Friday, 16 January 2015

Reasons to avoid eating scones at Fran's house until February

We've weevils.

I'm only writing this blog post because I wanted to write that first sentence. Now I have to think of how to carry on and write an interesting post about the weevils who are weaving their evil weevily way through our flour and cereals and sugar.

Firstly, then, while I'm thinking, here's a picture of a flour weevil. I've had to get it off Google because when I asked our weevils to pose for a photo, they went all coy on me and said if they'd wanted to become famous they'd have auditioned for X Factor, thank you very much.

Fran the judge said 'It's a no from me.'

Fortunately, that picture is not life-size. If it were, we might have spotted Weevil Number 1 when it first arrived in our house, most likely in a bag of flour from the supermarket, to start its colonisation of our kitchen. I know my eyesight isn't what it used to be, but I think I'd have noticed it lurking in my fruit scone mixture, doing a very poor impression of a raisin.

Here's a more realistic picture of what we saw in our flour when we looked closely. 

Sorry. As I googled 'weevil' I was reminded of this guy from my childhood who leapt over buses on his motorbike. Do you remember him? Don't you think it would have been fun if he'd actually been a pest that lived in flour and leapt over buses at the weekend? Evel Knieval the Weevil. 

Anyway, this was the picture I really wanted, although our weevils were really not this obvious. I think these weevils are wearing mascara, eye liner and black underwear.

A purification ritual faces us. We have to empty the cupboards and throw away all the dry goods (making a trillion weevils homeless, but, hey, they're basically squatting).  Then we need to disinfect the cupboards and spray them with anti-weevil poison, hardening our hearts to the weevily screams and death rattles of any left behind weevils, clinging to the sides of the cupboards with their sticky little paws. After this, all the new dry goods need to go into weevil-proof plastic containers.  We are going to be solely responsible for Mr Tupperware's good year.

I have to say, I've never been given a better reason for not doing all the essay marking that's waiting for me. Usually I plead 'I have to iron the socks' or 'I have to make sure all my books are in alphabetical order' but having to commit weevilocide is a much more interesting excuse.

I have in my mind an irresistible image of a rock band, made up of four of the above-named pests, strutting their stuff on the stage and singing 'Weevil weevil rock you!'

I was going to leave you with a parody of the Winston Churchill speech 'Weevil fight them on the beaches, weevil fight them on the .....' but then I googled it and found out he said 'We shall.'  That's a bummer.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Evidence that Fran's career as a fashion icon is only just beginning

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2015 is the Year of the Sheep, but I beg to differ. For me, it will be the Year of the Scarf. I have suffered a bare, cold neck for 52 years, thinking scarves didn't suit me, and endured an 'on-off-on-off-on-off' relationship with my husband husband's attitude to the central heating all that time, too. Those of you who live with someone who has a different temperature gauge to your own will know EXACTLY what I mean by that.

Something has to change. And as my husband makes a mean rice pudding and pulls the sofa out when he vacuums the house, I think I'll try scarves rather than divorce.

I wrote about scarves in February this year - I was clearly warming up to my dramatic conversion - and I gave you a link to a wet-your-pants-comedy  deadly-serious and illuminating video which demonstrates 25 different ways to wear a scarf. Here's a link back to that post. February's anxieties about scarf-wearing

So, I went shopping for scarves on Saturday. I received a sparkly one for Christmas by an evangelistic-about-scarves friend and, on finding that it didn't make me look too ridiculous, I decided to go and buy more.  The scarf she bought me looks a bit like this. It's a reasonable size, it's neat, and behaves, as it should, like an accessory.

Why is it, then, that most of the scarves in the shops look like this, not like an accessory, but more like an invasion?

Short play entitled 'Shopping for Scarves.'

Cast: 1. Shop Assistant. 2. Customer - Mrs Yours-Truly.

Setting: Shop.  Saturday morning.

'This one, Madam?'

'No, I don't want a spare king-size duvet cover. I want a scarf.'

'This one?'

'No. I'd like to live for a little longer, not die of accidental suffocation before I'm 53.'

'Maybe this one?'

'Shrouding four-fifths of my height in cotton will leave only my feet on public view. I will look like a walking pile of laundry.'

'This one?'

'I think you misheard. It's just for me, not for me plus extended family group and assorted friends.'

'What about this one?'

'That could keep Greenland warm. We're only talking 'one neck' here.'

'Try this one?'

'Isn't that one just for people who never need to get through doors?'

'This woolly cream one?'

'If a sheep tries to mate with me on my way out of here, you would be to blame.'

'How about this? Try this on. Here, let me put it on you.'

'Mfn mfn mmmfff nggfff mnnggffffhh.'

In the end, after much trial and tribulation, I arrived home with four reasonably-sized scarves which didn't make me look as though I'd been ambushed by a more powerful force.  Three were from the Oxfam shop and one was £6 from Monsoon (down from £22 in the sale, and it's barely bigger than a handkerchief. Criminal price.)  Then, yesterday, I opened a present from my sister (late pressie-swapping session) and it was a dinky little purple scarf to add to my collection.

None of them has asphyxiated me so far, hence I am still alive to inflict this blog post on you.  Happy Year of the Scarf to you all.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Evidence that by the end of 2015, Fran will be a transformed woman

Some New Year resolutions.

1. I will learn to use my Smartphone so that the word 'smart' in its name doesn't make the phone seem so smug and me so technologically stupid.  Hopefully, this will also mean that fewer of my friends will get calls where there's only one ring before the call is cut off, and they have to ring me back to say 'Did you want me?' and I have to make up a reason for conversation. One's friends are always so suspicious when one begins with the weather.

2. I will stop pretending that the Baileys in my coffee is just normal cream.  I will also alter the proportions of Baileys to coffee so that there is more coffee.

3. Now that I have bought a smaller plate in the attempt to eat less, I will stop piling the food three feet high to compensate. This will mean I will no longer need to eat with my nose in a pile of mashed potato or submerged in a mound of meat and gravy.

4. I will improve my wardrobe and become smarter. To start the process, I will re-sew all the hems of my trousers that I have badly sewn in the past so that the stitches don't show on bright days.  I will also use matching cotton this time, not yellow on black.

5. At weekends and on days off, I will stop lying in bed listening to the radio and pretending I'm improving myself culturally, instead of getting up and doing something useful, like making the evening meal.

6. I will phone all the people I have promised to phone, if only to check whether they remembered I promised to phone when I last spoke to them in 1972.

Fran's friend wondered whether 2015 would be the year she'd call

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Evidence that fairy tales are not immune from a Christmas reworking

Long-term followers might have read this one before, but I thought I'd give it a Christmas airing.

A sequel to the story of ‘The Three Little Pigs’, subtitled, ‘Always check that meat is properly cooked’

A family of pigs, brothers three,
were leaping around, Christmas Eve.
The wolf had been caught (or so they had thought).
From his huff and his puff, they were free.

Relieved at the end of their scare,
they danced round the fire, unaware
that in that hotpot was a wolf who was not
fully cooked, but just medium rare.

As they went off to bed, closed the door,
from the pot there protruded a paw.
Though more warm than he’d like, he’d not give up the fight.
A poor sign for the porcine, for sure.

He’d wait until midnight, then soon,
he planned by the light of the moon
to exit that pot, give those piggies a shock,
and be gorging on trotters by noon.

But all of a sudden, his light
was blocked out by a terrible sight.
A HUGE man with a beard down the chimney appeared.
Wolfie peed in the gravy with fright.

 ‘Ho ho HO,’ said the man, with such cheer
that the wolf yelped (a coward, I fear).
‘I thought you got COOKED at the end of the book.’
‘Not quite.’  Wolfie brushed off a tear.

The piggies awoke with a start,
terror clutching at each little heart.
They crept into the room, peered through the gloom
(and here is the heartwarming part).

Not believing their own piggy eyes
they stared at the scene in surprise.
The wolf, there with Santa, engaging in banter
and eating their home-made mince pies!

‘Oh, there you all are!’ Santa said.
‘I’m afraid it’s bad news.  He’s not dead.
But now we’re all here, it’s the season of cheer,
so why don’t we make friends instead?’

They shook trotters and paws, and drank wine.
Prematurely they sang Auld Lang Syne.
And the wolf, somewhat shaken, said he’d been mistaken
and would chase little lambsies next time.

How was he going to tell Mrs Wolf that he'd had to pick up a pizza instead of the pork he'd promised her? 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Evidence that Fran knows she should start on her 'holiday marking' load but is procrastinating

There's a rucksack in my hall stuffed to perdition with sixth formers' coursework essays. Somehow I need to find time over Christmas to mark them all. I got up this morning at eight and decided that before I did anything else I would sort them all out into piles so that I could devise a 'timetable' for the holiday and get some done each day.

Instead, I've done other things. And now I'm writing this blog post.  And it's eleven o'clock.

1. I wrote some Christmas cards, then went to the local postbox with them. I only noticed just in time that I was about to post one whose envelope bore the helpful message 'Kate and Tom', meant for some neighbours. I feel sorry for the postal workers at Christmas, coping with all the parcels and extra post, as well as with plonkers like me. It puts my Christmas marking load into perspective anyway.

2. I've also been looking at Christmas hampers in a fit of seasonal nostalgia. When I was a child, my grandparents used to get one every year, filled with a tub of biscuits, boxes of mince pies, jars of chutney and packets of cheesy crackers ... that kind of thing.  Now, you can empty your bank account to pay for a hamper with the same types of ingredients, but with tiddly-posh names.  This one cost £132.00 but is now down to ONLY £100.  I won't say which store it's from as it wouldn't be fair. They're all as expensive as each other.  

I have translated the product names for you in italics. 

Deluxe Hamper - £100

Farmhouse Cranberry Biscuits 125g - A few biscuits
Moyallon Cranberry Chutney 110g - A small jar of pickle
Moyallon Strawberry Preserve 110g - Some jam
New English Teas English Breakfast Tea 20g - Not very much tea
Loison Panettone 100g - A middle-class bun but not much of it
Sierra Creek Merlot 75cl - Cheapish red plonk
Sierra Creek Chardonnay - Cheapish white plonk
Robe d'Or Brut Vin Mousseux 75cl - cheapish white fizz
Yorkshire Tomato, Basil & Mozarella Crisps 50g - crisps, but with mozzarella spelled funny
Beech's Chocolate Brazil Nuts 90g - chocolate nuts, not many
Beech's Dark Chocolate Bar 60g - dark chocolate, not much
Belgian Raspberry Delights 200g - who knows? but Belgian makes it okay
The Dormen Chilli & Lime Cashews 50g - some nuts
Cherry & Almond Cake - cake, weight suspiciously unspecified - one cherry & one almond?
Walkers Mini Fingers 125g - biscuits, unashamedly small ones
Walkers Mince Pies 225g - mince pies
Walkers Luxury Mincemeat Tarts 372g - slightly better mince pies
Cole's Brandy Christmas Pudding 227g - small pudding but the brandy makes it okay
Perthshire Chilli Oatcakes 150g - tasteless dry biscuits hotted up

3. Talking of Christmas food, we have a bush outside with red berries on it which the birds love. Normally they sit within the bush and peck away contentedly at one berry after another. But today a blackbird sat on our shed roof, then flew over to the bush for a berry, then back to the shed roof with it in its mouth, then it ate it. Then it went back for another one, back to the shed roof ..... etc etc. My husband commented on it and I said I thought the bird just wanted to see what it was like to have takeaway food like humans do, and why shouldn't it, at Christmas? 

In fact, maybe the supermarkets are missing an opportunity here ...

Crimson Juicy Delights, freshly-plucked from a rural Warwickshire garden - berries

This blackbird is learning that overdosing on red berries can have unfortunate side effects

Monday, 15 December 2014

News about paperback version of 'Being Miss'

Some happy news about a delivery ....

No, I haven't had a baby. I know it's the time of year for that kind of miraculous conception to happen, but thankfully not to me.

The delivery was of a box of my 'Being Miss' books from the publishers.

So, if any of you Kindle-phobes have been waiting to get hold of a copy made of real paper (for £6 plus postage and packing) please pay using the Paypal 'Add to cart' button under the book cover in the sidebar.

Treat yourself to a laugh, Fran-style.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Reasons why shops should have one-way systems at Christmas

I've had problems with my left leg recently and it's limited my getting around, but things are improving. 'You're limping much better,' someone said on Sunday. It was an odd kind of compliment but I take whatever I can get these days.

I can't ignore the fact that my weight won't have helped. I think I'll release my own pop song about the health risks of being shaped like the largest instrument in the string section.  Come on, sing along.

'Cause you know, I'm all about that bass, 'bout that bass, knee trouble ...'

This is one of the stills from the Meghan Trainor pop video for 'All About That Bass'. I think he's
saying, ''Don't talk to me, People who could fit in my pocket make me nervous.'

Today was my day off school so I went Christmas shopping. I browsed round a shop that would win the Most Items Crammed Into Tiniest Shop in Britain award.  The combination of me - plump and off balance with two bags and a rucksack and a mutinous knee - plus a lady with a baby buggy and a walking excited toddler, plus other customers carrying long rolls of Christmas wrapping paper under their arms, caused a hiatus at one point during which none of us could move anywhere. We endured an almost-group-hug for a full minute before we cooperated in finding ways of escape, one by one, trying this way and that until we found solutions, like doing a human Rubik's cube.

That particular shop holds bad memories for me anyway. I've written before about the time another customer mistook me for an assistant and asked me what the upstairs of the shop contained. I said, 'Oh, it's clothes' but she thought I'd said 'Oh, it's closed' and complained about me to another assistant when she found I'd been lying.

I enjoyed my shopping this morning, despite it all, because I haven't been out of the house much for weeks, imprisoned by the knee, and have had lifts to and from school from teacher colleagues. I've been doing a lot of sitting-down teaching and could-you-wipe-the-whiteboard-for-me teaching and you'll-have-to-come-here-if-you-want-me-to-check-your-work teaching and come-here-right-now-so-I-can-tell-you-off teaching. (The latter has been the least successful.)

So, the outing did me good. Even my struggle down the bus aisle, causing actual bodily harm to irritated people left and right with all my bags and parcels, didn't cast too much of a pall on all the Christmas fun.

Not my Christmas fun, anyway. They didn't look too chuffed.

Fran hoped the bus wouldn't come until she'd found which bag her ticket was in.