Sunday, 31 July 2011

Snog, Marry, Avoid at all Costs

Ironing - my least favourite household chore ever!  Now I know some of you get out of it altogether by buying non crease clothing or doing some sort of magic wrinkle-smoothing when hanging things out to dry.  But it  just doesn't work for me.  I still end up with a pile of stuff to plough through each week.

But I have worked out a couple of ways to make this task a bit more bearable.  Firstly, I sit down on the edge of the bed whilst doing it.   Less energy is expended throughout and at the end of the job, clothes can be put away into nearby wardrobes and don't have to be lugged half way around the house.

And I now watch programmes on the i-Player whilst trawling through the laundry basket.  Not the usual stuff that I constitutes family viewing in the Lovelygrey Family.  No, I try things that would be pooh-poohed by the boys as girly nonsense.   All of 'Big Fat Gypsy Wedding' was there at Channel 4 for my viewing pleasure and a very interesting cultural revelation it was too. I've also trawled through many back episodes of 'Flog It' ,featuring  Paul Martin, that soft spoken sex symbol of the granny world.   This habit has made a once onerous job quite pleasant and I now actually  look forward to sitting down to a dose of personally chosen entertainment.

But I've decided that  'Snog Marry Avoid'  is just too light and flimsy even for my undemanding taste in ironing TV to tolerate.  In case you haven't watched it, I'll summarise the show.  Two women who  dress in weird 'barely there' clothing with lots of slap are made to look elegant and chic.   Blokes in the street vote whether they'd, you've guessed it, snog, marry or avoid them before and after the makeover process.   The women are  then visited again by the production team a  couple of weeks later and guess what?  Invariably it seems that they've returned to their former look as they feel that this better reflects their personality.   All this, is interspersed by beauty tips, of  which this was my personal favourite.

Don't use white sheets as they will get stained by your fake tan.

Enough said.  I'll be returning  to back episodes of 'Bargain Hunt' for  next week's viewing!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Tat Among the Pigeons

It was a monumental day for me yesterday.  I gave up trying to be super organised and did nothing on my myriad of 'To Do' lists.  Yes, that's right, a big fat wobbly zero.   I didn't phone the dentist, dust the living room or go for a walk  Not only did I not tick anything off as completed,  I feel absolutely great about it!   After just over two weeks of being signed off with depression, perhaps I've hit on something that can help me restore some balance into my life.  Perhaps I need to chill a bit more and relinquish some of that obsessive sense of needing to hyper manage my time. 

So, what did I do instead?  Well, after dropping Louis off at holiday club,  which I'd thankfully booked before going off sick,  I settled down with a nice cup of tea and YouTube to watch all three parts of  the episode of Rab C Nesbitt where he and Jamesie leave Glasgow and come on pilgrimage to these parts where their favourite tipple is brewed.  Thanks so much  Dan at frogsdogs&ferns  for reminding me about how much I loved this show when commenting on  one of my posts about Buckfast Abbey.  I need laughter therapy at the moment and this worked an absolute treat!  In case anyone from foreign climes decides to give this vintage British comedy programme a go, let me reassure you that us Southerners don't understand half of what anyone with a  thick Glaswegian accents says either.  A Scottish holidaymaker had to repeat himself three times before I got the gist of what he was trying to convey.  He'd thought I'd left my car lights on but it was merely the Fiesta showing off one of its clever electronic tricks when I locked the door.

Chortling must have sapped my energy and the fatigue set in.  At only ten in the morning for goodness sake!  I'm trying to avoid going back to bed the moment that tiredness takes over so I tried to do a bit of jewellery making.  But my faculties of concentration weren't up to it. Instead I decided to sort all the scrap lots that I'd bought from Ebay and  thankfully that did the trick.  I got so engaged in the task that I lost track of time.

Here is the reason for my horribly bad pun.  The pigeons  I allude to aren't those scruffy ones that you see with bits of leg missing in our city centres.  No, they're the plump, luscious ones found in the country that can be admired or eaten with relish, depending on your philosophy in life.  My metaphorical pigeons are those pieces of jewellery that are going to be useful, either to sell in their own right, or to repair or recycle into something new.

And here's what's left.  Everything I thought could no longer  be used.  From the bottom, going clockwise, we'll start with  pile number one which really truly is a bunch of tat.  I've salvaged all the crystals, findings and beads that might possibly have some use from this lot.  I confess that there are still a few bits and pieces that are, in theory, wearable but all humankind, who have just the minutest modicum of taste, should be saved from their quite unbelievable nastiness.  I shudder to think about the state of mind of the poor people who designed them in the first place.

Pile number two comprises of stuff that's not going to make me my fortune but might bring in a few bob or two for the charity shop after the kids have taken their pick.  And number three?  Well, that's an interesting one.  It's a selection of odd earrings that, at first thought, I viewed as having no further use.  But they're pretty in their own right and, with a bit of imagination, and help from the Internet, they show potential for being  transformed into something new and fantastical - when the mood takes me.

Friday, 29 July 2011

A Quick Pint and a Bursa Kebab?

No! No! No!  The kebabs that I am referring to here are lovingly produced in the Lovelygrey kitchen from new season's lamb steak albeit bought at a knock down price in the Co-op's reduced section.  They're  not the dubiously processed versions, found in some fast food outlets, that seem to be a magnet for those who've been out with their mates and had a few too many sherberts.  Many of us have done it and it's nasty.

These are a variant on the type of skewered kebabs made on barbecues and this particular way of serving grilled lamb just has to be one of my favourites.  This Turkish recipe was found years ago in those cookbooks that Sainsbury's produced in the eighties, Mediterranean Cooking by Carole Handslip. The series is often found lurking in charity shops and I've sent a few of mine in that direction too, including one on Nouvelle Cuisine by Anton Mosimann.  What was I thinking!   But this one, along with a few others, has stayed in my collection and remains a firm favourite. It's filled with lovely, straightforward and tasty recipes that stand the test of time even though the book is nearly twenty five years old.  You can tell it's well used by the stains!

Take a pound or so of nice lamb, cut it into chunks and season it.  Then stick it in olive oil with half a finely chopped onion for a couple of hours or so.  Remove the meat,  pop the rest of the marinade into a frying pan and slowly cook it to soften the onions. The original recipe calls for fresh tomatoes to be added but these often don't cut the mustard in Britain in terms of flavour.  So, I use chopped up tinned plum tomatoes with their juice washed off .  As an added bonus you don't have the pfaff of peeling the blooming things.  Cunning eh!

Then grill the meat and serve with the warmed tomato sauce, Greek yoghurt and a garnish of chopped parsley and green pepper. Don't be tempted to substitute the red variety.  The bitterness of the unripe counterpart, that I'm usually not at all keen on, strangely complements the other ingredients.  Accompany with pitta bread and if you're feeling particularly chef-y it's not much work to create a homemade version of out of pizza dough, rolled into shape and cooked at around 200 degree Celsius for 5-7 minutes.  When they're  puffed up but not brown they're ready.  It's so worth the effort that you might never accept the shop bought variety with their chemical taste again.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

My Very Own 'Slut Walk'

Now I've been trying to do some research on the topic of women keeping safe when out and about alone in the countryside and come to a bit of a standstill.  Most of the advice that I've found gives precautions to take when walking around towns and cities, especially at night, ranging from the very sensible to downright overkill.   But for short jaunts in the country - well the online handy hints simply don't cut the mustard.  After all, there are no gangs, hoodlums or alleyways arouund here - are there?

Of course, there are the occasional violent attacks in rural areas but I'm happy that the stats are in my favour.  So I  love to go out on my own personal 'slut walks' and I don't even have a faithful mutt to protect me.  Okay, I'm not strutting my funky stuff, dressed in my sequinned bra and mini-skirt.  Leggings and a tunic are more my style but I like to think that, with my scantily clad sisters,  I'm reclaiming the right to be alone when I want to.  Happily, Mr Lovelygrey is not the worrying kind and supports me in my endeavours.

So, here are a couple of shots from my lone wanderings yesterday in the grandiosely named  Great Plantation nearby our home. The 18 mile Templer Way from Haytor to Teignmouth passes through here and this picture made a change from all the tree pictures that I snapped.   This area is a smallish patch of  mixed woodland  that, according to local legend, was considered for a transformation into a holiday destination by Centre Parcs some years ago.  Now when I see adverts for their  places I imagine roaming around on my bike in a verdant tree lined landscape the size of the New Forest, not a half mile strip of land sandwiched between a couple of roads.  Perhaps my imagination has run away with me.

Anyway the Forestry Commission managed plantation is one of a few local spots that I favour for a car free stroll.  And the precautions that I take? I  vary my routes, carry my mobile and keep my wits about me.  No real need for attack alarms or pepper sprays.  I'd just scare the squirrels witless!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Avoiding Batteries

Funnily enough this post is not about cruel methods of  rearing  poultry.   Today I am showcasing one of Mr Lovelygrey's money saving tips which is wholly sensible and doesn't involve anything weird like slathering cream that is meant for your bottom on your face.  Nobody does that do they?!

No, my subject matter is batteries and hence the tenuously linked chicken picture.  A fine beastie indeed and much more photogenic than the lithium rechargeable cells that are plugged into the back of my two year old  laptop.  The originals were replaced a couple of weeks ago by an unbranded alternative that I bought on Ebay.  Money saving tip Number 1 - and that's all my own work!

But Mr Lovelygrey pointed out a way of extending the life of my batteries which he believes can be recharged about a thousand times.  As I predominantly use a mains power source I now remove them, thus preventing wasted charging cycles.  They leak a bit of energy when not in use  so, every time the computer is switched on, it sets the process in motion.  An easy peasy way of saving money indeed and one I'm right royally proud of using - until, that is, I take my laptop out without the battery pack at a time when it's needed!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Woosiest Festival Goer in the World... Ever!

Mr Lovelygrey has categorically stated that he will never, ever, ever go to a festival again - ever.  He added that he would prefer a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!  'Ooh! Can I do that then?' said Louis, his eight year old proclivity to violence now  in full bloom.  'No!' was my rather unsurprising reply.

Anyway, to be honest, I have to say that I hadn't been looking forward to Chagstock  myself this year.  With my energy levels at an all-time low I couldn't see how it would be possible to pack the car, drive the fifteen odd miles to get there and then pitch a tent.  And all this after a visit to my counsellor in the morning.   Pathetic isn't it?  But seeing as I'd bought the tickets in advance and Louis would have been really disappointed to miss it, I mustered up all my reserves and headed off to the northernmost reaches of Dartmoor.  I have to say that I'm glad I did.

Once we'd pitched camp and water had been fetched, my usual responsibilities of personal grooming  and household chores were honed to the bare mimimum.  Chanel, wet wipe rubs and teeth clleaning sufficed on the hygiene front and I cooked and cleared away a total of  just three simple meals, relying a little more than usual on catering concessions.  This left me with loads of  luxurious free time to lounge around chatting, doing a bit of needlepoint and listening to that cool music man!  Louis ran around the site with a varied gang of small boys in tow and forgot about electronic games and gadgets for the entire weekend.    But instread of revelling into the middle of the night, we  sensibly wimped out early and were safely tucked into our sleeping bags  by 8:30pm.  Sadly I didn't see the Magic Numbers or the 3 Daft Monkeys in the flesh but they sounded great from my snuggly spot a couple of fields away!

The weekend was enlightening from a health perspective.  It made me realise that, to get well again, I need to work out how to seriously up the amount of chilling time that I allow myself  in the home environment.    The responsibility of daily, domestic life seems so onerous at the moment.  Normal chores are no longer second nature. and I'm either crashing out with exhaustion or rushing around trying to get the things that I've neglected..   Lesson learnt and now I've got to work on a plan and get a move on putting it into action before my unhelpful routine becomes set in stone. But if I need reminding if I end up back in blue assed fly mode?   I'll come back to this post.

My musical recommendation from the weekend is Rodney Branigan, ,  Check out this  cute looking Texan who, on some of his tracks,  accompanies his own great singing voice  and plays two guitars at the same time!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Monk-ey Business

After my recent walk up a Devon hill to nose around Holy, Trinity, the ruined church that is both tranquil and spooky,  I headed onto to Buckfast Abbey.  Not for prayer or contemplation.  I didn't have time for that!  I was on a mission to purchase something I'ld seen  in the Monastic Produce shop.

As you'll find out if you follow the link, the Benedictine tradition has a philosophy of combining prayer and work. The fruits of these labours sometimes result in goods that are sold on to help financially support the communities.  There's an eclectic mixture of fleecy scarves, icons and rosaries, toiletries and of course, alcohol.  Buckfast Abbey itself is famous, or some would say notorious, for producing a tonic wine, that, depending on viewpoint is either  as a carefully crafted well-rounded tipple that perks up the poorly, or the preferred 'fall over juice' for Glaswegians.

Anyway having made my purchase which I'll disclose on a later date, I noticed that the shop stocks items featuring the work of a French monk, Robert de Chaunac, who thankfully continued his work as a fabric designer after entering a monastic order.  Follow this link to Google images where you'll find more of his fantastic tapestries.  And if you've got a bit more than a few thousand to spare you could always purchase your very own at auction.  Otherwise you, like me, will have to make do with popping down the Abbey shop and picking up a poster or postcard on the next visit!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Two for One Offer

I'm quite partial to the 'brand new' top that I found the other day.  And I'm even more fond of it because it didn't even cost me a penny!

After  absent mindedly dressing,  I was a bit flabbergasted when I looked in the mirror and momentarily didn't recognise what I was wearing.   Then it dawned on me. it was something that I'd found in last year's Decathlon sale for the very reasonable price of seven Euros  but, of course, I'd put it on inside out.  Instead of feeling like a doofus, I was surprised  that I was actually pleased with the result.  The colour is lovely and the seams just look like a feature of the garment.  So I cut out the label and wore my 'new' hoodie with pride!

It occured to me that there might be other things in the wardrobe that could double up in the same way.  Another sale purchase, a blue cotton Howies jumper with a pink stripy lining fits the bill too.  Armed  only with a pair of scissors, you may wish to delve into your closets and see how many new outfits of you own that you can find.  But don't get carried away.  As this advert from Tide demonstrates, it's a habit that needs to be curbed just before it has ridiculous consequences!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Where's Me Chisels?

Okay, after being all coy yesterday and not displaying my dishevelled bed,  I thought I'd be brave today. I've decided to post the partially completed piece that I brought back from my stone carving course a couple of weeks ago.  It's made out of a French stone that's similar to Portland and, to me, it seemed very very hard.  However, my brother Paul Bernard Harris ,who used to be a stonemason in his former life, assures me it's quite soft and I'm just a nancified beginner!

My fifties-ish leaf effect pattern would be an ideal project to undertake at the moment as I don't need to assign a certain amount of time to the task.  I could work for just a few minutes or a couple of hours, however mood and motivation takes me.  And I'm unlikely to damage myself as my hands would be well away from the pointy ends of the chisels whilst I'm gouging away at my bit of stone.  Cork Mat No:2 is a no-no at the current time due to its high potential for  unintentional self-injurious behaviour through lack of inattention!

But my tools haven't arrived yet so, for a change, I've got a reasonable excuse for procrastination.  I'll just have to continue with stringing beads or reinstating progress on my fish mosaic instead.  But in the meantime here's one Paul prepared earlier.  You see the gargoyle with the crown?  Now that's one he made and it's my Dad!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Not as Bad As Tracey's

Mr Lovelygrey has rightly been a  bit cross about the fact that I've largely taken to my bed for the last week since being signed off sick.  Being a normally tidy person I've shied away in shame from photographing my own pit. So, of course,  I was going to use a picture of Tracey Emin's seminal work to illustrate this post but instead, I found this sweet and sanitised Lego homage by  Cake and Neave, formerly known as the Little Artists.   It made me giggle at a time when laughter really needs to be on my medicine list.  Check out their own website and that of Liverpool's Walker Gallery for more inspired models of other works and brickie representations of famous artists.  Dali's Lobster Phone, Marc Quinn's 'Self' and the miniature Gilbert and George are my particular favourites.

Tracey Emin recreated what her bed  looked like after she had stayed there for several days during a bout of depression.    That girl  must have been poorly!  Thankfully, even though I, too, keep my slippers close to hand, I don't seem to have sunk quite as far.    I still can perform basic personal care tasks and  feed myself. This might go a long way towards explaining why my own detritus is far more low key and less shocking.   On my own duvet, there's a plate with lunchtime crumbs, phones, tablets, more books and magazines than you could shake a stick at, and, of course, my laptop.  But there's no booze or used personal hygiene products in the near vicinity.  Nor are their any bodily stains although I did spill some tea the other day. However I was lucky enough to be able to muster the energy to change the sheet.  The most disgusting thing?   Probably the two day old half eaten Welsh Cake that I found earlier lurking on the floor under an unwanted cushion. 

But enough's enough!  The work, 'My Bed', has been a salutary reminder of how things can slip if I resort to slothdom for much longer.  Ta, Tracey!   So today, I'm going to get up, tidy up  and stay out for the day, apart for a mini traditional afternoon nap if it's really needed.

Thursday, 21 July 2011


I don't know what got me thinking about this chap but he's a fonder memory from childhood than you might think possible for a creature that was condemmed to crawling on its belly in the mud by God!   As a youngster I spent a lot of time at the bus stop outside Southend Hospital.  Don't get me wrong I wasn't a weak sickly child.  It's just that I had strabismus - a medical term for what is commonly known as a  lazy eye or a squint to you and me.  After a year or so of unsuccessfully wearing a patch over my good eye to correct the problem, a good way of getting treats from sympathetic passers-by, I had an operation to correct my wonky gaze.  Just don't trust me to reverse expensive cars that haven't got parking sensors.  My depth perception has never been perfect and I've been prone to dings, especially on the left side of vehicles.

See - he's a bit different!
Anyway, this snake graced the entrance at the hospital which I frequented, often for appointments with people with optho- in their professional titles.  My meticulous research shows that he was nearly painted over in a recent refurbishment of the building but local  people campaigned for him to be restored and Sis Lovelygrey confirms that they won their battle. Hurrah!  Perhaps he is responsible for my lifelong affection for reptilia as motifs in arts and crafts.

The mosaic is based on the Rod of Asclepius, an ancient symbol of medicine and healing.  I seem to recall that I've known this fact since I was a wee one and didn't need Wikipedia to glean that particular piece of information.  What was news to me is that this single snake wrapped around a stick is often confused with the Cadeceus, a similiar symbol graced by two winged serpents. This was erroneously adopted as the Emblem of the US Army Medicals Corp since the officer who chose it got his facts wrong.  Someone high up insisting that they're right?  Now, there's a thing!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The North Face of the Eiger

Behold the Eiger's North West face!  Now, I could have taken a picture of  the ironing pile. It was, up until two days ago, my own personal version of this notoriously tricky summit.  However, it wasn't half as pretty as the mountain itself  and  anyway I reckoned you'd seen quite enough of undies after yesterday's post.  But yay!  I adjusted the ironing board to sitting height, set BBC-iPlayer to back episodes of 'Bargain Hunt' and tackled my three week pile of disgrace.

The amount of physical and mental effort everything can take at the moment is surprising.  On  a good day I manage to stay up all day if I'm very gentle with myself.  Then, I think I can do a bit more, push a bit harder and Voom! I'm flat on the bed with a head full of mush even if I have felt that I'd paced myself sensibly.  Yesterday was a case in point.  I drove the fifteen miles to Exeter, parked in my old neighbourhood and walked up the hill into the city centre to go to the Central library.   After I'd finished there I eschewed the numerous charity shops near the bus station thinking that one task would be plenty and got the bus back down the hilll so as not to overdo it.     But even that was too much.  My legs were like jelly when I walked through the door of the house and I fell straight asleep for two hours.  I'm pleased  though I made the trip though as I've got a pile of twelve eclectic delights to reward me for my efforts.

My  To Do list on my phone with its umpteen items is just too daunting at the moment but I've found a pared down alternative that lets me focus on simple things that I can still achieve.  There, I go, one small distraction (the lovely peas on Today's Google page!) and I've forgotten what I was going to go next.....
..right back on track!  I've fetched the link to my usual complicated reminder system which has temporarily been ditched in a mental recycling bin, ready to be retrieved when I'm better. What I'm using at the moment is my laptop's electronic post-it notes.  Now I hate a messy desktop and really can't understand those of you out there who have loads of links and stuff plastered all over it.  But each to their own.  I'm finding these little yellow squares so irksome that they're motivating me to do the tiny tasks that I've set for myself - so my snowy scene is nice and clear again!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

What would you do with £1.42?

Okay, I realise that this a weird amount of money but bear with me!  I'm trying my best to make quite a banal observation entertaining.  This sum doesn't represent a vast fortune so, if it were spare change, I'd probably put it in the piggy bank and save it towards something more  substantial, perhaps next February's exorbitantly expensive half term ski passess.   But for inspiration as to what £1.42 might buy I turned to Ebay (small amounts of postal costs ignored for this fun exercise!).
My animal loving chums could get this leather collar for their favourite pooch.  It comes in a variety of sizes.  I'd never considered that dogs had different sized necks before but it's blindingly obvious now I've engaged my brain!
Now these fit the price challenge exactly and they seem a marvellous bargain. They're a zany pair of kid's shorts with a cute pea design.  Not Louis' taste but they could appeal to a vegetable growing little one.

Here's one I'd consider buying - if I didn't already have a few years worth of similar stuff stashed away already.  A very useful 50ml tube of branded SPR30 face cream with free P&P to boot!

If Louis had been a little girl  he would have been called Phoebe. No doubt she would have filled my house with pink stuff and fairy rubbish rather than Star Wars paraphenalia and vast quantities of weaponry.  I reckon she might have loved this book and I could have been tempted to raid the holiday fund to get it for her!

But these Tibetan silver ladybirds are right up my street.  So much so, I've saved Loriis Funky Miscellanea to my favourites list.  The shop sells a plethora of lovely beads, a great resource for a time when I've sold some jewellery and will then allow myself to restock raw materials.

And finally.....slightly disturbing pants from Hong Kong.  If my undies developed a hole like this one in these they'd be for the bin! Comfy, cottton, apple catchers they are not so I'm going to pass them by.  For those oldies amongst us like me, who may need a refresher course giving them an idea of what modern underwear designers come up with these days, type 'C string' into an Ebay search  and prepare to be amazed and astounded!

'Where's this all going?'  you may be thinking so I'll finally get to the point.  Now I'm a brown sauce or mayo kind of girl but the Lovelygrey boys had run out of their favourite 'sauce de choix'.  So I went over to the Co-op to replenish supplies of ketchup.   With consumption being high, I naturally headed to the big bottle end of the shelf and noticed something out of kilter with my finely honed sense of value for money.  For £2.00, 1.3kg of Heinz's finest can be yours.  Or you can pay £2.89 for 900g.  Eh! what's the difference?  Well, the big one comes in the conventional 'lid at the top' type bottle whereas its little mate is the squirty type of container favoured at BBQs with its opening at the bottom. I've calculated that the magic £1.42 is the price you'll pay for the added convenience of not having to turn the bottle over to get at the sauce.  The thrifty amongst us might have already noticed that you could store the big guy upside down and get the same effect!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Killing Cats

Those of you who, after reading today's post title, think that I'm going to give precise instructions on how to terminate neighbours' pets who crap on your lovingly grown radishes will be sorely disappointed.  I'm too fond of kitties myself to take this type of action even though I'll admit that their nose powdering* habits can  be a right, royal nuisance.  No, what I'm alluding to is curiousity,  that we all know can prematurely terminate a cat's existence on this planet.  All I can say is I've found it a highly rewarding characteristic that's much less dangerous than this questionnably wise old saying may suggest.

Remember a few weeks back I wrote Ten Free Days Out in South Devon?  Well, I'm adding Cockington Court in Torquay to the post.  Not that I've been there mind - it was a recommendation from a friend.  But even my orignal list contained details of a place that I'd not yet visited myself.  So, on Saturday, I thought I'd have a nose around and put that right.

I trotted up the hill from Buckfastleigh to visit the ruined Holy Trinity Church.  I've spotted its white spire peeping out above the trees whilst commuting down the A38.  Though destroyed by arson in 1992, it's a gorgeous place that, for me, exuded tranquility.  Services are currently held on Monday's at 10:30 in this glorious spot and participants are invited to bring a picnic to share afterwards.  The bell tower has been restored to and you can view all the campagnology gubbins behind a glass screen.  All well and good.  But, follow the incredibly comprehensive link above that gives information about the church and you'll find that others see this landmark in a completely different light.

This appears to be where the problem lies, the grave of Richard Cabell, who was so monsterously evil that he needs bars and a gurt big chunk of stone to keep him in his grave.  Sightings have been reported of a ghostly red glow emanating from the tomb and visits by demonic creatures.  Oo-er Missus!  Anyway legend has it that if you circle the tomb seven times the evil Mr Cabell or even the devil will come out and bite your fingers!  Could my curiousity stretch to seeing whether this is true next time I visit? We'll have to see. Perhaps I'll just send a particularly annoying cat around instead!

*For my overseas readers, polite ladies in England may say that they're going to powder their nose when they're off to the loo. That's WC, toilet, privy, latrine or restroom to you if my terminology has again confused you.  No cocaine is involved during this activity at all!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Crafts from the Fish Wife: Raggedy Rasta Candle

Behold a thing of beauty!  It was made two years ago in the children's tent at the Contemporary Craft Fair by me and Louis.  He dipped a plain white jobbie in vats of coloured wax and added the sparkle and I made the face.  Anyway, since then I've been thinking of giving candle making another go.  In an attempt to occupational therapise myself and get well I decided to embark on this activity the other afternoon.  After all how hard can it be to melt some wax, pour it into a container and add a wick?  I have to say that I've well and truly got this idea for a yet another new hobby out of my system!

So here's the result of an afternoon's work.  A pathetic abomination isn't it? Bob Marley would be rightly scathing.  I'd had the brilliant idea of recycling all those crayons that we're given on the majority of occasions that Louis has had a kid's meal in a restaurant. I thought I'd produce a rainbow like creation that would have all my readers gasping with wonder.

Except that it didn't work out like that. I used even more expletives producing this feeble effort than I did after I nearly cut my fingers off making my cork bath mat the other week. I promised to give updates on my previous make's durability and after a fortnight I can report that  it's not that great at soaking up water but hasn't fallen apart yet!

A***! getting the paper off four different colours of crayons was a fag.  S***, I burned myself on the egg cups that I used to melt the wax when I got it out of the microwave. B*****, the wick didn't stay upright in the glass and *!%*+"* and double *!%*+"*. I spilt purple wax over my hand and the inside of the microwave, hence the vaguely rastafarian or traffic light effect of this piece.    My inner fish wife was released even before I tackled the monumental task of clearing up.

But I still think, that for some of you recycling addicts out there, the idea is a good'un.  Just don't consider attempting it if, like me, you have a tendency in general to be a klutz or at times when your concentration and ability to plan a safe injury free project is shot to pieces!

Saturday, 16 July 2011


Day three of being signed off from work and slight improvements in productivity are being noted.  However,  it's a difficult tightrope to walk.  Too much rest and it's a medically proven fact that I'll turn into a three-toed sloth so I need to keep active.  But experience shows that if I get too busy too quickly I'll exhaust myself again and be quickly marched back to square one.

Anyway I took myself off to Newton Abbot with the super glamourous plans of buying loo rolls at Lidl and then walking into town to stock up on hayfever medication.  I'm slower than usual.  Usually when I'm out walking you don't see me for dust.  And perhaps because I wasn't doing an impression of the Roadrunner I spotted this piece of art in the bus station.

'That's new!' I thought.  But then I spotted the plaque that showed that this lovely, locally themed tiled picture had been in situ since 1995.  It was created by an artist called Taja who's originally from Japan but now lives in Devon.    I looked up his work and he appears to be taking a different slant these days producing elegantlly styled, beautifully crafted glazed porcelain.   You may well expect a change in focus after seventeen years.  After all, back in those days I was a dull and dusty tax consultant.

What this experience highlighted is that, maybe, I'm not paying attention enough in everyday life.  In behaving in this way  things that can give me moments of joy or inspiration pass me by.  So, in my journey towards get well, I need to establishing taking notice as a much more regular habit!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Just Finished Reading: Baking Cakes in Kigali

Remember a month or so ago that I said that I was  Back on Track healthwise?  Well, I spoke too soon and will use Homer as an illustrative example.  Doh! not the author of the Illiad and Odyssey.  You should know by now that I'm not that highbrow.  Of course, I'm talking about the head of the Simpsons family.

I watched the movie the other day with Louis.  Homer was on a snowy mountain in Alaska and Bart was clapping with malevolent intent.  Initially the claps were causing tiny snowslides and then whoosh! a final one caused an avalanche which engulfed Homer!  A great metaphor for the two seemingly innocuous events on Monday which have knocked me back good and proper and sent me wallowing pretty helplessly in a snowy abyss.  I'm exhausted and my brain has turned to mush.  So, my GP has signed me off and I'm going to take the time to get myself well again, without having to deal with the pressure of work at the same time.

Has I been more observant, one of the signs of being unwell that I might have noticed was that I hadn't finished a book since Easter, a famine diet for a normally voracious bookworm.  Yesterday's small achievements in between kips, cycling Louis to school, hanging out the washing and making a salad, included finishing Baking Cakes in Kigali, and its the one I'm most chuffed with! 

This book is billed as being like the No:1 Detective's Agency.  Now for a light read I'm quite partial to this series  but Mr Lovelygrey hates them. He says that they lack substance and in a way I agree with him.  The characters  aren't particularly well developed and Mozambique is used like a theatre backdrop.  It sets the scene well enough but there's no particular depth and I haven't felt that I've gleaned any great knowledge of the culture or politics of the country.  Whereas, 'Baking Cakes in Kigali' has given me some insight into the workings of Rwanda that has been rebuilt after the terrible genocide of the 1990s and does not skip around AIDs, poverty or the pros and cons of international intervention. It interweaves all this 'heavy stuff' into a story about Angel, who bakes cakes for a living.  True there are parallels to Precious Ramotswe, that famous lady detective and the story has all the gentleness and humour of Alexander McCall Smith's books as well.  But will  it be meaty enough for Mr Lovelygrey like it and no dismiss it as chick-lit? Perhaps, so I've left it on his bookpile to see!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Stinky Fish

This picture will do  as the main illustration for today's post!  It's from Pike Place Market in Seattle, my favourite US city by far.  Another destination might supercede it at some time but  I'll have to wait for a grand American road trip to find out!

Now fishmongers fawn over Louis.  Not for the usual reason that he is cute and chatty  but because he heartily expresses his love of  fish to them and asks me to buy new stuff to try.  Okay, like any kid, give him chicken nuggets and he'll be happy.  But salmon, cod, mackerel, prawns and shellfish are all up there among the things that he loves to eat.  So we're happy to oblige and prepare it for him.

But there's a problem with cooking fish at home.  The smell permeates the house for hours after the process is done and dusted and the fish is safely in our tummies.  But we've come up with a cheap and simple solution that allows us to enjoy tasty healthy treats like this wild salmon without the pongy downside.  All our seafood cooking now takes place in the garage on a Sunngas single  burner which cost a tenner, runs on cheap gas canisters and now has double life as my camping stove too.  Simples!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Playing in the Queen's Gardens

Yikes!,  I suddenly realised the other day that school holidays are fast approaching and I hadn't firmed up most of the plans to occupy Louis over his six week break.  Annual leave has been booked at the end of August  which will incorporate a ten day trip to Brittany with Mr Lovelygrey, whose holiday entitlement is more paltry than my own.  But what else?

As a full-time working mum with no immediate family in the vicinity to take over the helm in school holidays, good paid childcare is a must.  Thank heavens I discovered F.I.S.H (Fun in School Holidays) a few years ago.  For my Devon based readers I cannot recommend this company highly enough.  Their enthusiastic play workers, include lots of young energetic lads,who  act as brilliant companions and role models for a lively eight year old. Louis prefers going to their Chudleigh based centre almost more than anything else that I arrange for him.

Louis wants to stay with Mama and Papa Lovelygrey in Southend-on-Sea too and although I'd like to visit as well,  my overall holiday entitlement precludes a whole week in my childhood home town. So, after taking the train to London and spending a day there, Louis will head on  to Essex with Nana and Grandpa and I'll tootle back to Devon on the train.  All these activities are proving expensive when added up so, to keep costs down a little, we'll avoid paying attractions and  have a free day out in the big smoke.  The website for the Royal Parks  has been invaluable for planning this.  It seems that there's so much to do in the capital's green spaces.  Assuming the day is balmy, a trip to Hyde Park and Kensington Palace Gardens looks like it could fit the bill of providing a pleasant time for all.  Louis will be drawn to the Princess Diana Playground, where the pirate ship in the open post picture is  installed and there's plenty to keep the adults too.    And if it rains...well the National History and Science Museums are always cost-free old favourites.

Just one week left to plan!    So, it'll be back to the South East, this time with the camping gear in the car.  After three nights in Southend-on-Sea reliving my childhood, it's off to Norfolk to see Uncle Paul.  His home is too small to house us for a visit so we'll be making use of one of the Queen's gardens again, this time staying in the Camping and Caravanning Club at Sandringham.   I wonder if we'll get an invite for tea?!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Thought for the Day: Modern Childhood

It occurred to me the other day that the accoutrements associated with being a modern child differ markedly from what was around in my own time.  I'm not talking about the myriad of hand held and other electronic gadgets that seem to hold the attentions of our kids far too nicely. No, what I'm on about are the bits and pieces that are now de-rigueur these days.Take for example...

  • Car seats -  Papa Lovelygrey had a two seater van.  Mum sat up front and us little'uns used to have  a whale of a time rolling around on a large piece of foam in the back!
  • Sports kit for primary school children - what happened to vest and pants as standard P.E. kit. I recall that one of my pairs of thick blue M&S knickers were marked age 3 on the label but were both stretchy and robust enough to still be in service when I was ten.
  • More than one pair of shoes at any given time - these were so relatively expensive that there were no distinction between footwear for school and best.  One pair had to be multi-purpose.  However I did have some 'gutties' for P.E. those black elasticated slippers beloved of Woolworths.
  • Insulated lunchboxes covered with popular cartoon characters and containing an ice pack to slow down bacterial growth.  For us it was Tupperware or an old margarine or ice cream tub.  Our tuna sandwiches moldered nicely in the heat of the morning and I can't recall anyone ever being the worse for wear.
  • Toothpaste especially designated for children's use.  I think we just used the SR along with the grown ups in the family.
  • Suntan lotion.  Again I don't think that this stuff was around in my early years.   We just covered up or were called  inside when Mama Lovelygrey thought we'd caught enough of those rays.
  • Bespoke dressing up costumes.   I'm always amazed by these when I see them in the supermarket and very glad that my son has an adversion to dressing up.  What happened to cut down dresses as fairy costumes and ghostly goings on under sheets?
...I'm sure I could go on and on.  Happily, in spite of our difference aspects of a 1970s and twenty-first century childhood are still very similar.  Mucking about on beaches, climbing trees, playing with Lego and eating ice cream and chocolate will all be common ground for fond memories that we can share thoughout our adulthood and beyond!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Oh No! Another New Hobby!

After a brilliant weekend with the girlies, it's back to work and the start of a new dieting regime.  But more of that in a later post.  Let me share what Red Mel, Kay have been up to during a  very creative weekend!

We've been hanging out at the beautiful home where  Tom Clark lives with his wife Andrea, kids, a dog and a bunch of fluffy chickens!  As well as being plied with good food and meeting some great people we learnt  to carve stone, a potentially addictive new hobby.
Today, I'm showcasing the work of some of the other students on the course, starting with the men.  Male participants are usually in short supply on craft courses.  Perhaps they prefer to lock themselves away and beaver privately on secret projects.  However this particularly activity lured three guys out of their sheds.  Here's the work of two.  The Tudor-ish Rose was carved by a complete novice who's going to mount it in a wall that he's building himself. And the amazing gargoyle?  Well, he was one of three(!) projects produced by a chap who's had woodcarving experience.  Perhaps surprisingly he was saying that stone is a much easier medium to work in than wood.

I'm so proud of my girlies who each managed to complete their works of art.  Kay produced this gorgeous whimisical tree which complements the shape of the piece of Bath Stone that she chose for her project.  And Red Mel's designed a wedding present for her son and new daughter in law.  As well as making thousands of yards of bunting  she's produced a wonderful keepsake to commemorate Toby and Rebecca's big day.
Okay, I know what you're thinking! 'Where's yours, Lovelygrey?'  Well, the arch procrastinator has an excuse.  I've made excellent progress on my design, a take on the graphic prints on 1950s fabric but theres a but!  The stone, that I selected, for its beautiful whiteness is a French limestone and much harder to carve.  In spite of a flurry of activity that's resulted in aches and pains in bits of the body where I'd forgotten that I have muscles, I couldn't complete my piece.  But fear not!  A set of chisels and dummy hammer are already on order ready for a flurry of finishing activity next weekend.  Then I'm going to have to hunt down the next piece of stone to carve!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

And the Punishment for Stealing is.....

....Burning Jubblies!  Now let me explain.  Red Mel and I are staying at the home of Kay, fellow occupational therapist and one of our dearest friends.   In tomorrow's post I'll disclose the special reason why we've spent time in deepest Somerset alongside pursuing our usual indulgences - drinking wine, gossiping and eating more than is good for our waistlines.

In  a rush to leave home on Friday, my packing was somewhat deficient.  I forgot my book in progress,  one less pair of knickers than I would have liked and half my toiletries.  'Never mind,' I thought whilst in the shower, 'I'll 'nick' a bit of that green stuff over there'. The fresh smell was heavenly but ooh missus! the product contains built in punishment of near Old Testament proportions.  I'm sure that any of the prophets would have been proud of being able to induce a smarting undercarriage on a wicked light fingered robber merely going about the business of trying to keep clean before a day of quality thieving.

Thankfully, the results are not long lasting but perhaps this is indeed a magic potion where the intensity of sensation is enhanced for habitual offenders.  Anyway, I 'fessed up which has caused much merriment.  Strangely Red Mel trotted off to try the strange conconction when showering herself and didn't find the tingling unpleasant at all!   Perhaps, she was rewarded because of asking permission  first. Truly magical stuff indeed! Anyway, a trawl around the Internet shows that I'm not the first to discover this phenonemon.  It seems that 195 lads are fans of this product's unusual sensitising property.  Obviously they bought their own and didn't filch a bit from their mates!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Newly Inspired!

Now, I'm not a knitter, but, if I were, all ideas about keeping projects to a manageable size would be blown out of the window.  I would want to knit this bus that was featured in the Guardian's Craft's section on Wednesday.  At a time when the News of the World has brought shame on this country's press surely those journalists who are doing a good job need me to pat them on the back by showcasing their work in a positive light?

I was waylaid by this marvellous vehicle whilst returning to an article that inspired me the other day.  As a retro cloth fan I was particularly drawn to this potato print picnic rug which has been moved to my 'must make in the future' list.  Have a look around the site. The animal lovers amongst you might tempted to use up woollen scraps making the cat nip filled mouse  for Battersea Dog's Home or another favoured feline friend.  If I come back as a cat in my next life, can my owner make me the pirate one please!

Anyway I'm going to be using the skeletal leaf idea in a crafty project that I'll be creating over the weekend.  I'm keeping mum for now about what I'm making in a material that I've never used before.  Off now, but expect to see the products of my hard labour in the next couple of days!