A cure for arachnophobia?

Aragog on our wall.
Aragog on our wall.

“Do people think we’re a bit daft?” Noel shouted from the open upstairs window as he held on to Aragog’s bottom. “Naw,” I replied, trying to sound as if I meant it, while battling with six of the eight giant legs. “They expect it of us…”

This not having much work malarkey has sent the boredom threshold into overdrive, kicked off a creativity streak and nudged the eccentricity meter. Thankfully I’ve chanelled it into something useful, like making a giant spider for the Calverley Scareycrow Festival, which is scarecrows with a Halloween theme.

It’ll look good on the CV, though. Visioning, seeing scaryness, imagining what it would look like and how it could manifest itself. Strategic and budgetary planning, sourcing the cheap giant baubles which would become the head and body of Hagrig’s arachnid mate Aragog, working out how to put the damned thing together and launch it out of the window. Staff management and delegation, though Noel and the cat may balk at that description and finally execution to demonstrate that I can finish what I start, so there.

Neither of us are keen on spiders, so I saw this as a way of looking fear in the giant eyes and not jumping on the sofa and shouting aghhhhhh, AGHHHHHHH! Noel said he wasn’t too sure and the cat just sat on the material that would make the spider’s exoskeleton. The biggest freak out came as I assembled it in on the lounge floor, complete with articulated legs. Noel announced that he was contemplating a few nights in a spider-free hotel, I considered joining him, though had to point out that nowhere is spider-free. I think that freaked him out even more. Still it meant I could add crisis handing to the CV.

Now our only fear is that passing cars will swerve and crash into the wall as they see Aragog. Looks like my first aid certificate may come in handy too,  I was worried too that children may run away screaming and have nightmares for he rest of their lives. Thankfully, Oscar, our young neighbour, pronounced it ‘cool’, though hinted he’s like more than the usual cheap sweets when he tricks or treats us on Thursday.

It must have been this new CV that secured me some work, which is good news for Noel’s nerves and sanity.  He can now pack me off with my jam sandwiches and bottle of pop each day safe in the knowledge that I will be far too busy to do anything as daft as this again…for a while at least.

Shortage of garages, but plenty of sales

England shirt anyone?
England shirt anyone?

“Lyle, mind where you’re putting that light sabre”, the shrill voice rose above the hubub as Lyle’s as-new purchase bounced against the arms of the crowds carrying standard lamps with frilly shades, George Foreman grills (used once) and chocolate fondue sets (still in box). The Calverley Garage Sale was in full swing, even though our village has a dire shortage of car containers.

I’ve never seen as many people in our little village, traffic was at even more of a standstill than usual as people abandoned cars wherever they could to search for bargains among the 150 stalls set out on front gardens, drives, the odd wall and the even odder garage. The pennies and tuppences collected will add to the coffers of the local schools so well done on you all.

Personally it was an excuse to be very nosey and meet fellow villagers, though I did scoff a bun or two and was cajoled into buying a bracelet and scarf because they were orange. Our village is a collection of higgledy piggledy streets with houses that look inconsequential, but turn out to be palatial inside. One lady had lived in her four-bedroom, two-bathroom terrace for 47 years, she’d seen a few changes in the village, and then some. Her neighbour was an in-comer, less than a year in the village, he was hoping to sell an England rugby shirt, that was before the Welsh trouncing, I think it went for a song to the tune of Cym Rhondda. I did buy the bracelet from him, though, so he made at least 50p.

Round the back of the ginnels I found a little forest of garages I never knew existed. One was given an immediate StripeyAnne award for being the Tidiest Garage In The World. Not only was everything in its place, with ingenious use of cut-down oil containers, for the kinds of bits and pieces that normally rattle around in a box in our cellar, but they could actually fit two cars in as well. Respect. Another garagista said he’d heard that on the rare occasion when a garage did come up for sale, there would be an almighty bidding war and it would go for a ridiculous price, £40,000 for the most recent. Good grief, I think I’ll stick with on-street!

Best of all, though, was seeing so many neighbours and friends strolling the streets, talking to each other, testing out the odd light sabre and generally socialising. Local shops did a roaring trade, especially Martin at the chippy.  Thanks to voluntary organisations like Creative Calverley, there will be a lot more of this type of thing. And of course the return of the garage sale next year when we can sell what we bought this year!

Advent window #81

our advent window in reverse
our advent window in reverse

It’s definitely a left brain/right brain thing, that inability to picture how something looks in reverse and then make it so. Heck, I flinch when I see a photo of me with my parting on the wrong side, how does that happen? It looks fine in the mirror. My box of dressmaking rejects is full of pairs of right sleeves, cut from fabric folded the wrong way. And as for maps, let’s not go there, well I certainly don’t go there, I can’t read maps, even if they are the right way up.

So the challenge of transforming the window of our spare room into number 18 of the village’s huge Advent calendar made my brain hurt. Each day in December, someone somewhere in Calverley has decorated a window on the Christmas carol theme. They do something similar in nearby Saltaire, but they are posher, well it is a World Heritage Site.

Drawing on the window seemed to be a good idea and indeed it was for anyone wanting to see the other side of the Little Town of Bethlehem, though it looked fine in the room. Back to the drawing board with the solution at hand, thanks to Noel, who can do the transposing thing and can read maps, though his dressmaking skills are questionable. By doing the design on coloured cellophane, the back became the front and 81 became 18.

Next year I want to be number 8.


Local ghosts for local people

My favourite from the Calverley ScareyCrow Festival

Stepping out into the cold night for our Friday night fish-and-chips gave us a touch of the heebie jeebies. There was a whiff of something sinister in the air and it wasn’t the prevailing wind from the Number Twos bin in Victoria Park.

Someone, something was watching us as we navigated one of Calverley’s many ginnels. The village is ancient and used to be the dead centre of the greater Pudsey area as it was the only place with a graveyard, so coffins were carried here from miles around. We also have a couple of resident ghosts, who aren’t a lot of bother, though they do get a little giddy this time of year with all the trick-or-treaters around.

Hovering above the chippy was a devil of a ghost, we weren’t sure whether he was trying to frighten us away, or make us run inside. Up the road outside the cafe was a ghostly tea party with quite a lot of hubble, bubble and trouble, though very little toil and Pinhead was doing his scary thing up the busy Woodhall Road, with a bit of luck he was scaring the speeding drivers. Esmerelda the witch was keeping watch over the dog club and Boo the ghost had risen from his garden grave on Shell Lane. It was all very spooky.

In all there were 18 new ghosts in the village for the Scareycrow Festival, here at the invitation of Creative Calverley’s very own Ghostbuster Gael Timbers. Gael has special powers to make things happen here,  she’s brought in a community cinema, craft market, Christmas fair and now this. It was going to be a conkers challenge, but as this year’s summer was so appalling, there were no conkers to be had for love nor money. And anyway, it gave the ghosts a weekend out and about.

The last time I looked out of the window, though, the ghosts had packed their bags and were off on holiday. Esmerelda told me they were dying to get away from all the humans dressed up as ghosts and ghouls this halloween, they were either too scary or too cheesey. Can’t say I blame them, I’ll be hiding behind the sofa with the lights out on Wednesday.

Local sport for local people

The Brownlee brothers face the media pack at the Leeds parkrun

The excitement of the London 2012 Olympics may have died down a little, but not a lot. The Join In Local Sport campaign is encouraging us to all to get off our backsides and join in something sporty. Not that we need much encouragement here in the Independent Kingdom of Yorkshire, we ARE sport.

Just in case you’ve been on Mars with the Curiosity Rover, whose cameras were pointing at the Olympics to see all the action, Yorkshire did well in the medals table. Very well indeed, in fact, we finished 12th, with seven golds, three silver and two bronze, which was above Spain, Jamaica, South Africa and Brazil. Not that we’re counting or showing off or anything, noooo, not us.

Two of our medal winners joined in the Joined In campaign, turning up at the Leeds Hyde Park parkrun, one of the best examples of local sport for local people ever invented. It’s a weekly timed 5k run – and it’s free, we Tykes like that. The Brownlee brothers, who won gold and bronze in the triathlon, started us off then, to the relief of anyone wanting a personal best and those of us who don’t want to be lapped twice, they peeled off and set off to Sheffield in the pink Join In bus.

The bus had also brought BBC presenter John Inverdale and former Olympian Sharon Davies, along with the lovely David Moorcroft, former world record holder for the 5000 metres (or parkrun distance as we like to call it in our house) and a keen parkrunner. He hung around and applauded us all as we finished our first lap, I was touched, I’ve never been applauded by a champion before!

The idea of Join In is to join an established club or to start something up so others can take part. Here in our village, there’s no excuse, all the local sports are listed in the Creative Calverley site. Well, it’s only four years to the Olympics in Rio…….

The biggest blogging village in Britain?

Noel gives techie advice

What’s in a blog? Well, anything you bloomin’ well want is the simple answer and someone will always be there to read it. WordPress, the biggest blogmouth of them all, has just short of 75million sites across the world, including this one. Each day there are half a million blog posts, four out of five of them get a comment from someone, somewhere. Here in our little village we’re doing our bit to increase the count by running our own little workshop, encouraging local people to start their own blogs.

Community activity in the village has reached fever pitch since the not-for-profit Creative Calverley started up with a monthly craft fair, community cinema, local walks and practical workshops on everything from bunting making to vegetable gardening. Being not so much pillars, more little supporting struts of the community, we decided we’d like to do our bit by encouraging people to get their creative cogs turning and blog.

I’m the yin to Noel’s yang, blogging my not-so-little socks off, making lots of noise and generally showing off. Noel sits quietly and impassively, the engine room, the techno guru, the one who makes things work by doing more than pressing <ctrl-alt-del>.  We decided to put the yin and yang together to create a blogging workshop. Noel would do the where to write and I’d give a helping hand with how to write it.

The first workshop was on Saturday with Joan and Julie, local ladies who’d heard about us via Creative Calverley. They left three hours later a lot wiser and keen to get on with their blogging. We learned a few thing too – and are looking forward to the next session.

Who knows, maybe we’ll become the biggest blogging village in Britain! We’ll certainly be doing our bit.

Church kicks off Calverley Community Cinema

With a family trip to the local multiplex costing just slightly less than the cost of a small second-hand car, cinema outings have become a luxury for many in these tough economic times. Unless, that is, you live in our village where we can enjoy a movie, refreshments and good company and have enough change out of a tenner to put something on the collection plate.

Saturday saw the grand gala opening of Calverley Community Cinema in our historic parish church. St Wilfrid’s dates back to the 14th century, with bits of it as old as the 11th century. But it was 21st century technology and one of the best-loved films ever made that brought people though the doors clutching their £4 ticket fee in one hand and a cushion to guard against the bum-numbing effects of the pews in the other.

It’s A Wonderful Life, the 1946 classic from Frank Capra, which regularly features in The Greatest Movies Of All Time charts, tells the story of a philanthropic banker (yes, seriously!) George Bailey. He falls on hard times through no fault of his own (ooo, the irony, compare and contrast with the bankers 50 years later who land on their feet with stonking bonuses at the expense of pretty much everyone else in the world……) and wishes he’d never been born.

His guardian angel Clarence, an amiable bi-centenarian, convinces him life’s worth living, as the world was much the worse without that particular banker (I couldn’t possibly comment about how much need the world has for modern-day bankers). Cue the tissues, much sobbing and general agreement that the film is as wonderful as its title.

The plan is for monthly showings in the church, with maybe the return of Saturday morning children’s matinees. For the time being, the organisers want to hear from the audience what we want to see. Next up is Cinema Paradiso, the Vicar’s favourite. I’ve put in a bid for Top Gun!

Cinema in the church