Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Sharp Dressed Neckmann

I've decided on my costume for our New Year's Eve Fancy Dress Party!

Initially I had thought of going as Prankman Cheng, but it would have been too complicated for Nexi to sew at such short notice. Who could I be? I was getting my neck in a bit of a twist about it, so I started singing to cheer myself up. As I began one of my favourite songs, 'Sharp Dressed Man', there I had it! I'll be 'Sharp Dressed Neckmann' - in true ZZ Top attire!

Nexi threw up her hands in mock despair when I told her, and said I'd be better calling myself 'Zzzz Up Top'. However, she promised to get my costume together - just a beard, hat and dark glasses really. I'm borrowing one of Neko's guitars, (as long as I promise not to play it ...)

How on earth am I going to eat my sprouts and New Year Pudding with this on?

I've been watching a film of the song, so I get all the actions right. I love the bit where they both kind of bend their knees in synchronisation.

This is going to be fantastic - I so love this track! Hey, everybody ... does Raph rock?!!

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Sport, sport, marvellous sport, permits a giraffe some sobriety ..

I have no interest in sport whatsoever. Oh, but how grateful I am to benefit from a sibling-squabble-free environment, thanks to marvellous sport!

Nukkle has taken his nephew and Necky Becky to the football match in Raffsburgh. Littl' Nicky is at the Gleeful & Greedy Restaurant with his auntie and uncle, where they are holding their annual 'Bounciest Custard' competition.

Nexi and her boyfriend Neko have gone ice skating.

What a haven of peace and tranquillity for Maureen and me! Maureen is at her beautiful carved desk by the window, writing with her antique quill pen. I am at the kitchen table typing on my necktop.

We've had a wonderful family time over the last few days, but isn't it lovely to get a bit of peace!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Season's Greetings to all our Friends!

Warmest Season's Greetings to all our Friends!

Special Good Wishes to all my wonderful new bloggy friends - those who are Google subscribers and also all my other readers. May you have a wonderful Christmas and much happy blogging henceforth!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

La Vie En Rose

Maureen and I were listening to the legendary Edith Piaf yesterday evening. Dancing together to 'La Vie En Rose', I felt a huge 'Thank You' to Maureen welling up in my heart.

2008 has been a momentous year for me; escaping from accountancy, moving house and setting up the new business. Through it all Maureen has been there, encouraging, affirming, keeping my feet on the ground, steering me away from my wilder ideas, and above all being with me.

In all the hurly-burly of business, balance sheets and trying to make ends meet, it is easy to overlook the unmeasurable support of one's loved ones. It may be your partner, a family member or a special friend.

Who has helped you most on the path of your dreams this year? Give them a special token of your appreciation today ...

A little 'Vie En Rose' goes a long way!

(Special Christmas message from I.S. to I.P)

Monday, 22 December 2008

Not all Giraffes like Sprouts!

One of the things about blogging that is so fascinating is reading about your wonderful human traditions and customs. I am learning that sprouts are a very important item on the menu in winter and part of your festivities.

Here in Giraffe World sprouts play a large part in our staple diet - all year round. We have developed many different varieties to stagger growth throughout the seasons. Not only do we find them delicious, they also provide most of our eco-friendly energy supply - AFF Gas.

I was so pleased today to discover an exciting new recipe for Sprout Soup on one of my favourite blogs - you can find it on Melrose Musings. It sounds exquisite, and I shall inform Girth of the recipe this evening. It will be on our tables forthwith!

However, not all of us will partake. Necky Becky has steadfastly refused sprouts all her young life! She prefers to eat chocolate.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Girth and Cake

Here at Necky Knoll House the words 'Girth' and 'cake' are synonymous, and they've both just arrived on our doorstep.

Allow me to introduce our own celebrity chef and his glamorous partner, Nektareeni, (who happens to be my sister).

Together they run the Gleeful & Greedy Restaurant in the village, and what a popular eating place it is!

Passionate about cooking, (and Nektareeni!), Girth loves to try out his new recipes over here. His booming voice fills the entire house as he mutters and chortles over his creations. "Foooood, get it down your necks everybody!"

Later this evening we'll be dining on Spicy Parsneck Soup, followed by Nektareeni's Hotlipped Hotpot. Our dessert will be Gleeful & Greedy Custard Pudding. All are cherished recipes of Girth's, tried and tested here and famous throughout Knollshire!

For now, we're going to start on the cake ...

Friday, 19 December 2008

Posting instead of posting ...

The last couple of days have been so busy, I haven't had time to post until now! Maureen and I have been writing all our cards to make sure we get them sent off on time.

Our toddler son Littl' Nicky accompanied us to the village very early this morning. It was rather foggy, but we had no trouble spotting the post-box!

As we made our way home, the mist dispersed, and the winter sun shone majestically from behind the clouds. We walked the rest of the way in a silent yet exuberant reverie. We love our world.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Anagrams and Alter Egos

Hail O Wordsmith of Middenshire!

I received today such splendid anagrams of my name from the above gentleman. They are listed here as he wrote them:

Graph McKennan

Ken McPhragann

Prankman Cheng

The rather mysterious;

N. Phanckmanger

and a law enforcement officer;

PC Hank Germann.

What wonderful times I would have with these characters as alter egos! As Graph McKennan I would be a cult comic artist. I'd run a successful haulage company as Ken McPhragann's Wagons. The rather mysterious N. Phanckmanger would be a rich banker, and as PC Hank Germann I'd be able to read people's thoughts.

But best of all I'd like to be Prankman Cheng! What a transformation for mild-mannered me ...

Thank you!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Aptenodytes Giraffa

I haven't told you about our Giraffe World Tours outing on Sunday, have I?

We had decided, by popular demand, to have a mid-winter trip to see the penguin colonies. After picking up our tourists at the village green, we headed seaward and along the coast to the mountains. There is a route through the peaks via Narrowneck Pass which is kept clear of snow by the mountain dwellers, and there was just room for our bus.

Once over the other side, we gasped at the immense and awe-inspiring landscape which stretched before us. Folds and hollows, peaks and crevasses of snow and ice in spectral colours of astounding beauty.

I parked the bus at the bottom of a gentle slope so we could all stretch our legs. Looking back, Necky Becky and her neckshund Hals were the only moving forms in this silent scene.

It was too cold to walk very far, so we settled back into our snug seats on the bus to continue on our quest for penguins. The rare long-necked penguin, (Aptenodytes giraffa), can only be found in this region and it is a fortunate visitor who gets a glimpse of these affable creatures.

Our luck was in!

There at the edge of the snow-field a small group of the penguins came waddling past. As we slowed down, they turned their heads from side to side and looked almost as if they were nodding a giraffe greeting!

We did not stop, for fear of disturbing them. I felt quite moved, and pondered on the inter-connectedness of everything as I drove our bus homeward. I wonder if there are penguins on other planets?

Monday, 15 December 2008

Our Daughter has the Nex Factor!

The Gleeful & Greedy Restaurant was packed on Saturday evening for the local final of the Nex Factor. It seemed as though every giraffe in the county was there to hear the finalists sing.

To cut a long story short, our family song and my sister Nektareeni's song didn't make the top three. The winner of the competition was an outstanding young singer, Nexandra.

However, there was a surprise in store for us ... Our middle child Necky Becky was awarded a special prize! When she gave her neck-bending rendering of 'Be Who You Wanna Be!' backed by local band The Stiffnex, she totally won the audience and judges over. She was way too young to enter, but had jumped up on stage last week anyway. Everyone said she had more neck than anyone, and it was decided to award her the accolade of 'The Neckiest Factor!'

You can listen to her song here: 'Be Who You Wanna Be!'

(NB: Necky Becky has just pointed out that her long-term ambition is to be a gardener, not a pop-star - but she doesn't see why that should stop her from singing if she wants to).

Friday, 12 December 2008

The Glorious Giraffeness of Everything!

I'm not getting different glasses!

After a week of my daughter Nexi neckling at me to get some 'cool' frames, and arguing about which of the photos she'd taken of me was best, I was feeling a little nexasperated.

I turned to Maureen.

"What should I do?" I sighed.

"Nothing!" replied Maureen. "You are who you are. All the years I've known you, you've looked like Raph G. Neckmann. Don't change!"

Oh, the joy of being true to one's self and the glorious giraffeness of everything!

Yesterday one of my pans of chutney boiled over. (I admit, I was distracted by blogging, and when I was about to clear up the mess, I got dragged away to practise our song for tomorrow). What a wonderful surprise I had today, to discover the spillage on the AFF Gas cooker had set into the most beautiful giraffe-pattern!

I feel at one with the universe!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

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?

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

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?

Sunday, 7 December 2008

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:

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

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.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

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 ...

Friday, 2 May 2008

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.

Monday, 28 April 2008

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!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Our Dream Has Come True!

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.

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!

Monday, 14 April 2008

Giraffe House Moving Day!

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!

Friday, 11 April 2008

"Would you like your bus wrapping, Sir?"

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!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Spring Snow Heralds a Speedy Completion!

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)!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Farewell to Accounting - Enter Giraffe Entrepreneur!

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.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Tenants with Twins!

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.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Moonlit Giraffodils

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.

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