Saturday, 30 June 2012

Blooming Lovely Bruschetta

It's official I'm totally addicted to a certain foodstuff! Not those Haribo sweets that were problematic in the dim distant past  nor anything of those other things that are well known naughty temptresses such as chocolate, crisps or chips. What I'm finding it hard to resist at the moment is incredibly cheap,  surprisingly healthy and is super quick to knock up from scratch.    I'm  hooked on my own  take of that old Meditteranean classic, bruschetta. Pan am oli, as they  say  on the Meditteranean island of Mallorca.  Or for those of us who are Brits through and through, tomatoes on toast.

Just lightly toast some really good  bread.  It would normally be home produced here in the breadmaker but -I've been using some rather passable sourdough  that I've got in the freezer at the moment.  There were a few marked down loaves at the Coop recently which I snapped up.   Meanwhile quickly fry some chopped tomatoes in a glug of extra virgin olive oil.  Once the  toast is cooked, rub it with a sliced clove of garlic and then tip the contents of the frying pan over it, juices and all.  Season with a bit of freshly ground salt and pepper.   The result?  Simple but thoroughly tasty heaven on a plate!

Friday, 29 June 2012


Events dear boy, events meant that bad habits have set in.  Over consumption of comfort food , wine and too much slobbing around has  left me more than a little lardy with a wardrobe full of beautiful clothes that don't fit.  But sensible measures have been yielding results.  Through healthier eating, cutting the booze, a bit of exercise  and a few other strategies that I've described in a previous post I can now get into my jeans again.  Okay there's a muffin top hanging over the belt line but it's a start.  Nine pounds lost over as many weeks.  Or so I thought.

Then my bathroom scales were moved.  Okay, I knew that sitting them on a carpet yielded inaccurate results but this was ridiculous.  Depending on where I put them I weighed staggeringly different amounts and the worst case scenario?  A gain of a hefty twelve pounds!  They had to be wrong so I popped out and bought a new set - this time with some natty little feet so that they work properly on soft flooring.

And guess what?  With my old scales in the bedroom on the laminate floor and the new ones in the bathroom  they're showing exactly the same reading.  Bah!  I weigh a staggering.....ahem!  Too embarrassed to tell you all what the real reading is but it's way, way too much.

As consolation and to reward myself for my efforts so far there's some new slippers arriving in the post along with Gok Cooks Chinese, the spin-off  book from Mr Wan's TV series.  This guy isn't just a funny fashionista.  He is a dab hand in the kitchen and his recipes look healthy, quick and mouth wateringly delicious - just the type of food I'll be needing to meet my target weight of 'ahem! minus thirty five pounds'.  Slowly and surely is the key.  I've set myself a target of one pound to lose a week so it'll be the end of February 2013 before I get there!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Let the Budgeting Begin!

Gladstone's Budget Box
As a newly single mum on a limited but albeit reasonable, income I'm fully aware that I must keep a rein on spending those pounds and pennies.  It's been difficult whilst furnishing and equipping Lovelygrey Cottage. For a few months there's always seemed to be something else that I unexpectedly need  to buy.  Things that you just happen to be around in a well established home haven't been around when I've needed them.  As, for example,  I found the other day when I came to fill my dinky flip top Kilner bottles with homemade elderflower cordial.  Lo and behold! I didn't have a funnel to avoid making an unholy mess when pouring and had to get creative with a cut off milk carton.   With a few snips with a robust pair of scissors these also can be transformed in seconds into very effective female urinals.  So handy, I found a few years back now, when the water has been cut off by the plumber, you're pregnant and a ten ton baby is pressing down onto your bladder!

Thankfully, all those one off-ish purchases are now reducing to a trickle. Consequently  now is the time that it feels right to set myself a daily budget to meet costs of groceries, diesel, clothing, going out, treats and other odds and sods.  Depending on your perspective I've allowed myself the eye wateringly generous or penny pinching  sum of twenty pounds a day.

And my own take on the matter?  Well,  this amount seems right on the money.  Enough so I don't feel like I'm living on the poverty line but not so much that I can live profligately buying whatever takes my fancy.  What I'm hoping is that I'll be more mindful about what I spend and if it all works out perhaps there'll be enough over for another trip away and to be generous to someone, somewhere who needs a bit more financial support than I do.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Lovelygrey: A Rules are to be Broken Kind of Girl

I dimly recall disclosing a self-made  rule that I'm supposed to be  abiding by,  deemed necessary because completing projects is not my forte.  There's normally millions of things on the go at any given time and that's only a slight exaggeration   What happens is that I start to feel guilty about what hasn't been done and dusted and boom!  A nice little leisure activity that's supposed to provide relaxation becomes a stressor in its own right.

So the plan is that there's a veto on experimenting with any untried, untested crafts at home.  If I want to sign onto a workshop and have a go at something where all tools and materials are provided that's fine.  But I've barred myself from expanding my creative repertoire at home.   Drawn as I am to them, machine embroidery, screen printing and making anything involving glass are completely out of the question  in the domestic environment - for the time being  at least.  I'm also not allowed, on pain of death, to buy any new materials or tools unless they're absolutely needed to finish something that's already been started.  Up until now I've been doing very well and pretty much gone cold turkey on beads, mosaic tiles and bits of wire. I'm afraid though that the rulebook has now had a page or two ripped from it because of an opportunity that was too good to miss.

Even though there are four unfinished needlepoint cushions around the house, which at my current work rate will take me about eight years to finish, I succumbed to buying another.  My excuse for this flagrant law breaking?  Well, I'm a sucker for marine themes and this unworked canvas together with wool was a measly  £1.99 in a charity shop.  Valerie Green isn't a designer I'm familiar with but another of her kits has just sold for  £37.89 on Ebay. Now I reckon that this  must go a little way to mitigating my crime against myself!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

What Time Do You Call This! Stroppy Clocks and More at Seale Hayne

One of my greatest pleasures is that feeling of awe that I get from looking at other people's artworks. Humankind's potential for creativity and originality never ceases to amaze me. So, for the first time in ages I treated myself this weekend to a visit to Seale Hayne to see what was new in their grounds and gallery spaces.

'And about time too!'  I was greeted by this cry from one of Sarah McCormack's marvellously stroppy clocks.  'Honestly, you're only just around the corner and haven't been here in ages!' Indeed it's been a bit of time since my last visit but I was lured up by publicity posters for the Summer of Art events.  With all those talks, workshops and exhibitions it looks like I might be back a bit quicker next time.  This time though, was a quick-ish visit.  And what a lot of lovely covetable and inspirational objects that I found.
In contrast to all those hard scary clocks there's plenty of  soft, soft textiles like this lovely appliqued and embroidered wall hanging by Sara Evans  Alas, even if I had the money I t think that the ceilings are too low  to display a work this size to good effect so it'll have to be left for someone else to buy and enjoy.  Maybe in the dim distant future when I'm not busy(!) I can dust down the sewing machine and produce something similiar.   I'm also very enamoured with Rosy Tydeman's feltwork and have featured her amazing unstroppy timepiece in a previous post.  Watch out for this lady's name as I'm planning a bigger post devoted entirely to her in the near future!!
Now here's a work in a mixture of media that I've never ever encountered in combo before. Tony Lamb has used the purest gold on wax on Spanish alabaster to create his slightly translucent pieces that seem almost as if they could have been manufactured in ancient times and discovered on an archaeological dig. I'm not sure about the techniques used but this might not be one to try to replicate at home.
Rightfully some of the pieces at Seale Hayne are humongously expensive as the quality of materials used is high and hours of work have gone into their creation.  But what's nice about this gallery is that some of the stuff for sale won't stretch the pocket of Mr or Mrs Average too far.  Here's a lovely handcrafted vase, from the aptly named Richard Glass whose work rates among my absolute favourites. A splash bowl  made with his own fair hands kept calling me from a Dartmouth gallery and can now be counted as one of my most treasured possessions. For just a few pounds more than those mass produced fancies on the high street, you too could  be the proud owner of an original artisan made 'objet d'art'!

Monday, 25 June 2012

A Rest is As Good As A Change

It's been one of those rare summer weekends when there was nothing at all planned. No festivals, fetes, trips away, kid's activities, meals with nada, rien, not a sausage.  Times like this are as rare as rocking horse droppings  between May and September but they're very welcome.  Lately my energy levels have been ebbing - not sure why.  Most likely, it's due to the menopause which looks like it has kicked in after all my health shenanigans last year.  Anyway a couple of days without commitments has made me feel a bit perkier.  Let's hope that lasts into the week. Looking back I'm amazed at what I've got done between the lie-ins and daytime snoozes.  You may have noticed I got round to giving my blog a bit of freshen up but that's not all.  

  • That big pile of ironing is the bedroom has magically disappeared
  • Whilst de-creasing clothes I discovered 'The House the '50s built on Channel 4od
  • My googlebox watching didn't end there. I had a cinematic evening to myself with 'The Iron Lady'.
  • I finally got round to getting my passport photos taken....
  • ....and getting the tyres changed on my unloved car.
  • I've had a bounce on Louis' trampoline with a view to developing my hamstrings so that they can compensate for my snapped cruciate ligament.  Much more fun than the boring physiotherapy exercises!
  • Lou and I borrowed Elvis and he took us for a walk.
  • I've hung some nudie pictures in my dining room(!)
  • Small inroads have been made into my slowly progressing needlepoint cushion and table and chair revamp.
  • I've car booted, charity shopped and coveted crafts which I'll show you later in the week.
...and I'm sure there's more.  The weekend finally ended with steeping foraged elderflowers overnight so that I can make cordial before I go back to work for a well earned rest!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Thought for the Day: Home

The house I'm living in ticks more boxes than I suspect that anywhere else would around here.  It has:

A manageable sized south facing garden.
Easy commuter access and a quick trip down a safe lane for Louis to an excellent school.
Ex Mr Lovelygrey just round the corner.  I realise that some of you will find this hard to believe but  in terms of joint parenting it's working out brilliantly.
Off road parking for the motorhome.
A small and compact size that's easy- peasy to keep clean without any of the rooms being darn right poky.
Gas central heating which is much cheaper than the LPG and oil fuelled systems that are common around these parts.
Much more lax planning restrictions than the nearby National Park.
Separate downstairs living areas so that Louis and I can hide away from each other when needs be.
Community!  Kids for Louis to play with, extraordinarily low crime and neighbours who will lend each other metaphorical bowls of sugar at the drop of a hat.
Muted neutral decor and a modern kitchen and bathroom.
Peace and quiet only shattered by the dulcet tones of Lovelygrey periodically shouting at her child.
Lovely countryside views of the woods and moorland beyond.

Yet as much as I like it I hadn't quite got around to viewing it as home and was puzzling the other day about why that is, until yesterday.  As current British housing legislation stands, I didn't  feel safe and secure in rented accommodation.  After all, I could be out on my ear in two months notice.  With this in  mind I started the process of looking at houses to buy and viewed somewhere that wasn't nearly as ideal as what I've got at the moment but would have been mine all mine - if I'd liked it enough to make an offer but I didn't.

But now, because of a leaky patch at the back of the house, I've met my lovely landlady and her family.  They've reassured me that, she's not in the housing sector to make a super fast buck. My let can be for the long term.  Best of all, she'll even consider selling to me when my settlement comes through.  Whoopee!

Do other people in the same position feel this way about ownership being necessary for a home to be a home?  I had a word with my lovely  nurse colleague,  the very shy Mr Anonymous from Guyana who himself is a tenant.  'Does your flat feel like home?' I asked.  'Yes it does' he replied. 'I feel safe there and I can have all my possessions around  me'.  Hmm! The fact that he might have to up sticks unexpectedly doesn't bother him as long as his stuff comes with him. A different viewpoint altogether.  Maybe being childless has a bearing though.

Not for the first time I'm reflecting on the practical and deeper meaning of the word 'home'.  I've thought about it in the past in the context of coming into contact with hospital patients who are desperate to be discharged to where they've lived for many years.  They've built up a rosy picture of their dwelling place over the years only to find this shattered by the stark reality of living there with a permanent disability.  What was once a comfortable and secure nook becomes a place of nightmares when perhaps they find that they are literally stuck in one room, alone for long periods of time without the physical means, say, of making it to the toilet or preparing a drink independently.  They're then often forced into residential settings which can fall far short of the ideal in terms of it being a home from the perspectives of the physical environment, the insecurity of tenure with even shorter notice periods than my own and the presence of insensitive staff who see their workplace as just that and not the abode of those that they care for.

So, for those of you out there who own your homes or in are secure tenancies where bills are affordable and there's no threat of eviction,  count yourself very lucky indeed!  For the rest, it seems that action is needed at a personal, community and governmental level to ensure that more people are able experience the sense of well-being brought about by that having physical space that they well and truly feel is their own for as long as they need it to be.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Guilty as Charged!

Now I felt a tinge of guilt the other day whilst writing my anti-scrimping post so I put it to the judge and he's agreed. I have been sentenced under the 'Reduce, Reuse, Recycle' laws for profligacy but there is a reduced sentence because of mitigating circumstances.  The reason?  It was all those batteries I buy, mainly it seems for the purpose of providing the va-va voom to those toys that require them.  Why oh why am I not using their rechargeable equivalent? Well the reason is understandable.  I've been refurnishing and equipping Lovelygrey Cottage almost from scratch.  Every so often I come across certain  items that were missing from my shopping list.   I went to make cheese scones and found that my essential store cupboard ingredients didn't include baking powder, there was not a spanner in sight when I needed one to assemble my workmate and the blocked up bath remained filled with water until I'd popped over to Trago Mills to buy that missing sink plunger.  My ramblings made me realise that I really need to bite the bullet yet again and buy a charger along with a pile of batteries that can be juiced up again.
So today to atone for my sins I've been given community service and charged with reflecting on the middle component in the Holy Trinity of Green.  What have I done well when it comes to reducing the consumption of those disposal household commodities and where can I do better?
  • Foil and Food Wrap:  I think I do rather well here. Although there is foil in my drawer it's rarely used. Instead there's reusable food containers for lunches and picnics and lidded baking utensils where items in the over need to be covered.
  • Razors:  Acknowledge my bravery for I use an epilator!   I dare those out there who wince at the thought of thousands of tiny little tweezers gripping stubbly leg hair to bite the bullet, or any other object that you have to hand to stop the screams, and try one.  Immunity to the pain develops over time,  I promise  However I've recently succombed to a disposable razor to trim what are the female equvalent of sideburns as my bevy of electric cutting/plucking tools don't cut the mustard and give me the defined cut that I'm after.  Maybe a old fashioned cut throat jobbie might do the trick in a non throwaway fashion.
  • Nappies:  No longer needed thank goodness but I remember those days.  I was nearly whiter than white and used fluffy towelling jobbies together with breathable wraps including a natty leopard print one that turned Lou into a baby Tarzan.  The nappy bucket scenario wasn't nearly as bad as people made it out to be.  Disposable nappies were only ever when we stayed away from home.
  • Cleaning Cloths:  Here's where I fall down.  Lots of disposable items that I buy fail the green test.  I've even bought some things that are like wet wipes but they're for the motorhome's surfaces and not a baby's bum.  J-cloths used in the kitchen do get relegated as they get more tatty and get a second lease of life on the floor or in the bathroom.
  • Barbecues:  The days of the one use BBQ is over for me.  My Cadac is just as convenient to carry
  • Cameras:  I confess to buying a disposable camera the other week for Louis to take on a school field trip.  The likelihood of having to replace a more expensive piece of multi-use equipment seemed alarmingly high given its expected exposure to water, rock and mud.
  • Coffee Pods:  Never, ever purchased these expensive items which produce totally unnecessary plastic waste.  What's wrong with a jar and a spoon?  Must do better and boycott their use in hotels too.
  • Lighters: If you must smoke you can't do better than  McGahey's in Exeter High Street.  It's a proper old fashioned tobacconist with the likes of loose tobacco, cigars and snuff.  Even as a non smoker I have to admit that it smells amazing in there.  But I won't be heading back.  My lovely windproof lighter will last a lifetime unlike it's tacky throwaway counterparts.
  • Cutlery and Crockery:  I'm guilty of using paper plates and the like when I'm entering a crowd and washing up seems like too much effort.....but it's once in a blue moon so I'm not going to get too het up about this.
  • Feminine Hygiene: Reusable pantliners and the like are available.  Just head to the website of Honour Your Flow  for products 'to make your monthly moontime comfortable and beautiful'.  I jest not.  But your worship, please don't make me go down this route as for me it's a step that's a little bit too far!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Poor Doctors

Here's a picture of a man pretending to be a doctor.  I know he's not one because he hasn't got a blue buttoned Oxford shirt and  his hair hasn't got that floppy schoolboy look. And I bet he's not wearing chinos.  Somewhere out in a secret countryside location, I swear that there's a factory that makes clones that infiltrate the UK's medical schools.

Anyway, you've probably guessed what this post is about.  Yup! It's yesterday's strike by medics, the first in this country for about forty years.  They're protesting about changes in their pensions which will see them working to the age of 67 when a newly qualified doctor today can expect to receive over £60,000 a year to retire on, poor things.  But hang on.  Isn't that nearly double what I earn now for my highly skilled job which involves managing significant life threatening risks.

Why do they see themselves as so hard done by?  Well I have a theory  that has come about from my experience of working in  the accountancy sector  until the mid nineties.  Then I was told by the partner of my firm that one of the client's who earned £250,000 was not really well off because he had seven children to privately educate.  And there you have it.  It's all relative.  Most medics still come from privileged backgrounds, or if not, they acquire friends at university who do.  They see their peers toddling off into the private sector and earning ludicrous salaries and bonuses that indeed make them look poor in comparison.   This is in spite of the fact that they are among the highest earning public employees in the Western World.   Yeah,  they can afford their yachts,  but they look rather paltry compared to their mates' staffed gin palaces.

Now you think that I might go on further and have a good old rant about equality and suchlike.  After all, I am a lifelong pinko leftie albeit with entrepreneurial aspirations.  But I'm saying no more.   As with everything else, it seems, it's all far too complicated to sort out!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Alphabetical Tourist: Austria

I bet you were expected a myriad of shots of icy lakes and snow clad mountains to accompany my virtual visit to Austria.  What you didn't bargain for  instead was a a picture of Harry H. Corbett in his role as Harold from Steptoe and Son, who sadly didn't make it to a skiing holiday to the country that is the subject of today's post.

Yes, Harold was due off to the wonderfully named Obergurgl  before, that is, he did himself a mischief and ended up  incapacitated from his endeavours on his makeshift piste. And  those old Brits out there who are familiar with this classic old comedy may have guessed that Albert, his father, ends up heading for the slopes instead.

So what other weird and wonderful facts have I dug up for you about this landlocked country?  Well, the attribute of having no towns with the suffix 'on-Sea' leads me to my first piece of near useless knowledge.  Hands up those out there who thought that references to Austria having a navy were just a  joke.  My mitt is firmly up there in the sky but shock horror! I was wrong.   It shared one with Hungary, a country that also has no coastline and George von Trapp from 'the Sound of Music' was an officer.  So there you go!   I could have included a picture of Julie Andrews here but we've feature one show biz personality already.  So here's instead is the Erzherzog Friedrich, part of the nineteenth century fleet.  It's a screw-driven corvette I'll have you know and I've absolutely no idea what that means.  However, I've included this piece of information as I know that it will cause some out there to wet their pants with excitement.

Photo by Deborah Austin
For a country with a small population Austria seems to have produced more than its fair share of world famous people from all domains of life.  Aside from Adolf Hitler, of course, there's Gustav Klimt, the Strausses, Mozart, Sigmund Freud, Fritz Lang, Franz Ferdinand (the  Archduke and not the band), Erwin Schrodinger, Gregor Mendel, Niki Lauda and Arnie to name just a few.  In amongst these prestigious names lurks Edward Haas III. His legacy to the world was the PEZ dispenser, those strange collectable plastic sweetie containers that deliver confectionery which looks and tastes like a small brick.

So where would I visit in the unlikely event that I'm not here for the skiing, an activity that I think I've covered already.  Well, I'd almost certainly head for the Ars Electronica at Linz.  You'd be forgiven if you thought that this is a modernist sculpture of buttocks.  Instead it's a museum cum installation space though I haven't quite got my head around what exactly I'd find there   There's some weird virtual reality exhibits, a robot tending a flower garden, 3D photocopying and all sorts of mind boggling stuff that seems to deserve a peek much more than a stuffy older style museum or church.  And when all that technology's blown my head away I'll head off out of town and try the calming 2km barefoot trail at Hexenwasser,  an odd 'back to nature' type theme park complete with friendly witches and elves situated halfway up a mountain in the Tyrol!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Perking up Pallets

Meanqueen showed me hers the other day  and so I thought I'd show her, and everyone, else out there mine!  In case anyone is getting worried by where this 'Carry On'-esque talk might be leading, let me reassure you.   Today's theme is upcycled pallets.  Follow the link and pop across to Meanqueen's blog where you'll see how she's transformed a dingy spot in her garden into an inviting decked area.

It's time to 'fess up now.  Due to lack of time lately what with moving and all that,  I didn't make my extraordinarily fashionable coffee table myself.  Instead I bought it off Ebay for eighty pounds once delivery charges had been taken into account.  This may strike you as a) very reasonable for good, solid piece of furniture or b) as the bloke who delivered it thought, an absolutely bonkers amount of money for what is really just a piece of old junk - with wheels!  But given that you can pay up to £999 for a similar item albeit that's had a bit more sanding done to it and is more minimalist (no wheels!) I think it was a bit of a bargain. Yes, you heard me right.  Go to the and type in 'pallet table' in the search box if you don't believe me.

Anyway, I didn't dress my photo shoot so that my table looked all glam and interior design-y.  I wanted to show that this piece quite well into a normal  family living room complete with Lego and normal accoutrements of everyday life.  And if this post, or Meanqueen's for that matter, has inspired you to consider the humble pallet in a different way, prepare yourself for being overwhelmed by the resourcefulness of others.  Go and take a look at the amazing selection of those that have been given a new leash of life on .

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Abigail's Fondue Party

Here's a great alternative to a  barbecue if there' just s a few of you to feed and you can spare a glass or so  for cooking with.  Now I understand that this might be difficult for some and if you can't bear the thought of burning alcohol off in the culinary process the fondue is not for you.  But the trade off is a quick and tasty retro meal in minutes which I'm sure that Abigail's dour besuited, bespectacled 1970s friends would have relished.

1.  Go charity shopping and find a discarded fondue set.  They're quite plentiful.  Mine fits the bill nicely and represented an investment of just four whole pounds.

2. Think of things that you'd like to dip into a cheesy sauce and buy them along with a bulb of garlic, a shedload of punchy cheese, a lemon and a white wine box so you don't feel cheated when it comes to divvying up the booze. Ideas include cured meats, more cheese, bread, veg and crispy dippy things. Oh and you'll need some of that  purple methylated spirits stuff as well.

3. Chop and slice your dippy bits and pieces whilst having a chef's tipple from the wine box.  Don't mistake the meths bottle for this.

4. Rub a couple of cloves of peeled garlic around the pot - the inside that is.  Then fill  the burner with the meths  and  reluctantly add a generous (sorry!) glassful of wine and the juice of half a lemon to a pan.  Warm through and then add 400g of knock your socks off cheese.  Let it melt and season to taste.


Monday, 18 June 2012

Question: When is a Walk not a Walk?

Answer: When it's being 'sold' to a child.  Instead it is....

Finding unphotogenic bits of  fossilised oysters and belemnites on a beach followed by an ice cream from a much more picturesque cafe in a park.

Playing in a ruined castle on a headland.

Foraging fennel, elderflowers and borage.

Waiting for a train that will never come thanks to Mr. Beeching.

Popping 'Grandpa' out of bed.  These flowers sure fly!

Marching along the banks of a lagoon.

And rescuing puffed out butterflies from the path.

But never,ever,ever just say 'Let's go out for a walk'.  Geddit?!!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The Isle of Portland Rocks

I cannot begin to tell you what a great day out we had yesterday in spite of the weather which was blustery, showery and, at times, cold enough to knock the balls off that poor brass monkey! So, let me tell you about the Isle of Portland where I'll be returning again and again.  Not during the 2012 Olympics though when it hosts the sailing events as I don't like sitting for long periods in my car or squished on public transport.  Neither will I be heading to my childhood  town of Southend at any time around when the mountain biking is taking in place in neighbouring Hadleigh.  Okay it's an  atmospheric location with its ruined castle painted by Constable but really the organisers must have mad when deciding on this venue that sits in an area that is already traffic congested at the best of time.

So, being a mini break weekend it was a late start so we didn't leave the campground until we were peckish enough for lunch.  Our friend Kay and her partner Rosie, who live in Weymouth count themselves as  locals and guided us to the Sugar Loaf Cafe.  Weird, weird decor and layout including a trip through the kitchen to use the backyard loo.  But an extensive range of superb homemade food, supremely kind staff and pickles for sale  made by Dawn,the owner made up for the fact that the building isn't a designer's masterpiece.

Onto the Island Gallery, a beautiful  craft and gift shop full of things made for coveting!  These gorgeous lamps would have been on my spending list if I needed any more lighting.  It won't be the last I see of these those.  Kay and Rosie are returning for some after they move into their new home in a month or two, so I'll be able to enjoy them again when we visit.  I parted with a few pennies to replace a broken motorhome mug with a natty one shaped like a camper van and a windsock which had its work cut out overnight attached to our aerial.  Mental note to self.  'Must remove before heading off.  Driving this thing is difficult enough without my view being obscured by a big coloured fish!'.

Then, down to the Bill, the tip of this tied island which is held to the mainland by just a ribbon of pebbles.    Wild and woolly does not even describe what it was like down there on this June day.  What happened to summer?  This boat winch was particularly photogenic but lots of other people thought so too and I bet their shots were far more amazing than mine!  This site is supposed to be a bird watchers paradise where often basking sharks,dolphins and seals are seen too.  Yesterday though all the wildlife were sensibly sheltered somewhere snuggly and were nowhere to be seen.

And finally Tout Quarry, perhaps my favourite spot of the day!  Head through an unlikely looking industrial estate, nip through a couple of barriers saying 'Warning Keep Out'.  Designed for car drivers as I think as the area can be entered legitimately from the road and coastpath.   This is a disused quarry where anyone with the tools can have a go themselves.  And it seems many have, including Anthony Gormley.  Louis counted around 150 'sculptures' although some only dubiously deserve the title.  We'll definitely be back with our fingers crossed that the weather is finer as this spot would be great for a picnic!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Love, Peace and Fluffy Bunnies

Photo:  Chuch of the Cosmic Bunny (Really!)
We've woken up in wild windy Weymouth this morning, slap bang next to the South West Coast Path at the lovely  Pebble Bank caravan park. Red Mel is reading her book, I'm blogging and Lou has  armed himself with fun snaps, his bike and water pistol and gone off to make friends.  Due to all my griping yesterday I promised you a post that exuded harmony.   And what symbolises those good vibes that I want to send out today more than a celestial  fluffy rabbit!

Hang on though.  We're off to Portland to suss out some sculptures made in its world famous stone today. And locals there, rather than regarding rabbits as soft cuddly spiritual beings, see them as bringers of bad luck.    This judgement seems a little harsh as it came about because of their habit of emerging in quarries just before rockfalls.  How self protectionism can lead to such a bad name I don't really know.  Anyway the proper grown up name for their breed cannot be uttered on the isle and even writing it is frowned upon. Synonyms though are acceptable. A special 'Curse of the Were-Bunny' advertising poster had to be produced for a hoarding there when the Wallace and Gromit film came out.

So love, peace and fluffy bunnies to you all.  And I'll try not to spoil things by uttering the R-word at any time today!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Shouting From the Rooftops: My Ford Fiesta is a Dog of a Car... and its Keys are Crappy Too!

I've been uncharacteristically restrained   and  kept pretty quiet about the dissatisfaction with my latest NHS lease car up until now.  Erroneously I believed that all my problems would be ironed out after its first service.  Sometimes being an eternal optimist just doesn't work out.  Perhaps after my late evening attempts at a bit of consumer journalism someone might take notice. Okay I'm only a blogger with a relatively small readership but do a search of some of the more obscure topics I've covered and I'm up there in the Google rankings!

Where do I start?  Perhaps with the totally redundant object pictured here?  Those with just tiny observational powers will notice that this fob is missing a vital component, a fact that  I only noticed when I got back to the car after the  Treasure Trove around Cockington Court.  The good news was that my friend was the designated driver that day.  Goodness knows how long it would have taken us to get home if we'd gone in the 'trusty' Fiesta.  What's more I locked up the house the other day and then went to start the car with the spare.  No key again.  This time the entire fob had fallen off the metal ring attaching it to my keyring.  Luckily it was lying by the front door and had fallen down the kerbside drain or I'd have been truly stuffed.

You'd think that the people at Ford might have been squirming with embarrassment about  the shoddy nature of their product and appropriately apologetic.  Not a bit of it.  I've been told that I'll have to drive to Exeter to get a replacement and that there might be an invoice of about £75 for the privilege.  They'll have a fight on their hands to prise any money out of me.

Grrrrrr!   My blood's really boiling now so I'll move onto the car.  The engine seems to cut out momentarily whilst going along, my parking sensor alarm had a mad moment when they wouldn't stop beeping and most alarmingly my power steering failed whilst I was going around a roundabout in Norfolk.  Thankfully I'm a big strong girl and gave my biceps and triceps a right proper workout  in my efforts to steer to a nearby layby. Once the engine had been restarted the problem went away.   Ah! an intermittent fault, maybe with that central controlling computer thingy.  But  Ford couldn't recreate any of the problems in their workshop so nothing was done about it.  I'm a little alarmed thinking about what could fail next.

Griping is not over yet.  I promise to counter this post with one that exudes peace, harmony and goodwill tomorrow.  After all, I am attracted to Buddhist philosophy if not an out and out adherent due to a problem I have with relinquishing bacon. Anyway I digress.  The main reason that I chose this car was because of its supposedly impressive combined MPG of no less than 76.3 and the subsequent savings that I would make to my purse and the planet.  Now I never hoped in a month of Sundays to achieve this figure as I am fully aware that test conditions involved the car being driven by downhill in a hot climate by a six stone naked model after she's had a poo.  Whereas I live in chilly England, wear clothes to cover my less than svelte frame and often don't even get a chance to visit a toilet when there's a crisis going on at work.  But my much missed non eco-labelled Skoda Fabia  only performed at a shade under its official figures  and even had an average fuel consumption over the miserable average of around 53mpg achieved by the Fiesta.  Surely I've got a duff motor, made on a Friday, when the plant workers were itching to go home and that the efficiency could be improved by just a few tweaks with a mechanic's tool. After all,  there's a new version of the Fiesta Econetique out in 2012 that I understand has the same engine and which the manufacturers claim 'delivers' 85.6mpg (combined).  No tweaks happened though.  'Fifty three miles per gallon - that's pretty good'.  Yep, I heard it from the man at Ford! Come to your own conclusions but when I'm next in the market for a new green motor I, for one, won't be beating a path to his door.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Dear Leonard.....

Photo by Rama
There's a veritable throng of twinkling stars in my very own cosmos on the cosmic ordering site now following the success  of my request for a replacement soda stream bottle lid.  Another small wish was 'granted' too.  My dear friend and esteemed colleague Mr Metrosexual had a garden party last month.  He is no chef and muggins here agreed to don her pinny and rustle up a feast. What thanks did I get?  Loads of grumbling about how I'd nicked his grill pan!   I submitted an order so that he'd get it back and so the moaning would cease.  Ch-ching! Peace was restored. It was soon discovered wedged  against the back wall of his oven and not in my treasure trove of loot after all.

When sending my requests out to the universe I'm mindful of the maxim 'Be Careful What You Wish For'.  So, there's no fast cars or riches beyond belief.  Instead, my hope is that a few lost things will be found, the future will be a bit brighter for others around me and that some small value items that seem impossible to replace will come my way.  A glass jug for my blender, for example as the old one came out the worse in a fight with the kitchen floor. But there's one big 'wish' out there and for it to be granted seems beyond my wildest dreams but....

...Dear Leonard Cohen

To thank you for all the pleasure that your masterly music has given me I have lit a star in my universe wishing  you would come to tea.  I could rustle up a traditional Devonian number with scones, jams and clotted cream but isn't your home base California?  If so, the eating habits of the locals may have rubbed off and you might prefer something healthier.  Bean shoots perhaps?  Anyway let me know when you're coming and I'll get baking (or sprouting!)


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Three Cheers for the World Wide Web!

Now I reckon most of my audience would agree that the Internet has been an absolute blessing in terms of having access to instant information.  I recall with despair those evermore dim and distant school days where I often turned to the local library in vain for just the right facts to complete homework to hand in the next day.  Louis will never struggle with finding out about irrigation systems through the ages  armed with just a pile of out of date geography books and the Encyclopedia Britannica like I once did.

Anyway I thought I'd share with you just a few of the things that I've discovered over the last week or so that turned out to be merely a few finger taps away!

  • Uranium Glass:  That dinky little green glass art deco dressing table set that I picked up for a song at Saturday's car boot sale may have radioactive material incorporated into it.  If it does it'll glow in a spooky way under ultra-violet light and make a Gieger counter click furiously.  I just need access to the right scientific kit to test this out!
  • The Best Carpet Cleaner on the Market:  Why do they put cream carpets in rented accommodation that's going to be used by families?  My vacuum cleaner and spot remover just isn't cutting the mustard so I need a steam cleaner in order to keep my deposit intact.  The Bissell Aroma Pro looked like a pretty good best and hey presto! I've picked one up on Ebay for a third of the new retail price.
  • How to Repair a Zip with a Broken Tooth:  I'll show you why this accident prone mare needs instructions for mending a new acquisition in a few days or so.   Oops!
  • How to Cook Gluten Free Bread from a Dove  Mix in my Panasonic Breadmaker:  The recipe on the packet contains a heck of a lot of eggs and milk whereas the ones in the instruction manual used other brands.  The result? A 'loaf' in the loosest sense of the word,  slightly undercooked and resembling a meringue.  Mama Lovelygrey, who has coeliac disease  found it tasty but it wasn't any good for making a sandwich.  Maybe next time if I follow the instructions in this link, I get something a little more artisanal.
  • Can the Red Arrows Fly in High Winds?  They did at the Dawlish Air Show whilst we froze our nadders off in those blustery conditions!
  • Risk Assessment of Bouncy Castles:  Muggins here has volunteered to risk assess the school fete.  Some bright spark a few years back decided that this was not going to be a low key event with a cake stall and a few games but a full scale country fayre.  My tasks was causing me nightmares and that was before I found out about 'Chain Saw Man', the dare devil motorcycle display team and an archery range with arrows that head out towards the carriageway of the A38.
  • Head of Programmes:  I urge you to follow the link and listen to this music described as 'Like Joy Division playing Country & Western'.  It's mesmorising.
  • Sandworld:  There's a weekend motorhome trip to Weymouth coming up. Could this shrine to sandcastles and more fantastical creations provide hours of family entertainment or be the ten minute wonder that it's visitor's page suggests is a possibility?
  • Uses of Citric Acid:  This ingredient for my elderflower cordial was eluded me this year.  The lady in Holland and Barratt told me that they didn't sell it anymore as it was being nicked by drug addicts.   A very helpful man on the healthfood stall in Newton Abbot market confirmed this but he also cited its many other uses - making sweets,  bath bombs, explosives and the like.  Finally, I tracked down my preservative in the excellent wine and beermaking outlet, Milltop which trades from the market too.
  • What exactly is a Degu?:  Louis fell in love with these creatures that he saw in a local pet shop visit that was way cheaper than a trip to the zoo!  They were an entirely new one on me but now I know that they're a gregarious Chilean relative of guinea pigs and chinchillas.  And no, Lou's not having any.  That 'no pets' clause in the letting agreement has turned out to be jolly useful!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

...And Where the Scrimping Starts Again!

I didn't expect to be so quick off the mark with a sequel to yesterday's anti-scrimping post but those cogs in my noggin have been working overtime.  So here's the antidote to all that extra outlay that I suggested yesterday - my  non comprehensive list of stuff where it's okay, in spending terms to go low.   Starting with....

  • White T-Shirts:  This is no ordinary garment.  It's the Hazleton, a jersey number by The Row which is yours from, that doyen of  designer websites,  A cool snip at £190 for the perfect T, which is described as incredibly soft and a 'triumph'.  Lovely as it is, its expensive sublimity would be spoilt by the indelible soup stain or suchlike that it would acquire within a week, nay days, of arriving in the Lovelygrey household.  I like a bit of quality when it comes to buying clothing but this wardrobe staple just has to come cheap enough for it to be  transformed   into a duster without too much angst after those inevitable splatters render it unwearable.
  • Cleaning Products:  Non branded please!  After all I'm not going to be displaying my designer Domestos with pride!
  • Over the Counter Medication:  Ditto the Neurofen when  ibuprofen can be bought at a fraction of the cost.  Remember to ask if there is a generic equivalent when buying named drugs at the pharmacy.  You'll get the same active chemicals if there is at a fraction of the cost.
  • Crisps:  Value lines of ready salted taste just as good, if not better, as those from the big names in the snacking industry.  Trust me, I'm a therapist.  Oh and PS:  Sorry Gary Lineker.
  • Pant Liners:  And, for that matter, any other product that is placed in the immediate vicinity of the female jubblies.  The more expensive version come with all sorts of additives like scent and deoderants.  Now in such a sensitive area those extras don't seem healthy to me.
  • Print Cartridges:  Okay the recycled versions don't last quite as long as the genuine branded article but they're around a third of the price which more than compensates for the slight inconvenience of more frequent toner changes.
  • Teaspoons:  These blighters go missing so there's no point in splurging on expensive designer cutlery!  Mostly they get lost when farmed out in kiddie lunchboxes but there's other occasions too where they seem to disappear inexplicably without trace.  It makes me suspect that the Borrowers are at work.  
  • Bubble Bath:  You can get cheap ones that smell perfectly acceptable.  Enough said.
  • Butter:  Here I stumble. I am a sucker for lovely Breton spread encrusted with seasalt but the cheapest available is, in truth, perfectly acceptable for baking, cooking and everyday use.
  • Household staples:  Come to think of it, you'd have to have an extraordinarily discerning palate to notice the difference in taste when using any of those expensive artisan store cupboard ingredients over those that are as cheap as chips.  Flour,dried pasta, tinned tomatoes and the like can all be had for a pittance and I don't incur many culinary disasters as a consequence.
Could all this penny pinching mean that I could fly Club Class after all?  Mmm, I'm not so sure.  But they probably add up to the cost of at least one cut price ferry crossing to France.  And in my mind that's not at all bad!

Monday, 11 June 2012

When the Scrimping has to Stop!

Now I like to save a few bob as much as the next man or woman.  Some things though are worth paying a bit extra for even when there's a cheaper alternative.  Marmite is a case in point.  Sure there are  other yeast extract spreads  and own label supermarket brands for cost around the £1.90 mark for 250g as opposed to the £2.50 you'll pay for this champion of lush savouriness.  To my mind though that extra sixty pence is worth every penny.

Here is my eclectic list of some other purchases where I'm happy to stretch those purse strings a little.  After all inferior products that I'm not happy with don't represent such good value after all.

  • Batteries:  Maybe the day will soon come when everything will be solar powered  as having gadgets that are powered by these  expensive electricity generating cells are so irritating.  But it's even more annoying when they have to be replaced every five minutes. Now, I just bite the bullet and cough up for long lasting brands.
  • Knives:  Meat-free cooking in my student days was such a bind.  Chopping vegetables with a blade that was about as sharp as a ruler was a joyless task.  Then I discovered proper knives with a weighty well balanced feel that  could be sharpened with a steel made the job a breeze.  
  • Mattresses:  You can go really cheap here but why would you want to sacrifice a good night's sleep for the next few years?   
  • Flights:  Now I'm sure that if I flew Club Class I'd never want to grace Economy  ever again so woe betide my bank balance if I ever get upgraded!  But those bargain night-time charter flights are now a no go zone for me.  Why ruin a good holiday with sleepless nights at the beginning and the end? 
  • Ferries:  You'll be getting the gist now that kipping is important to me.  Hence no more skimping by booking a reclining seat on night sailings. They don't tip back enough, the lounge smells sweaty and is full of people who snore even louder than me.  Some feat!  No it has to be a cabin these days.
  • Tissues: Nothing is worse than sneezing and finding that your hankerchief isn't substantial enough.  I don't need to elaborate here.
  • Meat:  Slash bills by buying cheaper good quality cuts.  Trawl the reduced sections for these in the supermarkets, like I do, by all means. But don't compromise so much that considerations about animal welfare and intensive processing go right out of the window.
  • Shoes:  I'm a fuss pot when it comes to these but not in a Louboutin/Jimmy Choo kind of way.  They have to be comfortable and last.  For those qualities I'm prepared to fork out a little more.
  • Iron:  Never will I go back to using one after investing in a far superior model with a ceramic non stick base and a decent steam function that cost ten times as much.   A value iron feels like a brick in comparison.

There you have it.  Watch out for a companion post in the next few days.  After all I feel that there is a need to show where the scrimping has to start to cover the additional expense of my economic foibles!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

In the Annexe

Mama and Papa Lovelygrey have been staying with me at Lovelygrey Cottage this week.   The rain has disinclined us to embark on a sightseeing frenzy so we've spent lots of time at home. My parents aren't really the types to sit around unproductively so there's bits of handiwork produced during their visit that I'll be showing off in later posts.

Now I willingly gave up my bed for my parents and as Louis has been staying at his dad's house I planned to sleep in his bunk bed.  It was a idea that filled me with a touch of excitement.  I'd always wanted a high level bed when I was younger.  Claudine Wakeman-Reynolds, if you ever read this, your one with its desk underneath totally rocked!  It seemed like an ideal opportunity to experience something I'd missed out on in my youth.  But after the first night I aborted thanks to the vagaries of the ageing bladder.  Nocturnal toilet trips down a narrow vertical ladder aren't a piece of cake for a forty seven year old with a dodgy knee.   Not only that, the oldies seemed to be making the same expedition on an hourly basis.  And then having a chat afterwards!

Nothing for it but to decamp.  Okay here I'm pretending to slumber as otherwise I wouldn't have been able to take the shot.  Hence the furrowed brow of concentration.  But during the night I've been out like a light and slept right through in my cosy,  toilet accessible bedroom on the driveway!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Days Out in Devon: Dawlish Air Show

It's rare that I spend annual leave periods at home.  More often than not I'm satisfying my francophile fancies in the motorhome or venturing even further afield when mood or finances afford.  A lot of local events held on weekdays in school holidays therefore pass me by.  However for a change Mama and Papa Lovelygrey are visiting during this Whitsun half term break so it's only polite that I'm off work.  I had hoped to help them comprehensively explore South Devon with their favourite, and indeed only grandson but the weather has not been on our side.  Yesterday though, there was a break in the torrential rain and gale force winds, an obligatory feature of any important holiday period in England.  We took the opportunity to head off to  Dawlish to take in the town's annual air show.

Now my review of this event is a mixed one. 'Arrive early' advised the organisers.  And so we did an hour and a half in advance of the scheduled start time of midday and were pleasantly surprised to find a parking space free of charge just ten minutes walk from the Warren, our chosen viewing point.  After a coffee and a play on the beach, the Devon Air Ambulance duly turned up at twelve, providing an opportune moment for my photogenic son to pose his heart out.  Another helicopter flew past and a couple of planes looped the loop and then nothing.  For what seemed like an age, and in actual fact was a period of over an hour, we only had the seabirds performing some understated aeronautical trickery to entertain us.

Then finally at about two thirty there was a bit more activity in the sky culminating in a display by the Red Arrows at four o' clock who, of course,did not disappoint.    In fact they were the only act that caused Louis and Abi to sit up, put their sandcastle building on hold and take notice of the aerial antics taking place above them over the shoreline.

On the plus side the event was free and takes place in a spectacular location.  If the organisers could guarantee the weather it would be the icing on the cake that would make a good day playing on the sand by the seaside utterly brilliant.  However, memories of being chilled to the bone standing around will stay with me for a while and as good weather is not a dead cert, I won't be making this event an annual occasion in the Lovelygrey calendar.

Friday, 8 June 2012

In the Realm of The Senses

Anyone arriving at this site thinking that they're going to get a review of 'Ai No Corrida', the Japanese film from the Seventies, may to be sorely disappointed.  Apparently during this controversial number, in amongst the rumpy pumpy with kimonos, a bloke gets his todger cut off.  I never saw it though as I'm sqeamish and was told by my fellow university 'Cinesoc' members that it was really boring.

No, my header today alludes to the latest exhibition at the Devon Guild of Crafts and not the sub-title to this controversal work.  'Engaging the Senses' showcases work that can be touched, heard and smelt as well as looked at.  Sadly there was nothing to taste but the cafe upstairs at the centre comes highly recommended.   We'll start of with this pleasing and tactile and earthily scented piece of willow basketry by Lise Bech.

 If other gallery visitors wanted peace and quiet during their visit they were sorely disappointed as I took the kids.  This wonderfully noisy object was conceptualised  and made by pupils from the West of England School and College which is attended by youngsters with little or no sight.  The Plymouth based artist Katie Lake, who I see goes by the rather wonder alias 'Mistress Metal' was commissioned to help realise the project and one of the students at the college Ruari, with the help of his support worker, executed vast amounts of the metalwork.  No mean feat!  Once it's been shown off to the general public, this sensory sculpture will be installed in the school's garden as a lasting legacy.

Normal exhibitions are festooned with 'Do not Touch' labels but this one bucked the trend.  You are positively encouraged to handle the pieces and some of them are even robust enough to withstand the attention of an nine year old who's inherited the accident prone tendencies of his mother.  I'm really pleased with this shot of Louis 'wearing' this work of Ruth Spaak with its three figure price tag that used flotsam and jetsam in her work to good effect.  Normally my heart would be in my mouth if my son was in  such close proximity to expensive artworks but this piece was suitably robust!

I bet you thought that I'd skirted over the olfactory sense with my piece baskets above but you were  so wrong.  It can be covered in a bit more detail  Here's some of the smelly ceramics by Jon Williams who exhibited rather realistic peppermints and lemons too.  It's a shame that taste couldn't have been incorporated into the experience of viewing these three inch high chocolate-scented clay Rolos. After all,  I'm sure that  there's lots of us out there who'd have enjoy the aesthetic pleasure of oversized confectionery.  Maybe it's something that the organisers at the Guild could bear in mind if they ever repeat this theme.   Is there any artist out there who could perhaps create a six foot high big purple Quality Street and everyone could have a nibble!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Ones I Made Earlier: Lizard Mosaic

Settling into Lovelygrey Cottage has been a long old process but it feels like I'm nearly there now.  The house move and its aftermath inevitably meant that there was a wealth of things that had to be done over and above life's everyday chores.  It left little time for some of the things that I really want to make part and parcel of my new life - making stuff, exercise, reading, selling stuff and a bit more writing to name a few.  I'm hoping that will all change before the summer's out.

Consequently, today I'm trawling back to the dim distant past for inspiration for today's offering.  In my early days of blogging when Mama, Papa and Nana Lovelygrey were my only devoted readers,  I wrote a mini-series of posts, showing some of my past  craft projects.  For those interested in seeing what you might have missed from way back in 2010,  I've added  a 'Ones I Made Earlier' heading to the labels in the sidebar on the right.  Looking back myself it's been  interesting to reflect on how my writing style has developed over the last two years or so.  I'll leave it up to you to decide whether it's for the better!

And here we have it.  My first ever mosaic which was made at a workshop run by the talented artist  Elaine Goodwin, a local Exeter girl who has written books, had numerous exhibitions and was commissioned to make a permanent piece displayed underfoot in the  Meditteranean Zone of the Eden Project. Along with my fellow course participants, I worked in the middle of a gallery during a special exhibition, with the public milling around us.  It were as if we were an art installation in our own right!

This piece isn't perfect - note the uneven width of the tail, for example and there's a lot that I'd change if I were doing the piece again today  - less blocks of monochrome colour and a softer lizardy outline perhaps.  But I learned stacks from making him and Elaine's expert tuition gave me the confidence to go on and produce more accomplished works on my own.  As such I'm pleased with this little bit of my creative history and have just bought the widgets for fixing him to the wall so that he  has pride of place in my conservatory.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A Bit of Science

Now frittata is one of my favourite motorhome staples.  I nearly always start with frying an onion and chopping a couple of potatoes.   After that I get creative within reason. No two offerings are alike.  This weekend's version included a bit of bacon, sliced baby courgettes and carrots and some sausage that needed using up.  Once the melange looks cooked (bearing in mind my tapeworm advice of course!)  it's time to add seasoned beaten eggs and then wait until its bottom is cooked.

Then we come to the part that is often tricky - turning the darned thing over to cook the other side.  About a quarter of the time this manoeuvre passes without incident but in the main there's a heart stopping moment.  On this occasion Red Mel and I came truly unstuck -or rather stuck.  Well, we weren't but our supper was. It became encased in a ceramic and metal cocoon.  As Mel  is very effectively demonstrating here.
 Here the explanation in the form of an exercise that will remind you of your GCSE physics from long ago.  Or GCE O-level if you're as old as me.  The pan contracted as it cooled off the burner whilst the plate used in the turning process?  Well that  warmed up because off its close proximity to the metal and a perfectly cooked frittata and  hence it expanded to make a very effective seal.

With  our tummies rumbling we came up with a solution.  Again our rusty scientific knowledge came into play.   We poured boiling water over the pan to make it expand again and used a bit of brute force and ignorance too.  Splat!  Our meal fell onto the grass outside the van.  I'd have liked to have got a shot of it there.  The colour contrast was quite effective.  But we had to work fast to plate  before Louis saw what had happened and refused to eat it.  The maxim 'A little dirt never hurt anyone' doesn't ring true with him.  Anyone else for hay infused scramble?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Cross :X

In spite of a lovely weekend, something has been playing on my mind and getting my goat.  Hence the illustration.  Now I really wanted to find a floppy eared variety amongst the wealth of free clip art out there but had to settle for this cute pointy eared kid instead.  So what's the point of all this talk about those cloven footed garbage bins?

Well, the government have decided that, unlike their investment banker chummers,  all of us public sector employees are money grabbing lazy blighters who're paid over the odds and are blessed with too many benefits.  As such they've decided to take things in hand.

My remuneration package in the NHS isn't a secret.  I'm at the top of Band 6 of the Agenda for Change payscale so you can look it up if you like. But just to save you the bother let me disclose that I earn a salary just shy of £35,000, have a leave entitlement of  33 days plus the public holidays and there is  a generous pension scheme and a few other benefits to boot. 'That's not  at all bad!' I hear some of my followers cry and let me state categorically that I'm with you on this.  But I've also worked in a prestigious graduate entry job in the private financial sector.  If I'd stayed there it's likely that I'd be earning more than a smidgen extra with less risk and responsibility.  Surprise, surprise the work that I do now, assessing and treating older people with dementia, depression, anxiety and the occasional psychosis,  involves much more nouse than unraveling the intricacies of a tax system.  And I'm not expecting promotion as a reward for my work anytime soon.  The vagaries of the organisation mean that I've reached the ceiling in terms of progression if I want to stay working on the frontline as a clinician.

So it is with dismay that I've heard that the trial of implementing regional pay could see reductions in my salary of 15% along with cuts in terms and conditions and benefits too.  Isn't someone forgetting that the South West, thanks to it being the playground of those Hooray Henries coming up with these brilliant money saving ideas,  is an area where living costs and housing costs are above the national average?    Now I envisage that a lot of public employees will see no choice but to accept these reductions once they've held those strikes that bring nothing but disparagement from those career politicians.  A spell at Exeter University in the '80s leaves me in no doubt that the masses, even those who've worked hard and have donned the mortarboard and gown, are still seen as subordinate serfs to be manipulated by the privileged few.  But I'm not going to doff my cap to my betters.   I'll walk and use my skills elsewhere, hopefully in a way where I can still be of benefit to those illnesses that I currently work with..  It's a sad fact when someone who believes that a strong National Health Service is one of our country's greatest aspects,  hopes that many of my talented and committed colleagues won't roll over and give in but will follow me our of the door and see what difference we can make by being our own bosses in the private sector.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Festival Round Up

How about just a few shots that capture the essence of why I'm a festival fan? They say a picture says a thousand words and  certainly I need those illustrations to do the talking today as I've run out of literary steam.  All this fresh air is doing me good. I didn't wake until an unprecedented nine o' clock and that muggy headed exhaustion is still lingering - but in a nice way!

So first off - here's Lou making friends.  I'm thrilled that Elvis has finally cured his hound dog phobia. Here he is with Bella, one of his new canine chums.  Currently, whilst I'm posting he's hurtling around the field with a gaggle of other two and four legged beasties.

Of course I have to mention the music.  Red Mel and I spent a chilled out afternoon sitting in our camping chairs whilst crafting and supping cider.    Josie Ghost caught our attention, maybe because we were angst ridden tortured youngsters ourselves too once upon a time.  As I was heading back from a porta potty trip, I felt sorry that I couldn't linger to catch Head of Programmes who sounded right up my musical street.  But hey! I had child supervision responsibilities so I'll have to conduct a musical odyssey on Spotify later in the week.   And,  this cheeky looking Celtic chappie?  Well, he's the lead singer of Mad Dog Mcrea, one of our festival raison-d'etres.  Incredibly accomplished  Irish jiggery pokery  and clever, good humoured lyrics, this band are joy personified!

Excuse the fuzziness of this photographic record.  A nine year old's idea of sharp focus is about the same as some of the rather addled, but rather good natured, older party goers here. This is me,with Red Mel in the background, indulging in this year's hot new experience.  Flesh eating fish are old hat, we're too old for apple infused hubba bubba pipes so instead, for the price of a pint, we tried our first (and only) shots of life affirming oxygen infused with invigorating flavours to excite our nasal passages!