Monday, 30 September 2013

Not for Klutzes

For quite some considerable time as a yoof I harboured ambitions of being a dentist.  What was I thinking? Fiddling around doing intricate work in the confined space of a person's mouth isn't really a job for someone with probable undiagnosed dyspraxia and dodgy hand-eye coordination due to a squint!  Worryingly, at the time, dental schools would have let me in, on the basis of my A-level grades.  Thank goodness I came to my senses before the ancient UCCA application process.

I am in totally awe of those who can work on a miniature scale whether it be teeth or other media.  So when I stumbled upon the work of Dalton Ghetti I was bowled over.  For up to a couple of hours each day, this carpenter who hales from Brazil but now lives in the US uses a blade and a needle to carve the lead of pencils.  Me, I have trouble using a pencil sharpener at times.  Anyway go and have a look at his work.  But for the lazy amongst you I've put some more of his stuff down below.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Yummy Feast!

How retro does this look?  The Ercol dining suite and the whacky table mats!  The idea of a feast to place on it started a couple of days ago with a text from Red Mel.  'I have yummy veggie curry.  Shall I bring it over  on Saturday?'  Well, how could a girl refuse?

A less ambitious person might have just put a pot of rice onto the boil but I thought I'd push the boat out a little bit further.  I decided that it was time to grasp the woolly bully by the horns and use that chapati flour that I'd bought in Lidl yonks ago when they had a bit of an Indian flavoured theme going on. And then there was lamb mince in the freezer so I felt that a meaty accompaniment was in order.

Now chapati are a breeze - technically that is.  It's certainly not a cooling activity for a menopausal woman.  All that high heat and rolling out is hot flush inducing stuff.  But boy is it worth it particularly as I've just looked at the first restaurant in my local Just-Eat listings and found out that a single chapati would set me back 85p.    I reckon the whole batch can't have cost that much.
Take chapati flour, add salt and enough water to form a soft dough.  Knead well and then divide into balls.  Roll out and then pop in a hot frying pan or onto a griddle for a minute each side until the surface starts to get those dark little dots.  300g of flour made 12 chapatis.

A pound of lamb mince (reduced to £2.05 in the Coop) made seven kebab.  I mixed the meat with a small minced onion, two minced garlic cloves and a knob of minced ginger, one teaspoon of garam masala, chopped coriander, two eggs, salt and pepper.  You'll note that this doesn't have a chilli kick because Louis was eating with us but add heat to your own taste. Nothing more to do but squish the mixture onto skewers and then griddle on my worktop grill which handily cooks both sides of the meat at once.

And onto Louis' contribution to the feast!  If you don't cook you don't eat in my house.  Yesterday he learnt to make pavlova, a lifelong cooking skill that will be sure to impress the ladies once he shows an interest in them.  He topped meringue made from three eggs whites and 150g of sugar with cream, strawberries and a crumbled Daim bar.  It's a combination that wasn't half bad!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Insomnia Revisited

It's the blooming middle of the night so why am I awake and perky as a perky thing?  It doesn't bode well for how I'll feel later on in the afternoon.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I'm taking Louis for his second phase of  his 11 plus this morning.  Not that he's worried.  He's sound asleep and the odds are I'll have to wake him from his slumbers in a few hours time.  Shouldn't he be the one that's fretting in the wee dark hours.  Or it that a mother's job?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Early Bird Catches the Dirt Cheap Ferry

Even though I was moaning about too much holidaying spoiling my usual routine a few days back, travel remains one of my main raisons-d'etres.  So it may not surprise people to know that thoughts are turning to where to head off  in 2014.

Now 2012 and 2013 have been rather expensive years because of buying and equipping homes. So,  I want next year to be one where saving money predominates but not at the expense of having to deny myself the pleasure of getting away. I've decided to restrict my motorhome trips abroad to Brittany to keep those pennies pinched.  Driving from Santander to Roscoff was all very well but the fuel costs were eye watering.

I just had a peep at the Brittany Ferries website and travel costs were currently so reasonable, less on their variable price plans than I ever remember paying on crossings before, that I've stumped up reservation fees of £25 per trip  for two jaunts in May and August of next year.  Sometimes it seems that late deals provides the best bargain but in this case it looks like it pays to get in quick!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

BOOM! 25% plus off Booty

Right!  Let's make this clear.  I'm not talking to those out there who have a shoe habit the size of that Imelda Markos'.  You should steer clear of this post which is for the sensible thrifty peeps out there who just happen to need new footwear at this point in time.  Like me!

My ten year old ankle boots finally gave up the ghost last year.  I realised just how manky, smelly and embarrassing that they'd become when I was being fitted for insoles at Foot Solutions.  In my defence, I was reluctant then to buy new shoes apart from Crocs and Birkenstocks in case they hurt.  But those old guys that I'd bought in TK Maxx for thirty quid served me well.  Three pounds for each year of wear can't be bad.

Talking of TK Maxx, did you know they're online now.   I've added the link to save you rummaging dejectly through loads of gorgeous size 8 stuff that wouldn't even have fitted me at the age of fourteen!  I went there to see what they had on offer this time but they didn't have anything that caught my eye.  So, these are what I've bought  Clark's Neeve Viv boots lined with Goretex.  Their full price is £89.99 but after directing my purchase through Quidco which will eventually give a discount of 6.5% and taking advantage of a 20% voucher code the cost falls below seventy pounds. The magic word to use at checkout is 'BOOM' but hurry!  Clark's excellent offer ends on the 30th September.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Getting Back in the Good Old Swing

All this holidaying has left me out a bit out of kilter which is why, unusually, I didn't blog on a school day yesterday.  My next jaunt away isn't until January and, dare I say it, I'm  a bit relieved.  Gallivanting halfway across Europe and up and down the country is all very well but it takes a lot of preparation. Then there's the disruption of unpacking after the event.  I'm rather looking forward to re-establishing my usual routine which tides me nicely through the majority of the year.  Of course they'll be some deviations from this in the form of weekend and day trips.  Nothing too adventurous for a while though.  Phew!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Fruity Protection

Please follow this link and then let me reassure you that I am not trying to protect my bananas from malevolent mind readers that are undoubtedly out there posing a threat to both human and fruity races. No, this is a tip that I've got from the Student Beans website that contains some useful information for us oldies as well as for  freshers stepping out into the world on their own for the very first time.  Eighteen ways to make food last longer can't be bad.

Just a word for you youngsters that are setting off to university, I promise you'll be  fine!  Just follow this tip and remember to wrap the end of bananas to makes them last an extra 4-5 days.  It'll save them going black and inedible and then there'll be more money over for beer.   And don't worry that if you forget this tip.  Bananas probably go dark because of a chemical reaction.  It has nothing to do with evil forces.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Tried and Tested By a Ten Year Old: Jack Straws

Back in Devon now after a good straight run from Cumbria. It's good to be home and have my son back.  Louis did Part 1 of his 11 plus this morning whilst I was coursing down the M5 and M6.  It's  the culmination of a year's worth of tutoring  which included the dreaded English paper.  Luckily the grammar agreed that the special needs related to his dyslexia should be taken into account and he was given extra time.

If parents go away, custom has it that they should bring a gift back home for their kid.  It was lucky that Kirkby Stephen has a lovely little shop that combines sales of sweets and toys.  So what to buy? Well sugary treats of course.  That goes without saying but the helpful lady behind the counter also had another suggestion.

'I've got an eleven year old,'  she said, 'And these tempt him away from the computer!' For that accomplishment Jack Straws is a fine toy indeed. It's another oldie but goldie to go with his much loved Monopoly and  that bog standard pack of playing cards.  You must remember it!  Fiddly little plastic shapes of varying value, that have nothing to do with the Labour politician, which you pick up with a hook without disturbing the other pieces in the pile.   Louis loves it and beat me to a pulp on the game's first outing.

So, now is the time that some of us start scratching our heads and thinking about Christmas gifts that those kids of today, who seem to have everything, will actually play with.  Perhaps this cheap and cheerful gift idea is worth hunting down in a small local toyshop nearby.  However, if you have no luck, click the image above and Amazon will take care of you!

Friday, 20 September 2013

Nine Standards: Part Two: Yay I Made It!

One, Two, Three, Four Five, Six, Seven, Nine cairns of unknown origin photographed at Nine Standards rig on Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk at about 10:15 this morning.  I tackled the climb up all alone with no-one to talk to but the sheep and the tinier waymarking cairns.  On the way down I met long distance trail hikers of all sorts of nationalities.  Most had started off late after what may have been a good night out in Kirkby Stephen.

This was definitely a high point in more ways than one  of the longest and hardest yomp that I've tackled for a good three years or so since the time that ill health set in.  I'm pleased to note that one online description of this 9-10 mile jaunt describes it as strenuous.  I can provide confirmation that it blooming well was not a picnic in the park.  But it was oh so worth it and I'm dead proud of myself.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Just Finished Reading: Don't Eat This Book

All this holiday making over the last month has meant that I've got through a shedload of reading.  It'll guarantee the lid now fits on my bedside storage unit without having to play a literary inspired version of Tetris.  And that's in spite of being good this year and pretty much adhering to the pledge within my self imposed 2013 rules that I would not buy any books.   Somehow paper based freebies keep coming my way that's to my habit of passing on the ones that I've finished with.

I really enjoyed Don't Eat This Book, the story behind the making of the documentary Super Size Me , which documented what happened when its author Morgan Spurlock risked life and limb by living off McDonald's food for a month.  It's is thought provoking tome that reminded me that I really must get Louis, who'd eat Happy Meals until they were coming out of his ears if he was allowed, to watch the film so that he might may better informed food choices of his own in the future.  I think that there's a copy that came free with the Guardian yonks ago at his Dad's house.

After I finished reading I vowed to myself that I'd cut down down on processed groceries and make things from scratch myself whenever possible.   So, why is it that 2 for 1 Pringles, a snack that contains over 20 ingredients has made it into my shopping basket this week?  At least I've noticed the contradiction!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Nine Standards: Part One

That dodgy knee is loads better, thanks very much indeed for asking!  I think it's down to regular cycling, swimming and gentle on the level walking during the Santander-Roscoff road trip.  There were plenty of opportunities to build up those supporting muscles around that non existent cruciate ligament whilst on the last holiday.  Time for something a little more strenuous I think.

From the window of the cottage we can see the Nine Standards, stonking great cairns rising from the moorland.  And I want to get up there.  So today I've been on a reccie to get a feel of the lie of the land (upwards!) and to check that with customised insoles that I had made earlier in the year my progress was painfree (it was!).

So I think the time has come to set myself a bigger exercise challenage than I've attempted in what must be a couple of years. I'm hoping to show off the reward, close up pictures of those great big towers of stone in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Ghoulish Gummy Garment

Aside from when Louis creeps into my bed,  I now sleep on my own. Long may it last!  There's no fights over pillows and duvets for me now. And if I wake in the night I can turn the light on and read without a barrage of complaints. So, given this solitary state of affairs, shouldn't pumping out those decibels in the form of rasping snores be a prerogative that I relish?

About five years ago when I was still married, my nocturnal noise making, which could be heard through walls, understandably became all too much for the then Mr Lovelygrey.  So, I underwent a sleep study and 'Mandy 1', a mandibular device was custom made by a kind soul in the maxillofacial department at Torbay hospital.  It stopped my jaw falling back after the throat muscles relax during sleep.  With a clear airway there is no nocturnal rasping or snorting.  Peace was restored  to the household.

Mandy 1 is now dead and buried.  One of the connecting pieces between the two mouth pieces broke and she developed mucky black patches.   But why should I need a replacement if there's no-one to disturb.  Well, snoring can result in poor sleep and with that daytime lethargy.  So  in my bid to actively work on healthful habits I re-referred myself for a replacement.  Here, thanks to a bit of flash photography, is Mandy 2.  Let's hope that she provides that good quality rest that I yearn for.  At least with her horror film looks she should keep other ghoulies and ghosties away!


Monday, 16 September 2013

Flagrant Self Interest

Oh Lizzie Sanders you naughty bespoke jeweller. When you shared this on Facebook I bet you were just scheming about how to make a extra bob or two for yourself so you can splash out on a bigger chocolate Yule log over the festive period. Ploys like this just make me want to rush out and bulk buy from H Samuel  to keep the wolf away from the door of their fat cat shareholders.  After all their Magnificant Meerkats are collectibles so could make me a big fat fortune one day!

Do you find sometimes that a theme keeps reoccurring?   For me reminders to buy local have cropped up a couple of times in as many days.  The other example is a quote pinned to the notice board in the holiday cottage we're in.  It comes from Jo Fairley, a founder of Green & Black in a speech that she gave a the Liberal Democrat Conference in 2008.

'£10 spent in a supermarket generates about £12 in the local economy.  £10 spent in a local shop brings £28 to the local economy.   £10 in a local shop on local produce contributes between £40 and £80 to the local economy.'

Food for thought from someone who  it might be said, sold out a little when she flogged her business to Cadburys Schweppes. Mind you  if Coca-Cola or McDonalds perhaps came to me asking to buy my blog for an eye wateringly large sum who knows how a girl who lives in the zone between black and white would react.  I'd probably work hard on justifying why a sale to a multi-national was okay if a fistful of wonga was on offer.   No matter,  let's get back to the quote above.  I'm scratching my head to thing how this might work.  It must have something to do with that tenner being fed back into the local economy again and again. Anyway if this is the case, it has to be a good thing doesn't it?

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Outside the Comfort Zone Oop North!

This is the one of the views from the holiday cottage where I'm staying with my good friend, The Pirate.  Not bad eh!   The others include far reaching views of moorland and just out the back there's the River Eden where, from the deck I watched little birdies hunting insects yesterday from the deck which nearly hangs over the water.

Now The Pirate is a dirty great one-legged chappie with countless battle scars from  skirmishes at land and sea. This has left him pretty much totally wheelchair dependent.  For him even a couple of hops is akin to participation in a major sporting event.  As such he normally restricts his movements to his own home and familiar spots in its environs where he knows the lie of the land, most specifically where toilets, are accessible and kerb heights are kind.  So why he chose a cottage to stay in with six steps up to the front door is puzzling.   Getting in involves a bum shuffle clad in a bin liner when its wet.    Perhaps his involvement in its restoration from its past life as a former mill has something to do with it.  When hiring holiday accommodation I like to stay someone that I'd love to own myself.  This place certainly ticks that box and its on one level once you're past t'front door.

I have to confess that I get annoyed about The Pirate's usual resistance to ski off piste as it were.  After all wouldn't his life be enhanced by jaunts further afield on a more regular basis?  But I'm getting it now.  Even a trip to a family member's home or the pub is an gargantuan exercise in planning.  Us able bodied folk, even ones who're supposed to have expertise in disability, have no idea!  My aim is to muddle along, learn about living in a world that's just not geared up for anyone that's not able-bodied and devise strategies so that The Pirate enjoys his stay away.  I'll know that I've succeeded if I tempt him to venture away from his home turf again.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Tethering Required

After being nearly three weeks without a Smartphone my new one arrived yesterday.  Did I choose a shiny-shiny, latest must-have handset?  Of course not!  As I've explained before, by keeping behind technological advances, I'm still thrilled by the increased capability when I upgrade a gadget but I don't pay the premium prices for the latest must-have item.

My new phone is the Sony Experia T bought on 3's One Plan on a 24 month contract costing £26 monthly, the cheapest phone with a largish screen on this package to compensate for that failing eyesight that has hit me in my forties. Had I have gone for the latest trendsetting devices a Samsung Galaxy 4 or the whopping Mega would have set me back £37 monthly on the same plan, a whopping extra £242 over the term of the contract.  I can do a lot with that kind of money. That's half the cost of a ferry crossing!

The way I use my phone has changed over the years.  Tethering, where I can use my phone as a dongle and connect my phone to a laptop, has turned out to be something very useful indeed, both for work and play.   I also like to download tracks from Spotify so that I can play music offline and that demands more data than I ever thought it was possible to use a couple of years back.  And I divert call from my work phone to my own phone and make business calls from it now.  Yes, more convenient than juggling two handsets but this has increased the number of inclusive minutes that I need within a contract.  Inevitably with increased access to services my costs have gone up.  I think I've been careful in my choices to find something that meets my needs but doesn't exceed them. 

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Free Gift From the Bookworm

Books from the library or that are secondhand are my preferred reading material.  Some come pristine as if untouched by human hands.  And they probably haven't been.  I've had some books on my shelves in my time that I've never read.  Others though come with a definite history of their former readers.  Some have been dropped in far too much water than is good for a book, a bath or swimming pool perhaps. I know what previous owners like to drink sometimes too.  There's nothing like curling up with a good book and a cup of cha or a big glass of red wine.  And then there are those who mark the pages including the person who, to put it politely had mild personality issues, had been reading a cognitive behavioural therapy text before me.

This fell out of my current read today and I'm delighted by it.  In the year 2000 someone was given it as a present by their friend Jill.  If they'd like it back then I'm happy to oblige.  For now though I'll use it.  It's a bookmark from The Mouth and Foot Printing Artists whose motto is 'Paint, Brush and Spirit'.  Isn't it amazing how resourceful humankind can be?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Thought for the Day: The Fight of the Wolves

I'm going to be a bit busy tomorrow morning so I'd thought I'd schedule a quick post ahead this evening.  All I need to do is  a  quick bit of nipping and tucking with the cut and paste function and there now, I've found a picture of a Native American person to serve as a pertinent illustration.  I'd normally reference this but it seems to be freely out there and I can't find the original source.  So  behold I give thanks to the person who wielded the art materials and bring you Cherokee words of wisdom that we've discovered at work and are rather inspired by.

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.“One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.  “The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Hygge Revisited

Eek!  Have you, my Northern hemisphere compatriots noticed how fast those daylight hours are disappearing?  We heading into the darker half of the year at a rate of knots.  It doesn't seem last week that the sun and the birdies were waking me at about 4:30.

With an absence of anti-depressant medication to regulate my mood and a propensity to SAD, seasonal affective disorder, its going to be really important that I maintain my mood through the winter months.  The Danes, a nation whose people are some of the happiest on the planet, have got a trick up their sleeves!  They call it 'Hygge'.  To inform those that are woefully lacking in the Scandanavian tongues it's pronounced Hoo-Ga.

The link will take you my previous post about this subject which talks about how the word, which isn't easy to translate into English, encapsulates the idea of instilling a sense of cosiness, bonhommie and well-being into the next few dark and colder months.  So I've fluffy blankets at the ready for some snuggling. All I need now are some candles, mulled wine and winter forays planned and I'll be well equipped for winter!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Wanting to Be More Bendy

Aaargh!  Back to work today after a fortnight off.  But it's not all bad.  For a start I really quite like my job and my lovely, kind, funny colleagues.  Additionally I'm only there for a week before going off on my travels again to a previously unexplored region of the UK. Bad time management, using up all that annual leave at once I know, but it had  to be.

In the meantime Week 2 of my free Coursera module, Creativity, Innovation and Change, has come online and I'm looking forward to getting cracking later today.  I can really recommend this way of learning.  My particular course suggests different depths of study depending on the commitment and time that you want to invest.

So what have I learnt so far?  Well for starters, failure doesn't have to be linked to self esteem at all!  One of the concepts introduced is that of 'Intelligent Fast Failure' encouraging risk taking and step-wise failure as part of the innovative process. Let's all get out there and cock things up for the sake of advancement.   The introductory material has also prompted me to do a bit of constructive navel gazing, thinking about what I really want from life.  I've identified that there's a central theme of flexibility that runs through my hopes and dreams.  My current conventional lifestyle where I'm tied to one place and employed by others isn't the direction I want to go in.   At the same time I've got to preserve the stability that my child needs whilst he's growing up.   A tricky balancing act indeed and one that I hope to explore in the project that I've decided to complete for the course.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Ten Best Place in France So Far!

France is bloody lovely!  In the main my 1970's grammar school education was pretty useless but one of the more  meaningful things that I learnt was a smattering of the lingo of the nearest nation to the UK.   Its gorgeous richness, for after all I’m a gal who loves language, gave me a desire to get to know the country better at a time when camping in Dorset was rather exotic. As we’re heading back to  Britain today I thought I’d share my ten favourite places.  But I bet if I root around further  in this brilliant  land,they'll be more places that take my fancy.

  • Shall I get one of the most popular landmarks out of the way first?  Mont St Michel is a given.  You just have to visit!  Just don’t do so in July or August!
  • The Tra Mar e Monti:   A week long  trek between the mountains and the sea taking in the best that Corsica has to offer.  Did I ever mention that Louis was conceived on this wild island?
  • RouenFrance does a good medieval city well.  This is the best that I’ve found.
  • Roscoff:  Gorgeous,gorgeous fishing town that happens to be the starting point for most of my French adventures.  It’s the place that  I’ll probably buy a house in when I’m old and even more grey.
  • Les Rousses:  Now I’m a crap skier of both alpine and cross country persuasiosn.  This is my preferred town on the French/Swiss border to carry out the latter pursuit.
  • Aiguille du Midi:  Chamonix is a walker’s heaven!  On a day off take the cable car ride over to Courmayeur in Italy for breathtaking vistas of Mont Blanc.
  • Nice:  Lovely city where both the climate and the people are as warm as toast
  • Futuroscope:  The best proof ever that the French can do a theme park warm and stylishly.
  • Turquant: Where!  A small village on the Loire east of Saumur with a brilliant motorhome aire and cycle paths to wine tasting spots and troglodyte villages.
  • …and finally. The best place in all of France!  It’s so secluded and special that I’m keeping shtum. But I’ll show you this picture giving a sense of how idyllic it is. And if you find it and I’m there in the motorhome say hi and I’ll treat you to a chilled beverage!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Everything I Need: More Nitty Gritty Thoughts

Well we’re almost at the end of our road trip!  Yesterday we arrived at our last two night stop before we return to the ferry port at Roscoff early tomorrow morning.  And then my beloved motorhome will be back on the driveway until its next trip.  But that idea of using it as a home still hasn’t gone away especially since I’ve met people en route who’re doing just that and have happily foregone four walls and a roof .

There is a financial advantage to this although living on sites where there’s an electrical hookup and other facilities isn’t cheap.  I’m reckoning that costs to be near Louis’ school are likely to be around £450 per month.  But aside from bottles of gas, a TV licence and a mobile phone with tethering to the Internet I’d have none of the usual household expenses.   

With less to clean less cleaning materials are needed but of course the main advantage here is the time that would be freed up to write, meditate, walk, craft and exercise.  Extra time would be saved as I’d shop less.  You have to be very careful in a van with consumerism otherwise you end up looking as if you have Diogenes syndrome.  Minimalism is key.

So what are the downsides?  Even though I’m a perky person I’ve forced myself to look at these.  There’s the cost of storing furniture and the exercise would double the amount of removal fees that I pay as I’ll effectively be moving my furniture and belongings twice.  Undoubtedly van maintenance costs would increase and there would be more wear and tear on it.  Then there’s the Louis factor.  It wouldn’t be as convenient if I weren’t round the corner from his Dad and even though he says he wouldn’t he could get fed up of living within the confines of a 6 x 3 metre space.

So there’s plenty to think about.  Back in England I’ll do some more research and some costing to help me come to the decision of if and when!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Hunt the Willy!

Here's the title of a game to play with kids in museums or galleries! It speaks for itself.   I bet you in ninety nine per cent of the world's artful or cultural spaces that their quest will be successful.  This is one of two Louis found in the archaeological museum in Saintes yesterday! 

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Waving Not Drowning

Both the title and my illustration are tenuous!  My motorhome isn't anything like a US school bus and well, the dodgy reference to a Stevie Smith poem is just showing off that I can remember a bit of English Lit even though I'm definitely not a poetry buff.

I've done a fair bit of driving in the last couple of days.  Firstly, there was a detour inland to Condom (snigger, snigger) where I caught up with an old schoolfriend, Claudine, and her mum and met other members of her family and a menagerie both wild and tame.  Then yesterday wasn't really much of a holiday at all.  Just a long tiring drive northwards to an aire in Saintes where you're not allowed to stay overnight anymore.  Luckily there's an adjoining campsite.  Now fully recovered after feeding,watering and dozing we're going to head off to find the town's Roman remains today.

Motorhome drivers have a habit of waving to each other on the road, an act of bonhommie that makes up for the anger that you induce in other motorists as you blunder slowly along single track roads with a queue of five vehicles behind you.   I think 2CV drivers might greet each other in a similar way for pretty much the same reasons.   Lou can be quite enthusiastic with his gesturing but for others, acknowledgement comes in the form of the merest wiggle of fingers off the steering wheel.  What about those who don't wave?  Are they just meanies, lost in their own little internal world or just preoccupied with being really lost?

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Mermaid With The Round Boobies

Until this week I didn't realise that cosmetic surgery was given the hard sell in some parts of the UK.  Perhaps we're shielded in the slower and more easy-going South West of the country where even a sausage on a stick is considered to be exotic.  I have to say that nowadays it has to be from locally bred piggies and contain some kind of fruit.  Apricot perhaps.

Anyway, let's get back on track shall we?  One of the mums that I've met on our campsite took up a Groupon offer to have her teeth whitened for a bargain basement price.  After the procedure, which no doubt involves the application of Dulux Brilliant White Gloss, an 'aesthetic consultant' barged into the room and offered an assessment that she didn't really have time to refuse.   The plastic surgeon, for that is what he  really was, whipped out a camera, took shots of her face and then proceeded to tell her what he thought was wrong - eyes too small, lips too thin, chin too pointy!  What would he make of me? Bags under the eyes, big nose, slightly slack chin, no doubt.  He'd tell me nothing that I'm not already aware of and I'd reply in true Miranda style that he was being rude!

No doubt this lovely mermaid's physique would not be curvaceous enough, her boobies would be too small and she'd be offered a trout pout to 'enhance' her face that's as blank as a canvas.  To me she's glorious.  Normally I'd extol the virtues, creative not physical, of the artist concerned but I didn't take a picture of the name tag when I spotted her at the Contemporary Craft Festival back in June.  All I know was that she was made by a student at South Devon College.  May her creator go far in their  career!  This lithe mer-creature is  now the inspiration for my latest linocut.  As I thought the motorhome is providing a perfectly tranquil  base to pursue my own diverse crafts.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Penguins, Fags and Exeter

My links with  Exeter pretty strong. After all, I lived there for over twenty years in six different places around the city, did two degrees at the university and the now defunct St Loye's School of Occupational Therapy and worked in the city briefly as a clerical assistant for BT and then as a tax consultant in a couple of international accountancy firms.  I thought I was pretty well versed on the city's history gleaned accidentally when going about my business and going on a few of the excellent free Red Coat  Tours run by volunteer guides.   But I never knew, until a couple of days ago that Penguin books have a very strong association with the city.

Here I am relishing the pleasantly warm climate of South West France, trawling through more books than I read in three months at home.  May I recommend Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, ghostly crime fiction which isn't a genre that I usually enjoy but this book was so well written and  imaginative that it passed muster.   The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, an extraordinarily beautiful narrative giving an alternative perspective on the War on Terror.  Its final paragraph is perplexing and I'm still at odds with what happened so if you read it and understand, let me in on the secret!

This latter book is one published by Penguin and on one of the back pages there is a description of how the publishing company was set up as a response to Allen Lane being unable to find something decent to read at Exeter St Davids railway station.    Perhaps there is a plaque commemorating this to seek out when I'm next there.  Mr Lane brought to fruition an idea that saw quality paperbacks being sold in newsagents, tobacconists and even vending machines for the same price as a packet of cigarettes.

Alas! This is not true of the Penguin paperback today.  My novel was a few years old and has a cover price of £6.99 whereas cigarettes cost around £6.30 for a pack of twenty unless you have access to a dodgy tobacco seller with links to the continent where duty prices are lower.  I know this, not as a smoker, but because I was looking for a gas canister to refill the lighter in the van the other day.  Perhaps if Penguin got back to their original remit they'd tempt people away from those evil nicotine filled cancer sticks that could considerably less now than a shiny new read!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Everything I Need

A totally mad Lovelygrey idea is forming as I sit in my lovely motorhome.  It’s has an internal area that is less than a compact and bijoux studio flat yet it feels spacious due to the great big windows that let in the outside world.   Here’s the evening view of Bilbao from the aire a few days ago.  There’s a fridge, cooking facilities, hefty insulation, heating when I need it, light, hot water and a really comfy bed, just to name a few of its features.  Of course there’s a private toilet too with enough room around it to swing a cat.  Okay it’s not that big so my pendulum would have to be a kitten.

It’s got me  revisiting thoughts that came to me when my marriage finally came to an end.  Could I live in the van? Unless I pay a premium I can’t live in Great Tits’ House until my buy to let mortgage lock in period has passed.  If I gave up my own rented house, put my furniture into storage I could save at least £1,000 per month.  That would pay a tidy sum of my existing home loan or could be put to good use, perhaps buying a second rental property to give me a bit more income.   Okay, it would put a temporary halt to some of my crafting pursuits that require space and bulky tools but I could still read, write, do needlepoint and make lino cuts which I could take to Double Elephant in Exeter and develop my printing skills.  There’s a bike on the back and space for my walking boots and swimming cozzie.  I’d have far more of my possession than when I lived out of a rucksack on my back.

The downside is that I would be homeless and I’m not quite aware of the full implications of that status. I’m not sure that I would suffer stigma because I don’t care two hoots what snotty people think anymore. Getting post, registering with a GP, retaining my right to vote and certainly other things that I haven’t thought about would all have to be investigated.    There’s the matter of sourcing sites to stay.  I’m fairly sure you can’t hole up on campsites permanently so I’d have to move around a bit.  And would Louis mind?  I think he would if it turned into a permanent living solution that lasted into his teens but it would only be short-term and his hankering for baths and normal living could be met at his dad’s house where he lives fifty percent of the time.

This isn’t going to be something that I’d do immediately but still it’s a thought.  Lets have another winter in a proper brick built home, take or eschew the advice of others and see how I feel about this in six months time.