Antidotal Friday Fun

How was yesterday for you? Dare we talk about it? If it’s all a little bit too raw, perhaps your pain will be eased by some Friday amusement? (If not, ignore the next few items. Not everything in today’s post is love related…)

First up, we have a super cute video of pre-schoolers talking about love. Remember the other day when I was singing the praises of C. Jane? She shared this as her son’s in it. [Talking of Courtney, I had a tweet from her that made me dance a little jig. Small things!]

Secondly, an interesting YouTube project that will help you find your perfect other half – well, as long as they have a YouTube account and took part in this exercise. Turn on annotations and answer their questions. I did this while hanging out at the RFH yesterday and I chuckled to myself heartily. A fun diversion…

Next up, two things for my fellow OCD sufferers. You may mock us, but certain things make us very, very happy. Firstly, a Tumblr devoted to pictures showing things fitting perfectly into things. Does that makes sense? Would a picture (or maybe two) help?

Pen & Toilet paper holderA pen and a toilet roll holder.

His&Her ShoesHer shoes into his shoes (awwww)

The second OCD thing is a beautiful collection of things organised by colour, compiled by Buzzfeed. My friend Becki is very OCD about such things, particularly arranging coloured sweets according to their colour before eating any of them and I thank her for sending this my way. I love looking at beautiful colour arrangements – even books – but while my eyes are saying “ooohhhh pretty!”, my mind is screaming “but HOW DO YOU FIND THE BOOKS???” Anyway, here’s a couple of examples:

Concert tickets & Movie stubs Glass bottlesGlass bottles & a collection of concert/movie tickets.

Finally, a little bit of partisan, sporting, singing flash-mobbing. I know it’s not a 6 Nations weekend this week, but I’m liable to forget this next week with all that’s currently going on. Apologies if you don’t support England, but (i) it’s the Swingle Singers, (ii) Swing Low Sweet Chariot is a great song and (iii) it’s the Swingle Singers…

Friday Fun with the entire universe

Something mind-blowing with which to kick off Friday Fun today. Ever wondered how the various elements of the universe compare in terms of size? From a teeny-tiny neutron, to a double decker bus, to the Milky Way? Wonder no more and simply engross yourself in this awesome website

My mind was officially blown for some time after playing with this. Utterly amazing! 
The kind of person who can create something like that is probably someone with a touch of OCD in their life. In fact, I’m of the opinion that all the best people are a tad OCD – I freely admit that it exists in my world in terms of book organisation, symmetry, labelling and general organisation. Last Sunday at the birthday party, I was responsible for checking decorations were straight because it bothered me in the same way as it would bother the birthday girl – OCD is genetic. Perhaps you think you have no OCD tendencies at all? Well, try looking at these ’19 images that will drive your OCD self insane’ and see if you cringe… (I’m already upset by the lack of a round number!) 

You know what really upsets me? The fact that you can’t do proper symmetry with Stickle Bricks – it bothered me all the way through my years of working with under-6’s at church. With Lego you can, but Stickle Bricks? No. Thus, picture #6 really struck a chord:

Finally, a little something to calm you down – after all, there’s nothing as calming as a good power ballad is there? How about a parodied power ballad about bacon? You might dislike Celine Dion with a passion (I have to say, I don’t – I may own multiple albums of hers…) but you probably rather like bacon, or like it enough to watch some of The Power of Bacon. Genius.

The black-hole of children’s literature

One of my (many) bad habits is that I’m not very good at putting myself to bed (actually, I’m excellent at getting into bed, I’m just very bad at turning the laptop/tv off, putting the phone away and letting myself fall asleep). I get easily caught up in things – writing blog posts, chatting or following gripping sporting events on the other side of the world. The last two nights have found me online past midnight and placing book orders after 1am – this, particularly on Thursday night, was not especially conducive to a good night’s sleep.

Why was I placing book orders at such a late hour? Well, after nearly eight years lurking in the shadows of my life, the black hole of children’s literature reappeared with a vengeance and sucked me into its vortex…

It began innocently, late on Thursday afternoon when a tweet popped up mentioning an article about Noel Streatfeild [yes, the i and the e are that way round] and Ballet Shoes. This prompted a quick trip to Amazon to hunt out the only adult work of hers that’s in print (and by adult, I obviously do not mean pornographic) as well as a few other juvenile titles we’d missed out on in childhood. As I added Saplings (the grown up book) to my basket, Amazon helpfully informed me of what people who bought that title also bought – and I let out a squeal that had to be quickly muted.

There, right in front of me, was a book whose title I knew well, but which had acquired mythical status when I was young. Maddy Alone is a sequel to one of our favourite theatrical themed books – The Swish of the Curtain (Pamela Brown). Our mother had been a fan when she was young and even owned the rest of the series, but, by the time we were reading it, only the original was in print. Amazon was helpfully informing me that not only had Maddy Alone been republished, but so had the next in the series and that the final instalments were imminent. In order to make it clear that I am not alone in my excitement, both my mum and sister have responded joyously to this news and there is now a waiting list to read them.

Thursday night’s Amazon binge was a combination of these books and a mission to complete my Streatfeild set. Of course, it couldn’t be as simple as just looking up titles and clicking ‘add to basket’. Oh no. What the black-hole also does to you (ok, me) is make certain things incredibly important – namely, edition styles and titles. I won’t go into the tediousness of my Chalet School rules, but it bothers me that half our Drina books are lovely colourful editions and the other half boring red spined ones – I’d love them to match and all be the former. [Writing that sentence has just revealed to me just how OCD I am about this, oh dear.]

In the case of Streatfeild, this complicates matters. The newer editions are nicer than many of the hideous 1970s/80s covers, but they bear the wrong titles – yes, the wrong titles. [Warning: rant approaching.]

When published in America, a terrible thing happened – the publishers decided that a significant group of her books were a series (they’re not, there are only vague connections, like the Fossils of Ballet Shoes appearing briefly in certain books) and that the only way in which Americans would realise they were a series was if their names were similar. Thus, every book Streatfeild wrote (with a few exceptions, like the ‘Gemma’ series and Thursday’s Child) has to have ‘shoes’ in the title.

The only ones to actually contain that word are Ballet ShoesBallet Shoes for Anna and Tennis Shoes (the latter being only her second children’s book, so it can be forgiven as a title). My favourite books – Apple Bough  (in which a family tour the world with their talented pianist son) and The Painted Garden (where a family move to California for 6 months) – became Travelling Shoes and Movie Shoes respectively, hugely unoriginal. Even shorter titles, like Party Frock and White Boots have the second word swapped for ‘shoes’, despite the fact that the frock of the former is the central element of the plot! How are you meant to distinguish Dancing Shoes (originally Wintle’s Wonders) from the other ballet books?

Thank goodness they left The Vicarage Family (another favourite, being semi-autobiographical and telling the tale of Noel’s childhood as the plain daughter of an impoverished Vicar) alone, because the concept of ‘Vicarage Shoes’ is quite honestly a ridiculous one. (Though I suspect such shoes would be very sensible house slippers, what with such places being known as fridges.)

So basically, I was on the hunt for the originally titled books, but with nice covers – harder than you’d think. Into the Amazon order went a new copy of Dancing Shoes, because you cannot find it under the original title (easily), but the others were potentially doable. Night two of late night book buying therefore consisted of the conclusion of some time spent trawling second hand children’s book dealers to find them. I’ve had to accept a naff cover on Curtain Up rather than owning a new (nice) copy of Theatre Shoes (and it was only 50p – bargain), but in total, acquired five more Streatfeilds for my collection as well as duplicates of a couple of favourites that are in danger of falling apart. (And yes, at this moment the thought in my head was “when I read this with my daughters…”)

Can you see what I mean about the covers? 

It was this trawling that led me deeper into the vortex. Back in the early years of this millennia, I haunted these websites semi-obsessively in order to complete my Chalet School collection (I was finishing a degree or working in a bookshop – what else did I have to do with my time?) and returning to them could have opened a Pandora’s Box. Hurriedly, I scrolled past lists of hardback Chalet Schools (although I have all 62 paperbacks, I long for all 58 hardbacks – yes, I’m special). On one site, a title stood out – Fifth Form Friendships at Trebizon – and for a second I thought I might be about to complete my Trebizon collection. My heart beat faster and then I looked it up and realised I already owned it and that my missing book was in fact Fifth Year Triumphs, a subtlety different title as I’m sure you’ll agree. [You may not have realised, but a significant element of my OCD is a need to complete collections.] But in the case of Trebizon, completion will have to wait just a while longer.

I’m happy to report that I’m now holding my own in the vortex. No time has been spent hunting for books today (good job too, having spent over £30 in the last two days) and I resisted any new purchases while staying warm in Foyles this afternoon – though I should share that I spotted a gorgeous new hardback edition of Ballet Shoes (with a red ribbon round its centre, how cute!) that even contains the original illustrations, beautiful. There are a couple more Streatfeilds I’m on the look out for, but I may contain myself at least until I’ve read some of what is currently en route. In the mean time, if anyone hears of a support group for people who suffer from such a condition, do let me know.

A friend and a footballer

There is a lot to say about the last week. Being apart from my beloved laptop meant that I was reduced to writing down potential blog topics in a little notebook. [At a Christian event people watching you do this assume you are having profound thoughts and thus do not disturb you, simply looking on in awe at the stream of words flowing from your pen…] In fact, one of my top 5 highlights of the week relates to blogging, but I’ll tell all when I’m less tired and unclean.

Suffice to say, I’ve learned a lot about myself and a lot about coffee. Well, to be specific, a lot about working in a café (although I was taught to use the fancy machine for special coffees I never actually got to use it). After I’d got used to the routine I discovered my analness manifesting itself in hitherto unseen ways…

Exhibit A:

A pretty perfect Chai Latte (not actually on the menu, but once I’d been taught milk frothing technique and had spotted the chai syrup I deduced that my beverage of choice had to be only seconds away). Not overly anal, but it did please me that getting the right level of milk vs foam into the cup had quite a technique to it.

Exhibit B:

These beauties are Chocolate Mountains. Hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows, squirty cream, chocolate sprinkles, a flake and about a billion calories. There’s quite an art to their creation and they can be rather labour intensive – particularly tricky in the late shift when all people seemed to want was a sugar rush before bed.

I discovered that the key to getting into the groove for the Hot Chocolate/Filter Coffee station was to have a system supported by plenty of preparation and the kind of focus I somehow rarely stir up for my regular day job. Despite the noise, the team were in tune and with every cry of “Liz – another Mountain!” I was immediately to work. In fact, such was my dedication and artful skill that by the end of the shift I’d been declared Queen of the Chocolate Mountains. Beautiful.

Exhibit C:

One of the key analness indicators was the precise way in which the station had to be set up to function. It made me happy to organise the flakes in this tidy fashion, rather than a higgildy piggildy mess. [This is a box I filled once empty – I then tidied the second box so that it too met with my high standards.]

Exhibit D:
Actually, there’s no photo for this one, but a job I fell in love with on my first ever café shift was re-stocking the fridges ready for the next session. It involved counting, filling spaces, ensuring symmetry and creating a work of art. This is where the footballer reference comes in – Britain recently discovered (courtesy of Jonathan Ross’ final chat show) that David Beckham has an OCD complex with drinks cans and his fridge. Like Becks, under my care, the fridges balanced – labels faced the front, cans aligned, a certain number of each brand… It’s worrying.

And the friend reference? Well, I’d think that would be obvious…just call me Monica.