July 12, 2011

The right age for cocktails?

Filed under: Uncategorized — fluffyand40 @ 17:05

I must confess, first up, that I’m a committed wine drinker! From a very early age, my father decided that it was better for me to experience alcohol at home “in the bosom of the family” rather than lolling on a park bench with a bottle of Babycham (although I doubt whether I’d even have had the wherewithal to work out how to do that in my early teens!) and so on Sundays I was permitted half a glass of wine, diluted with water or sparkling lemonade….and so an obsession was born!

Once I went out to work and had access to bars, that was the start of a lifelong passion for dry white wine (honestly, and rather sadly, I wasn’t a bar-dweller until then)….which hasn’t abated in recent years.  On a boring train journey recently I started to calculate exactly how much my Pinot Grigio passione has cost me in the last 20 years – and stopped when I realised that my dream yacht COULD have been within my grasp, if I’d had a little bit more self control.  How sad is that? 

This is not the ranting of a reformed alcoholic – Pinot G, Muscadet, the occasional French Sauvignon (but only if VERY dry and unoaked) are all welcome visitors to the Fluffy home and enjoyed at the weekends come rain or shine!  But now there’s a new kid in town…and one that I’m afraid to admit may take a prime position in coming weeks as the weather heats up.

I’m talking, of course, about cocktails – but not the sickly sweet, watered down concotions served in 90s Soho – all gaudy colours, umbrellas, fruit slices and lashings of ice.  I’m talking about grown up, delicious drinks that pack a punch (and kick like a mule the morning afterwards).  Served over crushed ice (or with no ice at all – but still beautifully chilled) with condensation glistening on the outside of the glass.  Proper, pukka (as Jamie would say) cocktails.

I’ve tinkered with them in years gone by, but a friend’s birthday party at the Langham Hilton earlier this year opened my eyes to the true magnificence of the genre.  A smoother than silk vodka Martini (always a favourite) was followed by a magnificent Negroni which had me giggling like a school girl (and, surprisingly, not reaching for the Nurofen the morning after).  At a visit to the Savoy in April, I was seduced by the awesomeness of the (developed for Wills’ and Kate’s big day) Royal Standard – a drink of champions which had me smiling and willing the bar man to make me more!

And let’s face it, there’s something particularly appealing about a competent barman who knows what he’s doing and knows how to mix a proper drink.  Maybe it’s having a bit more cash in my pocket, but I’m now finding myself assessing an establishment by its ability to serve a smooth, delicious and properly chilled Martini (the less said about the hotel we stayed in in Romsey the better – they may have professed to be cocktail “afficianados” – they blatantly weren’t.  If I wanted paint stripper, I’d have ordered it! 

As I type, I’m sitting in Kennington pub The Three Stags (amazing food, perfect location, great fun staff) with my new latest squeeze (literally) a Tom Collins – tall, cool, blonde, very handsome and utterly delicious.  If only all men were like this!  Cheers!


June 15, 2011

Gardening? Isn’t that for the old people?

Filed under: Uncategorized — fluffyand40 @ 13:36

I confess, I’m turning into my mother.


Or at least the part of her that was obsessive about gardening.


Where once I would wail and moan about hours spent traipsing round garden centres or Wisley, now I actively look forward to going on a quest for that elusive plant or Sky+ Gardeners’ World so I can get the latest tips on how to propogate cuttings or grow something in that shady bed at the bottom of the garden that only gets the tiniest bit of sunshine every day.


Blame it on my mum, or indeed my maternal grandfather, who would spend hours lagging his greenhouse with bubble wrap to keep out the frost, and seemingly spent days pricking out seedlings and making sure that everything was watered assiduously before going on even the shortest shopping trip, let alone (God forbid!) a holiday!  He passed on his passion for gardening to my mum and I guess she passed it on to me.


And so now I seem to spend increasing amounts of time obsessing about the progress of our runner beans, bemoaning the plethora of slugs and snails that seem to appear at a minute’s notice (just when I’m not paying attention) or fretting about the lack of rainwater in our water butts – a big concern when you have a water meter, I can tell you!  Run a hose and Thames Water get enough cash to buy all their directors Porsches!


But when you look around, in the media, and in garden centres, you can see that, slowly but surely, a revolution is occurring.  Maybe it’s down to the whole “food miles” debate, or maybe it’s just that we’re sick of eating things swathed in pesticides, but growing your own has never been cooler or more popular!  Go to our local garden centre on any given afternoon and there are hoardes of yummy mummies (they get everywhere!) debating the different beetroot yields that they might get from the varieties on sale, or cooing over the latest sunflower varieties.  And while I know that, like our next door neighbour, the majority of them will simply hand over their purchases to their “hired help” when they get home, at least some of us are getting “down and dirty” and convening with nature on a semi-regular basis.


I must confess, I now find myself watching the weather forecast with unhealthy zeal, and tuning in to Gardeners’ Question Time on  Radio 4 at every opportunity (“I’m just waiting to see if they answer my question, honestly”!).  I certainly don’t want to eat things that have been doused in DDT before finding their way to my plate or purchase produce that has been forced on out of season and then flown thousands of miles (at what cost to the environment?) just so I can eat it whenever I like!  Our grandparents got through the war by “Digging for Victory” – eating strawberries at Christmas or swede in June would never have occurred to them!


And you only have to look at some of the “media” gardeners coming to the fore to see that (whisper it!) gardening’s sexy – Monty Don with his irresistible twinkle and battered jumpers that are just crying out for a hug, Diarmud Gavin with his cheeky grin, Dan Pearson with his educated yet slightly distracted air…they all have the look of men who know just what to do with their hands in the soil – and perhaps, by implication, when they’re indoors?  Carole Klein is cute and funny but men I know still go weak at the knees at the sight of Rachel De Thame, all fragrance and elegance, chopping randomly through a load of overgrown lavender with great aplomb.  I guess the thought goes that, if she can be that organised with a plant, just how much fun could they have when she takes THEM in hand?!


So don’t knock gardening ’til you’ve tried it – certainly, for me, the thought that a man is capable of hefting sacks of compost and creating something from a pile of earth is more than alluring…..

June 7, 2011

Sit DOWN, can’t you?

Filed under: Uncategorized — fluffyand40 @ 13:03

Summertime is festival season, and thus the point in the year when loads of interesting bands and solo acts travel across the “pond” to do some solo appearances before heading out into the mud of Glastonbury, T In the Park, Bestival and the like.

I’ve done my time wading through fields of unmentionably unpleasant brown stuff (which may or may not have been mud – it WAS the first year that Glasto flooded and I didn’t want to think about it too much) so I’m more of a “live music in a solid brick venue” type of girl now (though I am venturing to the Eden Project at the end of the month for a gig – get me!).  And so last week I went to a gig.

At the Hammersmith Apollo, a proper “muso” venue, with solid walls, comfy seats and, it would appear, absolutely no way of cooling the temperature down at all – and it wasn’t even that hot outside.  To see the Fleet Foxes, who are one of my favourite bands at the moment – if you’ve missed their particularly wonderful blend of clean, melodic chords and wonderful vocal harmonies, seek them out:  listen for two minutes and you can imagine them singing in fields half way up a hill, a la Waltons’ Mountain.  Blissful.

But in amongst the chaos of the beardie afficionados and their terribly cool girlfriends, decked head to toe in jumble sale finds (sorry, vintage clothing) the one thing that I was struck by was how few people actually SAT to listen to the music.

I get that during the support act (The Bees – had never heard them before, and they were excellent) there’s the usual plethora of needs – the toilet, a drink or two, a hot dog, taking coats to the cloakroom etc – that have to be attended to before The Main Event.  The thing you’ve paid money to see.  The headliners.

But when did it become acceptable for people to be leaping up out of their seats every ten minutes, walking backwards and forwards during songs, standing and having a conversation with friends in front of those who’re more interested in the music, and generally act like they had a CD on in the background at home?

Not just because this is pathologically rude to the band, who were, it has to be said, putting on a very fine show for a group that really doesn’t have an awful lot in the way of “stage show” mechanics – relying instead on the power and beauty of their music.  But also for those of us who actually wanted to a) hear the band and b) see the band and c) not listen to the inane dronings of parents about their late babysitters (that’s your fault – you should have briefed them properly) or the cost of education in W6 (you did the breeding, you pay the bill!).

I went to one of the outdoor sessions at Somerset House last year to see Temper Trap and nearly got slapped by some bint who took offence to my asking her to keep her gossip noise down a bit as we’d actually paid to hear the band and not her wailings (I may have been a little bit more polite, but only a little.  She HAD been banging on about her woes for the past 30 minutes at this point).

I’m afraid it may be very old fashioned but I’m of the belief that if someone is putting on a show, that you’ve paid for, the least you can do is pay attention and listen.  Or is it so outdated to expect people to have some manners – and awareness of those around them – any more?  If you want to chat, stay home or go to the pub.  And if you go to a gig, then at least sit in your seat – you’re disturbing others with all your wiggling about, and it’s not big OR clever!

And to the woman who I prevented from  stepping over me for the fourth time within an hour, I’m sorry but the most incontinent 90 year old doesn’t go to the loo that much.  If you needed it, then perhaps you were ill and shouldn’t have come out in the first place.

So, in summary – Fleet Foxes get an A, 5 gold stars and a “see them now” recommendation, The Bees get an A- (perfect summer pop, but a little bit too much “dad dancing”), and the Hammersmith Apollo audience get a C- “could definitely do better”.  Something to remember when bopping around in the mud this summer?

May 25, 2011

Getting Quizzical

Filed under: Uncategorized — fluffyand40 @ 14:07

For someone who really enjoyed school, but couldn’t wait to get out and play sports and do other things, it’s tough to admit that I’m starting to get mildly obsessed with pub quizzes.

Don’t know if it’s a symptom of wanting to prove that my ageing brain still has “what it takes” or it’s just an opportunity to give it a bit of brain training, but I keep finding myself sitting in crowded, hot rooms in boozers around town, struggling to answer questions that I would have sailed through during my O level year or battling to recall who sang some obscure song from 1997.

What IS it that makes pub quizzing so addictive?  Is it purely and simply the competitive element?  Or is it a need to reassure oneself that there is actually something going on in there, other than planning a shopping trip or working through the contents of the fridge to work out what to make for dinner?

There’s good money to be made on the pub quiz circuit too – last week, I was at one where the prize fund sat at £102!  Just for sitting still for an hour or two – I can DO that.

There’s certainly an “anorak”-ish element to quizzing, which I guess comes from hanging around with people who know a lot of “stuff”, but its strangely addictive in a way that conjugating Latin verbs never was.  And sometimes I even learn things!  I excel in rounds of “popular culture” questions – last night I was helping a friend out by marking a quiz he had set, but I would have scored 20/20 on the round all about Heat magazine.  Who KNEW that this stuff actually goes in?!

It’s also a great way to have a sneaky drink, all in the name of “thinking time” and last night’s quiz even had the bonus of gorgeous food being served at half time (visit The Three Stags in Kennington, London SE1 if you like top tucker – it was delicious!).

So if you need me, I’ll be speed-reading the collected works of George Orwell and swotting up on what colour the tail feathers of a turkey are.  Don’t say I didn’t give you ample notice!  Brain of Britain, here I come!!!

May 24, 2011

My Big Gay Night Out

Filed under: Uncategorized — fluffyand40 @ 12:08

I have seen the future of fabulous partying – and it’s not a hen night, or a stag night.

It’s a Bambi night!

A couple of our male gay friends are celebrating their civil partnership this week, and last Saturday I spent a magnificent night in the company of one of the grooms at his “non-stag” Bambi night.   18 ladies “of a certain age” and the groom enjoyed dinner, dancing, gossiping, far too much champagne and all manner of camp nonsense.

And do you know – although we drank WAY too much, and laughed WAY too loud, and had WAY too much fun, no one needed to be airlifted to hospital or set themselves on fire after too many flaming zambucas?

Confession time:  I’m the first one to go totally over the top when it comes to partying, especially at things like hen nights which I tend to drink to get through (I got horribly drunk at my own, finally returning home in exhausted floods of tears because I’d been left alone at the end of the night – what on earth did I expect would happen?  They’d all come home with me?!!!!!) but for some reason, despite consuming WAY more than is good for us, we all managed to stay the right side of control….just!

After plenty of Pimms to get things going (served with a squeeze of lime as well as the requisite fruit and mint – delicious) we settled down to a wonderful meal that included slow roasted shoulder of lamb with preserved lemons, chicken with garlic and thyme, lamb with sumac and pomegranate molasses and a host of magnificent salads.  All washed down with plenty of Chapel Down English rose!

And then on to the cake – a camper than camp affair featuring chocolate crunch mountains, a white chocolate cheesecake “pool”, frangelico sauce and, of course, the obligatory Bambi stuck on top of one of the peaks, looking slightly uncomfortable!

Cava and more gossiping followed, along with some cheesy disco dancing – and there was no “trying to outdo each other”, or “trying to pull that bloke” that I’ve seen even the most married of hen party guests try on a night out.  Maybe because we were with our very own special stag, but certainly this was just a great celebration of being “with the girls” – and it was fabulous!

Yes, we had piles of pink marabou feathers on the table (obligatory for any Bambi, I’d say!) but there were no L plates, no Claire’s Accessories tiaras, no ghastly cackling and falling drunk into gutters.  And yet I got home as late as I’ve been for about 10 years…with no regrets, and rather randomly no hangover the following day!

Who needs a hen night when you can have a Bambi?  I tell you, I’m hooked!

May 9, 2011

Seen AND heard?

Filed under: Uncategorized — fluffyand40 @ 13:14

When did it become acceptable for children to scream like banshees at any given point in the day?

In restaurants, supermarkets, cars, in the street, even running around in the garden,  it seems to me that the soundtrack to modern Britain is no longer the chatter of the middle classes or (heaven help us) the tweeting of birds or even the rumble of traffic.  No, it’s brats, plain and simple, screaming until their lungs give out.

And what do the majority of parents do in the face of such an aural onslaught?

It would appear that 99.9% do absolutely nothing.

Now perhaps they have been deafened by the constant cacophony of noise which emits from their offspring.  Or maybe they’ve learned to “zone it out” like white noise.  Alternatively, they could (I suppose) be working on the “if I ignore it, it’ll go away” school of parenting.

But isn’t it better to find out WHY one’s child is making such an unholy noise?

My mother (who, let’s face it, was always fond of a good chat, a huge laugh or a generally invigorating argument) would always stop and find out what the matter was – if it was down to me being “a child” then I would be told to be quiet – and woe betide me if I wasn’t!

So why do modern parents think it’s ok to inflict the sonic booms of their children on the rest of us, without actually finding out what’s going on,and being a bit more aware of those around them?

When I sit in my garden at the weekend (or, as is the case at the moment, spend hours weeding and clipping things), I don’t actually choose to listen to the children next door playing (as they were yesterday) “who can scream the loudest”.  If they want to do that, I suggest they go into a padded room – or better still, a room in their own bloody house so that I can can continue my day without interruption.  Laughing and giggling = fine, hollering fit to cause an aneurism = needs some parental guidance.

I’m afraid to say that my inner Victor Meldrew took over and after five minutes of this unholy noise I shouted at them to “shut up”.  And guess what, they did!

It constantly baffles me why people have children when they are unprepared for what that may mean to them (including the need to provide discipline and control for starters) and so think that the rest of the world will do their parenting for them.  Guess what?  We won’t! 

When you buy a dog, you undertake to take it for a walk, feed it, groom it and look after it.  So why do so many parents absolve themselves of all responsibility and assume that the rest of us (who haven’t actually “bought in” to their parental idyll) will pick up the slack for them?

As the Americans say, “If you can’t do the time, then don’t do the crime.”

April 20, 2011

Go out and play – it’s allowed!

Filed under: Uncategorized — fluffyand40 @ 12:44

Adults really don’t know how to party like they used to.

In the 1960s, even those grey haired, long in the tooth hippies knew what was what when it came to getting down and dirty at Glastonbury, the Isle of Wight or even Hyde Park.

So what happened?

Apparently Glastonbury festival is now “for the young” – a netballing colleague of mine was appalled at the thought that anyone over the age of 25 might want to go (to be fair, they’re probably the only ones who can AFFORD to go – all that money and you still have to stay in a tent?!! OMG, I AM my mother!) – and you’re only allowed to look in Top Shop if you’re 19 (same netballing colleague was quite incredulous, along with her 20 year old chums, that I’d managed to go in and out of the Oxford Street shop on my own, and buy some jewellery – although whether that was incredulity because I’d been allowed in and out without being arrested, or without getting lost was something that I didn’t want to enquire about). Only last weekend, sitting in the garden in glorious sunshine and watching their screaming brats playing, one of our neighbour’s friends said (in a very loud but wistful voice): “If only we could play like that now, at our age.”

Our neighbours are 35.

Who dictates when and why we stop playing? Who said that they couldn’t leap into the fray, playing hide and seek or bouncing in the ridiculous trampoline that seems to be de rigeur for suburban parents in this neck of the wood.  Creative gurus as great and grand as Edward de Bono have always advocated playing as the means to ensuring fresh thinking and creative problem solving.

And who wants to become the old people that our parents always saddled us with, stuck indoors on the most glorious of days, with nothing to talk about, no new experiences to share or pithy opinions to discuss in any great detail.  Stuck in front of the tv set, saying nothing to anyone.  Sounds dire to me.

So why become staid and boring?

The sun’s out this weekend, so get out there and start enjoying yourself – whether you’re 15 or 50. Visit that gallery that you’ve always wanted to see, venture off the beaten track in the countryside or start that project you never thought you’d get to, be it building a wall in the garden or starting the reconstruction of the Titanic in your sand pit.  And if the do-gooders turn up their noses and start sniffing at you, simply ignore them, crank up the iPod and turn the page of that trashy novel you’ve always wanted to read:  life is for living!

Personally, I’ll be breaking out the garden jenga, whizzing a few quoits onto the outdoor archery set and perhaps even filling up the paddling pool. Sure beats sitting inside and knitting.  Remember, as someone infinitely wiser than me said, age is just a state of mind.

Enjoy the sunshine – but don’t forget your sunscreen!!!

April 15, 2011

Coincidence or not?

Filed under: Uncategorized — fluffyand40 @ 10:28

I’ve been looking for a new job – and it’s tough out there.

This isn’t a woe-is-me rant, far from it – but it’s certainly stressful and testing my powers of patience (which are very thin at the best of times)!  Hours spent getting an application “just right” haven’t yielded much in the way of interest, but neither has a blanket “general” email.  Gone are the days when recruiters call you back if you send in an application:  while it seems like the height of bad manners to me, nowadays it appears it’s acceptable for those looking for employees to simply ignore basic rules of communication and, rather than acknowledge receipt of an application, just carry on regardless.  So do you re-send your application if you haven’t heard from the company concerned?  Or do you just take the hit and assume you’re incapable / unsuitable / not worth the paper your CV’s printed on (delete which is not applicable, depending on how fed up you’re feeling!)

So, after more than 200 applications (yes, 200!) I reverted back to the world of the headhunter – which I generally hate because nine out of ten of them don’t take the time to actually listen to what you want and send you off to any old job whether a) it’s of interest b) you’re suitable.    And had the most hideous conversation with a 22 year old which ended with the immortal line:  “The problem is, you’re too experienced.”

How can you be TOO experienced?  Surely companies value a bit of expertise, which means jobs can get done properly, and quickly, and on brief and on budget?   Have I wasted the last 15+ years actually building up knowledge, contacts and industry information?  Obviously, yes!

This little charmer then asked me if I’d ever considered becoming a recruitment consultant, because that would be perfect for my age and experience.  Errr, nooooooo!  That’s not what I’m after.

Having mulled this exchange over for a couple of days, I tried again – on a different tack, going back to the wonderful world of PR.

Guess what, I now have two paying freelance jobs, with another one pending!  And what did I do differently this time?

Nothing.  Other than removing my date of birth from my CV.

Anyone want to tell me that ageism isn’t alive and well in 21st century Britain?

March 30, 2011

Party like it’s 1999!

Filed under: Uncategorized — fluffyand40 @ 12:59

Apologies for the absence of any new musings recently but I have been helping with organisation of a “significant birthday” party for a chum, which happened on Saturday – and a fabulous and fantastic evening it was!

One thing that struck me, as I stumbled into the gloom of a London night after a fab time at the Class Rooms near Blackfriars (visit them today – GREAT venue and lovely staff!) was how much fun a group of supposedly adult people had had, dancing to the hits of our youth and drinking way more than is entirely necessary!

This could be a rant on how few of the hits of the past ten years I could sing even part of.  It isn’t – though I can’t see today’s youth getting down and boogying to the likes of Jessie J and NDubz at the family parties of the future.  The thing that really struck me was why I can remember the words to most of the songs played on Saturday night, in their entirety – the phrasing, the changes of key, even the dance moves (though maybe that I should keep to myself!).  

I know that many of them were committed to memory during my O and A level studies (which would explain why I didn’t do so well in my A level Economics – Heaven 17 weren’t part of the syllabus) when my brain was receptive to learning, but have we hit on another super business idea here?

Rather than make A level coursework boring and repetitive, how about setting it to music and getting the chart stars of the day to SING the material to students?  This makes it more interesting and, it would appear, more likely to sink in.

And who knows, maybe the top 40 of 2066 could include the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, or Keynes’ Economic Theories?  I know I’d have paid more attention.

Meanwhile, all together now:  “Don’t you want me baby?  Don’t you want me, woaaaaaaah?  Don’t you……”

March 16, 2011

Men really are different!

Filed under: Uncategorized — fluffyand40 @ 19:39

This weekend I attended my first ever Six Nations rugby match – and despite a) England being woeful (although still winning – just) and b) having attended rugby matches at Twickenham before, I was struck by a “bolt of lightning” moment midway through.

Looking around the incredibly well behaved and good natured crowd (happy to sit together whoever they were supporting – football crowds take note!) I was struck by the mix of ages which was co-existing happily, drinking together, laughing together and screaming at the referee as one man (and the odd woman!).

Isn’t it interesting?  Women tend to stick in groups according to age groups…and while you’ll occasionally find a five or six year age gap among friends, it’s very rare for a 20 year span (or more) to occur in groups of female friends, in my experience.  Why is that?

Are we worried what the older generation might think about us?  Do we judge our fellow females too harshly?  Or do we think we’re not connected, or have nothing in common?

While I understand that we pick our friends initially from our school or college years, or those we meet at sports competitions, wouldn’t it be enlightening to see what we can learn, and how much fun we could have, with those who are of our parents’ generation?  Or our children’s?  Rather than pre-judging them and closing ourselves off to the experience.

Watching groups of men singing karaoke in the bars of Twickenham after the game was terrifying (Tom Jones will never sound the same again!) and encouraging in equal measure – teenagers and pensioners enjoying the day alongside each other without judging each other or making disparaging comments.  Wouldn’t it be great if women could behave in the same manner?  (and yes, the 16 year olds were WAY better behaved than the 60+s – good on the silver surfers!!!).

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