Monday, 30 June 2014

Fishy 5:2

Saturday saw me at  the Eastern Eye in Newton Abbot, a rather good Indian restaurant where among other things, I ate half a portion of gorgeously tender lamb shashlik.  Yum! It was the second evening in a row that saw me eating out. Extravagant yes, but those treats got me through a weekend of hard essay writing and I do have a doggy bag of leftovers that'll save me cooking later in the week.  After the meal,   Red Mel and I, glamour pusses that we are, ended up in Asda afterwards.  We thought we needed some beer to take back to Lovelygrey Cottage to oil those conversational wheels and wash down a sticky toffee pudding that I had in the fridge. After all, we hadn't consumed quite enough calories!

Now yellow label shots are normally the preserve of Meanqueen but I just had to show off this find, a wonderful stuffed fish parcel knocked down from three quid to a bargain 10p. It was the only thing left in the reduced to clear chill cabinet. Rude not to have bought it don't you think?   I think that Meanie herself, the mistress of frugality will be proud of me for spotting this one.

Mackerel stuffed with pink stuff, probably beetroot rather than bubble gum based, served on a bed of spring greens, one of my favourite veggies, was just the thing needed for a 5:2 intermittent fasting day.  The diet regime was put on hold post operatively. Taking all the painkillers that I'd been prescribed on a empty stomach would have been a complete no-no. It's been slow to get going again for, after all, I love my tuck. Now though I'm back on track and the final thrust is on to lose a final stone or so rather than piling back on the pounds.  That would be so easy to do if I continued unabated with  piggy two day eating and drinking fests and took no action.  So it's back to the porridge, banana, fish and veg combo of meals that's seen me right so far.  I reckon that Christmas is a realistic target date that will see me svelte and sorted!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Equation: Too Many Variables

In my younger days I used to like a bit of pure maths and quantum theory. Of course, I can't remember a jot of it now.  It's not like I use Schrodinger's equation every day after all.  I do remember though the incredible emotional response when teachers used to guide us through proofs and divulge the meaning of what was behind all those mysterious symbols.  Wow! With hopes of re-creating that feeling, I thought I could do Louis' maths and physics homework alongside him when he goes to the big school in September so as rebuild my knowledge. But in reality that ain't going to happen. In a busy, busy world there's too much else taking precedence.

For the last week I've been mulling all the things in the equation that have allowed me to solve the following problem. 'Should I stay for now in my quiet peaceful village on the edge Dartmoor and put up with a slowly decaying rental property that the landlords really don't want to invest in but which gives me an everchanging view of Haytor?  Or would moving into the home that I own at Brixham be preferable where the sea, which has been a lifelong love of mine, can tug at my heart and I can make a place my own?  It's not a bad choice to have.  After all there's nothing too unpleasant about either option.

I've pondered over the pros and cons of staying put vs. moving  long and hard over the  last week and even though I've  added a few more things into the equation,  I've quantified one of these. The mortgage company are happy for me to move into my buy to let property with penalty. Judging from  the comments left on my last post there seems to be a lot of variance between the policies of different lenders.  It was best to check.

So what else has been factored in?  Well there's the not insubstantial financial costs of the move in a year I'd planned to squirrel away some money.  Lou also  told me that  he really doesn't want to swap Scout groups.  A transfer would have to be on the cards if we moved and his dad continues to work away, making Thursday evening childcare my long term responsibility. A forty mile round trip for dib-dib-dobbing really is beyond the call of being a pushover parent. 

And then there's the biggie.  My dream job, a university lectureship, was advertised this week. Even though I love what I currently do, I'm going for it, egged on by current and past students that I've supported in their education.   It would take my career in a different direction but still allow me to make a difference for groups of people that I care about, through my research work and mentoring, specifically for those with dementia.   Were I to get it, the commute to and from Brixham wouldn't exactly be a breeze.  I know that I love my car but there are limits to the amount of time that I want to spend in it.

In mathematical terms there's too many unknowns. Most importantly I'm unsure about how easy it's going to be for Louis to settle into senior school.  For a child with specific learning difficulties, planning can be especially difficult.    Adjusting to a move where his homes are twenty miles apart and on top of that having to deal with learning to organise himself so that  he himself, his homework and kit  are consistently in the right place  has the potential to be over challenging. Phasing change so that it is manageable seems sensible and ever so slightly occupational therapy influenced!   And so yesterday morning, with a slightly heavy heart, I told my letting agents to go ahead and find new tenants.  I'll review the situation in May when my buy to let mortgage comes to the end of its discount period.  Things might have fallen into place by then.

And just in case you're wondering. Of course I used my pendulum for guidance.  Annoyingly,  it didn't give me the go ahead I was wanting at the start of this process.  It's always indicated that the move is a no-no!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

A Night of Two Halves

There was me thinking that I was looking quite pretty.  After all I'd be told how good I looked by three of my friends who hadn't seen me since before my operation.  I'd also demonstrated my latest exercise, hopping , to Spiky Kate, a physio who was well impressed with my progress.  "Now, I don't like to be rude but....", said the bloke.  You just know that you're going to be onto a winner when a sentence starts like this. "You'd look far more feminine with long hair".  Cheeky sod!  I'm of the opinion that you don't have to be like Rapunzel to look like a girl.  He's reminded me that a grade 5 is overdue.

That conversation took place in a well dodgy pub in Plymouth where Salty Dog and I ended our evening last night, lured there by another friend with the promise of live music.  Now AC/DC cover versions aren't my bag but I made the best of it with a bit of head banging.  That's an activity where a long locks come in handy.  I'd not done it since my misspent youth and it's not the same with a crop top.

Salty Dog had gotten herself homesick so just popped back from Menorca where she's working in a sailing school.  It was her last night back so before starting on a weekend of frenzied essay writing, I thought that I'd go out for a quiet night out with her and dispense relationship advice. After all I am the world's leading expert!  We decided to go posh and head off to the Royal William Yard.  It's a lovely area of Plymouth that used to supply the whole British Navy with bread, meat and beer but has now had a makeover.  I'd love to have taken some pictures to show you  but am getting to grips with a new phone and it just didn't pan out.

So here's a just a partial photographic record of the sophisticated part of our evening. We sat outside in the sunshine taking selfies and drinking wine. Now if Salty Dog got rid of a bit of that hair.....! Then we got cold and thought that a bit more wine would go down nicely. That's when we headed off to Le Vignoble, a wine lounge.  How that works is that you eat extraordinarily good olives and specially sourced French cheese and wash it down with teeny tasters of vino dispensed from hi-tech cabinets operated with a credit card thingy.  At the end of the visit it's all totted up.  For good quality fare it's really rather reasonable.  Our final stop was the River Cottage Canteen that I'd been meaning to pay a visit to for a long time. The fishy platter, salad, chips and yes, a bit more wine didn't disappoint!

Friday, 27 June 2014

Spoilt for Choice

The prospect of another two weekends cooped up like a hermit, slaving away over a hot essay are filling my head.  Plus there's that knotty question of where to live. A couple more bits and pieces, including a very exciting career related development, have added themselves into the equation making things.... easier?.... more difficult?...oh, I don't know! It's too hard to contemplate.

So I thought that I'd make life easy for myself and pinch a picture that I found on Facebook a month or two back for today's post.  It made me laugh my socks off, or would have done if I was wearing any. Girls, I know that it would be hard to choose between these fine specimens of manhood but if you had to pick just one, who would it be?

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Little Lights

We're born with little lights burning in our heart
And they show us the way
One lights up every time we feel love in our hearts
One dies when it moves away

Aside from a smattering of pretty, but granted quite sissy, Jon and Vangelis tracks that have been a Spotify rediscovery, Passenger has provided the wall to wall musical backdrop recently.   And these are words from Louis' favourite track.  I've posted a video showing the man himself singing it before. I'm on a mission to keep as many of my own little lights as possible aflame by looking after myself and those around me. With the right mindset, it isn't all that hard to do.

We're born with little lights shining in our hearts
And they die along the way
'Til we're old and we're cold
And lying in the dark
'Cos they'll all burn out one day

Well, that's a bit bleak isn't it Mr Passenger!  Perhaps though, when I leave my old, cold body I'll be able to take some of those little twinkling stars on with me. Who knows. For now though, I'm on a mission.  For these words gave me a light bulb moment.  It dawned on me that my job in later stage dementia care is about stopping people's lights going out before they leave this earth. Ch-ching!

My first Masters essays about apathy in people with dementia was submitted yesterday.  It's a very common problem, far more prevalent than those behaviours that cause people to be distressed or aggressive.  And alarmingly, there are indications that some carers see it as a blessing in disguise. After all it appears much easier to deal with someone sitting quietly in their chair doesn't it?

Yet apathy actually increases a person's care needs.  They are disabled by their dementia at a quicker rate than if it is not addressed.  The solution is simple.  It is not enough just to provide bits and bobs in the environment and hope that will be enough. Lots of people with dementia have damage to their brain that means that they can't initiate things themselves any more.  What they people need is proper human contact to persuade them to  engage in meaningful activity. Once they're up and running special moments often ensue. I am sure that these shared experiences rekindle some of those little lights.

So how am I going to make sure that this happens?  Well banging on about it seems a good way to start.  Too many friends and families don't visit their loved ones in homes.  I've seen this.  One of the reasons is because they perceive that the pain that they feel because the person has changed so much is too unbearable.  Then it might be about me helping them to see that there's still someone there who needs love and attention and showing them ways of being comfortable spending time with them again. Another explanation given is that the person has forgotten minutes after a visit that their relative has been.  But that doesn't matter if the time that was spent together was productive and happy.  It's a time of life where living in the moment becomes most crucial.  I'm going to be reminding people of this. 

I'm also going to be talking to the homes that they visit about the importance of increasing the amount of proper contact time that their residents get. Asking for increases in staff numbers is unrealistic in commercial environments but there must be lots of ways of encouraging people through the doors of homes to chat, do and play.  Granted it's not going to be easy but ideas about rekindling lost sparks abound.  With such a important goal it's got to be worth a try! 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Biggest Fuel Savings of All

I can't be the only saddo out there who watches the average mpg function on their onboard computer like a hawk can I?  Leif, my glorious Citigo, who, still smells like a new car, surpassed himself on a trip into work the other day, averaging 63mpg for the 13 mile journey.  Now that really isn't at all bad for a petrol engine.

The  risk adverse of you out there will be pleased to know that I gave up my coasting habit.  It was possibly dangerous, undoubtedly a bit naughty and to cap it all, didn't really save very much fuel.  Much of the time I still  consciously eco-drive unless I have one of those moments when I lust after speed.  But hell, they're rare.  I'm a Skoda owner after all and thrift takes precedence over thrills!

The one thing that I have noticed is that fuel consumption goes markedly down when I'm stuck in traffic and having to do that stop-start stuff. Goodness knows what my nerves would be like if I had to cope with a daily commute that involved door to door bottlenecks.  Watching that mpg fall through the floor would be heartbreaking.  It's such a waste of money.  Fortunately rural Devon ain't like that but I have been stuck in a jam or two.  It's made me think about how I might vary my journey time, leaving earlier or later or doing stuff on different days.  Food for thought indeed. 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Devil Duck in Deepest Darkest Dartmoor

No duck was hurt in the making of this video!

Have I told you that my childcare arrangements have changed for the foreseeable future and Louis currently lives with me from Monday through to Friday morning? It's become necessary as  Mr X is working away so can only be home and look after him at weekends.  Let me say that this is not ideal.  It means that I'm the one dealing with all the weekday business-like stuff.  There's no leisurely lie ins or breakfast pancake making sessions on alternate Sundays anymore.  Instead I'm the parent doing all the nagging and kicking him out of the door to school.  But needs must and we've got to make the best of it.

So I'm making a special effort to make sure that we do nice things in the week to make up for lost weekends together.  There's endless opportunities around here to make these long June evenings special.  Yesterday a visit to that  swimming hole on the River Dart again beckoned after a hot day.  Others had come up with the same idea. We didn't have it to ourselves and our companions were quite vocal.  One girl was complaining about what the cold water was doing to her pierced nipples.  Okay, I know that I'm hardly finishing school material but there are limits to what I'll divulge in a loud voice when complete strangers are around!

Afterwards we had tea at one of our favourite pubs, The Rugglestone Inn that's tucked away in a lane just outside Widecombe in the Moor.  It's a great place to go as a family when the weather's fine as there's a lovely beer garden with a stream running along its edge.  Chickens and ducks mingle with the punters.

We've met Devil Duck before.  He goes for people's feet as they walk past as you'll see in this video that was taken by some people on a table near ours.  The voices egging Louis on aren't mine.   Let me say that the serving staff were very grateful that the attention being paid to Louis here meant that their own feet weren't getting pecked!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Shameless Recycling

Today I'm going to reuse pictures from the second and third blogposts ever that I wrote way back in March 2010.  Most of you lot won't have not seen them before anyway.  For a long time my only followers were Nana and Mama Lovelygrey.  A depressed man from Australia briefly joined the gang but went away again as he probably found that I had nothing meaningful to say to him!

Anyway the rather cute sock monkey that I made for Lou's 7th serves to illustrate a quote that I've nicked from the lovely eclectic blogger Aril at Wonderings & Wanderings at Gnat Bottomed Towers.   I've got a gnat bottom at the moment by the way as I got bitten on the arse when I was up on the moor on Saturday!  It necessitated an trip out to buy emergency antihistamine cream yesterday.  It's not for nothing that I am known to my friends, amongst other things as The Human Fly Paper.  Anyway Aril published the words from a Polish proverb the other day that spoke to me.  It's a reminder not to get involved with other people's nonsense.



And here's one of the first ever things that I made out of precious metal clay, that wonderfully alchemic material that burns to produce pure silver.  Wow!   Toffeeapple asked me if I'd taken yesterday's nubby problem to the universe.  The answer is a resounding yes!  I've recently started to use this pendulum to dowse with and make predictions.  You can read about how to use one here.   Apparently it's an age old method that midwives would use to forecast the sex of babies.

There's a great big rational part of my brain that's saying  'Whatever are you doing?!!!!!'   But there's so much that seemingly can't be explained by science and logic and I reckoned that now was the  time in my life to tap into that.  I was concerned that  by doing whatever feels okay and not giving a damn anymore,  I was perhaps looking more and more nutty and unhinged.  Then I overheard my manager speaking about me and was surprised at what he said.  'Yes we're glad she's back at work.  She keeps us all grounded.'  Must be doing something right then!

I quite like the idea that the pendulum equips my spirit guide to talk to me. Then again I may just be tapping into my own intuition. Anyway, I hold the chain that my pendulum is on between finger and thumb, ask  'yes' and 'no' questions and it swings backwards and forwards or round in a circle accordingly.   The fact that I'm using this as a force for good and not for personal gain is a given.

More often than not, the predictions are accurate although it's not good at being pinned down on the exact times that events will take place.  Perhaps that's an indication that I need to learn patience.  I have to admit that's not always been one of my strong points.  Anyway I've asked about whether to move and been given an resounding answer that I've thrown into the equation. It's not necessarily the one I was after but if you seek advice you can't always have it your own way!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Decisions, Decisions

Here's a gnarly one. At the end of last week my letting agent phoned to say that the people living in my Brixham house would be leaving at the end of August and they'd have to find new tenants.  And so a thought popped up and hasn't gone away. 'Should Louis and I bring forward plans and move in  instead?'

Let deal with the plus side first.

  • I think that one of the drivers has been waiting ages for a bunch of repairs on the rental property that I'm in.  If I owned the house that I lived in they'd have been done by now.  Every time I shower the bathroom floods, for instance, and that wouldn't still be happening if I was in control.
  • It would be lovely to crack on and to put a proper stamp on a place again to really make it my own.
  • Mr Metrosexual and Ruff Stu are just around the corner whereas here I have to drive to see friends. Borrowing a cup of sugar will be way easier!
  •  Though there would be a penalty for coming out of my letting agreement early it would save me money over the next few months as my mortgage is way lower than the rent I pay. 
  • Louis would only have one time of big change as the move would coincide with going up to senior school.  He's really keen to get in there and make that attic room his own.
  • And then  that dream of being able to see the sea every day would be realised eight months earlier than planned. That really is the biggie.  But hang on.....

  • ....I love Dartmoor too.  It's on my doorstep where I live and I'd really miss being able to nip up there to swim, walk, think.  I'd miss that view of Haytor with its changing skyline from my house  as well. It's worth keeping at least for another few months.
  • There might be a big penalty for ending my buy to let mortgage early.  If I told the lenders they could let me live there anyway. The other option is keeping shtum.  Dishonesty though isn't my bag. As someone prone to insomnia who's just sussed out sleeping again I don't want to do anything that would disturb that.
  • There'd be extra time enjoying the peace and solitude that I get here rather than the squawking of those bloody gulls.
  • There's rumours that my office base might move to Ivybridge just off the A38.  An easy commute from here but a pig from Brixham.  A little while longer staying put might make things clearer.
  • Perhaps that move at the same time as a change in schooling really might be a step too far for Louis.  It's much easier for him to organise his life with his dad just  around the corner.  He can pop round if he's forgotten something. There'd be no popping if his two homes were  twenty miles away.  He doesn't appreciate the difference that this would make to his life.  It's so easy as it stands and was the reason that I was thinking about delaying the upheaval for even longer. 
  •  It might all be a bit of a rush.  Two months away seems like a long time but it will go in a flash.Then again it's not a totally unrealistic time frame and is do-able.
  • Even though I'd save on rental costs by moving I know I couldn't resist spending money on the house.  Some extra months staying put may actually mean the piggy bank fills more quickly.
Oh I don't know!  I really am sitting on that pretty picket fence but have to decide in the next couple of days.  I'll ponder some more.  After all there may be other things that I've forgotten to put into the equation that will sway things one way or another.  Let's see.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Mumble, Grumble, Moan, Groan....

....Bah! It's the weekend and I should be out frolicking in the sunshine.  Or maybe gamboling like the lambs do around here.  That would be nice as well.  Instead, when I'm not having little breaks to stop my head wildly spinning, internally and not, I hasten to add, like in 'The Exorcist', I'm  putting the finishing touches suggested by my tutor on my first essay.  After that there's  a deadline two and a half weeks away for one that hasn't even been started yet.  Aaaaargh!  Pass the Pro-plus.  I may be working into the early hours.

'Why are you putting yourself through this?' I've been asked on more than one occasion. When searching for those elusive references to back up what I've written I often think 'why indeed'.  After all there's not much personal gain to be had from the process.  I'm a clinician who loves seeing patients and realistically there's nowhere to climb upwards on that particular career ladder.

I've had to be very clear about why I'm doing this to sustain momentum.  It's not all about me. There's only so much self nurturing that you can do before it becomes over indulgent!  For a long while I've wanted to do some studying to improve the lot of those that I care for.  Being given the chance to do that, by getting money for postgraduate study, was too good an opportunity to turn down.

Writing my first essay has opened my eyes to recognising and treating apathy in people with dementia. The catalyst for looking at this subject was visiting  residential homes and seeing so many people with no purpose, maybe just waiting for death to take them.  And this passivity is often tolerated because it makes for a far easier person to look after than say someone who is being aggressive or who is exhibiting outward distress.  It's so, so sad.  I'll write about what I've found out in another post on another day.  But for the moment it's back to the task in hand - finding yet another one of those bloody references!

Friday, 20 June 2014


Mr Metrosexual has told me he couldn't do the whole share dealing thing as bless him, he's a bit of a worrier and would lose sleep.  Funnily enough, despite my new stockbroking habit and a long term propensity to insomnia, I'm out like a light at the moment and kip through until the birdies start to tweet outside the window. waking me to blog and do a bit of essay writing.  Maybe it's a combination of being mentally active and all that outdoor exercise in the evening that's properly tiring me out.  Last night's 'gym' workout involved a wild swimming hole on the River Dart with whizzing down rapids and swimming against a not insubstantial current coming into the equation.  Bliss!

Anyway, where was I?  Ah yes, an investment update.   Now there are some people who paint a rosier than rosy picture of their lives whatever happens covering up the bad bits with, let's see, some home made decorative throws perhaps.  Well not here.  You can count on me to 'fess up when things go tits up.

Not that they've gone terribly bad I hasten to add.  I've still got a roof over my head and, were I to cash in my shares today I'd get ninety eight per cent of my savings back.  Six of my nine holdings are showing reasonable profit. I've jiggled things around and invested in two other companies that the stockbrokers believe are worth a punt - Rightmove and Greene King, the latter because I like beer!  They're a little bit down on what I paid at the moment but I can accept that.  It always seems to be the way.  I can't quite gauge the time, even with real time share prices, when the market is as its lowest.  Maybe I'll get better at it or just work out that it's just something that I have to accept.

One company though, Xaar who have something to do with printer ink technology,  is a massive forty per cent down.  That's wiped away my profit's portfolio and thrown it into loss.  I could be philosophical about that if I hadn't made a  mistake a couple of weeks ago.  When the share price dropped slightly a couple of weeks ago I invested more, throwing good money after back as the old adage goes.

I'm reasonably confident that it will come good if I just wait around.  After all, don't share prices go up as well as down.  Anyway it's taught this rookie a lesson.  Stick to the rules and don't try to get too clever!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

New Me

The observant among you will notice that I've changed my profile picture from this image that I adore.  It's a reminder of a brilliant day in  Barcelona, one of my favourite cities.  The highlight was the visit to the Fundacio Joan Miro, where this photo, and a similar one of Louis, were taken. There we caught Before the Horizons, a  thoroughly inspiring temporary exhibition that I wouldn't have liked to have missed for the world. It replaced getting to see the Sagrada Familia which was way too crowded.  But that's okay. It just means that I have an excuse to pop out to the capital of Catalonia sometime soon to peep inside Gaudi's wacky church that I've been longing to see for so long.   And stuff my face with tapas.  After all I like to eat!

I've decided to retire the old Lovelygrey even though she exudes happiness, hope and has my favourite Doc Marten boots on.  The problem is that I'm wearing that leg brace. Being reliant on it  was the last phase of a long period of poor physical and mental health. It is no more and instead I proudly display brown skin with very neat fading scars over redeveloping muscle  that's replacing the stuff that wasted away.

There's absolutely no doubt that I'm a better therapist because of my experiences and perhaps even a kinder and more compassionate person when I'm not being paid!  I know about fatigue, pain, uncertainty, being restricted and that sense of hopelessness and despondency that depression brings.  Walking in the shoes of others when poorly was maybe the most valuable learning experience that I've ever had. But now illness is no longer a part of my identity and I want to mark the occasion.

The new shot  is the selfie that I took on the moor last month, and is one where I'm leg brace free. Of course you can't see my lower half so have to trust me.  It shows me fit and healthy and marks the start of a life where I can get out there and be active again without thinking about every step that I take, from both physical and mental perspectives for after all I intend to be audacious in many different ways.  Now that's way more appropriate at the moment than a picture of a  girl with a walking aid!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Mama and Louis Carrots et al. (2014)

The picture today is random like the masses and masses of stuff that's going around in my head at the moment.  But it's cute as a picture of a vegetable can get  isn't it?  Anyway I haven't got  time to speak to you lot much today.  There's an draft essay to be read and then in about three quarters of an hour it'll be winging its way to Derby University to see if its up to scratch.  The title today is a take on all that Harvard referencing  that must have been invented by a sadist as it's so complicated.  Thank goodness for that makes it a bit easier. Only one more 4,000 epic to knock out before mid July and then I'll be able to play for the rest of the summer. Eek!  What have I let myself in for?

Lovelygrey Cottage is in turmoil. If Mrs Tiggy Winkle could visit  during the day whilst I'm at a conference and use her funny little irons that she heated on the fire on all the clothes lying around in heaps, I'd love her forever.  It's not going to happen though.  And the tadpoles!  There's been a crisis. Somehow Louis, who's as much of a klutz as me, manage to knock a big hole in the side of the enormous glass container that they were in. The poor creatures were rescued but there was pond water over the floor of the bedroom, a pondful really that had to be mopped up with all the towels in the airing cupboard, adding to the Chinese laundry look of the house.  Now all the taddies have sprouted  legs and  are living in a vase that much more compact and bijou and really should be used for those flowers that I love more that little black eyeless amphibians.  There's spinach floating about on the top which they're hanging onto with their gummy little mouths.  We read online that this is what they will eat.  It's me, of course, that's feeding them and not Louis.  Isn't that what always happens with child pet ownership?  I really don't want them to die but am not keen on them jumping around the living room either.  Anyway enough.  I'm a quarter of an early morning cuppa down and rambling.  Let's get onto that academic stuff that isn't nearly as fun or as easy to write.(397 words!)

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Reminder to Self

Since that first exhausting day back a fortnight ago, I've adjusted and again fit working thirty seven and a half hours back into a week that seemed busy enough without it. Those newly acquired exercise and essay writing habits are time consuming and now have to fitted into a squeezed 24 hour time slot. Sadly my crosswords, comping  and creating stuff have all been put on the back burner.  What's more my childcare arrangements have changed as Louis' dad is working away on a contract and I'm trying to get my head around that as well.   It's important that I have some quality time with my son doing fun stuff even though I'm only going to see him on weekdays for the time-being?  After all I've got memories to lay down, an important job for a mum.

Having said all that it's been great to be back at work.  Except for the last two working days that is.  Dealing with more than one emergency at once  and trying to keep up with a mountain of paperwork sucks!  And that's on top of a scheduled workload.  Anyway this post is for me to look back though when times get tough again to remind me why I do the job I do.

  • The people that I work with are so often genuinely appreciative of what I do for them.  Hugs and kind words have been bountiful since I've got back.  That's got to be worth more than an investment banker's bonus hasn't it?
  • Understanding someone's life history is an integral part of my job and helps me to come up with ideas for treatment.  It's often fascinating stuff and a privilege to listen to.
  • I'm always learning and being challenged intellectually even after ten years in the same job. That's very important for someone with such a busy brain.
  • I know, in myself and because people tell me,  that what I do has value and makes a difference.  There are so many people in jobs that they see as rather pointless.
  • Helping people to see how they can increase meaning in their lives through what they do is a really good fit with my own belief system.  Some of what I had to do when I worked in finance was discordant with that.
  • I get paid to drive around what has to be one of the most beautiful corners of England listening to Radio 4 or my music.  Doesn't that constitute a nice day out in the country for some?
  • My colleagues are gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.    They're people I enjoy spending a lot of my time with.
  • And in spite of the squeeze on public sector pay and conditions I'm thankful that I earn enough and have sufficient leave to have a pretty good time outside the office as well!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Newts Near Newton

As industrial landscapes of bygone years go, Haytor Quarry has to be one of the most hauntingly beautiful. I rediscovered it during one of my solitary walks on the moor this week. It's usually  a haven of peace and tranquility unlike the famous brontosaurus shaped tor which also bears the name of the nearby village. You'd have to be a very early bird to get that big hunk of rock to yourself.

You can totally see why two couples  might choose it as a romantic place to spend time together on a sunny evening. The first sat onto a rock gazing into each others eyes. The second had brought a barbecue to cook a cosy meal for two.  But ha!  Their plans were thwarted. For this was my second visit in the same number of days  and  I'd brought Louis up there to share the space. Do you see the reason why? Those pools are teaming with wildlife that I wanted to show him.

Armed with collection bottles Lou got cracking.  Honestly the activities that I pick for him are so wholesome it's untrue.  Lots of tadpoles were caught.  We avoided touching the wild wacky shape changing leeches, just in case they stuck fast!  Each time a new creature was found its discovery was shared with people whose idea of an intimate evening couldn't have possibly have involved a small boy who was over excited about newts.

Here's one of the aforementioned amphibians on a very grubby hand.  Which is, I strongly believe is just the way it should be.  There's something sadly wrong with over clean kids.   Now newts are  not quite as plentiful as the taddies but there's enough of them up in the quarry lakes for youngsters to get a good chance of handling an extremely cute pond dweller.

I drew the line on bringing home newts as pets but  acquiesced when it came to the tadpoles. After all with all the predatory action that goes on in freshwater ponds their life chances of turning into a frog are probably similar as living with Louis with his non existent animal husbandry experience.  For entertainment they have swimming sessions with his Robofish toys.  It keeps them on their toes.  And Lou is being particularly attentive.  He's inspecting them regularly.  'Phew! this is hard work' he told me.  'It must be just like being a parent!'

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Recycling Negativity

What Ed Miliband has done in posing with that free copy of the sun is deplorable!  What was he thinking?  It has caused me to reconsider my voting allegiance.   Seriously! After all if the Leader of the Labour Party acts without thinking things through what does it say for his  capacity to make informed judgments when running the country?  I'n a rare fit of pique, I've written to the party and told them as much. There!

And I was pretty miffed with myself  for not anticipating that an unsolicited free copy of the Sun would be delivered to my house. There'd have been a note for the postie telling him not to deliver it if I had. But yesterday, there it was, plopped on my doormat waiting for me when I'd returned home after a lovely night out in Brixham with Mr Metrosexual, Ruff Stu and Red Mel, ruining my feelings of bonhomie . It went straight in the recycling bin only to be rescued twice by Louis for its free England flag.  A tussle and a quick history lesson about Hillsborough ensued.  I didn't even start to go there on the subject of Page 3 and News International's role in phone hacking.  It was a battle I was going to win!

After a grumble on Facebook  I realised that I was not alone.  Loads of other people are peeved too.  Many are sending their copies of the Sun back to FREEPOST, The Sun, London E98 1AX,  some in small bits to maximise the costs incurred by the paper.  The idea of winging tiny origami animals to Wapping appealed.  But then I read one of the  Twitter  feed @sendbackthesun which urged people not to do this because of the environmental cost of redelivery.  Hmm, she has a point.  Why is nothing ever straightforward?

The windows in the whole house need a clean.  I've asked the local window cleaner to pay a visit but he's one of the most chilled guys going and seems to only work when his pennies run out.  So I'll have to wait.  Ground floor glass is within reach though so now I'm fit and well enough for heavier chores, I'll do those myself.   I'll use that nasty newspaper to give them a final polish.  It's ideal for that.   My lovely niece approves. 'I think that using it for something useful is  a good idea actually - recycle the negativity'. she posted.  'Recycle the negativity'.  I like that! 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

I Love My Skoda....

....and so does a complete stranger that I met at the petrol station.  'Your car is lovely!' she said. 'Such a wonderful colour!'  Well we're a month in Citigo ownership and all is tickety boo.  It's such a relief to be out of the NHS lease scheme and back owning my own car from the Volkswagen-Audi group.. I've just had a bill  for £192  for 'excessive damage' to the shitehawk Fiesta That's the inevitable scratches that it got from motoring around the unavoidable narrow lanes in my rural work patch.  Those high hedgerows have sharp stuff sticking out of them.  And for that broken key that Ford refused to take responsibility for. £200 was the last estimate of the cost of the replacement that I never got round to getting. So,  I reckon then I've come off lightly with that final invoice.  More unbudgeted expense but just a drop in the ocean compared to the extra diesel costs of a car that only achieved an average MPG of around two thirds of  the quoted combined mileage.  It pains an Essex girl to say this as the county of my childhood home was at the heart of the company's operations in the UK but I will never own that make of car again.

My new motor is characterful and cute.  Inside it feels really roomy considering it's tiny.  Is there such a word as Tardisatial?  Its extras are fab.  I'm especially loving the Bluetooth sound system, air conditioning that actually functions properly (another Ford gripe) and the way that the engine cuts out when I stop at lights.  That's got to be saving me money!  Fuel economy is around the same as the Fiesta at the moment but there's a petrol engine as opposed to  diesel so costs are about 6p per litre lower.  Didn't someone mentions that fuel economy improves once a car has 'broken in'?  We'll see.

Just some teeny grumbles.  There isn't a button for the driver to open the passenger side electric window and no large permanent clock on display.  Sure the Garmin entertainment system shows the time but the figures are weeny and my eyesight is shot.  I've also noticed that the window at the back isn't heated which isn't a problem now but could be a bit inconvenient in chillier months*. All in all, 'Leif'', for that's what he's called, is brilliant  and already is the favourite car I've ever owned.  He'll do nicely until I'm wealthy enough to own one of those Teslas!

*PS (a few weeks later than my original post): I've just noticed the stripes on the back window that means that it is heated.  Duh!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Delving into Design

Oops I nearly forgot!  I'd better feedback my finds from my annual pilgrimage last month to the Design Awards exhibition at the Design Museum.  As someone who has a love of eclectic hotchpotches it's a dream.  I'll show you what I mean.  Here's 'Clever Caps', a genius idea to stop plastic lids going to landfill.  Just add them to your favourite child's toy box instead!

I'd have loved this as a child when I used my doll's house room as a laboratory to mix lotions and potions.  If you think I'm a strange adult you should have met me as a kid!  This is a super duper pretty kit to turn flowers and the like into cosmetics.  It's almost tempted me to start wearing make up again.

My physiotherapist told me that the super duper leg brace that I wore for six weeks after my knee op should be disposed of.  They used to recycle them and send them to the Third World but yep, you've guessed it, there's concerns about hygiene.  Has the world gone mad?  Anyway these splints made from loofahs are far more eco-friendly and I reckon they'd be nice and light and comfy to wear
Lou's going to be learning Spanish in his first year of secondary school and after that he has a choice of French or Mandarin.  Seeing as we head off to France 2-3 times a year I think I know what he should choose to study but he seems keen on learning the lingo of China.  These 'Chineasy' pictorial representations of the characters should help him pick it up.

You see.  I told you it would be a bit of a mix! 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

God and the Bicycle

This is the sign at the entrance of the next village along from ours.  It marks the top of a pigging great hill on my hour long bike riding circuit.  Being a lightweight, who's after all recently had knee surgery, I don't pedal all the way up.   I do the cycling equivalent of Scout's pace and hop off and walk some of the way popping bits of litter into my handlebar bag as I go as penance for my wimpishness.   Each time though I try to reach a tree or marker that's further and further away before my first rest.

I've been describing myself as agnostic when  filling in forms recently, someone who really isn't sure about the existence or not of a God.  When I explained the term to Louis he felt that spiritual hedge sitting was the way forward for him too. So I've completed the forms for his new school describing this as his religious persuasion.  Ha! That will make a change from all of those doubting Thomases who put 'Cof E' in the appropriate box.   As someone who had strong links to evangelical branches of the church in younger years I quite like Tony Benn's assumption that he was a Christian agnostic with a belief 'in Jesus the prophet not Christ the King'. I was never comfortable with the idea of eternal damnation unless  you were saved.  After all I'm a grey girl who doesn't deal in absolutes.

As heathens go I've build myself quite a strong faith system that now influences the way that I lead my life.  I was telling Christian friends the other day how comfortable I am with it.  It's well conceived whereas I was always uneasy with a faith that preached eternal damnation unless you'd been saved.  Much of the  biblical teaching that formed the values that I've had since childhood. underpin it.  But I also have incorporated ideas from  Buddhism,  Toltec Wisdom, and anything else that takes my fancy.   There's some loose stuff developed from quantum mechanics too that would no doubt make  proper scientists shudder. Working in Totnes, that centre of alternative culture, has also rubbed off.  Little bits of hocus pocus come into the mix.  I must tell you about my dowsing pendulum at some time.

Recently I was told that a sceptic is a cynic with hope and I'm quite taken by that. There's a part of me that  really would like to believe that there is a compassionate supreme being looking down on us but I just don't have enough firm evidence to embrace this.   If there is a God though I'm sure he consciously thought about how much pleasure he could give humans from the experience of cycling downhill.   It makes that strenuous trek up impossible gradients so worthwhile.   I laughed out loud as I whizzed down effortlessly to the second village on my circuit yesterday.  The pleasure that I get from this seems transcendent.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Mum Son Stuff

Apparently I'm beautiful, kind, wise and loving.  I know that because my son told me last night on the way back from a lovely evening out. We'd had a fishy supper in a creekside pub, during which Louis acquired a taste for John Dory, and then a walk and mess about on the beach at Dawlish Warren.  It was like a mini-holiday after work and school.

I didn't have to twist Louis' arm around his back or bribe him with chocolate to say what he did. His words were spontaneous and out of the blue.  And in amongst the quarryful of rocks that he stashed the pouch of his hoodie, he found me this heart shaped rock to treasure too.

Sometimes parenting is a job that you're really not sure that you've sussed.  Maybe this is proof that I'm on the right track. I'm overwhelmed with chuffedness.   There's still room for improvement though.  'Am I funny as well? I asked.  'Only occasionally' was the reply!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Passenger: Tieing for Leonard's Top Spot

Back in the early nineties  a bunch of us used to drink in the then  atmospheric  yet scruffy olde worlde White Hart Pub in Exeter.  It's probably been done up in a lardy-dardy way to within an inch of its life now.  We'd end up after closing time in the teeny tiny house of one of our friends.  There, we used to drink a whole bunch more. That happened on weekdays as well as weekends. Goodness know how we managed to get to work the next day but the capacity of the youthful to recover from a skinfull is legendary. There was always a musical backdrop. The repetitive playing of Sinead O' Connor's 'Nothing Compares 2 U', accompanied by tuneless caterwauling and tears for weeks after the householder's particularly painful break up from her boyfriend, is a particularly strong memory which probably needs relegating to obscurity. It was there in that little wood chip covered living room on first hearing Avalanche that, twenty two years,  my love affair with Leonard Cohen started. Not since the days of kissing my Donny Osmond poster goodnight and promising him undying love had a singer instilled so much emotion in me.  It's a good job that my vows to Donny got broken given the Mormon ban on tea, coffee and alcohol.

And now there's a usurper to Leonard's throne for I've fallen head over heels, musically at least, with Passenger. I've got a hunch that they wouldn't mind sharing a kingly seat because they'd probably like each others music.   Didn't I hear a 'Bird On a Wire' reference on a Passenger track?  I love the young challenger for the same reasons as my veteran songster who's been crooning for me for nearly half my life now. It's the distinctiveness of his voice and passion, humour and wisdom in his poetic lyrics. For a young bloke he has nous, except that he smokes.  Which is a silly habit but he seems to know that.  'Give up Passenger!  Leonard managed it!' Yesterday his latest album, Whispers was released and 'Scare Away The Dark', the song featured in the video above which I've been singing along to in the car is amazing. It's an anthem beseeching us to get out there and live life to the full.

One of the things that I like about this artist is that all his music is easily accessible.  Songs that I haven't heard before seem like old friends as soon as I've listened to them for the first time, yet contain so many ideas to get to grips with.  I'd have loved to have posted a live rendition of 'The One You Love' but there's just those cheesy videos where someone's cobbled together images of floaty stuff.  Instead you're getting 'All the Little Lights' which is Lou's favourite.  It's a rare artist indeed that both a eleven year old boy and his fussy mother like in unison. 

 And now I'm very excited indeed.  For the girlies and I have tickets to see the man himself at the Plymouth Pavilions in November.    As we're all single mums it gives us plenty of time to arrange the baby sitting and make a great big pair of apple catching knickers to demonstrate our collective admiration to throw on stage! Anyone want to join us?

Monday, 9 June 2014

Wheeling Dealing Part 3

The final part of my personal journey about share dealing is when to sell the blooming things. And here's where I've got my fingers burnt during my little forays into the stockmarket in the past.  Do you hold onto shares as if they're the long term investment many financial advisors say they all?  Five years seems to be a term that I recall is banded about. Or do you flog them when they're riding high and pocket the gains? Like many others, I didn't take profits from my hi-tech shares at the end of the '90s and watched substantial amounts of booty disappear forever away to nothing.

So, no caution was blown to the wind this time when I started investing this time.  That's why I settled on putting a monthly sum into unit trusts. After investing for several months with the funds showing consistent small losses I began to get slightly cross.  What were those fund managers doing?  Sitting around on their arses drinking champagne whilst passively watching a bunch of shares doing nothing was my conclusion.  Even though the funds have just tipped over the break even point into a single figured profit, I'm having out.  I'd rather take control of my own destiny!

I've 'lost' money this time round too, having watched those Tesla shares soar to a 40% profit, only to drop back for a time to under what I paid for them.  So, I've hatched an unorthodox plan and  now have a sales strategy that's a bit off grid.

I'm making use of the fact that I have real time dealing information that I can watch from my phone.  Once any share is showing a gain of ten per cent plus a little bit of cover dealing costs, I'm taking that teeny, tiny non-greedy profit out.  Then I go back to the  stock broker analyses for the market and either re-invest it in existing portfolio items or choose a new share.  I'll do the same on subsequent ten per cent gains.  Sure, by doing this I'm unlikely to make massive gains on one holding but I'm hoping that they'll be a slow drip-drip effect.  Inevitably there might be the occasion investment that is a loss making duffer.  Two of my holdings aren't in profit at the moment.  I'm watching these too and taking advice from online stockbrokers about whether to retain the holdings or give up on them and move on.

In the fortnight since I've adopted this strategy I've taken out four tranches of profit and I'm three and a half per cent up on the total that I've invested. That's way better than the best cash ISA annual interest rate going already.  Sure I'm aware that this might be beginner's luck and as we all know 'stock markets can go up and down'.  But I reckon this cautious plan where I actively monitor what is going on may yield reasonable results.  I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Wheeling Dealing Part 2

One of the reasons that I'm writing posts about setting up a stock portfolio is that I truly believe that stock investment should not just be the preserve of the fat cats.  Believe me the rich geezers out there aren't sitting back and accepting paltry interest rates.  They're making their money work for them more creatively.  In the days when fancy certificates demonstrated ownership of part of a company, for that is indeed is what a 'share' is, it was far more difficult for just anyone to get a foot in a door.  Now, with online resources it's a breeze.  Small amounts can be invested easily by anyone, even leftish leaning single mums.  You can even set up virtual portfolios to have a practice before dipping your toes into the water.

Back in October I started to put £200 a month in the pot with the intention of following regular advice.  I chose two unit trusts with an ethical leaning to buy into after each pay day.  A unit trust is a collection of shares managed by a fund manager and because of their supposed expertise in choosing a spread of investments it's a way of limiting risk. I've also invested lump sums in single shares and now have a portfolio of ten holdings.  So how do to I choose what to buy?  Sadly it's not as simple as closing my eyes and poking a pin at the share prices in the pink pages of the financial times.  Here's what I do.  The share price and stock market page at Hargreaves Lansdowne is my friend.

  • In the main I'm limiting myself to companies in the FTSE 350, the biggest ones in the UK. There's better availability of forecasts from a number of brokers with these big guys to help with buying decisions.
  • However, sometimes I finding out about a company from another source that sparks my interest enough for me to think about making an investment outside the regular London stock market. Tesla Motors, who make the coolest electric cars in the world is one such company. My decision was prompted by hearing that they are planning large scale expansion into Europe in the next couple of years. Via a share tip on the Internet I also have shares in Accys Technologies, an technology company with green credentials who do interesting things with wood!
  • For each share listed on the website there's information about the company.  It allows me to make informed decisions into the types of business I want to deal in.  Obviously tobacco companies and arms dealers are out. 
  • I look for shares where forecasts from a number of buyers suggest that it might be a good time to buy.  There's little graphs  and pie charts on the Hargreaves Lansdowne site that show how many of the experts think that a particular investment is worth a punt.
  • I consider the other shares in my portfolio and think about spreading investments across different sectors. It's a 'not putting eggs in one basket' ploy.  However, utility companies are particularly well represented.  After all everyone needs telephones, power and water.
  • If I've had a particularly good personal experience with a company I'll research them to see if they're a good bet.
  • There's a difference between the buying and selling price which can lead to a significant loss just after investment, especially if the share prices is expressed in pennies.  For example a share that can be bought for 30p might have a selling price of 27p, a difference of ten percent. This wouldn't necessarily preclude me dipping my toes in if I really wanted to invest in a company but it's a consideration I take into account.

Tomorrow I'll share my current selling strategy.  It was devised on the back of an envelope whilst drinking a glass of wine on my Brittany holiday!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Wheeling Dealing Part 1

My posts for today, tomorrow  and maybe the day after that are  about investing in stocks and shares. We'll see how I go. I want to make something clear right from the very start.  This is not a 'how to do it' kind of tutorial and I'm not suggesting at any point that everyone should go out and do the same thing that I've done.  I just thought that you might be interested.

Setting up a home after marriage break up and buying a rental property made putting any money aside an impossibility for a while.  That was a situation that I was very uncomfortable with.  I like to have a bit fat comfy financial cushion behind my back in case of emergencies and, more importantly, to help me realise future dreams. After saving shouldn't just be for rainy days but the nice times too.  Back in October last year it became clear that I was in the fortunate position to make regular monthly savings again.  As you're all probably aware, interest rates for investor are pitifully low at the moment so I decided to invest in stocks and shares.

My financial risk profile is high.  You can measure yours by following the link here or doing your own Google search.  This isn't the type of approach for someone who'd lose sleep every time the stock market fluctuated.  Having said that I'm prepared to take chances which are analogous to getting into a Formula 1 racing car from a driving point of view, I want to demonstrate that I do that in a measured way, to reduce the impact of those risks.

I've chosen to save into a stocks and shares ISA, that allows me to put £11,880 yearly into a tax efficient pot.   I'll never pay capital gains tax on the profit when I sell shares and dividend payments are capped at 10%, useful if ever I become a higher rate taxpayer.  The Money Saving Expert has a useful guide describing this  type of product and its pros and cons.  My account is with Hargreaves Lansdowne, one of the biggest online stockbrokers.  They're not the cheapest but offer a range of services that make my dealing decisions easier like real time trading, a phone app and very comprehensive information about individual shares.

Right that's the nuts and bolts.  Tomorrow I'll tell you a bit more about share dealing and my own individual strategy.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Lovelygrey: Climate Control

Summer may be fast approaching but here at Lovelygrey Cottage there's a reminder of colder seasons too.  My fridge/freezer really isn't well but I'm loathe to change it as I won't be in this house for ever more and want to wait to replace it with one that's a good fit for a new home, wherever that may be. Brixham calls but sometimes I have second thoughts.  The setup is nice and easy for Louis with both his homes in close proximity that perhaps similar arrangements should continue whilst he's at senior school.  I don't know.  It's too much to get my head around at the moment.

In the meantime I put up with dodgy door seals which mean that both compartments ice up if they're not shut with the utmost care.  Funnily enough this doesn't always happen. Now a glacial flow  is threatening to emerge from the freezer to compensate for the ones that are disappearing in the Arctic and Antarctic circles.    I'm going to have to defrost it yet again. It's a job I detest and I kick myself for not having prevented it from happening. Just the thing that I want to be doing after a working day.

After a rocky start, my transition back to work has thankfully smoothed out though and I'm more energised. My colleagues are happy to have me back and they say that there is more laughter in the office.  Not sure if this is with me or at me.  Maybe it's a combination of both.  Certainly my new mid afternoon habit of a five minute chair based  power nap  got a bit of mirth.   But let them titter! It freshens me up nicely and gets me through the rest of the working day and beyond.

So, I'm back to driving around the Devon lanes to visit my patients in my glorious green Citigo with a music backdrop to match my mood.  One of the things I've been experimenting with is the heated seats.  I've found that if you make the air conditioning out as cold as possible and turn the temperature up it's like sitting on the knee of a friendly polar bear in an Alaskan storm!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Thought for the Day: Facing My Own Intolerance.

These wise words came to me via Facebook and I thought that they were well worth sharing. Then I nearly didn't when I found out that Marvin J Ashton had been an elder in the Church of the Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City Utah.   Stepping back a bit, I was shocked at my own prejudiced automatic thinking and the consequence that could have arisen from it. After all, aren't I supposed to be a well rounded individual who embraces all the differences that humankind throw up?

Well, sometimes it seems not.   A valuable lesson in the need to foster even more acceptance of others is needed.  And if that seems a tall order I should at least be aware that I have the capacity for yes, the dreaded bigotry, and learn to curb it in myself.  Just because I am in disagreement with the belief system of another person doesn't mean that they don't have the capacity to impart high order wisdom or indeed possess a myriad of other good traits.  These words are very special and in delving deeper to find out about who first spoke them, I have made a discovery about treating another with more love, patience, tolerance and care.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

999 for Crows

Photo: David Iliff Licence: CC-BY-SA 3.0
Sometimes things just don't pan out as expected.  The plan for yesterday evening  involved 'nipping' to Plymouth to collect new glasses from Tesco.  Whilst there I'd buy a disposable camera for Louis' latest school trip.  I'd then 'pop' into the adjacent Lidl for their remarkably cheap washing powder, leaving plenty of time for a leisurely swim at the health club before a prearranged  cuppa with a friend and her daughter. I discovered that 'nipping' on the
northern outskirts of Plymouth is nigh on impossible during rush hour.  The journey took more than half an hour longer than at any other time of day. Still just about enough time for that nice swim though.' I thought optimistically.

The glasses collection went without a hiccup.  Both pairs from one of those 'buy one get one free' deals look cool.   It seems though that a disposable camera is a rare thing in this digital age.  I spent ages trying to hunt one down without success.  At least the Lidl trip would be straightforward.
Would it heck!

As I was going into the store I noticed a raven outside on the pavement.  Now wild birds are supposed to be all perky, flying and hopping around with enough nouse to keep out of the way of humans. This one was sitting miserably in its own poo. As I approached it opened its bowels again. Nice! Rather over optimistically I hoped that it make a miraculous recovery and wouldn't be there when I came out of the shop.  But no, there it sat, looking even more forlorn.

Now I'm not really an out and out animal type of person but I don't like to leave another creature in distress, especially one that is as intelligent as a  member of the crow family. Have a little read on wikipedia and be amazed.  So after a little research  I made a phone call in the hope that I could summons the birdie equivalent of a emergency ambulance to come quickly to the rescue and finally get some pool time.  Alas, this didn't happen.  After an interminable wait the RSPCA  told me that they are a daytime service.  Unless I could coax the patient  into a box and take it to a vet it'd have to take its chances and hopefully someone would make a report in the morning.  Whilst contemplating how I might capture something with such an enormous beak he raven mustered up some strength and scurried under a nearby bush making all chances of an immediate rescue impossible.  At least there it was out of sight of predators and a comfier spot to park its bum on soft ground rather than a hard paving stone.  

So no swim.  On the off chance that someone will read this  today who happens to be passing Lidl at Woolwell today could you check under the big red bush at the left hand end of the store for me? I know its a long shot but stranger things have happened!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014


I haven't lusted after anything, from a retail perspective anyway, for a pretty long time now.  A teeny  frisson of that emotion reared its head last week as I was watching Daniel Craig in Skyfall at the campsite cinema last week.  He was running after a baddie and I noticed that he really does have a rather fine bottom.  Then I remembered that he looks like Sid James from the front and the feeling passed!  I need to talk to you guys sometime about famous English men but I'll save that for another day.

The beauty of not hanging around shops, real or online, is that you don't have the opportunity to come across things that you simply 'must have'. There is much more to life than the accumulation of stuff.  The shops on Brittany Ferries ships tempt me though.  There is some lovely stuff, including a range of jewellery from a Spanish company Uno de 50 that tested my powers of keeping my purse away to the limits.

Now chunky is how I like my jewellery.  It seems to suit me.  I'm not a delicate little waif after all.  My hands look like they've evolved for hod carrying rather than fine embroidery.   I love unusual design that's maybe a bit rustic and rough around the edges. This jewellery range is spot on.

What I like to is that the company fills a gap between mass production and bespoke.  As the name suggests, only fifty of each piece is produced so it's unlikely that you're going to see millions of them like you might with those blooming Pandora beads,

This is the piece that originally caught my eye but I resisted. There's a house in Brixham that needs painting on the outside to preserve it from those seaside elements and a holiday in the States to think of.  The other thing that made me hold back on flashing the cash is that the designs are silver plated rather than pure metal.  I wonder how resilient the bracelet and rings would be to everyday bashing about.  After all they are so lovely that they'd get lots of wear. The compromise in materials though bring the prices of the collection down to figures that are really rather reasonable.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Too Tired To Blog Properly

Blimey, first day back in the office after two months of leave and it was surprisingly hard work. It wasn't as if I did anything particularly physically demanding like the chaps in this, one of my favourite paintings, Les Raboteurs de Parquet by Gustave Caillebotte.  I think I like it so much because of the muted lighting effect and the unusualness of the subject matter given that it is from the Impressionist period when flowers and all things twee were de rigueur.  Depictions of men with muscly arms and backs are, need I say it, just an added bonus!

So just from sorting out a full inbox of emails, meeting with my manager and identifying the appointments that I need to make, excuse my French,  I'm completely knackered.   How did I go from feeling so energised yesterday?   Not sure how I'm going to fit in a proper life as well as a job again but its got to happen.  I can't spend every evening lounging around in a pathetic heap. We work to live and not the other way around after all. Let's force myself out for a wee spin on the bike and see if that bucks me up.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

One Woman, A Kid and Her Van

It's been another successful trip away for me, my boy and my favourite possession ever, a kind of Wendy House for the post toddler time of life.  Last night was spent in the aire for motorhomes at Roscoff harbour. Lou's a bit hobblesome after the fall off his bike so after a slap up lunch in town we got out our chairs, sat in the sun, took in the view and read our books side by side. Oh, and stuffed our faces with bakery goods cheese and leftover slices of  entrecote from my earlier meal which I'd snaffled away from the restaurant in a napkin. Waste not,, want not, especially if it's rare roast beef! All was washed down with grenadine for him and beer for me.  I sometimes wonder how much perkier I'd be if I came back from holiday after the extra exercise I normally have and hadn't tipped a whole shedload of rubbish down my gob.  In reality breaks away are never going to be times when I indulge in a major health food kick.

Here's my trusty motorhome, my home from home over the last week.  This is a picture taken during my visit to Cornwall back in March.  It looks a bit grubby on the outside but was taken at a time when I was unable to scamper up onto the roof, part of the process of giving it a thorough clean.  Hang on, I still theoretically shouldn't really be popping up that ladder but that didn't stop me having a go just prior to this holiday. There was a three inch pile of decomposing leaves on top and I was concerned that they'd tumble down the windscreen and obscure the view en route to the campsite in France.  Oo la la dangereux!  So after a thorough two second risk assessment I decided it was a job that I couldn't forego.  However, a combination of water and compost made life way too slippery up there for a girl with a dodgy knee and a  pair of Crocs that quickly lost the power to grip. I got stuck  and had no option but to sit forlornly in a muddy puddle next to the satellite dish. Glamour is after all my middle name, enhanced by all that Portapotti emptying that I do. Fortunately my plight was short lived.  Neighbours exist for the very reason of rescuing you when you've misjudged a situation and got yourself into a stupid predicament.  There's been a stop at a French supermarket to acquire a crate of Stella for Maurice over the road for sorting out another little hiccup just an hour later. It's even more embarrassing than the first incident and I'm not going to 'fess up to the details.  Ever!

Aside from the occasional need to be helped out of sticky situation I love the sense of independence my van gives me and the fact that I can, if the need arises, live off grid for two or three days.  My gas, water and toilet facilities are all on board.  There's even a solar panel that charges a leisure battery and provides a rudimentary 12v electricity supply.  I've learnt to manage the day to day running of these, undertake minor repairs and talk the talk with mechanics when anything goes a bit pear shaped.   It's all very empowering and something that I couldn't imagine getting my head round a few years ago.  And as an accident prone woman with 3D vision the satisfaction of knowing that I can manoeuvre something this big  safely without major incidents is enormous.