Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What I read in 2014

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters*
Her by Harriet Lane
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
A Cornish Affair by Liz Fenwick
The Murder Bag by Tony Parsons
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Public Battles, Private Wars by Laura Wilkinson
The Unknown Bridesmaid by Margaret Forster
The Friday Gospels by Jenn Ashworth
Life Drawing by Robin Black
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson*
The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding
Strength in Strangers by Lauren Britton
The Land of Decoration by Grace McLeen
Erosion by S A Hemmings
The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain*
Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
The Accident by CL Taylor
Secrets and Rain by Cally Taylor
The White Cuckoo by Annie Ireson
The Diary of The Lady by Rachel Johnson
Out of The Ruins by Sue Guiney
The Moment by Claire Dyer
The Rosie Project by Graeme C Simsion
Wake by Anna Hope
The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall by Paul Torday
All Change for Nurse Millie by Jean Fullerton
Woman Walks into a Bar by Rowan Coleman
Call Nurse Millie by Jean Fullerton
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
The Lewis Man by Peter May
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriaty
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood
Longbourn by Jo Baker

*Book Club choices

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

A tiny flaw in the plan...

Ahhh, so there was something of a weakness in my plan, wasn't there? On Sunday, did I not say something along the lines of "there were some good things in 2013 and I shall come and tell you about them"? No, no, it's not exactly that I've forgotten what they were; I do have photographic evidence to remind me what I did last year. I've, errrm, just forgotten the precise details. It transpires that I can only come here and tell you, er, vaguely what happened at the beginning of last year.

At the end of February last year I joined an excursion to a mozzarella making Buffalo farm outside of Bangkok. I have no idea now where it was but it didn't take long to get there. I expect if you wanted to know and Google couldn't tell you, I could find out. It was fascinating. I think. I learned lots about making mozzarella. I took lots of pictures. And I DO remember thinking you'd be as fascinated by the process as I was... Only beyond hot and cold water to shape the mozzarella into those rotund yummy balls, I'm all of a blank.

Still, I don't suppose there are many people who come to Tea Stains to learn anything... So, sorry and all that; apart from one picture that illustrates I DID actually see mozzarella being made, instead of any details whatsoever about the process, here are some pictures of the lovely, milk yielding buffalo:

LOOK! This is something to do with making mozzarella.

This is my best side.

Well, we ARE water buffalo...

Check out those eyelashes. 

What? It's mud; mud's good for the skin.

Hmmm, I'm a tiny bit freaked out by their cloven hooves.

Gorgeous girls

And my favourite picture of all....

Sunday, January 05, 2014

My wonky New Year

Has all that overt New Year optimism gone? Is it safe to come out now? 

I felt unaccountably low on New Year’s Eve, which Husband and I spent on our sofa watching the last series of Luther. Rock and Roll we're not.

I say unaccountably because yes, it had been a rotten year, but I couldn’t see why, on this random date, I should feel sadder than I had, I don’t know, the week before… (I know how arbitrary the notion of New Year is: here in Thailand we celebrate three New Years: 31 December, the Chinese one in Jan/Feb time and the Thai one in April. Useful, huh? Plenty of opportunity to reassert broken resolutions!)

We can’t breathe for ‘looking back and looking forward’ articles/statuses/programmes at that time of year and so perhaps, however reluctant, I’m hardwired to do some assessing of my own, whether I wanted to or not.

I didn't want. But yes, 2013 was a pretty crappy year for us lot. The Grim Reaper has been stepping out of the shadows, flicking his black robe menacingly and doing his stuff before sashaying back into the recesses. I am really glad to see the back of it.

But you know what was good? Ha! I laugh in the face of being out, drinking too much Prosecco… I woke up on 1 January feeling positive and ready for a new start: I’m either a cliché, or that’s genetically determined too. And life never is only awful, is it? There are always positives to see even if they are teeny weeny ones. Or sometimes, things need looking at from a different perspective.  I stood on my balcony at midnight this year, taking pictures of the fabulous fireworks display so that I could post them here, and look, they are probably the worst set of photos anyone’s ever produced. Almost every single one is out of focus and yet… I still love them - for this was my wonky New Year.

And that’s what I’m going to start the year blogging with: documenting those little tiny good things from last year and some of the GREAT BIG BLOODY amazing things too because  they were there and I missed writing them down on my blog.  If this year’s pitiful attempt at blogging counts, then Tea Stains has been here for seven years and it seems to me to be worth something.

So before I get more Pollyanna on you, I shall go. But I’ll be back.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What I read in 2013

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Benedict's Brother by Tricia Walker
The Girl on the Landing by Paul Torday
The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce by Paul Torday
The Hopeless Life of Charlie Summers by Paul Torday
Light Shining in the Forest by Paul Torday
The Twins by Saskia Sarginson
Something Beginning With by Sarah Salway
House of Silence by Linda Gillard
Stoner by John Williams*
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James
Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvette Edwards
The Other Half Lives by Sophie Hannah
Summer of '76 by Isabel Ashdown
Carol by Patricia Highsmith
Diary of a Provincial Lesbian by VG Lee
Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
Dearest Rose by Rowan Coleman
Build a Man by Talli Roland
What The Grown-Ups Were Doing by Michele Hanson
The Lighthouse by Alison Moore
The Silver Locket by Margaret James
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
The Light Years (Cazalet Chronicles 1) by Elizabeth Jane Howard
Catching the Sun by Tony Parsons
Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
White Cargo by Felicity Kendal
Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada*
The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller
Restless by William Boyd
The Knot by Mark Watson
Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest
My Future Husband by Karen Clarke
Thursdays in the Park by Hilary Boyd
My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary by Rae Earl
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Winter Games by Rachel Johnson
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins*
You Had Me at Hello by Mhairi McFarlane
Jubilee by Shelley Harris
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

*Book Club choices

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wednesday's Window: a little bit of drama

I love love love these. I'm not sure of my facts because they were taken a few months ago and I didn't label them but I think they were in the Siam Centre. (If anyone knows differently, please let me know and I will happily credit them.)

I love the drama and the sense of the macabre they've created by playing with illusion. (Do you see the half hat?) It's that dolls with scary faces thing (Magic, anyone?) They terrify me and make me laugh in equal measure. 

Monday, September 09, 2013

A little bit of family history

I was five weeks old when we moved to Kent. My parents bought a house on the edge of the village. It was a big place, divided into two and on the other side there was a farm. On the farm they had a goat who’d just had twins - a male and female - and John the farmer offered the boy goat to my brother as a pet.  My brother asked our Dad who said, "ask your Mum"; so he asked Mum and she said "No". John the farmer said "what a pity; I shall have to kill it." So we had a goat.

This was when my parents first met the local vet who became a good friend, which is miraculous really because he informed my Mum that she would have to assist him in both de-horning and castrating our new pet. Ugh! Our new pet was called Rubin because bilirubin is the stuff that makes your blood red. (Billy Rubin, get it?)

Dad, my brother and Rubin, early 70s
He had a nice warm hut to sleep in at night and a long bull chain from which we tethered him everyday so that he could eat the garden. A year later we moved and the garden at the new house was around 2 acres and had been empty for years so Rubin had a grand time eating down an enormous amount of overgrowth. Some new people moved into a shop in the centre of the village and asked if they could borrow Rubin to eat down their overgrown garden.  My parents agreed but the shop had no back entrance so he had to be taken him through the shop! They managed this without any accidents (or health and safety issues) but unfortunately Rubin must have seen the enormous pile of cardboard boxes on his way through and he spent two happy days eating those rather than the weeds.

When my parents first got him he was tiny.  My Mum says he was ‘like a long legged puppy dog - really charming - but he seemed to grow minute by minute and in the end he was the size of a pony.’ He was already of considerable size by the time we moved to the new house. It was ten days before Christmas when we moved. My Mum was irritated to be told that she and my brother had to walk the goat the mile and a half to the new house because Dad had to dismantle Rubin's hut and re-erect it in the new garden so that he had somewhere nice and warm to sleep.  They walked him round in pouring rain; Rubin stopped every five yards to eat somebody's hedge or a bush or to rip the bark off some juicy looking young tree.  At this rate it was a slow and nightmarish journey and Mum was fast losing her sense of humour. It wasn’t helped when, still a long way from the new house, a passing car slowed down, wound down his window to ask, “which way to the manger?”

If it’s anthropomorphizing to say that Rubin had a wicked sense of humour himself, then I’ll just have to go with the fact that our family memories of him make it look so. He chewed up a much loved monkey puppet of my sister's which she only just managed to yank out of his mouth before it disappeared inside.  Another day, when she bent down in the garden to pick something up – I think it might have been his food - he eyed her rear, put down his head and dashed towards her, butting her bottom with such strength that she left the ground, sailed through the air before landing with a start on her feet.  My Granny always wore an apron; Granny swore blind that Rubin would only try and eat it when it was a floral one, which none of us ever believed. So it was a surprise that during a childhood birthday party (we were 8 or 9, I suppose) he took a great liking to my friend C's flowery new dress and started to eat it. As the pretty flowery fabric disappeared further into his mouth she began to have hysterics, convinced that he was going to eat her.

As he got older, although reasonably fit, he did have the occasional medical emergency (it was hardly surprising, given his diet of floral fabrics…) There was one terribly hot summer when Rubin got very poorly.  Dad diagnosed heat stroke and he and my brother hosed him down. Granny, who was devoted to Rubin, insisted on getting the on duty vet - on a bank holiday Monday - he looked at the goat, and ‘yes, yes,’ he said, ‘it was definitely heat stroke and that was the right treatment and that will be £40 if you please.’ (This was early 70s and a vast amount of money.)

My Dad was away from home during Rubin’s final illness. It was again very hot but he wasn't suffering sunstroke this time.  We were all worried sick about him and tried to make him comfortable.  G, a good friend and neighbour turned up with a pony trailer in which she had half a dozen large bales of straw for us to assemble a comfortable bedroom around him so that he was protected from the sun and could stay out all night in the cool. We kept a vigil by his bedside but it was getting late and my sister and I had school the next day. Eventually Mum persuaded us to come in for a bath and we left Granny sitting out watching him, feeding him sips of water. At about 9 o'clock, after our bath, we reappeared in the kitchen to say goodnight and Granny walked in and said, "Oh, I'm sorry, but he's died". Everybody burst into tears. I couldn’t remember a time without Rubin and so my sister and I were inconsolable.  Granny and Mum treated their shock with scotch and my sister and I didn’t get to bed until 11 o clock.

The trouble was the weather was baking hot and we had a large corpse on the lawn.  It was obviously a health risk to leave him there, so the following morning Mum had to get the local building firm in with a digger, to dig a big hole and to lift his heavy weight into the grave. He's buried next to the compost heap and lots of lovely things (the technical term) grow on top of him.

Rubin lived to be nine years old but he continues to live on in our family myth. If ever anyone requests friends to come and stay, the answer is usually ‘yes, I think the goat’s hut is free.’