Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Nearly Forgotten Pool

I'm a bit tied up with studying at the moment and yikes! it's a little harder than I thought it was going to be. I've got to get my head around processing information in a completely different way to what I'm used to.  So instead of blogging extensively I'll crack on with trying to get my first piece of work submitted.

Here's something to be going on with while you wait for something from me that's a little more meaty. I spotted 'Looking Into the Pool' by printmaker/painter  Mary Summer last month at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen. It was always at the back of my mind that this lovely busy naive work was one to share. Today's the day!

Tuesday, 29 April 2014


The eighties was a difficult time to get it right from a style point of view but Uber-cool Ana had it sussed before the rest of us.  I was in awe of the pencil thin woman dressed in black who could pull off thigh boots as everyday wear and who sported a pierced nose and tattoo in the days when body art wasn't de rigueur.    But that air of aloofness was just a cover for a lovely person who's always had a great love for gardening, cooking and homemaking.  Who'd have thought it?

Over twenty five years on and I'm still in touch with Ana.  We mainly meet at festivals as listening to music whilst hanging out in a field is a shared passion.  In a Facebook conversation the other week, she urged me to stretch myself with regard to what I listen to.  Now Punk Rock O' Clock made me feel like the middle aged woman that I just didn't realise I'd become.  It's just too noisy.  But this, and other songs by Texan, Josh T Pearson hits the spot nicely.

Monday, 28 April 2014

My Inheritance.

This is my Nan, Esther Elizabeth Harris.  I've already written about her husband, Bernard, in a previous post. Beautiful wasn't she?  She died when I was a child before she reached her quota of three score years and ten years.  For the last few years she suffered from the aftermath of a dense stroke that left her paralysed and unable to talk properly.    People seemed to have got old in the 1970s really quickly.  It's probably a measure of how hard life was back along.

I pretty much know for certain that I was my Nan's favourite grandchild.  The fact that she gave me a fiver for my birthday and my brother and sister only got fifty pence was a bit of a giveaway.  Of course I felt that this unequal treatment was entirely justifiable!  Anyway I reckoned that she liked me because she saw the potential that I had for being a strong woman.  She was a bit of a tough nut herself  behind that pretty exterior and in spite of no qualifications, had a career at a time when it was not the norm.  I'm not sure that her parenting skills would be considered as up to much in today's terms.  My Dad was left to fend for himself, in pre-Social Services days, from the age of five.  Very different times indeed!

When she died she left me this old electric Singer 99K that she'd promised to pass onto me when I was big enough.  It's still in complete working order even though it must be over sixty years old now.  I have another fancy all singing, dancing machine.  =  For simple sewing that doesn't involve any fancy stitching though it's still the most pleasing machine to use!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

The Gang

One of the important aspects of parenting is providing children with opportunities to savour what life has to offer.  This is done in the hope of raising well rounded little individuals who develop interests that have meaning to them and which serve them into adulthood.  But how do you choose from the myriad of activities that are on offer to kids these days?  I would suggest that you can't go far wrong with looking at what both the Scouts and Girl Guides have to offer because it is an eclectic mix of stuff, some of which is bound to appeal to the kid in your life.  Just remember if you do that they are organisations that are staffed by volunteers so 'be prepared' to 'lend a hand' as a parent.

So in the five years Louis has been involved in Scouting, from beaverdom upwards  he has of course camped and sung songs around the fire but there's been much more than that.  He's made things, competively cooked, learnt to kayak, been crabbing, raised funds, conserved nature, taken part in remembrance and St George's day ceremonies, roamed the moor, learnt card tricks,  ........the list goes on and on.  And as he progresses within the organisation more and more exciting things are open to him.  I fully anticipate he'll be in training for Ten Tors when he's a bit older and may have opportunities for travel that makes me green with envy.  Devon's Explorer Scouts are shortly to embark on a jamboree in Iceland and will participate in outdoor activities where I'd bite off my left arm for the chance to be involved!

This is a photographic record of Louis's latest Scouting adventure, taking part in Bovey Tracey's Scout and Guide Gang Show with all the quick costume changes that this entailed.  I know that the nanas who read this will love these pictures.  Treading the boards isn't something that I've ever done outside a few abysmal school productions so this represents a real departure from all that outdoor activity and crafting that I'd usually share with my son.   In all honesty I was a bit reticent when  Louis said he wanted to be involved. How would he fare on stage? Wouldn't he find all that rehearsing onerous?  I have to say my fears were groundless. He's approached the whole project with tons of commitment and thrown himself into the whole thing with abandon.  And the shows were amazing.  Singing, dancing, acting and Lou's very own magic show with a glamorous assistant in drag!  It's given him a new interest in life and he can't wait to be 'Riding Along on the Crest of a Wave' in 2015 as well.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

A Story To Bring Out My Inner Softie

Please click on the video link above to hear a poignant tale that appears timeless but which I believe has been created in the modern age. The moon and the sun are the main characters in this beautifully crafted love story. Because of the nature of their different roles it comes as no surprise that they were unable to be together.  

Friday, 25 April 2014

Days Out in Devon: Royal Albert Memorial Museum II

I know I've done a piece about this place before but sometimes its good to revisit things and that can apply to lots of different areas of life.  But lets not go and explore any deep meaningful stuff today.   This is just going to be a 'show and tell' type post.

Now the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter is a wonderful place and I'm not the only one saying that.  It won the Art Fund's 'Museum of the Year' award in 2012 and is a far cry from the dusty place that I recall from my university days in the 1980s which I visited just to have a good laugh at the unfortunate taxidermy.  My favourite was a  seal quivering at the feet of an enormous roaring polar bear.    The expression on its face suggested that it was going to have a bowel accident anytime shortly.

There's better reasons to go there these days and the purpose of yesterday's visit was to catch the 'Gilbert and George' exhibition that continues through until 22 June.  One room of the museum's temporary spaces is filled with their work, mainly those great big brightly coloured photo murals that the pair seem to be best known for. However 'Fallen Leaves' was the piece that most moved me, a monochrome image  which was one of a series of over 100 studies of people outside mainstream society.  I'd show you it properly but I wasn't allowed to take photos and the Tate's copyright rules seem to preclude using the image on a blog.  You'll just have to follow the link to see it.  My pictures today were taken in the coffee shop where local children have made stuff to decorate the space and photography is allowed.

As a bonus another temporary exhibit caught my attention.  'Intimate Worlds' is a collection of explicit historical artifacts, some eye watering, that has been put together with the aim of encouraging people to talk about sex and relationships.  If you visit alone, don't shuffle around in embarrassed silence.  I found that the room stewards will happily have a chat!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

DIY for Damsels in Distress

When I was married and something went wrong around the house I have to admit that normally I was rather girlie.  I got the old man to deal with the electrical, plumbing, general maintenance type problems.  Now, as the only adult in my household I have to be a lot more resourceful when things go a bit tits up. 

For all those other damsels in distress who don't happen to have a passing prince around when they need one, let me remind you that the Internet is your friend in situations like this.  There is virtual help out there.  Just type in what is confounding you and a virtual DIY-er will guide you through the steps.

The plug got well and truly wedged into my bath the other day and so I couldn't drain the water out. Some lovely folk on the Pistonheads website gave suggestions about what might help.   Here's my unfeasible favourite.

Right, this is what you do...
Bit of water in bath, not much...
Lower your bare arse over the plug...
Clench and unclench your bum to create suction...
Repeat until plug surrenders...
Job's a good 'un, but make sure you don't swallow the

Needless to say, this wasn't the tip that sorted out the problem.  Would it surprise you if I said that I didn't even try it? Forcing a scalpel blade under the plug, a solution in another post to the feed, eventually did the trick and then a quick adjustment of the plug's screw mechanism has made sure that the problem hasn't happened again.  Who needs a real handyman when a virtual one will do just as well!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Troy Comes to Ashburton

Tuesday is the day I have physiotherapy in the moorland town of Ashburton.  It's a quick hop down the road on the  X38 bus from my house and I've established a little routine.  After collecting my brownie points at the hospital, I toddle off down the hill on crutches to treat myself at Tea at Taylors, whilst I wait at the bus.  It's my new favourite cafe where the decor is exquisite and the cakes, particularly the almond sponge, are to die for.  I've even bagsied my favourite comfy chair which is near the window and is ideal for watching the world go by.

On the way there I pass the gallery of sculptor Heather Jansch who shapes life sized horse out of driftwood collected from the Devon coast.  I did a double take when I first saw her work as it is both breathtakingly beautiful and utterly clever in its construction.Sadly I have not been able to go inside as the gallery is only open on Fridays and Saturdays.   So, you'll have to make do with a ghostly equine image, taken through the shop window.  Could this  give someone a brainwave for a project made from found nature objects of their own? 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

20th Century Stories

Video: Pathe News
I just love social history and a bit of black and white footage.  A combination of the two is frankly marvellous. Are there other people out there who could spend hours watching those old newsreels that cinemas used to show before the headline film?  I bet there might be.

Well now you can access 85,000 clips of 20th Century history as British Pathe News is now on YouTube.  A little film from 1935 of a ten stone baby is one example. Click on the picture to access the link. It gives a glimpse of just how attitudes over the years have changed.  I wonder how a similar sized toddler would be viewed now.  Something tells me that there might be some sort of parenting order today... and a  ban on those chocolate bars!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Words About Walking

Image:  James Walker Tucker 'Hiking'
Do you remember that little jaunt up Saddle Tor that I did a few weeks back before my knee operation?  Just a few hundred yards was a monumental distance for me then but happily, things are changing.  That short hop would be child's play for me now.  I've devised a  walking circuit near my home through the  beautiful mixed woodland near my home that takes in part of the eighteen mile long Templer Way Trail. I'm currently walking   over two miles at a stretch so perhaps soon I'll be able to contemplate the full eighteen mile trek between Teignmouth and Haytor.  Counting chickens before they hatch and all that aside, things are looking good for a return to some serious yomping.  And I've so missed it being one of my primary raisons-d'etre!

I thought that talking about my own rambles was the perfect excuse to point you in the direction of two articles that have been published in the Guardian that may be of interest, to those, like me who label themselves as hikers.  The link under this superb picture celebrates the Ordnance Survey Map, that, though under threat from digital devices as the article suggests, can't surely disappear altogether.  That's just for the simple reason that a paper map is far less fallible than your phone or GPS system.  It doesn't lose signal or run out of battery power!

The other is an article by Carole Cadwalladr, written following her meeting with the French philosopher Frédéric Gros. Like me,  he knows the liberation on all sorts of different levels  that walking can bring.  After all he's written a book about it, A Philosophy of Walking that's due out at the end of the month.  The problem is that poor Monsieur Gros does not have time to put into practice what has discovered from his observation of how great thinkers incorporated walking into their very being. Seemingly he is rather troubled as a consequence. Let's hope that now his book is published he can get back on Shank's pony on a regular basis and experience the benefits that this simple but valuable activity confers.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Snaps Without Spending

I started my Master's study this week and you want to know the truth?  The compulsory module that is the first that I'm working through is very, very boring.   It's got to be done though as learning to critically appraise academic papers, which the unit teaches me, is part and parcel of every other bit of the course. Writing an serious essay is way different to producing a blog post.  Something tells me that the inclusion of random trivia or a joke or two isn't really going to be allowed!

The course is distant learning with Derby University and it's a bit tricky to troll up there from Devon to look at a textbook.  So access to other university libraries across the country is part of the deal. To obtain that I needed to send off a passport sized photo.  I'm sick and tired of spending a fiver in the supermarket booths so wondered if I could produce the correct sized image online. With the help of the folks at, I've done just that.  Their site not just for us peeps in the UK either.  A range of image sizes to meet requirements of other countries can be produced there.

To create a photo that is acceptable to the passport authorities, you must adhere to strict guidelines and my mugshots above, where I'm way too smiley and bits of my face are missing, wouldn't cut the mustard for this purpose. But then again, neither did one that was produced in a photo booth on my last passport renewal as it was rejected on the grounds that the background colour was wrong. Incomprehensible and annoying!  Common sense tells me that it should be perfectly feasible to produce your own compliant images.  Here's a link suggesting how that might be done.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Luscious Lemon Drizzle Cake

I recognise here that when sharing a recipe online that it is conventional to put up a picture of the finished article.  But heck, I fly in the face of orthodoxy.  What's more I forgot to take a photo at the opportune time and the cake is nearly eaten now. So, here's a shot of Louis demonstrating the very reason why kids like making sweet stuff.  It's so that they can scrape the bowl at the end of the process.

Anyway let me tell you that the lemon cake that Lou knocked up was blooming delicious.  Foolishly we gave a piece away 'Moist, excellent balance of sharpness  and texture...better than many purchased in cake and coffee shops' was the verdict that was texted to me.  Blimey!  So what is that recipe then?

Well, it's from the Flora spread website.  The link is here.  And yep Lou's cake looked quite like the one in the picture except he made it in a loaf tin.  All the ingredients bar the ones for the syrup were bunged in the food processor and whizzed.  Simples!  There was just one way in which we deviated from the original recipe.  I'm not a fan of margarine type spreads and we used proper old fashioned butter.  Give me the real stuff anyday! 

Friday, 18 April 2014

Sharing a Smile

I know that there are some areas of the country where it is considered really odd to engage with the strangers that you meet going about your daily business.  Thankfully, this is largely not the case in the West Country.  People often say hello, smile and even, shock horror!, start up conversations with complete strangers.  In the supermarket I was complimented on the necklace I was wearing and I myself , expressed admiration for a dress that another customer was wearing in a coffee shop.

Svelte Support, my lovely colleague, hit it on the head.  Like myself she smiles and chats to all and sundry.  She said that she doesn't care if some people see this as a bit mad.  That's their problem. Rightfully she pointed out that her interacrtion, might for some be the only meaningful interaction that they have with another human being in a day.  Now there's a thought to spur us all on to getting more smiley and more chatty.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Best Use For Duct Tape Ever!

Photo: The Guardian
I'm into week 4 of sick leave. Had things gone to my dizzy pre-op plan, literally thousands of craft projects would have come to fruition by now.  I like to be realistic in the targets that I set myself.

The reality?  Well, I'm doing very well in the scheme of things.  My physiotherapist is pleased and hell, lets give myself a pat on the back, I'm doing far more from a physical point of view than I expected at this stage.

But I get tired and the pain breaks through my analgesia.  I have to nap and rest so by the time I've done the exercise that I've agreed should form my rehab programme and what needs doing around the house there's little time for all that creative activity.  No matter!  I've no doubt that I'll be back to living as full and active a life as I want soon.

In the meantime I'll take inspiration from others.  Last week it was the mountaineer Jamie Andrew and today, Pascale Honore is the person who is spurring me onto greater things.  Follow this link here that will take you to the video which shows how this lady has taken to the waves again after a spinal injury.  It's so mad it made me smile and smile!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Biographical Bookmark

I was searching around for inspiration for a post today in my photo files and found  this picture of a bookmark that I much admired. It was made by one of the Scouts.  The overall  size is about the length of a ten year old's hand and arm.  After the lovely graphic decoration was applied, it was laminated and cut out. Wouldn't something similar make a lovely personalised keepsake for a relative or friend?

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Bargain Bling

These pretty rings were snapped in the window of a shop dealing  in both new and secondhand baubles. I particularly like the one on the left.  As someone who dabbles in making their own bling  I appreciate the work that's gone into it.  Indeed if I'm tempted to buy a piece of jewellery these days I'll only go for stuff that I wouldn't be able to make myself.  My skill level, just from attending basic level courses, is sufficient for lots of potential purchases to be ruled out.  Once you know how to shape, solder and add texture to bits of precious metal, it's surprising what you can knock up given a bit of time and patience.

At Christmas, M, a friend of mine thought she might just 'pop' into Exeter to buy a friend a charm from the Pandora store.  As she isn't local she asked directions.  'That's easy' said the passer-by that she nobbled.  Just look for the place with the queue. She was amazed  that the line snaked around the corner from the store and that the quick dash into town took way longer than she'd intended.  That multi-component jewellery is such a clever concept. Darn, I wish I'd been the one to have thought of it!

This is what £250 will buy you at Pandora's online store.   It's one of their stacking rings in 14ct gold and I have to say that I quite like it. But that 18ct vintage number with its pretty blue stone and higher precious metal content is much more up my street. For starters, it's unlikely that you'd come across another one just like it again. And because there's no added costs for design, or all that hype, its worth remembering that secondhand jewellery is often so much way better value.

Monday, 14 April 2014

TOWIE: The Alternative View

Just time for a quick one today so I thought that I'd share this happy little ditty about Essex, the county that I grew up in.  I've chosen this particular version partly for its video that was shot on the seafront at Southend-on-Sea, a place where many happy memories were formed. It's only a twenty minute walk from Mum and Dad's house so most childhood weekends and school holidays were spent down there.  What a brilliant place to have on your doorstep.

The other thing that I like about is that it paints a picture of a county that isn't dominated by stereotypical Essex Man or Woman.  We don't all have dyed blonde locks, fake tans and bejazzled lady gardens, I'll have you know.  My recollection is much more of a county where it's not to difficult to find chirpy, creative individuals.  Rather like Devon then!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

More Clouds and Gratefulness

That practice of being mindfully grateful is paying huge dividends.  Once I actively started to place emphasis on what I have rather than focusing  on what I do not, the list that I can come up with of how I am blessed just grows and grows. And yes, as David Steindl Rast has pointed out gratefulness does indeed seem to be the precursor to happiness.  Heightened awareness of this has resulted in  an extra source of strength that I am sure is contributing to me getting well.  I'm especially more appreciative of others when they give something of themselves  and am actively looking for ways to express this overtly. Do you know an old man who was much more incapacitated than me offered me his seat on the bus the other day? Blimey, I didn't think I seemed that doddery! Of course, I didn't take up his offer as I didn't need to. I recognised how much kindness it demonstrated and could thank him accordingly.

Back to the wonder of clouds that I talked about a few weeks ago.  Here's another snap of the sky that I've taken.   Would you believe that this is the view from the side window of my house?  It was obscured by an old wooden venetian blind for so long that I forgot it was available to me.   Really!  Of course, it's Haytor, that most iconic of the sights of Dartmoor which is just three or four miles west of here.  Needless to say that the blind now stays up which has resulted in mad naked dashes between bathroom and bedroom  as fast as I can hobble. What's the chances that the neighbours are will see my bare butt anyway?  My reckoning is that they're pretty slim as I'm not vastly overlooked.

So  I take pleasure from the vista now every time I climb the stairs. And now when I'm doing my physiotherapy exercises I use the bannister as a handrail, stare off into the distance, recognise that I am getting stronger and give thanks that I'll soon be up there in person again soon.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Long'Uns Like Lou's?

My Louis has been in Mallorca with his dad but gets home late this evening.  Then the peace that been over Lovelygrey Cottage  for the last few days will be shattered and it will be transformed into a much livelier place.  My life as a co-parent is certainly has two distinct halves and I treasure them both.

Here's a picture of Lou that hotfooted it from the villa where he was staying earlier in the week.  It serves to illustrate three things that we don't have in common.  I would never, ever wear a  onesie, especially not a fluffy one with ears.  As well as being the type of nocturnal garb that could condemn me to singleton status for evermore it would make night time trips to the toilet a right royal pallaver.   Secondly I do not need 'Clothie', a relic from baby days, to help me sleep. That's the greying,  grubby and, dare I say, smelly muslin square that you can see below his left hand.  I've written before about what happens when I wrestle 'him' (for Clothie has a sex!)  away from Louis for detoxification in the washing machine.  The final difference that I'm going to point out is a source of great envy.  Do you see those much admired eyelashes that my son has?  Even from a distance they look amazingly long and thick.  A camel would be proud of them. Whereas mine are stubby and insignificant and seem to be becoming more so with the ageing process.  Sob!  Go lookie at my make up free self  to see what I mean.

Of course I could go down the mascara route to rectify this but my 'made up with make up' experiment convinced me that I don't want to faff around tarting myself up or cleaning the stuff off when I'm sleepy.  And could you imagine me being the type who wears false lashes?  No, no, no, no, no!  Apart from the unnaturalness of the look, there's a 99% chance that, with my dexterity as it is, I'd end up with one crawling down my cheek like a deformed spider.

I was resigned to doing nothing. After all there are more  important things in the big wide world to be fretting over.  Then a friend mentioned this stuff.  Rapid Lash Serum, that she's successfully tried and tested, is really easy to apply, conditions the lashes  and apparently makes them longer and thicker. .  What have I got to lose except £22.50!  This is not something that happens overnight and I'm told that it'll take about a month before I see visible results.  I'll report back and let you know, after this time, whether I can compete with the local Devon Red heifers in  eyelash terms!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Citigo and Sauerkraut

My new best friend Dennis called me yesterday.  Why has a complete stranger been given such elevated status?  Well, he's the salesman at Skoda with the enormously important job of ensuring that my bright green baby will be delivered safely.   And he's phoned with some excellent news. 'Your Citigo is in Germany!' he told me.   I hope my little fella is having a lovely time drinking big frothy tankards of ale and chomping on sausages in an atmospheric beer hall. Oh hang on, Don't motor vehicles prefer snacking on by-products from the petrochemical industry? Anyway, he can listen to some oompah music while he's there.

His little sojourn en route to England is ahead of schedule and will mean that he'll be ready to collect at the showroom as soon as I am given the okay to resume driving again.  I'm looking forward to meeting him in person especially as since ordering him I haven't spotted one of his brothers or sisters, even of a different colour, on the road. While I've been playing the waiting game I've produced another of my spreadsheets.  Number crunching is such fun when it demonstrates that there is money that can be put towards something more meaningful - like travel!   If you remember my initial arithmetical exercise indicated that I could save nearly £700 by taking out a personal motoring lease as opposed by the one offered as a 'perk' by my NHS employer.  Well, this analysis of fuel costs using the figures for the cheapest local garage from indicates that there may be even further pennies to be pinched.   Improvements in fuel economy with advances in automotive technology are a factor to take into account when choosing between buying  a new and used car.

Even if my compact Czech built beauty just equals the fuel consumption of my current misnamed Fiesta Econetique there is a small saving of about eighty quid to be had because the new car uses petrol rather than  more expensive diesel.  Not to be sniffed at if you consider that this would easily buy a couple of weeks worth of groceries.  The savings are more substantial the nearer that mpg figure gets to the official estimate of 67.3.   Information across a few sites on the Internet suggest true consumption might even creep near the 60mpg mark.  If so,  might the reduction in fuel costs alone pay for  a ferry crossing to France with the motorhome?  That's my benchmark of a saving that is well and truly worth having!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Goals: Setting, Achieving and Discarding Them

Image:  Channel 5
Righty ho readers!  I want you to do yourselves a favour and pop over to Channel 5's website, more specifically the programme that's available by following this link here. Even if you're going through a procrastinatory phase in your current life, you'll be alright because 'The Limbless Mountaineer' is available until the end of 2020.

It's about Jamie Andrew, a quadrilateral amputee, who lost parts of each of his upper and lower limbs from frostbite after being stranded in a blizzard in the Alps in 2002.  Sadly his climbing partner died.  The programme showcases his resourcefulness in all areas of the life that he shares with his wife and children. He's 'invented' some pretty impressive  essential gadgetry, like a snowball maker/chucker, and could certainly teach us occupational therapists a thing or two.

As a person who still identifies herself as a long distance hiker even though poor health  precluded this for a while,  I know that once you've felt the pull from mountainous terrain, the urge to return to high peaks becomes like an addiction.  Mapping out my own future life still involves being in that Appalachian wilderness and walking the whole trail in one hit. Perhaps Louis would like to join his mama doing just that during his gap year rather than going away with his mates.  Oh, okay I'll go on my own if I have to!  Those climbers are especially driven beasties.  The film highlights Jamie Andrew's passion for the Alps in spite of what happened to him and told the story of  his attempt to climb the Matterhorn, a peak that challenges even the most able bodied of mountaineers.

Two thoughts about goals came to mind after watching this film.   The first is that even after suffering adversity, individuals can go on to plan and achieve things that they never thought possible  in the wildest dreams that they had before the trauma occurred.  I've been very stuck for a while when it comes to physical activity but the programme demonstrated that there is nothing to suggest that I can't think big now especially as the operation and following rehab should leave me fitter than I've been for over ten years.

The other musing almost seems in opposition to what I've just said.  When a goal is set it seems perfectly okay if it doesn't come to fruition.  Circumstances that halt  its attainment can be at a micro or macro level.  A big idea might be legitimately discarded if dealing with other stuff that life throws at us takes priority. Or, on the brighter side sometimes an even better opportunity comes along which makes the original plan seem insignificant!

At a nitty gritty level, sometimes we overestimate what we can do within a given time frame. It's fine to modify goals then too.  A couple of days ago I set myself a little 'To Do' list for the day which included journeying by bus  to attend physio and medical appointments, hoovering downstairs, and changing my bed. In the end I was in too much pain and had to forego the last task.  What I would usually achieve in an hour couldn't be done during waking hours.  But's that how it has got to be.  It brought to mind  the last of the Four Agreements from Toltec Wisdom,  ' Always Do Your Best'.  There it is acknowledged that our best efforts will vary from moment to moment.  I'd strived as hard as I could on that particular day. Yesterday brought revival so, Mmmm!  Finally there were clean sheets last night.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

That's Cheating II

Books are such amazing things that it's no wonder that I always cheat when I ban them after setting spending rules.  Oopsy daisy! Life  is  so unimaginable without them and I can't think how it might have panned out if  I hadn't been my friends  from an early age. After all, I've been reading since the age of two and a half.  Precocious or what! I reckon though that, in exchange for this, I have been denied the ability to catch and hit a ball with a bat or racquet  or be anything but a hindrance in any team sport.  I am forever resigned to being a nerd rather than a jock.

Last year I decided that I might circumvent my self imposed  laws by asking my brother, whose birthday is six days before mine to get me a book that I wanted.  In return I'd buy him one.  Genius!  Anyway, we've decided to make this exchange into an annual tradition.

Here's the two that Paul bought me this year to support my latest crafting experiments. The first is more of a 'How To' manual which I hope will help me develop my skills, maybe reducing the incidences of swearing and nicks to my finger.  There's some quite well defined projects that look that they could do the trick The second is more of a resource book exploring the work of artists who work in this medium.  Is thinking 'Blimey, I'll never be that good defeatist?'  There's some incredible stuff in there.

And Paul's choice was A Life in Pictures by Alasdair Gray.  Here's an interesting review of that from the Guardian.  When it comes to arty stuff he is way more highbrow than me!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Making an Imperfect Day as Perfect as Possible

Really knackered!  Yesterday didn't go quite according  to  the best laid plans of mice, men or Essex girls which was......   a pleasant little jaunt around Devon with my visiting friend followed by a pub lunch. Then I was going to show her how to linocut and make her a silver ring. Doesn't that sound on a par with Iggy Pop's 'Perfect Day' except a zoo-less, sangria-less, crafty version for forty-something women.

Instead,  let's name her 'Calamity Jane', developed severe abdominal pain.  Bless! That necessitated a taxi journey due to the inability of either of us to drive my car to the nearest General Hospital in Torquay.  We spent a gargantuan five hours in the waiting room of A&E passing the time with yet more reminiscing, catching up, people watching and lots of laughter that didn't really help that poorly  tummy.  The nurses all thought that we were pretty jolly under the circumstances.  They said that we had brightened up their day.

Eventually Calamity Jane was discharged with the lorryload of  painkillers that she'll need to make her journey back to Essex tomorrow.   And she said that she was going to look after me.  What a naughty fibber!  The nurse maid roles totally reversed.  She was installed on the chaise longue thingy with cosy blankets,  plied with big cups of tea and smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels and nagged  to take her tablets properly.   Then  a bit more laughing as it probably is the best medicine.  I can be just like a modern day Florence Nightingale on crutches if the situation calls for it. The entire incident has demonstrated the upper limits of my current ability to hobble around.  Everything hurt by the end of the day and I've needed to raid the bathroom cabinet for my own pain relief again.  What a couple of old crocks we are!

However just before the lurgy set in fully we managed a brief morning visit to the Devon Guild of Craftsmen  to catch their  new exhibition 'Beyond the Book'. This looks at the book both as a medium in its own right and as a container of ideas and concepts.  This stunning piece, 'Migratory Words' by Su Blackwell stands by itself.   Good job really.  It's a day where tiredness renders me less capable of verbal commentary than usual.  Let's shut it then!  I need to save my strength for hospital and GP surgery visits of my own today.  Toodle Pip, as Mean Queen might say!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Bring On The Lovelygrey Clown

Photo: Sune Frack
Once I got 'chucked', a strange old word but we've all been there, for being funny.  'But how can that be?' I really hope that a lot of you out there are saying.  'Too much mirth just isn't possible!'  For I view laughter in all its forms,  from those little inward titters to myself to  the great big body shaking kind where you are literally doubled up and crying, as the seasoning of life.  There's been some of that this weekend.  I've had an old schoolfriend staying and our reminiscences include stuff about all the mad stuff that we've done in the time we've known each other.  It seems that some folks out there don't share our attitude.

I met a classics student with floppy blond locks and clipped vowels at a university ball.  A bit of surreptitious internet research indicates that he is now a headmaster at a private school so a serious demeanour probably suits. Anyway, when he met me, I was looking at my peak of poshness in a wonderful cream off the shoulder number  that I'd borrowed from a friend. Obviously as it was the eighties I had a luminous red streak running through my hair but even that didn't ruin the air of total sophistication. 'You have a neck like a thoroughbred stallion', was his first advance. Blimey, the Neanderthal blokes from where I'm from in Essex didn't make comparisons like that.  They tended to show interest in more obvious ways like whipping their privates out in the middle of a nightclub.  Yep, that actually happened once!  I hasten to add that it's not a tactic that has ever had much chance of being successful with me.

Anyway back to the story.   For a few weeks, with a lot of hard work, I managed to pull off total refinement.   I hid my 'Wicked Willie' books and instead made sure that my copy of 'The Illiad, for after all I had done O level Latin, was illuminated by my desk lamp.  The pretence was that it was the sort of thing that I read all the time.  I disloyally eschewed The Cure and Morrissey for Faure and Allegri too.  Don't get me wrong.  I still love a bit of the classics but they form merely a tiny snippet of my listening repetoire.

In the end my cover was inevitably blown.  After all you can't keep up an act forever.  Floppy Boy accompanied me and my best friend out for a meal.  He got something altogether different to the intense intellectual discussion that he thrived upon and was expecting.  'It was like being with a comedy double act with her as your straight man,' he announced with a visible shudder as he left for the final time.

Now I've seen a workshop that aims to teach stand up and I'm seriously tempted to try it out once my leg has returned to normal.  Could my experience from youth mean that I might actually be quite good at it?

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Two weeks into my sick leave and my left leg is going from that very angry purple colour to a nice shade of mustardy yellow.  I've changed my mind and don't think that I'm turning in Maggie Thatcher anymore. A by-product of this little episode is that now I can sleep for England and no longer share the Iron Lady's capacity for wakefulness. No, now I think, that if the rest of my body follows suit, and my hair gets higher and bluer, I will be the spit of Marg Simpson.  My brother, in a lean romantic period, used to fancy her!

Considerable amounts of time lounging around between the exercise sessions has meant the opportunity to go on little musical journeys exploring old favourites and discovering new stuff. Here's an eclectic mix that I've come with based on a wedding theme.   I hope that there's something for everybody here.   The inspiration?  Well, one of my oldest friends ties the knot next month for the first time at the tender age of 49.  Bless!  I reckon that I may even be up for a boogie at the do by then,

Something Old

Is a song from 1953 old enough?  Yeah! I reckon so.  A friend posted a link to this on Facebook, reminding me  that I've loved Calamity Jane and the soundtrack since childhood.  Doris Day was so pretty and fresh faced.  Her transition in the film from grubbiness to glamour  whilst retaining that tomboy air was brilliant.  Now that's a personal style to aspire to!   Did you know that Doris had her ninetieth birthday last week?  She's still a good looking lady.  Another interesting fact is that Calamity Jane was based on a real person, Martha Jane Canary, a Wild West pioneer, whose life was jolly colourful and interesting indeed and involved prostitution.  Now, I don't remember any of that in the movie!

Something New

As an avid talk radio  listener in the form of Radio 4 it's sometimes hard to come across fresh new music to hold onto.  Spotify has been a godsend as tracks and artists are recommended for me. Attending live events likes gigs and festivals also extends my musical repetoire.  I've just discovered that the Guardian's New Music column could be a good potential resource.  I've picked my new track from its 2014  recommendations. 'Goodbye' by My Sad Captains has been chosen as much for the zany video, with an appearance by a wonderful collection of retro  Hoovers, as the tune.

Something Borrowed

My favourite local band haven't had a look in for a time so I thought that I'd share their cover  version of 'The Devil Went Down to Georgia'.  They're excellent musicians and here, the fiddle playing is amazing.  There were a couple of videos to choose from but I went for the one where a bunch of school kids look as if they're having a really good time!

Something Blue

I could have been more well defined colour theme here.  That song by 'Eiffel 65', the soundtrack on my first ever visit to Yellowstone perhaps.  Or maybe Bowie's 'Sound & Vision'.   Ooh, Ooh electric blue is the colour of my room....... No, in spite of the fact that weddings are supposed to be happy occasions,  I have plumped for absolute melancholy and selfishly chosen what has to be my favourite song of all time.  After all blue might have been the colour that David Sylvian's love wore.  Who knows! This starkly beautiful number is from the soundtrack of  the emotionally charged 'Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence', a film that I really must toddle off and add to the favourites in my profile............there done!   Not sure about Bowie's acting but I'm at odds with most reviewers. I'll agree though that the cinematography  is divine!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Sausage and Padron-esque Peppers on Onion Bread Bruschetta

The reason that I don't do way more recipe posts is that the food I prepare on a day to day basis is pretty simple and invariably involves a frying pan.  There's a confession that would have Gwyneth Paltrow massively freaking out but then again she may have turned to stodgier comfort food since her conscious uncoupling from Chris Martin. I'm sure now he's let off the leash he'll be indulging in a doner kebab or two.  Or perhaps a uncontrollable junk food habit on his part was the reason for the split?

How it goes is that I heat a little oil, usually sunflower or olive, in the pan.  Rapeseed might get a look in if I'm being a bit more daring and its made its way to the front of the store cupboard.  Then I see what's in the fridge, take out whatever veggies need using up and cook them.   I like to go for a range of different colours.  After all, enjoyment of food is about visual pleasure as well as taste.

Simple seasoning is the order of the day.  Just sea salt and ground black pepper normally suffice but smoked paprika  gets a look in now and then to impart a bit of warming heat.  Maybe I'll add cubes of cheese, something meaty like chorizo or chopped up bacon, 'flamenco' the dish by cracking in an egg or two or knock up a frittata.  Sometimes whatever I've cooked up might be served with something potatoey or bread based.  My own take on a chimichanga often makes an appearance as tortillas are a store cupboard staple at Lovelygrey Cottage.

I thought that I'd share one particular botched together dish.   You'll see that some sausages were part of the equation.  The name of the particular make escapes me but they will have been good, high meat content ones where the piggies that gave their lives for them were raised in an environment with decent welfare standards.  I don't buy crap meat.  Into the pan with them went a handful of cherry tomatoes  and some of the tiny baby peppers that they sell in Asda in their posh range but only cost 75p for a tub.  They remind me of the brilliant green Padron peppers that I had as a tapas on my recent trip to Plymouth's Maritimo but these are, of course are red. Duh! Unlike chillies there's no much heat involved.  I'm way too much of a woose for anything fiery.  Of course, if you want to substitute Jalapenos or Scotch bonnets, be my guest!

Once everything was cooked so that it has a caramelised glaze,  I tipped it all out onto the top of a couple of slices of bruschetta made from toasted onion bread drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with garlic.  And there you have it, a fusion of good Olde Englishness and those sunnier Mediterranean flavours! It was bloody lovely!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Tacky Knickers and Bonios

Egged on my incorrigible friend Mr Metrosexual, here's a sneaky snap that I took last month whilst on one of our lunchtime meanders over to the Totnes supermarket that isn't the Coop. If you're local, you'll be able to work out where I mean. The proximity of nasty nylon undies, a leftover from Valentine's day perhaps, next to the doggie treats has to be one of the most incongruous examples of product placement that I've ever seen.   It made our productive little minds boggle. 'Where do you think it would be better to put those  pants?' asked Mr Metrosexual.  'Next to the cooking oil?' I suggested.  He had a little think.  'No, near the lard would be much better!'

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Now I Thought That Looked Familiar!

Photo: The Guardian
Hmm!  My relationship with Lego is soooo love-hate.  On one hand I acknowledge it to be one of the most genius toys invented. Then on the other ...well what parent hasn't broken their 'No Swearing in Front of the Children' rule when they've trodden on a particularly knobbly piece.  Oh, okay there are some whose inner fish wife isn't quite as close to the surface as my own and don't utter expletives at the drop of a hat, or plastic brick.

My negativity has also been enhanced by an ongoing row that I've been having with Louis for a couple of months now since  I had the audacity to move an unfinished Technics kit that had been cluttering up the living room for two years into a toy box in his bedroom.  I have to say though that my views about Lego aren't quite as extreme as those held by Father Slawomir Kostrezewa  who, as reported in 'The Guardian', views the toy as Satanic.  This is based on the fact that characters from the 'Monsters and Zombies' series have expressions that show satisfaction with their evil acts.  I thought that they just looked a little scary, perhaps like a child when bits from a Lego City kit have been inadvertently sucked up in the hoover.  Follow the link to see if you agree.

Let's get back to the positive and think about when those plastic bits and pieces are used at their creative best.  I posted in the past about the brilliant take on  artworks produced by Cake and Neave who seem to have gone back to calling themselves 'The Little Artists'.  If the price tag on the original Damien Hurst 'Shark' would be a little too eye watering, how about a Lego limited edition for £495 instead?

It seems that 'the Guardian' has gone Lego crazy for it also has a quiz showing sites from around the world that  Warren Elsmore has painstakingly recreated in miniature.  Now I knew, at once that image Number 5 that is shown above represented one of my most favourite places in the world, on the proviso that I visit outside the main holiday season to avoid the crowds.   I just couldn't resist showing a compare and contrast image of my own to give you an extra clue if you need it.  Yes I do have some more conventional shots but couldn't help including one that has my handsome metallic beastie parked in the foreground!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Kindness Begets Kindness

Thanks to all my friends and family who made my birthday special yesterday.  So many good wishes over the Internet, calls, cards and presents.   I had a lovely time even though, all of you bar Louis, were not with me in person.

One of the things that I did was spend a shedload of money online! That's despite the fact that I can't really think of anything  that I need at the moment now that I've used my birthday money up on a new bottle of my favourite perfume.  Yes, I know I've extolled the virtues of Lidl's Madame Glamour  in the past but when I'm flush, my heart and nose always return to Chanel.   I've been a 19 and a Cristalle Vert girl in the past but the newish fragrance,  Coco Noir, even knocks the spots off these old favourites.

What prompted me to fork out more spondoodlies  was that I received notification that I'd been repaid loans that I'd made through Lend With Care.  I popped a little extra money into my account to help fund these lady fishmongers,  the Chaphuka Group from Malawi who join my portfolio of microbusinesses in the developing world.  In theory I could claim my money back but, like a lot of the other lenders, I claw it back into the pot to help other ventures get off the ground or grow.  More often than not I increase my investment a little bit each time.  After all, what's there not to like?

Afterwards I remembered that I had a great big pot of money held in my Charities Aid Foundation account that was burning a hole in my pocket.  So, with a glass of wine in hand I went on a spending spree and had a lovely time making donations to all sorts of charities for all sorts of reasons.  The Alzheimer's Society , of course got a look in.  They do so much to support my own work.  And the Motor Neurone Disease Association was another beneficiary, in memory of my lovely friend Lori Salzarulo whose life was cut short by this horrible illness. For inspiration of where to direct other donations I turned to the BBC's Radio 4 Appeal Page.  The archive of programmes dates back to 2007.  There's all sorts there and it's a good starting place if you're stuck for ideas for causes that float your own particular boat.  

I've found that birthdays and Christmas are a really great time to donate.  It beats sale shopping hands down.  Giving  seems to magnify my appreciation of everything I have, especially what has been given freely by others to me.  I'd heartily recommend it as a catalyst that sparks extra joy in life!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Poisson d'Avril

Today is the start of my fiftieth year on  Planet Earth and the final one where my age has a '4' at its beginning.  How time passes when, in the main, you're enjoying yourself.   And there was me thinking that I was a sweet young thing who can still get away with wearing short skirts. If you know me personally and think that there's anything that I'm doing that suggests that I'm veering towards mutton dressed as lamb tendencies, please do let me know.

Yes it's my birthday, one I've remembered it this year.  The  fact that I share it with 'April Fools Day' when the French inexplicably pin fishes on each other's back might explain some of my inherent battiness.  As next year is a biggie I'm already thinking that a bit of a bash might be on the cards, perhaps a gathering with a bar and a band where loads of the people who have shared my life might bring food they've made, drink a teensy bit too much, dance badly and reminisce about the daft things that I've done.  Believe me, they have plenty of material to share.

This year is a different kettle of fish, or poissons if you are a francophile.  A pattern of rest and recuperation has built that characterises this time off work on sick leave.   Sure, people pop round, talk on the phone and message me and I really value that.  Keep that communication coming!  The solitude, that gives me time to do exactly what I need to do to nurture myself is brilliant as well.

So, today I'm looking forward to the the badly wrapped present that I'll get  from Louis when he wakes up and of course the hugs and kisses. He puckers up well. Then after I've packed him off to school I'll have a bubbly bath, do  my exercises,  read, cook and craft and at sometime go for a little walk to take in the marvellous displays of daffodils that have sprung up in the lanes.  I try to meditate daily and do a little reiki on myself.  And I'll inevitably snooze a bit.  Much needed napping has become part and parcel of my daily life and it's probably as valuable as all that wholesome activity.

I'm really hopeful for the next year and have so many ideas and plans that rely on me being in tip top shape.  So I'm viewing this extended time of rest as an extra special birthday gift,  a rare opportunity to build myself up physically, spiritually and mentally.  It's one that  I've accepted with gladness.