Tag Archives: Google

Against Finding Your Purpose in Life

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What’s the collective noun for ‘start-ups?’ Is it a glut?

I mean, those borne of a glint in the Founder’s eye that tells you they’ve found their purpose in life.

The ones with Alan Watts videos in their Youtube Favourites, who now know what really makes them tick.

Those catapulted out of bed every morning with the conviction they’ve found out why they were put on this earth: organic mole-hair baskets.

Ideally, work should feel worthwhile and rewarding- can’t argue with that.

But where does it say this has to be THE THING that boils you down into your essence?

The bastard working man’s answer to Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Perfume?

Why does it have to be our driving force- our elevator pitch to God at the gates of Heaven?:

I AM the delivery of eco-friendly banking solutions / the knitter of artisanal rye-flavoured tea cosies/ the carer of LGBT animals. Trust me, the rest was musak.

Isn’t it occasionally possible to integrate these purposes into life without encumbering them with the need to bring home the bacon?

I’m being Devil’s Avocado, natch, to make a connection between something I keep noticing and something I want.

The first is the preponderance of busy little companies wopping a kooky name on their foreheads, and heading off to the internet with a red handkerchief tied on their stick.

‘About Us’ will tell you more about what gives them a dual personal/professional hard-on, than you feel comfortable knowing.

Not that it’s anything other than passion that makes a service good.

But there seem to be so many companies all getting very aroused about the same thing- with just a tiny tweak.

There’s a gap in the market and a market in the gap, but…

…here’s the second thing…

There’s probably a bigger market in bridging the gap between the market and the gap.

So, on the one hand you’ve got a maelstrom of information, services, gizmos, earnest reasons for being.

And on the other, the people who need, want, respond to them.

The eager start-ups are all wanting a slice of that giving pie.

I can offer what you offer. Only better. And with CEO after my name on LinkedIn, and my dietary preferences in the blurb.

Or curating it:

Look, see. I’ve aggregated your news/ house buying options/ washing machine costs, thereby cutting your time investment, and customizing your experience.

The point is this: What if I don’t know what news I’m interested in, or what kind of house I should live in, or what sort of washing machine would suit me best?

I’m not talking about trawling through Which? Guides and ‘Well, at first when I got the dustbuster home…’ reviews.

But the customizing, time-cutting bit that precedes the customizing time-cutting bit.

I’m talking Advanced Boolean pre-Google Searches.

Most service providers, and their middle-men, work on the assumption that we know what we want; we just need help finding it.

This is fine if you have a blocked drain, or know that you’re a family of 4 who want to stay in Cleethorpes, are who are in need of Wifi in order not to kill each other.

But some of the biggest decisions we make in life end up finger-in-the-air at best; based on stale ideas at worst.

Where to live; where to go on holiday; where to send our kids to school; what sort of alternative health route to pursue.

Or professional: what genre of marketing agency to commission; which wholesale fleece supplier to engage; what steel manufacturer to use.

What EXACTLY is it that we’re TRULY looking for?

The start-up glut is surely out there waiting by their passionate phones to give it to us.

However, in order to connect with the fruits of these passions, we need to know what ours are first.

I fancy more businesses operating on the dating game model, where likes and preferences are probed thoughtfully, and matches suggested.

Not jokey, ‘Which city should you really be living in? Berlin’, after 3 unrelated, multiple-choice questions.

But streamlined, meaningful questionnaires that cross-reference our subconscious desires with millions of variables, and tell us stuff we didn’t even know we should be investigating.

Old skool agent expertise, for the 21st Century.

For example: How do we choose holidays?

1. Pick Sun/ snow, Beach/Pool, Mountains/City

2. Bump into neighbour in the park

3. Cruise Owners Direct for somewhere pet unfriendly

Bang! You’re in France. Again. Bumping into your neighbour…

How about:

Q: What are your favourite moments of a holiday? Are aesthetics important to you? What’s your favourite view in a painting? What brand of chorizo do you like? Do you prefer perky or weird in a restaurant? Give an example. Do you like flying? Flying mice? Characterful churches? Germans? Have you got a gsoh? Are you allergic to English tourists? Flies? Intimate massages? Are you a tight arse? What sum is 1.5 times the amount of money you think you have to spend on accomms? Trinkets? Does tipping annoy you? And the wife? Does tipping annoy her? Does your wife annoy you? (That’s another website: click on this link.)

A: Pulau Seliron. Small town on the north coast of Brunei. Wasn’t in this week-end’s Sunday supplement. Your neighbour’s never heard of it. Plenty of tapas restaurants with trinket boutiques attached. Clientele of German comedians. Now bugger off and cruise Owners Direct.

What am I asking for?

– To discover more about my preferences than I have ever bothered to probe.

– To have the world of information brought to my time-poor, self-knowledge poor, fingertips.

– To marry more of all that stuff out there, with all the stuff I now realise I want.

Full-on risk-assessment, pyschological-profiling, aspiration-hunting, dream-burrowing, passion-sniffing, intelligent questions, to help put as big a bespoke life-is-short-smile as possible on my miserable, high-expectations, greedy little face.

Those are my needs.

Now, whose purpose in life is it to meet them?



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Holiday Beer Goggles

This is just great, look at this.  It’s so much better than the way I live my life at home and I know why: because it’s simpler and there are only 2 rings on the kitchen stove. Why do I think I need more? Mostly for resting another unfinished pot on, but you wouldn’t do that if you lived here. You’d just eat everything straight away and you wouldn’t eat so much because it’s more delicious and there would be no Fox’s biscuits in the cupboard.

And you wouldn’t eat Heinz and Hellman’s because you’d be so pure and carefree, the food wouldn’t need it. You’d just grow all your own veg and it would be ripe all the time and extra-nutritious and when you felt hungry between meals you’d basically eat nuts. And you would go hours- days- without even thinking about chocolate and, if you did, it would be the 100% cocoa solids type, which is the equivalent of picking the bean off the tree in an organic way.

And you’d have so much less stuff and bed linen. You wouldn’t have a drawer full of miscellaneous items (why would you ever need rubber bands here?) or a box of wrapping paper or extra bathroom wotnots because you’d just use the essentials. That’s why you’d be so happy and friendly to strangers.

And none of your energy would go into soft furnishings. You wouldn’t need cushions or throws and nothing anywhere on the floors, unless it’s a really practical rug for collecting the water off feet or an exquisite one woven in good colours. And another reason why everyone here is smiling is that they know you just need a few effigies of Mary the Mother of God on the wall or a locally-made ceramic plate and absolutely no photographs.

And you’d be uber-relaxed the whole time because people here don’t do admin. They don’t have car insurance or diaries or passports. In fact, I bet hardly anyone here has a bank account- you just wouldn’t need one.  Because say you went into the city to buy a floaty dress or some stylish sandals or to eat at a restaurant with delicious ancient recipes and white tablecloths and cold wine glasses, you’d definitely have enough in your beautiful leather wallet.

Everything you’d be doing would be so natural and simple and authentic.

And when you went to buy flowers from the market- which you would do every morning, with your long hair- you would just swap it for the passata you’d made or the singing you’d do for them at the Christening of their niece.

And you’d always be tanned and laughing because you wouldn’t have to remember family birthdays and if you did it would be in a really genuine way, where everyone celebrates by dancing till 1 in the morning under the stars; it would have nothing to do with ordering from Amazon.

And you’d be drinking local firewater but not so much you’d have a hangover- more a dizzy swirling of bees above the head, like in cartoons. Yes, hangovers would be comical here. You’d have a laugh about them!

And you’d mostly wear white and you wouldn’t need to go to the hairdressers and you’d never have to de-tox because you hadn’t been eating tomato ketchup or thinking dark thoughts.

And the days would be longer and emptier and you’d be full of energy and inspiration to pour into a creative project- a meaningful, single-minded one, like re-creating the anatomy of a bee using minute mosaic tiles hand-painted by an old master craftsmen in his charming, decrepit studio on the outskirts of the village.

And the kids would run wild and free and grow bleached hair. They’d never need to learn an instrument or stroke plastic toys and they’d stop being interested in computers because they’d be tripping along with sticks and hoops in the local squares, licking ice-creams all the time.

And when they got a bit older they wouldn’t get into any trouble; they’d just jump on Vespas with other good-looking teenagers and drink Fanta till 2 in the morning, cracking jokes and doing cheeky dances in their long shorts and plimsolls and knowing what it feels like to feel alive inside.

And ‘so long’ to Facebook because no-one here has ever even heard of the internet- you can tell. I think the stove-top rings and soft furnishings and Facebook are at the heart of what gets me down at home. People might think the swimming pool helps but I think that if you lived here you could strip it right down and pretty soon all you’d need would be an espresso machine and a lipstick.

I wonder if I could move my entire life here with no Facebook and be in one of those articles about people moving their families to the coasts of Guadeloupe and rubbing sand into their children’s body all day and night, in-between eating oranges and not looking at Facebook.

I wonder if I could leave every worry and fear right back there in that dishwasher guarantee direct debit standing order pile and start living a real life here, buying all my meat from large, cigar-smoking men in candy-striped aprons who’ve wrestled the animal to death themselves while smoking.

I’d never need to go to the doctor or sleep with the Vicar or pay taxes or argue with anybody ever and I’d hardly need an income because I’d be eating figs all the time and being content.

And it would be even better if I could get rid of the whole family and just live in a tiny apartment with shutters and walk around in leggings like Jeremy Irons at the end of Damage, where he manages to survive causing his own son’s death by carrying a string bag and eating comte.

So if I can shade the screen of the iPhone from this perpetual sun and when it has cooled down and is prepared to do more than make emergency calls, I am going to Google some local property prices and pretend you still get 4 Euros to the Pound.

And if it still seems a bit expensive and I can’t figure a way to get rid of the family and the creative project sounds like it might turn me a bit mental- albeit in a natural and authentic way- then I am totally and most definitely going to eat only fruit and yoghurt for breakfast every single day when I get home and only do Facebook at certain pre-designated times.


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Kate and Wills

William and Kate tied the knot yesterday and we thanked their national-bank-holiday arses for it.

Because Kate’s pleas for a quickie Elvis wedding in Vegas fell on deaf ears (God bless Wills, but he can be so bloody traditional) Westminster Abbey it was, where it seemed as if it was always meant to be.

But it was a long 10 years ago they first met- the tabloids didn’t dub her ‘Waity Katie’ for nothing (spelt, by the way, with an ‘ai’- something she wished she’d discovered sooner).

It happened completely by accident, the pair having enrolled on exactly the same course at the University of we-all-marry-each-other St. Andrews.

Wills had heard that all the fit, dizzy girls study History of Art and Kate had heard that Wills had heard that all the fit, dizzy girls study History of Art.

When they were introduced at Fresher’s week, it was fondness at first sight but the music was loud and neither of them had any idea who the other was.

After their first date over a deep-fried mars-bar, each sought the company of others…


Kate called her sister.

 ‘Good fun?’ asked Pip.

 ‘Um, he’s really into history.’

‘Good hair?’

‘He can’t remember.’

‘Good shag?’

‘Well, I think he was groping for my coat of arms.’

‘Good family?’

‘Dysfunctional. Unpopular. Power-hungry. Attention-seeking. German.’

 Pip was losing faith. ‘Does he like pets?’


‘Not all bad then,’ she concluded. ‘Passable surname?’

‘Wales,’ said Kate. ‘I’d be Mrs. Willy Wales.’

That night, Kate went back to her digs and Googled her date.

When she finally stopped punching the air, all she could think to do was reach for her phone, to send Pip the following text message:

‘OMG. I’d be, like, the FUCKING QUEEN!!!!!’

The next day, both girls went for professional blow-dries.


Meanwhile, on the other side of Fife, Wills was confiding too.

‘I say, thanks for taking the night orf,’ he said to his bodyguard.

‘Good legs?’ enquired his aide.


 ‘Is she worldly, like you?’

‘No. She didn’t do a gap yar.’

‘Did she put out?’

‘Emphatically, no. She’s from Berkshire.’

‘Tell me more, tell me more, like does she have a car?’

‘Ya, Fiat Punto,’ replied Wills, possibly not getting the reference.

That night, the young Royal thumbed through a copy of Debrett’s Who’s Who and the 2001 British Airways Staff Yearbook.

Michael Middleton was only in one of them.

‘OMG,’ he yelled through the adjoining door. ‘She’s as common as muck! She’s not even honorable!’

‘Wahay!’ shouted his aide, possibly not getting the point.


But love conquered all and the couple met in the Middleton.

When William told the Queen of his engagement, she had only kind words:

‘Given that she’s not a whore like your late mother or a gold-digger or a bore, like your aunts, I approve,’ she sort of said.

When Kate told her parents they both wet themselves- Carole because she knew she would deer stalk into a comfortable dotage, Michael because he feared his ISA would not have matured enough to fund his daughter’s nuptials.

‘Don’t be a silly sausage, Daddy,’ his daughter reassured him. ‘The nation will pay.’

 Pillow talk soon turned to the wedding arrangements.

Kate lost on John Lewis holding the gift list but drew the line at having Candle in the Wind as the first dance.

Guests were another matter. ‘To be honest, I don’t give a shit if the Syrian ambassador is there or not,’ exploded Kate.

‘Well, one could do without your pissed uncle doing his flight exit routine as well,’ replied Wills.

But compromises were reached because if there’s one thing Widdleton knows, it’s not to let private passions interfere with civic duty and for that we thank them.

And for uniting the nation in Marxist sentiment; for knocking Peter Andre off the front of Hello; for rescuing Jenny Bond from Cash in the Attic.

But above all, for reassuring us that within the bosom of the British Establishment, beats the heart of the American Dream.


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James Morrison Agony Aunt Letter

Dear Auntie Soph,

Something bad happened in my life last week and I don’t know where to turn.

I was driving along listening to the radio and this song came on.

It was easy to listen to, catchy: I liked it.

I didn’t hear who it was by but it reeked of dairy products so I tried to put it out of my mind.

But the next day it was on again and, damn, I wanted more.

The next time I got into the car I started channel surfing to find it.

It got nasty. I ended up on Magic FM.

I turned it up loud- so loud I had to sing and close all the windows.

My son was sweating. He was asking me to stop.

The whole thing was Wrong.

Finally, I Googled some of the lame lyrics and, Holy God, it was James Morrison.

Worse than that- James Morrison with NELLY FURTADO.

It’s been less than a few months since I stopped knifing her in my dreams and replaced her with Amanda Holden.

I’m a mess and Broken Strings is only the half of it.

My finger slipped on Youtube (I was looking for ‘Two Girls One Cup’, honestly) and I ran into one of his love ballads, If you don’t wanna love me – hell, even the title knows what I’m saying.

Now I’m angry.

It sounds like Otis Redding and it’s O.K. to like Otis Redding.

Why can’t I like a song by that man too?

Who makes the taste rules anyway?

I’m guessing you’ll tell me to buy an album and try to get it out of my system.

But I can’t go fouling up my Amazon recent orders list with stinky artists.

Do I wear a hoodie to HMV? Book a long-haul flight and plug in?

Please help.


musically compromised from hammersmith


Dear musically compromised from hammersmith,

Of all the mail I received this week, yours stayed with me the longest.

You’re struggling with a big issue here but some people touch children and that’s almost certainly more shameful.

It seems to me that your musical sensibilities may have been damaged when you were young.

Maybe your mother liked Richard Clayderman or there were a lot of pan pipes on in the house.

Either way, the most well-meaning of parents can unwittingly make it difficult to provide their children with the foundations for healthy musical appreciation when they reach adulthood.

Also, you’re trying to Google scatological porn so you probably went to a girls’ boarding school- the odds have been against you right from the start.

You don’t say how old you are but elsewhere you mention that you’re partial to a bit of a duet so I’m guessing you were a child of the 80s: Always by Atlantic Starr was probably a seminal moment for you.

If I typed in ‘D’ on your computer’s Youtube would ‘Dollar’ appear?

When I scratched the tippex off the bottom of the letter I could just about make out the word ‘Bolton’.

Just how much Mariah Carey is at the back of your C.D. cabinet?

In conclusion, I think you are asking for the wrong help.

You want to know how to rid yourself of bad musical taste because agreeable people disapprove of it.

In actual fact, you should embrace your true feelings and recognize this affliction as a part of you.

If you carry on listening to some good stuff this may eventually take a more natural place in your preferences.

But essentially you need a more rubbish crowd of friends, who will not judge you- ones who laugh at Russell Brand and wear t-shirts with hilarious slogans.

Then you can relax and indulge.

So James Morrison is lispy and wet and looks like Chris Martin’s weaker Siamese twin (the one who didn’t get the vital organs) but he’s not James Blunt, unless…


If you finger-tap to any of his stuff go to a door and repeatedly knock on it using your head.

Yours back,

Auntie Soph x

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Spiders and Guilt

Somewhere in the Bible it is bound to say that it is OK to hate spiders.

Although let’s think about this. They scuttle, they’re hairy, they eat their wives- there’s already a lot for them to deal with.

What justification vindictiveness?

Yet if I Google my brain for spider memories the guilt synapses compete for attention.

There is really only one spider story.

It’s the one about the enormous black shadow on the carpet, illuminated by the televisual rays of a John Hughes film, when you were 12. The sheer shocking size and black hairiness of it, that scared the living daylights out of the whole family. The Benny Hill transference of the beast in a cup and post-card, after it concealed itself behind a chair. Or maybe the drowning or crushing of its threatening presence.

Some people will have a special Black Widow tale, or maybe an encounter with a weird kid who kept tarantulas. Most know never to initiate a chat on the subject in the company of anyone who has lived in a hot country. They’ll rain all over any anecdote you may have, unless you can pull up your trouser leg and draw a gasp from the crowd.

Surprisingly, my salient arachnid moments seem to be joined together by a cobwebby thread of emotion and these are they:

The Innocent:

At some age under 10, my father made me a bunk bed out of wood, that had a desk and draws under it. It was magnificent. It was also very close to the ceiling, bringing me closer to the creatures that therein dwell.

One night, traumatised by the sighting of such a fellow, I called for my mother, who seemed unwilling to negotiate the bunk-bed ladder and embuggerance of hastening its swift exit. I proceeded to launch into a full Gwyneth. Two minutes later she was looking it in the eye and grappling with a glass.

Everything seemed to happen very quickly. A distracting squeal (me), a bodged lunge (mother) and an ill-advised side-step (spider) conspired to make the operation a failure.

I had caused a death for the sake of a night’s sleep- a fact that had not escaped my mother, over whom I had exerted my powerful, murderous influence.

In the event, I did not sleep that night or for some nights to come.

This might have had something to do with the nuns at my Convent school, whispering ‘Be sure your sins will find you out’ into my ear as I changed into my gym plimsolls every morning.


The Victim:

Some years later I was listening to Mozart’s requiem in the dorm of my boarding school, while my friends were smoking behind the music wing, when I looked out of the window and caught sight of a large spider on the windowsill.

It was a sunny day and the spider was slap-bang in the middle of it, as if sun-bathing. What a strangely relaxed critter, I thought.

On closer inspection, however, the full horror of its predicament was revealed.

Rather than topping up its tan it was, in fact, being baked alive, its eight legs stuck fast into the drying paint of the recently re-decorated window.

To the strains of classical music, I watched as it heaved its stubby body from side to side within the restricted range of its fixed position, whereupon I embarked on the following thought process:

‘Does it realise what has happened? Is it in pain? Is it panicking? Do spiders feel fear? Do spiders have feet? If I intervene, would it be crueler for it to live the rest of its life with eight feetless legs or for me to kill it straight away, even though it is clearly expressing a will to live?

If only I had thought to juxtapose this episode with my formative spider experience. I may have seen that, where I had once cowardly taken action to cause an unnecessary death, I now had the opportunity to take action bravely, to cause a necessary one.

Instead I lay on my bed and thought morbid thoughts and wondered why I was so prone to bouts of childhood melancholy.

The spider perished, one freed footless leg waving aimlessly in the air, grateful perhaps for the sip of water I had dribbled into its mouth during its dying moments.

I went on to study a joint degree in Philosophy and English Literature at university, dropping the Philosophy just before my tutor lost the will to live.

The Unfortunate:

In my later teens I stayed the night with my student sister, drinking alcohol and trying to talk to boys when actually I was itching to get into the kitchen and do all their nasty washing up.

That night I was awoken by the heavy footsteps of a gigantic dinosaur-spider on the headboard of my bed.

I had, at this point, had time to reflect on my childish behaviour and had developed a humanitarian stance towards the whole spider-removal debate.

Responsibly, I fetched a mug and proudly overcame yawning chasms of all-encompassing terror, to trap the creature in its tea-holding void.

Holding it away from my body in case its captive made any clever moves, I took the Bee Gee mug into the un-lit kitchen and flung its contents out of the back door, despite an uncomfortable awareness of the temptation that an open kitchen door at midnight may provide to any shivery spiders waiting outside.

Imagine my horror when, examining the emptiness of the cup in the moonlight, I discovered the dinosaur-spider still lurking within.

Actually, you don’t have to imagine it and neither did most of Surrey because I screamed convincingly and dramatically flung cup, spider and honorable intentions onto the paved garden.

Thus killing spider with a sharp shard of Robin Gibb, together with the chance to make peace with the Spider kingdom.

Oh God, will I never make amends?

The Terrorised:

Many years of pedestrian spider encounters passed. No infestations, no escapees from the Creepy Crawly enclosure, no memorable face-offs involving the slippery surface of bath enamel.

Until the honeymoon in Zanzibar.

And a spider so gargantuan, so gob-smackingly, eye-wateringly out-sized it would have toppled John Prescott with the gentle outreach of one casual leg, during nap-time.

Right above the marital bed, thrown into relief by a white mosquito net and stucco walls.

Now, the usual argument for the just eviction of a spider in Spider kingdom court, is that they are out of their element. Whilst one wouldn’t chase them around with implements in the garden, when they introduce themselves into the interior of a home they do so univited.

This the domain of nertured Man. This is where Laurence Llewelyn Bowen unwinds.

Things weren’t quite so cut-and-dried on this occasion, however. This was a beach hut. A very nice beach hut but no carpets or loo-roll dollies- the usual turn-back signs for a spider who has lost his way.

And yet there were so few places for the spider to hide. And no way there was going to be enough oxygen in the room come sunrise, considering the enormous gulps of air the wall-climbing animal must be consuming, competing with my own rabid intakes every time I caught sight of its shadow throwing the room into darkness.

Q: How do you bring yourself to explain to a local man, at one with nature, that you cannot contemplate one of their national treasures sharing your room?

A: Contemplating the national treasure sharing your room.

Once he had finished laughing, our friendly host made his way towards the intruder, armed with some tools of destruction. Which he very much needed.

Because this sucker was going nowhere.

The Terminator of spiders, it refused to die. To the extent that, had the laughing not made me feel ever so slightly stupid, the spectre of 3 adults losing a fight with a furry foe, would have done the job.

Almost a whole can of poisonous spray finally ended its evening.

And a whole heap of shame ended mine.

The Fooled:

So we arrive at last week.

Not content with wreaking my own twisted form of spider aggression on the world, I now feel it necessary to involve my innocent child, who has recently taken an uncommon interest in the raven rascals.

In the process of examining exhibit number 23 on the way home from nursery, I decide that it would be educational for Bruno to watch a spider negotiate its web to catch some food. Having little patience to wait for a flying sacrifice it seemed like a rollicking good idea to lob a tiny morsel of my raw carrot instead.

Mother and child then spent an agonising five minutes watching the following scene unfold.

Conscious of the ‘tug’ of food that has landed in its expertly-crafted home an excited spider leaves the comfort of his central position to approach lunch. Smacking his chops in anticipation, he is confused- to say the least- by the bright orange mass he finds on arrival.

Assuming it to be a super-breed of rare fly, bolstered by a balmy European Summer, it attempts to get its jaws around the vegetarian treat, only to be overwhelmed by the denseness of its composition, the indigestibility of its sinews, the sheer weightiness of its corporeality.

Soon, the combined strain of root vegetable and spirited spider begin to deplete the intricate lacing of the web so that by the time the carrot has fallen from its sticky net curtain and the spider is heading back to HQ in a huff, there are missing rungs of the ladder.

Not only exhausted from exertion and ravenous from the unfulfilled promise of a feast, the hapless spider must now desperately struggle for foothold in the house of his own making.

‘Do spiders eat carrots?’ is the question that inevitably drives the stake through my callous, spider-hating heart.


It is, therefore, with a modicum of relief that I can summon this photograph of my lovely friend’s Spider Hoover, which she keeps in Switzerland to deal with her mountain visitors.

Smiley and so very much like a flower, what spider would fail to be charmed into its gentle suction? What spider would resent being lovingly replaced in its own environment amongst the bees and the singing birds?

Certainly not the one I recently helped to re-habilitate- calmly and sensitively and without more than half an hour’s rumination.

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