Bonfire, treason and plot… (And a few excuses.)

Don't try this at home, kids (entirely unsecured, fly-away hair; flapping and highly flammable - if cheerily coloured - neck accessories; gloved hand perilously close to lit portion of firework...)

Remember me…?

Yes, I know, having rather rashly (as it turns out…) promised some sort of ghoulish curiosity to accompany a Hallowe’en post that never materialised, I deserve only scorn and disdainful, sidelong glances – and possibly also a snort or two of derision, depending on quite how disappointed and/or disinclined to forgiveness you may be – for crimes pertaining to spectacular rubbishness and false advertising. Mayhap the absence of a Facebook scrolling update alerting you to new Amanda-based ramblings came as a welcome relief, and cleared the way for more pertinent news – such as the late availability of bumper-size bags of tooth-rotting treats at one’s local Tesco, with which to stave off hordes of marauding children, or a baffling update re. activity on one’s Farmville small-holding (I s’pose I shouldn’t mock, never having tried it, but it is a pastime that seems to invite [at least light] ridicule…). However, it was – at best – remiss of me to neglect my so magnanimously endowed (i.e. gratis) corner of the WordPress-sponsored blogosphere, so I present the (customary) abject apologies for tardiness, spare you the full details as to how the unscheduled 2+-week hiatus occurred, and offer a bumper 4-image post by way of a metaphorical olive branch *backs away, tugging forelock while attempting not to look too offensively obsequious*.

So, last week being half-term week, and as such earmarked for the emphatically unskillful (I should really only speak for myself here, I suppose…) execution of miscellaneous DIY activities, there seemed scant opportunity for the construction of a respectable post and accompanying illustration without incurring accusations of outrageous slacking from my dear husband. While painting a kitchen may not, on first consideration, appear a particularly challenging proposition, we quickly discovered that our flippant remarks about having the place ‘finished by lunchtime’ woefully underestimated the magnitude of the task ahead; once inducted into the murky world of the DIY superstore and the ridiculously convoluted processes it espouses as the only way to decorate (in a manner that won’t result in having to call the professionals in at great expense to rectify one’s home-improvement horror), the dawning realisation that we were embarking on practically a week’s worth of sugar-soap-drenched, paint-cursing, masking-tape-bestickied tedium was a sobering one. And, while fairly confident in my watercolour painting technique when armed with a comfortably short-bristled paintbrush, the devilish substance peddled as Kitchen-and-Bathroom Paint to be used in conjunction with a ‘Value’ fuzzy roller (resembling nothing so much as a synthetic Father Christmas beard wrapped around a kitchen-roll inner tube – yes, only the best equipment for us!) represented something altogether more disconcerting. Having spent the best part of Thursday last week rolling ‘dewberry’ paint over its hideous mint-green predecessor – using that special ‘roll the paint on with the first stroke and peel it straight off again with the second’ technique that never gets old (almost tear-inducingly demoralising…) – we had succeeded in achieving what one friend described as a ‘diseased lung’ effect, and regarded that as an injunction to down tools and go out. Besides, the deeply offensive purple-stippled-with-green walls were making me feel nauseous.

And by ‘out’, I mean properly out: not the ‘out, out’ of Jason Manford fame/notoriety, but out, wearing a just-discernible smirk of pre- culturally-edified smugness, to the West End to see the much vaunted production of Ghost Stories at the Duke of York’s Theatre (mini-plug: Appropriate to the season, I felt when booking the tickets, but any suitable jitteriness I may (…) have been experiencing prior to the show was rather subsumed by face-burning panic when I discovered – approximately 30 mins before the show – that the little folding book of tickets I had been so solicitously guarding for 8-or-so weeks, was no longer about my person. Cue a frenzied – and entirely futile – search of my stupidly cavernous handbag, while our unfortunate companions retraced our collective steps to the pub on Whitehall, where the tickets were last sighted. Happily, said pub exceeded all my miserably pessimistic expectations: not only did our friends return brandishing the original (if slightly cider-soiled) tickets, but they’d apparently also contacted the Box Office, where a newly-minted set were also waiting. With a surfeit of valid tickets, therefore, we were able to enjoy a really very impressive show – about which we were enjoined as an audience not to reveal any secrets (I think, however, I’d be permitted to say that it was a very successful production, in that it combined wit, spiritualism, references to the cinematic horror canon, and a smattering of well-placed humour, to surprising – and frequently startling, at least for someone of my excitable disposition – effect).

Having failed, utterly, to wrestle a Hallowe’en composition into being before I departed for The North and my familial home on Friday 29th Oct, I had resolved to do battle with my mother’s aged, steam-powered laptop (only recently inaugurated itself into the ways of mobile internet, replacing the exquisitely painful dial-up ‘swipes’ at web-access of old) on arrival in the hope of shoehorning a little something in before the witching hour. This in itself would only be possible with the co-operation of said laptop, the cannibalising of last year’s stock of seasonal illustrations, and a prevailing wind (why, oh why, the O2 rep in Lancaster sold my mother the apparatus for mobile internet in a notorious reception black spot remains unfathomable) – unfavourable odds, indeed. I did crawl a little way towards posting, but with the internet connection flickering in and out of existence and my grandfather to appease with tea and conversation (although this last broadly replicating all recent communications between myself and grandad…), that effort failed, too. The image I had pilfered from last year’s file and emailed to myself for the purpose of accompanying the (abortive) cobbled-together Hallowe’en blog is, though, included here – I thought it captured something of the rather menacing spectacle of children in spooky attire demanding their sugar bribes to not pepper the outside of one’s house with eggs and/or flour (or, in these straitened times, possibly just to encourage them against shouting rude things and pulling slightly disagreeable faces). Happily, my mother lives in a rather remote situation, and the vast expanse of unpopulated land on all sides is usually enough of a deterrent to would-be trick-or-treaters, even of the more adventurous – or lost – variety…

Impetuous trick-or-treater

In a departure from the chronology I have so far been pursuing (mainly owing to a faulty brain…), I visited a friend on the Wirral at the beginning of half-term week, chiefly to marvel at her lovely new abode, but also to indulge in a little practice-celebration for her impending birthday (which I was unable to attend, on account of grandparent-mollifying duties in Lancaster – and a Jeremy Hardy gig [about which there may be more in a subsequent post]). I fear that much of this (academic) year will be given over to such activities – not that I am averse to celebrations, or of so miserly a nature that I can’t abide the thought of how much doing so might deplete reserves (of several kinds), but I have yet to reconcile myself to the irrefutable fact that I, too, will be venturing into my third decade of being. I seem to be straying, in a most uncharacteristic fashion (…), from the path towards ‘point’…which was something along the lines of new homes and the excitement of finding yourself at the beginning of an adventure – albeit one beset by mortgage payments and faulty boiler-related strife – over and around which you have miraculously ‘built’ your own shelter. In honour of this, therefore, and to acknowledge the start of what I sincerely hope will be a very happy (if not always champagne-fuelled – I think we may have been a little optimistic with our precedent-setting on that first day in the house…) new chapter, I give you (and gave Rachel) the following:

'New Home' card for a friend who's recently made the dizzying leap onto the first rung of the property ladder - well done Rach!

It’s not quite a faithful representation of her little des. res., nor does the new home-owner bear any real resemblance to Rachel, but the grin on the illustrated girl’s face is uncannily accurate…

And so, to a few final words (I had thought that was the rush of the unseasonably-mild November winds through the hairline gap in our shonky window, but I realise now that it was the collective sigh-of-relief of you v. dear and long-suffering blog-readers…). I accept that the first illustration in this post, featuring a rather recklessly-attired Bonfire Night-goer, does not make for a particularly responsible advert for sparkler-wielding – or conduct around fireworks in general – and, always mindful of potential hazards, seek to replicate something of the feel of the, frankly terrifying, public safety films so cherished from my school days (I don’t think anyone forgets the ’10 Little Indians’ farm safety video, or the unfortunate child who attempts to retrieve his frisbee from an electricity substation, with crispy-fried results…). There follows, therefore, one of my oft-featured mice demonstrating the potential risk one runs while enjoying the pyrotechnic thrill of a sparkler (this image depicts a facial-hair-related mishap, but it could apply equally well to flammable clothes – shell-suits are always a favourite example here – or dangling tresses). Be careful, children!

How not to hold a firework - regardez vous le singed whisker...

Well, until next time (I would say ‘next week’, but I think we all know that courting failure and disappointment in this manner will only end in tears – or, at least, complete obliteration of this blog’s v. modest readership). Happy Bonfire Night!

AP x.

About illustratedbyamanda

Illustrator and time-fritterer extraordinaire
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