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Cutting and sticking

How to keep entertained on these long winter nights?  You could write long Norse sagas – and with “Beowulf” in the cinema, your time could have come here – or go for a little low-level entertainment with some cutting and sticking.

Now lots of options for what you cut and stick. I’m not advising that you have to go full scrapbook mode.  I got teased at home while growing up for constantly cutting things out of magazines – recipes in particular, but other things that were of interest.

Probably back to the journalism side of being keen on lots of different things.  This, coupled with a good old fashioned “this could come in useful” attitude, resulted in a lot of piles of newsprint, which finally made their way into scrapbooks.

So, card making, collage, papier mache…you name it.  Cutting and sticking allows you to re-read your magazines or newspapers, end up with a larger pile of paper to recycle (for high inner smugness values), stick a few of them in a scrapbook, or bung them in a useful folder, and hopefully look at them again.

Trouble with cutting and sticking: are you really going to re-read the things you keep?  This was the trouble before.  How many of those recipes did I use?  How many articles on nice white painted houses do you need for inspiration?

You can of course do the smaller version, which is editing what you’ve already got stashed away.  Less cutting, more freeing up existing scrapbook pages, or the equivalent.  But I probably shouldn’t be admitting to this degree of introversion.

Perhaps the really good side is the rediscovery.  Kate Muir’s ode to the food van at the top of the Rest and Be Thankful.  A particular recipe that you’ve done, loved, forgotten, and your heart leaps to see it again.

We are happy to reread a book.  To listen to a song, time and time again.  To put on a piece of clothing that makes you smile.  Why not reread an article?  Partly because there are so many of them, so many angles, so many tiny snippets to consider revisiting.

Anyway, come and retrieve me when you hear the scissors hit the floor.

Four wheels good, two feet bad

Time for an outing, and a return to flat-pack world, aka IKEA.  Today’s mission: to secure thin shelves and cupboards for our bathroom, so we can order a mirror for the remaining space, and allow O to finish things off.

For those without a car, trips to IKEA take on…well, certainly not mythical status, but there’s a certain amount of planning that goes on.  Today’s version was also to work out what we could feasibly carry back on the bus and still come out with enough items to make the trip worthwhile.

What struck me was just how tricky these big retail parks make things for pedestrians.  We started off in an electricals shop nearby to suss out some kitchen appliances.

To make our way across from that to IKEA involved cutting across corporatised planting at the edge of one scheme, heading up a slope, and trying to avoid the cars boiling out of the IKEA carpark in order to get across that to the front door…

Mind you, this seemed easier than the pedestrian crush on Princes Street, where a certain section of scaffolding was resulting in people having to go off pavement, and into the bus lane…

I understand that out of town shopping expects you to have a car.  I am properly grateful for any bus stops located near these areas.  But at least big supermarkets have pedestrian walkways, or equivalent, in order to cross their car parks.

Lest I suggest that having four wheels makes it easier to buy more than you need, I too rely on others with cars when we have need of a bigger load from furniture places and the like.  I twist arms here and there to have things collected from our place that we can’t get to the tip on our own.  I respond well to the local council collecting recycling from my door step.  And so on.

Thing is, so much of the UK is set up for having your own transport.  While we bemoan traffic getting heavier in Edinburgh, I don’t see much sign of areas out of town being encouraged to work without cars.

I read in the paper yesterday of a new development in the middle of Edinburgh, which was trying to make it mandatory for tenants to do without cars. One of the immediate responses was to be concerned about car owners in neighbouring streets being squeezed out by newcomers agreeing to the ruling but then sneakily a) owning a car after all and b) parking on the side streets.

Nothing like community spirit eh?

Nota bene

I’m ready for next year.

This doesn’t mean I’m doing away with Christmas (although an interesting T2 article on doing without it, and music (it being annual No Music Day today), for a limited period of time, in order to enjoy them more on getting them back).

A few years ago, I started my Useful Notebook option.  Up til now, it’s tended to have been bought in Italy on holiday, while Esselunga had their fun covers with different fruit and veg (John Lemon and all that – lemon in JL shades).  Today I braved the student union shop at Glasgow Uni, and got my notebook for next year.

Hard to choose.  I could have saved rhinos buying one notebook, or used recycled tyres or drinks cartons with another.  I’ve ended up with something called a Pukka Pad, which rather sounds like I’m only allowed to use it for comments relating to Jamie Oliver.  However, it will do the trick for what I need.

This notebook, it’s a place of Lists.  Move over Robert Crampton… I don’t have bike ride stats in (one of his Lists), but it does come in handy for noting what we’ve bought for people’s birthdays and Christmases, measurements of gaps that require furniture or shelves, that kind of thing.

I’ve also used it as a place to write a bit of a diary of what we’ve done on holiday, as it’s quite nice to remember where we were when, what we saw/did, etc.

The notebook also started out as an exercise in perspective.  I started the first one in 2002, having come out of a difficult six months or so before, with the view that if I thought about life differently, it might well mean I felt differently about it.

In the dark days of November, and feeling a little low at the moment, it’s not bad thing to start the new book, with a sense that there will be good things in 2008. In fact, I’m sure of it – it’s one of the Big Birthday seasons that runs in both sides of the family every few years, when there’s various birthdays ending in 5 or even 0, so lots to celebrate.

Lists, notebooks, they are open to interpretation.  You could see it as ‘all that stuff I did’, or ‘all those things I can’t manage, and feel bad about’.

I did have a separate task book, more reminders really, and have stopped using that – felt too bad at all the stuff that wasn’t happening at home, when in fact it was fine, and there was loads going on at work.  At the moment, there’s a certain amount going on in both camps – for which three cheers.

But as the thirties move on, life blurs a little more, separate years are less distinct in the memory. It’s nice to note a few things, be clear where I’ve been at a certain stage in life.

Noting well, and noting the good.  Thankfully the memory takes over, and helps shine up the good, down play the bad.  The notebook helps us remember how it felt – and how much has happened since.

Sunday roast

You know the signs.  Interest in gardening, cardigans, family history…among the list of signs that you are getting on.  (Some of us have liked cardigans for a while, but we won’t dwell on that.)

Perhaps one of mine is an interest in a little more tradition for the weekend, or something to mark the fact that the weekend is a time to slow down.  I’ve probably already written about my cooking phases, and the fact that roasting chicken in different ways is the current focus.  So here’s my chance to champion the Coop, and their chickens that are organic, reasonably priced, and even better, delicious!

But alongside this, starting to think about ‘oven economy’, and how to get best use out of the oven when it’s on.  Last weekend and this, trying to do some baking while the oven’s on.  I wouldn’t claim to have this sussed – and in fact, the aim is to get a double oven so I can only have the appropriate bit on when I need it, or cook things together at different temperatures.

I know that in the past, there were different days for different household tasks.  Washing day, baking day, etc.  I don’t know that I’ll ever get as far as a fixed baking/cooking day (and I certainly don’t want to have a washing day – three cheers for washing machines!).  But I certainly agree with Nigella et al that there is something soothing about cooking various things together.

It allows for a different rhythm to part of the week. How much of the rest of the week allows me to do one kind of activity (apart from sleeping, I suppose) for more than an hour or so? Life at work can get very fragmented – certainly felt like this last week, settling back in and going from task to task, or even bits of tasks, before being pulled on to something else.

There is a sense of peace from doing these things that permeates into the start of the week.  Knowing that there is more ‘already done’ for the next few days makes it easier to deal with that unhappy bump back into Monday mornings.

Maybe the nicer side of getting older is realising that there are certain patterns to life, and that we can choose which patterns help us, which to take on as our own.  Alongside this, our concern about what others will think starts to wane.  So hurrah for cardigans, Sunday roasts, and slippers…


Haystack 101

Another title I planned a while ago, and on a much happier note.

I’m no expert, but I’m fond of the odd haystack. Bountiful nature and all that.  Going on holiday to the Isle of Jura most summers when I was growing up, a relative there still had a smallholding, and you could see him out in the fields, gathering and forming the stooks by hand.

Later, there were the ‘burnt cupcake’ haystacks of Monet, in shades of pink and blue, as well as more strawy colours.  One year I discovered the upstairs floor in the National Gallery in Edinburgh, which has quite a collection of these.

Monet got a bit obsessed by these – as he did by waterlilies and a few other things – but it’s amazing the number of different colour combinations he comes with.  Much of the time, though, the stacks remain the same shape.

I was going to say you can imagine my delight when… – and it wasn’t really as strong as that – we got to see loads more variants when on holiday in Poland this summer.

But really, when you’ve grown up with square bales, roly poly round bales, and perhaps the handgathered wigwam type, I was struck by how many other variants you could come up with, should you have the time, energy, and more importantly, enough straw needing drying.

What was more impressive was how many there were in a relatively small area.  We had been staying in Warsaw and came down on the train to Zakopane, the main mountain resort in the south.  After Krakow, the train meanders for a while, in and out of foothills, for a couple of hours.

In that time, we saw I think seven different variants, including ones with ‘ears’, ones that looked like double axles, etc.  A couple of years further back, we saw another variant in Slovenia, where there are covered drying racks in many fields, something that seems to be distinctive to that country.

My question is: who teaches them how to do that?  Is it set for the area, or is it up to the farmer’s own choice – and perhaps time?  It’s not that the hills are so high in that part of Poland that you are really cut off from other areas, as you could argue you might be elsewhere, as an explanation for why so many types remain.

Perhaps it’s also that in the UK, we’ve been told how mechanised farming has become, how industrialised, effectively.  Travelling up to Aberdeenshire in September to meet incoming students, where field after field was full of identifcal cotton reel bales, you had some sense of this.

Yes, it was quite pretty, but you also lost sense of how far you’d been travelling after a while. Which is why it was nice to see in contrast such variety, ingenuity – and personality.

Making hay while the sun shines eh?  It’s a lifestyle thing.