Friday, 30 September 2011

Bouncing Back!

On mulling things over, my post title doesn't actually reflect the speed of my recovery.  It's more like I'm crawling along on my belly like a snail with its shell full of stuff after a grocery shop.  But I'm getting there.  On the last two days, I've achieved significant milestones.  I've been out as a passenger in the car, albeit to a family dentist appointment.  You can't say that Mr Lovelygrey doesn't  know how to treat a girl well.  And yesterday, my new tummy band and I went for a little walk outside to the mail box, an easy three minute stroll for the fit and feisty, onto the very edge of the National Park but ten minutes for me. Yep, it's that close.


 Because the weather was so lovely and I felt reasonably okay after posting my letters,  I decided that I'd  extend my walk and take the scenic circular route home.  The hedgerows are beautiful at this time of year. I spied some lovely big fat rosehips  but  resisted the urge to pick them  After all, I've got enough on my plate without giving myself the additional job of making syrup. This footpath is the start of a network of routes that go up to the moor proper, ideal for little strolls once my exercise tolerance gets better. The quiet lane leads is Louis' route to school and a lot of the kids cycle or walk.   It has to be one of the best 'commutes' in the country.  City slickers who spurn the nasty countryside are welcome to disagree!


Back home after about thirty enjoyable but exhausting minutes!  I couldn't face carbohydrates so raided the fridge and the greenhouse to treated myself to this lunch.  Now French readers looking at this photo will throw their hands up in horror.  Although they might just about accept the ripeness of the camembert keeping it chilled is not the done thing.  'Et sacre bleu!'  An adult eating that nasty Laughing Cow stuff.  It is only for  children whose taste buds haven't developed yet.     Us English forty-somethings connoisseurs of processed cheese, brought up in an era where Dairylea frequently appeared  in our diet would disagree!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Shopping!

Hi all!  Thank's so much for all  those lovely kind wishes that I've received in my time of  what used to be quaintly termed 'convalescence.  They've meant a lot to me.  Today, I'm feeling much perkier than of late, even going so far as to muster up the energy to  notice what's happening in the rest of the house and give Louis a ticking off about the state of his room.   The male interpretation of 'spick and span' is so different to that of us ladies whatever their age.   Let's hope that this upward spiral continues and robust physical activity is resumed ASAP.  Oh, and I hope you like my fancy pants new layout which I started to botch together on Tuesday and have been tweaking ever since.  Now I've got the look that I was after, gloomy clouds with sunny yellow breaking through,  I'm now happy enough  to leave it alone!
 To balance yesterday's thrifty post I thought I'd follow on by showing you two things that I've recently spent my money on. After all you can't take it with you.  Item 1 is an extremely cute plumptious Italian coin purse that seems to be made of leather stretched over a  sturdy resin frame.  About half of  its back opens right up so you can see all your money rather than grubbing around in the depths of a usual dark and fiddley version  Like the ladies who lunch say, it was soooo gorgeous, that I had to have it!!!!  But there's a bit of a story behind its eventual tardy acquisition.

It was back in October last year that I spied this little gem in the gift shop at the Mont St Michel priced at a very reasonable twenty euros.  'That's lovely and so functional.' I thought but then the natural tight ass rose within me. 'It'll be a rip off if I buy it here!'  So, I duly memorised the name of the brand to see if I could source it cheaper online when I got home.  I think I  even used a little bit of word association to ensure that it  stuck good and proper.  But yes,  you've  probably  guessed that when I got home I couldn't for the life of me remember the name.

On our last French trip our friends came too.  In the height of August they decided to go and visit the Mont which is the second most popular tourist attraction in France.  The Lovelygrey declined their kind offer to join them, envisaging  being herded like sardines, an intentional mixed metaphor, in the narrow streets surrounding the abbey.   Our predictions were entirely correct BUT the trip was not in vain.  I put in a request to see if the purse was still available.  Behold, the retail fairy took pity to me et voila !  In the spirit of thorough research I did send an email to the gift shop asking for the manufacturer of the purse in case anyone liked it so much that they could find it online.  Sadly this did not receive a response.  So, if you want one, you'll just have to make this the lame excuse to go for a thoroughly pleasant break in Western France.

I've been waiting  on tenterhooks for the second purchase that I'm revealing  to arrive and  my items, in both black and white colourways were delivered yesterday.  Fed up with the feeling that all my lower body organs were bouncing around inside as if I'd looped the loop in a stunt plane ten times, I idly started to wonder if there was anything that would make a difference. A quick Googley search came up with a reasonably priced offering from the  Hysterectomy Association  which seemed to suggest that it would do the trick postoperatively even though I'd had a  different type of tummy surgery.  My two abdominal support bands arrived today. They're made by a company called Carriwell and are actually marketed as pregnancy wear.  Preliminary testing is indicating that they're comfy, don't ride up and are effective in relieving that jiggled about feeling. 

Now, allow me to seem as if I'm going off track! If, after a plane crash you end  up in a remote tropical forest where survival prospects are slim.  However you recall from the inner recesses of your brain that a tree you've spotted is recognisable from a TV survival show, .  This wonderful plant gives you the means by which you can lash together a canoe, light a fire and maintain dental hygiene.  And that's just the bark! The whole thing has a myriad of uses  that will help with your escape to safety.  You can even eat those little nutritious greeny-grey grubs found in the crevices of its trunk.  That's why I'm telling you about my latest buy which may seem completely irrelevant to your current circumstances.  You never know when you might use that tucked away information in the future!




Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A Six Monthly Pay Increase!

These days of necessary belt tightening continue for many of us.  Sure, the bankers are again quaffing their Bolly like it's PG Tips but many others face pay freezes or even cuts.  But fear not, Lovelygrey is to the rescue.  Back in March I came up with twenty ways to generate a virtual pay rise without expending too  much blood, sweat and tears.   I've come up with another twenty today.  These ideas are not just for mulling over by  the financially strapped.  I'm a firm believer that if everyone exercised good stewardship of their money, the world would, overall, be a much better place.  
  • Unless you have ulterior motives, think before calling in 'a man' to fix stuff  when something is broken, See if there you can do it yourself when something goes on the blink.  Try Ehow or just good old Google as a starting point for finding instructions.  
  • In times of pitiful investment returns consider an offset mortgage if you have any savings.  On the surface this is a really boring tip but it's a favourite of mine as it's brought the Lovelygrey monthly household mortgage interest down to a big fat ZERO.
  • Say no more often to the kids when they want something.  If you get really adept at this, the surprise they show when you actually say yes is priceless.
  • Be brave.  Treat the men in your life to a pair of Lovelygrey tried and tested Wahl* clippers and save on the cost of going to the barber.  Fearful of making a mess?  Well I'm one of the most cack-handed people around and they're easy-peasy to use.  Short is my style of choice so I even do my own hair.  Just have to mention though that since I wrote my original post I had to live with half an eyebrow for a while! (* do not be tempted by Remington's models.  Unless they've markedly changed in the last couple of years they're c**p)
  • Have a root through your direct debits and cancel any unwanted subscriptions.  A monthly fiver here and a tenner there and bingo, you might generate a raise of a  percentage point or two.
  •  Do you really need to buy magazines when there's so much other reading material around?
  • Keep behind the Jones'.  It's really satisfying getting gadgets that are not the most cutting edge but nonetheless new to you at a fraction of their original cost.
  • Before going anywhere or buying anything look for online discounts or moneyback schemes on sites like Quidco or Vouchercodes.   Even so, keep looking around.  You may find what you're looking for even cheaper on another website.
  •  Last time I went to the optician I took Mr Lovelygrey and Louis with me to give a second opinion about frames. Bad strategy. They wanted to get out of the shop pronto so said yes they're lovely to the first pairs that I tried on. As such I've been unhappy with them ever since. So this tip doesn't apply to me.  If however you like your glasses but your prescription has altered just get the lenses changed for a fraction of the cost.
  • Look after the pennies when posting stuff and choose cheaper postage rates if it's all that's needed.  Have a stash of both first and second class stamps.  Consider if sizes of envelopes or packaging can be reduced to save further.
  • Invest in, or dig out that breadmaker that you haven't used from under the worksurface. It really doesn't take long to put on a batch of ingredients for a proper tasty loaf which is cheaper than most supermarket bread.  Also, bought sandwiches don't seem such a treat when the one's made at home are so much more delicious.  
  • Make sure all electric bulbs are energy efficient and remember to take into account spotlights.  Mr Lovelygrey did a little dance of glee when he realised how much money he'd save after replacing our halogen bulbs in the kitchen.
  • Afford a little planning and multitask when you take your car out to avoid unnecessary trips.
  • Here's one I reckon that most of us fall foul of, occasionally, at least.   Don't buy bottled water. Remember to take a container to refill from the tap.  Surprisingly it's a much, much cheaper and greener source of almost exactly the same same stuff, good old  H2O.  If you're at all worried about exposing yourself to extra germs because of this, read Lucy Siegle's article in the Observer.
  • Buying  less and spurning cheap stuff for quality will make you feel just as special as loads of treats that are really just tat.    This may sometimes mean spending a bit more but it's not always necessary as the thrifters amongst us know.  Often it's about being wily and waiting rather than splashing out spontaneously.  My gorgeously comfy stressless recliner bought for a mere £99 proves the point.
  • Engage your brain before taking on pet ownership.  Even a rabbit is estimated to cost upwards of £500 a year to keep.  If the budget is tight get your animal kicks elsewhere, perhaps walking a elderly neighbour's dog or helping out at a rescue centre.
  • Never a lender or borrower be?  Not true if each party trusts each other.  Consider if there's the chance of a loan if you're only going to use something once and, of course, compensate the owner if there's any financial implication associated with the request.  Tools, kitchen appliances, vehicles,  party wear and kiddie equipment all might fall into this category. 
  • Here's one I  posted in my nascent days as a blogger.  If double glazed windows are worn out, consider just replacing the glass sealed units rather than the frames as well.  Ignore specialist companies selling UPVC who say that this can't be done and ask a glazier instead.  We did this about a year ago and it's just dawned on me that what we saved represents about a quarter of my net annual salary and paid for our skiing and Yellowstone trip earlier this year.
  • This may go against the grain of most thrifty advice but I'll live dangerously.  If you're reasonably self controlled and live close to shops, ditch a big weekly trip and planned menus .  I've found its a better way to use up leftover cooked food and ingredients and take advantage of marked down food.  Shop more frequently with a little list taking account of what's already in the house but retaining flexibility so those bargains get used in a timely manner.   
  • Check out local education colleges for beauty treatments and dining out. I've got really excited at the prospect of booking a Pamper Day at Exeter College when I'm up and about again!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A Week: Not Just a Long Time in Politics

It's now seven days since my return home from hospital discharge after my emergency operation on my female jubblies, a phrase conceived by the Lovelygrey boys.   As such, I will never again hear the patter of tiny feet but, as an ovary was rescued  I won''t have to go through menopause early.  All good news at the tender age of forty six!  However, I've been feeling down over the last couple of days because of the sense of under achievement that being housebound, due to nausea and not being able to sit properly or stand for any length of time at all, brings.  I've even succombed to a rather self indulgent cry before pulling myself together and practising what I preach.

One of the things, as a therapist, that I ask people, who are making a slow recovery from serious illness, to do is to remember what they were like at a point in time when they were even more poorly and consider their progress.  So I've done this exercise with myself and realised that over the last week the following changes have occured:
  • I can climb up and down stairs a few times a day rather than having to psyche myself up to do it just the once.
  • I don't have to mentally rehearse performing the manoeuvre before I get in and out of bed or on and off a chair.
  • My pain has diminished substantially over the last three or four days.  What's left is mostly soreness and discomfort due to having organs that have been inevitably  jiggled about during my op.  As such I've speedily reduced the amount of painkillers that I take down from sixteen to six...
  • ...and the unpleasant side effect of profuse sweating has gone away now I'm off opiate medication.  No more observations like 'You've got a really wet nose Mummy' from Louis.
  • I can now make my own lunch.  Mind it's just toast and suchlike and certainly nothing really Masterchef-y.
  • I'm getting up earlier, going to bed later and sleeping less during the day.
  • The wisps of a routine beyond that taking of medication are slowly returning.
  • I'm doing teeny tiny things for the boys rather than them having to do everything for me.
  • I'm much better at gauging how much I can do so I don't over exert myself one day and then suffer setbacks the next.  The pace is slow but I haven't stopped altogether.
So, after all that's really not too bad and things are definitely moving in the right direction. Let's give this exercise another go a wee bit in the future and see how far I've progressed.

    Monday, 26 September 2011

    The Alphabetical Tourist: Albania

    My prior knowledge of Albania was so limited. I knew that you could get there from Italy on a ferry and that it was probably populated by old ladies in peasant costumes who looked like Mother Theresa, who was Albanian herself.  Tirana, the capital city has an international airport that is now named in her honour.  Wrongly I believed that it was governed by fierce Stalinists who dissuaded tourists because of the 'dodgy stuff' going on there. After all, who'd have the heart to dispose a royal family with brilliant names like Zog, Geraldine and get this, Her Majesty Queen Susan of the Albanians, a sheep farmer's daughter from Australia, the sadly departed wife of the current King Leka I.

    No, Albania has been a democracy since 1991.   Although there was a bit of a fracas in the form of an uprising in 1997, all seems peaceful now.  However, from what I can gather blood feuds (Gjakmarrja)  which are governed by strict rules still occur in the north of the country.  Basically killings may be avenged in an eye for an eye type of way.  Women, children and the elderly are not targeted and the act of revenge is disallowed if the male target is accompanied by a woman.  This seems make dodgy blokes, who're a bit  bothered about reprisal, act like young meerkats and stick close to their mums.

    The country has been undergoing change since communism although some aspects of its infra-structure such as healthcare may have suffered under the regime changes.  Now it is the world's fastest growing tourist destination voted number one top tip for travel by Lonely Planet in 2011.  At the moment it seems to have parallels to the unspoilt Greece that hippy travellers 'discovered in the 1960s'.  There's glorious unspoilt beaches, archaelogical remains, four of which merit UNESCO World Heritage Site status, part of the Alpine mountain range, friendly people and yes, that Boy's Own dream of old military hardware that you can climb about on.  I know this because, coincidentally Albania was featured on yesterday's Top Gear in the part of the programme where those uber-sensitive lads wreck cars on a roadtrip in distant climes.   Don't quote me on this but I think that I've sussed out  from a very helpful website called gearthhacks.com that there is a MIG graveyard beside the road  south of a town called Kucova and discarded rusty old submarines are to be found at Orikum.

    What was I thinking? After researching this article I was all for booking the flights from Heathrow and going on a cheap backpacking tour with Louis at half term. Just the two of us mind, as Mr Lovelygrey has to work. This would neatly coincide with my hospital discharge advice which suggests that this is the time that I might like to think about resuming ironing. Luckily I'm aware of my tendency toward grandiose plans and reluctantly reined myself in.  But if I've whetted your appetite and you fancy a trip here's a couple more useful websites that might be helpful when trip planning.  All photos by the way have been gleaned from that wonderful resource Wikipedia, that I now would have difficulty living without.

    http://www.albaniantourism.com:  Welcome to Albania - a great introductory tourist website
    http://www.albania-hotel.com:: Does what it says on the tin!

    Sunday, 25 September 2011

    Flapping Fish

    I've written about my participation in yoga classes a few times in the past, including a particularly enthusiastic post praising the Yoga Nidra part of the session. None of that energetic stuff of the Ashtanga tradition, that Madonna is alleged to be so fond of, appeals.  Neither does the Bikram method which involves exercising for ninety minutes in a room full of other sweaty individuals.  For me, extended periods where I'm allowed to lie on the floor doing nothing hold the biggest attraction.  Positions that allow me to do this AND which claim to promote weight loss put the cherry on top of the icing.

    So it is with great pleasure that I bring you my favourite yoga pose that has taken quite a lot of trouble to find on the Internet.  I knew that the word 'fish' was in its name but preliminary searches showed ones that looked like mild forms of torture rather than something that would generate uber amounts of cosiness.  But finally, I've found what I'm looking for, the 'Matsya Kridasana' or as it's known in English, the 'Flapping Fish' pose.

    There, doesn't this look comfy?  It's not sweaty or inducing that puffed out red looks that is only attractive to other Ribena berries.  However, despite her apparent inactivity this lady is working on improving her digestion, curing constipation, fixing sciatica and taking those extra pounds off all at the same time.  Now that's my idea of perfect multi-tasking!

    Saturday, 24 September 2011

    Google Doodle Doo!!


    As I'm housebound at the moment, small events that perk up the day are giving me more pleasure than usual.  So, I was pleased to wake up this morning to find that Google had come up trumps with its interactive Doodle to celebrate Jim Hensen's 75th Birthday. Louis and I spent a little bit of time playing to try to see if  the 'E' would repeatedly eat the 'L'.   Someone  along the line was certainly right about little things pleasing little minds.

    Anyway I've been meaning to refresh your memory and show my  all-time favourite Google Doodles for some while now. With all this time to hand it seems like the ideal opportunity.  The way that such diverse events are celebrated appeals to my strong trait for eclectism.  I particularly like the fact that normal special anniversaries are ignored.  If the creators want to celebrate someone's 87th birthday rather than the centennial date who are we to argue?

    This one goes back to 1995. Starry, starry night.  Happy Birthday Vincent Van Gogh!

    Did you know that Louis Braille was born on 4th January before seeing this.  No I didn't either.
    How can I resist this homage to my favourite children's author whose work, which contains some meaningful insights,  spans the generations.
    I'm not sure what prompted this doodle but it certainly was a good idea.  Of course we all know that these cornfield designs are created by jokers dragging around big sticks and not alien lifeforms.  Don't we?!


    At the time that this Earth Day 2010 doodle was published I was out of internet range making mosaics on Dartmoor with my buddies.  How right on is that!

    When you need an excuse to party, think outside the box. Of course the invention of x-rays is a perfect reason!
    This worthy contender for inclusion  was only displayed on Google's home page in Japan.  It's based on one of my favourite artworks, The Great Wave by Hokusai.
    Call me a philistine if you must.  I hadn't even heard of Constantin Brancusi before I saw this but I was astounded by the originality and wit of his work.  It just goes to show that you live and learn. 

    This has to be one of the most memorable doodles.  Don't you remember having fun picking out tunes on this interactive work even though you didn't have a clue beforehand that it was Les Paul's 96th birthday?

    Finally this pretty  one celebrates Gregor Mendel's 189th birthday and why ever not?  I'm just wondering if the peas depicted are the hybrids or the purebred ones with dominant genes!

    Friday, 23 September 2011

    Pill Popping


    Incoming UFO!  Actually it's not, as you may have already guessed given the dodgy LCD display.  Surely extra-terrestrial technology would have to be more advanced than this to allow inter-galactic travel?  This flying saucer is in fact an electronic medicine dispenser.  You'll be relieved to know that those 'pods' that you can just see through the glass are not for storing human abductees.

    So, what's it doing on my post?  Well, I'm prompted by the fact that, for the short term after my hospital discharge,  I'm  taking eight different types of medication amouting to a staggering thirty two tablets daily.    This is of the same order as a lady discussed by the GP and comedian Dr. Phil Hammond, in his extremely funny and thought provoking Rude Health show.&nul.  I've found it helpful to keep them all in one place and have re-boxed everything so that each type is in a single packet. Taking out all those pesky instruction leaflets to keep everything shipshape and tidy has reduced the potential for muddle too. Ducktaping Louis' mouth shut during my own personal drug round has also been considered but was rejected on the grounds that Social Services might view this as child cruelty.

    If you are at all concerned that a relative or friend may potentially struggle with taking medication because of long or short term confusion, please  ignore their protestations about being independent.  Just wade in wearing your biggest boots and  intervene. Help them out by checking what they're taking, directly supervising if necessary.  Make sure that what they're taking is regularly reviewed too.  And consider using a pill mp; get really easily put off  if Louis is wittering on ,oops I mean talking about something important at the same time as I'm trying to avoid overdosing myself.


    Where's this going? Well, if you're managing your own drugs be careful.  I've found it helpful to keep them all in one place and have re-boxed everything so that each type is in a single packet. Taking out all those pesky instruction leaflets to keep everything shipshape and tidy has reduced the potential for muddle too. Ducktaping Louis' mouth shut during my own personal drug round has also been considered but was rejected on the grounds that Social Services might view this as child cruelty.

    If you are at all concerned that a relative or friend may potentially struggle with taking medication because of long or short term confusion, please  ignore their protestations about being independent.  Just wade in wearing your biggest boots and  intervene. Help them out by checking what they're taking, directly supervising if necessary.  Make sure that what they're taking is regularly reviewed too.  And consider using a pill management device which doesn't have to be flying saucer shaped.  There are simpler and cheaper boring rectangular versions sold in chemist shops.   Just simple steps can ensure people are receiving the treatment that their doctor thinks that they need and can avoid hospital admission because of errors that are oh so easy to make.

    Thursday, 22 September 2011

    Art in Adversity

    Yabba dabba doo! It's taken  all day, with many an outpouring of fish-wifey expletives, but I've finally worked out how to get round the significant problems that I've been having with uploading pictures to my blog.  What I want to post about today undeniably needs illustrating to make it work.  Happily, the gremlins are now under control and I've sussed it.  As a bonus,  I've started to get to grips with Google Picassa, something that's on my 419 item To Do List.

    Now, at school I didn't choose history as one of my O-Level options.  It's not that I was interested in the past, or 'Olden Days' as Louis sweetly puts it, but the teaching emphasised battles tactics, treaties and other boring stuff  Now, if we'd have concentrated a bit more on the everyday lives of our ancestors, I might have perked up a bit.  Even in my adolescent years occasional things other than music and boys sparked my interest.

    At the moment I'm nurturing a fledgling interest in antiques.  Nothing fancy mind.  I'm not lusting after Faberge eggs or coveting my neighbours Louis XV furniture.  What I'm interested in are the more ordinary yet beautiful objects that give me an insight into the world of an individual or a group of people from the past.

    Now as part of my bedrest I've been making a lot of use of the i-player on my computer and watching shedloads of those daytime antiques programmes.  These are questionnably furthering my education.   Now I know more about Worcester porcelain (yuk!),  Whitefriars glass (50:50) and  Newlyn copper (to die for!) than I did a couple of months ago.  A couple of programmes over the last week or so have discussed examples of trench art, objects manufactured by POWs or combatants  during periods of armed conflict.  The most well known examples were made by World War I troops during periods of stalemate in the trenches but the practice has been going on since Napoleonic times and continues today.  Many of the objects are made from recycled material such as shell cases found on the battlefield and their quality varies from the 'must try harder' category to pieces that exhibit true craftsmanship executed under the most atrocious circumstances.   Follow the fascinating link if , like me, you want to find out more and for those who 'need' to own little inexpensive piece of fascinating history of their own, there's plenty to choose from on Ebay.

    Wednesday, 21 September 2011

    Gremlin Art

    Aargh!  I know that I have nothing to do at the moment except loll around all day but it hasn't stopped my head working.  There's some great ideas for posts sloshing about in my brain but Blogger isn't playing ball.  It's not letting me upload photos properly and all sorts of other strange stuff is going on including cryptic messages from Google illustrated with a bewildered, broken robot.




    Now I'm not a fluffy airhead when it comes to troubleshooting.  Usually, I can go online, identify whether there's a global problem affecting all users or if there's something up with my own machine.  But today I'm stumped.  So, I've decided to make the best of a bad job, keep calm and show you some of the zany art that my computer is producing all of its own accord.  Perhaps the normally behaved gremlins that live behind the scenes are rebelling against slavishly following my orders and have unleashed themselves to explore their own creative whims!

    Tuesday, 20 September 2011

    Vim!



    Vim: 1. Ebulient vitality and energy 2. A brand of cleaning products

    Thanks to Nana Lovelygrey and a small bevy of female relatives I've escaped from hospital and have arrived back home. My loot includes a sackful of drugs, including three courses of antibiotics and a note advising me not to resume light housework for four weeks! This might be viewed as a result but I reckon getting the boys to take over my own chores is going to take up a large proportion of my mental energy reserves.

    Climbing the stairs felt akin to achieving those mountain summits in my pre-childhood days so I reckon for a little while I've probably just swapped one bed for another.  At least this one is on my own territory.  However I'm  looking forward to sharing my successes as I get both types of Vim back over the next few weeks.

    Monday, 19 September 2011

    The Alphabetical Tourist: Afghanistan

    The beginning forays on my virtual Round the World adventure aren't yielding any renowned tourist hotspots yet.  Today we arrive in a place that is always in the news, but for all the wrong reasons.   Visiting war torn Afghanistan is considered so risky to life and limb that the Foreign Office advise against all travel to a lot of the country.  For the areas where essential travel is deemed viable, they suggest employing professional security staff to accompany you at all times.  Yikes!  Yet even as recently as August this year, the BBC have reported on the Afghan government's attempts to promote tourism in their first ever National Park, the stunning lakes and mountains region of Band-e-Amir, where skiing is a goer in winter.   This peaceful idyll is only spoilt periodically by the blasts from hand grenades thrown in the waters, an interesting technique used by local fishermen to catch their prey.

    Before the Taliban hunkered in, Afghanistan was indeed on the traveller's map, described as a land of unsurpassed beauty, amazing landscapes  and a host of architectural relics including the now decimated Baniyan Buddhas. 1970s hippies must have been loathe to leave.  But until I researched this post I knew nothing much about  its cultural attractions.  I had read The Kite Runner though so I had a reasonable grounding in the county's national sport.

    What I've have learnt though is a handy hint, useful if you want to play a different sport, polo, but haven't got anything to hit .  Simply take a dead goat, or preferably a calf.  Behead and disembowel it and cut off the legs at the knee joints.  Then soak in water for 24 hours to toughen the carcass and pack with sand for extra weight. Et voila! A perfectly good ball substitute that would probably have blood lustful Hooray Henries on the field at Ascot whooping with delight.  Alternatively, it's just the thing needed for Buzkashi, another Afghan national sport!

    Sunday, 18 September 2011

    Thought for the Day: Peaceful Recovery

    The glamour puss is back! Here I am, still in hospial, and blogging dressed in nightie, net knickers and red slipper socks to keep a cannula in my foot in place. There's been some ups and downs, probably caused by the fact that the surgeons discovered that somehow different organs in my abdomen  had tied themselves together in knotty knots, so it's taking time for everything to settle back to normal.

    Okay, hardly anyone gets a good night's sleep in hospital especially if active treatment has to take place in the night. But,  comparing the two wards that I've been on during this stay, I've come up with an idea that dramatically improves  the quality of the experience of being an in-patient. Its simple, effective and free to implement!

    Although the staff on the other ward that I was on were kind and skilled, the noise levels there were likened by a fellow inmate to a garage forecourt. True, there's going to be a certain decibel count that can't be avoided, especially where there are confused or distressed patients in the mix, but shouty chitchat from staff especially at 2am is entirely unnecessary. In my current bed, I'm looked after by a team that are calm and quiet and the difference in my experience is immense.  It's one to reflect on for my own practice and I hold my hands up and hang my head in shame.  Yes, at times I could accuse myself of being a noisy bugger in hospital and residential home environments but now I've seen things from the other side of the fence, I'm hoping to modify my behaviour and encourage others to do so too.

    Saturday, 17 September 2011

    Snip,Snip

    Surgery done,dusted and successful.  However, dodgy ceiling mounted ceiling contraption on which my 'Entertainment System' is just a wee bit too far away to blog comfortably so I'm giving up. I know when I'm beat and will return tomorrow!

    Friday, 16 September 2011

    Bed Bound Mother Theresa

    No pictures in version one of this post due to a Flintstones era model of the Internet at the hospital which is my temporary home from home again! There's a few exaggerations too in the title.  I'm not confined to my mattress.  In fact I have the exercise levels of a honed athlete compared to my other companions on the ward who've all fractured their hips.  Neither have I achieved the saintly level of behaviour, demeanour and thoughts that I would assume that the Catholic church would expect from someone they are considering for beatification.  My sense of humour is too filthy and there are occasional acts of enjoyable naughtiness, well, those cardinals on the voting committee would be throwing their hands up in horror!

    All in all though, I try, like most people, to be kind and considerate but when you're ill, it's very easy to get wrapped up in yourself.  When mental or physical reserves are really depleted this is an entirely appropriate response. The really poorly just have to look after number one as there is no spare va va voom to give up for others. Happily, I'm not in that category.  ln spite of limits to what I can do at the moment, I decided that doing something for others would give my sense of self-worth a bit of a lift too.  It seemed like a win-win situation.

    So, I've made use of the Internet and sent off some emails in response to Amnesty International campaign requests. The other thing that I did was to go on a shopping spree using my hard earned savings!  I can see how this statement might cause eyebrows to raise. But fear not, I haven't worked out an argument for why an almighty act of prolific consumerism could possibly count as altruism. Instead I've 'raided' my Charities Aid Foundation account which I contribute to monthly and made some donations.

    The reason that I decided to write this post was to publicise a less well known charity who got a few pennies from methat I heard of on the Radio 4 appeal the other week.  Chance UK works with  children who are exhibiting early signs of behavioural problems. They provide mentors who try to engage troubled kids and get them back on track so that they return to being normally naughty rather than going off track on a more permanent basis.  Must rush now - surgery beckons!

    Thursday, 15 September 2011

    Raining Men

    I decided to prepare a post in advance to schedule today.  After all I am an ex-Girl Guide and it does to be prepared.   It turned out that I was right to do so as I've been whisked back to hospital by Mr. Lovelygrey.  Let's hope I can be sorted out on this visit.  For inspiration, I turned to my 'Coming Soon' list.

    I love this song because it's just so darn joyful and the lyrics are absolutely hilarious.  I've provided a link so you can have a good giggle reading them.  Really, it should have been one of those tracks that I featured in my  own Desert Island Discs post yonks ago.  It would get me dancing around in a DIY hula skirt and possibly a coconut shell bra.  Way hay!  But who would it replace?  I can't relinquish one of my two Leonard Cohen tracks because I love the guy so much..... 'Look at me Leonard, just one more time, ooh ooh, one more time!...... Oh sorry, I got carried away.   It's a close call but  maybe I'd have to surrender Kylie's perfect pop and replace it with this superb offering from these wonderful Big Mommas. 

    As my single girlie mates know,  Devon has not had a torrential downpouring of prime examples of the male species in years, maybe never!  Take this example of a conversation that a friend had with a local farmer on a date a while back.

    Devon Farmer:  You're luvverly you are, luvverly luvverly......(an hour and a half later).....luvverly!
    Nameless Friend: (silent)
    Devon Farmer: What do you think of me then?
    Nameless Friend: (pondersome) Wellllll...... I don't really know you.
    Devon Farmer: Arrr! I know what that means.  I'm off!

    Occasionally though, there's a bit of a drizzly moment, nowhere near the fantastical deluge in the song.  Some nights, at about half past ten,  a couple of fairly decent specimens might be spotted in close proximity but droplets of  mind numbing gorgeousness are as rare as rocking horse droppings round here. And then they're more likely as not to be gay.

    Wednesday, 14 September 2011

    Jollying Along

    It's now come up to week nine of being off sick diagnosed with depression that has somehow transformed itself into gynae problems. How can that be? I can't sit properly on a chair because it's uncomfortable, walking short distances knackers me, the antibiotics are making me feel nauseous and my pain is increasing again after diminishing over the weekend. Is it okay to feel a bit hacked off?

    Keeping my virtual pecker up is taking a bit more effort than usual although, of course, a laugh normally sorts me out for a bit. Personal thanks must go to Miranda Hart for back episodes of her super-silly sitcom. This note slipped into a get well card also did the trick.  To add to its aesthetic look Louis has added some chocolate-y fingerprints.


    It was found by Maria, Josh's mum as she was doing her pocket policing task prior to putting dirty clothes in the washing machine. It really is amazing what small boys hide in their trousers. My favourites have to be half eaten things. It refers to a small act of beachcombing that I executed on our holiday in Brittany. I only took one thing but it was a beast!

    Yes, this is big rock mentioned in the note which was snuck back to Blighty in my undies compartment of the motorhome. There's a perfectly good reason for subterfuge.  Mr Lovelygrey has an  obsession with keeping the weight in the van as light as possible.  Had my treasure, which is at least a foot high,  been discovered before we reached home it would have unreasonably been oiked out to the accompaniment of manly ranting.  Thus the pleasure of transforming this piece of granite into  'art' would have been denied to me.  All praise to Louis and Josh who were in on my secret and kept mum all the way home.  I hadn't envisaged though that my escapades were monumental enough to be newsworthy in a Midlands primary school.  Goodness knows what other family secrets are divulged by our small people in the name of academia!

    Tuesday, 13 September 2011

    Ugly-Wugly Eye of the Needle Jewellery Make

    Right, I know a lot of the blogging fraternity, at least in this corner of the market, go all weak at the knees when the words retro or kitsch are merely hinted at so you'll probably need the incontinence knickers to hand when you gaze upon the cover of this book that I borrrowed from the library to peruse. Kitschy Crafts is a veritable feast of a load of stuff that, frankly I wouldn't give house room to, because they're just not me. Okay, so maybe the sock monkey is one of the few exceptions.  But if you like embroidering tea towels, lacy doileys, string art, tie dye and making bunches of grapes out of peach stones, you might want to give this a whirl.

    I believe that this book's most important contribution to literature is that  it gives the instructions to create a poodle crocheted toilet roll cover.  What is doesn't show you how to make though is one of these crinoline dolls that graced the bathrooms of loads of the 'posh' people in Essex  when I was a child.  Although I hankered after one of our own, Mama Lovelygrey isn't the kind of girl who likes lots of fripperies in her toilet so it was not to be.  My desire to own one has now completely passed.  However,  if there are still those out there who would like to get their mitts on, what arguably is the height of 70s kitsch , a nice lady, who yes, is from Essex, has some in her Ebay store.

     Unlike the activity of turning dishcloths into pants which is also mentioned in the book, I'm not entirely sure that macrame is completely redundant.  I reckon that it could contribute something to my own jewellery designs if well executed.  I've written about it before in one of my Mini Church of Craft posts but my first attempt wasn't wholly successsful.  And I still don't think that I'm there yet.

    Again, I've used instructions from the book Mod Knots to create this unfinished piece which I don't intend to complete even though it took me hours. Simple instructions, that looked as if this bracelet could be completed in an hour or so, were sabotaged by the fact that thread was an utter bar steward to get through some of the beads and I don't have a reamer to make the holes bigger. Camel, eye of the needle and all that! I also ran out of beads, cut the thread too short so there's a surreptious knot and veered from the instructions so dramatically that I haven't a clue how to create a fastener at the other end. Never mind, the thing's too ugly and clunky anyway but I like to share my failures as well as successes. It's given me an idea too for how to proceed with attempt number three at producing something wearable. However, I don't have the stamina at the moment to sit at a workbench and undertake the metalwork that I need to produce to try out my idea. So, until that time it's going to have to wait.

    Monday, 12 September 2011

    The Alphabetical Tourist: Abhazia

    At a time when I'm getting a little bit miffed about not getting out and about,  I've decided to crack on with one of my more meaty  'To Do' list items and let the world come to me.  Item 102 is a pledge to myself to find out something about every country on this planet.  Now,  you may realise that there could be some argy bargy about how my list should be compiled.  I could spend a whole host of time trying to placate as many people as possible given that there are disputes about whether certain regions constitute nations in their own right.  But, merely for simplicity and to avoid producing an academic essay on the subject.  I'm going with the list of sovereign states shown in Wikipedia.   Sorry neighbouring Kernow (although I might give you a mention anyway)!

    And it is with utter delight that I begin my alphabetical journey with  a place I've never even heard of - that travel hotspot, Abhazia!  I'm not being funny here.  Wikipedia says that this tiny temperate state really is a tourist destination, for lots of Russians at least.  And it looks stunning.  Lakes, mountains, a beautiful coastline and tantilising must-see destinations.  Stalin's summer dacha,   loads of archaelogical and ecclesiastical sites and the most impressive of all, New Athos, a cathedral sitting on top of a cave system that can be visited by train.  How cool is that!  There's extreme sports, snowboarding and for the speologists amongst you, the state is home to the deepest cave in the world, Krubera-Voronja which is so fathomless, cavers aren't really sure that the bottom has yet been reached.

    Have I sold this to you as a place to visit? Absolutely-dutely, I hear some of you saying.  So why are the UK tour operators marketing the nuts off this place.  Well - there are a couple of catches.  Although there is a pristine airport, it's non operational at the moment.  So, there is  merely a myseterious, untimetabled train that arrives in the capital, Sukhum, daily from Sochi and a recently introduced. boat link from the same Russian city.   There are also more important security reasons that might put some off a visit.  'Neighbouring' Georgia  accuse the Abhazs of ethnic cleansing by massacre and enforced displacement in the 1990s, a claim supported by the UN mandated Organisation for  Security and Cooperation in Europe.  Georgia still maintains that Abhazia is part of its own country but in spite of this it has a separate government that is not officially recognised by most countries.  By now, you may have gathered that Russia is the notable exception.  Travellers are warned of travelling in the Eastern region as there are two tetchy 'nations' on either side of the border.  There are unmapped minefields there as well. Having said this, travel in the main areas where tourism flourishes does not seem to warrant any more care than someone would take in many of the places in the world where beaches, ancients sites and questionnable regimes go hand in hand.  Oh! and because of economic sanctions, credit cards don't work here.

    Should you stay or should you go?  I'll leave it up to the most intrepid travellers to decide on logistical and ethical grounds!