Monday, 22 April 2013

The Escape of a Giraffe Accountant!

Raph G Neckmann The Escape of a Giraffe Accountant by UK Giraffe Artist Ingrid Sylvestre

(My first ever blog entry!)

After seventeen years of working as a reluctant accountant at Storey & Tawle, Raffsburgh, I have today handed in my notice ...

The Giraffe Method of Accounting by UK Giraffe Artist Ingrid Sylvestre North East UK Durham
I'm going to be an entrepreneur!
Maureen and I have been talking for quite some time about setting up a family business. It's just been a case of timing and coming up with the right idea.
(I'd actually come up with lots of ideas, but the family all called them 'eccentric schemes' or 'wild & wacky', and generally tied their necks in knots laughing).
This idea, however, is unanimously approved. We've decided to set up a small tours company, and we're calling it Giraffe World Tours.
I can't wait. No more sitting in a stuffy office all day, adding up other peoples' numbers. No more stooping over files and shuffling around musty old corridors. I'll be able to straighten my neck and look at the horizon ... gaze up at the stars! (Maureen'll be by my side to keep my feet on the ground).

Raph G. Neckmann & Maureen Treeging by Ingrid Sylvestre North East Artist Writer & Entertainer Durham UK There's just my notice to work here, and lots of preparation. We're going to buy a bigger house, with rooms for guests, and find a nice big bus for the Tours.
Doesn't it feel fantastic when you know it's the right time to stick your neck out for something you've always wanted!

Giraught-stoppers and Start-Ups

Raph G. Neckmann by Ingrid Sylvestre North East Artist Writer & Entertainer Durham North East UK

Relieved as I am to bid farewell to the world of accounting, I will be a little sad to leave our current home, Neckmoor Cottage. We've had such happy times in this little dwelling. All three of our children were born here and there are so many memories.

Raph G. Neckmann by Ingrid Sylvestre North East Artist Writer & Entertainer Durham North East UK Looking at it on the positive side, we're not actually selling the cottage - we're keeping it to rent out as part of the business. It will be a moorland holiday haven for clients of Giraffe World Tours.
As a building, it can feel rather chilly. The Neckmoors are notoriously windy, and even with cosy log fires to supplement the central heating, the gales find their way gustingly into the rooms and make one reach for the extra-high-necked woolly sweaters. (I shouldn't really be writing this bit, should I? It may put off any prospective tourist-tenants who happen to read it!)

Nexi Neckmann by Ingrid Sylvestre North East Giraffe Artist Writer & Entertainer Durham North East UK
Our eldest daughter, Nexi, made some very decorative giraught-stoppers for the doors. (She's in her first year at Design College, and don't we know it!) The giraught-stoppers looked splendid, all smooth and silky with gold embroidery and lots of fancy beads, but they would have kept the draughts out a lot more effectively if they'd been made from simple furry fabric which absorbed the cold air!
Giraught-Stopper by Giraffe Artist Ingrid Sylvestre North East Artist Author & Entertainer Durham North East UK
However, I'm sure Nexi will be a very successful designer and her creative ideas will make her lots of money when she's older.
It is funny how business ideas are born. We'd all been getting our necks in a twist trying to think of the perfect business, when it suddenly happened because of a chance remark.
Maureen loves visiting new places of all kinds; woods, hills, rivers, little villages, bustling towns - she delights in them all. I'd joked, "We could do with a special tours company to meet all your needs!"
North East artist writer & entertainer Ingrid Sylvestre Durham UK Raph G Neckmann & Maureen Treeging dancing.
There was our business idea! And tomorrow afternoon we're booked in for our first 'Start-ups' session at the Busynecks Development Agency in Raffsburgh ...

Personality Profiling for Entrepreneurs

Raph G Neckmann & Maureen Treeging dancing by Ingrid Sylvestre North East artist author & entertainer Durham North East UK
Our first training session at the Busynecks Agency was most fascinating.

One of the exercises we did was a Personality Profile Test. The results showed that I am the visionary inspired entrepreneurial type, and Maureen is the business manager type.
Raph G Neckmann & Maureen Treeging by Ingrid Sylvestre North East artist author & entertainer Durham North East UK
I pointed out that I get most of my inspiration from Maureen.
The course facilitator advised rather earnestly that Maureen should be in charge of the financial side of things and the day-to-day running of the business.
Maureen turned to me with such a wonderfully serene smile, and we exchanged one of our special 'we are in this together' looks and shook hands. (We held hands throughout the rest of the session).
This weekend we're going house-hunting!

Giraffe House Hunting

Raph G Neckmann & Maureen Treeging dancing by Ingrid Sylvestre North East artist author & entertainer Durham North East UK

The weather over the weekend was perfect for house hunting, warm and sunny, with that lovely spring feeling which makes you arch your neck in anticipation of a great day!
We set out on our expedition with a list of requirements written down by Nexi during a family discussion we had on Friday evening.

Maureen had picked up a collection of brochures from various estate agents, and we selected properties we thought may meet our needs. We decided to start out on the far side of Raffsburgh and work our way back towards the Neckmoors.
There are some fascinating places out there! Nexi fell in love with about eight of them, all of which were most interesting and had a certain idiosyncratic appeal, but were totally impractical.
The Neckmann family of giraffes by North East giraffe artist Ingrid Sylvestre Durham North East UK

Necky Becky turned her nose up at everything except a rather dilapidated farm which had boarding kennels attached. She had the idea of a sub-business breeding Neckshunds. Nexi thought that she could redesign the kennels to be used as holiday flatlets. Things started to get heated. In the middle of all this sisterly squabbling, Littl' Nicky piped up and said he'd just noticed Hals rolling in a steaming pile of manure ...
Luckily there was a hose-pipe next to the kennels. After much spraying and squealing, we climbed rather soggily back into the car. I told the girls that we were starting a tours company, not a holiday camp or a canine breeding station.
By now everyone except Maureen was tired and tetchy, so we stopped for tea and jiraffa cakes in a little village, then drove home.
The sunset was so awesomely beautiful that we decided to leave the car in the farmyard near our cottage so we could walk home along the ridge. The majestic sky and the wonder of our surroundings lifted our spirits. From feeling a little despondent because we hadn't found anywhere to buy, we ended the day necks high, knowing that our perfect place was out there waiting for us!
North East artist writer & entertainer Ingrid Sylvestre Durham UK The Neckmann family walking on the Neckmoors - silhouette

Narcissus sylvestris giraffodil

Narcissus sylvestris ssp. giraffodil - Ingrid Sylvestre UK
I find plant-life fascinating and always look forward eagerly to the spring, when every stroll reveals new treasures!
Yesterday in my lunch-break I wandered around the grounds of Raffsburgh Castle. In the wooded area some of the wild giraffodils were out already - Narcissus sylvestris ssp. giraffodil - hardy little things, nodding their heads in the March wind.
I sat on a nearby bench to eat my sandwiches, (peanut butter and cucumber today - gorgeous!), and found I was nodding my head along with the giraffodils. I suppose passers-by thought I was listening to music, though it was pretty obvious I hadn't got any of those plug things in my ears. (I got hiccups after a while so went back to the office for some water).
Anyway ... a predilection for plants seems to run in the family. My mother used to spend hours doing botanical illustrations. She painted the illustration of Narcissus above. While we were house hunting at the weekend, Littl' Nicky discovered an early garden variety of giraffodil which had the most wonderful fragrance!

Littl' Nicky and giraffodils - The Neckmann family of giraffes - Ingrid Sylvestre North East artist writer and entertainer Durham UK
I do hope we find a house with great garden potential.

News from Nektareeni!

Nektareeni and Raph G Neckmann by North East giraffe artist Ingrid Sylvestre Durham UK

My sister Nektareeni just phoned ... She lives with her partner, Girth, in Neckelchester village. This morning they heard about an interesting house that has just come onto the market. It's on the outskirts of the village, and it sounds amazing! We rang the agent immediately and are going to view it this afternoon.
Must rush!

Necky Knoll House knocks our Spots off!

Necky Knoll House in Giraffe World by North East giraffe artist writer and entertainer Ingrid Sylvestre Durham UK

The whole family's necks were sticking eagerly out of the sunroof as I drove the car along the road from Neckelchester. It was Saturday afternoon, and we were on our way to view the house about which my sister had spoken.

Neckelchester is in the county of Knollshire, which gets its name from the little rounded knolls which pattern the landscape like upside-down green puddings. The sky was overcast and the fresh March wind kept scattering the clouds to reveal shimmering shafts of pale sunlight which made the greens of spring seem luminous.

I will never forget our first glimpse of Necky Knoll House. As we rounded a bend in the road, it suddenly came into view and everyone fell silent. It was beautiful.

Everything seems right about this house: its location, privacy, garden, spaciousness, and its atmosphere. It is also 'vacant with immediate possession', as the owners are working abroad.
We arranged with the agent to view again on Sunday in the evening, to get the feel of the place at night. It felt the same ... perfect!
For once, even Nexi and Necky Becky were in agreement. They wanted the house. We all wanted it so much that we were actually quiet! Quiet on the way home, quiet back at the cottage. We just kept nodding our heads at each other like a clump of giraffodils.

The Neckmann family of giraffes by Ingrid Sylvestre North East artist author and entertainer Durham UK

As soon as the kids had gone to bed, Maureen and I simultaneously came up with exactly the same offer price. This morning I rang the agent and put in our offer!

Offer Accepted - Necks Step Forward!

Yes! Giraffe art by North East artist writer & entertainer Ingrid Sylvestre Durham artist UK
Wonderful news! The owners of Necky Knoll House have accepted our offer. We heard yesterday afternoon, and decided to celebrate in the evening with a special meal out.
On the way home we took a 'thank you' present to my sister Nektareeni for telling us about the property. We ended up having a second meal, (even bigger than the first one!), at the restaurant she runs with her partner Girth. Over coffee and hot chocolate we all discussed the way ahead for our business-to-be, Giraffe World Tours. Nektareeni and Girth will be helping with the catering, and were full of ideas for exciting recipes and menus. Necky Knoll House is only a little way down the road from their restaurant so this plan should work well. Their culinary masterpieces are irresistible.
Filled to the tops of our necks, we took a stroll through the village and along the road to Necky Knoll House. Standing outside in the clear still night looking up at our future home was a momentous experience. There is so much to look forward to: new home, new business, new adventures! Spring is a good time to begin ...

North East artist Ingrid Sylvestre Necky Knoll House giraffe house with the Neckmann family

A Giraffe named Oswald: the infinite uses of Teabags

Giraffe hand puppet made by Necky Becky middle child of the Neckmann family of Giraffe World by Ingrid Sylvestre North East artist writer and entertainer Durham UK
Our middle child, Necky Becky, came home from school this week with a wonderful creation. The children were working on art projects using discarded materials. The purpose was to teach them responsibility for the environment and introduce the concepts of conserving resources, economy and recycling. All this combined with developing their imagination and creativity.
Necky Becky decided to make a hand-puppet. She constructed him from a sock, teabags which had been used and dried out, and the rooty bits from the ends of spring onions. His name is Oswald.
Well done Necky Becky! I think he looks fantastic, and she's used some unconventional materials in an innovative way. She's also fulfilled the brief, except in one thing - that was one of my favourite walking socks, and it was not discarded!

Leaving Accounting, but still thinking about Money?!

The Escape of a Giraffe Accountant - Raph G Neckmann by North East giraffe artist Ingrid Sylvestre Durham UK

Now I'm leaving accountancy, why do I still have to think about money? Because I'm becoming an entrepreneur? Because we're buying a new house and running a business? Oh dear ...

Fortunately I don't have to think about the finances too much. Maureen is much better at that sort of thing and actually enjoys it! I'm glad. I have so many interesting ideas for the business - thinking about making money is a distraction. I suppose it's a necessary evil, like having to brush one's teeth ...

We talked to a financial advisor from Flexineck Finance the other day - nice chap called Frank. He suggested that while we're building up the Tours business we rent out Neckmoor Cottage to long-term tenants rather than wait for holiday-makers, so we will have a steady source of income. Very sensible.

We own the cottage outright and are putting quite a large deposit down for Necky Knoll House, while keeping some capital for the business. Frank is sorting out a small mortgage for the house, which Maureen says is on good terms. So if the survey, and whatever else, is satisfactory, we should be able to complete around mid-April and move in!

Nexi suggested that if we're short of money we can do virtual tours of Necky Knoll House on the Interneck, showing her 'fab' interior designs transforming the place. Necky Becky said the site should be called 'Nexi-wrecksa-room'.

I put the tea-cosy on my head so I could read the paper in peace without being deafened by their bickering. It will be wonderful to have a house with lots of quiet rooms!

Raph G Neckmann enjoying a pot of tea Ingrid Sylvestre North East artist author and entertainer Durham UK

Moonlit Giraffodils

Raph G Neckmann and giraffodils Ingrid Sylvestre North East artist author and entertainer Durham UK
I've been in a giraffodil mood for days! I should really say 'moods' in the plural, for giraffodils can induce a whole range of emotions, from merry and light-hearted, to tranquil, through to mysteriously inspiring and numinous.

There's a picture hanging in our diningroom entitled 'Moonlit Giraffodils'. For me it essentially captures that transcendent moment when you are suddenly face-to-face with swathes of pale giraffodils all nodding in the ethereal light.

Giraffodils - Ingrid Sylvestre North East artist Durham UK The moon is currently full, so yesterday evening I ventured out into the woods just beyond the farm. The scene was remarkably similar to our picture! I felt so moved that I was unable to stay long, but returned home and penned this poem. A little clumsy, but it expresses how I felt.


Moonlit Giraffodils
At the edge of the wood the giraffodils wait in swathes,
And the sunlight bids the twilight in, which bathes
Those nodding blooms in rose, and dwindling rays
******Of gold, to usher in the night.

A bird in the branches trills and trills again its song so high
In the bud-laden twigs, whose tips shall rake the sky,
Now clouded. Gently the breeze whispers, rustles turf, trees sigh.
******The moon, unveiled, reveals her secret light.

Now silver trumpets lift on slender necks of gold, and sing
To the moonlight shining forth - their homage bring
In graceful rhythm, fragrant dance of spring,
******Pulsating pattern of scent and sound and sight.

And I, like an interloper, watch from birch bole hide,
Trembling lest so transfixed and rooted, I abide
Forever in this sylvan glade! O quickly turn aside,
******And run for home and snug and slumber tight.

Raph G. Neckmann 28th March 2008 14:41GWT

Giraffodils - Ingrid Sylvestre North East artist Durham UK

Tenants with Twins!

Giraffe twins with Littl' Nicky - Ingrid Sylvestre North East artist author and entertainer Durham UK
We have tenants for Neckmoor Cottage! Over the weekend we had a visit from an exceptionally pleasant couple who are Neckmoors Rangers. They look after the moorland environment and the wild giraffes, as well as leading guided walks and organizing conservation events. What an ideal location for them!

They brought their young twins with them, and Littl' Nicky was entranced. It was the first time he had seen a double pram with two baby giraffes in, and he spent all afternoon making 'goo' noises with them.

It is marvellous to have tenants who will have a real affinity with the place. The Grangers were delighted with everything, including the vegetable garden! They will take over all the growing. Maureen and I have supplied vegetables to my sister's restaurant in Neckelchester, assisted by our old gardener, Gnarly. Gnarly was here when the Grangers called, and they all got on famously, putting their necks together about different varieties of marrows and courgettes, and prevailing winds ...

As soon as we have completed the purchase of Necky Knoll House, we'll move out and the Grangers will move in. It is very exciting - yet both Maureen and I feel a little wistful.

I stood outside the cottage later that night. A group of wild giraffes had gathered on the opposite hillside and were silhouetted against the windswept sky. As they cantered gracefully into the distance, I knew how pleased Maureen must be to know they will be cared for.

Raph G Neckmann talking to wild giraffes on the Neckmoors, silhouette by North East artist writer and entertainer Ingrid Sylvestre Durham UK

Farewell to Accounting - Enter Giraffe Entrepreneur!

Raph G Neckmann's leaving party at the offices of accountants Storey & Tawle,  Ingrid Sylvestre North East artist author and entertainer Durham UK
Friday was my last day as an accountant! It has been a whole month since I stuck my neck out and handed in my notice at Storey & Tawle.

During the afternoon, I had a real surprise. All the staff came crowding into my office, carrying a large cake and a mysterious package. For me! They lit all the candles on the cake, (seventeen for the years I worked there), hung some garlands round my neck, and told me to open my present. There was a card with the caption 'Stick Your Neck Out For The Stars!', which everyone had signed wishing me success in the new business. With it came a paper hat with 'Star' on the front. When I opened the package, I was amazed to find a large telescope!

I confess I had a few tears running down my cheeks as I stuttered my thanks. Of course, I had to give a little speech. I told everyone they would be invited to come on a free day trip once we have established our new family business, Giraffe World Tours, and that after using my lovely new telescope, we would no doubt be organizing trips into space!

Leaving accountancy amid cheers and fond farewells was a warming experience. My neck feels strengthened, and I'm ready to embrace entrepreneurship with full 'Giraffitude'!

This evening the family and our friends are holding a little celebratory launch of our new business.

Spring Snow Heralds a Speedy Completion!

Spring Snow at Necky Knoll House by Ingrid Sylvestre North East Giraffe artist author and entertainer Durham UK
What a wonderful week this has been!

We had a lovely little launch party on Sunday evening to celebrate the start date of our new business, Giraffe World Tours. It was held at my sister's restaurant in Neckelchester, and we couldn't resist a quick peek at Necky Knoll House before the party began. It had been snowing that day, and we stood outside our future home in the pale evening light. The pearly colours of the snow-clad landscape blended with the emerging spring foliage, and the house looked almost radiant.

We all felt it was symbolic of a beautiful beginning.

On Monday morning we were just about to go out and look for a nice bus for our Tours business, when the phone rang. It was the estate agent. He told us that as everything was going through smoothly with the purchase of Necky Knoll House, we could expect to complete on the 14th!

Only a week away ... (less than four days now)!

Giraffe Snowflake by Ingrid Sylvestre North East giraffe artist writer and entertainer Durham UK

"Would you like your bus wrapping, Sir?"

The Neckmann family of giraffes and their new bus for Giraffe World Tours - Ingrid Sylvestre North East artist writer and entertainer Durham UK
This afternoon we went to collect our new bus. We'd found the type we wanted on Monday at a garage in Raffsburgh. I'd envisaged driving it home then and there, so I was a little perplexed when the sales chap asked if I wanted it wrapping.

"Pardon?" I asked.

I had a mental image of a huge roll of wrapping paper about 10 metres wide, and wondered if they'd leave a gap so I could see out of the windscreen.

Maureen explained gently that the garage had a vehicle branding service, and that a vehicle wrap could be either full or partial and referred to graphics.

I was still trying to get my neck round this idea, when our eldest daughter Nexi shrieked, "Graphics! Of course - I'll design it! I can do it at college, based on the logo I've created for the business. It'll look fab running in a strip along the side of the bus."

By now I'd seen the light and said I rather fancied the full bus wrap. We could have the logo, 'Giraffe World Tours', surrounded by stars and planets swirling all over the bus. (Guess who has been looking through his wonderful new telescope!)

Nexi threw up her hands in horror and explained witheringly that the whole point of vehicle signage was so that people would notice the name of the business as we drove by, and that we ought to look like a tours company, not a mobile astronomical observatory.

I was rather taken with the observatory idea, and suggested that we get a second bus specializing in astronomy tours.

Nexi turned her back on me and told the by-now-thoroughly-confused salesman that she'd send a file with the artwork and could the bus be ready to collect on Friday please?

So there we were this afternoon, and I have to say that Nexi's design looked superb.

Both Maureen and I got our PGV (Passenger Giraffe Vehicle) licences a few weeks ago, so we tossed a coin to see who would drive the bus home. I called 'Necks Up', and it was, so I did!

Raph G Neckmann and Maureen Treeging by Ingrid Sylvestre North East artist author and entertainer Durham UK

Giraffe House Moving Day!

The Neckmann family of giraffes moving to Necky Knoll House by Ingrid Sylvestre North East artist author and entertainer Durham UK
After an incredibly busy weekend running around with 'Moving House' lists and packing boxes, we're just about ready to move.

There was so much to pack. I know some folk like to use a professional packing service, but we really wanted to sort out our own things and enjoy the occasion! It was fun and also quite sentimental going through baby things, and finding old photos and bits and pieces from the family. Nexi found some of her early school artwork and boasted about it so much that Neck Becky stormed off in disgust. There were a few other minor sibling squabbles, but on the whole it was a very harmonious time.

We're putting the fragile and awkwardly shaped items, (of which there are always many in a giraffe house!), on the bus so we can hang on to them on the journey. Our friend Gaffer Giraffter from 'Our Neck of the Woods Timber & Furniture' brought his big old van across this morning. He and two other friends, Rich and Nukkle, have been loading it up for several hours and now it's neck full and ready to go.

We've just been having a last walk round the cottage and the garden. Maureen's been quickly dividing snowdrops so we have some to plant in our new garden.

Must get going - I can hear Gaffer revving the van. There's Rich shouting "Necks ahead!" Time to start up the bus! We're supposed to be leading the way - we've decided to go the scenic route across the Neckmoors and along the Forest Road.

To Necky Knoll House!

Our Dream Has Come True!

The Forest Road by Ingrid Sylvestre North East artist author and entertainer Durham UK
What a nexceptionally busy week this has been! I thought the prior preparation and packing was the hectic part of moving, but ever since actually moving in there's been even more to do. It's all been hard work, but great fun, and we're all in gleeful giraffitude spirits because our dream has come true!

I will always remember the journey to our new home. We set off a little later than we'd intended and had to drive quite slowly because of all the ruts and hollows in the little-used Forest Road. At one point Gaffer's van bumped over such a deep set of holes that the back shutter came open and a load of boxes fell out! We had to stop the bus and help to put them all back in again. There was no damage, and it gave us an opportunity to take in the beauty of our surroundings.

By this time the sun was beginning to set in a vivid pink sky dappled with little slow-moving magenta clouds. Above us the slender moon shone. Everything seemed to shimmer with light and pattern, from the new spring foliage to the markings on the tree trunks. There was a mysterious sense of waiting, as if something fantastic was about to happen. After standing still for a while in perfect silence, we climbed back into our vehicles.

I kept glancing across at Maureen as we neared Necky Knoll House. She looked so serenely beautiful gazing out of the window. At the top of one of the knolls a group of wild giraffes stood in the moonlight. Maureen turned her head towards me and smiled, and my heart was full of excitement in anticipation of our future.

Maureen Treeging on the Giraffe World Tours bus by Ingrid Sylvestre North East giraffe artist author and entertainer Durham UK
I'm being called! We're just about to go out on our first visit to Neckelchester village since the move. It was raining for several days, and today is nice and sunny, so we're having an afternoon off!

A Neckshund in the Attic!

We've all been neckling in in our own ways since moving. For our middle child, Necky Becky, this has involved a small feat of engineering. She chose the attic for her room, (top of the house, secret, no-one else allowed), which presented the challenge of how to get her pet neckshund dog, Hals, up there!

I'd been brushing my teeth in the front bathroom, when I heard most peculiar creaking noises coming from the landing. On investigating I nearly collided with Hals who was dangling in mid air in front of me. He was suspended in a little sort of hammock made from a cushion and what looked like a piece of net curtain, and obviously thought this was a great new game.

Necky Becky glared at me from the loft ladder, then hauled Hals up to her attic using a wheel and lever she had attached to the joists next to the trap-door.

She's certainly got plenty of neck when it comes to overcoming obstacles to getting her own way!

Supernecks Heroes!

Tonight we're having our grand house-warming party, and it's to be Fancy Dress! Maureen and I are going as Supernecks Heroes. Our eldest daughter Nexi designed and made our outfits, and we've just been having a dress rehearsal. I have to say they do look rather splendid!

(I tried wearing the costume without my glasses, as I think they spoil the effect a little. The trouble is, looking down from the top of my neck, people's feet look so far away I keep stepping on them. I opted for the opticals!)

These outfits are so magnificent, it seems a shame to only wear them for the party. I suggested that Maureen and I put them on when we are driving the Tours bus - it could be our USP. I thought it would be especially effective if we did follow my idea of buying a second bus for Astronomy Tours - it would give the impression that we were from another galaxy ...

Nexi said I always give the impression of being from another galaxy, or more like from a comic book, with the emphasis on the word 'comic'.

Maureen smiled serenely and said we all ought to be in a giraphic novel, and for the time being could we use our super-powers to rearrange the furniture in preparation for tonight's party.

Rambling Again!

Over half a year has passed since I last wrote my Ramblings, and what a nextraordinary year it has been! I can hardly even begin to describe everything that has taken place. Suffice to say we have settled in uproariously at Necky Knoll House, had a fun-filled start to our Giraffe World Tours business and to top it all, experienced a most fantastic and unexpected adventure!
My sister Nektareeni suggested that Maureen should write a book about it all. I'll just keep on rambling about our neccentrically normal everyday lives ...

Knitting Neckwarmers in a Neckonomic Downturn

We giraffes feel the cold. The more neck you have, the longer the scarf you need! I'd been grumbling about the dearth of winter neck-attire in the village shops, when our enterprising elder daughter Nexi came up with the idea of knitting our own - and selling the surplus ...

I'm a great believer that when there is a downturn in the neckonomy a bit of flexibility keeps your head above water. With this in mind, and without thinking too much, I said "Great idea!" to Nexi.

Several hours later, my enthusiasm and our bank balance had diminished and my neck was aching from heaving dozens of boxes of knitting wool up the front steps. Necky Becky had voiced her shrill disapproval all the way round the village, but her sister had her own way. Soon the whole family, (and several friends), were resolutely knitting.

Maureen started me off on a simple chunky scarf, while she worked on a very distinguished-looking pinstriped creation to go with my business suit. Nexi was showing off with some circular needles, designing a whole range of stylish neckwarmers. She even managed to persuade Nukkle to stop knitting with his drumsticks!

When we had picked out the neck-wear we wanted to keep for our own use, (and the ones with too many dropped stitches - ie mine), we took the rest to be sold in Nektareeni's Fashions.

Nexi's neckwarmers have been a big hit! Maureen tells me we're in profit already and we've got a long list of orders. She also gently informed me that most of the scarves I knitted have been returned.

The Nex Factor comes to Neckelchester Village

We had a really exciting evening yesterday!

A couple of weeks ago Necky Becky had picked up a leaflet advertising a singing competition to be held in the village. The competition is called 'The Nex Factor', and lots of our friends are entering. Of course, we all wanted to join in!

After much debate, we put together several entries, and spent vast amounts of time rehearsing. I had a great number called 'Raph's Rap', which seemed to cause embarrassment and cringing among the family whenever I 'sang' it. My sister entered 'They call me Nektareeni', which she often performs in her restaurant. Necky Becky insisted on screeching 'Be Who You Wanna Be!', to the horror of her sister. Our final entry was our family song, 'With Our Necks Entwined'. We had written this to celebrate moving to Necky Knoll House and launching our new business.

The Village Hall was packed last night for the first round. All the giraffes of Neckelchester and Raffsburgh must have wanted to stick their necks out and sing! After a long evening of music, merriment and intense competition, the judges made their decisions as to which contestants will be going through to next week's final ...

Three of our acts are going through! (Unfortunately my rap number was not chosen). Twenty songs will be performed again next week at The Gleeful & Greedy Restaurant. Of these, one will be selected to win:

Giraffe Glasses

My daughter Nexi told me that I need to change my glasses. She says my half-moon spectacles make me look more like her grandfather than her dad. (Apparently she formed this opinion during the Nex Factor singing competition at the weekend). I am commanded to get some more up-to-date glasses to wear when we perform our family song at next Saturday's final!

I decided to discreetly visit a few opticians in Raffsburgh to try on some frames. On my own ...

No chance! The family guessed my quest and insisted on coming along, 'to advise'. Nexi brought a camera and photographed me in a variety of frames. 'So we can all make a sensible decision at home!' said she.

Here I am in bespectacled splendour!

'The Executive'

'The Artist'

'The Singer-songwriter'

'The Astronomer'
Which will it be?

The Best Food Grows On Trees!

Ambling around the blogosphere earlier today I came across a delicious-sounding recipe at Willow Manor. (I hope I've managed to put a link to it - we're quite new to the Interneck here in Neckelchester, and I've only just worked out how to enable Comments!) The recipe is called Blackstreet's Cabbage Roll Casserole, and I've asked Girth to try it out at the Gleeful & Greedy Restaurant, (without the meat in it of course, as we giraffes are vegetarian).

I've posted the picture of a willow tree to say 'thank you' to Willow for such a beautiful, varied and interesting blog.

The image shows one of the wild giraffes of Giraffe World. They like to browse among the trees by the streams, and also up on the knolls and mountains.

Below is a reproduction from an ancient tapestry in Raffsburgh Castle. It depicts two of our elegant ancestors eating scones and jam in a lovely summer garden surrounded by fruit trees.

Although we're now nearing mid-winter I've been warm and cosy in our kitchen engaged in one of my favourite seasonal activities - making chutney! I'm certainly no cook, as my family will verify, but my chutneys and jams are renowned throughout Knollshire!

One way of judging a good Giraffe World chutney is to look at the shapes made by the evaporate under the lid. You should be able to see very definite giraffe-pattern markings - can you spot them in the photograph?