Saturday, 30 April 2011

Just Finished Reading: The Bookworm's Holiday

As usual a great big pile of books were squirrelled into the motorhome on our latest tour and I made good headway towards being able to shut the door to my bedside cabinet again.  My proudest weakness is that I can't resist an interesting looking story at a bargain secondhand price or during my forays in the local libraries. I suppose my failings could be a lot, lot worse.

The cover of the first offering just screams Chick-Lit!  Ideal holiday reading as long as it's well written.  I hadn't heard of the author of Rescuing Rose but the accolades on the cover from quality newspapers looked good. There was even a thumbs up from Marian Keyes, high praise indeed. This story about a problematic period in an agony aunt's own life is definitely worth digging out of the bargain bins or hunting out in a local library. It's likely that I'll be reading more of Isabel Wolff's work when the bedside cabinet becomes bare.

Then in order to break up the pink stuff I tucked into the only Nick Hornby novel that I hadn't read, eagerly reserved from the local library at the heady fee of 50p!  I struggled with the first few pages which dwelt heavily on skateboarding but I suppose that served me right.  After all, I am forty-six and the book is allegedly categorised under the young adult genre.  But I soon warmed to a story about teenage 'disaster' as told from the perspective of an adolescent boy.

Oh no, not another pinky I may hear those of you who prefer a bit of blood and gore or a good detective novel cry!  Certainly, The Secret Lives of Dressesisn't one I've passed onto Mr Lovelygrey. It's the by-product of a blog, , and may well be of special interest to those of the thriftsters or lovers of vintage out there who ascribe special meaning to items with a history. I was pleased by the discovery of this well written book by a lesser known author.

And my final completed volume, Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, one of the No1. Ladies Detective Agency series, whose jazzy  cover caught my eye at the library.   Many of you will already know whether these gentle stories about life in Botswana are to your taste or not.  I enjoy them but wait for my review of a half finished offering from another author set in Africa.  Although it is billed as appealing to the same audience my next choice  has a depth and complexity which takes writing to a different level.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Breizh and Brets

Just how does owning a motorhome tie in with trying to be green?  Well, I'm well and truly caught by the short and curlies but therein lies the beauty of living in the grey realm between black and white and accepting that there are rarely absolutes.  It's true that my preferred mode of holiday transport has the potential to be an right old gas guzzler but by limiting the amount of driving, the Lovelygrey family go a little way to reducing the environmental impact of our stays.   We got away with buying just a tank and a half of diesel on our eleven day trip just a tad more that I'd normally be using for commuting and work travel.  The main way that we do this is by parking up, staying put once at a spot for a day or two and then using the bikes or Shank's pony to explore the surrounding area.  Here's the beautiful ruined Chapelle de Lanvoy that Louis and I came across on one of our cycling trips out of Le Faou in Finistere.

In the adjacent playground Louis met a Welsh girl who was on holiday at the home of her English grandparents who'd retired to the area.  As, retirement in France is not outside the realm of possibility I got onto the subject of the variation in house prices in the region.  The gentleman that I spoke to thought that this was largely due to the reluctance of the French to travel long distances to work.  He thought that about 20km was the absolute limit so there is a premium on properties near the large connurbations such as Brest and Concarneau but this rapidly diminishes further afield. I have to say that, if this is true, I'm 100% in support of my French brethren.

What occurs to me though is that even smallish towns seem to have large industrial areas and I wondered if there is a better manufacturing base in the country than in the UK that secures work for the local population reducing reliance on exports.  And naturally,  to help me mull over this my thoughts turned to drinks and crisps.

Now in Devon, we have excellent 'artisan' brands of beverages and nibbles. Burts produce fine crisps with the name of the fryer on each individual pack, there's a host of micro-breweries and excellent soft drinks producers such as Luscombes whose fine fiery ginger beer is a favourite tipple if I'm out and driving.  But all of these items command top notch prices and in Brittany production seems to be on a larger scale allowing lower cost local brands to  compete nearly on a par with  international brands.    Big bottles of Breizh Cola sit alongside Pepsi and Coke in the supermarkets and  cost just a few cents more.  Bret's crisps which are not promoted as a luxury brand are easily better than Walkers (or Lays for my American readership!).  In these times when there seems to be a general longing to rebuild community, surely encouragement of medium sized enterprises where a locality, rather than large corporate investors, benefit from the production of medium sized businesses is something to be encouraged.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

No Relish

Do you remember when I was showing off my beautiful bird cushion ? I mentioned that my next needlepoint project involved completing a half finished design that was put on hold when the wool when temporarily missing.  By temporary we're talking at least a couple of years!  Well, here it is back on the tapestry frame again and I've made a little bit of progress whilst I was in France.

The heron kit was ordered to take away with me on a past holiday but frustratingly, it didn't arrive prior to departure.  I love Ehrman kits and they often have special offers in the Sunday supplements which represent a significant discount on the full cost of the kits.  Their designs are contemporary and hold interest and they're generous with the amount of wool provided so you're free to choose a chunky stitch that covers each side of the canvas.  However,  I've found their delivery to be slow at times.  Perhaps they're waiting for the sheep to grow the wool

This flowery Anchor kit was a compromise emergency purchase.  There's only enough skeins to complete the canvas in half tent stitch which does not provide good coverage and the lack of contrast makes the piece quite difficult to work for a middle aged cronie with failing eyesight.   As predicted, I'm not tackling this project with relish and I think it's because I didn't fall head over heels with the canvas before buying it.  To enjoy stitching it seems that I need a plethora of colours and a something funkier.  A lesson learnt for when I buy kits in the future.

So, what to do?  I could give up and ditch the canvas.  Instead I'm planning to go at it guns a-blazing and sew at home as well as on holidays.   I'm sure I will be happy with the end product and there's another incentive that will spur me on.  There's a beautiful  Ehrman fish needlepoint in my craft room that was taken from a Roman Mosaic. Now  I'm dying to work on that one!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Rock Pools

Today I'm going to expand on why I think that rock pools are often such a disappointment.  They're way oversold by illustrators of children's books who show them to be densely populated micro-worlds stuffed to the gunalls with tiny brightly coloured fish, sea anemones, crustaceans and a myriad of shells. Take the little known but excellent By the Seashore by Maurice Pledger as an example.  In this beautiful touchy feeling book for pre-schoolers there's even treasure in each pool as well!  The reality is so often much different.  Most are inhabited merely with a solitary type of invasive seaweed and if you're very lucky when you lift it up you may just find a dead crab's claw or a solitary shrimp.

Finally, though on the Breton holiday, I found the pools that could well be the source of those fantastical paintings that accompany  fishy stories.  It felt like I might possibly be onto something different when we parked the motorhome at  the Aire de Camping Car at Kervel near Douarnenez where there was a spectacular view of a seemingly endless wide beach.  The bumps on the sand that I had first assumed were rocks turned out to be jellyfish the size of dustbin lids - I kid you not!   And the pools yielded a range of creatures that I've rarely spotted in the wild - hermit crabs, starfish and urchins to name a few. However, the most exciting were strange feisty creatures with a nasty nip that resembled a crab/scorpion/crayfish hybrid   This prime example was snapped by Mr Lovelygrey. Please can anyone identify it for me as I'd love to know if this is a creature that would be familiar to David Attenborough or whether I've discovered an entire new species of my own.  I'd also be interested to find out if it's something deadly poisonous and I had a lucky escape!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

It's the End of the World As We Know It

Now photos have been downloaded from Mr Lovelygrey's phone and are far more satisfactory than I thought they'd turn out given that the beep that signified that a shot was in focus was seldom heard.   So I can now share pictures from our travels in the land of Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite...or the independent Breton state depending on your political viewpoint.  Our journey this time took us to the westernmost point of mainland Europe, the Pointe de Raz in the evocatively named department of Finistere, the end of the world.  Here's my boys venturing out on their unsuccessful attempt at standing on the furthest rock.

For my motorhoming friends out there, I can disclose three spots that have not been mentioned in the hot off the press 'All the Aires' Third Edition .  You can actually stay at the Pointe de Raz itself but this comes at the heady price of 15 Euros.  However, a fellow cheapskate Brit that we met on our tour also pointed out that there is an aire at the nearby Pointe de Van which is free. There is also allocated parking at the Baie de Trepasses in the daytime only.

Seduced by the promise of solitude we stayed a few kilometres east of Lands End francais at Plogoff, a candidate for a new swear word if ever there was.  From there it was an easy cycle to the Pointe de Raz and coast path walking of the highest quality on the GR34 was within a ten minute stroll.  Even Louis who has known to grumble at the prospect of a walk didn't complain too much for an eight year old.  With such a dramatic setting you might understand why!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Thought for the Day: Do I Need A Camera?

I've felt a little smug when I've written before about the fact that I don't own a camera per se.  The last one came to a spectularly sticky end during a hairy balloon flight landing.  To say that we crashed would be an exaggeration but we did take branches off a tree on our approach and, after bumping to earth, skidded on the side of the basket for a good few hundred metres before coming to a halt.  My poor Nikon sustained an irrecoverable battering and I was left with strange wicker-like bruising on my legs as a souvenir for a few weeks afterwards.

Using my phone to take pictures normally appeals to my sense of simplicity and because I always have it on me I've got into the routine of being more 'snappy' than I've ever been before in my life.  I hadn't quite realised just how habitual photography has become until my phone refused to charge up after a day or in France after an unexplained rapid loss of battery power.   Others would find this a disasterous state of affairs because of the loss of contact with the outside world.  Not me, I'm happy to go missing, as it were, for a week or so but I have mourned the loss of my spontaneous ability to point and shoot at whim.

Although I did use Mr Lovelygrey's phone to take a few shots, posts about our eleven day wander around Western Brittany have been delayed until he's downloaded my photos.  I'm not sure these have turned out okay as I never got the hang of a fiddly auto-focus button. This sorry state of affairs has got me thinking about considering my own stand alone teeny camera.  After all, I'm now at a stage where I'd like to get a little more techinical with my composition and might value  a little more capacity to zoom, change field depth and such like.  On the downside there's one more thing to carry.  Hmm...I'm still trying to decide.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Back to Sea

Some girls get excited about shoes and bags but for me there's few things finer than receiving delivery of packs of sheet metal and wire!  There was an exemption clause in my 'buy no new craft materials' rule whereby I allowed myself to buy stuff for course related projects.  So whoopee! I spent a pleasant evening internet shopping and  the fruits of my labours:  fine silver sheet, brass rings, wire and, finally, copper clay.  This is a new medium for me to try that's a lot cheaper than its precious metal counterparts.

Lizzie's latest course is only five sessions long so I've got to look sharp this time.  No dawdling like I did on the last twenty week offering.  Then it seemed like I had all the time in the world, as the great Louis Armstrong sung, but ended up with a mad rush to come up with the goods in the last month.  This one will be over in the blink of an eye so I'm raring to go and make another sea themed creation incorporating different types of metal and for the first time, enamelling.  I've been inspired to try this by the work of others who've allowed me to look at this medium, which I used to think of as a bit fusty,  in a new light.  I've written about the work of Sarah Hemmings Vourda and Janine Partington recently but check out the zany stuff made by Joy Funnell too.  

So here's my inspiration for a pendants fit for salty seafarer!   I hope that my piece can be done and dusted in no time at all as I arrive home from my continental wanderings today. Considering there's a couple of new techniques that I want to try and I want to see if I'm up to making another piece that I think may have a chance of being displayed at Bovey Tracey's Contemporary Craft Fair in June  I'd best get cracking!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Just Finished Reading: The Other Hand

I finished this magical tome on my Southend-on-Sea getaway and have left it there for Mama Lovelygrey to read.  Some of the joy of reading books these days is passing them on rather than allowing them to clutter up shelves gathering dust, never to be read again.  The lack of the sharing part may be the reason that I just don't get what the Kindle could do for me but alas, I may have to forsake my Luddite tendencies if book publishing goes entirely e-based in the future.

The Other Hand (aka Little Bee for US readers) is a book about the friendship between two women  first meet under truly horrendous circumstances and then are reunited two years later.  I agree with the summary on its back cover which says something along the lines of 'this is a truly special story so it would be a shame to spoil it by giving away too much.'  It would be like telling someone who hadn't seen 'The Crying Game' what happens at the end of the film.

Okay, I'm not tarring all men with the same brush and saying that they all have the sensitivity of Jeremy Clarkson,  but again I was surprised me that Chris Cleave was a man, yet was so spot on in writing  an intuitive, beautifully crafted and sometimes funny novel from the perspective of a woman.  This is a bloke that's definitely in touch with his feminine side.  Happily his website has shown me that there's more reading matter to be enjoyed.  There's another full length story and two years worth of Guardian columns that have passed me by. 

I'll leave you today with just a snippet of this  beautiful work. The rusty cogs in my brain have re-visited my school grammar lesson and I think that this  fine example of a simile serves as a teeny tiny illustration of just why I loved this story so much.

'It was the month of May and there was warm sunshine dripping through the holes between the clouds. like the sky was a broken blue bowl and a child was trying to keep honey in it.'

Friday, 22 April 2011

Food Glorious Food

We've inherited a love of cooking and eating from each side of the Lovelygrey family.  Our mothers are both great cooks.  Thinking about Mama Lovelygrey's handmade pork pies or Nana Lovelygrey's beautiful homegrown fruit topped with light sponge is enough to make me feel hungry again, even after a four course meal!

Over the years we've altered the way that we've eat and the way that we shop for food has changed too.    I have to say that, in spite of Mr Lovelygrey's fondness for it, a weekly menu plan doesn't work particularly well for us as his spontaneous purchases of special offer items threw the system out of sync.  There's little waste now, give or take the odd bit of moldering fruit lurking in the bottom of the bowl.  Our outlay on groceries isn't excessive either.  I haven't totted it up, and must do so at sometime, but it's certainly way less than the figure of £136 average household weekly spend  that was cited in the Daily Telegraph last year.   The system we've devised seems to work for us and I hope that some of these tactics might might be helpful to try in homes where expenditure is high or food waste is a problem.

  • Our veg box, ordered most weeks and a couple of meat purchases form the basis of what we cook.  The meat is either bought from local butchers or is found in the reduced section of the chill cabinet at the Co-op.   The food we buy isn't exclusively local and organic but I am mindful of it's origins from all sorts of ethical and ecologicial perspectives.  However, this is  a bit of a minefield so I'll hold my hands up and say some dodgy stuff must get through at times.
  • Our store cupboard essentials  are kept stocked up. The usual things such as spices, bakery ingredients, oils, rice and pasta are in evidence but we've also found other foodstuffs that have become staples in recent times because of their ability to add something to lots of different meals.  Welcome to our home, smoked paprika, pearl barley and dried chorizo sausage!  
  • We buy the other bits and pieces that we need on an ongoing basis, say, an ingredient for a recipe that we fancy trying.  I'll pop into a shop at lunchtime or on the way somewhere.  This seems to use much less time in total  than  when we planned and carried a weekly shop.
  • There's nearly always cheese and bacon in the fridge and frozen peas and prawns in the freezer.
  • We often eat leftovers. This can either be the same meal again, for example, we'll  have multiple roast dinners from the same joint.  The meat is sliced and then put in the freezer ready for another day when it is 'resuscitated' in the steamer along with the vegetables.  At other times cooked ingredients are transformed to make another meal, bubble and squeak from leftover vegetables or a pie filled with the remains of a roast.
  • Food has become simpler - steamed and roasted vegetables, lots of soups to use up box contents and stews cooked at snails pace in the slow cooker or super speedily in the pressure cooker make the most of cheaper cuts of meat. 
  • Mr Lovelygrey makes bread.  Standard loaves are regularly produced in the breadmaker but then he treats us with other types on a less regular basis; sourdough, french sticks, indian flatbreads and gorgeous sea salted coated pretzels.  Once you've tasted home made pitta bread, simply make from a standard dough mix baked into flat shapes, there's no going back to the chemical tasting shop bought varieties.
  • Menus make a return when there we have guests.  Family Christmases need precision planning.  In this situation choosing recipes ahead does seem to prevent the fridge looking overstuffed after everyone's gone home.
  • Ready made food is kept to a minimum although we've some way to go with homemade biscuits, cakes and snacks.  I try to remember the 'value added cost' when someone else processes ingredients.  A recently prepared batch of eighteen sausage rolls made using half price puff pastry and farm assured sausages worked out at less than £1.50 in total.  There's the added bonus of being in more control of what goes into food prepared for the family and , of course the little disputed fact that  homemade tastes so much better too.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Favourite Frugal Museum

When Louis and I visit Southend-on-Sea we get a super-duper deal on trains to the Big Smoke.  The off peak return fare inclusive of a London Travelcard  which gives unlimited use of the tube and buses costs little more than £20 for us both and the ticket price stamped on Lou's child ticket is just £2. So, it seems that a day trip is even affordable if you've got a bigger family.  This may be worth investigating for others who live within spitting distance of our capital city or are visiting towns nearby.

Our favourite places to go  are the well known Science and Natural History Museums but everyone knows about them.  They are firmly imprinted on the tourist maps like Buck House, Madame Tussaud and the London Eye.  But the Bank of England Museum  is a lesser known attraction brought to my attention by a friend of mine whose husband works in the City.  Although it won't provide a day's worth of entertainment, it's near to other attractions (we combined it with the Museum of London on our recent visit) and it's so surprisinly child friendly that Louis asks for return visits.

This time round there was an Easter Egg Hunt  Quiz but there's always a safe breaking exercise and other interactive exhibits.  On our previous visit treasure chest making caught Louis' attention and he still owns his  glitzy creation and uses it for storing beads pilfered from my jewellery supplies. Because I've had my 'Mummy hat' on whenever I've gone there it's not really been possible to gauge what a visit would be like from an adult perspective. But I reckon that outside the school holidays it could be a rewarding place for grown-ups to while away an hour or so too.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

One for the Surfers

Nowadays I try to find pictures for my blogs which I've taken myself, have asked permission to use or from a source where the website owner makes them freely available.  But I've been naughty this time round because I did a search and just HAD to use this picture.  You're definitely seeing the darker side of Lovelygrey today!

Before kicking off today properly I thought I'd give you an  rather belated  update on 'wetsuit man' who I blogged about a couple of weeks ago.  He raised one pound short of £9,000 for Japanese Earthquake victims from his Ebay auction.  Check out his new website,  Bears Don't Wear Wetsuits  for more laughs from a very funny guy.

So we finally get to the point of this post which is not about bears but what might be described, by the coy, as sanitary protection.  I am a happy user of a  Mooncup  and indirectly this does have benefits for the surfing fraternity as. consequently I will never again  feel the need to flush anything down the loo apart from bodily waste and toilet paper.  'Surfers against Sewage' might well  applaud this and could consider stocking the deivce in its on-line shop.

I'm being super delicate with my language here to protect the sensitivities of my male readers!  And after all, my mum and dad read this so  I really don't want to be accused of providing close family members with too much information.  Just follow the link in the last paragraph for more detailed product information.   What I will say is that I've found the Mooncup comfortable to use, it paid for itself in about a year and makes a small contribution to the household waste going to landfill.  And ladies, if you're not persuaded, think of the surfers before disposing of tampons and sanitary towels down the loo.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Olden Days Bling

At this stressful time where our team have too much work and too little staff I'm going against the inner workaholic and treating lunchtime as sacrosanct.  It's one of the little things  that's helping me keep my cool and remain effective.  I'm trying to ring the changes and do different things. At around midday a few weeks ago, I was passing  Dartington Cider Press  where there are a number of 'boutique' shops.  I decided to drop in to 'snap' the daffodils that had caught my eye on my journey to work.  These have already been featured in a previous post.

Now this is a dangerous place with shops full of artisan produced objects Thankfully willpower was on my side that day and my purse remained snapped shut. But just a teeny weeny bit of auto-suggestion might have been enough to buy a piece of this jewellery produced by the Roman Glass Company which couples finds from archeological digs with contemporary settings to brilliant effect. Now, I've a feeling that some might frown on using 'little bits of history' like this, but I think it's a great way of showing off the craftsmanship of our ancestors. After all, what would happen to these glass fragments otherwise. After all, even though they're around two thousand years old they have little extrinsic value and would probably end up mouldering in a dusty specimen drawer, never to be individually admired again.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Days out in Devon: Haldon Forest Park Revisited

Mr Lovelygrey and I have very different takes on Haldon Forest Park.  He views it as hell on earth whereas I always enjoy my visits.  For him, a walk is only pleasant if he sees nobody else on the entire trip. Haldon used to provide this type of experience until it was turned into a kind of open air activity zone, teaming with families and other groups, especially on sunny weekends.  It's how I imagine a giant Centre Parcs would be, although  without the water attractions and the chalets dotted through the woods.

In need of exercise the other day I decided to kill two birds with one stone, visiting the CCANW and taking Louis for a walk on the Children's Trail.   Much to my dismay Mr Lovelygrey decided he'd come too.  Every so often he likes to remind himself of just how dreadful he now finds the park and I anticipated he'd spend the whole timing moaning and harping on about the good old days.

Except it didn't turn out like that.  We discovered the sparsely populated tree trail which steered us away from the hordes thronging around the playground and the cafe.  Instead we enjoyed a peaceful walk through beautiful woodland with delightful rest stops like this on the way. The silence was only broken by the incessant chatter of a dinosaur obsessed eight year old who was certain that he could see baby brontosauri grazing between the trees.

I'm pleased that our walk turned out to be the success it did and proved that you don't have to venture to far off the much frequented track to find one less travelled. I'll vouch for the fact that, as Robert Frost said, it makes all the difference!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Chew Chew

It's fessing up time today about a sweetie habit that occasionally gets out of control.  I'm a bit of a sucker for the tough jelly-like Haribo sweets or any other brand that can come up with similar offering that share a passing resemblence.  The fizzier they are, the greater their appeal and I can knock through a packet in no time at all.  There are, of course, more obvious downsides to this habit than you can write on the back of a fag packet - blah! blah! blah! blah!, so I won't bore you here or subject myself to the swathes of guilt that thinking about this indulgence brings.

Sometimes at times of stress it's a tough one to crack.  Like any addict I can come up with some wonderful excuses to get my hands on my own particular brand of 'poison'.  The best ever has been convincing myself that I was only buying a bag of Fantasy Mix because I was going to take silicon moulds of the jelly animals to make into kiddies jewellery.  Yeah right!  But I think I've cracked it now and for the time-being have replaced one habit with a less harmful one.

Sugar free gum is now my preferred chew of choice.  Far less calorific and much better for the teeth than sweetie treats.  If only they'd come up with a Tangfastic version!  I just have to remember to remove it before I visit people as I recall being taught as a student that chewing doesn't create a professional image.  There's only one other downside as far as I can tell  that might mean that I'll have to find a brand new replacement soon.  I thought that it was my imagination but check out this website to find out a) what my hunch was and b) that in fact it might be true!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Just Finished Reading: Juliet Naked

Juliet, Nakedis one of the offerings that I picked up on my recent trip to Wells. It came from the British Heart Foundation  and it sports a sticker say 'Read it and then please bring it back for others to enjoy'.  My copy may not make it back to that  particular charity's shop but has now started a mini adventure of its own.  It will being enjoyed by my friends and will be passed onto Scary Secretary this morning as she's always first in line.  Then after other visits to homes around the West Country it will reach the final stage of its journey with me on the bookstand in the waiting room of the hospital where I work. How's that for grand scale recycling?

I was pleased to find a Nick Hornby book that I hadn't read.  There's only one more and I've  placed a reservation at the library and as you read this Slam is on holiday in the motorhome enjoying French life in a way that only a paperback can! Mr. Lovelygrey has enjoyed this author in the past but only when he writes about boy things like football and music.  He's not so keen when he ventures in the field of human relationships and I think I understand why.

For me, this writing is akin to good chick-lit but without the bits that I find tedious - endless cooing over expensive shoes and handbags that I just don't get.  And Mr Lovelygrey, unsurprisingly doesn't 'do' girlie books.  Nick Hornby is really rather astute at seeing things from a female perspective.  High praise indeed for a bloke and a book which is funny, sensitive and, at times touching.  So enjoy, Scary Secretary et al.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Off Target

Unlike Mr Lovelygrey I am not a kleptomaniac.  Goodness knows why we still have an old window from the  motorhome and collection of defunct lightbulbs and electric plugs cut from old appliances lying stored around the house.  In fact I'm quite the opposite and somethings I declutter and throw away items that should really be kept.  That unrecognisable thingummygig I found in the car that was hoiked in the bin turned out to be just the thing they needed at Kwik-fit to remove my alloy wheel.

Last August, I wrote spare pair of knickers and a laptop after successfully getting rid of 100 of my possessions that would be useful to others.  I didn't cheat by throwing all Louis' toys away or counting empty milk cartons as objects of desire.  In the spirit of simplification I decided to set myself the same challenge but have fallen woefully short of target.  Although I've scoured the depths of cupboards and other obscure hiding places I've only come up with seventy things this time.  A pile of novels has already been put on the shelves in the waiting room of the hospital where I work to be sold in aid of the 'Friends of..' kitty.    The rest of the things, other books, clothes, kitchen items and the old knick-knack and picuture or two are destined for a local charity shop.

So why was I so far off mark this time?  Well, it's not all bad news.  By being ruthless in the past I'm gradually getting to the stage where the things that I own are not losing their appeal so quickly.  Sure, there will sometimes be the occasional wardrobe mistake or other misbuy but these are getting rarer and rarer.  And I'll never get down to not having to declutter at all as most books have a limited stay in our house.

In six months time I'll carry out the same exercise again reducing my target to say, fifty things.  I'm curious to discover if this challenge becomes harder or because of a change in perspective seems like a breeze!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Les Sabres Luminieres de Bonhommie!

We're busy little travellers at the moment, this time with Mr Lovelygrey in tow.  After our jaunt to the Essex coast. by the time you read this we'll be  in France, probably still snoozing at one of the 'aire de camping cars' at Pol de Leon, just a stone's throw from the ferry port at Roscoff.  Prior to our departure the usual packing had to be done. Clothes, bike bits and bobs, British tea, a new needlepoint and all that a small boy of eight 'needs' on his travels have gone into a van. There's a zooful of soft toys, 'clothie' and a small clutch of Star Wars merchandise. This essential weaponry ensures that Louis makes friends wherever he goes, even though he doesn't speak their lingo and doesn't like that other universal icebreaker - football!

Here's how it's done. As we park up in a spot where there's other children around, Louis ventures out of the motorhome with a fistful of light sabres and displays his wares. Within no time at all, kids are vying with each other for temporary possession of one and the chance to take part in their own multi-national Jedi battles. Voila!

So I'm having a break from blogging but as usual I've been super keen and scheduled daily posts ahead. Lets hope everyone finds something to tickle their fancy whilst I'm away!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

East Anglian Dating Opportunity!

Unbeknown to you all, I've been away for a few days with Louis, back to my childhood hometown of Southend-on-Sea to see Mama and Papa Lovelygrey and catch up with my siblings.  I delayed posting about the trip because I couldn't upload photos from my camera phone onto the desktop computer at my parent's house and I'm too much of a cheapskate use my pay as you go minutes to do this  wirelessly!

In my late teens I thought that the town was a dump and I couldn't wait to get away.  Yet, each time I go back I enjoy myself more and am endlessly surprised by just how cosmopolitan the place is now.  If you find yourself in the vicinity of the town it's now definitely  worth a visit.  There's lovely little bars, cafes and restaurants in the back streets of the town centre and along the seafront, ideal places to hang out, once I'd got over the shock of discovering that the going rate for a cup of coffee these days seems to be around the £2 mark.  Still I was on holiday and didn't have my flask so a couple of places got my patronage.  The picture above shows Ocean Beach, a fine place to hang out and watch Louis and his friend playing on the beach. Paying a couple of quid for the privilege of sitting in the incredible rococo-esque themed Bacchus  in Alexandra Road with its 'Sistine Chapel'  ceiling was also money well spent.

And so after forty two days of Lenten abstinence I shared a highly enjoyable jar or two (or three!) with my lovely bro' Paul. We  laughed, analysed his inability to produce happy, fluffly art and  put the world to rights.  And if anyone's interested he's 44, single and lives in Norfolk!

What have I gained from this time of self denial?  Well, certainly not body weight, I've dropped half a stone.  The challenge of going without has been easier on this, the second time around and I'm hoping that I've finally banished that regular after work 'needing a drink' feeling and can instead save alcohol for special occasions.

PS:  Dear Paul, sorry this was the best photo that I took due to poor light conditions and camera skills due to probably.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Getting Rid of Stig(ma)!

My choice of  title today is so toe-curlingly awful that I'm truly proud!  Even though I'm now waiting for my new motor, this post has nothing with my choice of an economical diesel which would, no doubt, have the gas guzzling Jeremy Clarkson voicing contempt at his shoutiest pitch.  

No, this post was prompted by something that I heard on Radio 4's 'Today' programme the other week about a scheme in Norfolk where people with pre-diabetes participate in a group run by volunteer mentors who have the Type II version of the illness.  It's believed that this approach will be more effective in preventing the condition than sessions run by the nagging army of health professionals in the NHS.

The problem is that some of the advice that we give out seems so straightforward on paper. 'Drink two litres of water a day' we might say to an elderly person who views the giant bottle used as a prop with trepidation.  Their existing number of visits to the loo with limited mobility already seems a  feat of endurance in its own right.  'Give up food containing gluten' the coeliac is advised.  Easy-peasy until they realise that the stuff is a hidden ingredient in half the things in the supermarket.  'Exercise for at least half an hour five times a week'. It seems simple to achieve for the  sprightly young health worker with few responsibilities but not so easy for working mums with school age children.

I often share the fact that I suffer depression with the people that I see in my role in mental health practice and get a good reception as a consequence of doing this.   Let me hasten to add that I don't harp on about the dreadfulness of my sufferings.  This would  be self indulgent and unhelpful.  But what I do try to do is firstly, offer myself as a role model to demonstrate that it is possible to live well with this illness.  'What you, pink coated lady?  But you are so happy!'  The other thing I do is relate my experience of  just how hard it can be to 'make yourself' do some of the things that are known to be beneficial but seem so simple to those who've never experienced for themselves just how debilitating this illness can be.  Getting up, finding things to be happy about, exercising, doing pleasurable things really can be easier said than done but 'bossy nurse' might not appreciate the magnitude of what she is asking.

So, I applaud the scheme in Norwich and anticipate that it will yield benefits.  And maybe if it does work this type of approach can be expanded to prevent and help people live well with a range of other health conditions.  After all, they're the experts.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Potty About Pots

As childess individuals and keen gardeners Snobby Friend and Mr Metrosexual have great swathes of cash spare that they're willing to spend on outdoor ornamentation and exotica from the plant world.  One of their favourite lunch spots is  Avon Mills  near Loddiswell.  From the website I see that the 'Independent' newspaper  rates this garden centre quite highly too.  There, my friends often multi-task, first snatching a bite in the cafe and then egg each other to spend lots of money to adorn their own miniature versions of Eden.

They've been so ecstatic about these slate pots that I decided to join them the other day on a midday jaunt and see these fantastical objects for myself.  After all, they're now half price and I thought from the rave reviews that I was receiving that they might  have a potential use in my forthcoming gardening project.  So armed with a credit card  and fortified with macaroni cheese from the cafe I headed out into the sales areas to behold these things of beauty that I would not be able to resist.

But I was a little disappointed on two counts.  The picture in my mind was of  containers with a smoother polished finish.  These have a pleasant but  subdued hue. although I'm told that they glisten beautifully when wet.  I'd also imagined that they'd be something that were made using a technique which I could replicate myself whereas in fact I think that I'd be able to build customised and, indeed, glossier versions myself.   Isn't it funny when you've built something up differently in your mind and the reality turns out to be different?   So my purse remained firmly shut and instead of coming away, like Mr Metrosexual, with a car struggling up the hills with its bootload of pots, I've just come away with photos that provide yet more inspiration for future crafting projects.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Made in Dagenham

I'm getting excited as it's ever nearer the time when my trusty Skoda Fabia is replaced with a new NHS lease car.  The quotes for the monthly fee that I'll have to pay for a replacement car have now come through and yes, I'm being loyal to the county that brought me up.  Even though  Ford no longer assemble cars in Dagenham they still employ 4,000 people at the plant there.  So, it is with pride that this Essex girl, albeit without the orange tan and hair extensions,  has plumped for the  Ford Fiesta Econetic.

This choice of vehicle meets the criteria of providing me with a virtual raise, not to be sniffed at a time when public sector pay has been frozen.  Ford do good deals on corporate leasing, my taxable benefit in kind for a greener car is less and I reckon I'll need a third less fuel.  A 'back on the envelope' calculation suggests that I'll save nearly £100 a month which I reckon equates to a pay rise of about £1,500!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

A Prickly Task

The title today has been on my 'Coming Shortly' for an eternity now.  Some of the others have been there a time too.   Often I'm not being procrastinatory when there's a delay between an idea  for a post and its execution but I come across real obstacles.  Take 'Yum Snails' as an example.  It will follow when I actually find some molluscs in the neighbourhood to purge and cook with garlic butter.    However, they must have got wind of my plans because there's none around here.  Only their shell-less cousins remain.  I seem to recall that Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall tried a culinary experiment with slugs and it wasn't too successful.

This one's about repotting cacti and there's been a delay in tackling this task for two reasons.  Firstly I'm a coward and don't particularly relish the pain of being impaled by a myriad of tricky-to-remove spines.   Therefore I've been a bit wary of handling these vicious desert dwellers.  The second is that I haven't found any containers that I've liked, at least not within my budget range.

But I've been mulling over these problems on my drives between appointments and finally, finally have found solutions to them both.  To protect life and limb whilst I do the job I  came up with the idea of wrestling the plant onto its side and encasing it plant in loads and loads of bubble wrap.  And the pots....well I've had a word with my friendly workplace chef who's now the supplier of a seemngly endless supply of catering sized tins.  I think these unadorned shiny containers look great but also have lots of ideas for embellishment.  And their teeny tiny brothers take their place in the old ceramic planters.  Great recycling all round!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Lovelygrey's Guide to Successful Bad Parenting: Volume Three - Sneakiness

This is Louis.  Butter wouldn't melt ....yeah?  But under that angelic face he can sometimes be a bit of a handful.  After all, he's a normal exuberant eight year old boy.

There have been a few minor hiccups at school recently which are hopefully in the process of being ironed out.  As an only child Louis isn't exposed to the devilment of siblings and finds it hard to deal with other kids being verbally mean to him.  Because of this he's been caught metering  out physical retribution whilst his tormentors get away scot free.  'Good for him' some might say. 'He's standing up for himself'.  Well, I'm sitting on the fence here, completely undecided.  One of the reasons is that he's REALLY bad at being bad,  lacking the ability to be devious.  As such the odds of getting away with being naughty are stacked against him. 

Recently I've felt, on a number of occasions, that it would be useful, as a bad parent, to highlight this major skill deficit so he can take steps to address it.   Take for example the time recently, when he'd 'stolen' sweets from his tin and was  trying not to be discovered eating them in the car. Tell tale rustling and chomping noises were a huge giveaway.  Forbidden visits to my toolbox would go unnoticed were it not for the fact that he'll leave the contents all over the floor.  And the need to share yesterday's most woefully pitiful attempt ever to cover his tracks has overwhelmed me

Louis had been sent for his pre bedtime shower but after ten minutes I noticed that the sounds of activity were absent and was not surprised to find him in the bathroom still dressed in school uniform.  'It's okay Mummy, it's because I've been having a poo' he said, pointing in evidence to the, as yet, unflushed toilet.  Noticing the lack of 'solid matter' I pointed out, quite reasonably, that I felt that he was lying to me.  However, he was adamant in his protestations, totalling forgetting that for his attempts to cover his track to be plausible, they need to follow the rules of science.  'I have flushed the toilet Mummy', he explained 'But the water only got rid of the poo and left the wee behind!'

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Sssshhhh! (Part 3)

This is the final offering in my series of posts that have followed last weekend's silent retreat.  I realise that I could well be accused of contemplating my own navel so went online to search out a natty picture to illustrate the point.  This one from the Hip Forums  was too good to miss and also ties in nicely with my observations about the extraordinary prevalence of tattooed Buddhists.

I've been meditating on and off for a good five years and applying the principles of mindfulness, a focus on the here and now in my everyday life.    For the last six months I've got out of the swing of sitting daily and using my breath to anchor me into the present moment.  So it seemed that time away to intensely practice was a good way of reestablishing a beneficial habit.  Today, I'd thought I'd share why it's  been so useful, to this noisy, wine swilling, appreciator of the male form with a dirty sense of humour.

  • I've learnt to tune in to negative emotions that I'm experiencing and differentiate between say, discontentment, anxiety or anger.  Once I've worked out what I'm feeling it seems easy to delve a bit more,  discover the cause of what's irking me and do something about it.
  • Cravings can be overcome sometimes as they're just feelings.  
  • The concepts of impermanence and change have become really important.  I have an appreciation that unpleasant feelings aren't going to last forever.  
  • Similarly it's just not possible to always be in Yellowstone, France or at a Leonard Cohen concert!  I appreciate the good times when they're around but don't get bogged down in wishing for them back at other times. 
  • I've got a better appreciation of what is within my control and the things that I can do nothing about.  This is particularly helpful in a stressful workplace environment.
  • I'm more likely to notice the simple pleasures in life that often pass fleetingly quickly.
  • Excessive baguette eating on one of our French trips caused a bout of tummy spasms that were on a par with being in labour! It was then I discovered that I had a better ability to 'ride' physical pain.  Again this is linked to the idea of impermanence too.    A learning experience, yes, but one which I don't want to repeat. I've cut down on boulangerie visits since then.
  • Dips in my ability to concentrate  are associated with low mood and leave me susceptible to relapsing into depression.  I notice these much earlier now and can do something about them before they get to meltdown stage.
  • And slowly slowly by gaining a realisation of my own inner self I'm becoming more empathic with the experience of others.  How deep is that! 
For more information this BeMindful website seems like a good start if I've not scared you off.  I've said enough for now on this topic  but beware....I'm back on the hamster wheel of daily meditation practice and could have more 'wise thoughts' to share in the not too distant  future!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Sssshhhh! (Part 2)

Yesterday's post got the 'funnies' out of my head so today it's onto the practicalities of adhering to silent meditation for two and a bit days. Doing this might be viewed as a strange pursuit  for someone that rather well-known for their exuberance and noisiness so I'll try to explain what  someone of my disposition got out of the experience.

Going on retreat isn't entirely new to me as I've been on two previous occasions  .  On those earlier ones there were occasionally  times when I had to shut up but didn't have to sustain this self-enforced lack of communication over any length of time.  But during the second one we were silent for a whole afternoon and this whetted my appetite for keeping schtum for longer.

I chose to go to Gaia House mainly for the deep and meaningful reason that it's near my home - so close, as already mentioned, that I nearly arrived back at Lovelygrey Villas when I got lost!  Alright, I'll confess that it's not quite the whole picture.  The centre's also got  a good reputation which unsurprisingly, as a discerning human being, I took into consideration too.   I chose my particular retreat  as it emphasised silent practice and also because the leaders, Noah Levine and Vinny Ferraro, didn't look at all like conventional authoritarian teacher types.    In the flesh they reminded me of the Hairy Bikers, except they didn't have much hair on top...oh! and they were American...and they didn't cook....and I'm not sure that they rode motorbikes either.  Well, perhaps they weren't like Si and Dave at all  but I hope you've now got the idea that they didn't come out of the traditional white robed monk mould. 
Now others who'd been on silent retreats themselves laid emphasis on the emotional challenge that they expected me to face.  'A long weekend? Well, that's enough for all sorts of issues to come to the surface'.  No wonder I went into the place with a sense of foreboding.  But I came out after summarising my experience with the world 'happiness'. It wasn't as if the break provided something akin to a relaxing spa retreat.  I shared a sparse room, ate a simple diet, commited to an hour of daily work and did not even have my usual distractions of a pile of books and some craft materials.   Although sitting meditation sounds like a bit of a slacker's dream it was actually a physically gruelling experience.   And at the end of the day,  I didn't even come anywhere close to a mystical experience that might have been seen as  adequate compensation for the joint and muscle pain and  lack of luxury. 

Others on the course however seemed to find the retreat emotionally challenging.  Particularly when the teachers talked about fostering  kindness towards ourselves and others, there was a bit of sobbing and the number of  notes for Vinny and Noah that were posted on the noticeboard seemed to explode exponentially.  Cries for help I wondered?  Yet, I did not find the topic upsetting but found joy in the fact that I've already gone some way in learning not be self critical and  hey! it seemed to be working.  I found that I already had enough self love to accept my imperfect wandering mind. 

I shared this with Noah in my only chance to talk during the retreat,  a group interview with some of the other participants.  He felt that perhaps I was now being too easy on myself and  helpfully  likened meditation practice to a lute that  constantly needs retuning.   It doesn't only sound dreadful when its strings are too tight,  but they could be too loose instead.  So, I tried a little harder and hey, I think I've got a teensy weensy bit better at focusing on the moment.  No deeply meaningful technique, I've just found that counting repeatedly from one to five helps me sustain concentration for a little longer before my 'monkey mind' wandered off yet again and pondered deep and meaningful questions like what was the link between Buddhism and a love of tattoos!  And for those amongst my friends who doubted my ability to keep my mouth shut for more than five minutes without the use of jawbreaker toffee, I laugh in your faces, ha! You will be truly astonished to discover that I found the silence and near absence of non verbal communication intensely liberating with no need to expend effort on explaining myself, coming up with clever quips or expressing my wants or needs!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Sssshhhh! (Part 1)

Only one post about my weekend silent meditation retreat was planned but yay!  Just when I thought the creative juices were running dry my stay at Gaia House has yielded enough material to stretch to at least three pieces to inspire and entertain.  I nearly didn't get there though.  Although the centre is only  five miles from home, an easy detour on the journey from work,  I got hopelessly lost in the narrow country lanes, even at one point ending up  in the village neighbouring my own.  I almost  took this as a sign that I was supposed to jack in the whole idea and celebrate my birthday in a more conventional manner involving wine and chocolate rather than being a yogi for the weekend.

Entertainment is certainly the flavour of the day because I've decided to share those not so 'spiritual moments' that the experience brought, those times when instead of directing my full attention on the present, other thoughts came to the forefront of my mind and were  maybe allowed to linger a little longer than they should have.

  • 'I bet the farmers round here love this place.' I thought as fellow retreatants practised their slow walking meditation in the garden in full view of the road swathed in colourful blankets. 'They're sitting in the pub at Denbury saying  'they're all weirdos up there.  I've seen them outside and they've turned them into zombies'.'
  • 'Pleeease, just stay away from the road!'  My inner response to yet more strange goings on in the garden.
  • 'This is good', I thought whilst tears were streaming down my face as I sat 'meditating' just after my work period in the kitchen. 'Other people are going to think I'm having a deeply emotional mystic experience'.  The reality was otherwise.  I'd just peeled enough onions to make soup to feed the whole population of France for an entire year.
  • Another veggie chopping related thought 'Where have they all bloody gone?'  Delicious roasted carrots coated in honey came in a small dish  at lunchtime with a sign saying 'Moderate Portions Please'.  Yet I'd cut up a field full of the things.
  • 'Wow! that's the second time I've broken wind during walking meditation just as I'm passing another 'yogi?'
  • 'Hey I could run this place better than these dudes. It would have a swimming pool and the kitchen would make use of local cheese.'
  • 'Okay I know stuff is communal here but who's stolen my mug/that nice IKEA chair in the lounge that overlooks the big tree/my favourite bathroom?'.
  • Our teacher advocated the use of a chair instead for those of us who needed to build structures on the floor that looked like thrones.'What a good idea!' I thought, heading to the zafu cupboard and taking four extra cushions.
  • Why don't I use this period of sitting practice to come up with a cushion design that never gets uncomfortable!
  • 'Now that's way more interesting than keeping my eyes closed!'  The fit bloke in front of me got too hot and exposed a muscly back whilst removing his jumper.  Surely that doesn't come under the category of lustful thinking that the teacher mentioned but is merely a display of the  highly developed sensitivity of an aesthete!
And my best and most enlightened thought of all came to me late one evening during sitting meditation. I was tired, my body ached and I just wanted to go to bed.

'Just ring the f******* bell, you Sadist!'

Monday, 4 April 2011

Just Finished Reading: Brick Lane

I've got a bit annoyed with Amazon Affiliates in the process of writing this post.  I use them to get images for books that I review.  Supposedly if anyone ever clicked through on a link and bought something I'd get some money but it's never happened.  Today I only seem to be able to download an image of this book if it is displayed with Amazon advertising so I've had to resort to Google images for a picture of this dustcover instead.  Little things sent to try us eh?  Anyway if you ever want to donate towards keeping Lovelygrey living in the manner that she deserves(!) instead of buying a book from a charity shop or borrowing it from a friend or the library, just click on the link in the text instead to buy the book. It's never happened yet so it looks like I'm going to have to find another way to make my fortune!

Brick Lane (yes, it's one of those links!)served as a reminder that my own lifestyle in Britain is in no way typical of the way that many of my fellow citizens live. It tells the story of an immigrant's life in the East End of London after a move from Bangladesh for her arranged marriage.  It's an area of the country most of my immediate family know well. Nearby is where my father was brought up, my brother worked in a big artshop and Mr Lovelygrey ate in the restaurants in the vicinity when he lived in London.  Yet it's somewhere that I've never been and is such a different cultural landscape to rural Devon.  It's good to keep in mind that the experience of others can be so different from our own.

I loved this book.  It offered wonderful characterisation, a gripping story and acute observations about life and love.   Now I'm just left pondering about whether to catch the film.  Will it transport me back to the story that I've just read or leave me puzzled and disappointed?

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Hard as Nails

Slowly, slowly I'm changing my mind about wanting to use enamel on some of the pieces of jewellery that I make.  In the past it's been a definite no-no but seeing how other craftspeople are employing it to good effect on their own work is helping me to think afresh about acquiring the skill to decorate pieces with hardwearing coloured glass.

In a previous blog I admired the work of Sarah Hemmings Vourda.  Today, it's the turn of Janine Partington., who I discovered on my recent visit to the Devon Guild of Craftsmen.  She had two displays in the shop,  a glorious collection of jewellery in clean colours and larger wall plaques.   I loved the contrast between the coloured glass coating and copper on these. The results are much fresher and brighter than I'd previously believed that using this medium could acheive.

My kiln, that I bought last year because it was a bargain and I've always wanted one, has yet to be used.  In truth, I'm a little scared of it.  But these pieces might have given me just the push I need to bite the bullet and ramp up the heat of the big frightening hot things that's languishing in the garage!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Grey Pride!

I went to see a man the other week with memory problems who'd previously been assessed by another member of our team.  'A different blonde lady came to see us last time,' said his wife.  'But I'm not blonde I'm grey'  I replied.    At this she remonstrated with me in a kindly fashion.  'Nooo!  Don't say that, you're ash.'

'ASH!  That stuff that caused a hell of a problem when it bellowed out of that volcano last year.  The cheek of it.  I'm grey and proud! Come outside and let's sort this out woman to woman!'  I replied.  At least I did in my head.  For after all I'm a professional and punching a carer's lights out does not bode well for the therapeutic relationship.  Especially if the person meant well.  Instead I masked my outrage and could have won an Oscar my portrayal of a healing angel who's thoughts ne'er stray from the pure and compassionate.

Okay I jest.  My emotional response wasn't quite this extreme but exaggeration makes good press! However, this  lovely lady's reaction did stop me in my tracks and got me thinking.  I wrote about being grey  in the early days of blogging and  talked about my belief that attitudes to leaving hair colour 'au naturel' are gradually changing .  But perhaps there's still some way to go before the undyed look, especially for us younger 'greyanistas', gains ground and becomes an commonly chosen alternative to using colourants.

So I feel that now is the time to stress again that I've never been unhappy with my decision to become a premature silver surfer.   I get loads of positive comments about my hair colour, have saved a fortune to boot and no longer have niggling worries about what the long term effect of shoving loads of dodgy chemicals on my scalp might be.  With this in mind, I'd urge anybody who's thinking of taking the plunge to give it a try.  The transition can be made, as I did, by a super short cut or if you're not that brave see your hairdresser and spend your final pennies on colouring to achieve a more gradual change.

Friday, 1 April 2011

One Step Beyond

Who amongst the ageing youngsters of the same generation can forget the 'Heavy Heavy Monster Sound' of Madness! Their songs from the 1980s were part of the soundtrack to our younger lives!

I've had to get considerably more than 'One Step Beyond' in preparation for today.  After work I detour on my way home and head off instead for a three day silent meditation retreat. I've prepared ahead of time to keep my daily blogs on track whilst I'm away.  Continuing to tap away at a keyboard during my period of tranquility would not be an appropriate way of spending my time.  Nor, so I see, from the information page on the Gaia House website is juggling or acrobatics.  I kid you not!

Now,  I'm a noisy blighter so some people have been a tad surprised that I'm choosing to spend time this way, especially when the fact that it's my birthday today comes into the equation.  I appreciate  that  might be viewed as rather  an unusual thing to do on this special day but I've been wanting to go on a silent retreat for some time so why not now?  It also steers me away from the temptation of breaking my lenten fast and toasting the passing of years with something red, white or rose.   Concerns have been expressed about what others might expect on my 'release'.  Could I turn out more chatty than normal or have withdraw completely into my shell?  Be very scared Monday night jewellery pals.  You'll be the first to experience what could be the new me!