Some freaky stuff about real life alien creatures that can’t die

Colourful graphic of a tardigrade and a rider

This is about water bears – also known as moss piglets because they like moss. They are teeny tiny weirdy creatures that can’t be killed.

I’m writing a post about them because they are worth knowing about, but also when there is a post-apocalyptic Hollywood blockbuster featuring them – or at the very least a passing mention on Doctor Who – you will have read if from me first.

Their proper name is tardigrade. I heard about them from my science geek son, and was so sure he was making it up I googled them. And, unless this is some sneaky online trick (and I wouldn’t put it past him tbh) they are real and so freaky they are actually living on the Moon RIGHT NOW.

A Tardigrade seen under a microscope

A tardigrade – like a caterpillar gone dreadfully wrong

Tardigrades are around 1mm long. They can survive without oxygen. They can survive without water. They can survive under pressure (I don’t mean making a cup of tea to your mother’s exact instructions type of pressure, I mean like six times the depth of Marianas trench).

It gets worse/better. Tardigrades can survive down to one degree Kelvin – that is one degree above absolute zero, which is pretty chilly (-273C) and I don’t think actually exists anywhere anyway, so I don’t know how they know this.

On the opposite end of the scale, they can live when the temperature reaches 150C. Hot enough to cook a baked potato. But not a tardigrade.

There is no way to get rid of a tardigrade. They have been blasted with radiation and come out just fine. They have actually been dried out, sent into outer space, brought back, rehydrated and they just shrugged it off.

Some scientists think that tardigrades survived the five great mass extinctions. (Did you know there were five? Me neither. There’s the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs and four others apparently*).

Okay, they aren’t actually indestructable – if it didn’t know you were coming, you could squish one easily. But what tardigrades have is an incredible defence mechanism. As long as they know that some shit is about to go on down, like oxygen running out or everything suddenly getting hot, they can batten down the hatches and stay alive for decades.

Graphic of a tardigrade from above

What is scary isn’t the tardigrade but the teeny weeny box person – how long has he been a thing?

It is thought they have the ability to turn off their metabolism for at least 30 years. They do this by drying themselves out almost totally completely, which is impossible to do without dying of course, but there you go.

Boil ’em, bake ’em, irradiate ’em, whatever. Once you chuck a glass of water over them they come back to life with no ill-effects, and – get this – they are the same age as when they dried themselves out.

Obviously, scientists are desperate to find out how they do it. In theory, you could dry out an astronaut, send her into space in a packet – no hunger, muscle wasting, bone collapsing, wasting three years of your life or going crackers with boredom.

When she gets to Mars, she rehydrates like a walking talking Vesta curry and is free to have fun on that barren, miserable planet. (Hmmm, you’d have to have water on Mars on start with, don’t know if they’ve thought of that).

Vesta ready meals

Oh happy memories of Vesta ready meals, the magic powder that transforms into a gourmet feast

But you could also do it to vaccines or blood or organs for transplants, and send them to the other side of the world in an envelope instead of a climate-controlled sealed box on a specially charted plane.

There’s lots of theories as to why the scientist who discovered them called them water bears, and none sound very convincing to me. They don’t look like cute little teddies swimming around. They look like cardboard tubes that have got wet and dried out again, with eight zig-zag legs.

But apparently they are everywhere, living in tiny amounts of water. Forget rats or cockroaches. You are never more than a few inches away from a tardigrade. They are actually on the Moon now, having been sent up on the Israeli Beresheet lunar spacecraft, which crash-landed last month, leaving a tub of dehydrated tardigrades stranded up there. As long as they stay dried out, they will be fine (unless no-one turns up with a glass of water in the next few years, that is).

Theories abound that they aren’t from Earth at all, but arrived on some meteorite. One thing’s for certain – when the big meltdown comes and we evaporate, the Earth won’t be left desolate – it’ll be overrun by creepy little water bears, who have been quietly watching and waiting until they can have the place to themselves at last.

*To save you looking it up, here’s the gen on the four others: When around 75% of the world’s species are wiped out, it counts as a Mass Extinction Event. We know the species have gone because of fossils (or lack of them). But we don’t know the reasons. Theories include a snap ice age, the sea losing loads of oxygen, some incredible eruption blasting CO2 everybloodywhere, sea levels dropping and that massive asteroid.

The amazing graphics of tardigrades are on Flikr here.

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Redundancy – the end of the world…

A man stands in a doorway, the moon before him

… the shit world you were living in before, that is.

Redundancies were as regular and unpredictable as Flying Ant Day at my old workplace. And no matter how much you told yourself there was nothing to be afraid of and they couldn’t hurt you, you still ended up in a hot, panicky sweat when they descended in an unfair and inevitable cloud.

I’d clung on before, but only after performing a set of debasing tricks – being forced to apply for the job I had been doing for years with no complaints (from The Company at least), undignifyingly ingratiating myself in various interviews for the job I was already doing and then, finally, taking a test – a test! – to prove I could actually do the damned job. Yes, the job I was already doing.

This last time, the warning bells started to toll when it was announced a new system was being brought in to streamline our operation, making us a more flexible and agile workforce going forward.

For three months we worked twice as hard – literally – as the new system ran along the old system and our erratic manager helped greatly by reducing various staff members to tears.

Then it went quiet for a month. Then the ‘Regretfully this will mean…’ email went out.

I actually didn’t mind the work itself. I very much liked homeworking and had to be part-time. And we desperately needed the half-decent salary.

There was nowhere else within 100-miles where I could possibly do anything similar to my highly skilled but niche job as a news sub-editor.

The Queen in a coral hat

Actually, she didn’t have to take any exams to be queen, did she?

I couldn’t afford to retrain, and even if I could, what would I do? Before I wanted to be a journalist I had wanted to be The Queen. I don’t think they run NVQs in that.

But I loathed The Company, its dismal atmosphere and the way it was run. The days I wasn’t working I still loathed it. I woke up in the night loathing it. I loathed the way it had trapped me and I despised myself for letting it happen. But there was no way I could afford to apply for redundancy, or let myself be made redundant.

I looked at my co-workers, willing one of them to take the leap and let me off the hook. I weighed up what their chances would be, how they would fare in the inevitable interview, or the how-to-do-the-job-you-are-already-doing test.

Then two things happened. I met a friend for coffee and I sold a comb.

The friend challenged me to prove there were no other jobs using my skills, and gently pointed out that it was the 21st century and people didn’t have to work a donkey-ride from their homes anymore.

Remote working is a thing. You can work for some company in London from home. You can pick your hours. That’s what the internet is for.

The last time I had actually looked for a job it had been written on a piece of card in the local Jobscentre (Google it, kids).

Danger Cliff Edge sign

Do it! Jump! I can’t lose my job! You’ve got to lose yours instead!

I ignored Candy Crush for an evening (Level 1113!) and went jobhunting. There were bloody jobs everwhere. Jobs I could do, remote copy-writers, short contract web-writers, proof-readers, part-time social media stuff, technical authors, piece workers writing bingo site reviews, press officers at nice places like universities and charities.

There were also jobs I couldn’t do but liked the sound of – bus escorts for special schools, A&E receptionists, lollipop ladies (stick provided), tourist information officers at local beauty spots. Nice jobs, interesting jobs, jobs I would never have considered before.

You don’t have to take the redundancy, said the wise friend. It is just good to know what else is out there. It gives you some options.

Without even admitting to myself I was doing it, I applied for a press officer’s job in a nearby town.

I didn’t get it. But I did sell a comb. For £2.

Wooden comb

You don’t want it? Someone did…

We had been clearing out my Grandma’s house (see previous sad posts) and started selling some stuff on eBay before handing it over to a house clearance company.

You wouldn’t believe what will sell. Vintage stockings? Yep. Steel tea service? Yep. Wartime knitting patterns? Yep. Old guide book for Berwick-upon-Tweed? You better believe it.

You could do this full time, said my husband, looking up from a pile of motoring gloves and old Buster comics. We could set up a business selling old knitting patterns and vintage eye shadow. If you can sell a comb we can sell anything.

We’d need to sell a couple of thousand more combs to pay the mortgage, I muttered darkly. But I told my sisters we wouldn’t need the house clearance company, I’d shift the lot myself.

Buster comic front page

Not, in my opinion, as good as Whizzer & Chips

I wrote a profile of Nicky Minaj for a ticket company’s website and a guest blog post about garden game for kids. I applied for a casual job as a tourism officer.

I set up a LinkedIn profile. In it I said I was open to offers.

I got the tourism officer job. It was just a few hours a week, but it was a wage.

My redundancy cheque (and it actually was a cheque, how quaint) paid off our overdraft.

Selling Buster comics, writing art biographies for a poster website, being a poll clerk at local elections, working in a stately home and making wildlife masks at a country park have helped keep us out of debtor’s prison. It was like I had suddenly got permission to grab things – anything – instead of watching them float by.

And once you let yourself do it, things float right up to you. At one point I had people ringing me up almost begging me to take a job with them (I found out why they were so desperate later, but that’s a whole other post…)

Fear of bankruptcy, swiftly followed by a superhuman (and slightly misguided) conviction that I could do anything I wanted to do, has seen me sign up to some really, really shit jobs – and some really, really good ones.

The main job I have now pays two-thirds of what I earned before, for a third more of the hours. And I am nine-thirds happier. Alright, I’m not the Queen, but I probably couldn’t have pulled off all those coral pink hats anyway.
Come in were hiring sign

I Shut All The Doors Now: Our dog died

Velma the dog with a large stick, standing on the edge of the wood walking into the sunlight

This is becoming a bit of a sad blog – death and grief and loss.

(But first of all, anyone who hasn’t owned, and loved, a dog simply has no idea how it feels when they die. So don’t roll your eyes and mutter “it’s only a dog” or “it’s not like losing a child or anything” because you simply have no bloody idea.)

Danny Baker says a pet is the heart of a home. I didn’t understand what this meant until the heart of our home died.

Velma the dog looking into the camera

She was our dog

A dog is the thing you always come back to – they are at home more than anyone else, they never go on city breaks or spend the day in Meadowhall or the evening in Pizza Hut.

They are the living part of the house, the part that is always welcoming, always thrilled you are back, and never has any recriminations. They are part of your home and family’s rhythms so intimately that the shock when they are gone is incredible. Suddenly you are unmoored, adrift without any ballast.

In a million different ways I am reminded of Velma, our one-of-a-kind dog. The thump of a tail when you come downstairs in the morning, the trot to the kitchen when she hears you unbolt the back door. The sound of blackbirds shrieking as she swooped onto the lawn. The way she went to the door whenever she heard the washing machine finish its cycle, knowing I’d be going outside, her angry excitement at the postlady and the teeth-punctured envelopes. They way she hurled herself out of the front door whenever she heard the latch turn and jumped up at the fence looking for next door’s cats. The irises I foolishly planted by the fence will now get the chance to grow properly and I couldn’t be more gutted.

Velma the dog asleep in her chair

Never totally asleep when there may be a postlady to bark at

I worked from home for many years and one of the reasons we got a dog was for the company. Homeworking, especially in a village, doing a solitary job, can be depressingly isolating. On work days she would follow me into the study, jump onto her chair (always very light on her feet for such a heavy dog) and snooze, checking the window for passing dogs, postladies and wheelchairs (she hated them all). I didn’t know how valuable this companionship was until it was gone.

Now, as I move from room to room I shut all the door behind me. When I leave the house I close all the doors, and when we go to bed we do the same. No need to leave them ajar so the dog can wander about. This is a home without a dog, and the house feels so much bigger, while our lives are made so much smaller.

She has been gone a week, and while those final, terrible days seem to have happened in another universe, the hole her death has punctured through our lives shows no sign of getting any smaller.

Velma the dog close up

A constant presence

When the delivery driver pulls up I still jump up to shut the study door so the dog can’t bother him. He will never know we used to have a dog, and I still can’t believe I am writing the words ‘… we used to have a dog…’.

I clean the house, automatically wiping the places where her paw marks would be, or the bottom of the doors made grubby by her nosing through them, even though they are still clean from last time I automatically wiped them.

I prepare my lunch and go to the cupboard where the dog food was kept, ready to fill her bowl.

Even though it would be much more convenient, I can’t bring myself to leave the gates open, kept tightly shut so she wouldn’t go bowling off into the road. The spot on the drive where she used to sit and watch the pavement, sweeping the gravel clean with her tail when she saw one of her favourite passers-by, is just that – a nondescript piece of drive. There is nothing to show it was once her spot. It is just a piece of ground now.

Velma the dog walking through a rapeseed field

So many walks, so many thoughts

The time I would have spent on a dog walk, mulling over writing ideas or listening to podcasts or planning the week’s menus, is now spent writing this blog post. The dog never realised we only went on walks for her – she thought we had some important and regular business in the fields or woods and that she was tagging along.

But of course, we didn’t go on walks just for her – they were a vital part of our lives too. And now that precious hour will be filled in with emails, or ironing or Twitter, and we are made lesser because of it.

The outside space she left will be quickly filled up like sand washing into a hole on the beach. But not the space in our hearts and our thoughts. She’s gone and the door is closed forever.

Velma leaping over snow-covered ground in the twilight

Just a silhouette

Chucking memories in a skip (Home Is So Sad)

Ivy covered gravestones

I’ve been clearing out my Grandmother’s house. She died 20 years ago, but my aunt carried on living there until she recently moved out and into sheltered housing.

It was never properly emptied and dealt with when Grandma died, and oh my gods am I dealing with it now.

It isn’t a big house but it is crammed with a lifetime of things. What the hell do you do with them?

Mirror set above a fireplace

Three generations of my family have peered into this mirror. Now someone I have never met looks into it

My sister hired a skip and it has broken my heart a dozen times to see stuff tossed into it, stuff I remember from my childhood, stuff I know Grandma used and valued.

She used to bake us tiny loaves of bread to have, warm and fresh, with our tea. Discovering the bread tins, made useless with rust, in a kitchen drawer, reduced me to tears.

Cream jugs, glasses cases, ashtrays – all useless now, but how can you throw them out when they are so heavy with memories?

Collection fo glasses, vases and crockery on a table

There is a story for every single of these items, and I’ll never know what it is

I looked online to see what people do in these situations – clearing out a close relative’s house happens all the time, no? There must be strategies for coping with it, yes?

Apart from suggestions to ‘save one or two special pieces and send the rest to a charity shop’ it seems the advice is to just bin it all.

But I can’t bin the homemade needle case with the rusty needles in it, and a charity shop would look at it askance. The same goes for the address of my first house, written on the back of a Christmas card in that familiar handwriting that no-one will ever write again, or the battered tobacco box of elastic bands, or the Scrabble game with the charred tiles where my sister (as a toddler) gleefully hurled them on the fire and they had to be raked out, amidst much hysteria.

Beige tiled fireplace

The fireplace where Scrabble very nearly met its end

On top of that is the the eternal, unanswered question that underpins every bloody thing we do. How can someone be so very much alive – alive enough to cut out a dress pattern, cast on some knitting, start a shopping list – and then not be there? How can you reconcile yoursef with the fact that everything is futile, because one day, not so very far away, it will all stop?

Everything that was them – their dreams, their unvoiced opinions, their memories, their knowledge, their plans for next week, their future selves – all comes to nothing.

There is no download, no backup on Dropbox, no reboot. They are gone and it is irreversible.

Philip Larkin summed it up.

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.

Light shining through the coloured glass in a front door

Are all the carol singers trick or treating?

Victorian carol singers outside a snowbound cottage

My dad hated carol singers with a venom. He refused to answer the door to them and would become apoplectic if we timidly suggested giving them 5p.

I don’t know why this was. His general Scrooge-like attitude to everything that required payment? Memories of a viciously Catholic upbringing that had him do his time as an altar boy, forced to listen to dolorous carols for hour after lightheaded hour? An aversion to anyone who came to the door, for whatever reason?

Whatever, we used to be forbidden to move as we listened to the warbling outside, while he rolled his eyes and turned the TV up.

Carol singer dolls

This is how I imagined carol singers when I was a child – because I never got to see any of them

Some nights there would be three or four groups visiting, everyone from posh kids with clarinets doing In The Deep Midwinter to the local oiks in santa hats, belting out We Wish You A Merry Christmas.

I am now, as a homeowner with a front door of my own to sing outside of, in a position to do it differently.

But I can’t – there are no carol singers anymore.

Carol singers, Alma Tadema

NOT my doorstep. My doorstep doesn’t have an oil slick on it

It has been years since we had anyone screeching Silent Night on our doorstep.

Is it because they don’t teach carols in school anymore? 

My childhood Christmasses were stitched together with renditions of Once In Royal David’s City, Oh Come All Ye Faithful and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. The first Christmas song I ever learned was Away In A Manger. Now I assume it is All I Want For Christmas Is You (Mariah Carey version).

Or is it a reluctance to ask the neighbours for money? Don’t people have spare change in the house anymore? Is it not worth two hours getting a sore throat and cold feet for a couple of quid and a pocketful of floury mince pies?

Singing carols for Scrooge

See! Singing carols can make your scarf turn a cheery red

Or do too many people claim they are ‘spiritual but not religious’, meaning they are physically incapable of singing carols? I’m not Christian (blame a Catholic childhood…) but I shamelessly deck the halls at Christmas and hum O Little Town Of Be-ethleham’ while opening my Advent calendar. Anything else is humbug.

There is also another reason, if the amount of sweets we get through on October 31 in recent years is anything to go by – everyone who used to go carol singing is trick or bloody treating instead.

close up photo of jack o lantern

Imperialistic tendencies

Disclaimer: This is not a Brexit post.*

How much do you weigh? How tall are you? Waist size? Shoe size? How far is the nearest Indian takeaway?

Stones and pounds I bet. Feet and inches, some number between six and 12 (apart from the freaky elf-foot people) and miles.

At school, I was taught distance in centimetres and kilometres, and weight in grams and kilograms. But at home, our Marguerite Patten cookbook measured flour and sugar in ounces, the sweet shop sold Kola Kubes in quarter bags and roadsigns were in miles and yards.

As a teenager, we measured our weight in stones and lbs, not kilos. When I bought fabric at Barnsley Market to make pin-sharp pencil skirts it was measured in inches and yards. My knitting needles were in big solid numbers with no full stops, so you knew where you stood with them.

It was like the metric system never happened.

Fraction signs

I HATED fractions at school. Love ’em on signs

Even shoe sizes stick with the old style, although the dull metric system has infiltrated this more than most places. (How are shoe sizes calculated anyway? Why do they go from one to 13 and then back to one again? I’m a five-and-a-half, but five-and-a-half what? Cobbler’s fingers? Broadsword widths?) **

What amazes me is how we have managed to merrily carry on for more than half a century (the metric system was phased in from 1965) existing with two systems that have no real crossover. Kilometres and miles are, well, miles apart. A kilogram is 2.2 lbs (I think). A yard is roughly the same as a metre, true, but feet and inches just won’t bend to anything that divides by ten.

Legislation went so far and then gave up, which is why a pub will sell shorts in 25ml measures but beer and cider in pints. Car manufacturers talk about miles per gallon, but the oil companies sell petrol in litres (because it looks cheaper that way, the filthy swivellers).

It’s just so foreign. And look at that cup. You’d never get nice tea in a cup like that

Why do we do it? The Imperial system is hard. Inches are divided into eighths, lbs are 16 ounces but stones are 14 lbs. You have to be a mental maths genius to work it out. How many times have you heard someone on American TV say they weigh 180lbs and have to get your phone out to divide it by 14? And ounces are abbreviated into oz – where’d the ‘z’ come from?*** Pounds are lbs, for some medieval Latin reason (probably) and feet and inches don’t even have an abbreviation, they have quote marks instead.

The metric system is lovely and neat and it all divides by ten and all the measurements have matching names. But it isn’t British. And we have never liked being told what to do by foreigners, especially when we invented measuring (probably).

There is something very British about the yard, the acre, the quart and the gallon. They are traditional and solid and Churchilian. They aren’t artificial invented measurements but historic. A stone weighs as much as an actual stone. A foot is the length of King Canute’s footprint when he tried to hold back the tide in 1028 (I made that up but you know what I mean).

A milepost

You know where you are with a mile

And secretly we like the fact that the rest of the world doesn’t understand our measurements (only the Americans a bit, and they can’t get to grips with ounces and stones). We watch smugly as foreigners try to remember their 2.2 times table or look aghast at the enormous glass of beer they inadvertently ordered.

But we must be on the alert, as mealy-mouthed metric is starting to creep in.  I still ask for a quarter of salted caramel fudge in our lovely old-style sweet shop, but what I get is 100g. My children have no idea what the other side of the ruler (with the inches on it) is for. They weigh flour and sugar for cakes in grams, and measure milk for Angel Delight in mililitres. They complain that the cables on their phone chargers are only a metre long.

If we are going to go ahead with this Brexit madness then hopefully some good will come of it in the form of the official re-introduction of Imperial measurements. And while we are at it, let’s have tanners, shillings, guineas, sovereigns and groats back as well.

 

*I changed my mind at the end, so maybe it is.

**I’ve just Wikipediad this. It is five-and-a-half barleycorns. I rest my case.

***This is something to do with Latin, Old English, Middle English, Anglo-Norman, Middle French and archaic Italian. Of course it is.

 

The hierarchy of mugs

We have a mug cupboard. Everyone in the UK has a mug cupboard.

None of them match. Mugs that match are creepy. Those sets of six mugs that come dangling on a stupid stand that unbalances and falls over if you don’t take them off alternative sides? Don’t trust anyone who has one of those.

Anyone who drinks tea or coffee in a normal, British way does so about five times a day AT LEAST. So mugs get used a lot, and washed a lot, and left on the side of the work surface or the arm of the settee or the side of the chair so they get knocked off and kicked and bashed against the taps or crammed into cupboards on top of other mugs and chipped.

Nice blue mug

Nice mug. No idea where it came from

Lots of matching mugs means they haven’t been broken, and so the owner doesn’t have a tea habit, but is pretending they do. They are just going through the mug motions. And therefore not to be trusted.

That aside, there is a definite heirachy of mugs, with favourites used time and again while others are destined to be shoved to the back of the cupboard, only to be pulled out when you haven’t washed up and are desperate, or need something to put a spare egg yolk in.

The qualities that make a good mug are impossible to define. It isn’t down to design, good gods no. It much more intangible than that. But there are rules:

China for tea

My monarchist mother keeps me supplied with royal-themed china mugs, gifting me a new one every time the royal family do anything, and thank the lord for it. Tea has to be drunk out of china, and you get more in a mug than a cup, and don’t have to faff with a saucer (because only a brutal-minded heathen would drink from a cup WITH NO SAUCER **clutches pearls**).

China royal mugs

Two royal commemorative china mugs, boxed and waiting ready for tea action

But never for coffee

Coffee out of china mug is disgusting and not to be tolerated. We will never speak of it again.

Not too small

I have many cute little mugs, including a dear blue spotty Cath Kidson one from a dear friend. But there are few things that can leave you with such a feeling of desolation as coming to the end of a cup of tea or coffee before you are ready. The sense of loss stays with you all day. So these mugs are used for various other purposes, like whipping up an egg, making a tiny amount of glace icing or scooping out pasta water to add to the sauce (as recommended by Nigella).

Not too big

Coffee is a life-saving beverage and tea is the curer of all ills, so you would think the bigger the mug the better. But no. Too heavy, too clumsy, the drink goes tepid, it dribbles down your chin. And you look stupid.

A big Sports Direct mug

The poor unwanted Sports Direct mug, proof that bigger is not always better

Unless it’s hot chocolate

You can never go too big when you are making hot chocolate, as you need the extra inches for cream, marshmallows, sprinkles, a dessert spoon etc. The only exception is the massive Sports Direct mug (and every other house has one, even though no-one has ever, ever paid money for one). This is far too big and stupid to be any good as an actual mug. Ours is in the garage, filled with odd screws (there’s a metaphor there for the company itself if I could come up with it).

Not too thick

Hard to describe, but some mugs feel as if they have been made by a six-year-old at a drop-in craft workshop. They are really thick and heavy and fill your mouth up with clay instead of coffee. Without even knowing you do, you always reach past this mug.

It doesn’t matter what’s on the front

You buy a mug (or get it bought for you) because it matches your kettle, or has a witty slogan or is tea-snortingly rude or it is a souvenir. “Oh ha ha,” you say, when your workmates at the presbytery give you a mug with a winking nun on the outside whose clothes fade away once hot water is poured inside. And then no-one ever comments on it again. When it comes to mugs, it is how it feels that counts.

(This post was inspired by a tweet from Jen Williams, author of the superb Copper Cat trilogy and the EVEN BETTER Winnowing Flame series. Giant bats, drone armies, alien (or are they??) invasions, green fire witches. There’s nothing not to like there.)

 

Four small mugs

The egg yolk mugs – all lovely but far too titchy for tea