Saturday, 20 December 2014

Not Going Mad

Photo: Traveler100
Readers that have been with me will recall that I normally set a budget of one hundred pounds for Christmas spending on Louis each year.  I've been looking back over my archive, in vain,  to try to find the post about my colleague who set a budget of three hundred pounds for his small daughter 'so as not to go stupid'! Well he's at it again this year buying sets of Copic marker pens at a hundred quid a shot. What the hell is wrong with Sharpies?

I suppose that I can't talk because our own budget has been blown in 2014.  I say 'our' because I share the cost of Christmas presents with Lou's dad. There would not have been a divorce if we didn't have major differences but we do agree on some things. One of them is that kids shouldn't benefit materially from a marriage break up because parents are trying to out compete each other in the gift buying stake.  That just seems plain wrong.  Aside from a few tiny bits and pieces (think Poundland here!) there is just one carefully thought out present.  There's a Kindle Fire with a rather essential protective case waiting for a certain eleven year old.  It'll be rather handy in the van where book storage space is at a minimum.  He'll also be able to take his pick of movies from Amazon Prime which isn't available on my existing Samsung tablet.

Proudly, I seem to recall that travel is one of the things that Louis values most.  In my fiftieth birthday year we want to see grizzly bears in Yellowstone in 2015.  The picture above serves as a useful reminder.  If festive spending were unrestricted we wouldn't be able to share the experiences that are more important to us than accumulating a lot of stuff.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Pinky Petting Zoo

'A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place'.  That's why I've bought a lot of hooks this month.  Klaus the Knaus is becoming truly shipshape.  Except he's not a floating vessel but a motorhome.

Apart from that there's little to 'fess up to with regard to wanton spendthriftness beyond food and other consummables.  I've already mentioned the Christmas decorations and the sink plungers. But other than that.... well there are the rings.

I found this one via Stumbleupon on a page of the '21 coolest rings ever'.  And it certainly is!  I scurried off to Etsy to find one only to discover that, at £5.77, it was a must-have bargain. There you go! Resolve has gone completely out of the window.

Not only that but there was this quite frankly adorable mouse as well!  The idea of incorporating a tail into the design is genius.  There was a problem though.  I'm a jewellery snob and don't normally do base metals.  For me to wear something it has to be silver.

So I thought I'd buy the rings to make my own precious metal versions once my tool were back out of storage.  Art Clay would be the stuff to use.  So I stumped up a total of fifteen quid for the two rings including postage and packing.

And they've arrived.  For the price they're such brilliant quality that I've thrown away all preconceived ideas about base metals out of the windows and wear them with pride.  They sit side by side on my little finger. No guilty shopaholic feelings at all. Instead  I'm getting loads of pleasure from gazing at my little finger pets at odd moments of the day.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

On Death

Back in October Barbara Winter tended to Corporal Nathan Cirillo as he lay dying after the Ottawa terrorist attack.  'You are loved, your family loves you.  You are a good man.' she told him. After looking for a wedding ring and finding none she went on, 'Your family loves you.  Your parents are so proud of you.  Your military family loves you. All the people here, we're working so hard for you.  Everybody loves you.'

'When you are dying, you need to be told how loved you are.' she told the TV cameras.

My friend was admitted into hospital as an emergency last week.  There was an old lady in the bed next door dying alone.  Staff popped in and out now and then.  But there was no-one to remind her that she was loved. How often is this happening?  It shouldn't be even once.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


Even though I try to make what goes on at work  as evidenced based as possible in the proper academic sense what goes on in my personal life is an entirely different matter. All sorts of weird and wonderful stuff gets incorporated into my daily routine or discarded.  That doesn't mean that I'm gullible and open to every half baked scheme that's come my way. It's just that I know that we don't know the half of it and sometimes its hard for experiments to be designed that properly test things out.  That's why I develop my own to see what works for me.

And so it is that I'm trying 'Sizzling Minerals'.  I've sourced them on Ebay for the not inconsiderable price of twenty two pounds for thirty days supply.  The reason why I'm taking this plant based supplement?  Well, I have to say that the company's glossy marketing pamphlet didn't help their cause in any way at all.

Firstly I'll dispute that the drink that made from the soluble tablet is delicious.  I tolerate the lemon-lime version like I do when I have a Lemsip.  It's bearable but  not something that I'd take for the sheer pleasure of it.  Then there's that dubious question  on page 6. 'Did you know that approximately 98% of your body is comprised of minerals?' Eh, not in my book it doesn't.  Considering that a mineral is widely held to be an inorganic solid normally with a regular atomic structure, the fact that we're comprised of well over fifty per cent water puts pay to that claim.  And then there's the testimonial from a person with a chronic illness who stated that he no longer has to take prescribed medication after taking the minerals. That may well be the case but it could be seen as sending a dangerous message to others who  need their own medication to ensure their survival.

In spite of this, what has prompted me to give the minerals a go is that two people I know, who've suffered severe illness are taking them or a similar supplement, that incidentally costs even more. They sing their praises and are looking incredibly well.  I'm plagued by intermittent sleep problems and drops of energy that are down to the menopause.  Could such a supplement be of benefit to me as well?  I've nothing to lose by giving them a try, apart from two twenty quid that is! I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

More From The Boy Who Can't Draw

My boy is back.  The motorhome is a noisier, chaotic yet more ebulliently joyful place for a couple of days.  It has perked me up no end.

Louis brought with him his art homework to finish. He's created a repeat pattern of golden jellyfish which have been filled in using those smeary coloured pencils. The whole A3 sheet has taken him hours to do. Both of us are pleased with it.

I've shown this as encouragement to anybody else out there who, like my son, says they can't draw.   Sure, this pattern is naive like his other work that adorns the door of my motorhome .  He's probably never going to be someone who can produce life-like realism at the drop of a hat.  But that doesn't stop him being creative.  And that is something that I'm really dead keen to foster.

Monday, 15 December 2014

A Festive Blip

I felt a bit lonely yesterday.  There I've  admitted it!  It's not an emotion that creeps up very often.  I'm unusually self-sufficient and have been from a tiny age.  Though I love the company of others I'm just as happy mooching around on my own, getting on whatever takes my fancy or mulling over the multitude of thoughts that pass through a head, that I'm told is busier than most.

It was probably shopping for  decorations on my own that did it. Maybe it felt like it should have been a job shared with a child? Christmas doesn't feature high on my radar  but I'm giving the motorhome a bit of understated sparkle for Louis' sake.   I've chosen this consumable tree filled with chocolate that he'll love and the big gingerbread candle that will burn down to nothing.   Red Mel has made me a wreath, bless her.  And I'll add some pretty hedgerow greenery as well as that's plentiful in these parts. There's some fairy lights that might stay put and  become a permanent feature.  That means I don't have to find storage space for many decorations after the big day.  Except a big green stocking that will be filled with sweets by Santa who'll visit the van early, on Christmas Eve morning before Louis heads off to spend time with his other family.  We'll visit mine later in the week.

For the second year in a row I'll be spending the festive two day holiday largely in the company of Clarence the Angel some nibbles and a bottle of wine that'll be a bit more expensive than usual. After popping to his dad's house to see Louis open his presents from us I'll probably head up to Dartmoor for  a ramble and then see where fancy takes me.  In the right mind frame it's the type of solitary day that I love.

My most memorable moment last week at work was when I took one of the people on caseload that I'd managed to get him into a residential home for Christmas so he didn't have the holiday season alone . 'So I'll have a proper Christmas dinner?' he asked.  I nodded and  his beam was worth all the tea in China.  This article by George Monbiot hit home last week.  It reflects the experience of many I see.  Thank goodness its only a brief transitory phase for me.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Early Resolution

Red Mel and I had a little stroll out yesterday to the Devon Guild of Craftsmen HQ.  We haven't seen each other much lately.  She says its because she's sulking as she hasn't sold her house yet but that's not really the case.  It's just because we've both been so busy.

The exhibition at the moment is Make 14: Contemporary Crafts for Christmas showcasing a load of different artists.  They do a similar one every year and I love it.  It's always such a googly eyed feast and a source of incredible inspiration that will give me some material for a couple of posts at least.

Today I thought I'd focus on one person whose lino cuts blew me away.  Cathy King, is a printmaker and is a member of Exeter's Double Elephant print workshop.

Now if I lived somewhere with bigger walls this might have been the one that I'd have bought to adorn them.  The composition is marvellous and so much thought has gone into getting all those different colours and shading into the print. Although the picture is of a barge boat at Topsham, a little port near Exeter, it also takes me back to childhood and reminds me of the glorious barges that moor up at Maldon in Essex.

This third print that was on display was inspired by the book 'Snow Flower and the Secret Fan' which tells the story of sisters living in 19th century China.  It sounds like one to go on my 'Must Read' list.

Seeing these beautiful works has given me a great big kick up the backside.  Moving into the motorhome, helping Louis with the transition into his new school, rehab after surgery and getting to grips with Masters study has taken up loads of time in 2014.  I will make space for a printmaking course early on in 2015. There!  That's not a bad resolution to have.