Why Oh Why Do I Do It?

You know how it is. We all have these bad habits, things we wish we didn’t do but somehow when it comes to it we do them anyway. A voice inside says, You know you’re going to regret this, but another voice says Aw, go on, how bad can it be? So you do the thing.

I’ve had one of those days today. A blog post over on Beetleypete was talking about the number of spam messages it received: 300 a day. Yikes! Having read it I headed back here to check how many there were in my spam folder. None! That was surprising: I didn’t know whether to be pleased or insulted that no spammers had thought it worth their while to contact me. Incidentally I get plenty on my email, the latest of which tried to persuade me that my LinkedIn account was in danger of being closed down unless I etc etc etc. Use my username then! Don’t just call me ‘dear LinkedIn user!’ Anyway, having been deprived of the tiny little frisson of checking out what idiotic messages were in my spam folder, I turned to the trash and immediately wished I hadn’t as lots of contributions from my last troll were still lurking in there.

As I say, it’s been one of those days: this morning I put a couple of items on freecycle and instead of waiting a while and then selecting, I replied to the first one who could be bothered to write a proper email (ie instead of can I have pls). Alas! Though this person said they could collect early afternoon I haven’t heard a dicky bird from them since.

On the plus side I went to the Outwoods today, which was lovely.

Kirk out

Was That Really Just Two Days?

Well! What a weekend it’s been! As I’ve said before I have little or no interest in football but I couldn’t help but be caught up by the feverish anticipation before last night’s match. As I went to bed I found myself checking results but just before I switched my phone off it was still one-all. I was wondering what they do in those circumstances ie if no-one has scored after extra time and of course – duh! – it’s a penalty shoot-out. Which we lost. Hey ho. Still the mood seems to be one of sombre appreciation rather than angry disappointment, so that’s good. Also interesting to contrast the leadership styles of Gareth Southgates and Boris Johnson: ‘I take full responsibility’ vs ‘it’s all your fault.’

But before all that there were two tennis finals to watch. And what a final the men’s was! You had to favour Djokovic to win but I hadn’t expected Berrettini to play so brilliantly – his serves and forehands took the first set from a subdued Novak who also seemed rattled by the appreciation of the crowd for his opponent, but the Serb came back in the second set 6-4 and took the remaining two sets 6-4,6-3. But it was a battle and at times it looked like going to five sets; even the last few games were a tussle. It was a longish match, too; the first set took over an hour and the whole thing was nearly 3 1/2 hours. I had to phone the mattress guy who was expecting me by five. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said, ‘I’m watching it too.’ When I got there he was wearing a t-shirt that said ‘England: disappointing football fans since 1966.’ But I digress. It was a well-earned victory by Djokovic and a very impressive fight by the Italian.

So: the mattress. I had asked for this on Freecycle a while ago as our (very cheap) mattress has outstayed its welcome and taken to poking us in the back. But at the time he said he’d offered it to someone else, so I forgot about it. Then yesterday he emailed saying they hadn’t turned up (doncha just hate it when that happens?) so it could be mine. They live in Wymeswold, a lovely little village out to the East of Loughborough; I drove past Tudor houses and alongside a little stream which, too late, I discovered I had to cross by means of a tiny bridge, then up an alleyway to houses which look as if they were once stables. The people were very friendly and helped me put the mattress in the car. It now waits in our hall to be installed on the bed.

When I returned bearing mattresses the mixed doubles final was in full swing. This has suffered a diminution in status in recent years, which is a shame, and the crowd was obviously much depleted because of the imminent football, but I think mixed doubles is interesting because of the interplay of men’s and women’s styles. You had to admire the winning pair – there were two Brits on the losing side but also one on the winning team – especially the brilliant shot-making of Denise Krawczyk but also the power of the Brit Skupski. So that was all good.

On the Saturday I went over to Ashby to a local art exhibition in a church. My poem was displayed along with art and craft work done by local people; I was impressed by the quality of much of this. Then I went for tea with a friend who lives locally before coming back to watch the women’s final. This, too, was a great match and a well-deserved win by Ash Barty. Oh, and I went for a bike ride; that’s a total of 15 miles last week.

And I didn’t tell you about the ivy! This was perhaps my greatest achievement. Next door has an ornamental ivy plant (why people grow ivy deliberately I will never know; it is the most horrid stuff and basically defines ‘invasive’) which has grown over our shed roof. At first I amused myself by thinking that it looked like a large dog lying down but by last week the cute dog had mushroomed into a hound from hell: it was time to take action. I asked next door for the loan of some long-handled pruning shears and got to work. It was hard but there was a real sense of achievement in exposing the dirty work of this frankly odious parasite. The more you chop through ivy the more you realise how pernicious it is; it not only spreads everywhere but develops little hairy tentacles which burrow into walls and fences – and if you let it, it will grow thick hairy arms which will need to be sawn through or else chopped with an axe. I found one of these yesterday; it will be a delicate operation since I don’t want to chop through the fence as well.

And that was my weekend. How was yours?

Kirk out

Half the Sofas, Double the Posts

Something weird happened yesterday and I’ve only just twigged: not only did the sofa post reproduce itself (a tad ironic, since the post was about reducing the number of sofas) but it failed to include the saga of the toaster.  I don’t know how that happened but I think I can guess: I got lost between two blogs.  I knew I’d written about the toaster somewhere but I couldn’t find it, so concluded it must be languishing in the Drafts folder (things do a lot of languishing around here; they must be taking languish lessons.  Ho ho.)  Anyway, I did find it in a draft over on the other blog.  It gets very confusing having to sign out and sign in again as my profile over there is a Quaker one but over here I’ve doffed my Quaker hat and donned my Lizardyoga costume (incidentally did you know that the reason Quakers are traditionally shown wearing hats is that, as confirmed egalitarians, they refused to take their hat off to a ‘social superior’?)

I have a distinct memory of copying and pasting the toaster saga into yesterday’s post – yet when I checked, there it wasn’t.  Most mysterious.  Anyway, here it is:

Last week I went to a repair cafe, organised by Loughborough Transition Network, toting my defunct toaster in a big black bag.  It was a four-slice toaster and I was pretty sure that one side at least would still work but the knob wouldn’t stay down.  I passed the toaster across to a lovely guy who spent the next 3/4 hr on mending it; most of that time in trying to get the very stubborn casing to open.  But though the screw was stubborn Stuart was more so, and eventually we prised the plastic base off the metal housing and looked within to a hell-hole of dust and crumbs.

It’s part of the ethos of the cafe that you stay and watch the repair so that you learn from it.  I learned loads about the inside of a toaster, how there are magnetised parts inside which are brought together when the knob goes down and released when the timer finishes, and how once the element is gone there’s not much you can do except buy a new one (hardly worth it.)  Enough crumbs came out of my toaster to make a new loaf; and whether it was the cleaning of the crumbs or the polishing of the magnets or the stubbornness of Stuart convincing the toaster to give in and jolly-well work, he got it going again.  I did try to freecycle it but unfortunately the pop-up device isn’t working so it will stay with us as a back-up toaster.  But I can’t describe the satisfaction I got from having something mended that was previously defunct.  It really felt like one in the eye for pointless consumerism – and don’t even get me started on built-in obsolescence.

If you’re in Loughborough, check the transition blog for more details, and if not then google your nearest repair cafe.  You’ll thank me.

Kirk out

Felicitatious Laptopian Lagitude is Not Instantiated

I’ve gone all Latinate this morning because I am not a happy bunny.  What I don’t like is people who say they’re going to come around and pick up your laptop and then don’t show up.  And when said person arranges to come at the slightly inconvenient hour of 8.30 (presumably on their way to work) and you finish your yoga early so as to be ready and then they don’t show up which means you keep looking out of the window and can’t settle to work because you’re thinking, when would be a reasonable time to give up on them and go to the next person? – that’s what I call a waste of my time.

There’s no excuse for this.  So you get held up?  Message me.  Traffic jam, unexpected caller, plumbing disaster, car breakdown?  Just let me know.  Fair enough, if you or a close relative has been taken to hospital, I’ll let you off.  But otherwise…

Anyway I give this guy till 10 am, which I think is quite generous, then I go to the next person on the list.  The next person was also the previous person who didn’t get back to me in time but then messaged after I’d offered it on.  I said I’d get back to her if this guy was a no-show.  She said fine, I got back to her.  Voicemail.  I texted instead saying get back to me asap; and now we wait.  I’ll give them both till midday and then it will go to yet another person.

To be fair I rarely have this problem in Loughborough as mostly people turn up when they say they will; but it can drive you crazy.  In any case I really hate waiting for people, not because I’m impatient (though I may be) but because – and I hesitate to sound like a headmistress here – lateness is a discourtesy to others.  I once got into a rage with some people who failed to meet me in Madrid after I’d told them how important it was to me: turned out I’d got the wrong day.  Red face.  So now I try to be reasonable – because otherwise I’ll end up doing what other people on Freecycle do and post a rather testy message saying NO TIME-WASTERS or SERIOUS OFFERS ONLY.

Of course the definition of lateness varies with the situation.  If I’m sitting in a pub or a restaurant I don’t mind fifteen minutes or so, though it would be nice to know you’re on your way.  If there’s a group of us I probably won’t mind if you’re half an hour late.  But if we’re going to see a film and we miss the beginning then I’d probably get a bit annoyed.  Lateness is a variable, not a constant.

But flexibility in terms of time is something OH will never understand.  In typical all-or-nothing fashion he maintains that if you’re not on time – and that means bang on time – you’re late.  Two minutes is a miss, and a miss is as good as a mile: I’ve had to persuade him to enter a restaurant rather than turning round and going home, because we’re five minutes late – so in the frankly terrifying world of OH you might as well not bother because the people we’re meeting will have gone home.

I’ve just had a message from the no-show saying they meant 8.30 this evening.  So now I feel frustrated AND sheepish.  Bah!

I am not a happy sheep.

Kirk out




For The Love of Money

Recently my OH has got a bee in his bonnet about bitcoin.  In my mind bitcoin is a sort of gold-coloured object like the new pound coins which you bite on to see if it’s real.  But although OH has tried several times to explain what bitcoin actually is, I have no concept of it.  Apparently it’s a thing you make yourself, though what manner of thing I don’t know.  Maybe you need a 3-D printer?

One thing I do understand – bitcoin is an alternative to money which can make money.  At the moment, anyway, until everyone gets into it.

All of this reminds me somewhat of the Leaf.  The Leaf was an alternative currency used by Leicester LETS (Local Exchange and Trading Scheme) a group who offered skills and goods without the use of LSD.  By which I mean pounds, shillings and pence (hang on, that ought to be LP now…) anyway, the idea was to use skills and to exchange goods which would otherwise not be saleable in the mainstream economy.  Hence if you were good at gardening but without qualifications or experience, you could offer your skills, get paid in Leaves and then use those Leaves to buy, say, an old bike or some window-cleaning.

In theory it was great.  What led to its eventual demise was that people got just as hung up on the value of their leaves as they did about cash.  People ended up with leaves they couldn’t spend because either they couldn’t find what they wanted or there was a gap in the economy.  It was like having vouchers for McDonalds…

But my take on it was, it ought not to matter.  The point was not the Leaf per se; the point was to do things for each other which otherwise wouldn’t have got done, and to recycle things which would otherwise have gone to landfill (though Freecycle has now taken over this role.)

LETS groups tended to work best in smaller, contained communities where people already knew each other.  In a large city such as Leicester there were sadly too many people prepared to take without giving.

But I’ve strayed from my point, which was going to be this: in the end, no matter what currency you have, whether it’s bitcoin or Leaves or pounds sterling, none of it is real.  It is merely a system which everyone has agreed to treat as if it were real.  On the back of a fiver it says (I’m working from memory here since I don’t have any actual notes to look at) ‘I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of five pounds.’  In other words, it’s a promissory note.  It ain’t real.

And these days when we’re more likely to see figures on a screen than notes and coins, it becomes less real by the day.

It’s true – I’ve bitten it.

Which brings me  finally to the most often misquoted passage of the Bible.  It isn’t money that’s the root of all evil: it’s the love of money:


I think we can see this every day.

Kirk out




It’s Good News Week…

I gave my talk this morning at Tomatoes, to rapturous applause (well, some applause anyway); outlining why I had decided to give up Bad News for Lent.  First I did a bit of a ‘vox-pop’ asking people what they’re giving up; unsurprisingly their answers focussed on chocolate and sugar-based foods (one person even said they were giving up sugar in all its forms) though one person named caffeine and alcohol as their renunciation of choice.  So far, so predictable.  A late entry into the vox-pop was a child who claimed that they were giving up school for Lent – however the parents demurred, so we’ll have to see how that one pans out.  So.. having done the interviews I told them I was taking a different approach this year and giving up Bad News.  I talked about how much of it there is and how it brings me down, causes me to worry and feel depressed.  I ended the talk by saying my hope was that in giving up bad news I would make some room in my life for good news.

And thence to the bank where in spite of technical difficulties they printed out some statements for me so that I can complete the labyrinthine and frankly Kafka-esque process that is claiming Housing Benefit; and after that we hied us to Mountcastle Road to pick up a freecycled water filter.  This is something I’ve wanted for a while, though not having any spare cash, we haven’t bought one.

And so home.  This afternoon I shall be an International Woman at the Donkey.

Kirk out

PS Don’t forget if you want to comment you have to do so on here, not on Facebook.  This means you, Katherine Gilchrist!


How to Knit a Poem

Yesterday was a little painful; I freecycled some corrugated plastic from the shed and while I was pulling a bit out, a heavy table-top fell right on my foot.  I yelled and rushed indoors, to the consternation of the Freecycle-ee, and shouted to Mark to get the comfrey cream.  I slathered it all over and carried on; however, later I woke up after a nap (I’d had a short night) to find it throbbing so badly I could hardly walk.  And thus I stayed all evening with it propped up on a cushion, watching TV and moaning softly at intervals and calling for drinks and biscuits.

But! This morning it is much better: however, I will not be going to Philosophy as it’s still a bit tender and I don’t want to walk too far on it.

Now: I don’t know about you but I’m never short of subjects for poetry. And this weekend, in between all the monologues and the dancing I’ve been doing some knitting.  I had some lovely thick blue wool left from an aborted jumper which was just begging me to do something with it.

Now, I’m a rather bolshy knitter as I don’t like following patterns. There’s no leeway with a pattern; no its or buts; no ‘you can do it this way if you want: there’s no dialogue. All you get is ‘knit one, purl one, knit to end of row.’  That’s it.  No compromise, no dialogue; no ‘what do you think of this?’ or ‘how did that work for you?’  Just ‘do this, do that, do the other, knit to end of row.’

So I decided to just do it my way. How hard could it be?  And I created a hat and scarf all by myself.  I decided how many stitches to cast on and how long it would be and what the pattern would be.  And guess what?

Yep.  It’s utterly brilliant.  Except that… well, it was too wide at first so I had to make it narrower, and I couldn’t decide how long it should be.  So it’s kinda weird.  But funky!

And then I made a hat.  This time I adapted the pattern as I didn’t have the right size needles or the right thickness of wool; so I just reduced everything to 1/3 the original.

Simple, right?  Well, it started off OK but something went wrong at the end; and the resulting hat would be just right for a Smurf.


OK so now I have a weird and wonderful and utterly eccentric hat-and-scarf set.  What next?  Six-fingered gloves?

No.  I’ve learned my lesson with gloves – and the lesson I’ve learned is that they are bloody impossible.  So I’m not going there.

But I will most certainly get a poem out of this.  Watch out for it at Pinggk!



Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me, When I’m 64 Kilos?

I currently weigh 64 kilos.  That’s about 10 stone 4 in the old money, and rather more than I would like to weigh.  It’s within the acceptable range (acceptable to me, that is – bollocks to anyone else) but I don’t want it to get any higher: however I know from experience that deliberate dieting is not the way to go as it focusses my mind too much on food.  If I just let things be, they will balance out over time.  But!  Mark has set the bloody scales to kilos and there’s just too much fiddling about to get them back to stones.  I can just about handle the American system, though I think it’s weird, because all you have to do is divide by 14 and I can get a grip on it by remembering that 140 lb = 10 stone.  But with kilos you have to divide by 2.2 and when it comes to Decimal Points first thing in the morning then my brain goes all squirmy.

Sorry, Jan but there it is…

But! yesterday there was a serendipitous moment, a moment of connection when the two halves of your brain which have previously been travelling along separate tram-lines, actually meet and come up with a solution to the problems they had both been working on.  I’m sure there’s a word for this but I can’t be bothered asking Mark, so here it is: I have been thinking about how to reduce the compost in our bins and ultimately clean them out and start again, since the stuff in the bottom has got very compacted.  ‘But where shall I put all this compost?’ one part of my mind was chuntering.  ‘I’ve already bagged up as much as I can; the rest of it needs burying.’  Meanwhile, our garden pond has sprung a leak and I’ve decided to freecycle it.  The woman came along and took it (I was wondering whether she would find the place as she had previously phoned me and in the course of the conversation asked what my phone number was!!! so I was half-expecting her to turn up at the door and ask what my address was.  Anyway, she was perfectly happy with the pond, so deep joy all round.)  So I then had a hole in my garden.  ‘What shall I do with this hole?’ I was wondering – and then in one glorious swoop of ‘Duh!’ the answer came to me: fill it with compost!

And I did.

Still have loads left though.  Anyone want any compost?

Kirk out

A slight head-cold on both your houses

Listening to the Labour Party conference and thinking, What does anyone (oo!  I wrote ‘nayone’ first of all – interesting) – what does anyone stand for any more?  Thatcher may have been abominable but at least you knew what she stood for, likewise Michael Foot.  But since Blair politics have become bland and slippery; the parties have shifted ground so often it’s as though they’re ice-skating (and on very thin ice) – and the best Ed Milliband can do is to try to distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ business.  Actually I thought it was quite a good speech, but when you’ve sold everything off basically there’s little governments can do about anything at all because it’s the markets that decide everything.  And they know this.

I had a dream last night in which I was saying something about the Labour party and a voice said, ‘How do you know that?’  I looked up to see that I was sitting in the pub with Michael Foot and another Labour PM who I can’t remember.  ‘What did Foot say about Ed Milliband?’ asked Mark.

‘I don’t know – it was a dream,’ I said.

‘I think dead people in dreams are important,’ he said.

Mark had a weird dream once about his dead grandfather.  I’ll tell you about it some time.


The good news is that Holly has a new bed!  Nerissa was freecycling one and we took the ends off and carried it here where I spent a very sweaty – and sweary – hour putting the bloody thing together again.  sounds like Humpty-Dumpty and I wish that like him, I’d been able to use the screws to do just what I wanted them to do.  But together it is and we wait to see whether Holly has slept better.  She is very pleased with it anyway.

So the old bed will now go to Ceri.

Today I shall be mostly… seeing Conrad and editing stories for a competition.

Kirk out

It’s over for another year

Finally did my tax return yesterday.  Got my user ID, a handy 12-digit number, then it asked for my password.  I asked them to email a password which they duly did.  Triumph!  Er – no.  It wouldn’t accept my password.  Another call to the helpline, actually answered within the hour this time.  The woman asked if I had on the “auto-complete”.  I said I did.  “well, there’s your problem”, she opined.  Overjoyed to have actually located the problem, though also somewhat sanguine in case it didn’t work, I tried a different browser.  Yes!  It accepted my user name and password.  Now all I had to do was fill in the different sections getting all the relevant numbers, putting them all in the EXACT right format so I don’t get the irritating error message in bright red which makes me nervous even before I know what it is… and then it’s all over for another year.

Next year I’m definitely going to do it in plenty of time.

Got a rather stroppy email from someone on Freecycle to whom I inadvertently offered a mirror when I had already offered it to someone else.  thanks for nothing, he said.  A rather unhelpful response, I thought, though probably not untypical.  Interacting as I do with either church people or yoga people or friends or library staff or home edders, I am probably not used to how stroppy people are in what we laughingly call the Real World.  Ah well.  I apologised to him and said it was an honest mistake.  Not much more I can do.

Lunch at Peter’s tomorrow.  Today we visited Mrs Bridges’ where people kept leaving the door open.  It is very cold.

Also, Daniel has been to his girlfriend’s today.

Kirk out