Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Item 419: Grow a Beard?

Normally 'en vacances' in Brittany I rattle through four or five books whilst imbibing a few glasses of single vineyard wine bought from supermarkets at bargain prices.  Result!  This time was different as  I was inspired to spend my time in different way after finishing just one paperback on day two, The To-Do List. Following in the footsteps of the author Mike Gayle, I felt the urge  to come up with my own 1,227 item agenda to action over the next year.

Did I succeed?  Well, no.  I've spent the last ten days mentally grafting and have come up with a comparatively paltry 418 potentially achievable things to gratifyingly tick off when completed.  And of course I'll share my experiences in due course.  All sorts of resources have been brought into play to provide inspiration, including the author's own list.  Unfortunately I do not have the inclination to grow a beard like he did.  Hirsutism will remain firmly at bay through timely use of tweezers. Neither will I be succombing to the urge to feel a pair of false breasts, an item that one of Monsieur Gayle's girly friends sensibly vetoed before his wife could get very cross indeed.  However I am intent on finding out the origin of the term 'It ain't over until the fat lady sings', doing something with the shrinky dink plastic that I bought on impulse and feeding the cultural part of my psyche by re-watching all the episodes of Rab C Nesbit  that I can find on YouTube whilst I'm doing my ironing!

PS: It's now some hours since I published this post and amongst other things I've managed to tick off item 244 - 'find notebook and pen that I took on holiday.  This is where I recorded my original list and there were a few extra bits and pieces that I forgot to include, some indeed inspired by the imbibement of special grape juice.  My final 'To Do' list total now stands at 454 and I am  also spared the embarrassment of imagining the staff in the lost property department at Brittany Ferries wondering why on earth I ever felt the need to sketch a rather lewd  picture of a fox with two willies   My secret remains safe with a select few!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Dance with Death

The thing about the The Rough Guide to Brittany & Normandyis that, rather like that very serious range of travel books the  'Blue Guides,  it dwells heavily on ecclesiastical and archeological sites in the Breton department.  Great if you enjoy wandering around old churches and their environs but not so useful if your preference are for less highbrow attractions.

Happily, we've found small boys love a French church especially if they contain a few gruesome body parts in caskets.  The chapel at Kermaria an Isquit does not disappoint on this count.  Not only is there the skull of an old Lord of the Manor but as an added bonus, two silvery caskets contain the hearts of his chummers.  However, unlike the uncryptically named church of St John the Finger(!), anatomical bits and bobs are not the main attraction.  Many visitors find their way here to see the danse macabre.

This fresco, painted in the 15th or 16th century was covered over for many years only to be discovered again four hundred or so years later.  It depicts people of all ages and social standing each holding hands with death, or Ankur as he's known in Brittany.  It's a reminder that all beings are mortal whoever they are.

And there's more here that makes this place well worth visiting.  The wooden statues in the porch are exquisite and there are many other treasures inside the building to discover too.  And this trap door?  Well, it's the entrance to a tunnel that allegedly leads to a manor house about 4km away.  Although we assumed it was out of bounds a recent online article  contradicts this.  So, we may be back at sometime soon as the rather disappointed Lovelygrey boys are keen to experience that claustrophobia that might only be felt when confined in a dank, dark medieval hole!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Healing Holiday Air!

Tracing the course of my latest bout of depression has been interesting and acts as a learning experience if ever there is a next time round.  It seems a long time since I wandered around the supermarket completely stumped by how to cook a roast chicken, or had to go back to bed immediately after breakfast, yet that was just six weeks ago.  My concentration has improved to the point where  I can now drive to my GP surgery  without hitting the curb three times and my energy levels are sufficiently restored to a level where a two hour coast path walk does not leave me bedraggled for days after.

Although I've not yet quite clambered up the cliff  back to normality,  I'm getting there on a combination of  a change of scenery and different medication.  So thank you to my friends and family who helped me along the way in Essex, Norfolk and Brittany.  Oh! my lovely GP and the inventors of Venlaflaxine have also played their part too.  Cheers fellas! You've got me up a part of the ascent which seemed so sheer that I needed lots of help to tackle it.

Now, the obstacles on this part of my climb are different.  Instead of the indifference and lack of motiviation that I felt when I first succombed to this illness, I'm plagued by anxious thinking and low mood, much more familiar symptoms that I've had in the past.  The good news is because I've encountered these before I have a pre-prepared plan.  So I'll be speaking to the doc tomorrow to ask him to increase my anti-depressant dose.  And I've now got enough va-va voom back to up the ante and get busy doing things that increase my confidence and sense that, yes,  life is  indeed good again!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Pink Polar Bear of Perros

In the best British tradition I'm going to start this post with a grumble.  We're back from ten days in Brittany and the weather could have been a lot, lot drier and warmer.  Additionally these pictures were taken during our stay at Perros-Guirec, a place that does not have an aire de camping car on which to park up and stay in our motorhome for little or no cost.  As our friends had reserved a hotel and we wanted to spend time with them,  we had little choice but to pay an incredible 38 Euros a night for a down at heel camping site that did not even have loo roll in its toilets.  When I sent Mr Lovelygrey to perform his ablutions in the better of the two shower blocks he was astonished that a worse facility could possibly exist  Bah humbug!

Moaning over. We actually had a brilliant time in this lovely town which boasts expansive beaches and has a cracking piece of the coastpath right on its doorstep.  My camera hasn't captured the beauty of the rose coloured granite structures that grace the shoreline.  Allegedly many have names which our guidebook didn't disclose but surely my opening shot would grace a Fox's glacier mint rather nicely and this guy just has to be an ape of some sort.
Of course, big piles of rocks are just the ticket for small boys to scramble over.  Here's Louis and his friend Josh perched on a giant 'turtle'. They also had great fun naming the structures that they came across.
Both seem to be budding geologists and I'll be sharing some more of the 'rocky encounters' that occured later on in the trip in another post.  But for now...it's back to those inevitable chores of laundry and unpacking after time away!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

At the End of the Silvery Thread


In a bid to schedule ahead so that my loyal readers have their daily dose of Lovelygrey's musing whilst I'm in Brittany, I've milked to death my recent visit to the Devon Guild of Craftsmen's latest exhibition. I apologise for the really poor use of metaphor but here goes. Beyond the final squeezes on the udders of the cow of creativity!

We'll start with Tony Mann, who builds automata.  A super serious sounding career in Industrial Design has evolved into making these gorgeous toys for adults and children alike to enjoy.  Just don't let your rug rats get their sticky little hands on these intricately worked little people in their boxes.

I loved the four figurative pieces in the exhibition that were made by ceramicist, Jenny Southam but this was the one that made me giggle.  Bring on more arty stuff generates humour.  It depicts a man pretending to be a statue in a wood.  How mad is that!

I've saved the best until last. On reflection, I think the work of mosaic artist Jude Freeman provided me with the greatest inspiration and hence, after looking through my photos have become my favourite pieces in the exhibition. What I admire is the skill in mixing found objects and high quality tesserae.  By clever use of broken china she transforms these fragments that many would see as only fit for the bin, into pieces as valuable to the design as those expensive Venetian tiles that butt up against them.

Friday, 26 August 2011

The Girly Fairy in All of Us

A few months back a workmate asked me to mend a favourite necklace  and presented me with a purse containing findings, a pretty plump heart, some of the freshwater pink pearls and a few of the cylindrical beads that had been incorporated into her original purchase. I rebuilt it on memory wire, added some larger silver tubes of my own to help make up the loss of length caused by  some of the original pieces being  irretrievable from the nest of a magpie where they must have ended up.  Here is my finished makeover with some of the other bits and pieces I've recently repaired.

I was strangely attracted to this necklace in spite of the fact that I'm not really uber-feminine in taste.  Pinkness and hearts aren't  normally my bag.  But I'd thought I'd make my own homage and this is the result.  Again I've used the tubular silver beads and pastel pearls but I've even taken the girly thing a step further and used a Thai Silver fairy as a centrepiece.  Now, all I need to do is something completely out of character, don a flouncy dress and model my new creation!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Tool Kit in the Kitchen

Mr Lovelygrey would  hate this post that I've scheduled  cunningly to publish itself whilst we're in Brittany. Ta-ta!  He's not the most avid follower of my blog,  Probably experiencing some of the loop-da- loop things that I do in real life is enough for him without having to read about them too.

I see the world as if it were a big laboratory or studio in which to conduct experiments and/or be creative.  There are so many things to use at our disposal and here's where Mr Lovelygrey and I don't see eye to eye.  He views tools as being designed specifically for a purpose whereas I see them as much more versatile beasties.  The kitchen is a plethora of lovely gadgets that can be used, not merely for boring old food preparation but for so much more!

That thing he calls the washing machine - yes it can get clothes clean but it's also been used to dye clothes  and for feltmaking , albeit accidentally.  A metal sieve makes a great 'panning device' for using in conjunction with my tumble polisher that's filled with steel shot for cleaning jewellery.  When a load is finished, I tip it in and sift out the 'precious things' just like a modern day prospecter.  The carving knife came in handy to halve the corks for my bathmat and  a garlic crusher, graters and cookie cutters have all been put to use when modelling Fimo Clay.  I've resisted using the pasta machine to roll it out though and bought a dedicated version for the purpose.  There are so many warnings online about toxicity that I took heed and hence we've avoided being poisoned by eating  luridly marbled tagliatelle. Finally,  many chemical reactions have taken place in the those versatile pyrex dishes.  Adding sodium hydroxide to olive oil to make soap was the most impressive and there's still a dishful of much more benign pickling solution in the garage.  This restores the shine to silver after it's first been heated to an active temperature in the microwave.

Ah! the microwave, now that's the most useful tool of all.   Its ideal for melting stuff, for example wax, if unlike me, candle making is your bag.  But its multi-functionality lies in the fact that it  is really a great big desiccator that can be used for drying flowers, making paper mache and that most eighties of crafts, salt dough.   In fact, there's a whole book, Crafts from the Microwave  that's lets itself down by including food recipes but is, at least, in part dedicated to the improper use of this appliance!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Thought for the Day: Painfully Thin

Yep!  That's how everyone describes me.  Actually I lie.  'You've got a great big bottom', said Louis, stating the blooming obvious the other day.  The problem is that I love my tuck and I have so many fond memories of great things I've eaten.   It'll come as no surprise that today's post picture comes courtesy of Microsoft Clipart and is not me!

For example, Mr Lovelygrey and I  ate in this strange little restaurant cum nightclub in Auxerre years ago. If memory serves me well  I think it was called  Birdland.  The ambience was bizarre but the cassoulet was one of the best meals I've ever had.  Duck leg to die for!   Then there was the childhood summer holiday in Dorset when I was poorly at the time.  I can't remember if it was Walls or Lyons Maid, who for that year only, produced an ice that looked like a bar of Sunlight Soap.  But it was so, so heavenly lemony and it soothed my sore throat a treat.  And I'll go on...

The first runny egg and chips after I gave birth.  How I'd been longing for an unset yolk for months.  Dime bars from the garage opposite my university hall of residence.  Cockles with bread and butter from Leigh-on-Sea,  That weird but wonderful soup served at the Nobody Inn, Doddiscombleigh in the days under its previous ownership when children were so unwelcome, I doubted that I'd be allowed in when pregnant.  And of course, Mama Lovelygrey's chicken and bacon pie and the 'Dish with No Name' that she made following a recipe from the post war rationing days.  It was a concoction that had a base of sausage meat, layered with spaghetti hoops and topped with a cheesy potato lid.  Don't pooh-pooh this, you food snobs out there!  It was delicious enough for everyone in the family to request it as their 'birthday meal'.

And excuse the lack of food cosmetic photography here but I wanted to get on with my lunch!  Jacket potato with prawns brings back a very particular memory as it was pretty much my daily diet whilst on placement at Treliske Hospital during my occupational therapy training!  Yummy, though it is, it's less frequently on the menu these days.  On my work experience in Cornwall I was based with the therapist who specialised in oncology.  For the first time in my life, I came across people suffering from cancer would have viewed having a big bottom as complimetary as they  were delighted when they put ON weight.  Food for thought indeed.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The 'Everlasting' Dressing Jar

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Moutarde_de_Dijon.jp
This is Maille's magnificant shop in Dijon selling the city's famous moutarde! As a good Anglo-Saxon,  I like English mustard as much as its French counterpart.  There's nothing like slathering the hot yellow stuff on a fat juicy sausage.   Just pause there for a moment.  Do you think that the last sentence could mark the start of a budding porn writing career or should I  keep hold of my own job for the time-being?


I was delighted that Norwich, in the heart of the Norfolk growing area, has its own olde-worlde mustard shop too, selling goods made by Colman's, the most popular brand on these shores.  It's good no-nonsense stuff that comes in powder form as well as ready-made.  I recall that, in the days of domestic science, our teacher, Miss Blampied (I kid you not!), used it in all manner of savoury stuff as an extra condiment. 'Remember girls, it bring's out the flavour of the cheese'.  she exhorted in her plummy voice.  And do you know? It did too.

Now Colmans comes in a dull trapezoid pot whereas Maille's glass container is more curvaceous and aesthetically pleasing.  It is, 'ow d'you say - Oh! so French! But our English contestant  has the edge for the thrift conscious as Maille's awkward shape means that there was always a bit too much wastage for my liking trapped in those hard to reach cornices.  Until I came up with the great idea of making my dressing directly into a nearly used jar.  I've just popped in my olive oil and white wine vinegar.  Then I added, seasoning to taste, just salt and pepper and none of Miss Blampied's special magic powder.  And after a quick shake, la voila, the dressing is ready.  Just check the flavour each time its used and add a bit more oil and vinegar if too much mustard has soaked off!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Sleuthing

My current bout of depression has again got me thinking about my attitude towards work even though I normally love my busy, rewarding and intellectually challenging job as an occupational therapist in a NHS mental health team. I wrote over a year ago vaguely on the concept of retirement. Then, I pondered over developing interests that have the air of hobbies rather than jobs and could potentially be financially productive, even into the later years of my life.   With the increasing levels of stress that full-time public sector employment brings, I wonder if the need for this diversification may come sooner than I'd originally intended. 


All those auction type programmes on the BBC are working their dubious magic and I've been asking myself if there is any profit that I could make in wheeling and dealing. Now, I'm not thinking about making a fast buck but, over time, developing a bit of knowledge about the antiques market, and with that, some idea about what purchases represent good value for money and could be sold on at a respectable profit.

 So, I've been spending some of my time whilst off sick doing a bit of research and scratching the surface of learning about the vintage jewellery market and playing with some of the items that I've bought on Ebay.  I've acquired a little magnifying glass, a louche as it's known to us experts darlings, and have to say that the detective work surrounding identifying maker's marks and hallmarks is fascinating.  All the legal aspects hold my interest too.  There's also my precious metal testing kit, impressively scary looking, with its skull and crossbones on its locking(!) box with threats about how the chemicals can take the jubblies off rats at a thousand paces.  This example here is clearly an old plated item as you can see from the gold coloured metal showing through but the test for 9ct gold gave a satisfying bubbling hissing reaction that shows that I've haven't made my fortune on this piece and the base metal is most likely to be copper!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Unrelated Updates

In past posts  I've said that I'd give some further feedback about all kinds of stuff so decided today to write something for everyone!  The 'Top Gear' fans will  respond with glee when they hear about the performance of my now-newish motor,  craftsters among you will be given an update about the  durability of my home made bathmat and my fellow glampers wiil find out whether I've ever got my huge, fold up tent back  into its carry bag.  Harvesting snails remains on the back burner!

First stop - the Ford Fiesta Econetique.  On the positive side, it's comfy inside, looks great, all my camping gear fits into it easily  and Louis loves the voice activated stereo system.  It keeps him and his little mates amused for hours.   It's also over thirty pounds a month cheaper than my old lease car and over the three years this saving pays for a fortnight away in France so its not to be sniffed at.  However Like the Fiesta is a bit less gutsy performance wise than my old Skoda Fabia, although it's not embarrassing weedy like the motorhome on a hill.   But what was I expecting, given  the eco tag?  Other downsides are that its air conditioning and parking sensors aren't up to the same standard as in the Volkswagen group vehicles.  I can't turn the front airbag off either so Louis has been relegated to the back seat on journeys that we make without Mr Lovelygrey.  More importantly, I don't yet seem to be achieving the fuel savings I was expecting  but perhaps I might when the 'mythical' running in period is over.  We'll see.

Right onto my cork mat.  As both the lovely Meanqueen and I expected, this finely worked piece of craftsmanship does fall apart quite quickly. It only takes a bit of scientific knowledge to realise that the corks are going to expand as they get wet.  Still, it looks fantastic and I do love it enough to keep the hot glue gun available for running repairs.  I'm going to rethink Mark II which is planned for the main bathroom once I've increased my supply of nicely decorated corks again.

And that Quechua 4:2 tent?  Well, on its first three outings it came home in a partially popped up state in the back of the car leaving me reliant on the wing mirrors to see behind. Only Mr Lovelygrey seems to be able cast his magic and get it back into the bag!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Following that Silvery Thread Again

Another post about the current exhibition 'A Silver Thread' at the headquarters of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen at Bovey Tracey, this time, quite a quick one, featuring the work of Mike Tingle, a printmaker who sometimes works in copper.



Now this piece is made up of nine wonderfully enamelled and embossed pieces of metal, both skills that I'd love to gain some competency at.  And there is a story from Greek mythology that interweaves the nine pictures that make up this work.  However, whilst doing the research I've imbibed two of the wonderful beers from Mr Lovelygrey's kegerator .  This may be why the meaning behind the story of Ariadne's thread is lost on me so you'll have to look it up yourself!

Friday, 19 August 2011

A Bit of A Puzzle


Weird things go on in cyberspace these days.  Judging by the personally targeted banners that pop up on all sorts of websites, someone is definitely watching me.  But they don't seem to know me half as well as they think they do.  Some of the things that they believe that I might buy with a bit of their devillish persuasion  are often offtrack.  One thing I definitely wouldn't be tempted by is  the offer to drive to Exeter, which is sixteen miles closer to London than Newton Abbot,  and  pay £3.50 more for a rail ticket to travel to Paddington!

These unseen spies pester me in the hope that I'll make a  major purchase when  the evil deed  has  already been done. So,  my pop ups still include quite a few reasonably priced cars (minus the Star!) even though my employee leased Fiesta Econetique was chosen long again and has been  sitting on my drive for over a month.  Also,  Mr Less than Super-Duper Sleuth, if you're listening,  I'm happy with the camera  I've bought!  It will serve me for a few years to come and I don't need another yet.   If money were no object,  I really would love more than one skiiing holiday next year but  2012 is already sorted out.  I've arranged it on a budget, not through those tour operators who are shamelessly touting their packages as bargains for double the price I've paid.

More annoyingly,  I'm subjected to adverts for things that I definitely don't want.  Say, I do some research and look up credit card or loan rates to do a 'back of the envelope' calculation about the savings that can be achieved by not resorting to borrowing.  You can guarantee there'll be a barrage of lenders unwantedly vying for my attention.  And once, I mentioned a large furniture chain in a disparingly way on Facebook and I was bombarded by images of ugly sofas for months.

So to see if those unseen Ad-men have got the message, I'll try a little experiment even though I might live to regret it.   What effect will mentioning Cheestrings,  Remington Nose Hair Trimmers and Febreze Plug In Air Fresheners in this post have on this thrifty, green-ish decluttering girl's consumer profile!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Doing a Thoreau

This is Walden where Henry Thoreau, the 19th American author built a hut in the woods when he wanted to retreat from the world and write. Not having read any of his work, I thought that he'd lived for four and a half years self sufficiently and in almost total isolation. However, I note from Wikipedia that his family home was just a stone's through away so I bet he popped back to his Mum with his dirty washing and forced himself to stay for  lunch if she was cooking a roast and apple pie.  Or perhaps she called round with a cake every so often?

People think that my mixture of personality traits is most peculiar.   I'm exceptionally gregarious and many view me as a noisy bugger but I do love my own company and silence to a larger degree than almost anyone else that I know.  I could happily go for days without seeing a soul.   And at the moment I feel like doing that.  Camping out for a few weeks in wilderness with just the basics could be just what I need to get over this period of depression.   Of course, like Walden, I'd let my loved ones visit if they brought luxuries - emergency chocolate, nice soap and freshly laundered knickers.  It would be nice if there was an ice cream van within easy walking distance too   However, this idea is a no goer.  Owing to the commitment that having a family brings,  I'm just going to have to work out how to get better in my own surroundings at Lovelygrey Villas.

The problem with home and all that is contained within, both people and possessions, is that they come with loads of responsibility.  And the complex juggling acts that's required to ensure everything goes smoothly and everyone remains content  is beyond my ability at the moment.  Normally, I'd whizz round and clean upstairs in an hour or two.  But at the moment I have to spread the task out over a couple of days.  Now if I were in that tent everything would be pucker and shipshape in no time. And then I'd have plenty of time to devote to being the life and soul of the party rather than flagging out in a grumpy heap rather too often.

But although I'd love to escape, I've conceded that spending time with my family is  probably the best place to recover from this intensely annoying and debilitating spell of illness.  So, I've compromised on my reclusive plans.  I'm going ahead with our planned summer trip to Brittany in the motorhome.  And then once I've rested,   I've got to be able to cope once again in my familiar home environment and get back to doing the normal everyday activities that should  be fairly effortless.  Then it will be time to figure out how that return to work, which still seems a step too far, fits in too.




Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Dreaming of an Escape to the Country?

Rural Blackberry:  Note lack of touchpad and mouthpiece
Now this is the time of year when some of you have left your city pads and come away to places like Cornwall and Devon where the countryside meets the sea.   For maybe more than a few, a thought crosses your mind.  'Wouldn't it be nice to live here!'  'It is!' would be my very firm reply.   But each to their own.  Some of the obvious advantages that I'd list would constitute an urbanite's worst nightmare.  Before  upping sticks and embracing rural living, here are a few extra things that you need to know.

Illustration 2: Menacing Beasties Follow You
  • A blackberry is a fruit that grows on a spiky bush in the hedgerow (see illustration 1).  It is not a covetable electronic device that might not work properly here anyway.
  • And whilst we're taking about communication, don't expect an immediate reply to emails.  Estimate a quick response time to be about two weeks. 
  • Digital radio - what's that?  You may even be lucky to get a proper FM signal.
  • Definitely more creepy crawlies live here than in the city and they come inside your house to warm up as the evenings get chillier.  Arachnophobes beware!  There's a spider living in each corner of our bedroom at the moment.  Oh! I've just spotted another that needs rescuing from the bath.
  • A thatched roof is mini beast central!
  • A day in a field for a farmer seems to be analogous timewise to office hours.  You'll therefore often be stuck behind a tractor on your way to and from work.
  • Sometimes if you go for a walk, you'll get the feeling that you're being followed.  And often you are! (illustration 2)
  • Everyone will be more impressed if you've got rare breed hens in your garden or can grow a nice marrow.  They won't have a clue if your bag has got a name on it that  it might be a bit special. Birkin?  Wasn't she that  lass who sounded like she was having it away with that French bloke on that record in the 1960s? Neither will they notice that your shoes were made by someone called Jimmy Choo.  Isn't he that bloke who runs the local takeaway?
  •  I'll bet my bottom dollar that the nearest  village store to your dream home will never ever have BOGOFs or stock filo pastry, sea bass, smoked tofu or all your preferred brands of  toiletries at any one time.   Nor might the supermarkets in the towns nearby.
  • Not everyone who rides a horse is rich and posh.
  • If you're a career driven animal and want to live near your place of work, you may have to forget about being promoted ever again. 
  • For the pleasure of living in an area of outstanding natural beauty, be prepared to take a smaller salary but increasing your housing costs especially if one of the essential services isn't piped in.
  • Keep your sights on a charming tumble down cottage rather than that period Georgian pad.
  • Forget it if you really love a shiny car but don't like the chore of cleaning it every time you've popped out to get the paper.
  • And being really green and relying solely on public transport is almost impossible  Our own village has reasonably good links. Even so, if you want a night out sampling the heady delights of Newton Abbot, you need to make sure that you're back at the bus stop at 8pm pronto!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The First of a Few Silvery Threads

I'm trying to get out of the house daily and rebelling against the inner recluse who sometimes gets the upper hand at times when my mood dips. Once I've embarked on my trips I'm usually pleased that I've made the effort and I was particularly satisfied with my trip to Bovey Tracey the other day. There, I endured the torture of eyebrow waxing as the first step in getting back to giving a damn about my appearance. That was followed by a wander around the park where I noticed for the first time how the planting resembled that of an arboretum. There's so many different variety of beautiful trees there. I also popped into the charity shops for a mooch and picked up a couple of pieces of interesting vintage jewellery.

As is often the case, my mooch around my nearest town lead me to the Devon Guild of Craftsmen and I was pleased to see that their exhibition had changed since my last visit.   This place is such a source of inspiration.  The people who are accepted to exhibit are incredibly talented.  Currently members' work on the theme of 'A Silver Thread' is being showcased.   There was so much gorgeousness that I'm going to have to spread my adulation over at least two posts.  So, today I'll start with the jewellers. 

The glorious web pendant with its amethyst spider is by the designer, Felix Faulkner.  This cleverly constructed piece would look fantastic on Morticia Addams.  Although you can't see it properly in the picture I particularly liked the fastener, a simple hook and triangular fastener made of square faceted wire.   It's an idea that I might copy in something that I make in future.


However my favourite piece has to be this necklace by Veronica Polyblank, a new member of the Guild who doesn't seem to have her own website.  Perhaps she's shy or just spurns modern technology.  It comes with earrings which are nice enough.  But maybe, I have little interest in them as I don't do piercings even of the staid auricular kind.  However the texturing on the beaten panels, now there's a thing!  They follow the thread theme as the wavy line, which is different on each, forms a continuous whole by appearing to form a link with the jump rings holding them together.  So simple, but very very clever indeed!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Thought for the Day: In Praise of the Rubbish Novel

I began reading a new book the other day but, to be kind, I'm not going to disclose its title at the current time.  It's one that I've set aside as I'm not in the mood for it at the moment and I'm not entirely sure that I'll ever be.  Although the overall synopsis of the plot seemed like it could be completely engaging, I  only got a few pages in before the writing style, especially the dialogue, started to  really, really annoy me!

It got me thinking though.  Not about the story itself but the process of writing a whole novel.  And I've concluded that even if someone comes up with something that I view as complete and utter dross, I'm still in awe of the achievement of being able to stick with it, write a few hundred pages of text and then convince someone to publish it!  Just writing a quick post seems like a major success at times and often I'm not entirely happy with how I've phrased what I'm trying to convey.

And who's to say what's rubbish anyway? One girl's Mills and Boon is another man's Lord of the Rings trilogy and vice versa.   Perhaps that's why when I went in hunt for a definitive guide of the one hundred worst novels of all time, this list of  books  from a small online seller, which included non fiction too, came the closest.  Maybe it's something that really is too subjective to categorise.  I also came across this spoof list . Muggins here thought it was real for a few moments.  Only when my Amazon search for a title about the penis enlarging properties of fruit juice was unsuccessful did I realise that someone was having a laugh!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Only in Essex

After a stress free three days in Southend-on-Sea which has involved no driving whatsoever Louis and I are off to the hinterlands of Norfolk after lunch.  We're visiting my brother, Paul, but as he has no space for us in his house, we're pitching in the Queen's garden - literally! Being a semi-Luddite no technology to enable me to blog is available so you'll have to wait for our reports until we get back to Lovelygrey Villas and see if we've succeeded in being invited into Sandringham for tea with HRH.

I thought I'd show you this beautiful house that's on a select street near Mama and Papa Lovelygrey's more modest home.  The aptly named 'Deco Rose' is a residence that I've always admired and if money were no object, what fun I'd have kitting it out in period opulence.  A bronze here and there,  some gorgeous lighting and perhaps even a cocktail cabinet.  What fun Jeeves!   And  to complement the internal deco why not have beautiful 1930s curvy 'airline car' on the drive?

And the Essex Man who own this gaff has had the same idea in displaying his prize vehicle in front of his home.  After we are in the county where car is king and an old banger outside this covetable piece of period architecture just would not do.Behold the Hummer on the drive.  In genius style, this chap has decided to meld the old and the new in a way that would have Jeremy Clarkson crying with pride!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Spooked in Southend-on-Sea!

I'm at Mama and Papa Lovelygrey's house in Essex at my childhood home for a few days and have been reunited with Louis.  My two hundred and fifty mile roadtrip, normally undertaken after a full days work, took monumental planning but I arrived safely, although I nearly collapsed in a heap on the doorstep.  Lets hope the new medication that I started yesterday starts to nail my depression on the head and I'm returned to former perkiness levels pronto!

I set myself a strange mission whilst down here.  Southend Council have public spaces to be proud of and Priory Park is one of my favourites.  It's a mixture of quiet spots like this trellised garden and its also a hub of busy activity with sports pitches, open air exercise equipment and an excellent children's playground.  There's also a museum in a building, that's a mishmash of period styles but is essentially made up of a house stuck onto a medieval priory.  When I was young we were frequent visitors here and the place that stays in my memory was the 'spooky' balcony.

This was reached down a couple of steps  from the first floor of the part of the building that looks like it was constructed in the Arts and Crafts era.  However, it overlooked the monk's dining hall.  My flesh turned cold whenever I ventured onto it and I wanted to revisit it to see if my unease was caused by a fear of either heights or falling through the rickety woodwork, or whether there was some 'presence' that I detected there!

Unfortunately though, the museum is closed for refurbishment at the moment so my experiment will have to wait until Summer 2012 when the restoration work is due to be completed.  In the meantime  here's an illustration from the information board outside the restoration site which is currently fenced off.  Spooky balcony is depicted above the arched entrance to the hall on the right.  And could it be that I'm not the only person who detects strange paranormal activity  at this spot?  Mama Lovelygrey thinks that it was a well creepy spot  too and check out this link to see some orbs in that refectory that are conclusive 'proof' that some supernatural activity is going on.  Ooh err!



Friday, 12 August 2011

'Ave a Banana!: AKA 101 Unusual Uses of a Banana No:2 It is Then

Exhibit 1
If I'm being truthful I'll have to admit that sometimes my sense of humour can be a bit puerile. So, in an attempt to show my grown up side, this time  when I'm writing about bananas I won't subject you to any pictorial or textual phallic references - like I did last time.  I've reminded myself of what my last post, written in September last year, was about.  It gave the first of 101 uses for the fruit., so what I'm going to talk about today must constitute my second handy hint.  At this rate, it'll take a month of Sundays until this project is completed.

Okay, I know that the picture of a pair of shoes may seem incongruous to a few of you given the subject matter.  However, the most expert of the thriftsters out there will get the connection right away.  It's a reasonably well known money saving fact that bananas contain potassium which found in shoe polish.  Ergo, you can use the inside of their skins to clean leather footwear.  I thought that I'd try this out.

Exhibit 1 are Louis' school shoes that have remained untended since the end of term.  But I'm not a bad mother for not having cleaned them yet.  Why not?  Because these are made by Clark's and everyone in the UK knows that if you believe the hype you will damage your children's feet irreparably if they wear any other brand.  Hence I'm a good mother for buying them (For the purpose of this exercise his ASDA trainers are being kept well out of sight!).

Onto Exhibit 2 and you've guessed it.  One's had the banana treatment and an unpleasant slimy job that was too.  So, now I've managed to pick those telltale stringy bits of debris out of the velcro fastening can you telll me a)which of these has had a clean and b)are you convinced enough to save a couple of quid or so each year by giving up buying commercial shoe polish?

Thursday, 11 August 2011

In the Footsteps of Andy the Gasman

The Coop came up trumps in their reduced section again a couple of days ago with two packs of 'Pasty Beef' marked down to half price!  That's the cut of meat known as 'skirt' to you posh guys in the home counties.  As I was discussing with Julie, one of our lovely checkout ladies in my nearest and dearest supermarket (I know her name because it's on her badge!), it's makes a fine stew as it becomes meltingly tender when slow cooked.  Off to find a recipe then.

On his website,  Jamie Oliver tells the tale of his mate Andy the Gasman, who kept his cooker in pristine condition for five years by keeping it in its original plastic wrapping so he didn't devalue the price of his house.   He invented this stew named after that canny Essex lad  to tempt him to cook.  It seemed to fit the bill nicely but I didn't have all the ingredients.

Now, I bet a lot of you know the dangers of popping out to the shops for a couple of odd items and ending up with a basketful of 'off list' goodies.  To avoid this temptation I decided to make do with what was in the fridge and garden.  The lack of celery was compensated for with  replacing it with  a piece of butternut squash that I needed to use up and a few of the first crop of runner beans in the garden.  A  can of cannelini beans were substituted for the chickpeas stipulated by Jamie.  And darn, no oranges!  But hold on, there was a couple of  mandarins in the fruit bowl that were well past their best so I used their juice instead.   Before you ask, we do  have a tin of lovely smoked paprika to hand, so I didn't have to think of something inventive to use instead of that.

Back in the early nineties  I created a Ratatouille and Tuna Bake.  Mr Lovelygrey tasted it and said that I was never  to mess about with a recipe again.  But times have changed and, with practice, I've become a bit more competent in the cookery department.  So, there's been a relaxing of the rules and I'm allowed to experiment a little again.   Don't be afraid to substitute ingredients if you don't have them to hand.  Just be mindful about what you know works together and who knows?  You might end up with something as good as,  or even better than that celebrity chef's creation.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Thought for the Day: Perfect Peter

Given the rioting that has been taking place in our cities I thought it was the right time to write the sequel to my recent post about our day trip to the capital.    It was in London on Saturday, the day that the trouble started in other areas of the city,  that a lovely local (the chap with the bald head in the picture) helped Louis to hand feed a coal tit and told us all about the history of the Peter Pan statue.  It seemed to be a complete passion for him and he said that he had spent many hours sketching the creatures depicted around its base.  There are so many kind people around who do give a damn. I've got enough faith in human nature to believe that this includes the majority of our young people of all ethnic backgrounds. It seems right to showcase what they do rather than giving all the limelight to this very small minority of horrible, stupid, greedy hooligans who are taking action for self gain and gratification rather than any cause.

The statue shows Peter Pan standing on a tree trunk which is covered in sculptures of animals and fairies.  In an act of mild-moderate anarchy that, in marked contrast to the current violence and unrest, was beneficial to the wider community, the statue  was secretly erected overnight without permission of the park authorities being sought or a formal unveiling.  J M Barrie announced in 'The Times' the next day that the work, by George Frampton, had been placed there.

The detail is exquisite and it looks like many have appreciated it over the years.  There are shiny patches on the bronze where big and little hands have given some of the creatures, a stroke.  The rabbits that Louis is seen admiring have golden ears in contrast to their brown bodies, a legacy to years of being admired and touched.

Unfortunately, we didn't have long there and I want to go back again and make a photographic catalogue of all the creatures that I can find nestling on the bronze tree.  So, I'll plan my visit soon and stand up to these thugs in a small way by not postponing my trip for fear of being caught up in trouble. Why should our tourist industry and other businesses suffer because of the actions of these vacuous selfish people?

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

International Traffic

It pleases my little mind greatly when the map on Statcounter shows that  visitors to my blog have come from every continent on the planet.  Apart from Antarctica, that is, but then again I can't have it all.  Those scientific survey guys must have their work cut out measuring penguins or whatever they do and can't possibly have any time for surfing the Net.

Special helloes go my overseas followers who visit often.  These include  Mr/Mrs/Ms/Drs X,Y and Z in Oshawa in Canada, Clinton Township in Michigan US and  Strathbogie in Austrailia.  I've specifically picked on you guys because I like the names of your hometowns.  A bit of Wiki research to expand my world view suggests Oshawa is quite a big city and I ought to have heard of it before.  Perhaps I wasn't paying attention in geography lessons.   There are actually  three Clinton Townships in Michigan.  And Strathbogie is teeny-tiny but you're okay if you want to buy stamps or play golf.

I'm also hosting foreign visitors of a non-virtual kind at the moment.  These little birds have built their intricate summer getaway in the eaves of our roof but in a month or so's time they'll be winging their way back to their winter residence in Africa. Initially, my attempts to capture them in a cute pose with their heads peeping out from the nest were in vain   The best I could do was when the house marten family were asleep and I got shots of  their little tails sticking out from under the covers!  Finally, I snapped this. I know that it won't win any photography prizes but, now I've succeeded in seeing the chicks being fed, I'm leaving them to get on with their lives in peace.