Sunny Saturdays and Grey Ideas

So, I pulled our old cot out of the garage this evening. It was a great cot – survived all three Smith children, which is a feat in itself. It was bought second hand from a harassed-looking lady who told me it had already been used for her two children, and she wasn’t sure how long it would last. It cost £11 – bit of a bargain in retrospect. I have been a bit reluctant to get rid of it – I’m quite attached to it in that stupidly sentimental way you are about some baby things (some I have cheerfully waved farewell to, others are tucked up in the loft, just in case of cousins, or babies of friends, or anything…!)

It was covered in cobwebs when I pulled it out, but it’s still OK. And because today was sunny and I had a Pimms after lunch and therefore was filled with sudden confidence that I coule create something COOL, I set about sanding and stripping it, and painting it with a watery undercoat using a Farrow & Ball sample pot I had kicking about – pretty much litereally – in the garage. I think that if I make it to a top coat, it will be Farrow & Ball’s French Grey. And, a quick mooch on Pintrest has given me a few ideas about what it could end up as…

Cot 5

Cot 4 cot 3 Cot 2 cot 1 cot 6

Aren’t they cool? Isn’t up-cycling GREAT? Will I ever finish this?? To be continued…

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Winter Smoke and a slice of Glasto.

I love the way that sometimes you can be searching for one thing, but while you are looking for that thing, you stumble across something else that just so happens to be completely brilliant. Looking for stuff on the internet is particularly great if you enjoy this experience (although you can easily lose whole afternoons doing this.) And so it was when I started looking for something to get Polly’s much-loved year 2 (Koala’s class) teacher,  Miss Smith – the fact that they share a name probably helps, but she is also a great teacher. We hear many happy reports of her style choices too; ‘Miss Smith likes very skinny belts,’ for example. So when I asked Polly what she thought we could get Miss Smith as an end of term ‘thank you for teaching me’ present, she just said ‘Koala’ (which, incidentally, is why that is a really stupid question to ask a 7 year old, but I seem to do a lot of my thinking out loud these days, which often leads to scenarios like this. I am obviously not going to buy an actual Koala; I think there are things that she would rather be presented with on the last day of a very long term, and I believe there may be immigration issues which I frankly have not got the time to deal with.) So I idly typed ‘Koala’ into Folksy, my favourite site for slightly unusual gifts, anything knitted, and interesting cards and prints.

And I stumbled upon this.

Koala

A very cool Koala, I think you will agree. A bit Oliver Jeffers-esque (EVERYONE, including our entire family, and apparently also Miss Smith, love Oliver Jeffers,) but just really simple and lovely.  It’s a 6 x 4 print; so we’re just going to pop the Koala in a frame for Miss Smith. I hope she likes the Koala, but I for one am smitten with the whole Winter Smoke collection by Mark B.  Other highlights include his narwhal (always nice to see), and many more:

Narwhal Raccoon

Slothotter

siamese

I like his style, and I like the thought of more original art around the place. Personally I am not stopping at the Koala – I’m planning to buy at least three more so I can frame some and put them up in the kids’ rooms. Interesting prints are a great and inexpensive – these prints are £6.50 each – way to decorate a room, childrens’ or otherwise. I need at least one for the living room… Oh, and they all come with a handwritten thank you note, or a gift message of your choice, and all the prints are signed. It’s this kind of thing that really puts independent retailers ahead. Attention to detail (and nice packaging) often wins the day in my book! Mark B’s website looks great too: take a look here.

Unrelated:

And as for Glastonbury, well this is one year when I would love to have been there (Arctic Monkeys!!!) But I think this is the performance I would most loved to have seen. Radiohead playing Karma Police at Glastonbury, 1997. Goosebumps.

If I don’t Know

Poetry Monday! Thank you to everyone who told me how much they enjoyed last weeks’ poem. I’m enthused by your enthusiasm, so today I’m including two poems! (enthused AND a bit indecisive.)

These are both by the brilliant Wendy Cope, who manages to be funny and insightful and sarcastic all at the same time, dispelling the idea of poets as lofty, miserable people who take themselves far too seriously. She even said recently

I’ve found that the most important quality is authenticity of voice – that is to say I’m put off if the poet seems to be using a special voice for poetry, rather than just being her/himself.”

I like her poems for precisely that reason. She writes as herself, in her own voice. These are both from the collection called If I don’t Know.

If I don’t Know

If I don’t know how to be thankful enough

for the clusters of white blossom

on our mock orange, which has grown tall

and graceful, come into its own

like a new star just out of ballet school,

and if I don’t know what to do

about those spires of sky-blue delphinium,

then what about the way they look together?

And what about the roses, or just one of them –

that solid pinky-peachy bloom

that hollows towards its heart? Outrageous.

I could crush it to bits.

A photograph? A dance to summer?

I sit on the swing and cry.

The rose. The gardenful. The evening light.

It is nine o’clock and I can still see everything.

*

Fireworks Poems

(Comissioned by the Sailsibury Festival to be displayed in fireworks)

I

Faster and faster,

They vanish into darkness:

Our years together.

II

Write it in fire across the night:

Some men are more or less alright.

*

I wish I had been at that fireworks display.

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On her Tiredness

I really love reading poetry, which is pretty much the most pretentious-sounding thing you can say without saying the same phrase in Latin, or something (don’t worry, I went to a comprehensive school, not Eaton, so I can’t speak Latin. Although I do know how to source poor-quality weed, if anyone is interested.

I don’t know why it sounds so pretentious though; poetry is ace. I was trying to think of how to explain what it is I like about it, and the best thing I came up with was that a good poem is like a good photograph, or piece of art. In the same way that you can look at a very ordinary scene or object and see it in a completely different way by looking at a great photograph or painting of it. Everyday human experience seen through a different perspective. The ordinary, made extraordinary. Or, the extraordinary made tangible. It works both ways. I guess I see poetry as art with words, and I like words, and that’s why I like it.

Anyway, a few years ago when the kids were smaller and I really couldn’t read novels at all (sleep deprivation and 400 page books just don’t mix,) I started to read a lot more poetry. Nice short poems that I could read without falling asleep halfway through. And one year, my mum bought me a subscription to The Poetry Book Society (geek-tastic moment there!) They send you a new poetry collection book four times a year. The first book was called Pessimism for Beginners (great title!) by Sophie Hannah. This was the first poem.

On her Tiredness.

When I consider how my night is spent,

Either awake, or waiting to be woken

From my leased sleep, and never an unbroken

Ten solid hours, I wonder: was I meant

For gigs like this? Somebody should invent

Sleep substitutes, maybe a sleep gift token.

Suddenly, it’s as if a voice has spoken,

As if this voice was heaven-sent:

‘It’s not essential to be sleep deprived.

Everyone has their limit; you’ve reached yours.

To struggle on would not be right or fair.

The Lord is quite impressed that you’ve survived

This long. Invest some cash in a good cause;

They also serve who hire a Swiss au Pair.’

With perfect timing, someone had just summed up, far more wittily and succinctly than I was able to, my awful sleep deprived state. That point in motherhood where you exist in a zombie-like state, dreaming – in an abstract sense -of sleep. ‘Leased sleep’. Yes! That’s it – like your sleep is never your own! ‘A sleep gift voucher’ – OH! The best idea ever! And the line ‘was I meant for gigs like this?’ – just very reassuring to hear someone voice that out loud (well, on paper anyway.) I know a few people who are in the zombie-phase right now; I hope this helps. Although not as much as a Swiss au-pair might….sorry.

So – poetry. Yeah!

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Screw Cancer

I’ve got two lovely friends who have suffered from cancer in the last year, Hattie and Rachael. Hattie has been through surgery and chemotherapy and is now in remission; Rachael is still engaged in her ass-kicking battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. They have both been completely incredible and faced everything with such grit and determination and grace. They are both doing the Race for Life in Bedford this weekend, along with a small army of friends. If you want to read more about their fundraising efforts, you can on the Parklife blog here. Inspirational.

Rachael had found a beautiful graphic created by an Australian designer, Danielle Tiedeman. Danielle’s sister had also fought Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and very generously allowed Rachael to have it free of charge. Rachael wanted it on a t-shirt, for the race for life.

Well I know some t-shirt suppliers. And some excellent printers.

Look what a bit of collaboration can achieve.

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A whole family vow to screw cancer!

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Expertly modelled here by the fabulous Gemma (correct model height, too!)

Tomorrow there will be loads of people running through Bedford wearing these, sold to raise a bit of extra cash for the Lymphoma Society.

If you want to sponsor the Screw Cancer girls, you can here.

Screw it. Screw it real good. Screw Cancer!

Be Awesome

I have written about my Hadley Freeman crush before on here, but I have basically no shame. I’ve been excited about this book for ages, and now I have it. And even before I had read the first chapter, I knew I would love it. Hadley, you had me at the opening quote:

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” Nora Ephron.

In addition to this, the cover is soft and flexible, not an unwieldy hardback with a dust jacket to bend and rip and then lose, and may I just say that the font is EXCELLENT.

I’m a third of the way through, and it is quite simply brilliant. I can completely recommend it to all modern ladies.
(And modern gentlemen too.)

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