97: the mental jukebox, Captain Vimes and ItsAllSueGravyBaby

Imagine your local pub’s jukebox permanently set on shuffle. (Give me a moment here to remember the days when I had a local pub with a jukebox – it’s been a while, after all). A jukebox filled with songs with songs from the last 70 years. Some of which you like and some of which you don’t, and you don’t get to choose what’s playing.

This is the mental jukebox – songs that appear in your head for no reason whatsoever in many cases. The song that’s in your head when you wake up. The one that’s triggered by some advert or other, or a random sample in something the kids are listening to. Sometimes it’s an earworm, a song that you’ve picked up along the day and that just won’t go away. In my case they have often appeared from nowhere. It’s oddly specific at times: it’ll play a cover version rather than the original. Those of you who see me over on Facebook (other social media platforms are available) will know that I share some of the less embarrassing musical moments, and I’m quite sure that my friends are grateful I don’t share the rest.

This morning, for example, the mental jukebox treated me to The Hippopotamus Song by Flanders and Swann. I don’t know why, but there we are.

Earlier in the week, in no particular order, we’ve had:

In the name of sanity I have given in and generally just enjoy what’s being played (except when it’s Julie Andrews. A line has to be drawn somewhere, after all). Sometimes I even sing along.

Finally on this week’s playlist I give you ch-ch-ch-ch- Changes by David Bowie and a….

…brilliant David Bowie segue into my heroes this week…

…and they are (once again in no particular order) Joe Lycett and Jack Monroe, aka @BootstrapCook for not sitting down and shutting up. You may well have seen them in the news this week, but in case you’ve been hiding under a rock…

Joe Lycett ‘leaked’ a spoof version of Sue Gray’s report into so-called ‘Partygate’ and the repeated alleged breaking of the Covid rules by the government. In a classic case of ‘first line only’ information gathering this apparently sent Westminster staffers into a tailspin, with panic dialling to MPs and frantic headless chickening. The email address ‘ItsAllSueGravyBaby@aol.com’ was not enough to let our leaders know this wasn’t an actual leak… Joe followed this up with a wonderful, emotional open letter about why he’s so angry.

Joe Lycett’s open letter

Jack Monroe also got angry, this time about the rise in the cost of living for the poorest end of society with basic food prices rising up to 340% – read it here – which has led to her working with the Office for National Statistics on a project called the Vimes Boots Index. As a former food bank user who struggled to feed herself and her son on £10 a week, she knows what she is talking about and has tracked food prices for more than 10 years. The ONS are now exploring better ways to track inflation and the Terry Pratchett Estate have given permission for the use of the Vimes Boots Theory to support this. If you don’t know the Vimes Boots theory of socioeconomic unfairness, see below….


You can help Jack Monroe build the Vimes Boots Index by sharing your receipts (with identifying data removed) – either old online shops lurking in your deleted mails or clearly scanned paper ones from the bottom of your shopping bag collection – at vimesbootsindex@gmail.com. It’s not fair that a ‘dine in for £10’ deal with luxury meal, wine and pudding has remained fixed for 10 years while at the other end of the scale Iceland is losing customers to foodbanks and some of Asda and Tesco’s own staff are relying on benefits to top up their wages so they can feed their families.

See you next week.

Kirsty x

The Golden Basilisk/The Diamond Sphinx – Maria Andreas

Radio: The Compass – Why We Play (BBC World Service)

Torchwood Tales (BBC Audio) – Audible

96: Everything louder than everything else

This week I was sad to hear that the incomparable Meat Loaf has died at the age of 74. London sister and I saw him at the O2 on the Last at Bat tour in 2013 and he was struggling then – the voice was going and he was using oxygen off stage, presumably to help with his asthma. It was still a great show – it was celebrating the Bat out of Hell anniversary, so interspersed with the songs were video interviews with Jim Steinman, ‘Mighty’ Max Weinberg and others. It was a memorable show but we were pretty sure we wouldn’t be seeing him live again.

While I wouldn’t say Mr Loaf was one of my all time favourite artists, he’s not far off – not just because of the the music but because of the memories that go with them. Dead Ringer for Love casts me back to the Nag’s Head in Monmouth, while Paradise by the Dashboard Light is a road trip favourite. All his songs – dramatic, not theatrical according to Meat Loaf in an interview with Terry Wogan in 1982 – are perfect for singing along to in kitchens, pubs and cars even when you are not a singer (like me). His style has been described as ‘blustery, wounded romantic-on-the-brink-of-a-breakdown’. Loud is the key – ‘everything louder than everything else’, in fact – and with passion, much like himself. Meat Loaf was larger than life himself – funny, personable, engaging, entertaining.

Primordial Radio were playing a lot of Meat Loaf yesterday while I was crafting and each song raised a smile. Many friends have shared their own favourite songs on social media, referencing pubs and old friends – recollections of VI form or college, in many cases. Could you ask for a better legacy as a singer? RIP, Marvin Lee ‘Meat Loaf’ Aday.

The rest of the week

Has been pretty much business as usual, to be honest – a trek to south Kensington, another one to Hackney Wick and a lot of meetings in between. My favourite geeky friend has her birthday today so yesterday I had fun making her gifts while singing along to the radio – a dice bag and a pair of earrings. I made mermaid scale ones and bat wing ones – using dolls house miniatures – and took a vote on which I should give to her. Her husband had already ordered the Lego bat ones! The dice bag has Lord of the Rings fabric with purple (her favourite colour).

My adorable nephew/godson is in a Harry Potter phase, so a snowy owl winged its way over to NI for his birthday this week, and the 9 and 3/4 cross stitch (with glow in the dark outline and Gryffindor colours backing) is off to Yorkshire.

Neon Pikachu is going slowly….black aida is a pain to work on but the colours look amazing.

This morning the lake was 2.5 degrees and the swimming lane was limited by sheets of ice – we lasted 10 minutes (most of which was getting in!). Madness but the mental reset is so worth it.

Mummy tummy and all. L-R – Isla, me, Sue, Jill. No Rachel!

See you next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Sapphire Manticore/The Golden Basilisk – Maria Andreas

Torchwood Tales (BBC Audio) – Audible

95: hello North Weald…again

This week started with the postponement of the final night of The Socially Distant Sports Bar’s live tour, which had been scheduled for Cardiff Motorpoint Arena the night before the Wales vs Scotland game of the Six Nations. My gig buddy Jen and I were looking forward it it: a night away with comedy and perhaps one (or two) drinks, and a good catch up since she has left London and is now living in the frozen North and watching birds for a living or something. It’s not the first thing that’s been put back a few months – Damien Jurado was rearranged for April, for example, but I was really, really looking forward to a night of belly laughs and to being somewhere else again.

I like live entertainment – whether it’s a decent pub band or Bruce Springsteen at Wembley, a small folky gig or a comedy night, a play or a musical. The best gigs – no matter how big they are – give you a sense of intimacy, a shared experience even in the most soulless of venues (the O2 at Greenwich, for example). Generally the people around you are fans too, or at least music fans, and they are willing to be carried away on the same wave: the roar when the intro of a fan favourite kicks in, or the big hits. There are shared moments from previous experiences: Jen and I were haunted by a very loud drunken person for several gigs, who we never saw but we knew he was there by his frequent bellows of ‘Play Wonderwall! Play Wonderwall!’ in between songs or when the singer was chatting. Jen and I have never seen Oasis together, so we are always a bit mystified by this. He was at a gig when I was there but Jen wasn’t, which felt quite wrong and I had to text her so she could share.

I’m not surprised the gig was postponed and I know it’ll be great when it finally happens, but I’m so tired of not being able to look forward to things any more because it just makes the disappointment of postponement that much worse. If Covid could sod off now I’d really appreciate it, please and thank you – that’s something we are all looking forward to.

Who doesn’t need a mini-me?

Just before Christmas, in an issue of Inside Crochet (issue 143), there was a little pink haired doll who reminded me of my last line manager Andrea – knowing she had a birthday coming up in January I made it and packed it off to sunny Leigh-on-Sea.

I’ve also been messing about with some jewellery ideas, so watch this space – I really shouldn’t be allowed unsupervised on ebay, but there we are. Ten more pigs in blankets are underway, a neon Pikachu cross stitch, a couple more snowy owls – not enough time in the day, it seems!

See you next week, when I might be a lot less disgruntled. More gruntled?

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

The Glass Gargoyle/The Obsidian Chimera/The Emerald Dragon – Maria Andreas

Torchwood: The Radio Dramas/Torchwood Tales (Audible)

94: absolutely pants

Back in prehistory, before there were children, when I was young and mostly irresponsible and drank far too much Mad Dog 20/20 on nights out and other such unwise things, underwear was mostly impractical, lacy and – in the case of the Wonderbra – designed to make the most of my very limited assets through the cunning application of scaffolding and cantilevering and other miraculous feats of engineering.

How times change, eh? These days what I mostly look for are underwires that aren’t going to stab me halfway through a meeting and multipacks of pants in the right size and shape in Tesco. No one should feel too much sympathy for my beloved at this point: I am sure he’d far rather I wasn’t being tortured by my bra than anything else. My frustration often lies in the fact that the sizes left in the supermarket are either for skinny twigs or the larger trees – or if there are any in my size they are enormous ‘granny’ pants in some hideous shade of beige or soon-to-be-grey white. Supermarket pants also tend to be made of very thin cotton lycra fabric and trim which has a lot of stretch but frays easily.

Solving this problem became much easier when I bought an overlocker and began to make my own. You can make your own underwear with a normal sewing machine as long as you have a reliable stretch stitch and the ability to vary the length of your stitches, but at the time my basic Brother machine didn’t have that capability. The overlocker means you can whip up multipacks of your very own in short order.

The first ones I made were the amazing Wonder Undies by Waves and Wild, closely followed by the Speedy Pants for the children – Thing 2 absolutely loves them and I have made multiple pairs for her since. I love the fact that you can choose the waist rise and the leg style and that once you have the hang of it you can make them really quickly. I also love that you can use sensible colours or take advantage of all the mad prints out there – Thing 2’s favourites had unicorns all over them and I love my rainbow ones. This week I discovered Rad Patterns (another NY resolution gone….) and their Lucky Booty pattern. I really like the fact that Rad offer accessible patterns – wheelchair friendly skirts and tops with medical port access, for example.

You also get to make matching bras/crop tops – Waves and Wild came up with their Superstar Bra last year and Rad patterns had a few styles already. The rainbow one below is the Watson bra by Cloth Habit. The Watson also comes with a bikini pant pattern – I haven’t tried that yet but I’m sure I will. This afternoon I’ll be making up the Lucky Lingerie bra and some Wonder Undies for Thing 2.

The only trouble I have found is that home-made pants look absolutely ENORMOUS next to shop-bought – but they feel amazing (‘like a hug for your butt’ as one sewer put it) and last forever. If you haven’t had a go at making your own yet, you’re missing out.

It is, of course, only a small step from pants to swimming costumes – I embraced my inner mermaid this week and made a completely mad two piece using another Rad pattern (the Renee swimsuit) for the top and the Oasis pattern by Ellie and Mac for the bottoms. I wore it this morning for our winter swim (5°c in the water, 1°c out – brrrr!). The fabrics are foil prints from Pound Fabrics in emerald and a fabulous fish scale print which changes colour when it moves.

This week saw the last leaves added to the 2021 Temperature Tree – it’s been quite a ‘flat’ year for temperatures, so let’s see what 2022 brings. I’m doing the Climbing Goat Designs Rainbow Temperature Galaxy this year. I should probably have used the same colour palette but I have gone with the same one as the designer used.

Anyway – I need to go and defrost a bit more, so I’ll be back next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Bridgerton (1-6)Julia Quinn

The Unhappy Medium – T J Brown (badly in need of a good editor)

93: new year, same old me

Ah, 2022 is here – let’s ignore the fact that a meteor exploded over the US yesterday and it was the warmest New Year’s Day on record, and assume (recklessly) that we’ll all be here for the next 12 months. Therefore, in the spirit of January and new beginnings, I give you my list of resolutions. Ignore the crossed out one two, I broke that one before breakfast on January 1st. But it’s always good to cross things off lists, I think – it’s motivational or something.

  1. Don’t take up any new hobbies before you’ve finished the last one.
  2. Finish the projects before you start any more.
  3. No, not even that one. Stop it. Get off Pinterest, Ravelry and Craftsy.
  4. Tidy the shed and evict the spiders
  5. Sort through your boxes.
  6. Get another shed
  7. Stop leaving the ironing for months
  8. Read the books on the shelf of shame
  9. Ditto the digital shelf of shame
  10. Don’t add any more books to the shelves of shame
  11. No, not even that one. Unless it’s on pre-order in which case it doesn’t count as you bought it last year.
  12. Go and see the bits of the V&A you haven’t bothered with so far since you have to be there
  13. Don’t buy any more yarn
  14. Or patterns
  15. No more fabric.
  16. Eat less, move more. Insist on more vegetables.
  17. Drink the gin
  18. See friends
  19. Walk more dogs
  20. The lake is cold. Get in it anyway.

That’s it, really. Tune in next week to see how I’m getting on.

What I’ve been reading:

The Essex Witch Museum series (all of them) – Syd Moore