Sunday, 20 May 2018

Ceci n'est pas une résumé du dimanche ...

Well, hello there!

First of all, FOQ, thank you for all your lovely comments about the Sunday Summary Sabbatical – contrary to my cynical opinion, it transpires quite a number of you were still reading the blog! Yay!

FYI, if you ever feel compelled to leave a comment on the blog itself, you will need a Googlemail account. 

Otherwise, please keep leaving lovely comments under the FB post, either under the Quirky Brunette Facebook account or the link from my personal account if we're FB friends.

So, why am I poking my head above the parapet of sabbaticality? I hear you ask (though probably not in those words; most likely in the words that normal humans might use).

Well ...

Here's one reason why.

*Considers putting in a video here of Craig McLachlan's seminal 1990s pop hit One Reason Why then reads the stories of his being an alleged assailant and thinks otherwise.*

{If you get this spurious reference then you were probably born around 1982,
or your younger sister's childhood was probably filled with this kind of thing}

Or rather, here's one reason Wye.

In just under three months, Cousin Jo and I will be walking 55k from Chepstow to Ross-on-Wye as part of the Wye Valley Challenge (you'll see now wye why I'm flogging the Wye/Why pun to death).

You'll doubtless remember (and if you don't, I'll kindly remind you) that three years ago this May, I walked 100km from London to Brighton, slept for six hours, then went dancing. (And about a fortnight later, one of my toenails departed this world.) I also managed to raise a barn-stormingly fabulous £1,600+ for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

This year, with three more years of existence under my belt (and a still rather controversial toenail that misbehaves if she's put under too much pressure), I've set the bar at a comfortable 55km which actually is still quite a long way especially across the hills and *insert ridiculous and mildly offensive Welsh accented* "valleyyyys" of the Wye Valley (clue's in the name there, QB).

Jo and I are raising money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association this year, a cause particularly close to Jo's heart. Between us, we're doing pretty well: Jo's already hit her fundraising target (yay!) and I'm only about £100 behind my £300 target with three months to go until the big day.

Jo's been the organised one, checking out the route map and the potential ups and downs of the actual walk and even booking us a B&B for before and after the event (props also to the fabulous Jim who will be our driver!), while I've been the one having a wig-out about not having the same rigorous approach to training that I had three years ago (which was at the expense of social engagements, mind, so I think a more laissez-faire/little-and-often approach this year – with a couple of significant long yomps as planned – is probably more acceptable).

The important thing is that we will do this – we can, and we will, and my word, we'll celebrate at the end of it.

{Jo and me, on the evening of 11th August}

But in the meantime, inspired by Cousin Jo's training photos on the Face Book, I'd like to share with you a few shots and shenanigans from my own 'training programme' (a loose interpretation there, although these photographs and maps ought to exist as proof that I dun did some walkin').

1 | Bank Holiday Monday | 7th May 2018

A gorgeous, hot sunny day (on a Bank Holiday Monday?! Who knew?).

The route: Watercolour // Nutfield

The evidence:

{Snacks on point ...}

Of course, I was just turning onto the Nutfield Road when I had a 'distress missive' from Ma QB whose flight home from Italy the next day had been cancelled, so I literally, literally hot-footed it back to Harwood Heights to organise Ma and Pa some new seats on board a later flight, as the sweat poured down my back and brow (lovely image; you're so welcome).

The stats: 6.4km in 1h 11m.

2 | Soggy Saturday Morning | 12th May 2018

... which wasn't all that bad, actually.

The route: St John's // Earlswood Lakes

The evidence:

{Last of the bluebells...}

{What else would you do when it starts raining but buy ice cream ...?}

The stats: 8.5km in 1h 33m.

3 | Sunny Sunday Yomp | 20th May 18 (that'll be today, then)

The route: St John's // Magical Mystery

The evidence:

Walk through this little gap in the foliage, and it leads to ...:

{This view!}

Fifteen and a half years living in this town, and I'd never been to the Common.

Of course now I've discovered it, it'll be busy as anything every time I visit. But eh. Just look at that view! 😍

{King George V Jubilee memorial}

{St John's again, and a gorgeous wildflower border}

Not shown: the moment I lost my footing slightly on the path around these parts, and freaked out both a dog and a small child. (Sorry, dog and small child.)

The stats: 3.5km in 39m.


While working to the Couch to 5k programme had its benefits (motivation, that sort of thing), the app tended to crash and restart itself whenever I tried to take a photograph.

Given I love to take a snap while I walk, something had to give, and the app has been deleted.

Motivation will have to come from elsewhere.

Pinterest, probably.


Well, this has been a strange but pleasant sojourn. While I have your rapt attention, I would like to assure you that I'm already actively thinking of ways to bring TQB back to life in a more manageable format; I've had a chat with a couple of folk about this, and I may have a Cunning Plan, but I'm not quite ready to execute it yet.

So in the meantime, I am likely to pop up now and then and share a few random shots from my training walks or similar, until such a time as I can consolidate my thoughts into something I feel happy to publish again on a more regular basis.

Oh! And the second reason for me raising my head above the parapet?

I already miss the writing and the photo sharing.

Even if both components took me for, like, ever.

qb xx

Monday, 7 May 2018

Those were the days, my friend, I thought they'd never end ...

Dear FOQ

So, there was supposed to be a blog post up this weekend.

It was drafted; about eighty per cent of the photographs had their signature white borders:

and I’d found trailers to substantiate at least two of the things I’ve been watching lately (the third was subjected to a completely pointless précis).

I’d even made gifs of Joey Tribbiani showing that he could act both cold …

and old:

Then I sat back, looked upon the waffle I had written, and the screengrabs I had grabbed from an Aussie serial from the 1990s (Come in Spinner, in case you were wondering).

I looked over the photographs with their signature white borders.

I contemplated those screengrabs and those gifs (and decided to feature the gifs anyway because Joey is just magnificent) and those web links, and I thought,

Yes, I’m afraid it has come to this.

I have lost my blogging mojo.

It might not be a permanent loss of mojo but it’s certainly been a few months in the offing.

I will say, I don’t want to kill off TQB altogether and I won’t.

I’ve put a lot into it over the years, and I like to think I’ve cultivated a voice.

At one point I even had a readership who engaged regularly with what I was throwing out there; now I’m not even sure anyone’s reading.

Not even my mother.

The platform has to change and move on, as the content itself has to.

Four years ago, life (beyond the realms of work) for TQB was more or less about fitting in reading fifty books in a year, rocking out at gigs in Reigate and eating cheesy chips in a bus stop afterwards.

Life now is very different (better in some ways, too different to be comparable in others), but by the same token I am trying very hard to maintain some semblance of routine in my life, which can result in blog posts coming across very samey.

(Especially given I’ve been reading the same novel since January, and with one or two exceptions I’ve only been watching films lately that have Rebecca “Not the X-Factor Finalist” Ferguson in them because, well, dubbing aside – and we can't blame her for that – it turns out she’s actually wondrous.)

Try as I might (and let’s be honest, I haven’t really tried all that hard these last couple of months) I can’t muster the energy to document my weekly or fortnightly shenanigans for the benefit of anyone who might not have been present to witness them anyway.

I also can't muster the enthusiasm  to sit in front of a computer screen until late on a Sunday night. She says, sitting in front of her computer screen until late on a Monday night, stewing in self-resentment for feeling as though I've wasted my Bank Holiday somehow.

Even if I did go walking.

So, FOQ, this is the upshot: I’m rewarding TQB with a sabbatical.

TQB and I need a proper rest and reboot, and we think it’s best that we don’t surface until she and I (and yes, it’s still me, I’m just speaking of my alter-ego in the third person because what’s a blog post without a ton of pretentiousness?) have recovered our mojos and worked out how best to use the Quirky Brunette platform in a world of quick-fix social media.

In the meantime, I will try to populate my Instagram more frequently with photographs of things that aren’t just coffee cups, cocktails, my dinners and The View from my Train (although those can be pretty).

I might also use the TQB Facebook platform to share silly or interesting links that would ordinarily have made it onto the blog.

We’ll just see how it goes.

Thank you all for your support.

Over and out (but not forever).

qb xx

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Monthly Missive | Reminisce 'pon all the good times daily

Dear FOQ

If you're a follower of this increasingly irregular blog, you may well have noticed its recent, well, irregularity.

In the recent past I've apologised for the no-shows:

and while I'm not revoking those with a #sorrynotsorry I am now making the conscious choice to post less regularly than before.

Listen up, Ron Burgundy, and I'll tell you.

Remember those crazy hazy days of weekly blog posts? ... What even was I doing with my life? Well, life nowadays being what it is (weekends are for breathing-and-rebooting), and energy and enthusiasm levels being what they are, I've been struggling to muster the enthusiasm for a fortnightly post recently.

It's not that I don't love hitting the Publish button and sending my blog-babies out into the world; of course I do.

But I've put an insane and unnecessary amount of pressure on myself to do so and the result at times has been a little ... meh. In all honesty, this blog, as with many blogs, probably hit its peak some time ago (I'm talking 2014/2015 here).

I don't even read many other blogs now (in part because so many have taken on an unnecessarily glossy, non-linear, bite-size, magazine-y feel that I can't buy into: I used to read blogs for their glorious chronology and development), and the majority of the bloggers I used to follow have migrated onto Instagram; so maintaining the enthusiasm to keep the quirky brunette in the blogosphere has proven a particular challenge.

Without delving into the rudiments of algorithms, and reach, and traffic, and other such buzzwords, I can't gauge who's reading this blog besides my mum and I'm not even sure Ma QB has been reading recently ... have you? ... unless you lovely readers interact with the blog in some way, either through the comments section of the blog (which does require you to have a Gmail account), or through Facebook, or just through WhatsApping me to let me know if something's resonated.

Please do this. I encourage and invite it.

Otherwise it is just me beffling into the ether.

And that's kind of what I'm doing with the novel at the moment so it would be nice to offer up a tiny bit of my writing self into the world in the meantime and have it read.

Even if it's just by my mum.


FOQ, say a big, warm welcome to:

There's a very good chance the MM will still be posted on a Sunday, as a review and a recollection of the past month, and past fortnight, and past week – basically it's a culmination of all the forms that the blog has taken in recent years (except without the Pinterest round-up which serves little to no purpose, even though Pinterest itself has upped its game tremendously lately – follow me here if you fancy seeing what floats my aesthetic boat these days).

And yes, I may be able to drop in the occasional Ranting Review if a film I've seen is particularly riddled with flaws (as so many are).

But this will also give me more of a chance to gather a few good and worthy links, share a few things I've spotted in the webosphere (what are we even calling the interweb these days, zeitgeisty friends of mine?), and ruminate at greater length on the human condition and that sort of stuff.

It will also give me time to sift through the thousands of photographs I've taken, to weed out the blurry shots snatched out of the filthy window of a moving train, and edit the bobby-dazzlers for your amusement. Maybe even set them to some jaunty music if the mood allows.


This month (I know, I know, it doesn't have the same ring to it as This week, I have mostly been ...

... but eh, what can you do?),

I have mostly been ...

Reading 📕

Still Little Women. It's been four months now, off and on.

But I blame the lull in reading on all the ...

Writing ✍

Watching 📺


{Series 9!}
We're almost at this point, folks – while Rachel has herself a tiny screamy Spawn of Ross, Chandler's weight and hair height continues to fluctuate dramatically between episodes, but I'm pleased to see Monica looking more healthy, less skeletal (Chandler could have snapped her like a twig at one point).


Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

a fillum of considerable gravitas, which features Annette Bening as Hollywood actor Gloria Grahame, and Jamie Bell as actor and writer Peter Turner, who had an affair with Grahame prior to her death in the early 1980s, and who wrote the book that inspired this film. Parts are slightly confusing (read: out of chronological order, or told twice, from both Peter's and Gloria's perspectives respectively) or filmed as to look like false scenes from Hollywood films; but it's a very sweet film,

Bening is superb, and it's rather nice to see Jamie Bell as a grown-up with his head more or less screwed on (not to mention, reunited with Julie Walters).

Meeting up with Natalie 🍸

... for a quiet night in that ended up as a less than quiet night out "in da club".

On 24th March, though both of us were floored by exhaustion after hosting an event for the local community and baking cakes and being fabulous (her) and Singing into Spring with Voicerox then Walking Home from Reigate because of Sporadic Trains (me), Natalie and I rendez-vous'd at my company's flat:

for an evening of what we thought would be staid middle-aged-ness (we'd planned to hit up an 80s night:

{This could have been us. Luckily, it wasn't.}

but the event got sold out before we had a chance to get tickets).

Nevertheless, both of us got our second winds (and it was nothing to do with having eaten a balsamic onion pizza between us, in case you wondered), and decided that while we were both in delicious proximity to the wild social haven that is Tunbridge Wells, we may as well go Out-Out.

And we did.

Oh, we did.

The inevitable sprucing-up and posing process begins ...

{Orange squash? Irn Bru? Who knows?}

{When yer idiot friend doesn't realise you're taking a shot of you both ...}


Our previous haunt, "Davs", which became Zee Bar is now Envoy, and is actually the better for it apart from the fact it has a room designated to Caribbean hiphop which was empty.

Either advertise it, or designate it to 80s and 90s cheese, and it'll be rammed, trust me.

We danced. Muchly.

And mostly to tunes over which we expected a certain hip-hop vocalist (is he a rapper? What even is he?) name of:

to shout his own name (Sean Paul) over the top.

(Which in fairness he did, quite a lot.)

We also got to shake it off to ultimate club classic Bye Bye Fisticuffs. 

It's truly not a Beth-and-Nats Night Out without this.

(And toilet selfies. But the less said about those the better.)

The long, painful journey back

Well, if you will wear heels, Natalie ...

{Harwood gets excited by a quirky bit of signage ...}

The morning after the night before

{Random street art, spotted en route to breakfast}

The only problem with rocking out on a Saturday night was of course that come Sunday morning, our usual TW breakfast haunt wasn't open. 😞

Nevertheless, undeterred by this state of affairs, I said, what about, breakfast at Tiffany's at Wetherspoons?

She said, I think I remember the deal. 
And as I recall, I think, we both kind of liked it ...

And what's not to like?

The Opera House boasts an insanely cheap breakfast menu:

 plus an interior that still retains some of its heritage charm plus a jazzy carpet.


Singing with my Lovelies 🎶💓

... at various intervals in March, including at the aforementioned Sing into Spring 'free' short concert. With only two months to go (gulp) until the next big concert (double gulp) we'll be singing at full pelt after the Easter break.

{Charlie, new gal Skye, Jess and Jacqui | I somehow managed to patch together two photos to get the best shots of Charlie and Jess – can you see the glitch at the join?}

Walking with the Gang 👣

This has become almost as much of a tradition now as Easter itself as is the tradition of my fluttering my eyelids and asking our family friends to sponsor me in my latest endeavour.

Anyway, this year our walk took us on a circuit beginning and ending at the Fox and Hounds on Toys Hill near Brasted.

{Starting out ...}

{OK, we get it ... do not FEED the ponies. It can KILL!}

{Watch out for those dead slow children ...}

{That's a very happy Pa QB ... and we weren't anywhere
near the pub by this point.}

{Beautiful cottage!}

{"... COWS!"}

{After the ascent ...}

{Wet walkers ...}
This was the point at which we realised that at least three of our party had gone off-track ... Cue a short retrieval operation.

{Another fabulous cottage.}
 In spite of the rain and the mud we clocked up a fairly reasonable 5.7km (we had to truncate the walk on account of the weather) and earned our pub dinner. Oh, we earned it.

It was a little too loud in the pub to be able to hold proper conversations; add to that, the fact a child on a neighbouring table screamed right in my ear when he was getting fractious ... (ah, fractious children in pubs, such a delightful concept). But my dessert (and, yes, the wine) made up for it.


(and buying more IKEA furniture and I'm not even sorry about that, either.)

Because I needed another unit next to my armchair to put my wine on, OK?


My side table also doubles as a jaunty charging port.

And let's have a quick moment of hipster-like appreciation for my little clan of succulents (one of which may be fake):

Oh, and because even if the great tape cassette revival does happen as the great vinyl revival happened, I'm not sure my copy of A Handful of Songs or Songs to Sing in the Car if You Really Are Entrenched in the 1980s, or hours of recordings of comedy from Derby's Ram FM in 1996/1997 ("this be spellin' with Billy-Bob. ... I'm Billy Bob") will be the most coveted items out there.

Many, many tapes went the way of the bin.

And I don't miss them at all.

This one, however, was spared:

{The one marked KCYC is a radio taping of the concert I took part in back in 1988, with the Kent County Junior Choir and Kent County Youth Orchestra. That gets to stay, too.}

Traffic safety is important, y'all.

Links and look-sees 🔗

Serious 😐

• Plastics and pollution | four writers try to live plastic-free | on The Guardian

• ‘Even today, after a century of feminism, we can’t fully be ourselves’ | Elena Ferrante on The Guardian

• Cousin Jo and I are in training for another epic Harwood Yomp to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association in memory of Jo's dad, Ralph (so please be a luv and sponsor us, thank you kindly!) | here or here

Silly 🤡

• (ish) Life goals: be more like this gentleman! | I'm the oldest person to ride a rollercoaster | on The Guardian | Look how cheerful he is! (although to be fair, that might be down to the whisky in his morning cuppa)

{Photo by Shaw & Shaw for The Guardian | via here}

• A giant inflatable obstacle course? YAS | via Get Surrey

Aaaand that's all we've got time for (read: that's all I've got energy for).

I'll see you again in a month. 

¡Adios, amigos!

qb xx