My Daughter’s Cake on TV, Plus, What the?…Ewwww!!!!

Ewww gif

The reaction GIF relates to the second item on my post today. You’ll see.

Couple of things for you today. First up, last Friday, a cake my daughter made appeared on the BBC’s “The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice”, in their failed bakes section. Yep, our motto is – if you fail at something, don’t hide it away, put it up for public ridicule! We’re highly delighted by the appearance of her cake on the show, as I’m sure you will be too when you watch it. Here’s the clip:

Next up, and let me make it perfectly clear that is second thing is in no way whatsoever, whichsoever, or howsoever, related to the first thing. Have you heard of the UroClub? It’s been around for a few years apparently but I hadn’t heard of it until I was unfortunate enough to encounter it on my Facebook timeline. At first I thought it was a joke, actually I’m still hoping that it is, but I have a horrible feeling it isn’t…

Apparently, not having anywhere to pee while you’re on the golf course is a big problem. It turns out that running off to pee in the woods is frowned upon (well I wish someone had told me sooner, not that I play golf, but I mean in general). And so some bright spark has invented a golf club that you can pee into. Yes really. Or that men can pee into at least, so far there thankfully isn’t a female version. The top half of the club is a hollow tube with a screw cap on the end. It even comes with a handy clip-on privacy towel to cover over your crotch area. They describe it as discreet. Discreet? I don’t think so, it’s bordering on obscene. Here it is in action:

Uroclub being usedAnd here are the instructions from the website:

Uroclub instructions

I can’t help noticing they’ve missed out quite a vital stage in the instructions, the stage that would go in between step 2, and step 3. I’d like to see a golfer doing that part discretely; hands fumbling around under the towel. Well I wouldn’t ACTUALLY like to see it, but you know what I mean.

The website tells us “The UroClub™ is intended to eliminate anxiety and any feeling of uneasiness on the course” Right, because peeing into a tube while people are standing around watching, waiting for you to take your shot and wondering why you’ve just clipped a towel over your crotch, is totally going to make you feel at ease. The website also says “Imagine, giving the appearance of taking a practice swing, while both privately and confidentially, you are able to relieve yourself without any embarrassment” Wait, so now they expect you to be swinging it while you’re peeing too. Really, I would rather see someone go off into the woods to pee than this. To clarify again, I wouldn’t ACTUALLY like to see it.

And here is the link to the website itself in case you can’t quite believe it and want to see it for yourself and if you really want to see more, you can seek out the commercial for it too on YouTube. I did.

Have you seen any surprising inventions lately? Or have you tried to bake a cactus cake that didn’t go to plan and was subsequently shown on national television?


Did You Know That 1 in 113 People in the World is a Refugee?

Gulwali Passarlay and Vanessa Chapman

Gulwali Passarlay with me (read on to find out more!). Photo credit: Ollie Gapper

I’ll say it again, 1 in 113. Pretty shocking right? The numbers are unprecedented. When they talk of a refugee crisis, they ain’t kidding (I’m using the word ‘refugee’ as a catch-all word which also includes asylum seekers and others forcibly displaced through war or persecution. It doesn’t include economic migrants). Around half of those refugees are children, many of whom are alone, either separated from their parents or orphaned.

I haven’t been blogging for a while, and that’s partly because of refugees, let me explain…

I organised a conference at work in June, and I booked Gulwali Passarlay as our keynote speaker. Gulwali is author of ‘The Lightless Sky: My Journey to Safety as a Child Refugee’.

The Lightless Sky book cover

Gulwali arrived in the UK as an unaccompanied asylum seeking child at the age of 13, after having spent a perilous year, travelling 12,000 miles alone from Afghanistan. I read his book prior to meeting him, and I’m really struggling to put into words what this book did to me. It was so shocking, and moving, and heartbreaking, but also uplifting and hopeful. How he survived the journey, and made it to the UK is incredible. His strength and determination, which shines through in the book is truly humbling.

Since arriving here nine years ago he has gone on to achieve so much, a Degree in Politics from Manchester University (he barely spoke a few words of English when he arrived), he has done a TEDx talk, he carried the Olympic torch in 2012, he is an activist and campaigner for refugees, and of course the writing of his book. He has appeared widely in the press and on television; if you Google his name you’ll find plenty.

In person he is strong and charismatic, as well as warm, friendly, kind and funny. He is undoubtedly brilliant, and yet underneath it all he is you or me.

“It wasn’t my fault I wasn’t born in Europe. My home was a war zone, did that somehow make me less human?” Gulwali Passarlay, from The Lightless Sky.

Also in June we had the EU Referendum. I’m not going to say much about that right now, but suffice to say I was hugely shocked and upset by the result. And I continue to be hugely shocked and upset by the racism that the result appears to have triggered. It’s frightening. I can’t even articulate how abhorrent I find it.

The combination of those two things – Gulwali’s story, and the Referendum made me feel unable to blog for a while. I mostly write about silly trivial things on here, and a lot of the blogs I follow are fairly lighthearted, and suddenly I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to write about significant and important things, and yet I felt dwarfed by the size and importance of the issues and didn’t feel I could really do them justice. I wanted to make a difference but didn’t know how.

I now feel ready to return. I might not be able to change the world, but right now I’ll be happy if I can get a few people to read Gulwali’s book (available on Amazon and in many high street book stores!), and other personal stories like his. Those individual human stories are so important for changing attitudes. Statistics and media headlines are faceless. I fail to see how anyone could read his book, and then still come out with hateful “Send them home” type comments about refugees and asylum seekers. Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t want to lose that hope and optimism that things can change.

When No One Is Looking…

Black cat on fence

A few days ago I was eating some chicken wings at home. Before I could say “I love this hot Nando’s sauce”, one of my cats (the one in the picture above – you can see the sneaky look on her face), leaped up from nowhere, seized one of the wings in her mouth and attempted to run off with it. I managed to grab her and extract the wing from her mouth, phew.

I then looked down at my plate of wings, realised that I had put the wing back on the pile, and had no idea which was the one that had been in the cat’s mouth. So what did I do? Well nobody was around to see, so I just shrugged and carried on eating. Had anyone else been around, I may well have made a big dramatic gesture of throwing them all away in disgust, saying “Ugh! Well I can’t eat ANY of them now!”

Truth is I’ve been sharing food with cats ever since that first grubby little fistful of cat food I shoved into my mouth from the cat bowl as a toddler. I’ve never worried too much about that sort of thing. It builds immunity right? Right?! Remember I spent a year living self-sufficiently up a mountain as a child, with no plumbing or electricity, drinking raw milk straight out of goats, and eating goodness-knows-what straight out of the ground. I figure I have a pretty strong stomach. I feel the need to clarify here though, I’m actually very meticulous with food hygiene in my kitchen, so you don’t need to worry if you ever come to eat at my house. I guess I’m careful for other people, but if it’s just something for me (and nobody’s watching), I’m a lot more relaxed.

Are you horrified by my chicken wing story? Or are you thinking – yeah, I’d probably do the same too if nobody was looking…or maybe even if people were looking? What things have you done alone lately that you might not have done if someone was looking?


Panda Bears, Bloggers, and Poolside Wisdom

Three unrelated things…

1) Sorting through some photos on my computer I came across this picture I had taken of an article in a newspaper a while back which had given me a good laugh, so I thought you might like to laugh too. I think I shared it on Facebook at the time. It says:

“A Sanctuary worker dresses up as a panda – even smearing himself in real bear poo and wee for authenticity. The unusual uniform is an attempt to stop the pandas seeing a human so they can be released into the wild.”

Now I’m no panda bear, but if I was, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be fooled into thinking that some guy in a cheap, and frankly terrible, panda costume was actually another panda, smeared in bear poo and wee or not. What makes me laugh the most though is the expression on the face of the real panda looking in, he’s clearly thinking “What the…?”


2)  A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting two fellow bloggers, Mayumi from Even More Bonus Parts, and Beth, who used to run the Limebird Writers site I wrote for, and now does Beauty in Beta, and  The Olive Fox. Mayumi was a regular follower and commenter on Limebird, so it made sense for her to meet myself and Beth at the same time when she took a trip to the UK last month. We had such a lovely afternoon chatting and laughing, well Beth and I did most of the chatting while Mayumi sat sweetly and listened, and then later when I commented that we hadn’t really let her get a word in, she very graciously said that it’s fine because she likes to listen. Phew!

Mayumi, Vanessa and Beth

3)  You may recall back in December I wrote about a conversation I overheard in the swimming pool showers, where a man was talking about how he had taken a decision to give everything 10 minutes more. Remember that? How much we all liked it and said we would think about taking that approach ourselves? Well I’ve recently gleaned more wisdom at the pool. I go three times a week, and on several occasions, I had noticed a woman on the benches, just watching the swimmers. Last week I overheard her talking to someone in the lobby. She said that she had recently had surgery and wasn’t allowed to swim for a couple of months, but she still comes to the pool at the same times as she would have swum, and just watches, so as to keep the habit of coming. I thought that was great, it’s all too easy to break a good habit, and it can be really hard to get back into it again. I decided I would remember that because I’m sure there might be other contexts where I can apply that approach in the future.

Who knew the swimming pool would be such a rich source of wisdom? I shall continue eavesdropping on everyone’s conversations, and report back if I glean anything more worth sharing…

Vanessa in swimming pool

Yes, this is me in the pool, not looking my best!

What unexpected place have you gleaned wisdom from? Have you met any other bloggers recently? Do you think the guy in the panda suit was actually a new, young and naïve, employee, and the others said “Well you’re going to have to dress in a panda suit and smear yourself with bear poo and wee. It’s all about helping reintegrate the pandas into the wild, and not just because we all want a good laugh at your expense”?

RIP Victoria Wood

One week ago today I posted my Victoria Wood challenge skit on here, and today she died. A mere 62 years old. Obviously I’d been thinking a lot about her lately, so I felt more personally affected by the news than I might otherwise have done. I’d been watching a lot of her old sketches over the last few weeks and remembering what a big part of my comedy-appreciation formative years she was!

As a little tribute, I will share this skit of hers from 1988. How many celebs can you spot in the audience?

So long Victoria, thanks for all the laughs…

The Prime Minister’s Wee Wee

Blue dinosaur in snow

This isn’t me, but it could have been if someone had challenged me to dress up as a blue dinosaur and run through the snow (which is no more random that some of the other things you all suggested)

Don’t worry, this isn’t a post about the Prime Minister’s tax affairs. No, yet again I’m prepared to make a fool of myself in front of my blogging audience for the sake of…what AM I doing this for the sake of again? I’m sure I had a good reason. Anyway, yes, it’s time for another one of the challenges I was set by you guys at the end of last year. This one came from Pete Denton. He suggested that I vlog a Victoria Wood style skit about recycling…er…sure, that’s a perfectly normal thing to do, really easy…gulp. I actually wrote the skit in my head very soon after he set it, but it’s taken me this long to get up the courage to record and post it.

I’m not sure if Victoria Wood is very well known outside of the UK – she’s a British comedian who has been on TV since the 70s. I was particularly a huge fan of hers in the 80s, but she carried on doing plenty more after that too. She’s done a mixture of sketch shows, stand-up comedy, sitcoms, theatre, as well as drama, and has covered a range of different characters and styles, so it’s quite hard to define what would be a Victoria Wood style skit. One of the things she does in her stand-up routines is become different characters and just tell a story about something as that character, so it’s that kind of thing I’ve gone for. I don’t actually think the end result is anything like any of her stuff, but oh well, you can at least appreciate my bravery in giving it a go right? Especially you fellow introverts. I know I love to do a bit of acting, but this is somewhat out of my comfort zone.

Well here goes…

photo credit: Loch Ness Monster via photopin (license)

Sunday Sundries – Can You Help?

A few unrelated things…


Even this picture is unrelated to anything else in the post. It’s just a stone I found on the beach a couple of years ago. Cute isn’t it?

1. Looking for a recommendation here. Does anybody know of a good print-on-demand company who can do reproductions of old books? A friend has a very old, out of copyright, book. He has professionally scanned print-ready pdfs of it, but would ideally like a company to try to replicate the original in terms of the material the cover was made of etc, or at least a semblance of the original, so that it’s an actual reproduction rather than simply a reprint of an old book. He would then like to sell them as reproductions. He doesn’t want to have to bulk buy a load of copies upfront, hence the print-on-demand requirement.

2. I’ve updated my Books by Bloggers page. If you’ve written a book, or books, please see if you’re listed there, and if the details are correct. If your book isn’t there, and you’d like it to be, please contact me using the form on that page.

Empty chairs around a tree

And another completely unrelated to anything picture

3. You may recall in December I mentioned that I had volunteered to have a stall at a craft fair, even though I don’t really do crafts, and so had whipped up a batch of decorated boxes. Doing that gave me the urge to take up knitting again, something I do every now and again. I’ve set up a little site with Big Cartel to sell my knitted items – So far I only have five hats to sell, plus I appreciate this isn’t the most ideal time of year to start selling woolly hats, but there are no costs involved in having this site up (as it currently stands), so no harm in it sitting there. I’m a big-time procrastinator, plus I have a short attention span, so I needed to just get it up there quickly while I was feeling enthused. I also have a Twitter account for it – (unfortunately @knittingness was already taken on Twitter, by another Vanessa, which I hadn’t thought to check when I set up, so I’ve had to put a ‘y’ on the end, oh well!). And I’ve just set up a Facebook page for it too, which is rather sparse at the moment –

And that’s my Sunday Sundries over. To recap, I’m hoping you’ll…

1. Let me know of an appropriate print-on-demand company
2. Check my Books by Bloggers page.
3. Follow my knitting twitter account, and like the facebook page

photo credits –
Stone that looks a little like a Minion: Me!
Chairs around tree: Tuileries via photopin (license)

The Playground

Howdy folks, today I’m lit (that’s uber-cool young people speak for fired-up and excited, because I’m so down with the kids) as we have a special guest. Please join me in welcoming the very gorgeous Lisa Burton! Lisa is author C.S. Boyack’s spokesmodel, and let me tell you, she is one glamorous and feisty chick. You may recall that Craig Boyack previously visited me himself, and we made bread rolls together  while chatting about his book, Will ‘O the Wisp. Lisa and I aren’t going to do any baking today, but I do have a little challenge for her. Hi Lisa, welcome…wait, is that a bust of Craig himself you’re leaning on there?

Lisa leaning on bust of Craig Boyack

Hi Vanessa, yes it is, I miss him when I’m travelling. Sigh. Thanks for inviting me over to talk about his newest book, The Playground. But what’s all this about a challenge?

Don’t worry about that Lisa, it’s easy. In the meantime, I hope you don’t mind taking the lime?

Taking the lime? Is that more cool kid-speak?

No. Notice how I’ve made your words lime green? L is for Lisa, and L is for lime, see? This is a clue about the challenge coming up.

Oh I see…I think.

Well let’s crack on Lisa. What can you tell me about the book?

Book cover of The Playground

This one is another paranormal tale, but Craig’s making me tell people it’s paranormal with science fiction sprinkles on top. There is a bit of near future technology in this one. Mainly the Playground Dolls, and the social network they contain.

A social network contained in dolls? Why dolls?

The network is marketed to children. They tell parents their kids can make friends all over the world, get help with homework, and learn from other cultures. That’s a bunch of bull though. The man behind it all is using the network to brainwash the children, and grow his own army.

Oh my goodness, sounds chilling. What are the characters in the book like?

Craig went with three main characters this time. It’s almost like three short stories, but they weave together to tell a bigger story. Chloe is a little girl who gets a Playground doll for Christmas. Her job is to illustrate what all the children are going through.

Gina is a doctor who just had her own brush with the paranormal. She really doesn’t want anything to do with it, but could be the only person who can bring down the network.

Then there’s Clovis. He’s a giant of a man, and he’s calculating and brutal. He’s working for the bad guy, and has a head start on Gina. He grows on you after a while though.

Sounds great Lisa. I can’t wait to read it, in fact, do you mind waiting while I read it now?

Waiting while you read the whole book? Erm…well…ooh! I can’t believe I’m bringing this up myself, but didn’t you say you had some kind of challenge for me Vanessa?

Oh yes, the challenge. Okay, we’ll do that first. Then I’ll read the book while you wait. Right, so the book is called The Playground, what I want you to do is tell me something about the book for each of the letters of PLAYGROUND.

Okay sure, let’s see…

– P is for parasite. There is only one, but it’s really important to the story.

– L is for Gina’s lamp. It allows her to see what people are really like.

– A is for angel — of death.

– Y is for youth, that passes for the children.

– G is for GTO, as in Pontiac GTO.

– R is for regents, the kind that are in charge.

– O is for oracle, there isn’t one, but– well, you’ll see.

– U is for the underworld.

– N is for New Orleans.

– D is for the dog. There’s only one of those too, but he makes a great sidekick.

That was tough. I could have used some of the letters multiple times, and others were hard.

Well done Lisa, you passed the challenge! Very intriguing, I guess we’ll have to read the book to understand some of those. Speaking of which, you sit quietly now while I read it all…

Well er, before that, part of my job is to hand out posters for the book. I brought you a picture of me hanging Gina’s blunderbuss up in the writing cabin. Craig thought it was so cool he had to display it permanently. I’ll just put the poster up shall I?

Lisa Burton poster

Ooh, what a lovely poster, please do! Wait…you’re not trying to distract me from reading the book right now are you?

Not at all. Can I just say though Vanessa, I love your hair. Ours is almost the same color. Would you ever consider playing me in a book trailer? Craig has a book of short stories coming this Fall, and you could read one of the micros.

Me? You guys would want me to do that? Oh wow, oh YES YES YES!!! I would love to! What fun, I can’t wait, shall we set a date now before you go? We’ll be best friends, we’ll have sleepovers and braid each other’s hair, it’ll be so much fun! Hang on a minute…wasn’t there something else I was just going to do?

I don’t think so Vanessa, that was it, well I must go, thank you so much for having me over, bye!

Bye Lisa!…I’m sure there was something I was going to do before she left…what was it? Oh yes, read the book! Lisa! Lisa come back, I haven’t read the book yet! Darn it, she’s gone, she’s going to be SO disappointed when she remembers.

Well folks, I hope you enjoyed Lisa’s visit, I know I did. And finally, here are all the essential links:

The Playground on Amazon and on Amazon UK
The Playground on Goodreads
Find out more about Craig and follow his blog
Check out the rest of his novels here
Follow him on Twitter
Craig’s Facebook
Lisa Burton’s Facebook (Oh yes, she has her own)

The cover for The Playground, and all the Lisa Burton images were created for Craig Boyack by artist Sean Harrington.

What Can This Be About?

Question mark

There’s something special going on today over at my Sugarness blog, and you’re all invited! What can it be? Well you’ll have to go over and see for yourself. Click here, you know you want to…


Thought For The Day – Looking For Rainbows

Rainbow close up

I took this photo outside of my front door a couple of years ago – have you ever seen a rainbow so close?

A few days ago I noticed the sun reaching down through a gap in the clouds, and saw that it was raining. I knew this meant there would probably be a rainbow somewhere. I did what I always do and immediately stopped to look around and find it, and when I did, I admired it, and smiled.

It occurred to me as I smiled, that looking for rainbows is probably quite a childish thing to do, and for a moment I felt foolish. But that thought was soon replaced by another, stronger one, which made me smile at the rainbow even more broadly:

I hope I never stop looking for rainbows…