Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Alphabetical Tourist: Argentina

Today's post is such a difficult one for a Brit.  I'm going to have to write about this South American country without mentioning corned beef  or the Falkland's War AND resist breaking out into a rendition of 'Don't Cry for Me Argentina'.  Believe me - this song from Evita is going round and round in my head as I write.  No, what I have to do is touch upon stuff that I didn't know about this country before today.  So where shall I start?

Well, let's begin with mentioning Aconcagua as I love mountains.  Yet I'd never heard of this one even though it's the highest in the Southern and Western hemispheres.  Apparently it's the tallest non technical mountain in the world, apparently a breeze if approached from its northern side. I could have posted a pretty picture of it but even I will admit that one peak looks much like many others.  Instead I chose this still from a 1942 Disney cartoon caused Pedro, so named after a little aeroplane with a face who has a scary brush with the spooky looking mountain.  I try to source non copyright pictures but loved this image so much that I'd thought I'd use it even though I'm blowed if I can work out whether I'm legitimately allowed to or or not.  If there are any legal beagles out there, suss it out for yourselves here.

Sourced from Wikipedia from
So, back to mundane humdrum day to day events in this country which I reckon must be a dictatorship run by Proctor & Gamble.  In case you're puzzled by this conclusion I'll explain.  The normal garb for Argentinian schoolchildren is a white smock.   Any mother will know that this is madness as this shade is a total dirt magnet  Once I bought Louis a hoodie that was predominantly white that became a splattered multi-coloured mess in the space of five minutes every time he wore it.  I gave it away fairly quickly.   To stay clean Argentinian children must take at least twenty of these garments to school in their PE bag and their mums must stay up half the night using a ton of soap powder to ensure that their little darlings remain remotely clean and keep up with the Jones - or Perons.

To add a little colour to today's offering I turned to Wikipedia's Argentinian art pages.  Every so often when I discover an artist my heart skips a beat.  Normally, I have a penchant for stuff produced in the 20th century.  Okay, occasionally work from the late 19th century grabs me as well.  But this cartoon-like drawing by Paucke Florian from a gallery in Buenos Aires which dates from the middle of the 1700s depicting honey gatherers really floats my boat.  And there's more of his work which I love too that I've found by going for a little wander on the Web.  I'll share more on another day once I've done a bit more research.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Just like Lovelygrey!

"I was driving to work and there you were on a poster!".  That was the gist of the message that I received yesterday from Tanya who posted on my wall on Facebook.    No I haven't become famous overnight I'm more than happy to say.  The thought of being caught by the paparazzi whilst putting the bin out in my gnarly jim jams and pink crocs does not appeal.  My double is in fact Joan Baez who's going to be playing at the Plymouth Pavillions on the eve of Christmas Eve. So, as not to be mistaken for Bob Dylan's exe I will be holing up on the same night at the other end of the West Country in the motorhome at the Caravan Club site in Bristol.

Now Joannie doesn't look terribly like me once she reveals her features.  Louis wasn't fooled at all.  An eight year old knows his mama from a couple of miles away.  But I can see Tanya's point and am proud to post a picture of another woman who hasn't succumbed to the marketing of the dye manufacturers and is living proof that grey can be great and not ageing at all.  Who'd guess from this funky shot that she's a day older than me and not, surprisingly a septuagenerian!

Monday, 28 November 2011


The problem when you're on sick leave is that you have loads of time but can't use it in the way that you want.  Once your mind and body are back up and running you still can't get round to all the things that you've  been longing to do again because there's not enough hours in the day once you're at work!  And I've found that in my first couple of weeks back doing my job is that I'm suffering a bit of a setback. Restoring my regular routine is not the piece of cake that I thought that it was going to be.  Earning my daily bread is tiring business and I'm finding it hard to get going in the mornings, stay perky until bedtime and keep up with all those activities that I'd started to do with ease in my final days as a temporary lady of leisure..

That includes my blogging.  My daily posts are difficult to produce at the moment and arriving later and later in the day.  Bear with me - normal service will be resumed soon.  But in the mean time I'll keep it short and sweet.


Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Modified Mindset

I've spoken about my acute dislike of ironing before but there's now been  a complete 180 degree turnaround in how I now view this task. A few months back I wrote about making this task a little more bearable  Now I've integrated just a few more tweaks into how this once onerous task is carried out and hey presto! it's been transformed  into something that I actually look forward to.  Well blow me down guv'nor!  So, here's how I've managed to achieve this unbelievable feat..

  • Adjusting the ironing board to bed height so that I can sit down rather than stand up prevents those grumbling achy feet.
  • A glass or cup of something special - on this occasion a nicely chilled semillon/chardonnay.  Better still after this photo was taken I added a treat filled bowl of nibbles to my snacking stash.
  • And most important of all  - I've made this chore into 'Me Time' by watching programmes on my computer that the boys spurn.  I'm avidly working through 'Kirstie's Homemade Home' currently.  Mentioning this reminds me to draw your attention to the Channel 4 excellent crafts webpages.
And while I'm at it can I home into what's on the ironing board?  It's one of Mama Lovelygrey's latest makes and my absolute favourite garment at the moment that looks great with thick black tights and biker boots.  It's made from just a metre of Michael Miller cotton that I bought from Fumble Fabrics and I'm going to draw your attention to a piece of brilliant detail - the covered button near the right hand corner which has a white wheel right in its centre.  Genius!  The pattern is a bog standard jeans skirt pattern that was quite tricky to find but eventually I came across  Burda 7437 which was just what I was after.  At the moment this manufacturer's wares seem to be available in the UK at a meaty 50% off so grab yourself a bargain to kickstart a sewing project to while away those long winter evenings!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Skateboarding Saturday

Late posting today as I had a lie in first thing.  Being back at work is a little more tiring than I was expecting so more shut-eye than usual is required.  But Lou and I still turned up at the local skate park on the edge of Dartmoor far earlier than any of the teens.  It might be that the rumours that they stay in bed until way into the afternoon are absolutely true.

Lou's not a traditional team game kind of person.  I think it might be in the genes because neither of his parental families are keen on football, rugby or cricket, those English staples which can prevent kids as they get older going off the rails.  So, I'm trying to introduce the type of activities that will hold his attention and will have a good chance of keeping him on the straight and narrow as he grows up.  In the last few weeks skateboarding has enthused him big time and I've been so impressed by how the youthful 'dudes' who use skate parks around here are courteous, considerate and helpful to the teeny peeps who scoot,skate and cycle precariously amongst them.

There's a list of rules posted at the skate park that, rightly prohibit the use of drugs and alcohol and promote safe use of the facility.  All seem to be adhered to except those that dissuade dropped rubbish  The situation is not helped by the fact that there's no bins provided so I'm going to make the parish council aware of this.  In the meantime here's the results of my litter picking  There's just a lot of empty containers for water and energy drinks and crisps and chocolate packets - no needles, alcopop bottles or beer cans.  Evidence that the young people around here aren't the delinquents that the press would like them portrayed?

Friday, 25 November 2011

That's Me That Is!

In the last few days I've been feeling chuffed with myself.  Now I can don a hastily crafted mortarboard hat and say 'I am a published academic'!  With my confidence buoyed up from a few months of posting on my blog last year, I set about writing something serious where I couldn't rely on toilet humour, weird ramblings or confessions about failed craft projects to meet the fifteen hundred word count.  My article was submitted last December and since then I've learnt about how long the process of getting something to print in a serious journal can be.  After acceptance of my piece I had to make  revisions suggested by reviewers who're experts in the field of occupational therapy.  Last month my work was subjected to the frightening scrutiny of an editor who went through it like someone picking tiny stones out of rice.  At her behest I agreed each further teeny revision.  Somewhere a semi colon was inserted even though I've never really worked out their purpose and still haven't fathomed it out.  Finally, finally I've been rewarded by seeing my name in print!

'Look that's my mum that is!'  said Louis excitedly as he showed the cover of the journal to a disinterested friend who'd come to play.  Luckily my target audience have shown a little more enthusiasm.  I've had lovely messages from strangers and old friends  and been asked to talk at a study day.

This success has been particularly important to me in a year where I've been ill for much of the time and achieved so much less than usual.  My subject matter, highlighting the positive and negative effects that medication can have on actively has been particularly pertinent personally.  Now, I'm inspired to give another writing project a go.  Next stop - Fleet Street!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Fit for the Queen

Imagine the scene at Buck House, Windsor Castle, Sandringham - or indeed any one of the Queen's gaffs.  She been out late in the evening dressed to the nines in her headscarf and wellies to take the corgis for their final jaunt before they turn into their little crown bedecked baskets with emptied bladders.  When she gets back she feels a little peckish so she calls up a butler so that he can take care of her rumbling tum.

What does she have?  A plate of smoked salmon and caviar or perhaps a cold cut from one of those swans that only she is allowed to shoot.  No, with all that state banqueting she has to do, she  longs for plainer fare.   I reckon that this chip butty that I rustled up for my lunch yesterday, and pictured amongst a collection of 'crown jewels', would be just the type of fare that she noshes in secret.   Crispy chips with melty butter wedged between two slices from Mr Lovelygrey's finest loaf.   Or perhaps she might like an earlier classy offering of mine, the Essex Sandwich?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Alphabetical Tourist: Antigua and Barbuda

Hawk's Bill Rock Formation by Calyponte
The last stop on my virtual world tour was Anguilla about a fortnight ago and I normally post weekly.  There must be something about the Carribean air that induces chillin' !  Anyway I've left the island and just taken a short hop to another in the Leeward group,  Antigua, or Waladi as it's also known.  This alternative name was coined by the ancient Amerindian inhabitants and means 'our own'.

There's proof here that the pink granite coast off Perros Guirec in Brittany doesn't have a monopoly on incorrectly named rock formations. This 'hawk's bill' looks more like a sperm whale to me.  Oh okay, now I can see how it came to be known as a beak, albeit one with a nasty growth on it!

Of course the rich and famous flock to island paradises and here is no exception.  Richard Branson, Peter Stringfellow, Timothy Dalton and Eric Clapton, to name a few, all have homes here. So does Silvio Berlusconi and something tells me he might now have a little more time on his hands to enjoy his holiday getaway if he isn't imprisoned first.  And there's normal folks trying to make a living here too.  The lady, Jill Fuller, who created this amazing collage is also a psychotherapist, author and ceramicist as well as being an artist.  She reminds me of all those folk in the film  'Local Hero' who had many different jobs in the small Scottish community that was the backdrop to the main story.

Antigua and its little sibling Barbuda seem to have all  the usual stuff that we associate with the Carribean;  idyllic beaches, a history of settlement involving slavery, cricket, reggae, carnival.  Indeed it could be another place that I'm loathe to leave.  One tourist attraction here has really grabbed my attention and would force me to release those spondidoddles from my clutches.  At 'Stingray City', which looks as if its really a secluded bay there's the wonderful experience  to be had of swimming and playing with creatures who are described as gentle and curious - and hopefully not at all sting-y!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Cross with the Coop

Now I'm not a particularly cautious investor.  I've dabbled in the stock market in the past with varying degrees of success and learnt the hard way with a couple of times that share prices can go up as well as down.  Oops - good job I didn't put all my eggs in one basket!  But, historically,  long term investments of this kind yield the best growth and, with the miserable rates of interest that are available at the current time,  I decided about three years ago to invest a monthly sum in a unit trust ISA.

A unit trust is a collection of shares that is chosen and actively managed by a bloke, or indeed high powered suited and lipsticked girlie, called a fund manager.  The theory is that all you have to do chose the type of investment that suits your risk profile,  whether you're a tea and slippers or an ice climbing type in the financial sense, and then sit back whilst all the work of collecting dividends and buying and selling shares to make the best use of your money is supposedly done for you.  I chose the Coop Sustainable Leader's Fund, a balanced fund.  That's somewhere in the middle of that risk spectrum, maybe akin to a high wire centre if we stick to the climbing analogies.  The ethical stance associated with this product also was a feature that affected my choice.

So I've been sticking my monthly sum in this pot - and have made a hefty loss  even though investing regularly should lessen the impact of falls in stock markets because of a phenomena called pound cost averaging.   I realise that the global financial situation is sickly but even so.   For much of the time performance tables have shown that my particular choice of fund has been way down compared to others of its type.  Which begs a question?  What has Mike Fox, the fund manager been doing with my money and why hasn't the Coop given him a good kick up the butt rather than giving him the post of head of UK equities?  Could someone else or even little old me do a better job?  Yesterday I asked for my diminished savings back so I'll be able to see!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Have a Guess!

I've been looking for a dumped clapped out old bike for a long time and was delighted this weekend when I found one lying on a playing field.   No I'm not going to revamp this old workhorse.  I think it may be beyond redemption.  But if you look carefully you'll see it's missing one of its tyres.  Against the advice of my virtual handyman boyfriend Tony  I prised it off with a couple of bits of wood and it's now safely tucked up in the boot of my car.  Have a guess at what I might be doing with it.  The answer?  Well  you'll have to wait.  I hope to display my handiwork in the next couple of weeks!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Chaos Theory and the Knicker Drawer

Every so often things get out of hand on the domestic front and have to be sorted as an emergency. This week, my underwear drawer proved to be an excellent example of this.   For though I'd honed down my other clothes in the transition from my summer to my winter wardrobe I neglected the knickers and just stuffed a lot of tights and socks in their normally neat home resulting in this corner of shame in the master bedroom.

Now according to chaos theory there are little pockets of order in what is seemingly the nastiest mess.  But I really couldn't see any evidence of it here.   There was nothing for it but to get organised,  wade in and  throw out all that had become holey and grey!

Friday, 18 November 2011

First Wheelie Dealings

My first fortnight as an Ebay seller got off to a rocky start.  After a premature celebration that I'd made my first sale of some lovely glittery diamante brooches to a bloke in the Highlands he turned out to be reluctant to get those dusty pennies out of his sporran and refused to communicate with me to boot.  Only after I'd taken action to report him as a non paying buyer and mentally wished a midge attack up his kilt upon him has he finally coughed up.  Maybe he was  telepathic and I'd put the wind up him!

This is another of my items that's sold, this time without any hitches. It's been knocking around in my 'stock' box for a couple of months now and I was a little sorry to see it go.  The pendant dates from the 1930s or 40s and is from Siam - or Thailand as its known now.  Just before and during the Second World War troops went there for R&R and often sent home jewellery gifts of this type to their loved ones.  A lot of the pieces were decorated with Niello, a type of black enamel but this one's with its textured turquoise enamel is a little more unusual. It depicts Nang Fa, the Thai fairy of happiness, sprinkling stardust from her hand.  Isn't the story behind some of this old stuff part of its fascination?

One of the barriers I've come up against selling my own stuff in my Folksy shop is that lots of the silver jewellery I've made is too heavy to be sold without being hallmarked and I haven't got my own stamp yet.  In the meantime I've been trying to focus on buying lovely pieces to clean up, mend and sell on at a profit.  What I'm learning is that I have to be strict about setting a price that I want to pay and sticking to it.  I fell in love with this Orno  ring so deeply that I had to stop myself getting carried away and making a huge bid.  Sadly it went to another buyer and I hope they gain a lot of pleasure from it.  The unusual design has given me an idea of some pieces of my own though - so watch this space!

It's Pudsey Day!

This weekend in the UK marks the culmination of the BBC's  annual Children in Need appeal with the massive Manchester concert last night which featured acts as mighty as Lady Gaga and Coldplay and tonight's spectacular hosted by that national treasure, Terry Wogan, who just happens to have been adopted from Ireland.  It just goes to show that you don't have to have red, white and blue blood flowing through your veins to be festooned with this honour.

Now I normally cast a few pennies in the way of this worthwhile appeal but Louis and his mate, the mini Zoe Wannamaker, got really enthusiastic about fundraising this year.  So, fuelled by Blue Peter, the kid's programme with its uber-retro appeal they got busy baking.  Then they roped in me and Mama Wannamaker to supervise them in their journey around our estate selling ginger shortbread, cookies, lemon drizzle cake, sausage rolls,  cheese scones and cornflake crispies and raised an impressive £78!  To reward them for their efforts, I decided to give into pester power and buy both kids the Lego Pudsey from Asda that Louis has been lusting after for the last month.  He cost £4 and,  for those of you stuck for ideas, is a great idea for a stocking filler for the forthcoming festive seaason.  Staff in the store weren't entirely sure about his whereabouts but I managed to find him  on the shelves next to the checkout.

Now Louis has been getting far more creative with his Lego lately.  I'm particularly impressive with the motorhome complete with wings and jet turbines to allow it to fly across the Atlantic to fly transatlantic. If only they'd come up with a similar attachment for my beloved Knaus and then the Lovelygrey family could travel to the UK in our own second home on wheels rather then being cooped up in cattle class on a jumbo jet.  But alas, technology is not as advanced on Earth as it is in Lego World and it's not to be.

Pudsey hasn't escaped having a  imaginative makeover and being transformed from his sweet vulnerable personna into a creature that rather more sinister.  With just a few tweaks to his component bricks he becomes 'Evil Rabbit' who, according to Louis is his arch enemy.  Let's hope that this zombie creatures superpowers are not fully unleashed tonight, that Pudsey survives and lots of money are raised for very worthwhile charities!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Le Tour Curly Wurly

Image Courtesy of Quite Peculiar's Photostream
On my journeys around the South Hams and West Devon for work a background soundtrack from BBC's Radio 4 is essential.  Imagine my dismay the other day when I popped out in the car and found my radio had been completely de-tuned by a small experimental person who, luckily after a few sharp words, managed to reinstate my FM pre-tuned stations within seconds.  How he does that I'll never know. Grrr!

One offering that  often absorbs me is the 'Food Programme' and this week's episode particularly held my attention.  It reported on the Experimental Food Society who exist to extend the boundaries of food appreciation beyond  the sense of taste.  Have a butchers around the link that I've provided to see some of the extraordinary creations that have been displayed at the society's spectaculars and events.

The bit of the programme that really grabbed my attention was a mention of a model Eilffel Tower made out of Curly Wurly chocolate bars.  I was inspired to look it up on line and here it is.  Just the thing to knock up for a quick midweek family dessert methinks!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Normal Again!

Courtesy of Apple's Eye Studio
After just under four months of  leave I'm back to work today with my doctor's blessing!  I am nigh on 'normal' again and here's how I know it.
  • I do not keel over after a trip to the postbox or have to rest for the next forty eight hours after a particularly busy day.
  • There's no feeling of having to force myself to do the things that I enjoy.  I just go ahead and do it.
  • I've been out in the evening after having a fairly full on day.
  • I'm only take two pills each day rather than thirty two.
  • The house is clean and tidy and it doesn't feel particularly onerous to keep it that way.
  • Things that seemed like a real achievement when I was poorly such as making a sandwich for lunch or climbing the stairs have had their former insignificance restored.
  • I can wear what I want rather than having to dress in baggy stuff to be comfortable and pain free.
  • I'm planning and scheming outrageously with many projects again on the boil.
  • I can fulfil my role as a mum properly again.
  • After a good night's sleep I feel rested and not just as shattered as I felt when I went to bed.
There's still a bit more to do including establishing a regular exercise regime but I reckon I'm ninety per cent there!  I'm extremely grateful to all those skilled and compassionate staff  in the NHS who helped me on the road to recovery. Now I'm going back to work in the same organisation and hope that I too will be able to give the same excellent levels service to those who come under my own care.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A Kick Up the Butt from Kirstie

All those episodes of Kirstie's Handmade Britain are rubbing off  though definitely not the one about flower arranging.   Its not the bag of a sneezy hayfever sufferer For the first time though in ages I've put the sewing machine to use.  To celebrate its inaugural trip out after a long time on the shelf I thought it needed to be used for a project that was a bit more satisfying than routine mending.  And after two broken needles, unexplained blood on the footplate and a bit of the old Anglo Saxon rhetoric - ta, ta!   I unveil for you my latest completed needlepoint cushion.

The canvas was created in the olden days and it was finished at least six years ago as I was living in my former home in Exeter.  I think it might even pre-date Louis.  Now, in those immortal words of Bryan Adams 'Everything I do, I do for you' dear blog readers.  So if I were embarking on this project today, you'd be provided with the reference for this piece so you could make your own if fancy took you.  Alas, I can't remember where this design came from.  I know it was in a library book and am fairly certain its not a design by Kaffe Fassett or any of his Ehrman chummers.  Nor do I think its by Beth Russell.  A trawl through Devon's catalogue did not enlighten me so if anyone chances across this and knows the source, I'd be eternally indebted - well okay grateful for a little while anyway.

So what's there to say about this piece. Unlike my current stitching project which I'm finding an effort  I remember that it was extremely enjoyable stitching these simple but effective animal images, in their monochrome hues.  All but one are in black and white except for the pink pig who wanted to stand out from the crowd a little.  It's a pity I didn't get my finger out so I could enjoy the finished cushion a bit sooner.  Have I learnt my lesson?  We'll  see if the proof's in the pudding at a later stage!

Monday, 14 November 2011

In the Realm of the Treacle Mine

My favourite fairy tale as a young'un was Hansel & Gretel because I just couldn't get that yummy image of that house covered in all those sweeties out of my mind.   In a similar vein I  also love the fantastical lyrics of  'Big Rock Candy Mountain'  This old song was featured on the soundtrack of that excellent Coen brothers film 'O Brother Where art Thou?' Who could resist a lake of stew and whiskey (hopefully a peaty single malt!).... or a lemonade spring for the non drinkers out there.

In the same vein this is a real treacle mine, albeit disused, snapped on my walk in Canonteign woods yesterday.  But those of you thinking of heading down with buckets to forage for the vital ingredient for your puddings and toffee would be sorely disappointed.  Unfortunately the 'treacle' that was excavated here was a thick sticky sparkly black residue, micaceous hematite that looks a bit  like the sweet stuff but alas isn't edible.  Instead it was a component of a paint  that prevented massive structures like warships and bridges at Sydney harbour and the Tamar from rusting away!   It also provided the twinkle in early recipes for Hammerite paint.  Mining ceased in the middle of last century as technology developed new substances to do the same job.

My photo shows a horizontal entrance, an adit, of the Great Rock complex, the largest treacle mine around here.  It's not open to the public to peruse but another,  Kelly Mine, at Lustleigh welcomes visitors by donation to its ground level site, though not underground.  Judging by the comprehensive website produced by the enthusiastic preservation society who look after the mine,  I reckon that a future trip would be an informative and enjoyable afternoon out!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Art through the Ages

Add caption
As my regulars know I haven't been out and about so much over the last few months due to ill health.  But I'm    now nearly mended and due to return to work this week after a four month break!  The job that I go back to has changed slightly and I'm covering a larger geographical area.  I'm looking forward to sharing the discoveries that I come across on my travels with you including arts and crafts that take my fancy in the galleries and exhibitions en route!

But for now I'm sharing a wonderful virtual discovery.  About a year ago I found  out that the Victoria & Albert Museum in London had a wonderful online catalogue.  I was doing a spot of research yesterday (which I'll share at a later date!) and came across a similar offering from the British Museum.  The 'Explore' section on their website isn't quite as comprehensive but it still contains an impressive 4,000 objects from their collection.

The first piece shown above is the  Lothair Crystal from Lorraine which shows that those that lived in the environs of Modern France were adept at engraving long before Lalique was set up. It's  an amazingly detailed piece of carved rock crystal which dates from the ninth century and shows scenes from the story of Susannah in the Apocrypha. The big crack was caused by some clumsy oaf when it was thrown during the sacking of Waulsorf in the eighteenth century.
And from the same time period we have the Fuller Brooch, a gorgeous piece of hammered silver which is the earliest depiction of the five senses.  Again some klutz has broken it - it's missing its pin.  But it's in such good condition that  it was believed to be a fake and sold to Captain Fuller for the value of its silver!

© Trustees of the British Museum
Moving on in time over a thousand years in fact we have the wonderfully organic Town and Country range of dinnerware by Eva Zeisel, a Hungarian born emigre who lives and worked in the USA.   I've been an admirer of this woman's work for some time now and lust after her 'Fantasy' range of dinnerware which is white, similarly curvy and sports an atomic symbol.  I'm advised by Wiki that this talented craftsperson was born in 1906 and is still alive.
© Trustees of the British Museum

Finally we're bang up to date in the 21st century and onto a piece that has personal poignancy given the amount of medication that I was on a couple of months ago.  'Cradle to Grave' by Pharmacopoeia is a graphic representation of the 14,000 pills, potions and injections  that are, on average, prescribed over a person's lifetime.  There's different strips to reflect the pharmacology given to a woman and a man, tracing 'typical events in their lives.  It's prompted me to put a visit to the museum on my 'To Do' list  just to see how big this exhibit is!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Death to the Shopping List!

I was directed to read an article on the Guardian's website  this week that got my goat so much that I thought I'd share it with you.  The story, which was published in September's Money Blog is here.  However, for those too lazy to click the link(!), I'll summarise the story.

Patrick Collinson, a consumer journalist was spotted on the security cameras in Tesco writing down some prices of bottled water for a price comparison.  The multibuy price was more expensive than individual bottles but that's incidental to the story.  Two store managers rushed up and told him it was against company policy to write down Tesco's prices or take photos in store.  He was told,  whilst one of the  helpful employees pointed to the exit that if he wanted to check the cost of goods  he could pay for them and the price would be recorded on the receipt!

And there's more..someone who commented on the post explained that he'd gone out at the behest of his dearly beloved to buy something specific in the homewares department in Marks and Spencer.  Now everyone knows that men would drink out of jam jars and not notice whilst  for women... well every tiny detail has to be just so!  The poor chap thought he'd found the item he'd been commanded to buy but had a little fret in case it wasn't the right object.  A flash of inspiration came over him.  He took a picture of the item and headed to the coffee shop to send a text with a photo attachment to his partner to make sure it was the correct one.  You might guess who he was met by and his alleged crime.  Yep - a couple of big burly security guards and you have it.  No photos allowed in there either!

Now I've taken photos in my local supermarket before to alert head office to the blooming mess that the store is often in and the lack of things to buy on the shelves.  It sometimes looks like a shop from the communist bloc in the  Cold War days in there.   Some platitudes were given but the situation remains.  So I'm thinking it's about time I went back in store and took some more snaps - with Mr Lovelygrey's great big camera and dressed from head to toe in orange just to make sure that I'm noticed and to see what happens.  As for Tescos I feel that it will be my duty to go in their with pen and paper and write things down whenever I make my rare visits to the store.  And guess what I might do in M&S?  Is anyone going to join me!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Eleven Eleven Eleven

I'm later than usual posting today because I've been off on a proper journalistic assignment - covering the assembly at Louis' school!  I can't post any of the pictures of the actual event due to modern ideas about other people's children in photographs.  However I did snap my proud Cub Scout son after the event with his Flander's field poppy that he had held swaying in the breeze during a recital.

The children sang songs and hymns and read poetry and prayers that  reflected on those who have sacrificed their lives in service from the First World War to the current time and expressed hopes of peace in the future.  This was augmented by still images of conflict, war graves and the memorial events at the Cenotaph in London projected as a backdrop.  Devon is a county with strong military connections with his air and naval bases and the Marine Commando training base at Lympstone so Remembrance Day is rightly a big deal around here.  In order to give a sense of how relevant the work of the Royal British Legion is today, a captain from the Commandos read a poem written by one of his troop in Afghanistan.  This was a poignant end to a moving assembly.

I've posted this to show current and previous members of the armed service that the tradition of remembrance is alive and well and is being passed down to our children.  Hopefully the pharse  'lest they forget' will not be applicable for a long time.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Posh 'Heinz': Sweet Potato Soup

Ah!  Freshly caught and skinned haggis. Just plucked wriggling from a misty Scottish moorland.  I jest of course, These are the sweet potatoes alluded to in today's title.  But don't let this fool you into thinking that the major ingredient is going to be the main influence on the taste of the finished product.  What turns up in the bowl is the spit for Heinz Cream of Tomato soup - only this version is arguably tastier and definitely thriftier.

The recipe is adapted from one of my much loved collection of old paperbacks that I used to pick up from Sainsburys with the weekly shop, The Good Book of Soup by Lindsey Bareham.   This is such a handy volume arranged around the seasons with an additional section on store cupboard ingredients which applies to the recipe that my link will cunningly lead you too!  Ha! Self publicity indeed.  I haven't messed with the original much but have just compensated for the lack of plum tomatoes by substituting tinned ones.

  • Peel about 1lb (454g) haggis sweet potatoes.  You'll notice my scales were way over but once I'd chopped off the ends of my veg it was about right.  Cut them up into large chunks and either steam or boil until softened (about 15-20 minutes whatever method is used).
  • Meanwhile - melt about 2oz (50g) butter in a large saucepan, finely chop an onion and saute this in a covered pan until softened.
  • Open a tin of plum tomatoes and drain as much juice as you can into a measuring jug
  • Top up jug to 1 1/2 pints (just under a litre) with boiling  beef or vegetable stock.  I used a Kallo organic stock cube.
  • Add everything to the pan, season with salt and pepper and blitz.
My guess is a panload will serve 6-8 people.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Open All Hours

My friend married a man with the surname 'Burke' and kept her own name.  So as to enlighten my non English readers 'berk', which is pronounced in the same way, is slang for idiot.  What I hadn't realised is that it's derived from the cockney slang for 'Berkshire Hunt'.  You can work out the rather naughty Anglo Saxon term it rhymes with yourself.   I bet that there weren't many of us innocently using this term who knew that!

Anyway, that's an aside.  I was ultra busy yesterday.  After driving back from Plymouth after a night of whetting my whistle with wine to bid Bon Voyage to Salty Dog, the femme fatale of  the seas, I got on with some selling.  D'you know, barring cars and houses, I don't ever think I've undertake this activity on my own behalf before.  Sure I've pulled pints in a pub, plied my bric a brac wares at the school fete and suchlike but I've had a mental barrier about flogging stuff for my own gain.  Weird isn't it?  Anyway in order to work on my long term plan of diversifying my earnings I've thrown caution to the wind, jumped the hurdle and now I'm in the throes of selling.  There's no brooms, brushes or buckets though.  Just pre-worn jewellery that is being listed on Ebay and yesterday bits and pieces that I've created myself finally started to trickle into my Folksy shop whose entrance is at the top of my right hand side bar.  Gulp! My teeny tiny business is open and I'm interested to see how my little entrepreneurial experiment will develop over the next few months.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

My Inner Devonian

Question:  How many Devonians does it take to change a lightbulb?
Answer:  Two: one to change it and the other to say how nice the old one was!

I need to be adopted by the county that I've lived in for the last twenty eight years.  This will not happen, of course, even though I've tried to bribe the natives here into accepting me by portraying a retro bulb rather than the curly wurly eco-type.   To be truly accepted your ancestry has to go back as far as Francis Drake.  It also goes without saying that, from birth, you must know the correct order in which to assemble the scone, clotted cream and jam compilation that forms the main part of a cream tea.

It is not enough to mourn the demise of old technological wizardry that has been replaced by the new like I was doing yesterday.  Both my camera and fancy pants new  Android phone need recharging what seems like every five minutes.  Even when the battery in my old smartphone, which did the job of these two devices, were running down at the end of their life, it seemed everlasting compared to those in its replacements.  My plan to take and download photos of jewellery I'd made  went to pot as a consequence.  Instead I spent the afternoon turning the air blue by swearing at my computer because the programme that should allow me to back up information doesn't work.  It keeps telling me to retry plugging the phone into the computer's USB port again and if that doesn't work to replace the device!  Surely there should be something about throwing it out of the window as well? Aarrgh!!

I'm sure everything will turn out as right as rain eventually and I'll grow to love my  new toys.   But today I fancy going right back to the olden days and spending time restricting reliance to handtools, textbooks and candlelight!

Monday, 7 November 2011

The Alphabetical Tourist: Anguilla

Prickly Pear Cay
My lovely friend Salty Dog will soon be heading back to Grenada, where she avoids our cold winters by living on a boat !  So, tonight,  I'm  heading off down to Plymouth to bid her goodbye with the help of hearty supplies of food and wine.  Soon she will return to her romantic but childless jet-setting life leaving me behind to fulfill my duties as a mum.  And yes, indeed, soon it will be a working one at that now my sick leave is coming to an end.

But for the next two weeks I too will be in the Carribean- in a virtual sense of course!  Today sees me on Anguilla, a tiny eel-shaped strip of land (hence the name) and some idyllic uninhabited islands like the one shown here in the Leeward Islands. This is a  British Overseas Territory which means our armed forces are responsible for defending it.  However there's none around at present as its a peaceful place and our soldiers,sailors and airmen are bit busy doing the bits and bobs that Mr Cameron and his team are finding them elsewhere in the world.

Now what's here?  Well there's lots that typically Carribean about this place,  a colonial history, the fishy diet, carnival, sailing, cricket, an abundance of beaches for chillin' on and rum with a variety called Pyrat made on the island.  It could be a particularly enticing spot to set up home if you're mega-rich as it's a tax haven with no direct or capital taxes.  In modern times the island isn't particularly fertile and much of its foodstuff has to be imported but once it was a lush tropical rainforest and attracted Amerindian settlers from South America. They lived here around 2,500 - 3,000 years ago and left evidence of their habitation such as this jolly dude!

Bankie Banx by Alan Turkus
Given the inevitable slave trade that's associated with the island's colonial past, the majority of the population are  of African descent and have had a major cultural influence since emancipation.  Robert Athyli Rogers, founded an Afrocentric religion on the island in the 1920s and his book the 'Holy Piby' was an important precursor to Rastafarianism.  And of course, there's reggae! This is the island's most foremost artists.  For all you oldies out there, like myself, don't be scared.  This guy doesn't trade in aggressive rap music and those arse-baring trousers beloved of the younger set.  Here's known as the Anguillan Bob Dylan and he comes complete with mouth organ on some tracks.  I'm so glad I turned up on his island home and discovered his lovely eclectic music which I'll be researching further on Spotify today.  Here's a YouTube link for those who are curious!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Teapot that Came Home

Here's my latest Ebay acquisition which has caused me much excitement. I narrowly missed the opportunity to acquire an identical one from a charity stall at the school fair back in July and was even willing to pay the fifteen pounds asking price.   But whilst I dithered over buying it someone pipped me to the post.  So I set up a saved search on the auction site and was notified by email every time a teapot by the now defunct maker 'Devonmoor' was listed.   Four months on,  my desired match became available  and it's now mine, all mine for the bargain price of just over seven pounds including postage!

The reason why I wanted this little Art Deco inspired piece, besides the fact that I find it quite aesthetically pleasing, is that it was made in my own village.  What's more, even though the pottery ceased production in the early 1980s the building it was housed in remains standing.  The workship has been converted into homes and this bottle shaped kiln has been preserved as a pleasing feature in the development.   Although my teapot is plain,  lots of the items produced here were the familiar  blue and white seaside souvenirs with resort names embossed into them that were so popular in the post war period.  And horror of horrors Devonmoor also produced Toby jugs, some of the most grotesque examples of the ceramicist's art known to mankind.  They'd never grace Lovelygrey villas however local their provenance may be!

Those who know me will ascertain that the term  'accident prone' might have been coined for me personally.  But fear not these pieces of blue pottery are not the remains of my teapot after I'd dropped it in the garden just after it was delivered.  Thankfully, it remains intact,  at least for the time-being.  No, coincidentally, on my morning walk  yesterday, I tied another string to my bow and became an industrial archaelogist.  For on the footpath across the fields that runs behind the old village I looked down and discovered that there were loads of these shards scattered about which bear testament to the working life of the village in the 'olden days'.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Squirrelling away the Nuts

Just writing the title today has rustled up memories of that old song, 'Here we go gathering nuts in May'. What a ridiculous pursuit!  Unless perhaps you live in the Southern Hemisphere.  Does autumn for my fellow earthlings who live upside down on this planet bring the same seasonal harvest?  My botanical knowledge does not stretch to this.

Anyway, I bet you thought that this might be a foraging post given the time of year but ha! it's not.  On Thursday I went to pay in some cheques at one of the banks in Bovey Tracey, my nearest town.  The task in hand prompted me to take my camera. For above the door and over the cashpoint machine at NatWest,  there are a pair of charming plaques depicting thrifty squirrels!   They're hard to snap as the pavement is narrow and it's quite a busy little town.  So I only managed to take a picture of this fellow as I didn't want to get in the way of people taking out their money.  I'll add him to the post at a later stage and let you know when he's there!

I've been indulging in that dangerous occupation of thinking.  Perhaps the squirrel is the wrong animal to depict over the cashpoint anyway?   Even though the machine dispenses notes,  I'll work with metaphor. Surely the magpie, with its propensity to grab shiny objects should be there?  And perhaps the bank should consider a new plaque portraying a creature that's a borrower too?  However, I'm at a loss to find one so any suggestions will be gratefully received!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Bidding on the Bay

Photo by Porbital at

Trips into  big conurbations like Exeter, Torbay or Plymouth are rarities for me these days.  In saying this I know I'll be raising a titter from those confirmed urbanites who view these, the most populous places in Devon,  like large villages compared to their own massive home towns.  Because the range of shops in smaller towns are more limited, I've become much more reliant on postal shopping since my move to the country.  And those wheelers and dealers on Ebay have certainly been amongst the biggest beneficiaries of the contents of the Lovelygrey purse.

Now, not everything on Ebay is a super cheap  As auction sites go you're looking at the most favourable seller's market in the world.  If something is ΓΌber desirable then many people are going to be scrapping around trying to get their mitts on it.   So they'll be no i-Phone 4s or Faberge eggs at ridiculously low prices.  The likelihood is that  popular items will be sold over the odds to a bidder with more money than sense.  But here's are my ten top tips for using this wonderful resource sensibly and maybe, getting some bargains to boot.

  • Shop around.  It's easy to get carried away with the format but other places could be cheaper.  Look to online and high street shops for cheaper deals on new goods.  You'll almost certainly buy that prized antique cheaper at an auction house because there won't be so many potential buyers who are aware of what's on sale.
  • More bidders are on line in the evenings and I recall from somewhere that Sunday is the most popular day.   There's often less competitive bidding on auctions that end in the wee small hours or the daytime. 
  • Too busy to sit around at the computer to catch those items where the auction ends at times when you're busy?  Use a sniping tool to place bids ahead of time on your behalf.  I've been using the free service,  bidding scheduler with a lot of success for some time.
  • Don't forget those 'hidden costs'.  Postal charges and duty on items shipped from overseas may increase the price of goods to levels where they don't seem like bargains after all.  Gen up on the implications of buying from a certain country before placing a bid
  • Conversely some things from overseas work out cheaper overall because people are more reluctant to bid on items listed internationally.
  • There are real savings to be had when items are marked 'Pick up Only'.  This often applies to furniture and heavier goods.  Don't let the fact that the table you've fallen in love with is in deepest darkest Cornwall when you live in Manchester.  You can always arrange for a courier service to collect the item and deliver it to you.
  • Save searches for more obscure items that you're after so that you're notified by email when they're available for sale.
  • Recreate that charity shop experience by setting filters on a search, say for items of clothing.  Sort by 'ending soonest' and put in a price limit of £1 on items listed and see what comes up!
  • Just as in traditional shops if you buy unseasonally there a better likelihood that you'll bag a bargain.  Down jackets during a heatwave, swimming costumes at Christmas, toys at any time of the year other than Christmas etc etc.
  • Tick that box that says 'include descriptions' when you search to sneakily  find items that other people performing searches on just the titles of listings may miss!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Nearly Nicked from Nick: Cauliflower and Cheddar Soup

Lou and I returned from France to find that Mr Lovelygrey had been impulse buying.  Not those electronic gadgets so beloved of males but, weirdly enough vegetables bought at knock down prices from the Coop.  Because the 'head of the household' been living alone for a week, his diet had veered towards convenience fare even though he'd been stuffing the fridge full of greenery.  I have some sympathy here.  When I haven't had to cook for others I've been known to live on a  decidedly unhealthy diet of taramasalata and ready salted Square crisps.

So my challenge this week is to clear out the cold zone.  I turned to Nick Nairn, a TV chef from the colder climes of Scotland for inspiration.   His website has a lovely recipe for Cauliflower and Mulled Cheddar soup. I've followed this to the letter previously with some success but a bit of creativity was needed as we did not have half the ingredients called for.  The cauliflower in the fridge was much weedier than the large specimen called for. There was  no cream or the parsley needed to infuse an oil to drizzle over the final product. And as for the 'cheddar' with a dubious Scottish provenance (surely it should be from Somerset?) well forget it!

Whilst we'd been away, bread making had also  been put on hold and some shop brought sliced white had sneaked into Lovelygrey Villas, no doubt to use in the sandwich toaster. To get rid of it, I cut a couple of slices into crouton-y cubes and fried them in olive oil with crushed garlic and  a bit of smoked streaky bacon. This rustic garnish replaced the hoity toity parsley oil and pleased my meat loving neanderthal boys no end.

Meanwhile, I'd chopped an onion and fried it in a  melted knob of butter.  Once it was softened I added that puny cauli together with a large piece of broccoli which I'd finely chopped according to Mr Nairn's instructions.  This concoction was then simmered in a pint and a half of water for about thirty minutes and then blitzed  until smooth with the hand blender.  To make up for the  lack of cream, I added much more grated vintage 'blow your head off' cheddar than the original fifty grammes that the recipe recommended.   Finally the soup was  seasoned to taste  with sea salt, loads of ground pepper, and the pinches of cayenne pepper and Colman's mustard powder beloved of my 1970s domestic science teacher, Miss Blampied.   I haven't retained much that is useful in my daily life from my school days but  because of her I do know how to bring out the flavour of cooked cheese!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Crest of A Wave Necklace

Another very busy day yesterday! I cut my hair pretty much symmetrically with the help of carefully arranged mirrors from around the home, made a visit to the hospital and was discharged from their care. And I had an eye test, the consequence of which is that I have been told that I must bite the bullet, forego vanity and wear my varifocal glasses pretty much all the time to prevent more rapid sight deterioration in future.  So, I've chosen some snazzy new frames as part of my specky makeover to be revealed in a couple of weeks time!

In between all of this running around I had a lovely time multi-tasking in my study/workroom.this morning.   Courtesy of Channel 4OD I caught up with the latest episodes of Kirstie's Handmade Britain.   It was so comforting to see someone else uttering expletives like a fish wife when their artistic endeavours go wrong.   It proves that craft is not just for delicate feminine souls.   Wow! - I so want to run off right then and try some of the papercraft featured on the show, and so clutter up the place with yet more unfinished projects.  But with amazing foresight I decided to watch the programme whilst restringing some beads and  so my attention was averted from  starting something new.  The pictures here show the resultant and, yes indeed, completed 'Crest of A Wave' necklace, partially named this because of my current bouncy mood.

I bought a necklace which was the source of these blue glass beads on Ebay.  The listing said that they were Edwardian Murano but I'm not sure enough of their provenance to use that description when I come to sell my piece.  Even so they're very beautiful and I decided that they needed something special to complement them rather than the tatty blue cord and cheap steel findings found on the original.   So I've twisted and bashed some silver wire flat on my cute tiny anvil and added tiny fishes to the funky wave form.  Hey presto!  I've ended up with a necklace where the catch can be worn either at the front or the back.

As my health is improving by the day, I'm ready to start to implement my plan to diversify how I produce my income.  Of course this is at hobby stage yet but who know's where my leisure time experiments might lead me.  Ebay selling of vintage jewellery is underway and look out for items listed in my Folksy shop by the end of the week!