Thursday, 23 February 2012

Ring Ring

A quick one today seeing that I'm a busy bunny at the moment.  I'm starting to get into the throws of telling all my friends about my change of address and have just finished a call to Penny the Sloane.  The origin of her nickname  endowed by colleagues in the accountancy firm where I used to work?  Well she's blonde and has a posh voice, she skis, sails and horse rides and was brought up on a farm.   And she definitely does not share my pinko lefty tendencies.   In fact if you mixed us together we'd make a very nice shade of purple. Need I say more.  But she's one of the nicest most down to earth people I've ever met, shares my own rebellious unconventional spirit and I haven't spoken to her for ages.

It's occurred to me after our conversation that one of the markers of a good friend is that it doesn't matter how often you speak just as long as the relationship picks up again where its started.  The good news is that P:enny and her family are moving back down to Devon from the wild Yorkshire moors later in the year.  I can't wait!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Of Mice and Men

Hi I'm back!  Let's start this post with a bit of culture seeing that I am, to a large degree, an Essex girl and we are known for our refinement.    Did you know that the saying 'The best laid schemes of mice and  men go often askew' are a translation of two lines from a Robbie Burns poem?  'The best laid schemes of mice an' men' doesn't tax my Southern brain too much but 'Gang aft agley'.....Well that certainly needed a bit of elucidation and transposition into posh Southern text!

Today's to do list was comprised of eight items of which only two got completed in full.   Mr BT came and set up my broadband and I went into Newton Abbot and got my town chores out of the way.  My sublist of errands there took a mighty four hours to get through so perhaps it was no wonder that other things I'd intended to knock on the head didn't get down.  Still looking through the rundown of my day,  I don't think I could be accused of lying around.

  • Up at 7am.  Sorted washing.  Put bin out
  • Cooked pancakes for Louis' breakfast in lieu of doing so on Shrove Tuesday, a cub scout night which is hectic enough without random festivities getting in the way.
  • Let in Mr BT.  Cleaned my 'new' secondhand cooker thoroughly whilst he was setting up TV and broadband.
  • Went into town where I paid in a cheque, bought fridge no:2 (don't ask!), collected a parcel, picked up a pre-payment token stick thingy  so that I'll still be supplied electricity until a run of the mill meter is installed, had a particularly fruitful time browsing charity shops, took back library book, visited three DIY stores and a plumber's merchant and topped up groceries.  Seemed to walk miles and now my knee is giving me gip.
  • Hoovered...lots in small batches.
  • Tidied the room that will eventually be my study once flatpack desk and shelves are reassembled.
  • Tried to get dishwasher operational.  Need one more thing to hold pipes together (or could I use duct tape????)
  • Completed reading for a project that I'm involved with at the University.  To balance all that intellectualism that I watched an episode of 'Snog, Marry, Avoid'.
  • ....and there's more but the land of Nod needs to be visited.
My obsession with ticking off everything that I envisage doing at the start of the day is diminishing in favour of a 'lets see what turns up' approach.  Sorting out council tax and water bills, yet more hoovering (upstairs) and catching up on work's paperwork has had to wait. It may be that this is a temporary adaptation that fits nicely with the chaos of house moving or it might represent a longer term change in my psyche.   I'll just have to wait and see.   

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The 'Umbrella'

I've chosen today's picture from Microsoft Clipart for Louis. If you're eight, having fancy adornments in a  luminous drink such as curly straws, weird shaped ice cubes and paper parasols is right up your street.  After all, today's post is about him

The report has arrived by email from Christy Cruft the educational psychologist who assessed Louis a week and a bit ago. As I already mentioned in a previous post his mixture of difficulties with writing, clumsiness, concentration,  slow acquisition of motor skills (three years to learn to swim!) and poor short term memory for everything that doesn't involve chocolate comes under the umbrella of a Specific  Learning Difficulty (SpLD).  Or that final 'D' can stand for Difference for those perky optimists out there like me.  Louis particular take has  dyspraxic and dyslexic features, which may surprise some as he loves reading and problem solving tasks with a visuo-spatial component.

So we now have lots of suggestions as to how to help him,not just by compensating for the things that he finds difficult but by helping him build on his strengths.  Christy's useful and positive report suggests that he has extra maths lessons, the subject that he loves the most!  This comes alongside suggestions for how to help him compensate for difficulties spelling and writing such as a phonetic dictionary, teaching him to touch type and use  a dictaphone to order his ideas.

A copy of the report has now wung its way to the school in time for the start of the new half term and hopefully will quell the scepticism that Mr Lovelygrey and I have encountered over the last couple of years when we've mentioned that we thought that our child had problems.   Fingers crossed that we'll get a positive helpful response and not have a fight on our hands!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Take a Piece of Paper

Today  I  started off by removing the myriad of bandages from my knee that the nurse at the piste-side medical centre put in place on Monday.   I needed to see whether my drive tomorrow to Barcelona was an absolute  possibility, mildly dangerous or really and truly pie in the sky.   And I'm happy to say that the  first option is the one with the tick next to it!   No more bathing with a leg in a plastic bag either.  My new knee brace is the biz.  There was even a moment's contemplation of making use of the excellent snow conditions here and donning skis for the last day of the holiday.  Thankfully, my eight year old was uncharacteristically sensible and forced me to  adopt the 'Better safe than sorry' mantra.

Anyway the unwrapping of my lower limb took about twenty minutes and revealed the many layers that had been deemed necessary to stop my joint blowing up to the size of a football.  This included what appeared to be enough toilet paper to fill the ladies lavvies at Wembley Stadium.  It got me thinking about the myriad of uses of this simple and abundant material (though not necessarily in its bum wiping form!).  The possibilities are almost endless.   A love letter,  a  To Do list, darts or pellets to throw at that  uninspiring teacher or a pointy hat to protect a balding head from the sun?    Or how about getting more techincal and creating a super duper piece of origami?  But here's someone who's taken the medium a breathtaking step on.  Anna Wili Highfield, whose work I first found on craftgawker sews paper together to create fragile covetable representations of bird and animal life that really look as if, with just one wave of a fairy wand, they would come alive.   Go and have a  look at her website for inspiration.  And if any of those craftinistas out there can knock me up the barn owl on her home page, I'll be eternally grateful.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Just Finishing Reading: The Girl on the Landing

I said that a beer and a book would be in order for the day for me in spite of the monumentally wonderful snow conditions that are on view outside my mountainside perch.  So, it's no surprise that I finished a novel last night.

The Girl On The Landing  is the story of a man's awakening after being sedated on anti-psychotic medication for years.  And by the middle of the story I was getting quite excited by some of the ideas it contained.   After all I have a keen professional and personal interest in the effects that  pharmaceuticals have on our ability to function.  True, medication is a blessing to many, myself included.    That  top up of serotonin  is just what I need to  make me properly human and not think bizarre thoughts about how I'm to blame for all the bad things that happen in the universe and how everyone, quite rightly, hates me.

Yet I heartily acknowledge that for others this is not the case.  Drugs have side effects that often override their benefits.  And woefully, they are still used as a chemical cosh that in to  inhibit personhood.  So it seemed to be for Michael, the main character in the book who exhibited eccentric traits and beliefs  in his younger days and thus needed 'treatment' .   Numbed for many years, living a drab existence, he only came alive when he threw his tablets away.  Yee haa!

But then the book took a turn for the worse.  We hear the implausible tale of why Michael's medication had been prescribed in the first place.  Instead of promoting a positive take on individualism, the story went on to draw on the most exaggerated and erroneous stereotypes about  extreme violence being associated with schizophrenia.  Goodbye new man.  Hello best chummer of Hannibal the Cannibal.  So here's a message for Mr Torday.   What started as a great read could have turned out so much better if you'd veered away from misguided cliches  and developed a character who by the end of the tale had really surprised me in a way that defied societal norms.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Thought for the Day: A Fine Use for Grit

If life throws you lemons make lemonade.  And if it's grit that gets kicked at you from  time to time why not chuck it at your inner oyster and make a pearl?

Here I am at the top of the mountain watching others ski.  Boo hoo!  I've  bitten the financial  bullet and paid for  individual lessons for Louis for the next three afternoons so will have to sell a bit of  vintage bling to recoup my costs once I'm home.

But do you know, armed with a happy disposition things ain't too bad.  I'm sitting in a cafe with a beautiful   vista and a chilled beer.  The pain in my leg is diminishing and tomorrow I'm off to Andorra la Vella to procure a splint for my leg that will help me lead a near normal life until the inevitable op.  Hello  Torbay Hospital -I'm coming back!  The past few nights I've been sleeping and eating well and have met some like minded outdoor souls. My mind is clear of bunkum and I have planned the direction that life might take over the next few months  - unless events dictate otherwise.  And, of course, Louis is having a ball making friends of all ages.  He seems to go down with teenagers especially well.

Before I fell and hurt my leg I was really enjoying skiing to the extent where the value of this activity to me has become apparent.  This will give me the impetus to get fit again and plan my spending so that I can still make an annual trip to the snow on my reduced single parent income.  It might mean a change in shopping habits or one or two less nights out but the important thing is to make my money work for me by using it for the absolute necessities and those things that really impact on our wellbeing.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Fancy Ablutions

Lou had his own idea of essential that I needed to buy when I moved into my home.  Never mind sheets, towels, a kettle and saucepans.  What every home needs according to an eight year old is a shiatsu massage chair and piping bags to create fancy effects on muffins!  In the last day or two he’s come up with something else and this time, for goodness sakes,  it needs plumbing in.

‘What is that Mummy?’ he said as he spied the bidet in our continental hotel.  Now I’m the kind of mum who likes to work their child’s brain so, ‘Have a guess’ was my reply.  ‘Is it for number ones and the toilet is for number twos?’ was his first try.  Okay, it is with shame that I admit in the past to accidentally using the posh bum wash incorrectly when nature has called in the night.  It was something to do with being slightly tipsy and  disorientated in strange lodgings when the lightbulb wasn’t working  in our holiday bathroom.   Louis’ next effort was that it was ‘A toilet for toddlers!’  When I told him the purpose for which a bidet was actually intended he showed alarming amounts of enthusiasm to give it a go, alone of course.  After all I am banished 90% of the time when ablutions are taking place these days. ‘That’s lovely!’ came the shout from the bathroom ‘We need one of these!’.

Monday, 13 February 2012

A Small Offering from Mr Gray!

Hmm!   Guess why I've become interested in the anatomy of the knee all of a sudden.  Icy slope, hard turn and ping!  The sound of ligaments snapping must be music to a private medic's ears.  It may be someone somewhere's way of telling me I needed to slow down again.  Good job I updated the travel insurance before I came out here.

Still it was a great second day on the slopes before my piste activity has been ended so abruptly.  Beautiful long runs through forested areas tempted us to make one last trip out before lunch to a much more exposed area  where the wind whistled and send blustery clumps of snow in the direction of our faces.

I'm going to adopt a 'Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm' approach to my latest setback.   To get back to health is going to need rigid compliance with a physiotherapy regime which may be just what I need to return to the levels of fitness that I've been hankering to achieve since I started to get poorly this time last year.   And for the next few days I'll send Louis off to ski school whilst I relax with a beer and a book and look out on snowy vistas.  It can't all be bad!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Let it Snow, Let it Snow

I've cut my teeth learning how to drive a left hand car today by getting lost in Barcelona.  There's no better way to master a new skill by peeing off the locals with a spate of clunky gear changes and loop the loop around roundabouts.

But finally after dark and a beautiful journey through the foothills of the Pyrenees,  Louis and I have arrived in Andorra only to find that a World Championship grand  slalom ski event is in progress this weekend.  Maybe they'll let me have a pop at the gold medal if I perk up.

For now though, exhaustion has set it big time. Still I'm comfy, ensconced on a sofa and my tummy is satisfyingly  full with that strange mixture of food that buffet eating promotes.  Off the the pistes tomorrow and I hope to be able to show you some of my own shots soon.  For now here's one I nicked from Wiki!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Checking In!

Howdy guys!  What a week!.  I've even been too busy to post!  And I've used three exclamation marks in one paragraph.  Better stop now.......!

'So what have I been up to?' you may be asking Well here's the blow by blow account.  It occurs to me that this is like the blogging equivalent of a sick note which all those excuses for why I've been absent from cyberspace.

Monday: Work as usual but then I went to the school PTA AGM and joined the committee.  This is not an impulsive act I hasten to add but a pre-planned action to increase my volunteering and engagement in the local community.
Tuesday:  Meeting in Exeter which overran followed by a paperwork afternoon at home. Tuesday evening is cub night so is always fraught as it involves getting a hyped up eight year old to bed way past his usual turn in time.  Losing things is still a frequent occurrence at the moment.  My chequebook went walkabout only to re-emerge so I could write the overdue subscription cheque which I then forgot to take to the Scout Hut at turning out time!
Wednesday:  My inaccurately titled day off which I think involved sitting down with a cuppa once.  I've fended off the balliffs after opening a letter from the energy company as a previous tenant left without paying bills, took delivery of another beautiful wardrobe - this time for Louis' room and collected the contents of my old study.  Then it was the biggie of the week.  I took Louis for an appointment with an educational psychologist Christy Cruft who comes highly recommended by the Lovelygrey camp.   She has confirmed that my lovely, very bright son has specific learning differences (SpLD) which includes dyslexic/dyspraxic features. Yay! It accounts for his difficulties with writing, clumsiness, remembering instructions and concentrating.  Christy has suggested strategies that might help him overcome this so we'll be implementing an action plan, hopefully with his school's help, in the next few weeks.
Thursday:  Team meeting followed by running two workshops at an occupational therapy conference followed by conducting a memory assessment that went on past usual working hours. I deserved a relaxing evening at home but instead spent two and a half hours pouring endless cups of squash and water at the school disco.  It's not wonder that...
Friday:  ....the day has started with oversleeping!  Four people to visit at work and then it's back home to pack for my 'cheap' week of skiing.  Tomorrow I really will be checking in.  See you in Andorra tomorrow!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Days Out in Somerset: Minehead Eye

Yesterday Louis and I had a break from relentless unpacking and treated ourselves to our monthly superb Sunday in Somerset.  We set off early-ish and saw our first snow of the season high on the hills bordering Exmoor.  Then we drove down, down down until we hit the coastal town of Minehead.

Now Mr Lovelygrey lived there as a teenager in an age where the local yooves had to resort to breaking into Butlins for entertainment.  It was that bad.  But now, thanks to lottery funding there's a brilliant new community resource, the Minehead Eye, a combination of indoor skate park, cafe, sound studios and general chill out zone. Lots of the activities available there are aimed at those older kids who's needs are often overlooked by society and who end up trolling around on street corners looking menacing instead.  But the building is used by all ages in the local community.  I see that there's a pensioner's lunch club and an art group who meet there.

Every Sunday morning a lanky bloke called Dan, who's according to Louis 'is even cooler than Daddy'  runs a skate school for little dudes under eleven.  For a mere fiver for non members, kids like Louis who are naff at team sports can learn to acquire a skill that will bolster their street cred in later years.  I watch from the windowed cafe where, as well as buying coffee I always end up coming away with some of the best secondhand book bargains in Christendom.  It's one of those places where I offer to pay more than the price quoted - they're that cheap!

And afterwards we make our longish drive even more worthwhile by  meeting up with  family for a slap up lunch before a drive back through the picturesque South Western countryside spanning two moors!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Optimistically Gloomy

Some of us need chemical help so that our brain's function properly and, as long as my much valued antidepressant is working,  I'm one of the perkiest people alive.  But that doesn't mean that I view the future through rose tinted spectacles.  No sirree!  For although I'm a joyful human being I'm always open to the ideas that things might go tits up in a big way!

I've been very bad at keeping to my morning meditation sessions for a good few months but I'm hoping that will change once the dust has settled here and I've got round to trying my new Hoover to sweep it up(!) But the principles of mindfulness, staying in the moment,  having awareness and control over my thinking and accepting whatever life throws at me are now firmly embedded in my psyche and  hold me in good stead.  Here's a link to one of my past posts where I've elaborated on its personal benefits in a little more detail.

So I didn't predict that my house move would be blindingly awful but I wasn't expecting it to be fault free either.    So, when my fridge didn't fit, my 'bargain' Ebay cooker has turned out to be a pup, things have gone missing and Lou filled the bathroom with foam after using our whizzo jacuzzi bath in conjunction with half a bottle of Radox, they didn't come as a total surprise.  I hadn't created a perfect picture in my head of how things would be but I didn't predict  that this time of immense transition would be  all doom and gloom either!

On the plus side, may I share my beautiful new wardrobe!  It's must be from the Edwardian equivalent of IKEA as it comes apart into four manageable sections.  Even though my camera, and indeed the keys and teapot, reported as lost yesterday has now turned up, I'm being lazy and have just snipped the photo from its Ebay auction listing to show you.  I've coveted a similar one owned by a friend for years but now have my own at an absolute bargain price!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

All's Fair in Love and Charity Shops

Sorry for today's grainy image that's been nicked from the Internet.  I'd be taking my own picture but my camera's gone missing in the move along with a set of keys, half my clothes and my lovely Devonmoor teapot.  Still I'm nonchalantly expecting them to emerge from the moving day rubble over the weekend.

I love these common and garden Chinese rice bowls for eating my morning muesli.  They are just the right portion size.  But my collection has dwindled over the years, thanks to klutz like tendencies, to just one.  So, I was pleased to find a set of five in a charity shop in Bath, scooped them up quickly and went to stand in the queue behind a posh man.

'I'd like those Chinese bowls' he said in a loud fruity voice not dissimilar to the kind used by actors with a minor role in a 'Jeeves and Wooster' episode   Then 'Where the devil have they gone!'  He spotted me with my booty and left the shop in a huff!

Now Kay, being a nice lady, said I should that have offered them to him but my inner mean spirited, sharp elbowed bargain hunter refused to budge.  I reckon God looked down from above, tutted and arranged for one of them to get broken in the move - just to serve me right.  But then he relented.  For at the recycling centre amongst the bric-a-brac was an identical replacement priced at a very reasonable 20p!

Friday, 3 February 2012

It is with Sadness and Relief....

....that I share my news today that's been the reason for more sporadic posting than usual.  Listen carefully I will say this only once because I'm not going to harp on about it.  I am no longer sharing Lovelygrey Villas with Mr Lovelygrey but have moved to my own home so will be facing a whole new set of challenges, including how to fit a bargain fridge into a gap that's too small for it. Ho hum.   Louis, who is much loved by both his parents will be running between the houses for I'm living just around the corner from his dad - literally!  For those of you who know me personally you'll be hearing from me shortly with new contact details.   And for anyone who doesn't but might be facing similar dilemmas to those I faced, here's some food for thought in the form of a very wise article from the Guardian.

PS: Alas, this is not my new abode.  Barratts didn't build anything like this in the 1980s.  It's an picturesque idyll courtesy of Microsoft Clipart.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Stick to Sheep!

A recent bout of my old mate, insomnia, has set the brain's cogs in motion and caused me to think about a little known book from my childhood,. Ninety-nine Dragons, was bought for me when I was nine by Auntie Elsie, Uncle Stan and my three cousins who, by the way,. have done much better producing grandchildren for their parents than myself and my own siblings.  Seven to our paltry one!  But I digress....

... unlike Tinker and Tucker, whom Papa Lovelygrey  secretly sold as slaves, the dragons are not missing but are alive and well in Louis' bookshelf.  It's a lovely imaginative story with lovely black and white line drawings. I read it over and over again  and think that it deserves to be better known. And, as my own little man attests, it still appeals to a twenty first century audience.

So, if you're stumped for a present for a small primary school aged being, give it a try.  Although it's out of print, copies still come up for sale on Amazon.  I've included the link to the hardback version that I owned before handing it down to posterity, but there are paperbacks too.  This tale taught me a valuable lesson in life. For goodness sakes if the Sandman eludes you, don't experiment with counting fierce creatures.  It's best to stick to sheep!