British surrealist

Today Mirinda had book group so, after having a session at the gym, I headed off for London. I was planning to go to the Foundling Museum but, on discovering it isn’t open on a Monday, decided to go to Tate Britain instead.

The main reasons for going to the Tate were that I haven’t been for so long I’ve forgotten that I went and they are presently hosting a few pieces by Rachel McLean. I saw one of her video pieces in Edinburgh last year. Her work is, to put it mildly, seriously bizarre. It is also a lovely take on the world of social media and general acceptance.

As well as Rachel’s latest pieces, there is also a retrospective of the work of British artist Paul Nash (1889-1946).

Nash is held up as a leading light of British surrealism and his later paintings (and other art forms) attest to this but he’s probably best known for his WWI paintings. These, it turns out, are the only paintings of his I’ve seen before.

He started off as an illustrator and then moved onto painting, mostly the three big trees at the end of his garden. These first examples of arbour ardour reveal a lifelong love affair with nature…and trees in particular. And this is the beauty of the exhibition. Starting with the early paintings we follow his progress, viewing his own development as an artist.

It is a beautifully curated exhibition and one which brought to life an artist I didn’t know. Emma Chambers, the curator responsible, should be well pleased with it. I thoroughly enjoyed it as did the other people wandering around with me.

After learning all about Mr Nash, I headed upstairs to have a bit of a wander around the permanent collection. I took a couple of pannos, including this one of the Tudor gallery.

All round, a very enjoyable trip with an exceptionally easy bus ride on the 507 from and then to Waterloo.

Back at home, Mirinda had vanished. I thought she’d taken the dogs for an ill advised walk but no, they were in the laundry. Eventually she returned home – she’d been to the dentist.

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Rotten weather

It drizzled all day today. The sky was grey and the streets were damp. It was just like February. Farnham looked particularly yuck when I went shopping in the morning.

Mirinda had her usual Skype with Bob (no Fi this week) and then, before settling down to some serious DBA work, suggested we go to the gym.

This weekend was a Free Trial, Come In And Check Us Out affair at our gym. I’d forgotten but the sign loomed large and frightening as we drove Max into the car park. There was no need to fear. Perhaps yesterday it was rampant with New Year resolutionists but they were few and far between today. That’s not to say there weren’t a few.

I noticed a couple of small groups doing a ‘tour’ of the equipment upstairs while the regulars pumped and lifted, pedalled and trod while ignoring the visitors.

After an hour of jolly good exercise (for me, swimming for Mirinda) we headed back home for a late lunch before settling down to study and dinner prep (a slow cooked tagine).

No matter how hard the weather tried to make us miserable our house is so full of hyyge these days, it was never going to defeat us. Bring on February, we’re ready for it!

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Super smooth

Late last year I mentioned Becka, a new barista, and how she told me she had to work at Starbucks for three months before being allowed to make coffee. She was eagerly waiting for the day to arrive when she could do a little more than just clean up after other people. Well, her three months are up.

When I went into Starbucks this morning I was greeted by Chantelle saying hello and Becka jumping up and down with excitement asking if she could make my coffee. Of course I said yes. And while she had an expert teaching her (Chantelle is very good) she did enough of it to prove she can make one damn fine latte.

The thing with my latte is that it needs to be silky smooth. I don’t expect it in other cafes because it would take too long to describe but in Starbucks, Farnham, Sue insists that they are silky smooth, creamy and free of bubbles. Becka, naturally, is being taught to make them exactly like I love them.

The day was spent mostly indoors. Mirinda was working on her DBA and I was printing stuff for her. We did have a break when we went to the dump to get rid of the old black office chair from my office (who knew they go into the scrap metal bin?) and then a side trip to the garden centre for bird food, wood and glue…as you do. Also Mirinda took the girls to Farnham Heath for a run around, keeping a close eye on them both though I think Freya has finished being fertile.

Basically it was a lovely, hyyge Saturday.

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Emma’s season

The snow lay all about when the puppies went out for their ablutions this morning. Freya stood and stared at the white grass, a bit uncertain. She looked both sides of the path but she was surrounded. Eventually she turned around so that just her back legs were on the grass.

Emma looked a bit puzzled for a moment then she walked onto the grass and had a pee. She’s never fazed for too long.

I didn’t have work today but was going to pop along to an exhibition at the Wellcome but one look outside first thing convinced me this wasn’t the best idea. Most of the snow had turned to ice overnight and the path looked terribly slippy. Given my complete lack of balance and stupid feet, I decided to stay home instead. As it turned out, it was a good idea, because Emma has finally come into season.

It’s the first time (that we’re aware of). I only realised after she jumped off my lap and I spotted the blood on my trackies. It’s a very good thing because I beginning to wonder whether there was something wrong with her. It’s a bad thing because rather than three weeks, that’s now doubled given she started just as Freya is ending. Still, the good outweighs the bad.

Though now we have to be extra careful on walks.

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Emma’s delight

Given I have nothing particularly pressing this week, I decided to go to the gym again this morning. And so much for the January Effect. The numbers were almost back to normal. We’ll see what happens next Monday.

According to Mirinda, I need to do at least 150 minutes of cardio exercise a week. This week I’ve managed 180 so well on the way to a long and healthy rest of my life…with working legs.

Then, just before lunch, there was a big surprise for the girls.

The usual postman knock at the front door caused Emma to go into a yapping frenzy. She skidded on the front door mat, collided with the door, not bothering to stop her barking. Freya, confused but happy to join in the general melee, was jumping pointlessly next to her pretending she knew what was going on.

I opened the front door and the dogs immediately stopped their noise as they realised who it was. The postman held a finger up and said sit. Both of them sat and waited for the inevitable treats. Emma took hers into the hall while Freya couldn’t wait that long. The postman then handed me the mail, which included a parcel.

The parcel was addressed to E & F Cook so I handed it to Emma to open which she started to do in her usual rip and ravage manner. When she found what was inside she went a bit mad.

An elephant! Just what I’ve always wanted!

Mum had sent them a couple of new toys to replace the old Mutant Faceless Bear which has been reduced to nothing but a piece of ragged fur. Once Emma was completely occupied with the elephant, I gave the old bear a decent burial…in the bin. The new Mutant Faceless Bear went into the toy box for when the elephant is consigned to the traditional Elephant Burial Ground.

While the parcel was all that Emma could think about for the rest of the day (there was no walk because of the persistent rain) she was momentarily surprised by the appearance of snow.

It had been forecast to arrive in Surrey at about 5pm following a day of rain. What actually happened was the snow arrived in Surrey at 5pm following a day of rain. Sometimes the Met Bureau amazes me with its accuracy. The amazement possibly comes from them being so totally wrong most of the time.

While Emma gave it a brief glance between elephant games, Freya stood at the glass door and stared for a bit. She wasn’t sure. She went outside at one stage but it was too cold underfoot and she quickly returned.

Sadly the snow didn’t stick around very long because the temperature wasn’t low enough but it did gather on the terrace furniture for a while.

The white stripes are falling snow

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The January Effect

There’s snow been forecast for tomorrow afternoon. And freezing conditions. And rain. And wind. Probably not going to be very nice it’s safe to say.

Not that it was any of those things today. The sky was a sort of limpid blue with very slight cirrus clouds white washed across it. The temperature was mild for this time of year. In fact I wore a fleece to the gym but didn’t put it back on for the rest of the day.

Of course there was a slight, every-now-and-then breeze which reminded me it was January in the Northern Hemisphere but this didn’t happen very often.

In the park we had a jolly romp. Well, Emma and I did. Freya is still on the lead, being picked up every time a dog draws near. Sue suggested I just leave her at home but I really can’t bring myself to do that. So I keep her on her lead.

Actually I let her off for a bit today because I couldn’t see any dogs. She immediately raced off, heading for her favourite copse (yes, she has one). We both spotted the other dog at the same time. I started calling her. She looked at me, looked at the other dog and stayed put. This set me into Full Panic Mode.

I started striding towards her (she was at least 200 yards away) calling and cajoling. Finally she decided returning to me was better than waiting for the dog that was rapidly approaching. So rapid, in fact, that they both reached me at the same time.

The other dog was a bitch. Panic over, I put Freya back on her lead and told her she wasn’t running free again given she can’t be trusted. She clearly didn’t understand the impact.

Emma, of course, was only concerned with her ball…as usual.

Something else that reminded me it was January was the amount of people at the gym this morning (and Monday). There’s generally about five of us but this morning there was about 20, especially striding along the treadmills to nowhere. It was by no means crowded but it felt quite odd having so many people walking in a row.

Mirinda calls it The January Effect: The effect of too much Christmas cheer and the consequential effect of New Year’s resolutions. Maybe she’s right. I’ll see how long it lasts.

Squirrel Tree panno

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17th Night

Okay, I was a bit late. Twelfth Night was last Thursday. In fact, everyone in our street strictly adhered to the rule that lights and decorations need to come down on Twelfth Night. On Wednesday night there were lights galore, adorning nearly all the houses at our end of the street and then, as if someone had flicked a switch, Thursday night all was dark. Obviously we did the same.

It started with the removal of the lights, which I did on Friday and Saturday and then, today, the big job of stripping and removing the tree. The decorations were, as usual, quite fiddly.

There’s always the problem of missing one of two within the depths of the pine needles so a jolly thorough search is required. As it was I left poor Jason around the back! Though I did find him before the tree was carted off.

Having removed all (but one) of the decorations and scattered them safely about the dining table, I started on the lights. They are always a pain because the tree lights have to be carefully threaded onto a strange board. It requires quite a bit of forward planning otherwise it’s likely to go all wrong and have to be re-started. It can be very frustrating. The new cherry red lights and the icicles remain after orders from on high. They help with the Hyyge.

Eventually, the stripped tree was ready to become even more naked.

In order to properly dispose of the tree, it’s a lot easier if I strip all the branches off first. (When I say ‘dispose’ I mean it gets put in the wire stick groyne down the back of the garden. I don’t leave it on the kerb for some passing Labrador to pick up.) For this I parked up the barrow and got to lopping.

Eventually, all that was left was a big, naked stick in a dry holder. (The holder shouldn’t be dry but the puppies seemed to have developed a taste for what I’ve started calling ‘Tree Water.’)

This is easily transported away and the stand packed in the shed for another few years. All that remained was the non-drop pine needles…that had dropped.

Then came the long, laborious task of packing away the decorations. As I put each one away, I was under strict orders to photograph them so that we could create a Decoration Book, showing where each of them came from. This is going to be a very long job.

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London closed

Following on from yesterday (and Saturday), I was on a mission today. My mission was to take Mirinda’s Little Friend to her.

The plan had been worked out in infinite detail before I left the flat yesterday then re-iterated over the phone last night. The plan was simple. I’d go up to town after the gym, arrive at her office by about midday, drop off her phone then return to Farnham.

My first hurdle was the Tube strike. It started last night at 6pm and wouldn’t end until tonight at the same time. (This is always never the case because, quite rightly, the trains are never in the right place after a strike. Moving them becomes a big job in itself so what inevitably happens is the 24 hour strike extends into the next day except that everyone is working.)

Given I was only going as far as Embankment, I felt I could just walk across Hungerford Bridge (and back) without too much trouble. Of course I could have taken a bus but the queues (even at 11:30) were very, very long. Actually the end of the queue was over the bridge anyway so it made more sense to just keep going.

My walk by the Southbank Centre threw up a surprise in the form of a rather weirdly shaped and brightly painted seat.

Melted in the middle

As I continued my journey, I discovered more of these odd outside furniture styles dotted around. I love the way the Southbank is often decorated with unusual stuff. It’s reassuring that art still exists for the general public and not just hidden away in galleries.

Rather than artistic, Embankment Gardens is undergoing its usual horticultural change with the beds being ploughed and new plantings happening before spring arrives. You can’t see the tractor in the photo below but there is one…complete with plough.

I arrived at Mirinda’s office just before midday. I looked into her window to discover she wasn’t there (no surprise) so I continued on to the security desk where I declared my need to see her to the lovely security lady at the desk. She called Mirinda but with no result, explaining to me that she wasn’t in her office (no surprise) but she would send her an email. She also asked me if Mirinda had a mobile phone. I said yes and showed it to her.

After waiting for 15 minutes, the security lady asked me if there was anyone else I could contact. I went through a few names but none of them were around. Then I had the bright idea of texting someone from Mirinda’s phone (I don’t have any numbers in my phone except for Ben and he wasn’t at work). Genius! I texted Emma who Mirinda had assured me would be in the office.

Emma wasn’t in the office but she did respond very quickly, telling me she’d get someone to me ASAP. And, true to her word, someone called Kerry almost immediately turned up and took Mirinda’s Little Friend.

Just before I left, the security lady said I was very good to bring the phone in. I told her it’s what any Loving Husband would do, surely. She muttered that her Loving Husband certainly wouldn’t. I smiled; she smiled; I started for home.

And it was raining. I had a text from Mirinda asking if I’d already left but I was already halfway back to Waterloo and so didn’t have a coffee with her. But I did photograph another crazy bench.

The funfair chair

Eventually I made it home where, having calmed the puppies down, I started stripping the Christmas tree ahead of the Great Boxing Up for this year.

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Lobster boy

I didn’t sleep that well seeing as I was in a strange-ish bed with a fan right next to my ear. Still, it was lovely not having to rush around getting ready for a three hour trip into London.

Waking up in the flat is always lovely though the dawn chorus is sadly missed. I’m not sure that the clatter of the DLR, explosive shriek of seagulls and the noisy kids who seem to live on the street really qualify as a dawn chorus…but I could be wrong.

Anyway, we slowly settled into Sunday and, after Mirinda Skyped with Bob and Fi, we headed over to the Jubilee Line entrance to Canary Wharf (as opposed to the Canary Entrance to Jubilee Station) to meet Sally, Mark, Kate and Will.

Actually, to be completely honest, I went over as a sort of forward scout and Mirinda followed soon afterwards.

They all looked very well, none of them the worse for wear after their seemingly constant hours of Austrian skiing. (“Seven hours a day,” bragged Sally a few times.) And we were soon heading off for The Big Easy for lunch.

Of course we showed off Canary Wharf and the new Crossrail complex (complete with rooftop garden) before settling into our booth.

I was astounded at how busy the place was. I realise it’s popular after work during the week but who would have guessed it was so busy on a Sunday. Good job I booked us a table is all I can say.

It was at The Big Easy where we discovered how much Will loves lobster. For a 13 year old, he sure has a mature palate. Not only did he devour his own he also finished up everyone else’s. Not that everyone else had lobster. For one, I can’t stand lobster. I can only assume this is because my palate isn’t mature enough.


All in all, the detritus from Will’s lunch notwithstanding, we had a lovely lunch. We chatted about politics and education and envy and…well everything that can be uncomfortably fitted into 2.5 hours. Then, sadly, we had to part company as Sally was visiting a friend who was flying into London especially while Kate was forcing her father and brother to go up Oxford Street. (I could only shudder at this prospect, glad it wasn’t me.)

Before parting, we promised to come and visit them in Orange when next we’re in NSW.

Then, of course, I had the enjoyable trip home.

Leaving Mirinda at the flat, I managed to get a Tube train to Waterloo before the 24 hour strike could start (at 6pm tonight) then looked despairingly at the indicator boards. The engineering work was still causing delays.

I switched from a train to a bus at Woking and then sat for an hour with a crowd of other unhappy trainless passengers heading for Farnham. Still, I shouldn’t complain. It only took an hour longer and I managed to get a seat on the bus and a space under a shelter at Woking during the rain. Others were not so fortunate.

I popped around to Sue and picked up the dogs before settling in for the night.

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Unexpected journey

Ages ago, Sally from Orange sent me a FB message letting us know that she and Mark and Kate and Will were all coming to the UK again. We set up a tentative date to meet up for dinner. Then, much later we messaged again in order to refine the date and place. We finally settled on Monday January 9, meeting for dinner at Salieri’s at 6:30pm.

Then, yesterday, a nameless person (Mirinda) suddenly announced she had a work function on Monday night.

Everything was re-arranged for tomorrow. Dinner was changed to lunch, the location was changed to Canary Wharf and the restaurant was changed to The Big Easy. We figured that Mirinda could stay in town afterwards.

Then, this morning, while trying to work out what time we should leave tomorrow morning in order to get Canary Wharf Station (or Jubilee Station as Sally calls it) at the specified rendezvous time, it was discovered that there will be engineering works all day tomorrow on our line. This means that there are bus replacements all day. While not really a problem, because of the extent of the line closure, the changes would add an hour to the trip in. Mirinda found this intolerable.

We then thought we’d get a taxi to Guildford, or Farnborough, or Woking where the trains were fine. This wasn’t possible as every taxi in Farnham is busy tomorrow. Possibly everyone had the same idea as us.

Mirinda then suggested we go up to the flat tonight. I looked at the puppies and asked what we’d do with them. Mirinda then called Sue to ask if she minded taking them tonight. Sue said yes. In fact she was taking Pip for a walk and would come and pick the girls up on the way…which was handy because we hadn’t taken them for a walk yet.

And so the plan was made. We’d leave for London at 5:10pm, stay at the flat tonight then meet Sally and family at Canary Wharf/Jubilee Tube station.

All was fine as we packed up everything. Then came a knock at the door. It was Sue with the dogs. It seemed that Emma had had a problem evacuating her bowels. Her bottom was caked in poo. While prepared to clean it when absolutely necessary, she thought she’d try me first. I took hold of the lead and hosed down Emma’s bum. She wasn’t pleased. I then took them back to Sue before showering and leaving in the taxi we’d ordered.

All was well right up to when the train was leaving the station when Mirinda announced she’d left her little friend charging on the kitchen counter. I halfheartedly announced I’d get off at Aldershot, go home for the phone then meet her at the flat an hour after she arrived. She shook her head.

And so we continued on to the flat, stopping off at Waitrose on the way to do Mirinda’s weekly shop. It made a change dining at Cafe Mirinda rather than Chez Gaz.

And in possibly the first of a new series of Posts About Annoying People…When we boarded the train, Mirinda mentioned the fact that it was a Quiet Zone carriage. I said most people either ignored the fact or couldn’t read the sign. This was proven completely by a woman who joined the train at Surbiton and talked and talked and talked loud enough for everyone on the train to hear every word of her dull conversation. I found it very irritating though Mirinda somehow managed to ignore her.

And here is what the incredibly annoying person looked like:

This was when her phone signal dropped out and she was intently trying to get it back.

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