee Roastery. And we were right next to the Huddersfield narrow canal (coffee and canals…two of my favourite things in life.)

Audience unimpressed with strong language. They are mostly from west Yorkshire. Nuff said.

Audience unimpressed with strong language. They are mostly from west Yorkshire. Nuff said.

And I loved the fact that I got to wear my Granny’s gold charm bracelet.  My good luck nod to Gran. Would she have been proud of me? Probably not. Shouting profanities in the middle of a gathering of very well dressed and rather well to do people? Nah. She would have accused me of being ”common’ or ‘a right Miss Kek.’

That bracelet - but a less than charming gob ...

That bracelet – but a less than charming gob …

Post-launch slump?  I’d missed the copy of the newspaper which covered the launch. Jim from the Gym had asked all of his mates to see if anyone had that edition. Thankfully someone had. That evening I happened to mention this to my other half. A look of abject horror on his face. ‘Oh God. I cleaned the windows today.’   Ten minutes later the precious extract – which I had been keeping for my children as evidence that their mother wasn’t a totally useless old slapper – was brought out from the recycling bin.

So…. we have lived in this house for nearly 7 years now. And we have only ever cleaned the windows three times (and one of those times it was my dad who did it – ‘Can’t bloody stand looking through that filth any longer.’)  And on the third attempt, my husband decided to scrub the grime off the windows. Using his wife’s face.    How very Freudian.

Anyway.  See below. This is what it looked like afterwards.   Moral of the tale? A most northern lesson. ‘Don’t Get Above Yerself Too Much, Lady…’

 

A scrunched up Me and the Local MP!

A scrunched up Me and the Local MP!

 

 

 

The Five Minutes of Fame (or shame?)

11 Jul

Had a thoroughly enjoyable experience being interviewed on BBC Radio Leeds this week. Wes Butters – what a lovely chap. Butters by name and butters by … Well. As you can hear – he started by being ever so nice to me, and then tried to grill me about all of the politicians that I’ve slept with. Honestly. These journalists! As if I’d talk about something as personal as sex and relationships on air! With the whole of the west Riding of Yorkshire listening!

Actually – I had better clarify that. Wes Butters didn’t ask me anything about sex. It was yours truly who started wibbling about that kind of thing (best mate would be saying ‘Methinks the Lady Doth Protest Too Much!’)

But hey, my parents are still speaking to me and they haven’t contacted social services about the fact that my newfound lust for media exposure has led me to total and abject neglect of my children (although I have been sending the kids to school with out-of-date yoghurts, so getting them taken into care would perhaps be justified.)

I’ve done interviews and photo shoots and stuff like that before for various things that I’ve been involved with – so none of it is really alien to me. But it *is* strange when you’re talking about your own life experience. In short, I felt like a total muppet.

What was even more bizarre, was the fact that people you haven’t told about the interview, get to hear you. My next door neighbour said that her mum texted her to say ‘your Christina is on the radio!’  And then a neighbour on the other side told my other half ‘Hey – I’ve just downloaded your wife’s e-book.’  Now, neighbour on the other side hasn’t known us for very long. And if he is reading this – I have to say that he wins a Blimmin’ Great Big Prize for his detective work (as well as his ever-so-kind strimming of the overgrown passage-way at the back… I mean – Curse you Kirklees Council for neglecting our ginnel yet again this summer!) Apparently our smashing neighbour put two and two together whilst listening (name of the village, the mention of Namibia) and realised that it was me.

Although … I actually *think* that he was too polite to say the real reason as to why he twigged that it was me. The poor chap MUST have heard me – for many hours – ranting and raving at myself as I practice reading aloud, from our shed at the top of the garden which backs onto his. Noise drifts all too easily in this valley. I suspect strongly that he realised that he was living in great proximity to a total lunatic who shrieks at herself in her shed and then he recognised the voice on the radio …

Anyway. If you want to hear me sounding like a complete numpty – it will be on Listen Again for a short while…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p021l10b   (the 8/7 show – move the counter to 1:07)

And then it’s off to The Emporium in Slaithwaite this Sunday for a book signing. I’ve already bought myself a nice new chimney pot from their wonderful eclectic mix of items, so sadly I shall be at a loss before I even started selling books. But who cares? I do it for the love of it! And to embarrass myself in front of our very gracious neighbours of course … who are far too dignified to Go Public about how distressing it must be, living next the Like Of Us.

The Shed. Where I shout a lot.

The Shed. Where I shout a lot.