Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Early Demise of the Televisual Viewing Policy

Before we had the Rubettes, when Mr Ruby and I were young and painfully self-righteous  naive, I remember Mr Ruby and I discussing a televisual viewing policy for any future offspring of ours. (It's OK, we didn't actually refer to it as the 'Televisual Viewing Policy', although I am aware that this hardly exonerates us.) I seem to remember that the policy included the notion that our, doubtless perfectly groomed, offspring would be encouraged to read through the Radio Times in advance and highlight any programmes of interest. Naturally, in the event of any planned-viewing clashes, we would hold calm and rational discussions as to the best way forward. This was some time ago, so I imagine video recording was mooted as a possible solution.

I say, Father, the Radio Times has some awfully interesting programmes this coming week!

Fast forward ten years or so and, frankly, I am amazed we even had the time to discuss such matters - much less the inclination! Clearly we were bonkers and very much PAC (Pre-Actual Children). I'm sure there were other pronouncements on a wide range of topics but, mercifully, time and the reality of bringing-up two small children has erased them. Maybe the ludicrous telly policy remains in my memory because it is so...well, ludicrous!

What actually happened was that both the Mouse and TR seem to go through phases with their viewing habits. When TR arrived on the scene the Mouse was three years old and I seem to recall a period of wall-to-wall CBeebies and the Disney Cinderella DVD. I remember a good friend passing on her top tip for coping with having one small child and an utterly dependent baby to care for at the same time, 'Teach the older one to work the TV and the DVD player!'  I laughed, thinking she was in jest, but it turned out to be sound advice. Then there was TR's Thunderbirds phase. He would come home from nursery and request the Thunderbirds DVD - four exciting episodes of Supermarionation! - except that TR was at an age where repetition and familiarity counted for a lot and so all we got to watch was episode one, the thrilling - for the first couple of times - Trapped in the Sky! On the plus side, Thunderbirds ignited in TR a love of numbers and he remains an enthusiastic mini-mathematician.

5...4...3...2...1... Building Tracy Island

Currently he has a bit of a thing for Octonauts, an animated series for young children about a team of animals who perform undersea rescue missions. What I can't quite figure out is how come this particular group of animals came together and why they were so interested in marine conservation in the first place. The penguin, I get: it swims and who wouldn't want to preserve their food source? However, the cat, the dog and the monkey I find puzzling,  and don't even get me started on the rabbit! What I do know for sure is that Octonauts makes me nervous. I've already mentioned my fear of fish Imagine my horror, then, when Captain Barnacles recklessly piloted the GUP-A into an underwater trench of such dark unspeakable horror that I had to leave the room.

Oh mine eyes - the horror!
Just as they go through phases of wanting to watch a lot of telly, so the also go through phases of hardly wanting it at all. Like most things, I guess, it ended up being self-regulating and I'm happy to report that, while we still occasionally buy the Radio Times, nobody goes anywhere near it with a highlighter pen and their viewing is largely a mixture of the haphazard and the familiar. Frankly, I wish I'd listened to Abraham Lincoln on the subject of television viewing... oh OK, so television wasn't invented then, but he does have good quote about policy attributed to him:

I never had a policy; I have just tried to do my best each and every day.

As good a theory on child-rearing as you're ever likely to hear, I think,

Sunday, 15 January 2012

From Upper Slips to Under Slips: ballet with the Badgers

I'm taking a short break from my introductory series to blog about our visit to the ballet today. You'll have to wait for the thrilling entry about little houses and their significance in my life.

The Mouse and I went with our Badger friends* to the Royal Opera House, to see a performance of The Nutcracker. The Mouse is a keen ballet dancer and thoroughly enjoyed our trip there two years ago, to see Tales of Beatrix Potter and Les Patineurs. We had a slightly lengthened journey there, due to engineering works, but at least that meant we got to chug past Griffin Park stadium, home to the Mighty Bees.

Although the view out of the train window wasn't quite like this

We made it there though and took our seats in the Upper Slips, which are a very long way up but the great thing is a) I can afford tickets to watch a ballet in a beautiful space and b) the Mouse can fidget as much as she likes and nobody minds. Credit to her, she didn't fidget much at all, but she did need to crane forward to get a better view. At one point I worried she would slip right off the balcony, as her dancing feet got the better of her and she almost joined in.

The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden is sandwiched in between other buildings, it's glass house-like exterior almost lost in the crush, but the interior of the auditorium is really impressive. It looks very much as a toy theatre should, only on a much larger scale, obviously. The first time we visited, two years ago, I was completely wowed by it it all: the red velvet curtains with gold brocade edging and 'ER' emblazoned on them (as in the Queen, not as in Dr Kovac); the plasterwork angels and cherubs along the edges of the balcony, the Grand Tier and the auditorium; the blue and gold domed ceiling... it's a visual treat before you even reach the performance.

You can just about see the angels and the cherubs

Wrong ER

The ballet was amazing, the sets and staging were stunning and the music was beautiful. I'm not sure I've ever seen two harps in one place before; quite big, aren't they? You can watch a trailer for it here. The Mouse says her favourite part was the palace of Sweets and she loved the the Sugar Plum Fairy's costume and Clara's nightdress. She was rather eloquent on that topic and I'll try and remember her words. "I loved Clara's nightdress because it was so simple and yet looked like a ballgown as well as nightdress." The Mouse is interested in fashion and costume design and I find I learn things from her observations, which is good because I really don't have a clue about these things! One of my favourite aspects of the day is how it felt like a proper day out with her. She was good company and very much in her element.
Speaking of the Sugar Plum Fairy, I did find myself a little distracted during the Grand Pas de Deux, speculating on what, exactly, male ballet dancers wear under their tights. I know, and I'm sorry, but I couldn't help noticing that a) there was no VPL (Visible Panty Line) and b) Prince Coqueluche had quite a Grand Pas de Deux himself. Well, in the interests of your education, dear readers, I looked it up on the Internet once I was back home again and I can reveal that male ballet dancers wear a thing called a 'dance belt' under their tights. I would post a picture but, frankly, some of you may be reading this early in the morning. The dance belt is a cleverly designed piece of dance foundation wear, which neatly addresses the twin problems of aesthetics and support. It's essentially a flesh-coloured high-waisted jock-strap/thong arrangement, constructed largely from spandex. So, now you know. Consider yourself educated.

* Not actual badgers.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Heath? What Heath?

Good question.I'm glad you asked. Surrey Heath, as it happens. I live there and my house is built upon heathland, which probably explains why I face an uphill battle each year, trying to grow vegetables. Heathland soil is typically sandy and acidic: not what your average carrot would choose for an ideal home. Still, carrots may have one opinion, but according to Channel 4's 'Location, Location, Location', Surrey Heath is the 6th best place to live in the UK. I'm not sure we should get that excited about coming sixth in anything, but I guess we should celebrate what we have, given that we also received an accolade for having shockingly high carbon emissions round here. (For what it's worth, I've just put on a jumper, rather than switch on the central heating. Weren't me, Jack!) On the plus side, I've recently discovered that we have our own blog. Check it out, fellow residents.

In preparation for today's blog entry I did a Google image search for Surrey Heath and here's what my search returned:

Also not my fault.


Good to know.
So what  has Surrey Heath got going for it? Well, apparently we enjoy 200 hours more sunshine a year than the UK average. Hard to believe today, as I look out of my window at a 'Tupperware sky': all grey and not a piece of blue in sight. We don't seem to have much in the way of crime. London is just a forty minute train ride away and yet it feels a long way from 'the big smoke' here. Our 'local' news comes from London and the stories aren't the least bit relevant to what goes on around here. Mr Ruby and I sometimes invent our own news stories, when the ones on the television news seem too far divorced from our lives.

In Mytchett today, someone forgot to stop at the pedestrian crossing, but no one was hurt...

The number 3 bus was a little bit late this morning...

and so forth. You're right, of course: not a lot happens round here, but then I rather like that. You, are, after all, talking to the woman who vowed to blog her Not Very Interesting Life. However, the older I get, the more I think I like an NVIL. Gone are the days when my young self looked out at the world and wondered when everything was going to get started. I used to make endless plans for the future and was always in a hurry to get to the next stage of my life. Now I celebrate the here and now, the simple things like domesticity, a cup of tea and a Quiet Night In. I used to wonder when I'd get to see the bigger picture; now I'm happy just to be in the picture! I think it's called middle age.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

New Year, New Blog

Not actually my heath
Happy New Year, everyone and welcome to the new blog. I know it's the 8th of January already but someone wished me a happy new year this morning, so I reckon the year is still young enough to celebrate all that's fresh and new. According to our vicar this morning, we've all had plenty of time to break our new year's resolutions and now's the perfect time to make some more. Well, he's right, but it did remind me that I need to crack on with my original resolution, which is....

to write every day week.

I joined a writer's group a while back. Goodness only knows how I got admitted into that select circle but I love going and reading the contributions from the others. Only thing is, I have so far failed to contribute anything of worth myself. Pretty soon I am going to get rumbled and they'll all figure out that I'm there for the company, the coffee and the open fires. To be fair, I have a very impressive back catalogue of novels, children's books and information books. Impressive if you like opening chapters and aren't at all bothered by what ought to come next. I've worked it out though: in addition to being scared of fish (What? They're creepy!) and braided beards, I'm scared of committing myself to a piece of writing. Pretty much the only therapy for that is to keep writing and somehow a blog seems less threatening; less permanent, I guess.

You're wondering what I could possibly find to write in a blog, right? Back in the summer of 2011 I blogged about our trip to America. (Check out the makeover, blog devotees!) This blog is going to be more...every day. I'm planning to fill it with the ordinary little things that make up my daily life: pretty much the same old ramble I post on my facebook status. Marvel at the cakes I bake, thrill to the details of my sewing projects, be amazed at... hmm... I'm running out of ideas. If this blog were a film, it would be called, 'A Life More Ordinary'. Stick with me and I'll do my best to at least be diverting and maybe those clever writer friends of mine will let me stay. (I'll keep you posted on that too.)

Actually my heath (well, not mine exactly...)