The Tale of Nancy and the Unicorn

This is a bit of a saga – you might need a cup of tea to accompany the following blog. Or some Kendall Mint Cake – that should sustain you. As the immortal Tilly (not mine, the one in Miranda) says ‘Bear with, bear with…’ Interestingly, Sally Phillips, who plays Tilly, describes her as Miranda’s friend, “monster idiot” and “language disease.” This is entirely by-the-by, but it turns out that Tilly is my new word-crush. I shall henceforth be using far more of her language right here in my blog.


Sample: “I presume you are kiddingtons?” (translation: I hope you are joking.)

Back to unicorns. A while ago, Polly went through a unicorn-obsessed stage. As Polly likes to draw whatever she is thinking about at the time, the house slowly filled with unicorn pictures. I looked up some on the internet for her to look at; she wanted to know what colour they were and whether they had tails or not. And most of the pictures of unicorns looked something like this:

Pink Unicorn

Which is fine, if you like that kind of thing. But unicorns are such  interesting creatures; mythological, enchanted, magical. Powerful. Not swirly and pink (I don’t think. I do realise that they don’t really exist, by the way. Or probably don’t exist, anyway…) I suddenly wanted, very much, to do a t-shirt with a unicorn on.  And I remembered an artist that I had met at a craft stall once. She was selling artwork, and some bags that she had decorated with a chicken-print. Sarah and I loved them. They all had different decorations on, and we couldn’t decide which one we liked best, so in the end, we went and chose one for each other. I still use mine all the time. (This is a good explanation of how we tend to make very little at craft fairs  – if we sell stuff, we nearly always go and buy something.)


The artists’ name was Nancy. Have a look at her website; her work is beautiful.  I finally plucked up the courage to arrange to meet her -I am always nervous of meeting people whose work I really admire; and she was bound to be really arty and cool, possibly a bit aloof . I met her in Pensieri, where she sells some of her work occasionally.  She was indeed arty and cool, but also really really lovely, disarmingly honest and interested in what I was doing with the t-shirts.  I liked her straight away, which clearly helps if you want to work with someone.  I love the idea of putting art on t-shirts. It’s a great way of owning and wearing brilliant, original artworks, and at the same time supporting local artists (and t-shirt designers – ahem.) Nancy drew and painted me the most amazing unicorn head. It was bold,  and floral at the same time. Perfect. I loved it.  And we printed it on a t-shirt. And it was nice: sweet, girly,  and pretty.  Polly liked it, other girls liked it. I wasn’t sure. I wanted to love it but it just wasn’t right. I fretted about it. I hate being disappointed with stuff. So I sold a few, but felt kind of bad. It just wasn’t the unicorn I had hoped.

So I worried for a bit longer, and then I got bored with being disappointed, and rang our t-shirt printing guru, Tricia, and told her I wanted to try again; to do the unicorn justice. I took a  deep breath and told myself that the extra expense would be worth it. I chose a different t-shirt colour to make the design stand out, and I told Tricia to make it BIG.


I think it is both marvilisimous and tremendulant.

Want one? They go on sale this week. Very limited edition at the moment, but if they go down well there will be more!  You can buy them at our folksy shop here. Or email They are a bit more expensive than usual. It’s a sad necessity. The prices of our t-shirts have gone up in the last year or so, but I am determined to stick with good-quality, ethically produced t-shirts. We could go cheaper but we’ve stuck with our principles. And with t-shirts we love the quality of.

The Mini Chedders of Cbeebies

Very soon (like, next Monday – mark the date people!) I will be shamelessly plugging our new design t-shirts. Until then, I shall be spending the rest of what has been a very exhausting half term unwinding and lazing on the sofa whilst my three angelic children waft gently around me….wait, no that is very unlikely. But after a very hectic, lovely week with friends and family even adrenaline junkies like my three need some down-time. And whilst we do a spot of mild lounging, we shall be watching our newest Cbeebies favourite ‘Sarah & Duck‘. I can wholeheartedly recommend it, and that cannot be said for all of Cbeebies’ output (we’ve clocked up a fair few hours over the last 6-ish years. Not all of it enjoyable. Postman Pat Special Delivery Service is now strictly verboten in this house, due to the dumbfounding stupidity of most of its plot-lines.) Sarah&Duck is beautifully designed, cleverly narrated and crucially;  not too earnest. The perfect 7 minute television snack. A sort of animated version of a small bag of mini-chedders, if you will.


We probably would have watched it anyway, because it looks so fab, but it’s extra special because my lovely friend Lois’ brother is one of the animators, and so she has been excited about it for months. We’ve just watched the cake bake episode, and had to watch it twice, and then re-wind for another listen of the cake talking. Even the very-grown-up-now 7 year old loved it! Great stuff.


The return of the Valentine’s day stuff

Firstly – thanks to everyone who shared my last blog, The Complete and Utter Horror of Valentine’s Day. It was my most shared blog yet – which is very exciting! Much love to all share-ees, and also to new readers. Welcome aboard, fellow fans of long, confusing sentences, much use of brackets and other nonsense.

To complement my previous musings on V-day, I have done some pre-Feb 14th reconnaissance work in small shops in Bedford. I am massively fond of these small independent shops, so I can forget that I don’t like the whole commercial opportunism of Valentine’s Day and just embrace it as a good excuse to support those little shops that make towns great. Let’s face it; Tescos don’t need any more of your money buying naff cards and ready meals (possibly complete with traces of horsemeat…) Shop local for your lover this Febuary!

(I do not mean that to sound like you should purchase a lover locally. I can’t condone that sort of behaviour. But if you do: buy them from a nice independent shop. Don’t go for a  chain-store knock-off. )

First up: beautiful jewellery and lovely cake:

The good thing about shopping in a small boutique run by someone with lovely taste, is that you are already looking at a narrowed-down amount of options. They have weeded out all of the tat, which makes for much easier shopping. Pensieri is somewhere that has done just that, and has a wonderful range of jewellery (including the beautiful epanoui range, which I’ve mentioned before)  and gifts perfect for Valentine’s Day. AND, as Pensieri is a cafe, you can shop and then have a nice cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate and a big slice of cake.





The two pieces of artwork here are by the very talented Anne-Marie Stijejla – who is basically an International Arty Superstar – so your Valentine’s gift could be legitimately considered an investment purchase!

Easy-peasy dinner for two:

If you love the idea of going for a nice meal on Valentine’s day dinner, but can’t be bothered with the faff of trying to book, get a babysitter, and then paying twice as much as you usually would for a dinner that they have inexplicably cut into heart shapes and decorated with rose petals – then try the home-cooked Valentine’s Day meal for two from Foods of Italy, the wonderful Italian Deli on Bower Street:

Starter: Caprese Tomato and Mozzerella Salad


Antipasti platter for two

Main: Home-made Lasgane


Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni with mixed leaf salad with Italian style dressing

Dessert: Tiramasu with fresh fruit


Strawberry Cheesecake


A bottle of Prosecco

All this for £24.99! And you don’t have to cook, do much washing up, or even move very far from the sofa. Just pre-book your order by the evening of 11th Feb – that’s Monday. For more info on Foods of Italy, and other local fooderies, have a read of The Bedford Network blog.

Buy some Art: So, as you may have gathered, I am a fan of buying art as a gift – even if it is just a postcard, (on my budget, this makes a lot of sense) and Valentine’s day is a good time to do just that. Why not call in to the Art Centre and grab yourself or your other half/bit on the side/ one of local Artist Charlotte Tenneson’s beautiful bird-themed lino-cuts. They are all very reasonable  – between £30 and £60. Charlotte said that her hands are witness to the fact that the Japanese linocut tools she used are sharp and that,  ” it took me some time to perfect the technique of carving lino!”  The bleeding is worth it though. I really like them.

Bird 2

bird 3

Bird 1

And also, the Art Centre is one of the best places in Bedford to buy nice cards.  Ones that don’t say things like  ‘to my hunny bunny’. How could you not just send that back with a big red line through ‘hunny’ and a ‘please try harder’ comment underneath??  Or am I just really mean? Answers on a postcard, preferably a nice arty one I can frame, thank you.

The complete and utter horror of Valentine’s Day (oh, but there’s a good bit too.)

It’s not that easy to like Valentine’s Day. Or is that just me? It still has the connotations of a day of national confirmation of general unpopularity, partly because I was never a beautiful, cool sixteen year old, which is basically what you need to be in order to take full advantage of a day based on the declarations of love from any number of amorous admirers. It is not an earth-shattering revelation that gawky, weird-looking geeks are not bombarded with cards or flowers – I was once the excited recipricant of a lovely bunch of roses that were actually destined for a friend of mine – but the amorous admirer was far too shy to present them to her in person, so I was chosen as a sort of boquet-mule. And this is not even my worst Valentine’s day experience.

But it’s not just bitterness on my part that colours my dislike of the day. The whole thing has become a corporate-sponsored day of tat-giving, where people who have perfectly happy and otherwise sane relationships are forced to give what turns into a fairly insincere display of affection via the medium of an overpriced box of chocolates and some uninspired flowers.

Here is my V-day action plan for sane people who do not wish to be sucked in to the whole gift-wrapped farce.

Firstly – accept that even if the other person in the relationship states outright that the whole thing is a corporate-sponsored-farce and they want no part of it, this is very rarely true. What they may actually mean (and I speak from experience here,) is ‘Yes yes, it is all very silly, but on the other hand I do like chocolates and flowers. And wine. Although I object on moral principle, I would very much like you to demonstrate your great affection for me by partaking in the madness. And if you do not, I shall sulk emphatically, from the vantage point of my moral highground.’

Secondly – if you are single, celebrate the fact by choosing yourself decent chocolate, wine (or beer, or a nice soft drink, whatever) and a nice bunch of flowers which do not look as if they have been run over.  You will have a nice evening and avoid disappointment.

Thirdly – avoid shopping at the last minute in a supermarket (with the exception of Waitrose, where the staff are so helpful they’d probably make you a card if they’d sold out – although that would be a bit weird.) You will only get over-priced, dropped-on-the-floor-a-few-times chocolate, and will be left with the kind of card with a greeting so trite, or inappropriate, that is likely to result in it being turned into a weapon and used against you.

Fourthly – avoid irony, unless it really, really is funny, and obvious. There is a fine line between a pithy comment on the ridiculous nature of Valentine’s day, and just buying a huge cuddly gorilla clutching a rose.

Fifthly – (well, that is an unexpectedly awkward word, ) If in doubt, cut a regular item into a heart-shape. We have all, as a society, been brainwashed to believe that the heart symbol is the ultimate expression of undying love. Cut toast, photos, omelettes, official documents etc all into heart shapes and watch your True Love melt into gasps of adoration with minimum effort on your part.

There’s still a week to go, so have a look at some of the cool stuff I’ve found rooting around on Folksy this week:

It’s good to get straight to the point, right? This ‘I like your face’ print does just that: (shop here)


A bit of a Mo-ment: (shop here)


A card for the Pride and Prejudice fans here:


This one may induce swooning, fits of the vapors, etc.

I’ve been out scouting in local shops for good Valentines’ Day stuff too. If you are local to Bedford, watch out for tomorrow’s blog for the ‘festival of sentimentality’ special.

Day of the Dragonfly

This is a mini-blog (blogette? babyblog?) in celebration of the very fine work of a good friend of mine; Lloyd. Some people are just quietly brilliant, and would never dream of shouting about it. I’m sort of doing the shouting on behalf of him here. I’m quite good at shouting, as it happens.


This is Lloyd. And his t-shirt. And his pipe. (Mostly just a prop, I think.) A while ago, Lloyd designed these dragonfly t-shirts in a nice yellow/navy combination, and we just loved them. Lloyd lives in the countryside near Bedford and is a stay-at-home-dad as well as a graphic designer / drayman for local micro-brewery White Park / editor of brilliant music Fanzine Phaff & Potter. I think that’s possibly the best job description I’ve ever come across.

Lloyd has done some excellent designs for us in the past, but these t-shirts are for one of his little sidelines: louie louie t-shirts.


If you’d like to buy one, and I suggest you do, as they are rather Chris Packham-esque – and who wouldn’t want to emulate Chris ‘I’m quite attractive, very enthusiastic AND I care about wildlife too’ Packham – you can do so here. They come in adult and childrens’ sizes, meaning that you could have a father-daughter/ father-son combo.

When he is not designing t-shirts / pritt-sticking musical satire/delivering beer/looking after his girls, Lloyd can be found defacing the work of Grand Masters:


Brilliant, eh?

I need to update our much-neglected (by me as much as by customers) Folksy shop. Folksy is a brilliant website – if you haven’t had a browse, go ahead. You are almost guaranteed to find  some hand-knitted cat-shaped tea cosy, or rude-message cross -stitch samplers, or a nice bit of interesting jewellery; or something else you had no idea you needed in your life until you have seen it, from which point life seems to be impossible without it.  I love that kind of stuff. Things I have bought from Folksy in the past have included a Cafetiere cardigan (!) an Eiffel tower brooch and a selection of photos someone had taken and made into postcards. Just random lovely things that you might not otherwise stumble across. I’ll update it this week and in the process try and share some of the cool stuff I’ll no doubt be distracted by…

On a final, Sunday night note: thanks very much to everyone who read my blog about the Where’s Wally Fun Run and have sponsored me. I’m really grateful, as the National Literacy Trust  is such a great cause to run (stagger) for.  I can report that I am officially in training, and have therefore downgraded my morning butter and jam on toast to just butter as a nod to making me slightly less hefty to drag around, and have been out huffing, puffing and generally sounding like Darth Vader to ensure that I can at least complete the course without a major health issues. Bring on the fun, and with a little less enthusiasm, the run!