Thursday, 27 November 2014

Top 5 Happy

Facebook is cropping up again for two days running.  My gorgeous friend Crafty Kerry nominated me there to share five photos that make me happy.  As I'm always looking out for things to pad out my blog I thought I'd post them here instead.

Numero uno has to one depicting  glorious mum-son time with my boy. Priceless!

A close second are those that commemorate wonderful moments with friends and family.  Kerry,  as you nominated me, a photo from a day out with you lot gets first dibs.  To everyone else out who counts themselves as close I want you to know how special you are.  You wouldn't be around otherwise!

A picture of food and drink  must feature, especially if it is lovingly produced and shared.  This basket of delicious goodies was made as a present by Janet.  

There needs to be one that celebrates being outside in beautiful places.   Sea, mountains, river valleys, the wild woolly moorland of's all good.   Nature  can provide that yabba dabba doo factor so often.  This is a photo of the unpredictable eruption of Beehive Geyser in  Yellowstone National Park.   Seeing it go off just metres away from me has to be one of my most joyous moments ever.

And music!  Okay it's a video and not a photo. Who cares if I'm bending the rules a little? The title and melody of this song evoke perkiness but a little perusal of the lyrics suggest they may be quite dark.  No matter.


So there's my five.  Good when experienced separately but when all of them are in tandem then it's happy days indeed.  And what do you know?  It's not that difficult to achieve.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Right to be Left

Facebook keeps telling me that if I donate £19 to the Labour Party election campaign I'll get myself a limited edition bag with this wacky Grayson Perry lion on it.  It's based on a ceramic piece that he produced If I needed a tote I might be tempted as I'm liking its madness rather a lot.

But hang on! Didn't Ed Miliband pee me off big time in the summer when he posed on the cover of that free World Cup edition of The Sun. Well, in my eyes, he did redeem himself somewhat by refusing to play ball when the same paper cynically set up a 'Help for Heroes' photo opportunity. Poor Ed was lambasted by the people at that nasty rag at a consequence but maybe gained a bit of respect back from the inhabitants of Liverpool in doing so. However,  I'm still in a quandary about whether my historical party of choice will get my vote at the next  general election. They haven't always because in this true blue neck of the woods, I've attempted the tactical voting card more than once.  After the unspeakable decision that Nick Clegg made last time to allow the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition with the Tories  that's not ever going to happen again. I will be voting for the party that best fits my values and beliefs.  I'd like to think that could be Labour again but we'll see.

Although I absolutely 100% per cent view my van as a very acceptable and cosy home, to all intents and purposes I have no fixed abode.  I was wondering whether that would make voting rather tricky. Yet it is a right that I want to retain even more than ever as I'd like to show that you don't have to be marginalised by adopting this non standard lifestyle.

The Citizen's Advice Bureau has published some useful advice about how to go about registering to vote as a homeless person.  It seems that I have to declare a local connection somewhere in order to do so.  Will that be in Teignbridge where I'll be moving between campsites, the South Hams where I work or Torbay where I eventually plan to live and where my post is sent?  Could I be tactical by registering in the area where the party I favour has the greatest chance of winning?  I'll update you on my decision and how easy the process is in practice when it's all been done and dusted.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Lightening Up for Tuesday

Frances yesterday commented that my post yesterday was a bit deep so, for her, I'm ringing the changes with some humour, albeit of the black nature.  Since childhood, I've loved the work of Giles, who I see hails from Islington, the same part of London as my dad.  That made him a Cockney as well then.

Compilation annuals of his cartoons arrived in our family home at Christmas so there was a stack of them.  They're probably still in one of the overflowing cupboards somewhere.  My parents aren't really the decluttering type.  Some of the earlier copies dated back to the fifties, well before I was born.   They contain so much detail and often provide a historical record of bygone events in modern history as well.  My favourite image here is the kid sucking the kettle though  I'm particularly keen on Larry, the evil kid with the moptop who's pictured up to mischief in the bottom right corner.  And of course there's Grandma, who I'm happy to see is commemorated with a statue outside an office in Ipswich where Giles once worked.  As you can see, she's priceless!

Images:  A Celebration of Giles

Monday, 24 November 2014

Nineteen vs Forty Nine

My nineteen year old self, who craved  all round success, status and wealth would be even more horrified with me, thirty years on than she would have been when I wrote about her a couple of years ago. Possibly she'd be a bit happier that I've done way more partying this year than my stay at home counterpart did back in 2012.   In the main I've given up prolific Crocs wearing too in favour of lovely calf length Doc Marten Authentic Wedge boots that she might have even coveted.  After all, didn't she have a bit of an Air Wair thing going on herself?

There, her slightly elevated approval would abruptly end. Instead of living in one of those magnificent seaside retreats in the South Hams,  I've ended up merely visiting them to do assessments. And I live in a van with no proper plumbing for goodness sake!   I recall that part of the fantasy  too was a shared life with  Mr Perfect, probably a corporate type, and our brood of ultra talented and sickeningly good looking, well behaved children.  They'd of course be looked after by a Norlands nanny while I was pursuing some high profile jet setting career. Single motherhood and a full time non managerial job without paid help was definitely not on the cards. Nor was I meant to be spending so much time with my child, that  happy, funny, grubby son who has to be frog marched to water to get him to wash.

I've been reading a lot more again lately.  It's one of those things that motorhome life allows time for. This book I've just finished is possibly one of the thought provoking pieces of writing that I've ever come across.  Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl is pretty famous.  As it says on the cover, 'Nine million copies sold' so some of you must have read it before me.  It tells the story of Frankl's time in Auschwitz and other concentration camps.  His experiences  shaped his perception of the human psyche and went on to inform his
 therapeutic practice which embodies hope and the capacity for individuals to survive and learn from the bleakest experience.  Wherever you turn in the text there is wisdom.  Frankl's compassion leaps out from each page.  Take for example, this passage:

'An incurably psychotic individual may lose his usefulness but yet retain the dignity of a human being.  This is my psychiatric credo.  With it I should not think it worthwhile to be a psychiatrist.  For whose sake?  Just for the sake of a damaged brain machine which cannot be repaired?  If the patient were not definitely more, euthanasia would be justified.'

This spoke to me so much about the value of my own work with people who many in society have discarded as terminally useless.  It might have to be the credo of an occupational therapist working with people with dementia as well.

To conclude today,  I'll share another Frankl quote because they are so profound.  It's his take on success and crucially how to go about attaining it. Definitely it's a perspective that would have been lost on my younger self but for the older and hopefully wiser forty nine year old that I hope to God that I've become, it's making a lot of sense.

“Don't aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it” 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Answers, Answers, Answers: Get Out the Hula Hula Skirts!

Good Morning from the positively tropical space that is my motorhome.  Hula hula! My compact Silvercrest heater from Lidl does the job of heating it up  in minutes. What's more it has a remote control so that I can turn it on from my bedroom space and warm the place up before I get up. How genius is that! Some moaning minis are actually griping on about it getting too hot in here.

This nicely answers the first of the questions that people were asking me about motorhome life that I posted just over a month ago.  You'll remember that  I had some others of my own.  I thought it would be a good idea if today, I shared some of the solutions to those conundrums.

Q: The homework one:
A: Louis can do his homework anywhere.  The problem isn't so much around physical space but whether he remembers to actually write what he's got in his student planner. That's as much of a problem at the relatively baronial pad that is his dad's home.  Aaaargh!   He's terribly disorganised and, whilst lots is down to being an excitable 11 year  old, some of it is an SpLD thing.  We're working with the school to fix it.

Q: The mass murder one:
A: According to my son, who shares my love of metaphor, I am like 'a fluffy bomb'. He elaborated on this because I was at odds to understand.  'Very kind, but once it's gone off you know about it.'  I guess that's about right. There haven't been any of those rare incendiary incidents yet. In spite of the homework difficulties we're not getting on each other's nerves.  Far from it.  Extra time has been freed up to enjoy playing games, practising magic tricks with the new set of marked cards that I bought on the ferry....and dancing. Yes, we've established that there's enough more than enough room to boogie together in here!

Q: The madness one:
A: Four weeks into this experiment and I'm even more sure that it was a sane rational thing to do. What's more this way of life has ongoing benefits for maintaining mental well-being. Some of the time saved from the demands of living in a proper home has gone towards re-establishing my meditation practice, for instance.

Q: The beast with two backs one:
A: Someone commented on my original post that this was not an issue.  Thanks for that. I'll have to take your work for it as there's been no firsthand verification.  There again, wouldn't be reporting back if there was!

Q: The bread and cake one:
A:Here's my first baking attempt in the halogen oven, spelt soda loaf, knocked up because I seemed to be in the only place in France without an operational boulangerie. Yum! It went jolly nicely with the only things that have been killed in the motorhome.  Not in temper I'll add. Some  langoustines from the market met their maker in a pan of boiling water.

Q: The TV Licensing One:
A:  The peeps got back to me and yes, I still have one. Once I get round to all the address changing it'll be registered c/o the house where I'm conducting my postally necessary virtual menage a trois with the two gay men and their dog.

Q: The Gadget One
A: The sewing machine is kept in my free underdesk storage space at work.  It'll stay there with my ski stuff until someone officious gives me a bollocking!  Alas I decided that there was no room for the Magimix.  A handheld grater, stick blender and electric whisk are acceptable substitutes.

Q: The Water One:
A: I top up the water tank of my van with, get this, a watering can.  Duh!  Why I couldn't think  of this simple solution before I'll never know.  Some bloke at the camping shop said it should be made of food grade plastic.  It's probably those phthalate thingies that it was so important that Lou's baby bib didn't contain.  I'll take my chances.  Death by watering can?  I really don't think so!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

It's Only The Finger Of God's Cousin!!!!!!

That cycle ride the other day was aborted for two reasons.  You know about the puncture from yesterday's post.  It's also because due to the 'inevitable' setbacks in my fitness regime I now have the exercise tolerance of a three toed sloth.  My efforts up the first hill were jeered at by some old geezer in a beret.  Some of my mental musings on holiday were around how to sort  out this sorry state of affairs now that the knee and ankle aren't grumbling anymore.  I think I've come up with a winter exercise plan that doesn't involve being holed up in a soulless gym.  I'll divulge that at  another time.

Had I persevered and reached the destination that I'd planned the other day I think that I'd have been mightily pee-ed off.  I was heading out to the church of St Jean du Doigt.  It's name is a bit of a giveaway as to what might be there. Yep, it contains the finger of John the Baptist.  And it's not any old finger I'll have you know but ,the exact same one that in the bible story it said that he pointed at the big guy in the white dress.  Wow! You'd think with provenance like that the place would be crawling with Chinese and Japanese tourists and there'd be a gift shop selling suitably themed artifacts.  Heck, I'd have stumped up the dosh for a grisly keyring if there had been any.

Except there wasn't. It turned out that I was the only person in a very dank, dark church.  I've got a bit of a gory fascination going on around those sacred body parts that some church denominations have a fondness for.  A very surreal moment in a Greek Orthodox shrine springs to mind when the priest allowed me to touch a severed head in a box while he spoke the only English words he knew. 'Gary Lineker!'  I thought that this covered offering on top of one of the altars looked like it might be a promising storage area.  After all that skull with the bits of hair on it had a similar curtainy thing going on, probably made lovingly for it by one of the old ladies in the village.

So with nosiness getting the better of me, and having checked that there were no security cameras or alarms I peeled back the curtain to reveal a box with a locked door. Bah!  Prising it open with a crowbar would have been a step too far.  I was very disappointed but not so much as I would have been if I'd arrived, near dead on the bike, after having pumped up that tyre twenty times!  The stained glass was lovely though.  Modern pieces by Louis Rene Petit.  You'll have to follow this link to have a look.  My own pictures didn't do justice.

What I've found out since is the finger only gets an airing once a year as  the highlight of the village's festival.  Those Bretons certainly know how to live.   It's the second object in this picture and is stored in, what looks to be, a very fancy lipstick case.  There's other precious things too, tucked safely away somewhere very secret no doubt.  I reckon that the frilly box was just a red herring.

Yep, the thing in the middle is a real arm.  It belongs to a holy bloke that I hadn't heard of.  That's the thing with these relics,  If they're from someone very famous you're only likely to get a teeny tiny body part like a toenail clipping or, indeed a finger. Whole limbs and heads are only on offer if the saint was very obscure!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Bye Bye Beautiful Beach

That's it.  I return to Blighty today and get my boy back. My time as a Breton coastal inhabitant has gone way quicker than I ever could have imagined a week on my own. It's been absolutely superb and will definitely be a way that I'll recharge my batteries in the future.  Maybe without an essay looming over me it will be even more restful.  There's some beachcombed shells in my jacket pocket that I'll keep there for a few weeks to extend those holiday feelings.

I'll set off in a few hours time after a final stroll along the sand, say goodbye to my friend, the egret if he's there,  and head for the supermarket at St Pol de Leon.  I've promised Louis that I'll do a weekly shop there so the fridge will be full of all his favourite continental food and drink - fish soup, religieuses, scallop pate, dinosaur shaped chocolate biscuits,  some interesting cheese and a couple of bottles of that lovely local vanilla tinged Breizh cola that we're both rather partial to.

I'll get a puncture repair kit there as well as the bike has developed a flat tyre that  refuses to stay up for the duration of a ride even after the type of  good hard pump that been doing the trick for the last few months.   Sometime over the weekend I'll work out how to use those little patches, the sandpaper and glue. And there's chalk in the tin I think as well.  I'm blowed if I know what's that for.  Playing hangman or noughts and crosses on the pavement whilst you get the nearest passing blokey to fix your bike I reckon! Not sure how I've managed to squirm out of this for a lifetime of cycling. There's was always a really grumpy Dad or husband around making snidey comments about how I should really learn to do it myself.   Now seems to be the time.  Then again it might be a job  I could delegate to the little man.  I'm sure he's nearly old enough to take on  Mama's cycle maintenance mantle.  He's got to do something to earn all those treats after all.

This afternoon I'll get the ferry for the six hour trip back to Plymouth.  The routine on board is very familiar as I do it three or four times a year.  I'll have a drink and a meal in the restaurant, catch a movie if there's one that takes my fancy, have a little snooze in my cabin, relish a shower that doesn't involve an outside dash and have a mooch around the shops.  There's nothing I want to buy but, like the staff member, I saw on the way out availing herself of a perk of the job that I'd like myself, I'll pop into the perfume section and  have a free squirt.  It'll be a different Chanel to the one I'm using at the moment.  I reckon that, at the current time, 'Chance' seems to be the most apt!