April 14th

Couldn’t let today slip by without sharing this piece of piano music, which always seems to catch me off-guard when it comes up in my music shuffle.

Simply beautiful.

(Song – “Avril 14th”, Artist – Aphex Twin)

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Alice’s Book (Cover) of the Week #2

Again, as per the last one I shared, this too comes from an online forum.

Errrrrr…..

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New Year, New Job

So, here’s news; I have a new job, in a new company (but still within the financial services sector – in case any of you were worried of me jumping the sector-ship).

Just a little bit smug/proud of myself. A little.

Nothing encapsulates this glorious news better (/brings me back down a peg) than this card sent to me by a dear friend. The message inside is wonderful, it’s all incredibly heartful, only, he didn’t realise it was one of those personalised cards you’re meant to edit beforehand.

(My family are now refusing to call me anything other than Stacey Peterson.)

Brilliant.

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Letters, Books, Pigeons: Christmas 2021

Can I just start with the most middle-class, Cotswold drama to have occured this year at Christmas. Mumma B, setting her prized oven mits on fire, by accidentally placing them over a Yankee candle.

The best bit? Mumma B’s first reaction to my panic was to assume the vegetables were boiling over. I don’t think it quite trumps the time I dropped the Michael Buble Christmas CD in a tray of turkey fat, but it’s a close second.

Anyway…

Letters, Books, Pigeons: Christmas 2021

Music

I’m going to start as we mean to go on, with this:

You know what? The more times I watch it, the more times I think there is nothing in here the great George Michael and Andrew Ridgley of Wham! would take issue with.

From the soundtrack to the casual bit of inter breed dating, I only hope, and I truly mean this from the bottom of my heart, that George Michael was able to watch this before his death in 2016.

(And if you think any of this is tragic just remember, this wasn’t even the worst thing I came across. Nowhere near.)

I’m Dreaming of a White…Pigeon

When it comes to Christmas, everyone has a different interpretation for what festivities look like. Some people have robins in snow, in Swindon we’ve got pigeons bathing in overflowing waste drains.

Beggars can’t be choosers.

Interior Decorations

While I’m not one of those who puts up decorations super early, I am a fan of Christmas when it does come along. Anything to get me over the trauma of Halloween.

Genuinely can’t be trusted to watch a 12-rated spook film without freaking out at the slightest jump-scare. Years it took me to get over Disney’s The Haunted Mansion, years.

I put up my tree…

…and proceded to smash up my beloved retro starburst clock, by attempting to hang lights off it. The entire glass dial, smashed into a trillion bitty pieces.

Mazel Tov! (Oh, wait, that’s the wrong religion.)

Moving along…

Shopping

It’s always nice when Jesus graces you with his presence when you’re out and about shopping, even if his eyeless sockets are a little bit menacing.

We buy all these presents, yet not one of them is for him? So humble.

And I’m not going to lie, arguably the gifting has already peaked this year. That happened recently when my family teamed up to buy me a whole set of matching Next kitchenware.

My goodness, it’s so beautiful.

Huh? Sorry, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, presents.

I mean, at the same birthday I also got given this:

Honestly, the embarassment of opening this in front of my family, alongside Next kitchenware. Not just that, reading the blurb out! Trust me, it gets worse. Deary me, my cheeks were not ready for that leavel of red. (Thanks Matt, mission accomplished!)

Now this, this is the sort of tat I can get into.

(But not buy.)

Hang on a second, I’m sure I’ve seen something like this before.

My goodness, talk about nerve!

That was on sale for £2 less in 2019!

It set me up to be in a right unimpressed British emoji-type mood when my younger sister pointed this sign-board out to me.

No, just no.

Ignoring all of the random shop items, this year my best purchase has to be, without a shadow of a doubt, my new fountain pen.

I bought the pen, then proceeded to Google how to make it work.

There’s definetely something ironic in using the internet to lookup the basics of how to use a pen.

Letters

One of my favourite things I like to do every year is write Christmas cards. This year, with so many of my colleagues based overseas that meant a bit more spent on stamps but heck, they’re worth it.

For clarity, these aren’t the only cards I’ve written. I have more than five friends.

I’m still at the stage of life where I don’t have five million of them to write out, and/or pressing life matters that see every night booked up from 1st August, through to 15th January. I can treat myself to the odd night of pure card-writing, jotting out personalised notes to those nearest and dearest. It gives me a kind of buzz.

What can I say? Some people have alcohol, I have cards. We both have wrecked tounges.

Terrible Christmas Films (No, Really)

When I write cards, wrap presents etc, I tend to stick on one of those terribly wonderful Hallmark-type Christmas films on. Predictable and, I used to think, unoffensive. That was, until I saw this clip:

THEY DON’T EVEN EAT THE FOOD!!

What kind of dining-out date is this? Nu-huh, I’m sorry mate, you can stop juggling those oranges, because if I’m not getting a look-in on that Tupperware box, then you ain’t getting this.

(Close friends have also pointed out countless other things that make no sense in this montage, however I’m sticking firm on the lack-of-food being the absolute worst. Three words; girl, gotta, eat.)

On that note… *returns to phone to scroll through her tailored Facebook adverts*

Serves me right for being an insomniac. And, on the topic of sleep, a late night pop to the shops to buy some milk and I spot this:

“…Does it come with a receipt?”

Coffee

Oh, hey! Almost forgot. It’s December now, so that means my diet is even more whacky than other months* (*let’s be honest, my diet is hardly enviable). Did someone invite me to go around all the coffee shops, drink gingerbread lattes and not eat anything until evening, when I have a three course meal?

(Not that I ever want to have a three course meal, even two courses is an extreme for me, but because it’s December suddenly that’s a thing. Gonna get me a sweet, sweet latte, bigger than my tiny wrist can hold.)

Anyway, yes, yes that’s me. And I will read a book in there and no, you will not have a hope of kicking me out until at least two hours have passed, and not a minute before.

Unrelated note, does anyone else get life this after getting heavily involved with an emotional book?

“Walking through the dark and cold drizzel of town, after a 2+ hour coffee shop reading session. So full of mixed emotions right now, I genuinely don’t know whether to cry or feel inspired. Just me, or does anyone else have to take a lie down when the book feel get this intense?”

Turns out, it’s just me.

“Ink not coming out of fountain pen” is a niche search entry, I’ll give you that. Maybe not quite as popular as Ariana Grande but heck, you’ve gotta keep these traditions alive.

Conclusions

You know what? Stuff it! I’m just gonna book myself on a professionally accredited course to learn about unicorn magic…

…and go watch the Swindon Wildcats play down the local rink.

In fairness, it was such a good game.

Wait, There’s More!

Before you go, remember that video I included at the start of this post? Well, guess what? The creator only went and made an improved version and/or (to be honest I’m not entirely sure which) sequeal a few years later! Yeah, I know!

Better still, the soundtrack features the musical stylings of Cascada, covering Wham!

Yes Cascada!

Honestly, between these music videos and that pictre of pigeons washing themselves in waste water, I really don’t think Christmas could really peak much more than this.

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STILL Wishing You Were Here? Bruges Throwback

I was having a chat with someone at work the other day and it got me reminiscing about the first solo adventure I went on back in November 2018. Wow, three years has flown by! Since then I’ve been on three further solo trips and I can’t wait for normality to return once more so I can get back into exploring Europe without limitation.

Bruges (by boat)

I loved Bruges with all my heart, as much for what it did to me as much as its physical beauty.

One moment will forever stick in my mind. I’d taken it upon myself to visit a number of the churches in the North of the city, where very few tourists went. Alone in Sint-Walburgakerk church, an elderly volunteer, latching onto the excuse to perform, struck up the organ and began to play the most beautiful music. With every gentle note I started to reflect, thinking about all the things I’d accomplished in such a short space of time. I’d gone from being put down as the timid country mouse studying History and clearing wedding tables at 2am, to a smartly-dressed Financial Services professional, working in the City of London. And in a that I was there, in that church, travelling without anyone’s permission, approval or, indeed, moaning. I didn’t need to justify myself to anyone, not anymore. I was me.

In the same way I’d found myself silently weeping in Prague a year ago, over someone who’d rather sit in the hotel room 50 yards away than be with me, I was crying again. But this time something was different; the tears tracing down my hot flushed cheeks weren’t bitter, nor cold, they tasted sweet. In an empty church in Bruges, I was hit with a sudden burst of clarity. After all this time, I’d finally discovered what my heart had been missing all along. I was proud of myself.

Bruges was just incredible, second only to Arvon writing course (but then, to compare the two experiences would be like comparing chalk to cheese).

Most of you will have seen this already but hell, I’m sharing it again. Here is the Windows Movie Maker video I put together after I got back from my first solo city break to Bruges. Filmed on a (very) humble iPhone 5.

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It’s Official: I’m a FULLY Vaxxer!

This is my obligatory public service announcement that I’ve now had my second dose of the Covid-19 vaccination. Whoop! Go me/science/go-away pandemic.

And, because I’m also that kind of person, I used it as an excuse to post a number of letters on the way home. That’s right, I’m so productive!

I spent the vaccination part of my appointment talking to the nurse about my fabulous taste in dresses (best two minutes of any girl’s life) and the fifteen minutes wait time afterwards reading a book. I could have taken a photo of either one of these two activities but it really wasn’t that exciting. Posting letters in a pillar box, that was more exciting.

In short, the process to get both my vaccines was so laid back, it was virtually horizontal. All super friendly people, with big smiles and even bigger bottles of hand sanitiser.

I’m not going to get overly-preachy, but I’d highly encourage anyone to get jabbed (*if it’s something that’s offered to you and something you can medically take).

Still unsure? Browse information published on medically recognised websites, log onto your national health webpages (in the UK, anything endorsed by the NHS), talk to medicine women/men. Don’t listen to idiotic turnips, the ones who own little more in the technical department than a cheap keyboard and have way too much time on their hands to write whacky blogs (oh, wait…)

Anyway, this is my little bit to inform people that yes, I’ve had my second dose of the Covid vaccine and yes, that does mean 14 days from now there’s a heightened risk that I’ll start running around and hugging people for no apparent reason. Also, I may start crying. No reason, I just might.

You have been warned.

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Opinion: Don’t use Covid-19 as an Excuse for “Closure Culture” of the Arts

It’s not often I hop onto my soapbox, least of all on anything bordering on political. That’s not what 99% of you guys came here for, to be quite honest it’s not really what I came here for. However it has now reached a stage where I cannot sit here in good faith and say nothing.

Back in March 2020, at the start of the first UK wide lockdown, all museums and attractions across England were forced to close. This included Swindon Museum and Art Gallery (SMAG), a small site located in the heart of the town’s oldest district. Like all respecting patrons of art and culture institutions up and down the country, I fully supported this government-enforced directive.

On the ending of the first lockdown in Summer 2020, Swindon Borough Council refused to reopen SMAG. While other heritage sites reopened their doors, awash with safety posters and guidance on basic handwashing, the chains around SMAG’s grand entranceway continued to rust with dejection. Now, in August 2021, dejection has slipped into acceptance, the rust into rot. It feels like culture was never here at all.

Throughout the assorted protests and disjointed cries from local residents, the council has strongly defended their decision, stating this move is only intended as a short-term measure. Other rumours speculate Covid being used as a thin veil of scapegoating the closure on underlying problems the council had been failing to redress for years, including low footfall, costly repairs and accessibility issues. This, and the proposed £33,000 per year saving it would make to the local budget, at a time when the council needs to urgently balance the books.

Apsley House, location of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, until it’s closure in March 2020. Photo credit: https://englandrover.com/listing/swindon-museum-and-art-gallery/

For the years I have lived in Swindon, I openly admit to being less that a frequent visitor to SMAG. In fact, one of the few visitations I made was on a first date with my (now) ex boyfriend, which dates it very well. It was a long time ago.

I had thicker brows then, but (unsurprisingly) the same clothes.

But, on the few times I went, I enjoyed it. Aside from the unchanging artefact exhibits (complete with the much-loved “Apsley the Croc”), there was also an extensive art collection which went through frequent rotations. I was never a fan of the 1960s extension, bolted on in the 1960s, but as far as the contents was concerned I respected and enjoyed the contents for what they offered. Only in hindsight do I realise how little I fully appreciated what we had; now it’s gone.

In some ways the council’s decision to close SMAG is predictable. For years, concern was tempered with optimism over plans to relocate the museum to a newly constructed “Cultural Quarter”, proposed as part of a 2019 bid for Heritage Lottery Funding. Housed closer to the train station, the site would also contain a digital media centre, dance studio, and an expanded 1200-seat Wyvern Theatre. It was estimated to cost £80 million to build, create up to 1200 jobs and pump in an estimated £35 million into the local economy. Sadly, this bid proved to be unsuccessful.

Artist impression of new museum, situated in Swindon’s “Cultural Quarter”. Phot credit: Swindon Advertiser
Architectural “cut through” of the proposed museum design. Photo credit: Swindon Advertiser

At the time of writing (August 2021), all capital investment projects are on hold. Headlines will often cite the pandemic as the main reason, however the pessimist in me would also cite that by the council’s own omission, work on constructing the theatre alone wasn’t due to start until 2025. In other words, this project was always going to be a slow burner.

During the course of writing this article, I’ve discovered Swindon Borough Council are now considering different options, including having an “Art Pavilion”, and/or touring Art and collections in pop-up spaces, in a format being referred to as “Museums Without Walls”. Citing the museum elsewhere is also being considered. But these conversations are incredibly early in the process, and this response is quite possibly driven by community action by the Friends Swindon Museum and Art Gallery group (and local news coverage). Where the preservation of Arts and Culture is concerned, it shouldn’t take a group of people shouting and screaming to force the hand of local government. When the justification reads as “temporary closure, due to Covid”, was the expectation that we’d all forget? That we wouldn’t care?

Why does it matter?

I get it, not everyone is big into History; not everyone enjoys stuffy old exhibits and random bits of art. And that’s absolutely fine. But here’s the thing, when you’re sat in a boxy little room, planning ahead for the future, it becomes increasingly harder to pitch your town as being a “place to be”, “up and coming” or a “desirable” if with the other hand, you’re eroding the cultural bedrock on which it stands.

It’s why most towns in the UK will have a heritage centre of some size. It celebrates and brings communities together or, to be a bit more cold-hearted, it adds to the sales pitch. “Move to Swindon, we have…houses”, it doesn’t quite butter the parsnips.

Yes, the museum had a small footfall and yes, there were many areas in which it was crying out for improvement, but we’ve slept-walked into losing another thing that celebrated this town for what it was. With it, and an increasing trend of young professionals adopting WFB (Work From Bedroom) jobs, I fear we’ll start losing the point of why any of us are here at all.

So, where does this place the arts and culture in this sprawling town? It seems the future is set to remain uncertain indefinitely. And this post only relates to one type of cultural attraction; novels could be written of the erosion of a good deal of other services (libraries, community groups etc) in the years leading up to 2020.

In light of all this, I have only one thing to ask of the local council; don’t use Covid-19 as an excuse for a move that can only be described as closure culture. Because, at the end of the day, I think we’re all smarter than that, don’t you?

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Swindon Museum and Art Gallery website: https://www.swindonmuseumandartgallery.org.uk/

Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery: https://friendsofsmag.org/

Petition to Save Swindon Museum and Art Gallery: https://www.change.org/p/swindon-borough-council-save-the-swindon-museum-and-art-gallery

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Deleted MHAM Posts From the Cutting Room Floor

Some of the photos and posts that I wanted to write for My Housemate’s a Mermaid, but didn’t quite have enough material (pictorial and verbal) to fill.

Deleted MHAM Posts From the Cutting Room Floor

  1. The time how, at the start of the pandemic, Mumma B spent hours cutting squares of old fabric to make laundry bags for NHS key workers

2. When I stayed up so late that I ended up watching a much younger Nicky Campbell presenting a Top of the Pops episode from 1990

Some people had more fun than others.

I continued to watch it, even when this was played from the UK top twenty for the week.

3. How very surreal my office was when I went back to empty my locker

4. My sister’s attempts with one of those packet face masks from South Korea

It ripped off a load of skin, but not a lot else.

5. Squeak, the cat, being rebellious

6. The time I saw my old/favourite History lecturer from University on the BBC and I absolutely lost my cool

I mean, WITH LUCY WORSLEY!!

7. The time I found this in a shop and it perked up my mood

(But not enough that I bought it.)

8. The generous gin measures down the local pub

9. The generous measures of lunch portions while living with family

10. The thinking behind this at the Travel Lodge Hotel in York

It was in the foyer for several days…

11. A post detailing the contents of my bookshelf

12. Everything about this account that started following me on Twitter

How did it take you to spot that’s a semi naked woman?

13. A post on me rekindling my creative mojo during the pandemic

14. The importance of good friends who call-out when you have really bad body odour

15. The ‘what the fudge-ness’ of this targeted advert

Yes, I did tap the link and yes, I am still getting adverts for werewolf fan-fiction as a result.

16. Lockdown birthdays

17. The large number of self-published books with Covid themes

18. The other strange things being self-published

Although I am still a bit in love with the title of this book.

19. My attempts to have a massive clear-out

…which were ultimately foiled by a mixture of procrastination / charity shops being closed / Bubble the cat.

So there you go, a snippet of how much gets filtered before making it onto this website. What can I say? You get what you pay for.

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My Face, On Your Tissues

There is more to the humble spam folder than missed opportunities and utter junk. Exactly, there’s missed junk opportunities!

Ladies and gentleman, may I kindly introduce to you this email…

I admit, it’s not the easiest to read on the photo. Let me detail it below:

HiAeb
I am glad to know your demand for the tissue market.
We have specialized in providing customized tissues for more than 8 years, and have provided sources of supply for many domestic companies.
We are eager to expand channels and we are eager to cooperate with you.
Samples will be sent to you for evaluation.
Thanks, and best wishes

Ms Luo (General Manager)
Chengdu Dixuan Trading Company

I know! Cutomized tissue paper?! Where have these opportunities been in my life? In my spam folder, that’s where!

Oh my, I think I’m getting giddy with all the possibilities. “Expanding my channels” – I can see it now, my face in toilet cubicles up and down the country. No, not the country, THE WORLD!!

I’ll be quite honest with you, I can’t think of anything much better.

Or, I could do as my email provider recommends and just delete the email, or, do nothing and let my email provider automatically delete it for me. (I’ll let you guess which I ended up doing.)

And people say I excited over nothing…oh hey, a shiny bit of foil blowing down the street!

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Fancy Chinese Footwear

So here’s a bit of background for you, on the jazzy socks featured in Why Alice is *Still* Single…Probably.

Back when I was living in London I had the absolute pleasure of attending the Tate Modern’s critically appraised exhibition Picasso 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy. It ran between 8th March – 9th September 2018.

I didn’t attend “1932…” until late on, days before it was due to close. Why? Because I’ll be honest, Picasso had never really been my bag. I appreciated his reputation and there’s no denying Guernica is a masterpiece of political demonstration, but otherwise I just saw the man as someone who took a lot of credit for not a lot.

Don’t shoot me.

In the end, it was a little voice inside my head that urged me to go, that I’d only regret it if I didn’t. (Also, because at the time I could get in for £5. Minor detail.)

I’m so very glad I went. For one, turns out the man is just as trigger happy on the paint brushes as I am on my blog. In one year he produced over 100 works of art (mostly of his mistress). Secondly, some of his work isn’t too shabby.

Don’t get me wrong, I still had questions. Most of my secondary school art projects were on par with Yellow Belt.

And yet God knows, you never saw my Art teacher praising me as the Second Coming. I took a snapshot and sent it to my Mum, she still insisted I keep the day job.

So what has all this got to do with socks? Well, sometime after the exhibition I was browsing the wonderful world of Far Eastern shopping when I came across some socks printed with the iconic painting The Dream.

I’ll spare you my cobble-dash description on this painting but yep, the way he painted the face is intentional (classic playboy Picasso). More information here.

Short story, shorter, I found a pair of socks online depicting this masterpiece (or, as the sellers called them, “style #3 sleeping lady”). Don’t ask how or why, it’ll be easier for us both. Neither did I enquire as to the copyright, given the same people were also selling “magic man” socks of Jesus.

12 million months later my socks arrived, looking something like this:

First observation – no way in hell were these made for a ladies foot-size 5 (EU 38). Definitely men’s socks. But still, the print detailing was alright and the image had been flipped. Without disclosing the price, (*cough* 99p), you get what you pay for.

I couldn’t wait to try them on.

Then I looked down…

Because the socks were bigger in size than expected, I’d had to pull them up higher, and because my calves are the size of tree trunks, the print was stretched-out even more.

Far from looking mellowed after a bit of artist lovin’, Marie looks genuinely pained from having her face stretched to that of a horse. And let’s not even go there with where that places Picasso’s perceived manhood.

Oh well.

I’m still gonna wear them though. I mean, Picasso socks! How cool is that?!

…What? What’s wrong?

Thanks Col, babe. xx

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