Thursday, 14 December 2017

Flighty Thoughts

Here's a rather wonderful shot that I took on the way home from Malta on Sunday.   Two thirds the way up the picture there's a pointy white thing.  It's not a cloud but a view of Mount Etna as we flew over Sicily!  I got quite excited.

My Ryanair flight back was absolutely fine considering I paid just over twenty five pounds for it.  Actually that went up to thirty four after I opted to move my random seat allocation from the middle to a window seat.  I wanted an unfettered kip without having someone rousing me to climb out and go to the loo.  I decided that £9 was a small price to pay for three and a half hours of peace.  The flight was full and my cabin bag was whipped away from me at the gate.  However to get to the exit of the airport everyone had to pass the carousels when they had luggage in the hold or not.  My bag was just passing by after I'd cleared passport control.  I'd been saved the bother of carrying it!

Writing this post I'm reminded that I like to pay to offset the carbon dioxide generated by my flights this year.  I forgot to do it when Lou and I went to Granada in February.  I've just been to  the calculator at the ClimateCare website.  If you put in the departure and destination airports it does the job for you.  Fifteen pound should do it for both of our holidays.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Better Than Socks

I like posting about Lendwithcare.  Every time I've done so it seems that I've persuaded someone else to join in and make a difference in the developing world by loaning small amounts of money to business.  These are the Micah Group,  women in Zimbabwe who recycle scrap metal.  The loan will pay for them to restock brass and aluminum and the haulage needed to sell it. 

I'm choosing to write about the scheme around Christmas time because they have great ideas for very meaningful gifts.   First there is now a fledging shop  on the website with some lovely handcrafted bags from Malawi.  The other potential present from Lendwithcare are gift vouchers.  The recipient can choose a business to invest in and then withdraw the money at the end of the loan period, or as I do, reinvest over and over again.  I've now made thirty four loans which has help 332 family members and created thirty five jobs.   Being able to make a difference would certainly be better than a tacky Christmas socks wouldn't it?

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Beat instead of Breath

Every so often personally and professionally  I'll come across someone who's tried meditation but says it's not for them.  If I probe, which I do because I am a nosey bugger, it often turns out to be because they either can't tolerate silence or else find that they are too distractable.   I have to admit to being prone to the latter state.  Many a shopping list or holiday plan has been hatched during a forty five minute sitting session where I'm supposed to be focusing on my breath.  Outwardly I may have the serene appearance of the Buddha.  Inwardly my mind is trying to make sense of random stuff like those old code machines did at Bletchley Park.

I've found sound helpful to rein in that wandering mind and it could be useful for those  who find silence too deafening as well.  Wayne Dyer's morning meditation remains a firm favourite.   His evening one still sends me to sleep before it's ever completed so has been largely shelved although I've retained the idea of giving thanks for the day that's just passed. 

I've just discovered this offering from The Honest Guys that I'm now using nightly instead.   I thought that maybe one or two who stumble upon this in Blogland may love the rhythmic beat as much as I do so hence the share.   It claims to be helpful in entering a trance on the Shamanic journey.  I don't know about that.  I'll report back if that happens.    What I have found so far is that it provides a focus for stilling all that thinking nonsense for a while.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Off to Work He Goes

'I really love my school,' Louis announced the other day.  Phew!  The gamble in February to move him from his large single sex grammar school where he'd been troubled has paid off.  The mixed sex comprehensive studio school that he now attends is tiny in comparison, about 120 pupils. Maybe that, the moderating influence of girls and the fact that Louis does most of his homework in his classroom is why he is far less chaotic there.  Within a term he was on target to get really good GCSE grades and I hardly hear a murmur from any of his teachers.  There's been  just one occasion when the deputy head phoned.  Lou had a bad day but the tone was concern rather than adversarial.  'Is anything happening at home?' I was asked.  'He's been like Tigger today.  It's just so out of character!'   I scratched my head and could not think of anything that had unsettled him.  Calm was restoring, of course after a hefty bollocking, the next day!

Studio schools have been set up to get  kids ready for the workplace.  Louis' school specialises in the built environment and aims to turn out young people equipped for jobs in the building trade:  architects, engineers, interior designers, builders and tradespeople.  It's an ideal vocational education for someone that loves maths and science.  As part of the preparation Louis will have work placements each term.  From the age of fourteen!  How excellent is that! 

After a pretty alarming trip back from Malta yesterday which involved turbulence, snow and torrential way on the M5 in Somerset I picked Louis up from his Dad's house.  He was carrying a hard hat.  It's part of the safety kit he'd been given for his first placement which starts this week.  He's got the opportunity to work with a Plymouth structural engineering firm so for ease he's staying with Auntie Salty Dog.  He'll be taking the bus into work and the school agree with me that getting to the office is all part of the experience. 

I had a day's spare leave and thought I'd spend it in the city in the unlikely event of hiccups.   But don't let anyone believe I'm allowed to be over involved.  'Would you like me to come with you on the bus for the first day?' I asked.  After all he is just fourteen.  He looked at me disparagingly and wielded Google Maps.  'Don't worry Mum.  I'll be okay.'    Somehow I think that a hefty desire to be independent seems to have been passed on to the next generation.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Solo Travel: The Verdict

I went really touristy yesterday and took a trip around the harbours from Sliema ferry boat.  It was a wonderful day and the views, from a different perspective, were marvellous.  I believe that this funky building such a wonderful mix of new and old is the Science Museum.  I don't go to those sort of places normally unless I have a boy in tow.

So I've come to the end of my solitary holiday.  Later I'm reunited with my son.  We're not going straight home but I'll tell you about that tomorrow.  Today, though  I'll give a little round up of what it's been like on my first holiday on my own, aside from the one where I moved my home.

And the verdict is?  It's great.  Others have commented on my bravery.  One friend who I believed was pretty independent 'fessed up and said that she hadn't even been to the cinema on her own.  But the key has been that I'm happy with my own company anyway.  I dream and scheme all by myself.  My only sense of reluctance was linked to eating out  but a view, a good book and my smartphone (in that order) sorts that out that sense of being Billy No Mates.  I'm also fairly chatty so haven't been completely without human contact.  I've met some interesting folk on my travels.

So do I prefer this to being away with someone?  Yes and no.  The total freedom to follow my own agenda and change it when I wish has been great.  But I miss having someone around to share the experiences and especially laugh with.  And  like being alone in general it would have been nice sometimes to have had a second head to take the hard work out of decision making and problem solving.     Anyway now I know that there's no big deal to being out in the big wide world as a solo traveller it's good to have that choice if I decide to do it again.  

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Giving Gozo Another Go

I went to Gozo on Wednesday and came back on the ferry to the mainland after just a couple of hours.  I'm not quite sure of the exact reason.  'I was overwhelmed'  I tried to explain to Mr Metrosexual when I phoned him.  He's a big fan of the island and was incredulous.  'How could Gozo do that?!'  he uttered.  'It's tiny.'

Anyway I decided to give it another go yesterday.   I'm a small town girl and where I've been hanging out during the last week is cosmopolitan with knobs on.    Gozo did seem to have the potential of offering the rural respite that I needed.   What may have happened on my aborted visit was I didn't really plan what I was going to do when I got  there.  That wasn't going to happen this time.  I armed myself with one of the walking guides from the Tourist Office and set off from outside the ferry port for a solitary adventure where I could gather my thoughts.  Except it nearly didn't pan out.

A very enthusiastic local gentleman working in a field at the start of the walk decided that he'd come along and show me the path.    He was very persistent so I lied my hairy arse off and made up a boyfriend back at home.  I hadn't got any particular idea of what my love interest was like, perhaps an amalgamation of everyone that I'd ever had a relationship mixed up with some of my gay male friends.   I was prepared to make it up as I was going along if I had to.  Luckily the guy backed off without me needing to give him a  half baked description of a tall but short bloke with different coloured eyes.  Before he left me alone made a last half hearted attempt to see if I'd meet him today but I said that I'd already be on the flight home.  My nose must have been like Pinocchio's by this time!

My solitary hike was gorgeous after that with glorious scenery seawards and inland.  Gozo is indeed a very tiny island and it seemed that I was pretty near the outskirts of the capital during some parts of the walk.    My final stop was the little port of Xlendi where I washed octopus and chips down with beer and then had a large lemon and ginger icecream while I was waiting for the bus out of town.  Lots of calories but I deserved them.  I think that this was the first piece of serious exercise that I've done in months.  Finally I seem to have seen off that nasty chest infection for good.  And I'm coming back to Gozo for a walking holiday when I can get another of those cheap flights.   It's fantastic!

Friday, 8 December 2017

Pearl's Gowns

The Maltese Islands are a great place for a holiday.  The people are lovely, there is loads to see and do, it's as safe as houses here and the food is lush in a comfort eating side of way.  But boy oh boy has the place been overdeveloped.  There's so much construction work going on here, on what is really quite a tiny island that the other day The Lorax by Dr Seuss popped into my mind.  It is such a different country to the one that I visited about a quarter century ago.  I fear for it environmentally.

So it is lovely when I find something that harps back to gentler days when I imagine life was at a slower pace..  I'm including this picture of a facade of a building where I spied the remains of something that warms the cockles of my retro loving heart.  You'll have to enlarge the picture a lot to see it.  Just under the lowest window second in from the left there's a sign that intrigues me.  It says 'Pearls Gowns' .  There's no clever design by a marketing company.  Just no-nonsense red capitals on a white background.

And here's another in an arcade around the corner.  In blue this time.  Gowns more than dresses conjure up elegance.  The sign made me think of garments like the ones in the first illustration of this post.  So who was Pearl?  I was dying to find out a bit more about her.

An Internet trawl hasn't revealed much.  All I've gleaned is from an obituary.  The shop was owned by Pearl Caruana,  a Jewish woman who died in 2008 at the age of ninety five.  She was known as Madame Pearl.   I like that.  It exudes glamorous credentials.  But that's all I've found out and nothing more.   Did Pearl design or make the 'gowns' that she sold?   Where did she source them from if this was not the case?  I'm intrigued.  And are their Maltese women still alive who wore dresses that they bought from Pearl that made them feel fabulous on an everyday basis on a special occasion?