Tag Archives: humor/humour

Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Yep, that’s me, Yours Truly. Mrs Carmichael is biting her nails and drinking too much sav blanc in a futile attempt to recover from a trifecta of disappointment that was last Thursday night at the theatre.

warning, warning, warning (Playhouse poster)
disaster warning ( credit: Playhouse Theatre promotional poster)

Watching The Graham Norton Show before Christmas I laughed along with the host and his guest, Tamsin Grieg, for both of whom I have much respect. Tamsin, as always, was elegant and funny. Graham and the lead actress in the musical being promoted, made Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown a not to be missed West End adventure for me and hopefully mis amigas. I accepted their virtual invitation, and in turn, sent mine to March’s Lanzarote Ladies as a bonding exercise before we seek sunshine in the Canaries. All accepted with alacrity and I bought four tickets.

It was Tamsin (Green Wing, Episodes, Jumpy to name but a few of her successes); it was Pedro Almodóvar (Volver, I’m So Excited and many, many more funky films); it was Spanish and we were headed to Spain; it was still previews and seats were reasonably priced. What could possibly go wrong?

Quite a lot as it turns out.

I have never been to the Playhouse Theatre before. Now I know why. The vertiginous seating, the usher not knowing where our seats were or how to find the safety ropes and crampons needed to access them, the spotlight drilling into my back and highlighting patrons’ bald spots and greying coiffures, the red-swagged and heavily dust laden curtains that we, in the upper balcony, were forced to look down upon, the filthy armchairs in one empty box to our left and down, down, down (a mirror propped in said box reflecting piles of junk behind same dusty drapes) were annoying/amusing add-ons to our theatrical experience but the fact that we could not see very much of the stage from our ‘non-restricted view’ seats is unforgivable. Shame on you Playhouse Theatre.

illusory view because taken standing and with no audience remaining (mrscarmichael)
illusory view – taken standing and with no audience remaining to block sight lines (mrscarmichael)

As those in front of us leaned forward in the vein hope of seeing more that a quarter of the stage, our view became oh so much more restricted. At times (before I seat hopped) the stage, for me was a human- less wasteland. At one point some desultory laughter caused me to note aloud that I didn’t see anything funny.

“The policeman are spooning,” my one remaining companion informed me.

On standing up I could see the spooning coppers lying on the stage. Still not funny but at least visible now. Of course I couldn’t remain standing although others behind and to the right of me, I noticed, did.

Voices came from we knew not where. Only if action occurred way upstage or centre right could we spot it. Oh, if a cast member appeared on the balcony then, hallelujah, we could see them. But only from their flies down.

Almodóvar made this movie in 1988. How then can its premise be so dated? Multiple women jilted by an ageing lothario. If being left nineteen years previously deserves a breakdown I think we, as woman-kind, need to step into the real world. The fact alone that the actor playing Ivan, the male-fatale, was devoid of any obvious sex appeal and vanished like his voice/ singing ability into the backdrops, sets the story up to fail.

Fail it did. Not being able to see it failing became quite funny. Funnier than Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown anyway. The acting was poor but I believe the lines were poorer. The songs left us wanting.The singing too. One poor girl did not appear to be mic’d. Perhaps this was a good thing. We will never know.

Two of our foursome decided to cut and run at half time. They were not alone in the stampede. Apparently, as they were bolting for the door, an usherette offered my friends seats in the dress circle. She said that the show got better in the second half. They declined. Close to freedom, the thought of any more am-dram was intolerable. They made the right choice. The show did not get better in the second half. I stayed against my better judgement, moved seats twice more and woke the gentleman on my left when his head got too heavy on my shoulder. The two escapees were home sipping chilled chablis before I left the theatre. Ah me.

It is only my opinion but I do think Tamsin Grieg looked ever so slightly embarrassed accepting the applause. Thus I did not feel the need to stay for any prolonged clapping. Knowing the cast would not notice my absence because they so rarely glanced up, up, up to the gods during the show, I made a break for the ladies’ loo. Avoiding this queue counts as the success of my evening in London’s West End.

“Do you want to stay for the Q and A?” A…….. asked me as she scaled the stairs to the exit.

That thought gave us the biggest laugh of the whole evening.

 

 

 

Christmas Countdown

‘On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me……………………..’

Stop singing. I begin with an apology. And shout out to all those Crimble songsters in the blogosphere who prefer your annual sing-along neat, pure and minimalist. Nothing in Casa Carmichael is that way – no ends, buts or peut etres and for that I can do nothing but say ‘sorry’.

It has dawned on yours truly that the longer I procrastinate in tapping this post the less I need write. But I have dallied long enough and there are now fewer than two fistfuls of days until the big one.  So, on with the show.

Eight:  On the eighth day before Christmas the paucity of merry christmas/happy new year cards gracing the Carmichael shelves cannot be ignored. If we remove the local curry house’s salutation along with a festively decorated offering from one of the local primary schools that has used on- tap child labour to deliver a missive announcing their Key Stage Two results to the hood, we have eight. Eight matches the days until we eat turkey and cranberry sauce but, in card stakes, is not very many is it?

I blame myself. About a decade ago I lost my address book. It had been a wedding present, was leather bound and contained much information. I know it would be worth money were I famous. But I’m not and its leaving passed with but a whimper. Before it left it fell to pieces, slowly but with menace. The M’s stopped receiving Carmichael cards first, followed the next year by the V’s. Being a solo, the V’s hardly counted but before December of the following year my address book was no more.

The guilt I felt at being unable to send cards that year was huge. The next, I’ll admit to a twinge and now I don’t even think about it. Is that terrible? Or is it a good thing?

There was a hiatus of four or five years when cards still poured in to us – perfect but slowly, oh so slowly my deleterious behaviour has been noted and now in 2014 we have a paltry eight cards on the 19th of December. It’s almost embarrassing to put them up. But I am made of sterner stuff. I have spread them wide and thin. Those who faithfully wish us well deserve to be honoured. Thank you and merry christmas to all.

merry christmas to all (mrscarmichael)
merry christmas my lovelies
(mrscarmichael)

Seven: episodes of Missing to watch, all backed up on my Sky Planner. My task (and yes, I have chosen to accept it) is to finish them by Christmas Day. For two reasons. Firstly, it’s a worthy thing to do and I can hide away whilst doing it. Secondly we are cancelling our Sky contract (finally Mr C is getting his way – call it an early present) and installing Virgin. All current recording will vanish.

Six: we are for Christmas this year which means I have enough matching plates, champagne glasses, wine glasses, themed napkins (linen), and a table large enough to seat us all without taking turns. The Carmichaels are not so good at taking turns so this is a good thing. I am excited not to have the hired table and chairs in my living room ’till mid-January this time round. Another good thing.

Five: presents to buy. Things are going extraordinarily well. It’s worrying. I think I am in control of present acquisition. Many are even wrapped. Of course, Mr Carmichael has not got out of park yet. That is always a moment to marvel at. If history repeats the hurricane that is my husband’s pressy purchasing begins on Christmas Eve – after lunch, just as the sun goes down.

“What would you like for Christmas?” he asks from his cell phone, as he stands in a shopping mall, at gone 4.30pm.

Perhaps this year will be different. I’ll let you know.

Four: desserts to try. This year we are going off piste and will not be enjoying Daughter #1’s white chocolate cheesecake. Although delicious we want a change and she wants to cook the brussel sprouts instead. Nor will we not be enjoying my SIL’s triffle on steroids. H…… understands. And is consigned to christmas crackers and all things cheese. It’s for the best and therefore a good thing. You can trust me on that one.

Three/Two: strings of christmas tree lights/two trees. ‘Why three? Why two?’ you ask and it is a most reasonable question. This is why.

the boy's first christmas (mrscarmichael)
the boy beneath the boughs (mrscarmichael)

As good as puppy Lyle is on his perambulations he is not a good boy within Casa Carmichael’s four walls. His adult teeth like to chew. They like to chew glasses, cases for glasses, pens, biros, magazines, mail, money (yes, money!), newspapers, sticks, concrete, toys and socks. Extrapolating from this heady compilation, we can assume that trees, decorations and presents might also be delicious to a ten month old Cockapoo.

My suggestion was that we got a small tree this year to sit atop a table (see above) that he could admire from afar. That suggestion did not go down well. One thing Carmichael pere and enfants adore is tradition. There was a fight. I said I was doing the small tree anyway. So I buy a small box of lights. I test the lights. They work. I put them on the tree. The rest (re another tree), I said, was up to them. Ha!

Days later and with a guilty heart, I chose and purchased a second tree. I have to admit it’s a stunner.

christmas tree numero dos (mrscarmichael)
christmas tree numero dos (mrscarmichael)

Please, it you have a moment read what happens in CC, when tree picking goes wrong. Here it is, you have my permission to feel smug (Me, Thee or the Tree).

Oh, and there, within that post are lights numero 1 – hmmm. Note to self, ring trading standards when a moment frees up. But wait, I’m jumping ahead of myself.

“This year, “I tell Daughter #2, “you can do the lights as well as the decorations.”

“I don’t want to do the lights,” she replies.

“Nor do I,” I retort. “In fact I don’t even want the tree.” Bah humbug.

There is a stalemate and we agree to do the lights together once she rises from her bed. I have lunch while I wait.

“Test the lights,” I tell her. “We don’t want to waste hours only to find they don’t work.”

“They work,” she shouts and we spend the next good while getting scratched but doing a good job, light-wise.

That done, I retire, excited to get on with my day. Her scream halts me on the stairs. “The lights don’t work,” she cries.

I turn to see the top third of the tree lit, the bottom two thirds shrouded in blackness. I get very cross. She gets crosser. Mr Carmichael joins in with the crossing. It’s all very noisy. I leave the house. It’s the most positive thing I can contribute to the moment.

Mr C buys another box of lights. We now have 50 spare christmas bulbs. Is that a good thing? Hmmm.

2014 – the year of three sets of lights and two trees. Lyle is in heaven. He is not in the living room unless accompanied.

One: It’s Lyle’s first Christmas. What a good thing that is.

what's santa brought you, Lyle? (mrscarmichael)
what’s santa brought you, Lyle? (mrscarmichael)

 

 

 

 

Husbands, Households and I Need Help

So, a couple of weeks ago Mr Carmichael had a birthday (yes, another) and as his birthday always falls on, or around, the first May Bank holiday and the weather forecast was clement he invited the fam for food, festivities and something else. Hmmm, what was it again? Oh yes, golf.

oh so suave (www.dann-onlin.com)
oh so suave (www.dann-online.com)

Anyway, in preparation for the inundation (out of towners) I cleaned Casa Carmichael from her tippy tippy tip toes to her blonde highlights, discovering as I went that the Carmichaels possessed nary the quantity of duvets, fitted sheets or pillow cases to cocoon the advancing masses. With daughters various at uni and flatting south of the river, such things are spread to the four winds at present.

Oooh, I thought, shopping time!

With joy in my heart I headed for the newly renovated John (‘never knowingly undersold’) Lewis in High Wycombe. And returned with elegant paisley bedding for Mr C and me.

Ok, I did forget the fitted sheet and the required duvet so excited was I by the choice of pretty on offer. However, we made do. Particularly niece #1 who had to sleep under blankets. How retro is that?

I had just put fresh towels in the landing loo and was admiring my work- flushed phizog in the gleaming mirror when the door fell off its Edwardian hinges and attacked me.

The Edwardians made their doors both big and heavy but my luck was in. I was facing the aggressor and could parry the advance. Shaking, I propped the loose door up and exited the war zone.

“The landing loo door’s fallen off its hinges,” I told Mr C that afternoon. “It nearly killed me.”

Moments later hearing a bang, a crash and a loud grunt I rushed from my afternoon nap (cleaning exhaustion) thinking that mi marido had fallen down the stairs. I was wrong.

As I hurtled past the landing loo to rescue him I noticed the door was missing. Well, not exactly missing. More, caved in on top of the basin and Mr Carmichael. The newly spritzed mirror was hanging from one hook and there were two new and largish holes in the wall beside it.

“I told you the door was broken,” I said hauling said door off his back.

“I though you said toilet,” he replied as he straightened up and rubbed his head.

“I said door.”

“Well, that’s not what I heard.”

Hmmmm. It’s a funny thing the vortex that I spend my married life speaking into. Megaphones don’t help. Enunciation is a waste of time and energy. I crave an ear not blocked with manly own thoughts and single track reception.

“Could you strip the bed?” I asked a couple of days ago on rising to see to the puppy, Lyle. “If you can’t strip it, at least don’t make it.” I cannot bring myself to unmake a made bed.

Needless to say the bed was made when I went back up. And it was a Dog Day the next morning.

“Did you strip the bed?” I asked with some venom on Day Three.

I knew the answer and decided, an hour or so later, that clean paisley sheets were my priority. I stripped our bed and lugged the pile of cotton downstairs, stopping to chat to Mr C about something golf related. With bulging arms and tripping feet I struggled past him and proceeded to wash and dry the bedding through the course of the day.

Hours later I carried the results past him, upstairs and, with pride in my heart, made the marital bed. Boy, did I feel virtuous.

Preparing the bbq with daughter #1 as the sun went over the yardarm we were distracted by husband/father crashing through the kitchen, paws filled to the brim with……………..clean paisley.

“I’ve stripped the bed,” he said proudly. “You thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you?”

paisley perfection (John Lewis website)
paisley perfection (John Lewis website)

 

 

 

Cinderella’s Buttons

In Britain and her colonies there is a Christmas tradition called Pantomime. We go, the full generational family, to see such productions such as Jack and the Beanstalk, Aladdin and, of course, Cinderella.

These events bear little relation to the original folk tales, ballets or movies the children’s stories have sired. They are written and rewritten each year to be entertaining, topical and funny (for all ages). If slap stick, scatology, double entendre, men dressed up as women, women as men and “He’s behind you!” shouted by the audience at regular intervals does not rock your boat then pantomime is not for you.

But that’s your loss.

And just because the Carmichaels are in a pantomime hiatus presently (children grown, grandparents gone, grandchildren years away) Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without reference to shows of yore.

This weekend gone I was put in mind of Cinderella, the last production we saw en famile, and the character, Buttons who is, in panto-land, the servant of Baron Hardup, Cinders’ father. He is, along with the Ugly Sisters, a comedy character extraordinaire dressed always in blue and gold and using funny to mask his unrequited love for our heroine.

Buttons to the fore (Swindonlink.com)
Buttons to the fore (Swindonlink.com)

The mind I was put in was more because of his name than his love-lorne nature and the person that sprung into my snapses?

Mr Carmichael of course.

Let me explain.

Every December my husband’s and my presence is requested at the Company Do. For Mr C, this involves hunting for his DJ the evening before (or on the night), asking me if I’ve seen his dress shirt and if so could I iron it, pulling out the bow tie that requires tying and stating that he will look at the internet for tying tips, getting dressed in last year’s outfit, wearing the bow tie hung around his neck untied and getting drunk.

By comparison, it requires Yours Truly to start the outfit hunt in November, find a dress that could not be mistaken for the 2012 model, that not only fits but complements my curves, pay the extortionate price, read a day later that the dress is on price – match (20% off), return the dress, re-buy the dress, find one matching shoe in the wardrobe, get a mani – pedi in Christmassy colours (gold toes, burgundy fingernails), fork out for a wash and blow dry, hunt for my ‘special’ jewellery that I have put somewhere safe (for two frantic hours), decide to straighten the bombshell that was our bedroom (jewel hunting) another time, find the second shoe (phew), iron Hubby’s shirt, buy a pre-bowed bow tie, squeeze into my Spanx, dress, push up bra plus crippling shoes and breath in shallow bursts for the remainder of the evening due to corset-like constriction on lungs and tummy while waiting for my feet to blister and ache inconsolably.

SHE does not need Spanx (beautiful magazine.com)
SHE does not need Spanx (beautiful magazine.com)

Looking pretty smart, if I say so myself, we set off for Syon house and a masked extravaganza a la Cirque de Soliel on steroids. I agreed to take the masks but did mention we might well leave them in the car. Heels, Spanx and a strapless bra enough inconvenience for this gal’ on this night.

Beauty and the Beast (mrscarmichael)
Beauty and the Beast (mrscarmichael)

Mr C agreed but only because, I think, he had difficulty squeezing his forehead into the Doctor’s phizog and didn’t want to sport red welts for the evening. If only that had been the worst of it.

same, same but fewer garments (askatizkit.com)
same, same but fewer garments (askatizkit.com)

We were greeted with a queue for bubbles, a bar with better booze and scantily dressed damsels hanging above our heads. Luckily the majority of attendees had, like us, eschewed the Venetian element of entertainment and were brazenly bare faced.

The drink flowed, I found K……, another wife who I had bonded with at last year’s function and changed the seating to be beside her. No shame. It just makes all the difference doesn’t it?

“Husband o’ mine,” I said early on, “Your top button’s undone.”

He was downing a pint of beer so I tried to do it up for him. That proved difficult. On heels, holding a glass of wine and being bumped by the many, I believed I’d achieved it. But when he joined me and my bestie at our table, not one but two buttons were adrift.

“Do up your buttons,”I hissed. It was only 8.30 and some decorum was required.

It was a lost cause. At one point during the dinner all his buttons were undone. Sweet Jesus, what a sight. Thankfully the European Manager, film star looks and the height to match, was at another table.

“At mumble years old I would expect you to be able to do up and keep control of your buttons,” I shouted over the live band.

“I think there might be another button behind this button,” he replied looking down at his bare chest. “Can you help?”

“No.”

I wished I hadn’t left my mask in the car.

K……. found it all hilarious. Well, she would wouldn’t she? It wasn’t her husband.

Hours later, Mr C staggered back to our table for a sit down and possible minor sober up. K……. noticed him first, her laughter alerting me to his approach.

The pristine white dress shirt was neither buttoned nor white.

“What’s happened to you?” Kate asked in a voice reserved for anyone other that a husband.

“Ive been shot,” said the love of my life.

Well at least the two of them found it funny.

I have got almost all the red wine out now. His DJ’s in the cleaners, the pre-tied tie is put away, my blister is healing, and I have one more thing to add to my To Do list for Christmas 2014.

Teach Mr Carmichael how to button his dress shirt.

it's not rocket science (mrscarmichael)
it’s not rocket science (mrscarmichael)

My life!

Required reading:

So How Was Christmas For You?

Christmas Dress Code, A Festive Saga (Part the First)

candy kitsch (mrscarmichael)
candy kitsch (mrscarmichael)

It’s Christmas time again. We must deck the halls, dress the tree, hang the wreath and spend, spend, spend in true Carmichaely fashion. We must eat, drink and be merry.

A number of the above are done (tree, wreath), are partially done (halls) are in the process of being done (halls), are ongoing (eating, drinking, merriment) and some haven’t been started (the spending). That is if we don’t count the broken microwave and dishwasher (and in real time Daughter #2’s unbacked up dissertation PC) that need replacing pre festivities and Casa Carmichael filling up.

bare middrift unacceptable (mrscarmichael)
bare middrift unacceptable (mrscarmichael)

The tree was not without incident but the choosing, up-putting and decoration went without hitch. As opposed to previous Carmichael Christmases (see footnotes).

The lighting was somewhat problematic, injurious and argument inducing. And had to be spread over two days.

My dreams last night were peppered with broken lightbulbs, elves and crumbly pine cones. My sleep restless.

However and with only a brief frisson of fight, Mr C charged to the rescue and sorted the illuminations. Thank you Baby Jesus. I really didn’t want to throw more coinage at the outage.

the tree is dressed (mrscarmichael)
the tree is dressed (mrscarmichael)

We are, this year, voyaging into unchartered waters vis a vis Christmas stockings. I, Mrs Carmichael, have put my delicately shod metaphorical foot down and instigated a new plan. The micro stocking.

Yes, of course I have had to sweeten the pill. Three MAC makeup products per micro fishnet. Not cheap but nor is the shit I end up stuffing into the oversized originals.

There have been stipulations. On both sides.

“I get to choose the three,” says Daughter #1.

“Yes, within reason,” say I realising that MAC will have some top ‘o the range bank breaking offering which cannot be countenanced. Especially when one takes into account the cost of microwaves, dishwashers and Apple PC’s.

“I still want a chocolate orange,” texts Daughter #2. “I can’t wait from breakfast to dinner without sweet stuff.”

“We can have a shared Christmas candy basket,” I offer knowing they’ll have to be fleet of hand and foot to beat my husband to its contents.

“Can I have a micro pig in my micro stocking?” asks Daughter #3.

“No.”

“I don’t wear makeup,” declares Daughter #4. “I want a proper stocking.”

“Ok,” I concede, kindness personified.

New rules established I’m sorta’ (and somewhat oddly) looking forward to the week ahead and the shopping therein.

Now I just have to source those micro stockings whilst steering clear of the diamante encrusted offerings.

Footnotes:

A) Yes, Victoria I know my bow is not as good as your bow…………

http://victoriaelizabethbarnes.com/step-by-step-guide-to-making-any-size-holiday-bow-diy-ribbon-christmas-decorations/

B) Compulsory reading for the full sensurround Carmichael Crimble Experience.

Carmichael Christmas tree disasters – Me, Thee or the Tree

A must read for all those lucky enough to avoid enduring my tree raising last year and memories of Xmas past.

Complete Carmichael Christmas tree  – And Here it is…..Casa Carmichael’s Christmas Tree #2

Carmichael Christmas stockings – It’s a New Look for the Carmichael 2012 Christmas Stocking

Out and About in London Town

fitting right in (ITV)
if the cap fits (ITV)

Back in October I got tickets for the recording of a TV show (Loose Women) in ITV’s studios on the Southbank and invited my friend, Gracie to accompany me. It was a bit of an adventure, a day out, a moment among the famous and apart from the tube fare, lunch and a tipple absolutely free.

It was quite fun too. We got to see the very good looking, well groomed and suavely dressed Lawson perform Juliet and managed to tolerate a very, very loose Janet Street-Porter cuss and opine.

We, Gracie and I, decided that a day out was a good thing and good things bear repeating. On a monthly basis from here on out.

We will take turns and the only rule: the destination/event/activity must be free.

yes please (mrscarmichael)
yes please (mrscarmichael)

Gracie took me to a pop art exhibition at the Barbican. I like the Barbican and don’t go there enough. I like the Brutalist architecture, the restaurants and the cultural offerings contained within its concrete walls.

The pop art was not much cop on the ground floor but got rather good upstairs. I can’t show you because photography was verboten.

The level of goodness gave us a head rush. We needed food and beverage to withstand the cultural onslaught.

I had the basil (mrscarmichael)
I had the basil (mrscarmichael)

The only downside to this day. Entry was not free. It was £12.00 a head.

In this dog eat Pedigree Chum world of Boris Johnson’s Mensa elite, South Korean school children putting in thirteen hour days and unpaid internships (don’t get me started) I feel the need to inject a competitive edge into the monthly outings.

And view this as a 1:nil to Mrs Carmichael. Soon to be 2:nil.

Tomorrow it’s my turn again and we head to Regent Street and Liberty, the wackiest department store in the whole god damn wide world.

christmas ready (detalliare.com)
christmas ready (detalliare.com)

Yes, of course it’s free. Isn’t that the only rule of the game?

So now, beloved followers I need your help. I want to win. Thinking caps on then, creative minds engaged.

More ideas please. In and around London or indeed further afield.

Fulsome credit will be awarded to all challenges accepted.

Just one more thing. Can we keep this our little secret? Sssssh, lips sealed.

NaNoWriMo Distraction Techniques

day one (guardian.com)
day one (guardian.com)

Thirteen days ago I signed up for NaNoWriMo.

Yes, I know it was somewhat impetuous and very late in the day but I had been thinking about the though of thinking about writing a novel for a very long time.

During the week I thought about the tweenie novel I’d penned mumble years ago. When I say ‘novel’ I mean first draft. But the draft was complete and I vaguely remembered it being about 40,000 words. Back in the day it had even got on a shortlist for publication help. That’s help not publication. I want no confusion or extravagant congratulations. Both would be a waste of time.

Wasting time is one of the things I do best. So I did nothing with the draft. In actuality I did less than nothing because a few months after being shortlisted for publication help I blew up my hard drive with my nearly novel, many short stories and many many photos blown to bits as well.

Of course I hadn’t backed up. Backing up is for chickens, techies and people who care.

I realised I cared.

Then a really good thing happened. My defunct writing group had a Christmas lunch and I discovered that my tutor had, a year earlier, printed the whole novel. She dropped the hard copy round and, genuinely grateful, I popped it in a desk drawer in the ironing room.

Well, that’s where I thought I’d popped it.

I decided, last Thursday, that I could do a second draft for NaNoWriMo. I know this might not be the spirit of the month but it was a good enough idea for Yours Truly to get quite excited about.

I decided to gather my wits, my creativity and the pages of hard copy on Friday.

Last Friday, 1st November, I turned my laptop on and discovered many messages from the NaNoWriMo crew with lots of helpful tips, links to places I could go write with other like minded people at strange hours, lots of new Twitter followers and a list of all the things I was meant to have done prior to the start date.

Fair enough, I thought and decided all was good because I was doing a second draft so plot and characterisation of sorts etc were there already. Nil desperadum.

I couldn’t find the hard copy.

It wasn’t in any of the four drawers. I found a number of things I thought were lost which was nice but that really didn’t help.

I found what I was looking for in a bag that I used when I was training as an ESL teacher. I found it just after 5.00pm and just before I was due out for drinks. I tweeted my success and got a few more followers and more helpful hints from the team.

I was good to go.

Distraction technique one: Book yourself on a course.

When, Friday mid afternoon, I believed the novel disappeared for a second time I booked myself on a photography course for the weekend. I’d wanted to to take one for simply ages. I know I post lots of photos but since digital came along the hang of that triangle – ISO, shutter speed and aperture have eluded me.

cracked it you bugger (
got ya’ (www.wired.com)

No more, my friends, I’ve got it cracked. I had a wonderful and exhausting two days in Soho learning things.

I did not look at my novel or write a word. I lost half my newly acquired Twitter followers and didn’t open a large number of emails.

Distraction technique two: Deep clean your kitchen.

Monday morning I caught up with some TV viewing I’d missed over the weekend, enjoyed my pot of coffee and lemon curd yoghurt and had a phone call with a girlfriend.

As I opened the fridge to see what might entice me for lunch (yes, it was that time already) I noticed the state of it.

brillo brilliant (jenbutneverjenn.com)
brillo brilliant (jenbutneverjenn.com)

There was no choice. My tweenie was put on hold.

I hate cleaning but it’s rather cathartic when only one room is being serviced and it just happens to be my favourite room in the house. Goodness I did a good job.

That is until it got to the point of vacuuming.

A few months ago my Miele ‘dog and cat hair’ vacuum caught on fire. I know I could have posted it off to be fixed like the last time but instead I cobbled bits of it to a vintage Henry vacuum cleaner and made do. It has been most unsatisfactory and has got even harder to control since one of the wheels fell off.

Kitchen now agleam I decided it was time for a new appliance.

Distraction technique three: Buy a new household appliance.

Exhausted from physical labour and thirsty to boot I had a glass of sav blanc by way of self congratulation on a job well done and checked my social media. Three more NaNoWriMo twitter followers had jumped ship and my inbox was full to brimming with speed writing ideas for me to peruse. I felt a frisson of fear and not a little guilt.

Assuaging the guilt with a second glass of wine I decided there would be plenty of time to choose a working title in the morning before I went appliance shopping.

I bought a Dyson but could not take it home with me because there was a deal going for 20% off if an old vacuum was produced. I am not in the habit of driving around with old, fire scorched vacuums in my car so John Lewis and I agreed I would ‘click and collect’ from my local Waitrose the very next day. A post in itself but suffice it to say the next day was creatively wasted arguing vacuuming returns beside the cake section of said supermarket.

I came home and wrote my blog.

Distraction technique four: Write more blog posts than usual.

Honestly I have had so many brilliant ideas. I am mind mapping them with ferocity. My creative juices are in full flow. Watch out world I’ve enough grist to post every day. Forever!

I just don’t seem to be able to think of a title for my WIP. Also I have fewer followers on Twitter than before I started this malarky.

But I do have an idea for a memoir and that must be a good thing. It came to me while I was at the movies yesterday afternoon.

Distraction technique five: make this your NaNoSeeMoMo.

There are just so many enticing films appearing at the moment. It’s that time of year when the clocks go back, the evenings draw in and the rain beats down. Well it does here.

On Saturday Mr Carmichael dragged me away from my WriMo guilt trip and took me to see Captain Phillips. It might just be the movie we’ve most enjoyed equally. I wanted to see every trailed film as well.

wish I'd written it (lostinthemultiplex.com)
wish I’d written it (lostinthemultiplex.com)

Yesterday, on a recommendation, I saw Wadjda, now my film of the year. There’s something about going to matinee movies isn’t there? A little bit naughty, a lot nice. I’m also booked in for next week’s lunch time show.

The moment I got home I rushed to my computer. I began typing with frantic zest and vigour.

And checked out memoir writing courses, emailed them, found a photography holiday course in Marrakech that looks like fun and emailed them as well.

Distraction technique one: Book yourself on a course.

Suggestion Stupidity

It is no secret that I enjoy a wee glass or two of wine and the end of the day. Not every day but most days it must be said.

My go to wine is a New Zealand sauvignon blanc but there are others, many others that I enjoy. Chardonnay the exception to this rule. Sorry guys things that smell like petrol often taste like petrol. In my experience.

Editor’s note: Knowing Mrs Carmichael as I do she will be happy to be proved wrong re the Chardy but this will be a marathon not a sprint.

My friend Gracie works within very similar parameters vis a vis wine preferences and consumption.

From time to time we discuss taking a break, not drinking Monday to Friday, drinking every second day, embarking on the 5:2 regime or giving up all together.

Editor’s note: Yeah right.

We know any one or a combination of the above would benefit our livers, our body mass indexes and our wallets.

Gracie, who has been on a prolonged, intense and it must be said successful diet for her up-coming trip to South Africa, was counting wine calories and considering the minutiae of fluid carb content.

Recently, and over an early evening glass of Marlborough Ned, Gracie mentioned our musings to her daughter, A…….

Editors note: Gracie and Mrs C have many daughters between them. Said daughters are, without exception, full of and vociferous with suggestions re self improvement regimes for their particular mother.

"try gin" (theginblog.co.uk)
alternate therapy (theginblog.co.uk)

A…….’s suggestion therefore surprised Gracie.

“But I don’t like gin, ” she replied.

“I didn’t say GIN,” A……. retorted. I SAID “try the gym!”

How mi amiga and I guffawed over a Wither Hills the following evening.

“Anyway, gin’s got calories,” I reminded her when we managed to stop laughing.

Arrrgh - (virginactive.co.uk)
Arrrgh – (virginactive.co.uk)

On Tuesday I saw Woody’s latest, Blue Jasmine with my friend K……. at a wonderful art house theatre, the Rex, in Berkhamstead. It’s one of those lovely theatres that not only show great movies but allow you to sit in style. Upstairs there are armchairs and down, tables, swivel seating and a bar! It’s glorious.

not country appropriate in this instance (theatlantic.com)
not country appropriate in this instance (theatlantic.com)

Daughter #1 had not only recommended the movie to me but once she knew I had taken her advice and booked it offered a further generous suggestion.

“Schnnaps??” I asked, “Why schnapps? Surely it’s not set in the Nordics.”

“I said snacks,” my eldest responded post haste. “Take some snacks.”

Whether she meant a healthy nibble because we were attending a matinee or a more typical carb and sugar laden alternative I am not certain. What I do know is that we got no further with the conversation due to the high decibel raucousity occurring in our kitchen. That got even louder when I relayed the gin/gym tale to her.

nice but where's the wine? (gofowomen.com)
nice but where’s the wine? (gofowomen.com)

Editor’s note: Snacks and wine (but possibly not Schnnaps) are available at the Rex and can be topped up during the movie.

Hearing tested? I beg your pardon.

Thanks For the Mammaries

Knowing that I was planning a trip back to the home country, my oldest (length of friendship-wise) amiga suggested, somewhat forcefully, that I tie my Antipodean antics in with an upcoming Wellington Girls’ College reunion scheduled for around or about my travel time.

Knowing how much I hated my years at the school it’s a wonder she mentioned it to me.

For my part, knowing the pressure of her persuasive powers and their relentless nature I accepted the offer of a bed for the duration and a seat at the, almost, top table with alacrity and just a modicum of that feeling you get when you’re doing something naughty.

I was, according to the powers that were at WGC in the early 1970’s, always doing something naughty. Or downright bad. Or worse. If requested I could fill this blog spot with my back catalogue of heinous crimes against the black and gold school colours for the remainder of 2013 and well into the new year. And actually would quite enjoy doing it. Catharsis and all that I guess.

The frisson of fear I felt was there for good reason. I assure you of that.

Not so my friend C……. who enjoyed her time in these halls of learning, her daughters who proved to be loved and accepted members of the school society and her sister Ruth who is listed on the present website under famous old girls along with Katherine Mansfield and Anna Paquin no less.

friends since the age of three (mrscarmichael)
friends since the age of three (mrscarmichael’s mother)

C……. was organising the reunion – top to toe and her sister producing all the fab food for the three day fun fest. In such hallowed company this was going to be a breeze. I began to wonder if I might even enjoy the experience.

And bits of it I did.

The parade through Wellington’s CBD I could have done without but the new Principal, Julia Davidson’s, speech beside the Michael Fowler Centre gave me cause to have a ponder positive as to if I could, indeed, have been happy there under her teaching and care.

Unfortunately Betty Fraser and Olga Harding were in charge of my education and pastoral provision which explains why I did most of my lessons in the corridor outside their office. But I digress as the learnt fear mounts in dark corners of my soul.

Back to the reunion.

The gala dinner was not only yummy but more fun than expected and there was most a generous amount of wine allocated per head. My next day was a write off it must be said.

The highlight of the weekend for me however was not my level of liver poisoning but C…….’s wrap speech in the school hall. In front of hundreds she thanked the attendees, introduced the dignitaries and spoke of her fond recollections, her years at Wellington Girls’, the wind and vertical rain in Molesworth Street that we all were forced to pit our wills against, her comrades, friends and the school spirit.

I was on tenterhooks through the entire speech because I knew what was coming. If she didn’t chicken out. And my friend is not the chickening out typa’ gal.

“Wellington Girls’ College,” she said slowly, clearly and with great elocution. “Thanks for the mammaries.”

She handed the microphone to the Mayor of New Zealand’s capital city. It was not easy for him to be heard above the applause, laughter and women asking their neighbours if they had heard her correctly.

Although taught in this building I am not in the photo because I'm probably at a desk outside Betty Fraser's office (Evening Post archives)
Although taught in this building I am not in the photo because I’m otherwise occupied at a desk outside Betty Fraser’s office doing maths (Evening Post archives)

‘Have I Hit Anything?’

(not) the Carmichaels (howwedrive.com)
(not) the Carmichaels (howwedrive.com)

The title of this post has been one of Mr Carmichael’s stock turns of phrase for as many years as my daughters can remember and for oh so many years before that. Trust me. I may be the only witness to those journeys from days of yore but the near misses, abrupt stops and loud conversations with strangers who can’t hear him are things not quickly (or easily) forgotten.

Since my husband has now hit something (another story, another time) the, “Have I hit anything? Well, have I?” has been relegated, more or less, to his passive vocabulary. A rapid finger shake and “Oi, you can’t say that anymore” from Yours Truly is usually enough to stop him in his verbal tracks.

Mr Carmichael is not the best driver in the world. I have had cause to mention this fact in previous blog entries. And so it was with some trepidation, on my part at least, that we picked our vehicle up at Palm Springs Airport.

I had overspent and booked an SUV for the simple reason that higher up I would have more chance to see potential disaster from a distance and as, in one sense we would both be driving at the same time, this was a good thing.

The largish size of the car for two people and two suitcases did not stop the Avis rep attempting to up-sell us. It seems she felt that we might be a tad squashed and possibly not as comfy in the allocated vehicle as one she could offer us for just $20.00 more per day.

just about fitted into this behemoth (mrscarmichael)
just about fitted into this behemoth (mrscarmichael)

No thanks, Miss. We’ll struggle through with this ‘lower grade’ offering.

Now, Palm Springs would, I thought, be a great place for Mr C to get his right side sea legs and for me to ease into the stress of private transport. And I was right. I did not even feel the need to take over the helm. Not even once. Our only arguments over directions, finding and re-finding our Morongo Road abode.

But the Monday trip to Los Angeles was never far from my thoughts.

The last time we stayed in Tinsel Town we were en famille and Carmichael père did not instil such confidence. We did a lot of driving and, like mercury, the terror within me grew. I even resorted to sitting in the back leaving directions and the jump seat to daughter #1, a tender teen at the time.

It helped and even the quiet screams I couldn’t contain were muffled by competing  iPods and the satellite navigation system telling us to ‘turn around’.

Having, this time, also refused the Avis kind offer of an extortionately priced navigation device I was wondering how in God’s name we were going to find the hotel if we were lucky enough to find Los Angeles.

Here the iPhone and Google maps came galloping to the rescue and in swooping style will, I predict, be putting TomTom et al out of business any day now. Fantastic, manifique, wunderbar. Oh yes! We got to the Andaz without a fight and before the iPhone 5’s battery ran out.

ah to be young again (mrscarmichael)
ah to be young again (mrscarmichael)

We pulled in behind love’s young dream, handed the keys to the concierge and our bags to Emily (she was very nice) and headed up to our room for a celebratory arrival drink from our own supply.

thank goodness the zip didn't break until now (mrscarmichael)
thank goodness the zip didn’t break in reception (mrscarmichael)

It was all good and, with fear in abeyance, I was looking forward to trips out over the next couple of days.

Driving and navigation sorted what could possibly go wrong?

However good Google maps is it cannot get you to the correct destination if you don’t put the correct destination in, can it? No Sir, no Ma’am it cannot.

Our penultimate day brought the forecast ‘storm’ and our only rain of the whole holiday so we decided to make a quick trip to the Griffin Observatory, just up and behind us atop the Hollywood Hills.

I think it’s about five miles from our bit of Sunset Boulevard. 45 miles, one hour and a half, a diversion for a rather serious accident and one very full bladder later we arrived.

My voice was hoarse from shouting. I confess it was not my finest moment but when your husband of twenty five years suggests you get out and pee beside a wire fence on the hard shoulder in five lanes of standstill traffic shouting is the only option available to a woman of substance.

It took us seventeen minutes and only a little argument over a luncheon venue that I won to get us back to the strip. We enjoyed yummy Italian in Sunset Plaza.

The next day, our last, we managed to drive unaided to Venice Beach for brunch with nary a wrong turn nor a raised voice.

Maybe, just maybe the Carmichaels have got this driving thing cracked. I am optimistic.

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