Saturday, 31 July 2010

Dying by Stealth

I've scheduled this post in the middle of my holiday in the hope that Mr Lovelygrey never sees it.  This is the true confession of the mischief that goes on when he makes a rare business trip away.  He'd be super grumpy if he knew what I was up to because it involves the washing machine and salt!

Now my arguments that the super scientists at Dylon would not allow a product onto the market that instantly wrecked a household appliance doesn't wear with Mr Lovelygrey.  In spite of the fact that I meticulously follow the packet instructions he is convinced that salt will get into all the crevices of the machine, silently but rapidly corrroding it and causing ruination.  But I've proved him wrong because I've been stealthily disobeying orders for years and nothing bad has happened yet.  As a result new life has been breathed into six year old George T-shirts and three year old Tchibo legging would have definitely passed their sell by date if they hadn't had their 'black rinse'.   And my favourite Fat Face Tunic has been refreshed too.

But I've had less success when I've dyed things a different colour to their original.  In my experience breathing a new lease of life by re-colouring a garment that I didn't like in the first place or which I've grown bored with hasn't worked the magic.  So take heed or a chance.  Investment of a few pounds  in a pack of  'Wash and Dye' might be money wasted or a wise gamble.  Unless you ruin your washing machine of course

Friday, 30 July 2010

Faux Enamel

Metal Clay is tricky stuff.  Firstly,  it's horrendously expensive for the silver type and prohibitively so for its gold counterpart.  There is an element of fear involved just in opening the packaging because of the cost implications of messing up.  It's also highly temperamental .  Just breathe the wrong way and it dries out instantly. And after trying to revive it with the most miniscule drop of water ever, the result often resembles the most expensive mud pack ever.
Up until now I've forgotten to show the first ever piece that I made, a pendant using the clay itself to which I added texture with a piece of cloth and the end of a paintbrush.  I then added further detail including the heart with the version of the clay that comes in a syringe.  Finally I used Fimo to create an enamelled effect.

I'm still perservering with using precious metal  for jewellery designs because, when mastered,  it is such versatile product. Its  capacity to retain textures easily seems unrivalled and often, pieces can be made in a fraction of the time of their silversmithed counterparts. The firing process is fun too.  Simply take a blow torch, the one in the kitchen used to put a crispy top on brulee will do, and then set fire to your bone dry creation.  Before your eyes something that looks like putty shrinks a little and  turns into pure silver.  This process fills me with joy and never fails in bringing our my inner alchemist!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Digital Decoupage

When you read this the Lovelygrey family will be on their way to catch the ferry to Roscoff. My laptop will remain at home and have a well earned rest, allowing its keys to recover from endless daily tapping. I don't contribute to my blog whilst on holiday, preferring to read, make needlepoint and mess about with my boys. But, as I've previously mentioned I aim to post on a daily basis and have so far succeeded in doing so. However I have to work hard in advance to schedule pieces in advance for each day that I'm away.

However, strange dysfunctional thinking has entered my mind. Surely a blog is a diary and it's against the rules to post in advance - isn't it? Then I start to feel guilty about presenting pre-prepared material. Aaaargh!

Contradictory thoughts along the lines of 'It's my blog and I can do what I blooming well want' weren't hitting the mustard until my sister in law gave me her opinion of what I was doing. 'So it's a scrapbook' she said, 'Not a diary.' 'Exactly' I replied, and my mind was instantly settled. I'll be back in person soon but in the meantime - Enjoy!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Viva La France

I'm getting excited now because the Lovelygrey family are only a day away from crossing the English Channel for their main holiday of 2010. Louis is not so enthused, 'We always go to France' he says. but I'm ignoring him. Kids have it made these days and don't know how lucky they are My first foreign trip was made at the age of 14.  There wasn't always a holiday in the UK either.

Now at various times in our history it has been fashionable for the Brits to desist 'Les Frogs' but I've found them a kind race whose cynical sense of humour is in line with our own. Except for Parisiens, of course, but I think that they cultivate their hautiness to add to the touristic experience.

Anyway I thought I'd jot down a few of the reasons why I love France enough to consider it as a place that I want to spend my retirement.
  •  It has a land area that is about two and a half times that of the UK with a similar population which means that there is more space to spread out. 
  • Many places let motorhomes and camper vans stay for free or at little cost in their 'Aires de Camping Cars'.
  • The French seem to be less risk adverse than the Brits.  I don't think that there would be conker fight bans for this courageous nation. There are still historic monuments, especially WWII sites that involve a bit of peril.
  • Their language is lyrical in spite of words being lengthy.  I once did an exercise with a French-Canadian trying to find English words that were longer than their French counterparts and cane up with very few.
  • There is a pride in their culture and heritage that has been lost in many parts of England.
  • It is a child-friendly country where Louis is always made welcome.  French kids are affable and polite as a result.
  • Lovely food, lovely wine, great beer - need I say more. 
  • Decathlon is a great place to buy inexpensive outdoor equipment
And as a further retirement planning point, France, as ranked by the World Health Organisation, have the best health service in the world.  The United Kingdom ranks 18th.  Need I say more?

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Recipe-free Frittata

After yesterday's less than salubrious offering I thought I'd write about something wholesome. And what can be more so than good home cooking although I'm begging the virtue spotters amongst you to ignore the cheese.

I like to cook meals where a set recipe isn't needed and ingredient quantities can be determined by eye. Quiche is one example where I can be creative with the contents of the fridge. And many of my different puff pastry tart combos have been well received. Frittata, a fat omelette, is another meal that conducive to the 'throw it together food production' approach. I made one last night to use up food before our next trip in the motorhome later this week.

Chopped garlic and onions went into a pan with diced potato and carrot. After about five minutes I addedd cubes of chorizo, chopped spinach and courgettes. While this was cooking a bit more I combined 5 eggs, salt and pepper and a bit of grated cheddar which I mixed with the vegetables and cooked for another ten minutes.

If you are brave and fancy juggling with liquid egg the frittata can be flipped using a plate to turn it. But there has been too many accidents in the past to induce me to throw caution to the wind anymore.  Now,  my preferred scaredy cat method  involves browning the top of the omelette under the grill with a little extra cheese.  To increase your five a day quota a la the Royle Family, serve, like Louis did, with lashings of tomato ketchup!

Monday, 26 July 2010

The Sniggering Siblings

The holiday is looming and I've still got chores to finish before we sail. But, last night, instead of completing my tax credit form with its 31 July deadline, I was waylaid by a chat with my brother.

We were sitting at our respective computers having a serious connversation.   Paul was talking about a change of direction in his artistic work and an forthcoming introduction to a gallery owner. The conversation strayed onto Beryl Cook and then another Plymouthian artist, Robert Lenkiewicz that Paul was less familar with.

There, in the ex-student category on the site, we found this piece by Joe Stoneman, that has to rank as one of  the funniest and bizzarest painting we'd ever seen. Though three hundred miles apart we simultaneously cried with laughter, yet the picture only raised the merest titter from Mr Lovelygrey.  It reminded me of just how well matched our sibling senses of humour are.

I've puzzled how to label this post but settled on 'Design Source'.  After all someone, somewhere might be inspired to introduce Rod Hull's best friend incongruously into their own work.  See 'Nude and Emu' by the same artist if you need further ideas.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Thought for the Day: Leaders and Managers

There's been a couple of vacancies at higher grades that have been advertised at work and I've been asked if I will be applying.  In the past I might have thought about it.  After all. I was educated to mindlessly pursue career advancement without actually knowing why.  But for the time-being I'm staying put.  There are often  abundant challenges in my current role and my colleagues are about the nicest bunch of people that you could wish to work with.

On several occasions I've asked myself if I want to be a manager and the answer comes back again and again as a resounding no.  It seems that on the junior rungs of the management ladder the role is very much as a conduit for implementing policy and I question whether there is scope for being as creative as I can be in a clinical post.

I discussed this in supervision this week with someone with a wise head.  They prompted me to think about the differences between a leader and a manager.  Now a quick search on Goggle has highlighted that this is probably an essay that every business studies student has to write and there's shedloads of information out there, even self tests to do.  What comes across as a central theme. Leadership is seen where people are motivated to follow  a person and exercise choice to do so.  Managers have power vested in them by an organisation.  Their subordinates work under them, not through choice but because there are extrinsic rewards (e.g.  a salary)  for doing so.  Although management and leadership are not mutually exclusive we can all probably think of people we've met who've managed us but we've not been inspired to follow them.

The revelation is that I can lead from a subordinate role.  I can get out my virtual secateurs and where necessary  cut through the paths  through the mazes that managers in the  NHS have created by the way I practice and disseminating this through writing, teaching and mentoring others.  And others might be inspired to follow me through the gaps I've made.  So, I'm sticking to my guns,  retaining the option to think freely and creatively and aspiring to be a leader from my minion position!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Life and Death

I was looking forward to a weekend lie-in and had high hopes as Louis has been off school and running around like a banshee. This sometimes tires him out so that he sleeps longer. But alas today this is not the case probably because he wasn't in his own bed last night.
We are in Somerset for a special family occasion. After a long illness Grandpa Lovelygrey died in January and today, the family are meeting the lovely local vicar, Lee who will perform a ceremony to inter his ashes.

Death is an event I encounter up close far more often than Joe Public because of the nature of my job. Sometimes circumstances are tragic or a release from terrible illness. More commonly death just seems to be a consequence of old age. Each time it happens to someone that I've been working with I have to fill in a serious untoward incident form. Understandable where death might have been avoided but should the normal process of coming to the end of natural life really be viewed as something ill fated?

There are different schools of thought about how to help children deal with a death in the family. Some parents try to protect them when this happens by not talking about the incident or their feelings. They also exclude them from ceremonies such as the funeral service or the burial. Others, like us are more open, allowing the child to share the experience with the family. Perhaps there are no rights or wrongs but I thought I'd write an account of what we did.

There's been lots of questions and perhaps a little pre-occupation with death, certainly in the days after the event. Some of his responses have seemed inappropriate to an adult, for example on the day that Grandpa died 'I'm really sad. Now can I watch Tom and Jerry?'. And, of course, there's been lots of questions mainly of a practical nature ('Is grandpa really in that box?'). For a time, every deceased bird lying in the street prompted the comment 'That's Grandpa'.

When Grandpa Lovelygrey's death was imminent we explained this to Louis. He was taken to the hospital by Mr Lovelygrey to see him about a week before Grandpa died. We told Louis that this was probably the last time he would see him and that he should say a silent goodbye. He did not see Grandpa's body like his father did but he did attend the funeral and behaved impeccably. He will also be with us today which will no doubt prompt further interesting questions.

Most importantly He's seen how family members react to death, experienced how they felt, seen them cry and shared their grief. We've encouraged him to be particularly sensitive to Nana Lovelygrey and to date he's doing a good job!

Friday, 23 July 2010

Just finished reading: Narrow Dog to Carcassonne

I've decided to dedicate today's post to Heidi, faithful friend, sailor of the seas and owner of a waterborne craft with a pink engine. Even though this book isn't about her particular type of boat, I think she'd appreciate this intrepid saga of adventure, disaster and of course, moments of sheer stupidity. Remember Heidi, when we were moored off St Martin's in the Scillys and we had to walk around 'Salty Dog' very slowly to avoid the boat being damaged because amazingly, we'd dropped anchor in a small horseshoe of rocks in an otherwise clear and sandy cove.  Or when we decided to tow the inflatable tender in high seas.  It quickly turned upside down and, as it had turned into the marine equivalent of a sink plunger, it was almost impossible to right.

Narrow Dog to Carcassonne was recommended to Mr Lovelygrey by a neighbour who is an upstanding member of society and jolly nice chap.  Its first few pages are awash with positive reviews from the likes of Saga Magazine and the Daily Mail.  So I was amazed at how much debauchery and heavy drinking there is in this book about a retired couple and their dog.   It tells the story of their journey on their narrowboat through the English canal system, across the Channel and then down the French waterways. The most wayward member of the party is, of course, Jim the Whippet  who, is my humble opinion as a non pet owner,  would be a far more virtuous creature if he had his nadders removed.  His owner, Terry, could questionably be a better behaved human being if he had the same treatment.  His wife, Monica might well agree.

For youngsters out there, this book contains substantial evidence that life does not end at twenty five.  And for the middle aged crowd, which unfortunately now includes myself and Mr Lovelygrey, this reinforces what we already know.  Those a few years ahead of us who've reached retirement age are often having more fun than we are.

This is a well written, often hilarious book that is well worth trying even for those who don't believe a salty sea saga is their cup of tea.  I finished the final pages which includes a handy guide to French in fifteen minutes last night.  But I'm looking to forward to including the sequel,  Narrow Dog to Indian River, to my pile of holiday reading when we return to the Loire next week.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Funky Flowers

I must be in my post festival psychodelic phase!  These funky flowers are inspired by the floral designs on the dresses that I used to wear as a young child in the early seventies.  A particularly garish orange and green version springs to mind that I wasn't keen on at the age of six. How  I'd love to get my hands on that fabric now!

Other people are making all sorts of complex designs using polymer clay formed into canes and then cut to give intricately patterned effects.  They are very clever. See Polymer Clay Daily for some examples of why Fimo is not only used for making animal fridge magnets.  As a relative novice I've kept it simple, just rolling out sheet using my pasta machine and using different sized flower shaped cutters.  Their curved shape was formed on a greased lightbulb, a piece of equipment that appeals to my inner Sid James.

To complete each flower before they were baked in the oven  I added my owned special 'tag' and a silver bar to turn them into a bead.  I'm pleased with the result but am suffering from 'jeweller's block' because I can't decided how to string them together.  This knotty problem has been one of the connundrums occupying my head for some time now.  When I finally reached my lightbulb moment, greased or otherwise, I'll share the results.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Mobile Meanie

In the seventies my family didn't have a phone. When we needed to make a call it incurred a trip down the road clutching a pile of two and ten pence coins and there was invariably a queue at the telephone box on arrival. When at last, you were chatting whilst, of course, standing in a puddle of wee,  the next person in line would  be angrily banging on the window if your call was over two minutes long.  No wonder letter writing was popular.

Technology progressed and telephone use escalated.  We did get a phone in the family home eventually although strict time limits were imposed when I called friends.  Then in the early nineties the 'mobile' phone made an entrance.  Except that the first ones weren't very mobile.  I recall a night out in Exeter taking turns to carry a heavy sports bag containing the car phone of a friend who was on call.

Whether the modern day notion of being contactable anywhere is a good thing or not is subjective but I'm not going to talk about that.  Mr Lovelygrey's phone has started beeping to advise him by text that the joint account is running low.  So it's high time for a thrifty post.

Mr Lovelygrey is a software engineer working from home.  He needs a reliable connection and adequate support when if and when things go wrong so our landline is with BT. But all our calls are directed through the alternative carrier, We pay a connection fee of 4-5p per call and then there is nothing else to pay when phoning most UK landline numbers at any time during the day. Some calls are charged per minute including those to mobiles and overseas numbers but seem very reasonable, for example those to the US are 1p per minute.

The main disadvantage is that the person receiving the call is often surprised when they find that they are not talking to a double glazing salesman based in Calcutta. Caller ID is shown as 'international'. But this is just a minor irritation compared to the savings made.

How do I save on my mobile costs? I haven't tied my self into a contract, instead buying a reconditioned phone on Ebay. Then I simply don't use the thing very much, restricting most of my communication to the landline, Email and the Internet. Avoiding being a phoning/texting junkie saves me shedloads keeping my call costs down to about £40 annually. Surely it's worth going cold turkey for that!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Pottery Painting with Nana

I wandered over to China Blue today to collect our latest pottery painting creations.  These were made last weekend when Nana Lovelygrey visited and we persuaded her to join in with one of our favourite Mother-Son activities, She made a highly functional potstand for her kitchen.  And I am proud to say that both Nana's and Louis' efforts fulfilled the maxim from William Morris:

'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.'

However I do wonder how many money boxes that Louis can make before they cease to fulfill the criteria of usefulness. He's made three now!

I'm not sure that my piece would be given William Morris' approval for being given house room so, he's being relegated to the garden!    I had nothing planned before my visit so his design was spontaneous and a little haphazard, yet satisfied my lizard fetish

But I have thought that he might like some reptilian friend who will be positioned lurking amongst the veggies to scare off the slugs.  Look out for highly designed Lizard Mk 2 (aboriginal style) after our next China Blue visit.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Maladaptive Meditation

Life should be good at the moment. I'm having a lovely time with family and friends and my work environment is happy and productive.  There's also  some exciting things to do on the cards including a holiday to the Loire in the motorhome and Papa Lovelygrey's 80th birthday meal at the Riverford Field Kitchen, my family's absolute favourite place to eat.  Oh, and the weather is lifting the spirits because, for the first time in a couple of years, summer actually resembles the season that it's supposed to be.

From a health point of view however, things are not as good.  I'm eating too much junk, drinking more alcohol than I would like and not taking enough exercise.  There's only so much that the Citalopram dam can hold and cracks are showing.  Too many anxious thoughts are creeping back - I'm worrying more about what other people think and feeling overwhelmed.  Procrasination is setting in and my attention span is waning.

I realise that I can nip this in the bud.  And,  I'm starting with reviving my daily mindfulness sitting practice which has lapsed over the last few months because I've  felt too busy to devote forty minutes a day to this.  Definitely a false economy because the practice magically seems to create extra time for me.  But hey ho!, mistakes are there to learn from and can be catalysts for personal growth.  And hasn't Jon Kabat Zinn, a leading proponent of mindfulness practice said that you can gain a lot by observing the effect of periods of non-practice?   Hopefully, my renewed focus on doing what I know keeps me healthy should get me back on track before that French roadtrip!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Festival Virgins

Just back from, festival going, a new activity for the Lovelygrey family.  We chose the venue for our intiation carefully, an event that was billed as child friendly, reasonably cheap and close to home.  Chagstock, a music festival held on the edge of Dartmoor met our criteria, coming highly recommended by family's more experienced in rolling around in the mud in their wellies. Kay and Melanie, friends from college and fellow festival virgins joined us and shared the twenty year old tent that was a wedding gift from Mama and Papa Lovelygrey.  Amazingly it still doesn't leak!

As it's July, I was expecting our £130 family ticket to guarantee sunshine.   I was therefore slightly perturbed that rain started to come down in sheets over the Devon countryside throughout Wednesday and Thursday.  It caused Mr Lovelygrey to fret about the prospect of our lovely Knaus motorhome having to be towed in or out of a field, something experienced once before that none of us are keen to repeat. My husband was not the only one with a head full of worries before the event.  The father of Niall, Louis' friend who came with us was concerned about the kids being bored as so sent his son away heavily laden with toys and books.

But fear not!  Much to the delight of all the male members of our van, we were parked next to this D-day beauty which acted as a wonderful climbing frame and prop for boyish role play.  It was even kitted out with metal helments and other World War II accoutrements. There was also football with other kids to the backdrop of mainstage music,  running around the field comminicating by walkie-talkie and multiple tries at the Lucky Dip to name a few of the things that kept the boys pretty well occupied all weekend.

Here are the boys in their 'cool' festival gear. The T-shirts were a gift from me and then the lure of matching caps and badges separated them from their pocket money. Mummy Lovelygrey enjoyed seeing friends  succumbing to some light retail therapy (a wrist purse and a lovely ring) and supping the delicious local cider. Sadly though, festival going did not turn out to be Mr Lovelygrey's bag so next year might have to be a weekend for mums and small boys only.

I suppose that it's fitting to talk about the music too but I didn't see half as many bands as I expected. The acoustic tent was, in the main, too loud for sensitive children's ears and I was forced to make a quick exit on more than one occasion. Whilst I enjoyed the Hoosiers on the main stage, my high hopes of becoming Seth Lakeman's latest fan were not realised as I found his music just at little bit too 'Jethro Tull-ish'.  However the very accomplished, Bovey Tracey School Choir, eagerly awaitied by Louis and Niall, as some of their friends were performing, was a surprise personal hit.    Their performance was an example of the high standard that primary school children can achieve when steered away from songs such as 'There's no-one quite like Grandma'.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Look at Me Leonard

Because of a few songs
Wherein I spoke of their mystery,
Women have been
Exceptionally kind
to my old age.
They make a secret place
In their busy lives
And they take me there.
They become naked
In their different ways
and they say,
"Look at me, Leonard
Look at me one last time."
Then they bend over the bed
And cover me up
Like a baby that is shivering.

Two years ago today, at the O2 in London, I first reaped the rewards for making pension contributions on behalf of an artist who has made my overwhelming crush on Donny Osmond at the age of seven seem utterly trivial. This man is my guru, a clever poet with unsurpassed wit and a gravelly voice that causes me to have tripled X rated thoughts even though he has reached the ripe old age of 75 (Sorry Mr Lovelygrey!).

The commonly held belief is that Leonard Cohen's music is ideal as the backing track when you decide to slit your wrists, but I heartily  disagree. As the time of this concert, in my pre-Citalopram days I was probably at my lowest ebb ever. Life could be pretty meaningless and I was pretty much convinced that I was responsible for all the world's ills including 9/11 and even the odd tsunami.

At this dark time, this night was a rare source of joy and so, for that  I heartily thank you Leonard. And as a mark of thanks,  if you're ever in Devon please view this post as an invitation to come to tea.

PS:  My little chef Louis is a fan too and makes great cake!

Friday, 16 July 2010

Thought for the Day: Never Going to Retire?

Both my posts of today and tomorrow celebrate septuagenarians.  Although he carried out an act of incredible stupidity when tombstoning off Durdle Door in Dorset, part of me feels that 75 year old Chris Irven should be heartily applauded.  This act shows that he has not let his youthful spirit die, even though he came jolly close to killing off his physical self.  Here he is being winched to safety onto a rescue helicopter with nothing more to show for his exploits than a bit of wind, sore jubblies and ripped trunks.  And when I 'Googled' him I found out that this man is very busy indeed. For example he self publishes his own books and undertakes long distance cycle rides.

When doing my job, I often meet people who defy the stereotype of old age, going on to do things that might be considered a bit wild at a time of life when they should be getting a weekly purple rinse and knitting blanket squares for England.  Surprising numbers still work and this has been a factor in helping me formulate new ideas what I'm going to do in old age.  Many of my NHS colleagues are planning to retire at 55 but I'm not so sure.  After all work is good for you and I get some satisfaction out of being financially productive.

So I'm beginning to build a portfolio of skills that will enable me to work into old age.  Perhaps, I won't be assessing people's memories or dishing out mobility equipment for ever.  I'm hoping that jewellery making might provide a bit of an income well into the future and maybe one day the writing practice that I get from writing a blog might help me sell some work.  And who knows what other money making schemes that I will come up with which are so enjoyable that I never have to retire.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Shop Stock

Up at the crack of dawn full of  good intentions!  I decided to make substantial inroads into duplicating the swirly whirly necklace that I finished the other day.  After all I have two commissions and cannot let my customers down.

But hang on a minute,  I've come across a thorny problem.  I hadn't recorded the amounts of wire I needed to wrap each bead.  Also I've agreed a price for my necklace which seems fair  but I've no idea whether it covers my material costs and labour time.

So I decided to slow down the manufacturing process.  Instead I've done something less interesting but just as constructive.  I've devised a worksheet so that I can cost my products, record the time it takes to make them and record any tricky parts of their production.  Most, importantly I am prompted to make a note of the type and quantity of raw materials that I need and where I got them from.  Oh, and there's a photograph of the piece that I can work from if I make it again.

All I have to show for my morning's enterprise is one wrapped bead and a piece of paper.  One small step towards a swirly, whirly necklace but maybe a purposeful stride, albeit not a giant leap, towards opening my online shops on Etsy and Folksy

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Leaving Do

Sadly, the locum, 'Consultant of 'Cool' is leaving our team on Friday so, in his honour, we had a bit of an ongoing buffet bash all day in the office today. The rapidly diminishing stash of cream cakes, savoury nibbles and crispy delights  could well account for the feelings of nausea and bloating of my stomach that came upon me by mid afternoon.  This lovely cake, made with good quality chocolate and laced with Tia Maria was rustled up by one of our support workers, Glam Gran and deserves a special mention. 

My own offering was a bit more 'umble.  I was only asked to make a contribution to the buffet yesterday and did not have time to shop. So I grabbed some Lidl goodies, including a box of 'All Butter Cheese Straws' from the pantry on the way out of the house this morning.  The more organised 'Snobby Friend' had been to Waitrose and brought in a few more carefully considered offerings.  These included cheese straws too so I decided to conduct a blind tasting on her.

'Oh these are definitely the Lidl ones' she said, screwing her nose up after a mouthful of Sample A.  But you've guessed it, she was wrong and the Crusti Croc brand emerged, to her horror as her clear favourite.  But, even so,  will she give up the sophisicated ambience of her local Waitrose for the stack it high discounter that offers cheaper prices and possibly food that she prefers.  I'll wait and see.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Pensioner Envy

One of the perks of my job in the South Hams is that I get to wander around the lovely towns of Totnes, Dartmouth, Kingsbridge and Salcombe between  visits. This is a picture that I took in Dartmouth today, a beautfiul scene even on a grey day (well, okay perhaps if I were a more proficient photographer I could have lost the foreground litter bin).

What I had really meant to photograph was pensioners at the bus stop on the Embankment but alas I felt too self-conscious!  But these queues of our elders and betters are commonplace around my patch where the bus services for a rural location are surprisingly good.  I have to admit to a tinge of jealousy because of the thrifty freedom that this allows them.

The reason for the increased bus use is of course the bus pass for the over 60s  which allows free off peak travel.   From a therapy point of view it is a great resource.  It means, for example, that I can encourage the anxious to make a journey that takes them out of their comfort zone or helps a depressed person reconnect with society by giving them the means to get out and about.

And this weekend we persuaded Nana Lovelygrey to take the plunge and make use of her pass to come on a weekend visit.  She caught the bus just yards away from her doorstep in rural Somerset and an hour and a half of scenic travel later she arrived in Tiverton where she was met by Mr Lovelygrey and Louis.   This enabled her to enjoy early morning story sessions with her grandson for free.  Her confidence increased on the way home and she plucked up the courage to extend her dependency on public transport from Exeter.

So because  the advantages that this benefit brings from a social and health perspective I really hope that this 'perk' is not withdrawn as part of this Governments cuts now or in the near future.  After all, I'm looking forward to 'whizzing' for free around the British countryside in fifteen years time when I'm sixty.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Just finished reading: The Girls

This book made its way into my reading pile via the swaps that I do with friends, a great way of expanding my literary repetoire as I delve into works that I may not have chosen myself.  But then again I may have eventually stumbled upon this one on my own as it was a Richard and Judy recommendation.  To my surprise I've often found these a good read even though I don't find the bickering couple's TV programmes quite as hot.

The subject matter of  The Girls surprised me but that was only because I'd forgotten to read the back of the jacket.  Duh!   Fictional conjoined twins tell their life story from their individual perspectives, although Rose the sister who is motivated to write provides the greater part of the narrative.   The story is well crafted and did not always develop in the way that I predicted.   I was  delighted by the description given of a Heath Robinson-esque  bar stool that the twin's  friend adapted to help them mobilise. I am sure that this device would cause palpitations if seen by some of my more fragile fellow occupational therapists working in physical settings. It didn't sound exactly up to kitemark safety standards.

The book moved me to see whether this novel was a match for the real experience of conjoined twins Although   Lori Lansen, the author of the book, cites some relatively academic sources for her story , the list did not include any autobiographical accounts.  And these do seem to be rare and may become more so as many twins these days seem to be successfully separated.  However,  with my extra little bit of delving into the subject using  Wikipedia,  I was delighted to see that the inspiration for the mobility contraption was probably  based on one designed by George Schappell, herself a craniopagus conjoined twin.    The entry for George and her sister Lori, who pursue different interests and professions gave me a further understanding of the degree of individuality that people living in such close proximity to each other are capable of.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Days Out in Devon: Mythic Garden

The Lovelygrey family are so lucky to live in such a beautiful area of the country and there's lots of really excellent touristy things to do her.  For example, there's the well publicized theme parks at Crealy Adventure Park  at Clyst St. Mary near Exeter and  Woodlands just outside Dartmouth that are not without their charm, the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth and beautiful stately homes and gardens such as Castle Drogo and RHS's Rosemoor.  But I thought I'd draw your  attention to the less well known places to go.

Today we went to the  Mythic Garden at Stone Lane Gardens near Chagford.  Each year between May and October the national collection of birches and alders is augmented by sculptures by local artists.  It's a great place to wile away an afternoon for adults and children too.  This year there's 105 pieces on sale and their prices are shown in  a guide that you're given after you've paid the admission fee (£4.50 for adults and £2.50 for a child).   This gives you the option of taking part in the same game that the Royle family when they're all sitting on the sofa  watching the Antiques Roadshow.

So theoretically adults could enjoy the tranquil beauty of the place.  But that's not an easy task as  it's an exciting place for children who enjoy exploring the winding paths and finding the treasures on display.  There's some permanent features like a shed that was somewhere that I imagined could have doubled as a good home for the Unibomber, complete with aluminium saucepan and this eggy hideaway that both Louis and Mr Lovelygrey were both taken with.

I was tempted to show some of the pieces that I thought were truly awful but which illicited that 'how much!' reflex. But instead I thought that I'd keep my evil feelings to myself. So I'm being nice and instead showing a piece that I really liked.  This is 'Shoulder Stand' by  Tati Dennehy, a piece of stoneware that I'd be really pleased to own.  Alas it's outside my price range but it's brought my attention to an artist that I'll keep an eye on in the future just in case I get rich (quick)!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Little Tosser

Louis' latest cooking venture is thoroughly un-British,  making pancakes for breakfast on a lazy weekend morning where we don't have to get moving too quickly.  This is  perhaps a step up in skill level for Little Chef as it involved cracking eggs and cooking at the stove.

Here he is teaching Nana Lovelygrey to make batter out of 100-ish grammes of flour, a generous pinch of salt, two eggs and half a pint of milk which he carefully measured, then mixed and whizzed with our hand held mixer.  He then measured out the batter and even attempted to toss one pancake.

But the best bit is choosing the topping.  Unfortunately the ultimate classic was unavailable as there were no lemons, even though I buy these impulsively and they are usually in abundance in the fruit bowl. Also we'd run out of sugar as I'd just used our supplies to make batch two of elderflower cordial and champagne. But Louis' topping of fresh strawberries, Nuttella, brown sugar and orange juice was and inspired alternative that he's displayed on his T-shirt for the remainder of the day.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Filthy Capitalism

The tactic of going to work wearing the new herringbone necklace that I made on Monday with a view to selling is was really sneaky.  So stealth-like in fact that I didn't realise it myself.  Anyway I've secured two commissions to make similar pieces for real money!

Out came my bead box and I realised I didn't have many of  the right shaped beads that I need to make the design.  You'd think 'round' is a pretty common bead-like shape but this is seemingly not so.   Consequently I've been out scouring the local bead stores, the Bead Room in Totnes and the larger Bead Solutions in Paignton for suitable materials. Maybe, not the cheapest way of sourcing raw materials but it supports local businesses and doesn't make a huge difference to cost.  One surprise though is that, when buying beads this way, the semi-precious ones haven't worked out any more expensive that their glass or acrylic counterparts.

Now my 'customers' have chosen the beads that are going to be incorporated into their own necklaces. But making my product is the easy part because I've got to think about the things that I've put off for so long like packaging and bookkeeping. After all, my back of the envelope calculations suggests that I am running at a loss at the moment which potentially means a worthwhile tax refund. Over the next month I'll make sure I update my blog with the boring parts of my craft business venture as well as recording the creative bits and pieces.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Bum Cream (Part 2)

I nominate myself as the most unphotogenic person in the world!  It's taken me 165 tries to come up with an acceptable  image for this post and even now I'm not completely happy. I'm sure I'm much more beautiful in real life than  my photographed self!   But I'm home from work, a pint of Mr Lovelygrey's latest wonderful brew is coursing through my system and reverting to rhyming slang I think  'Bucket!'. After all, Papa Lovelygrey is a cockney.

The hayfever season is upon us and desperate times cause for desperate measures.    The pollen laden bags under my eyes were getting seriously too big for bits of cucumber to sort out.  So with the encouragement of Mr Metrosexual, my workplace beauty consultant, I decided to pluck up the courage and give the top tip of supermodels  a go.  You may remember that I've discussed this in my previous post, 'A Baggy Problem'.  And with the rigour of a scientific experiment,  for the last  week I've been using Anusol each morning below just one eye, of course, carefully following the manufacturer's instructions that I should apply the cream after passing a stool  This means that for the first time in the history of  the Lovelygreyday blog I bring you an interactive exercise

Q: Which eye has been treated with bum cream? 

Answers in the comments section please!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Escaping Escargot

I'm finding that the act of blogging is helping me to try out things that I've been meaning to do for a long time. Writing daily posts is certainly keeping me on my toes! And by now I had planned for my 'garden snails as food' article to be done and dusted complete with photos of my spoils cooking slowly in a pan of garlic butter.  After all, the little blighters are in abundance when you don't want them around.  Their total desecration of our  kale crop in a single night last year is a prime example, although their shell-less chums, the slugs, may be equally to blame. 

But here's the rub.  I 'lovingly' prepared a bucket of snail food to lure them,  fresh greens and shavings of carrot.  This would have doubled as their diet whilst they were purged, the idea being that the snail might have ingested something nasty before being caught and this must be got rid of from its digestive system.  The carrot acts as a handy sign that this has happened as it turns their poo orange!

I found one snail and popped him/her into this mollusc heaven that I'd created, with the thought that he might be so impressed he'd invite his friends for a party.   I was going to secure a muslin over the top when they were all so blissed out on carrot that they wouldn't notice.  Then the plan was simply to wait a few days until they'd detoxed.  But it was clear by the next morning that 'Brian(a)' did not share my vision.  He/she'd disappeared and there's no been sight nor sound of him/her or his/her mates in the garden since.  Even my torchlight hunts at night have been in vain so maybe our dry weather of late has sent them all into hiding into a far off damp crevice miles away from where I live.

But I promise that once successful I will report back on the results of my snail gastronomy without a bowl of porridge in sight.  Unfortunately there will not be a 'restaurant review' from Mr Lovelygrey as he refuses to have anything to do with this particular experiment.  But Louis is up for it and I'm looking forward to his reaction to eating his first 'escargot'.  As he's partial to squid and mussels this may not be as extreme as might be expected from a seven year old but we'll probably have to wait for wetter weather to see.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Rise, Shine

In my younger days I worked in the tax departments of big accountancy firms.  Even though I have fond memories of lots of the people that I worked with,  I hated my last four years in the profession.   Maybe the impossibly tight fees quoted to clients or the need to account for every six minutes of my time meant that this was one of the most stressful times of my life ever.

But  though I didn't cope very well, my inner occupational therapist was being nutured even before I knew what the profession involved.  I decided that even though work was miserable I needed to do something meaningful each day.  As I am an early bird  I decided to rise at the crack of dawn and get something down.  This was so successful that I shared this with an equally dissatisfied colleague who before the days of Lockerbie which caused his guns to be taken away started the day by making bullets for his precision crafted pistols.

Although I now have to chivvy along another small being in the morning and hence my time is more scarce I still try to start the day by doing something constructive I leave home at 7:30am.  When  in virtuous mode this will include formal meditation practice but I've been a bit lapse lately.  I've still managed to do something beyond getting myself dressed and nagging Louis to move on from standing around in his underpants and playing with his toys.  Sometimes this might be writing a post for my blog, doing a little bit of a craft project or ticking off something from my 'To Do' list.  The lovely clean and tidy shelves in my study are the result of a few day's early morning productivity.

What I achieve may be small fry compared to my childless days when time was a less rare commodity and I could,, say, go for a run  in training for a half marathons.  But my little achievements kick start the day and act as a catalyst for action in my waking hours.   So, off now to order silver wire for more jewellery projects. 

Monday, 5 July 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Since our last Church of Craft day  where the delectable Naomi taught me how to create a herringbone effect around a bead my skill at wire wrapping has come on leaps and bounds.  I'm rather pleased with this pendant that I made out of silver wire and a miracle bead, bought in a pretty but overpriced shop in the walled Breton city of Concarneau.  The Lovelygrey boys, my harshest critics didn't make too many disparaging comments when I showed them this, always a good sign that my craftmanship is getting better.  Believe me they don't hold back when telling me if they think that something I've made is rubbish!

Not only did Louis like my creation but he came up with a idea for a more advanced project.  'Why don't you make lots of the curly things into a necklace?'  So I took the advice of my seven year old design guru and this necklace, that I've spent my day off completing, is the end result.

Take a look back to my 'Wire Worries' post to see how far my wire wrapping skills, have progressed over the last couple of months.  It may well be that my new round nosed pliers and wire wrapping techniques book have helped my work reach new heights but I reckon the major contributing factor is good old fashioned practice making perfect.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

We Had Fun

All the Lovelygrey family are tired today so we're chilling! It was the school fete yesterday which doubles as our village's fayre. We've worked hard helping to make it a success.  Mr Lovelygrey's volunteering started after he dropped Louis at the school on Friday morning.  I arrived after work to be told that 'Daddy has broken his arm'.  Further investigation revealed that the situation was not as serious as it sounded but there had been an injury resulting from the consequence of marquee tent pole meeting flesh.   Nothing that self medication from the supplies at the beer tent couldn't sort out.

Above is the picture of the bric-a-brac stall.  It's the second year I've helped out there and it brings out the market trader in me.  The Bastow parents and I were a bit green last year and duped into selling things way below cost. But we were much more savvy this time, identifying donated objects that might have had some value with the help  of Ebay research and advice from an antique dealing parent.  This meant that our Victorian toothbrush holder and assorted porcelain pill boxes fetched reasonable prices.
Although Louis might argue that he helped a lot this is questionable.  Still, he's had a good time with the kids of other  parents who were helping.   As well as scooping up the bargains he bought from my stall, a Ben 10 vehicle,  Scooby Doo pencil holder and a couple of Lego Bionicle figures he spent hours exploring pathways around (and in) the brook adjacent to the field, chased a rat and came home filthy dirty both evenings.  I was mildly alarmed when I hadn't seen him for a couple of hours in the middle of Saturday afternoon but he turned up in the cab of the fire engine, one of the attractions at the Fayre

Days like this give me a warm fuzzy feeling.  Whilst I can't volunteer on a regular basis I enjoy it when I do and hope that giving my time free can be more and more a feature of my life in the future.  And because we had so much fun, I might be able to persuade the rest of the Lovelygrey family to join me.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Striving for Seventy

Lovelygrey drives a Skoda Fabia 3, top of the range you know!. Okay, so it's not the most desirable car in the world but I think its kudos may have increased over the years. I know  at least Skoda is a cooler brand than Lada now and anyway I quite like my car's cheeky looks.

After the parking sensors which have broken a rather too regular habit of reversing into things, my favourite gadget is the trip computer. One of its functions gives average fuel consumption on a journey and on my 13 mile journey to work I try and break my record for the most economical fuel consumptions ever.  Here are a few things I've noticed from doing this that have a big effect on fuel economy.

  • I get a better average MPG in summer.  It seems that in cold weather fuel is used up to heat up the mechanical gubbins to work properly.  Perhaps, I need to rustle up a really toasty sleeping bag for the car to wear on chilly winter nights!  A wet road surface makes fuel consumption worse too so sticking to the surface must use up energy too.
  • It normally makes sense to get up to the highest gear as soon as possible unless the car is labouring up a hill.
  • Stopping at all will lower my overall fuel consummption.   The beautiful Staverton bridge over the River Dart is a particular bugbear.  It's single track roadway is controlled by  lights.  Perhaps I'm showing my ignorance about the science of traffic flow but  I reckon I should get a 50% chance of a green light but this is rarely the case.  I reckon I go through unhindered about once every 10 days.
  • Accelerating should be avoided if at all possible.  Beware this manoeuvre gobbles fuel!
  • Getting stuck behind a slow moving vehicle can be a blessing if it maintains a steady speed but not if, like the ever present tractors which understandably are a feature of country lanes,  it is so tardy  that I'm forced to overtake it (see point above for reason why).
  • Air conditioning use seems to make little difference to fuel economy even though expert opinion suggests otherwise. 

Some websites suggest that the extra-urban fuel consumption for my car is 68.9 mpg.  My best yet is 69.9 and so I think averaging 70 mpg is eminently possible.  But all the conditions have to be right and in two years this hasn't happenened yet.  So until it does I'll continue to be careful with my gear changing and not let my accelerator foot get carried away too oftern.  I'll also have fun swearing at tractors, red lights and all the other things that get in the way of my hallowed and as yet unattainable average!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Mama's Woody Makes

Mama Lovelygrey does not only make clothes. When I was little she attended a woodwork adult education course. I recall her being miffed that the testoterone laden teacher gave his undivided atttention to the class 'Glam Puss' who rustled up a wardrobe whilst my mother struggled to complete her table top bookshelf. Still this experience hasn't put her off and she's the proud owner of a marvellous treadle saw (like the one here) that she uses to make cute toys. When I first beheld this beautiful piece of machinery I was covetous until I came to my senses and realised that I have no real need for one myself!

Here is some of her work, little vehicles made for Louis when he was younger including proper articulated lorries where the cab comes away from its load.   Although my Google research shows that Treadle Lathes exist Mama Lovelygrey certainly hasn't discovered one. It is perhaps for this reason that she buys in ready-made wheels to add to her creations (I've found these like the ones she uses.  However, the main bodies of the toys are all her own work, cut out by pedalling away at her lovely saw.

These days they're unfortunately played with a lot. But they're on display on the guest bedroom window sill for our younger visitors to play with. And even though Louis is just seven I'm starting to have fantasies about being a grandma one day. So maybe the next generation will get some play time from them a couple of decades from now.