The Milk Bottles Are On Me

Oscar and Tilly are discussing something or other in their usual random fashion.

I have tuned out by this time, so I’m not really listening to the subject of their conversation.

My ears prick up though, when I hear Oscar say:

‘I think we should just make a Molotov cocktail and throw it in there. That will sort them out.’

I pause, fleetingly. I am impressed by the fact that he knows what a Molotov cocktail is – and also slightly alarmed. Should I inform the school?

I tune back in just as Tilly says scornfully.

‘It’s not a Molotov cocktail you idiot. It’s a Motlob cocktail.’

I snort.

And say…

‘It is not a Motlob cocktail. It is a Molotov cocktail…

You idiot.’

We all look at the ground.

Oscar is the first to laugh.

‘Yeah. You idiot!’

I am telling this to my mum, while we are having a cup of tea. We laugh about it.

A few minutes later mum says thoughtfully;

‘Mind you. You’d be hard pushed to make Molotov cocktails these days, what with milk bottles being plastic and all.’

I say:

‘We’d be alright. We’ve still got a Kirby and West milk float and proper glass bottles down our way.’

Mum perks up.

‘Revolution starts round yours then? About fiveish?’

Sorted.

Bring your own balaclavas.

Sad Tales

On the way home in the car:

Oscar: ‘I really like that bag you’re wearing Tallulah.’

Tallulah: ‘Thank you. It is nice.’

Oscar: ‘Can I have it when you die?’

Tallulah – thinks about this for a moment – ‘Yes. Alright. As long as they don’t bury it with me.’

Oscar: ‘Great. Thanks.’

Tilly: ‘You’re welcome.’

And that’s how rumours start

We took Tilly to her friend’s house this morning. She is going for a sleep over and we will gather her to our bosoms again tomorrow.

On the way there we were listening to Badly Drawn Boy in the car.

Tilly said: ‘I really like Badly Drawn Boy, they’re excellent.’

I said: ‘It’s not a they, it’s a he. He looks a bit like Benny from Cross Roads.’

I don’t know why I added that bit. She has no more idea of Benny from Cross Roads than fly through the air, as we say in our house.

She said: ‘Gosh. I’m always doing that.’

I said: ‘Doing what?’

She said: ‘You know. Mixing up bands and solo artists. So I always think a solo artist is a band and a band is a solo artist.’

I said: ‘What? Like Bon Jovi?’

She said: ‘Exactly like Bon Jovi. I thought it was a he, and it is, I know, but it’s also a band.’

Tallulah piped up: ‘His name is Onjovi.’

I said: ‘It is not. It is Jon.’

Tallulah said: ‘Oh! I thought his name was Onjovi and his friend’s name began with a B and they added them together to make Bon Jovi.’

Tilly was snorting with laughter: ‘Onjovi Bonjovi.’

Tallulah: ‘No! Only his first name is Onjovi.’

Tilly: ‘Exactly. Mr. Onjovi Bonjovi.’

Tallulah: ‘No! No! You don’t understand…’

Tilly: ‘Who has a name like Onjovi anyway?’

Oscar shouted: ‘Daniel Radcliffe has red eyes all the time because he’s always in night clubs playing the bongos.’

Clearly he had nothing to add to the Bon Jovi debate but wanted to remain current.

Tilly got side tracked: ‘No! He doesn’t.’

Tallulah: ‘Yes he does. Mary sent me a picture of him in a nightclub playing bongos and that’s why he’s got red eyes because he’s up all night playing bongos when he should be asleep worrying about his next film.’

Oscar: ‘Yes. But it was very useful in the Deathly Hallows, because he had to have red eyes in that because he had to look sad and tired, so his bongo playing really helped.’

Tilly: ‘Daniel Radcliffe does not spend every night in night clubs playing bongos.’

Oscar and Tallulah: ‘Yes! He does!’

Oscar (thoughtfully): ‘Onjovi Bonjovi plays the bonjos.’

Tilly: ‘Yeah, and he has a restaurant where he only serves anchovies.’

Tallulah: ‘While he’s playing the bonjos. Daniel Radcliffe can’t come, because he just plays the bongos.’

Tilly: ‘At Onjovi Bonjovi’s restaurant which only serves anchovies all the customers have to put their money in an honesty box instead of paying a proper bill.’

Tallulah: ‘What’s an honesty box?’

Tilly: ‘A box with a hole for your money where you just put in what you think the thing you had was worth.’

Tallulah (snorts): ‘That is ridiculous.’

Oscar: ‘I’d only put in fifty pence for Onjovi Bonjovi.’

Tallulah: ‘I’d only put in five pence.’

Tilly: ‘That’s hardly fair. He worked hard on those anchovies, and he has to play the bonjos.’

Oscar: ‘I’m kinder than Tallulah. I’m nicer than Tallulah. Onjovi Bonjovi gets fifty pence from me, not five.’

Tallulah (scornfully): ‘Ha! Well he still only gets five pence from me because anchovies are disgusting and it serves him right for putting in an honesty box.’

Oscar: ‘And playing the bonjos.’

Post Easter round up

I hope your Easter was filled with lusciousness, chocolate and a failure to see rabbits. I know it is traditional to see/think about rabbits at Easter, but ever since my grandmother adopted a killer rabbit called Peter who used to bite your ankles and scare even our cat witless, I have not been a fan.

Rather like Anya from Buffy, for any fellow geeks out there.

It is nearly two in the morning dearest ones. My husband, after a long weekend with us which involved quite a lot of Malteser bunnies, flew back to Berlin in the early hours of the morning. I have been rather like a cat on a hot tin roof since then.

It is not to say that the day has not been pleasurable. It has, apart from the taking squillions of parcels to the post office bit, and being sworn at by an evil pensioner, who failed to take into account the fact that I had split my parcels into three, smaller lots, and I was already half way through my third lot when he popped up behind me in an otherwise empty post office. He was no respecter of the time honoured and entirely British tradition of queueing either, preferring instead to hover at my elbow, muttering and trying to jab a Post Office Savings book full of twenty pound notes into my left ear whilst bobbing up and down.

When this failed to move me, or the lady behind the counter, and he caught sight of the parcels still left to be weighed, lurking on the floor by my feet, he did a nifty pirouette for a man who looked in imminent need of a hip replacement, and said: ‘Jesus Fucking Christ! I’m not waiting any fucking longer. Jesus Christ!’ and stormed off.

Given that he was only resurrected a short while ago, and was probably still having to get used to being able to have more super powers than normal, I doubt Jesus had time to come to Earl Shilton Post Office to smite me, or turn me into a fish, so you know, I WON and all that.

I quite enjoyed making steam come out of that gentleman’s ears. He certainly impressed the children with both his dexterity and his vocabulary.

Apart from bothering the ageing population of Leicestershire, we have been out for lunch with granny and granddad and uncle Robber, at which point the children ate desserts as big as their own faces and then spent the rest of the afternoon running around like lunatics, out of their minds on sugar. I did think I should have saved my parcels for after lunch and then let the children loose in the Post Office once the sugar rush had hit. That would really have put the wind up my grumpy pensioner friend. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

There is always next time.

My friend, Aunty Squirrel, who I have not seen for a bajillion years, finally managed to make it round to our house this evening for a cuppa or two, which was rather lovely. I am hoping to squeeze in seeing a few more friends before the holiday ends, small children and random parenting allowing.

I have spent the rest of the evening wrapping parcels and making random bids on things on EBay due to the fact that I got rather into the habit of buying things yesterday when I visited Malvern flea and antiques market with mum and dad and the thrill of purchasing things and unwrapping rather than wrapping has not yet worn off.

As predicted by everyone who knows me, I bought some more pictures. I know I owe you a gallery tour, and it will come, but there just do not seem to be enough hours in the day for me to get my act together with brain, eye, camera and intent all aligned.

King Lear

Yesterday Andrea and I had a hot date in London at our favourite haunt, the National Theatre on the South Bank. We were going to see our beloved Simon Russell Beale in King Lear, directed by Sam Mendes.

We love SRB, and have been to see him on numerous occasions. He never disappoints.

His Lear was certainly brilliant, and very strong. Not my favourite however. I preferred Ian McKellen in the role. That’s not to say SRB wasn’t great, but I wasn’t entirely keen on his interpretation of Lear. Physically and costume wise he relied very heavily on his portrayal of Stalin in the excellent Collaborators which we saw him in a few months back. In fact I think they probably just dyed the costume in the washing machine and made do.

He was a very angry, recalcitrant Lear, very unpleasant for the most part, except in the very extremes of his madness where he had been stripped of all dignity and could not hide behind bluster or anything else.

It was great in that his playing of Lear gave you good reason as to why he would do such a bonkers thing as to split his kingdom in three in the first place, and explained his exceedingly odd relationship with his daughters. It was not great in that it did rob you of any sympathy you might feel for him until he was so tortured, so mad and so other than you couldn’t help yourself.

The cast, for the main part, was really strong. Adrian Scarborough was a fantastic fool, a hundred times better than Sylvester McCoy who played against McKellen. I loved the way they explained the Fool’s disappearance half way through the play. It was clever and considered and showed that they had really thought things through in terms of the emotional narrative of the play. Cordelia, played by Olivia Vinall was quite self controlled and quiet and had a dignity that I have seen others fail to give her, particularly Romola Garai, who I loathed as Cordelia and who squeaked and squealed and screamed her way through the part until you wanted to murder her yourself. Anna Maxwell Martin who I rate highly as an actress disappointed a little as Regan. Her physical acting was superb, she portrayed nervy high strung and damaged in every twitch and frantic movement, but her diction left a lot to be desired, and the hasty, screamed way in which she delivered some of her lines meant they were totally lost to me, and I was only in the second row of the stalls. Kate Fleetwood played an excellent, bitter and disappointed Goneril whose wish to please her father and the knowledge she would always play second or even third fiddle to him gave a lot of power and depth to her performance. Edmund the bastard was played with vicious enjoyment by Sam Troughton, and Edgar, who I usually find unbearably priggish took on a whole new life played by the excellent Tom Brooke.

The staging was fantastic, totally cinematic and epic in the best sense. I am always intrigued by directors who work a lot in film, and how they bring that filmic quality to their plays. Danny Boyle did amazing things with Frankenstein, and Mendes did not disappoint here. I loved the use of back projection in the storm scene and the deep, throbbing roll of thunder that made the stage almost vibrate. I loved the spareness of the stage dressing, and yet you never felt cheated as there were so many wonderful little details that brought every scene to life.

I wanted to love the play. There was a lot to love, but not being able to pity Lear as I wanted to made me a little disappointed in it at times. It was a fascinating take on the play, and I am really glad I got the chance to see it, but I cannot say it is my favourite Lear, and yet I keep thinking about it. It was certainly worth the effort to get there, and as I was driving there and back yesterday, it was an effort in every sense of the word.

I believe tickets for the live performances are only available in the form of returns now, but there may be seats for the NT Live performance at cinemas at the beginning of May and it’s well worth seeing if you can get a ticket.

A Rough Guide to EBay Art

My time in the parallel universe that is EBay is not all spent at the coal face of my abysmal customer service, lack of knowledge about sleeves and failure to type in the correct shoe size. Which is good, otherwise I would be incredibly depressed.

Most of the time I deal with lovely buyers who sound charming, and who behave beautifully, even when I have made an almighty cock up.

The rest of the time I am scurrying about looking at art.

You know it is my new obsession.

There is some stunning art for sale, truly stunning.

And then there is the rest.

You know that thing that inevitably happens when you spend enough time in an art gallery? That thing where someone either of your acquaintance or just in your general environs says: ‘Bloody Nora! Call that bloody art? I could do better than that myself! It’s a mug’s game…etc’

Well EBay art sales are there to prove to you that no matter how much you think you can do better yourself, you generally can’t.

There are some eye wateringly bad examples of home crafted art out there. Here is the Katyboo guide to EBay art.

Outsider Art is a genuine thing. It mostly refers to artists who were perhaps shunned by their peers, or ignored by the art world, or who simply toiled away in silence producing great quantities of art which people are only now discovering. Usually after the artist has died of consumption in a gutter somewhere, unloved and unrecognised. Now everyone says what a tortured genius they were, blah blah.

EBay ‘Outsider Art’ is anything done by anyone, anywhere in any medium. I could get Oscar to wipe his ketchup stained hands on a bit of A4 paper and sell it on EBay as Outsider Art. This is the bar. Don’t buy it unless you love it and can live with it for a very long time is my considered opinion. You stand more chance of winning the lottery than buying a piece of Outsider Art on EBay that will make you rich.

There are the people who say: ‘Call that art! I could do better myself!’ and then take to EBay to prove they can. These are usually the squiggles of biro on a scrunched up piece of A4 lined paper that are listed for £100 and called things like: ‘Tortured feelinz (sic)’. These are the people who hope someone will buy their work to prove them right so they can go down the pub and talk about what a bloody rip off Tracey Emin is because you can sell any old shite as art these days. Funnily enough I have never seen a single piece of art like this actually sell.

There are the people who are selling their children’s art. I am not sure whether this is because they are simply being kind to their children, or because they genuinely think that their child’s rendition of Buzz Lightyear being put through a mincing machine whilst being strafed by a Lancaster bomber is the work of a child prodigy and they are hoping that Jay Jopling is going to snap them up.

Then there is the erotic art. Dear Lord God above. Save me from badly rendered erotic art. It is enough to make your eyes bleed acid. Erotic art is a huge market on EBay in any medium you care to mention. You can get terrible oil paintings, terrible drawings, terrible sculptures. You could fill a small county with all the bad erotica available on EBay. I have seen so many improbable pairs of tits in the last few days I can never look a fried egg in the face again. And the mind boggles as to why anyone would want an eight foot oil painting of a woman with a balding foof the size of your face looming at you over the mantelpiece every morning.

Dogs are another massive market for bad art. You can have terrible oil paintings of sausage dogs that look like they have been stitched up by Victor Frankenstein. You can have Yorkshire Terriers rendered in charcoal that look like someone has just broken some awful news to them. You can have foil etched pictures of German Shepherds with unfeasible legs, gambolling into the distance. You can have groups of chihuahuas sitting forlornly on a wall. Whither kittens in brandy glasses say I? Have they gone out of fashion? Must it always be about the dogs?

Celebrity pictures are rife on EBay. Sketches of Elvis in the jumpsuit years, looking annoyed that someone has done yet another tasteless picture of him to hang over the loo, and which will inevitably end up in a car boot sale in about eighteen months time. Where is the dignity in death Elvis? Or life for that matter?

How many pictures of One Direction would you like? I can wallpaper our entire house in nasty drawings of Harry Styles, as long as I don’t mind that his eyes wander off in different directions.

My favourite celebrity pictures are at the extreme end of the artistic spectrum. I found several bad renderings of Marge Simpson in various erotic poses last night. Why would anyone have erotic fantasies about Marge Simpson? And then want to capture them in the medium of paint, and then think that there are enough other people out there in the world who also have erotic fantasies about Marge Simpson to make them saleable? It is a rum old world.

Of all the things I found last night though, the pinnacle was a picture of Stewie (the evil baby from the Family Guy cartoon), clamped to the head of Adolph Hitler.

There are no words.

Sleeve trouble

As we know, I am attempting to declutter my house and pay my bills by selling my life on EBay.

I was very cautious about this to begin with. I have ventured into the choppy seas of EBay several times before in my life, and usually, after a short time, left, throwing my hands in the air with disgust.

Firstly, it never was a very easy interface for the seller. It used to take weeks to list anything and I had great admiration for those people who had thousands of listings, as I imagined them feverishly tapping away through the night, getting RSI and cursing, because the pictures they were trying to upload took four thousand years to appear, and then arrived sideways or upside down.

And were pictures of their own thumb.

This has now been largely rectified by the EBay App, which is mostly a thing of beauty and a joy forever, except that it is not entirely glitch free, and should you, for example, want to send someone an invoice, you still have to do it through the desk top. However, apart from that it is a wonder and a revelation.

Secondly, it is the most bizarre environment which seems to lure in people whose sole purpose in life is to make you want to shut your head in a door repeatedly for several hours, because that would be the easy option.

Not everyone you understand, just a persistent minority, who, if you sell enough, come to haunt your waking dreams as you dread the next ‘you’ve got mail’ message pinging its way into your inbox.

Most people are wonderful, and even when there are problems, which there are when you combine my own self confessed idiocy with Royal Mail’s idiocy and the vagaries of the universe in general, they can be simply sorted to the benefit of everyone.

I think some people however, are less interested in what they are buying and more interested in a subtle form of cyber terrorism.

Here are a few examples:

The person who sent me six messages about a Jaeger sweater which was on for the princely sum of £4. They demanded to know everything about it from which sheep it came from to what exact shade of grey it was. The final straw was their insistence on knowing whether the sleeves were full length or 3/4 length. I got my tape measure out. I measured the sleeves. I sent the exact measurements and a note to say it was long sleeved on me in a very polite e-mail, considering that this sweater had now been unfolded more times than something on a shelf in Benetton. I received another e-mail which said: ‘But you STILL aren’t telling me whether the sleeves are 3/4 length or full length.’ To which I replied: ‘It depends how long your arms are.’ Because by then I didn’t know what else to say and was really, really hoping she didn’t buy it, because if someone is that much of a pain beforehand, you can bet your bottom dollar there will be problems every step of the way. She didn’t bid. Huzzah.

Then there are the people who want to buy something from you, and insist that you give them every possible postage permutation under the sun before they will consider bidding. In the old days this was reasonably ok as you would weigh your item and the packing materials, add them together and figure things out from there. These days, the dimensions of your parcel are taken into account when it comes to cost. So you actually have to wrap the thing properly, which is fine if the person bids, because it saves you the bother later, but not fine if they don’t bid, or if someone else e-mails you to ask you how long the arms are, and you have to rip your packaging asunder to get your tape measure out. I currently have someone who wants to buy an item that, at the moment is 99p and has had me parcel up the item to find out the most economical way to send it to North America. My heart sinks with these items. It costs about £3 more to send something airmail which arrives in five days, as opposed to shipping which can take up to sixty days. It’s not so much the tiny cost difference that frustrates me. It is the fact that it has 55 more days to get lost than it does by air, which is a terrifying prospect.

Then there are the people who are just greedy. These are the people who buy something off of you for a steal, and believe me, it’s always a steal. Then they try to chisel you down on price because: ‘you said the sleeves were 27 inches and they’re 28 inches.’ They usually finish their mail with a line like: ‘I’m just letting you know so that you can decide how to proceed.’ which means ‘give me more of a discount’. If you offer them a full refund if they send the item back they will generally refuse, because they actually really like what they have, but they just need to hammer you a little bit more.

There are the people who have a problem with the item but don’t actually tell you they have a problem with the item until they give you positive feedback which isn’t positive feedback. This has happened twice to me. Both times it has been: ‘Lovely item but I wish I had known X before I bought it.’ This chaps my ass because all of my items are on for a full seven days, and there is an email system that allows you to ask questions. And if a person is unhappy with an item they have won, they can tell you about it and ask you to sort it out before they give feedback. Generally it is something they have failed to either read in the description or failed to ask, and they feel bad that they didn’t do this and know it isn’t your fault, so it is a kind of passive aggressive barracking that is utterly pointless.

Then there are the people who have a genuine grievance but whose response is completely disproportionate to the problem. I have a current case where I sold a lady a pair of shoes which I accidentally sold as a size 5 rather than the size 4 they were. This was because I am a size 5 and they fit me perfectly so I typed in the size in error. My fault entirely. I totally take responsibility. I received five messages from her this morning waiting in my in box. FIVE. You would think I had taken her first born child, ripped his throat out and turned his head into a flower pot. I have emailed her with my profuse apologies, taken full responsibility, asked her to send the shoes back and told her I will give her a full refund and pay for her return postage as the error was entirely mine.

I haven’t heard a word from her since.

I am waiting curiously to see how many responses will eventually turn up.

And we still don’t know whether the sleeves are full or three quarter length.