Wednesday, 31 December 2014

We're Going On A Bear Hunt

If quizzed, Louis will say that he hates walking.  So, over the years I've learnt to be very sneaky indeed if I want to go for a stroll with him.  It has to be dressed up in an entirely different guise.   The  NSPCC's  Paddington Trail looked like the ideal opportunity to explore London on foot.   'Do you want to go on a bear hunt?' I asked my son.  He readily agreed. Ha! Sucker!

Since seeing the movie last month, Lou's been a fan of London's most famous furry immigrant.  They are, after all, both intrepid travellers so it was easy to predict that they'd bond.  Our quest to find some of the 50 statues dotted around London, commenced at Paddington  Station of course.   With GPS enabled on the phone and a downloaded bear map, the first eight, including the fluffy blue 'Bearing Up' were easily bagged during a lovely walk along the waterways nearby. Our goal of finding thirty bears and having a leisurely lunch seemed easily achievable.  We didn't count on meeting someone who Louis described as even nuttier than me.  Now that's quite a tall order.

Next stop was Baker Street, a tube stop chosen more for its link with another one of Louis' heroes rather than its proximity to statues.  It was here that we chanced upon Ashley, an enthusiastic Chinese student, who was looking for bears too. 'My friend has just phoned to tell me that the one in Regents Park is being taken away at 1pm'.  she told us.  It was 12:57 and I was willing to give that one a miss as a consequence.  But I was outvoted.  What followed seemed like a two hour version of 'Challenge Anneka' which took us to the furthest reaches of Regents Park just a stones throw away from Outer Mongolia.  Just two more bears were bagged.

We were then persuaded by the more seasoned bear hunter, to come with her to Piccadilly in search of more statues around the West End. Alas, it was a near fruitless exercise.  We lost Ashley at the last stage of a journey to Hamleys which unfathomably involved hopping on more crowded tube trains than I could count and running up and down the escalators.  'Chop, chop!' I was instructed enthusiastically.  'Keep up!' There was no allowance for age or a still healing knee joint.  It was like having my own personal initiation in Parcour.  All this frantic activity resulted in just two more bears being ticked off our list. Alas, there is no chance of a return visit. The trail ended yesterday and anyway we are heading back to Devon today.

Here's the second missing person plea in two days.  Ashley, is studying a Masters in Museum Studies, maybe at UCL.  She has boundless energy, loves art and is a bear afficionado.  If anyone knows her, tell her that we were honoured to meet her and there is a lovely picture of her and Louis with Ian Botham's bear on my blog.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Missing Bloke Alert!

In early December a chap from South Wales called Paul went on one of those adult weekends to Butlins, Bognor Regis with a bunch of mates.   He got on really well with my truly lovely friend, Calamity Jane.  However in a strange sequence of events they forgot to swap numbers.   Apparently  he owns a boat parked in Brixham harbour and has a flashy sports car that  could involve the  letters DB.  Then again it might not. Jane's recollection is blurry.  For like me, she is not a typical Essex girl and refuses to have her head turned by any old geezer with a nice set of wheels.  We are much bloody deeper than that.

That whispering bloke hasn't worked his magic yet for me.   Aside from a very youthful barman on the rebound who I persuaded to pull me a pint after hours there hasn't been a sniff of action in my own love life.  Best go meddling in others then!  If any of you knows his whereabouts can you get him to  contact me? I swore a solemn promise that I'd find him. I know that my information is not much to go on but stranger things have happened!

Monday, 29 December 2014

In Search of Witchy Stones

Shoebury's East Beach, though gorgeous, was a far more chilly place than when Lou and I last visited in July.  The nip in the air from the Arctic blast that rushes down the North Sea to these parts brought out all my son's big girl's blouse tendencies. 'I'm cold!' he grumbled, though he was swaddled in a fair few layers.  'Let's go back to the car.'  Swift action was needed if my daily constitutional was going to last more than a few minutes.

My mind went back to a blog post written by Aril from Gnat Bottomed Towers back in November.   This beach with its mix of shingle and sand looked like it could yield treasure.  So, I promised Lou that he could beat a retreat to the Citigo and turn his heated seat on at full blast after he'd found each of us a 'witchy' stone. Ever since Aril was given her holey hag stone, allegedly imbued with magical properties, I've hankered for one of my own.    Ha! My cunning plan worked.   Cold extremities were forgotten and the search was on.  I got my lovely walk and we found three of these beauties.  So now, to make my wish.......!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Guess Who!

I came across the ultrasound of Louis the other day when sorting out my paperwork. .When I  was told that I was having a boy I was secretly pleased to have been let off the hook as far as all that My Little Pony and Barbie nonsense was concerned. Give me a squirty Nerf gun over a dolly any day!    As the mother of a blue one I've always thought that they're far more cute than girls.  Illogical, I know but I'm well aware that a bit of bias has crept in.  I offer  heartfelt apologies to the mothers of daughters out there.

In leafing through old photos at my parent's house yesterday I've found this one from the '60s that's changed my mind. Here's a terribly photogenic girl baby in the arms of Auntie Chris on her wedding day. Yes, it's me.  Even though I say so myself, wasn't I completely edible?

As an out and out tomboy who still has some pride in that good old fashioned tag, it's probably the last time that I was dressed in something quite so girlie.  My dresses and skirts today are far less lacy.  At the risk of looking like mutton dressed up as lamb I think it needs to stay that way. Totally loving though how my baby self demonstrates how a cropped hairstyle can be so, so feminine!

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Essex Girl, Essex Bound

In about an hour and a half Lou and I will head off on that unpredictable journey east to my childhood hometown of Southend-on-Sea  to visit Mama and Papa Lovelygrey catch up with the rest of the peeps. Oh, and at some stage there will be the obligatory walk down the longest pleasure pier in the world. On a good day it takes under well under five hours to get 'home' but on a bad day. we sit tight and improvise an in-car concert or two.  My usual route is the A303 but, on the advice of Google Maps, I may well experiment with the longer M5/M4 route today that thankfully means avoids the stop at the McDonalds just past Yeovil.  For Louis' sake that has become rather an unpleasant tradition.  It might also avoid the bottleneck caused by sale shoppers at Bluewater and Lakeside near the Dartford River Crossing. We'll see. Even my usual Rebecca of Sunnybrook farm optimism isn't going to guarantee that the journey around the M25 is  troublefree.

According to Wikipedia, as an Essex girl, I am overly promicuous and unintelligent with a penchant for white stilettos and fake tan.  Nothing like bucking those stereotypes is there?

Friday, 26 December 2014

Solitude vs. Loneliness

Photo:  MatthiasKabel
This is  a rather stunning photo of Solitary Geyser, located out on its tod in Yellowstone National Park, which ranks as my favourite place on this wonderful planet.  I'll have to seek it out next year when I return there. For planning holidays was one of the things that I did yesterday, on a Christmas Day spent alone.  I've initiated contact with my West Coast American friends to see whether they can join us in our travels.  I've also looked at the price of flights. Gulp!  With a bit of tweaking the dates that we leave the UK and come back it looks like I can thankfully shave a few hundred pounds off the cost. There's a fair bit of cat herding and financial wizardry involved with bringing  that trip together.   It was much easier  to book our much cheaper Whitsun jaunt to Perros Guirec where we'll meet up with a lovely bunch of people for the third year in a row.  With accumulated Yelloh Village loyalty points giving me three nights free camping and the discounts from being a member of the Brittany Ferries travel club this, in contrast to the American adventure, is a very cheap getaway.

My seven mile hike yesterday was gorgeous.  I ended up coming back to the campsite on a trail I hadn't found before but which leads to a network of footpaths that meander through woodland up to Dartmoor. There's a picnic table with a view within ten minutes of here which will come in rather handy for al fresco suppers when the evenings get lighter. And then after a light lunch of bagels and smoked salmon  I napped...a lot.   Now that was something that I hadn't anticipated.   But then that's the beauty of being alone without firm plans.  You can do exactly what takes your fancy without having to think about the needs of others.  It made for a very stress-free Christmas indeed.

From personal experience I know that there's a vast difference between solitude and loneliness.  Even though I'm a very sociable soul I've craved time by myself since childhood.  I find it restorative and suffer if  I am forced to spend too much time with others.  In researching this topic I've gone off piste and come across the Hassidic practice of Hitbodedbut.  It involves pouring your heart out to God in a field or forest in order to unblock negativity that obstructs the realisation of the divine within.  I might give it a go today.  Knowing my luck I'll probably divulge all my inner secrets to some passing dog walker instead of the almighty.  Maybe it might be just as therapeutic!

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Cold and Crispy Christmas

The heartiest Christmas wishes to you all whatever you are doing!

Even though I have a geeky interest in the heavens I am normally crap at turning up for astronomical events. Take the Geminid meteor shower about ten days ago which I looked forward to in anticipation.  I slept through that.  And so it is that whenever there's something to see in the sky I'm either in the land of Nod, or have got the wrong date or time. Even when I do turn up there's usually a traditional English blanket of cloud obscuring the view of whatever I'm supposed to be oohing and aahing at.

So I was very excited yesterday evening when I spotted the International Space Station passing over the campsite at 5:22pm. No doubt Santa was on board doing his final recce of the United Kingdom before tethering his reindeer. And even though unforecast rain is pattering on the roof of the motorhome, I'm optimistic that those clear skies last night predict a perfect winter walking day.   For those are my main plans for Christmas.  There's a frosty yomp across the hills with a detour to see a certain eleven year old unwrapping his presents to be done!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

True Heroism

Photo: PM
My heroes are not footballers, pop stars or blingy celebs but those who really make an extra special effort to make the world a better place.  Some, for example, are unsung carers that I've come across whose devotion to looking after someone who might no longer be able to reciprocate love goes way beyond the norm. Pope Francis has been added to the list for the simplicity of his life and his downright gobbiness. Yesterday I heard David Nott on Radio 4's PM.  Now there's a bloke who I'm truly in awe of.

I thought long and hard about whether to do this post today.  Isn't this the season to be jolly after all? Yet some things are important. The interview is lengthy, sometimes harrowing, anger provoking but incredibly inspiring.     Every year this surgeon uses his leave and takes substantial risks with his life to volunteer in war zones including Syria. His courageous actions bolstered up the stuff that's been recently running through my own head.  I like to see the good in everyone but I'm afraid there's a minority of people out there who're responsible for a whole bunch of evil.   Life isn't all about me and just nurturing my own wants and needs.  Perhaps I ought to be using more of my own time, energy, money and sense of outrage to speaking out and actively fighting the bad guys who torture, maim and kill the defenceless or more insidiously exercise power and control that blights the lives of others?

Because of the seriousness of the nature of injuries inflicted by barrel bombs in Syria, there is often little that medical staff can do that is effective.  Currently 80% of those operated on do not survive. Perhaps their work can be validated if others use their example of selflessness as inspiration for how to lead their own lives.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The Darkness: Part 2

My bouts of insomnia are shorter now.  The plan to make the motorhome darker than the Black Hole of Calcutta became a bit obsessve but has succeeded in lengthening the hours that I sleep.  Those undereye bags have diminished considerably and no longer represent a trip hazard.   I'm still waking early though but have been using the time to questionably good effect. It'll give my brother another bloody good laugh when he reads this anyway.

I've been trawling YouTube for self improvement.  In the wee small hours of the morning you might find me being guided on a meditative journey, giving myself a self-inflicted dose of reiki or letting some random angels do the healing for me. Does it work you may ask?  Well I'm really not sure. I'm not the type of person to band around exaggerated claims of success.  What often happens is that I fall right on back to sleep.  And that's got to be a good thing in its own right.

Last night I came across a corker.  If you click HERE you'll discover some bloke whispering hypnotically. There's a strange spooky echo on the track.   Even though I got the giggles for the first few minutes,  I now have been hypnotised to attract the perfect mate.  There you go! The lazy girl's guide to pulling.  That was a lot easier than those dating sites.  Apparently the whisperer is convinced who loves me is closer than I think.  He better come equipped with a pair of night vision goggles!

Monday, 22 December 2014

More, More, More, More, More?

Photo: Pierre Selim
At this time of year when wanton materialism is encouraged even more than usual in the High Street I thought I'd share this interesting article about the super rich.It talks about multi-millionaires who still feel financially insecure even though their average net worth is $78 million.   No doubt many of them would look down on me disparingly from the deck of their super-yacht if I was parked up on the quay somewhere nearby in my 6 x 2 metre twenty year old home on wheels. But honestly, without a trace of irony in my typewritten voice, if they were as discontented and anxious as is suggested,  I would felt sorry for them. For it seems that I am in emotional terms I am far richer.

The piece contains a lovely quote  about a family that had just enough from a 1873 novel 'The Gilded Age' that I'd never come across.   I think it describes the position that my boy and I are in.

Having only riches enough to be able to gratify reasonable desires, and yet make their gratifications always a novelty and a pleasure, the family occupied that just mean in life which is so rarely attained, and still more rarely enjoyed without discontent.

And for the Christian millionaire who won't feel secure until he has a billion in the bank, perhaps I could remind him of the words of the big beardy guy in a white dress.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Those robins around here are looking mighty fine and healthy at the moment without a pocketful of dosh!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

For My Favourite Niece!

Charlotte, at Books Overlooked, is  my favourite niece by default as I only have one.  The first time I met her I kicked her in the head! She was two and a half and, as a wannabe aunt trying to impress, I was demonstrating how to do a roly-poly.  She got too close and foot-bonce contact was made. Thankfully it did no lasting harm. Today she is beautiful in many different ways.

Maybe in 2015 she'll tend to her blog more often.  If she does she can update it and say that she has now finished her studies and is a fully fledged chartered librarian.  Whoop whoop!  I am as proud as punch.

As an early virtual present, Charlotte, I want you to give you hope that there may be a future for the local libraries that we both love and value so much.    Over the last few weeks your younger cousin has become totally addicted to them and is now fully maxxed out on his ticket.  'What's not to like' Louis said.  'Free books!'  He begged to visit two yesterday in Totnes and Newton Abbot and gave the counter staff lots to do, finding him books to help him complete his history homework and reserving what seems like the entire collection of Bart Simpson picture books.  He reads them quickly so they're not keepers anyway.

This is what he found me too.  A brilliant  'gift' from the library staff.  It's a wrapped up book that aims to encourage me to try something that I might not have chosen myself.   My Christmas day reading sorted.  Now that's what I call a good present!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Not Going Mad

Photo: Traveler100
Readers that have been with me will recall that I normally set a budget of one hundred pounds for Christmas spending on Louis each year.  I've been looking back over my archive, in vain,  to try to find the post about my colleague who set a budget of three hundred pounds for his small daughter 'so as not to go stupid'! Well he's at it again this year buying sets of Copic marker pens at a hundred quid a shot. What the hell is wrong with Sharpies?

I suppose that I can't talk because our own budget has been blown in 2014.  I say 'our' because I share the cost of Christmas presents with Lou's dad. There would not have been a divorce if we didn't have major differences but we do agree on some things. One of them is that kids shouldn't benefit materially from a marriage break up because parents are trying to out compete each other in the gift buying stake.  That just seems plain wrong.  Aside from a few tiny bits and pieces (think Poundland here!) there is just one carefully thought out present.  There's a Kindle Fire with a rather essential protective case waiting for a certain eleven year old.  It'll be rather handy in the van where book storage space is at a minimum.  He'll also be able to take his pick of movies from Amazon Prime which isn't available on my existing Samsung tablet.

Proudly, I seem to recall that travel is one of the things that Louis values most.  In my fiftieth birthday year we want to see grizzly bears in Yellowstone in 2015.  The picture above serves as a useful reminder.  If festive spending were unrestricted we wouldn't be able to share the experiences that are more important to us than accumulating a lot of stuff.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Pinky Petting Zoo

'A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place'.  That's why I've bought a lot of hooks this month.  Klaus the Knaus is becoming truly shipshape.  Except he's not a floating vessel but a motorhome.

Apart from that there's little to 'fess up to with regard to wanton spendthriftness beyond food and other consummables.  I've already mentioned the Christmas decorations and the sink plungers. But other than that.... well there are the rings.

I found this one via Stumbleupon on a page of the '21 coolest rings ever'.  And it certainly is!  I scurried off to Etsy to find one only to discover that, at £5.77, it was a must-have bargain. There you go! Resolve has gone completely out of the window.

Not only that but there was this quite frankly adorable mouse as well!  The idea of incorporating a tail into the design is genius.  There was a problem though.  I'm a jewellery snob and don't normally do base metals.  For me to wear something it has to be silver.

So I thought I'd buy the rings to make my own precious metal versions once my tool were back out of storage.  Art Clay would be the stuff to use.  So I stumped up a total of fifteen quid for the two rings including postage and packing.

And they've arrived.  For the price they're such brilliant quality that I've thrown away all preconceived ideas about base metals out of the windows and wear them with pride.  They sit side by side on my little finger. No guilty shopaholic feelings at all. Instead  I'm getting loads of pleasure from gazing at my little finger pets at odd moments of the day.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

On Death

Back in October Barbara Winter tended to Corporal Nathan Cirillo as he lay dying after the Ottawa terrorist attack.  'You are loved, your family loves you.  You are a good man.' she told him. After looking for a wedding ring and finding none she went on, 'Your family loves you.  Your parents are so proud of you.  Your military family loves you. All the people here, we're working so hard for you.  Everybody loves you.'

'When you are dying, you need to be told how loved you are.' she told the TV cameras.

My friend was admitted into hospital as an emergency last week.  There was an old lady in the bed next door dying alone.  Staff popped in and out now and then.  But there was no-one to remind her that she was loved. How often is this happening?  It shouldn't be even once.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


Even though I try to make what goes on at work  as evidenced based as possible in the proper academic sense what goes on in my personal life is an entirely different matter. All sorts of weird and wonderful stuff gets incorporated into my daily routine or discarded.  That doesn't mean that I'm gullible and open to every half baked scheme that's come my way. It's just that I know that we don't know the half of it and sometimes its hard for experiments to be designed that properly test things out.  That's why I develop my own to see what works for me.

And so it is that I'm trying 'Sizzling Minerals'.  I've sourced them on Ebay for the not inconsiderable price of twenty two pounds for thirty days supply.  The reason why I'm taking this plant based supplement?  Well, I have to say that the company's glossy marketing pamphlet didn't help their cause in any way at all.

Firstly I'll dispute that the drink that made from the soluble tablet is delicious.  I tolerate the lemon-lime version like I do when I have a Lemsip.  It's bearable but  not something that I'd take for the sheer pleasure of it.  Then there's that dubious question  on page 6. 'Did you know that approximately 98% of your body is comprised of minerals?' Eh, not in my book it doesn't.  Considering that a mineral is widely held to be an inorganic solid normally with a regular atomic structure, the fact that we're comprised of well over fifty per cent water puts pay to that claim.  And then there's the testimonial from a person with a chronic illness who stated that he no longer has to take prescribed medication after taking the minerals. That may well be the case but it could be seen as sending a dangerous message to others who  need their own medication to ensure their survival.

In spite of this, what has prompted me to give the minerals a go is that two people I know, who've suffered severe illness are taking them or a similar supplement, that incidentally costs even more. They sing their praises and are looking incredibly well.  I'm plagued by intermittent sleep problems and drops of energy that are down to the menopause.  Could such a supplement be of benefit to me as well?  I've nothing to lose by giving them a try, apart from two twenty quid that is! I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

More From The Boy Who Can't Draw

My boy is back.  The motorhome is a noisier, chaotic yet more ebulliently joyful place for a couple of days.  It has perked me up no end.

Louis brought with him his art homework to finish. He's created a repeat pattern of golden jellyfish which have been filled in using those smeary coloured pencils. The whole A3 sheet has taken him hours to do. Both of us are pleased with it.

I've shown this as encouragement to anybody else out there who, like my son, says they can't draw.   Sure, this pattern is naive like his other work that adorns the door of my motorhome .  He's probably never going to be someone who can produce life-like realism at the drop of a hat.  But that doesn't stop him being creative.  And that is something that I'm really dead keen to foster.

Monday, 15 December 2014

A Festive Blip

I felt a bit lonely yesterday.  There I've  admitted it!  It's not an emotion that creeps up very often.  I'm unusually self-sufficient and have been from a tiny age.  Though I love the company of others I'm just as happy mooching around on my own, getting on whatever takes my fancy or mulling over the multitude of thoughts that pass through a head, that I'm told is busier than most.

It was probably shopping for  decorations on my own that did it. Maybe it felt like it should have been a job shared with a child? Christmas doesn't feature high on my radar  but I'm giving the motorhome a bit of understated sparkle for Louis' sake.   I've chosen this consumable tree filled with chocolate that he'll love and the big gingerbread candle that will burn down to nothing.   Red Mel has made me a wreath, bless her.  And I'll add some pretty hedgerow greenery as well as that's plentiful in these parts. There's some fairy lights that might stay put and  become a permanent feature.  That means I don't have to find storage space for many decorations after the big day.  Except a big green stocking that will be filled with sweets by Santa who'll visit the van early, on Christmas Eve morning before Louis heads off to spend time with his other family.  We'll visit mine later in the week.

For the second year in a row I'll be spending the festive two day holiday largely in the company of Clarence the Angel some nibbles and a bottle of wine that'll be a bit more expensive than usual. After popping to his dad's house to see Louis open his presents from us I'll probably head up to Dartmoor for  a ramble and then see where fancy takes me.  In the right mind frame it's the type of solitary day that I love.

My most memorable moment last week at work was when I took one of the people on caseload that I'd managed to get him into a residential home for Christmas so he didn't have the holiday season alone . 'So I'll have a proper Christmas dinner?' he asked.  I nodded and  his beam was worth all the tea in China.  This article by George Monbiot hit home last week.  It reflects the experience of many I see.  Thank goodness its only a brief transitory phase for me.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Early Resolution

Red Mel and I had a little stroll out yesterday to the Devon Guild of Craftsmen HQ.  We haven't seen each other much lately.  She says its because she's sulking as she hasn't sold her house yet but that's not really the case.  It's just because we've both been so busy.

The exhibition at the moment is Make 14: Contemporary Crafts for Christmas showcasing a load of different artists.  They do a similar one every year and I love it.  It's always such a googly eyed feast and a source of incredible inspiration that will give me some material for a couple of posts at least.

Today I thought I'd focus on one person whose lino cuts blew me away.  Cathy King, is a printmaker and is a member of Exeter's Double Elephant print workshop.

Now if I lived somewhere with bigger walls this might have been the one that I'd have bought to adorn them.  The composition is marvellous and so much thought has gone into getting all those different colours and shading into the print. Although the picture is of a barge boat at Topsham, a little port near Exeter, it also takes me back to childhood and reminds me of the glorious barges that moor up at Maldon in Essex.

This third print that was on display was inspired by the book 'Snow Flower and the Secret Fan' which tells the story of sisters living in 19th century China.  It sounds like one to go on my 'Must Read' list.

Seeing these beautiful works has given me a great big kick up the backside.  Moving into the motorhome, helping Louis with the transition into his new school, rehab after surgery and getting to grips with Masters study has taken up loads of time in 2014.  I will make space for a printmaking course early on in 2015. There!  That's not a bad resolution to have.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Disco on the Devon Expressway

I like to think that people laugh with me rather than at me but sometimes....'What the  hell was going down on the A38?' asked Disco Queen Vikki, a festival going partner in crime  as I trawled up for the team meeting. She was giggling her socks off. 'I passed  you and pulled up in front  but couldn't get your attention as you were singing and dancing in a little world of your own.' Ah! she'd witnessed one of the in-car virtual concerts where I join in with the words, tap the steering wheel, have a bit of a wiggle and click my fingers. Perfectly safely I may add. I think I'd be spotted  reliving Genesis at Wembley in 1981.  Even a traffic jam is never boring when a woman has Spotify  at her fingertips.

On the way to see an excellently entertaining lady who told me how she'd burnt her fingers as a child in London collecting shrapnel after air raids, I successfully introduced Mr Anonymous from Guyana to Rodriguez . He liked him and  his story.  We had a wonderful converstion about how important music was to us.  We agreed how a tune could be chosen to reflect mood at a particular time and could induce feelings of having empathy for a particular mind state.  And then we got onto how lyrics could lend words to a particular experience and how they sometimes had the power to teach or get intertwined into  the narrative of our own lives.  All good stuff that beats chatting about Eastenders.

I suppose I've got to choose a song after that.  So which one?  This is a goodie that'll do the trick.  It stirs up good anger, and there is such a thing, and reminds me to stand up against inequality on the frequent occasions that I need to.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Off You All Pop

After two nights of nocturnal essay writing I am more knackered than a big knackered thing. It's done now though. But those bags under the eyes that I talked about the other day?   Well now they must be as long as a royal bride's train.  I daren't look in the mirror. On a good day Mr Metrosexual tells me 'Like Tess of the D'Urbevilles you are a victim of your own provocative beauty!!' as I waltz into the office.  He might be taking the piss but it's funny. I reckon today though that he won't doing that and will fully concur with the fact that I look rough as a badger's arse.

And there's a really busy day of work ahead which I'm not sure how I'm going to get through.  So instead of coming up with something original, I'm going to send you all off to someone else's blog. Here's a post to be getting on with from Courtney Carver at Be More With Less that provided reassurance that I was doing the right thing just before my move into the motorhome. I agree with it all - except hitting that snooze button.  No partying for me to celebrate finishing a gargantuan task.  I'll be catching up on some well needed sleep.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Sorry Babe!

The clue to 14 across in yesterday's Guardian quick crossword reminded me that I said I'd do something. Dirty Domicile = Pigsty!  However a commentator on my Lend with Care post the other day rightly pointed out that pigs are only dirty and roll around in their own poo if they don't have the right living conditions. Fair cop!  Of course the same goes for human beings too, literally and metaphorically I reckon.  Anyway, in order to make amends I said I'd do a pig post and it's been a pleasure.  For I like the wee beasties and get quite excited when we're heading east to see Mama and Papa Lovelygrey in Essex and pass 'Pig City' near Stonehenge. Now those guys are a really happy bunch!

What I've found out is that mothers sing to their babies. There's an island in the Bahamas where wild ones live, sunbathe and swim to passing boats to beg for food. They like to sleep nose to nose and they dream.  We all know that they have amazing sense of smell and can root around for truffles but they've also been used in lieu of sniffer dogs and to seek out mines.     If they possibly can,  they have a separate toilet area to their sleeping zone and piglets start to use it within a few hours of birth.   That told me!  Not everyone likes them though.  There's allegedly only one pig in the whole of Afghanistan and he's alone in a zoo after his partner died.  And those tails! They can be curled or straightened but pigs gets cross if they don't do the furling and unfurling themselves. Think the curly-straight scene in the Simpsons.  A curly tail denotes perkiness which must be the usual state of affairs as allegedly pigs are optimists. Except for poor lonely Khanzir in Kabul.  You could probably use his as a ruler.

Some of the facts here are taken from a vegan website. And here's where I start to feel guilty again.  Not only have I slandered an entire species in print  by erroneously casting doubt on their personal hygiene but I love pork products.  Of course if we do eat animals we are responsible for casting a thought over how they were reared. Nuff said 'cos though I try my best I am not faultless so cannot be preachy.  At Totnes Christmas market on Tuesday,  I  had a rather wonderful hog roast complete with stuffing and an caramelised apple sauce from the people at South Devon Hog Roast. Here's Lou tucking into another recent pork based meal, the sausage stack at Teign Cellars, our recently discovered favourite weekend haunt in Newton Abbot.  Okay, I might have helped him out.  And that smell of bacon.  Isn't that the thing that normally turns vegetarians back into full blown carnivores?  The thing that did it for me was lonzu, a divine Corsican  dried sausage made of tenderloin and the fact that my mum makes the best pork pies in the world (probably!).  I couldn't live the rest of my life without having a few more of them.

I'll finish with a clip from a brilliantly quirky film.  It's a lovely, life affirming song, based on a Sant-Saens organ symphony:

If I had words to make a day for you
I'd sing you a morning golden and true
I would make this day last for all time
Then fill the night deep in moonshine

This brings back good memories.  I used to sing to my own 'piglet' when he was a babe himself!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

So How's It Going?

Top of the morning to you, as my Irish traveller neighbours might say, from a motorhome somewhere in a rural but terribly convenient location in Devon.  You see, I'm picking up the lingo nicely.  We've transformed the back of the van into a chillout zone by keeping the second table lowered. To make sure he's happy Louis sleeps down there as he said that it was too cramped in his bunk space  Fair dues.  After all it's his home as well and his contentedness is a priority.  He is getting a bit gangly, I suppose.  It takes just a minute to sort out the bedding each evening and morning.

In the daytime we use it way more now.  It was bit silly to have  an area that was largely redundant in a space that is small anyway. Sometimes we put our drinks on the table but on other occasions there's a bit of cushion rearrangement and a chaise longue thing goes down.  It's all very versatile and an ideal place for an afternoon snooze warmed by the sun shining through the window. Or meditation.  It lends itself well to that too.  Can you see why I don't think that we're roughing it at all?

Six weeks on and life in a house on wheels is  mainly going spiffingly though the next person who makes a peg or lucky heather quip gets it!  And no for the umpteenth time we're still not cold. That little convection heater works wonders.   Sometimes it's supplemented by a  burst of central heating when we get in but that's not often. I haven't had to buy a replacement gas bottle yet.  I reckon the cost of cooking and hot water is going to average out at under three pounds a week.

We did have a little plumbing issue over the weekend.  There was a blockage going into the grey water tank.  For a while,  I compounded the problem into something out of an episode of 'Some Mother Do 'Ave 'Em' by taking apart the pipes under the kitchen sink to see if I could find it.  That meant  a washer got temporarily misplaced and caused a spectacular leak.  Interestingly then,  the cutlery drawer filled with water every time we  washed or cleaned our teeth in the bathroom. All I need is that beret and raincoast at times.

But it's all fixed now. Drain clearing stuff from the girlie cleaning section at Trago Mills didn't do the trick so I headed back into plumbing and got a rather manly concoction with poison symbols all over the bottle. Oh and a selection of sink plungers too.  I never knew that there was more than one type and think that I got carried away by all that choice.   After a bit of heave ho-ing with a pump action one and some serious chemical action during which one of the cleaning cloths dissolved, we're sorted.  And I know for next time what to do.  All this problem solving is rather pleasing.  Oh, okay I'll admit it.  Its not quite as pleasing as acting the ditsy female and getting someone to do it for you!  That bike puncture is still not sorted.  Lou said he'll show me how to repair it but I'll have to fix it myself the next time round.  Cheeky little sod!

What do I miss?  Not much.  I did comment on how wonderful it was to have a shower at a friend's house without having to keep pressing a button to keep the water running.  And it would be nice if there was room in the ice box for both ice cream and chips. But these are minor inconveniences in the scheme of things.  At this moment in time, for all the reasons that I thought about just prior to taking the plunge and more,  this is a very good way of living for both of us.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Three Giggles

Maybe it's all that academic essay writing that's making me serious but my posts have been a bit heavy over the last few days. So let's lighten up.   I'll keep it short as there's a Friday lunchtime deadline to meet and a bit more editing to do before then.  So here are three things that have made me and Louis giggle together over the last  days.

 Firstly let's have the trailer from 'Paddington the Movie' in case you haven't seen it.  As usual it gives away the best bit, the ear wax scene that had kids at the cinema screaming with laughter  as they enjoyed being totally grossed out.

And this is something very silly indeed. Childish yes.  But then most of what makes us chortle isn't very sophisticated or highbrow at all.

And finally on the way to Chagstock 2013 Louis told me about the sex education video that he'd seen earlier that day. Apparently a woman had been inspecting her lady bits with a mirror.  I nearly crashed the van!  It was only a year on when the class was repeated that it transpired that 'Miss Curious' was a cartoon character. Phew! Anyway since then Lou has not been backwards at coming forward with anything sexual. Innuendo, strange acts, I get it all.  It's amazing what an eleven year old knows these days. Some parents can't be making use of the filters on phones and tablets.  'I'd have been embarrassed to tell my mum about this stuff.' I told him after he'd shared the latest snippet of information gleaned from the playground. 'I'm not!' he replied.  I suppose that I should be grateful. His openness makes it all the more easier to talk about other handy things a boy needs to know like love and respect.

Anyway where was I? Ah, keeping it short and light! So here's a risque fact making use of  a strange coincidence that we both found funny.

Did you know that the average 'boner' uses two tablespoons of blood to become erect, the same amount that is in a gerbil?

Not a pygmy one surely?  Some inventive soul with a floppy willy, a willing pet and some kind of pump  device could make jolly good use of that information.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Child Care vs. Adult Care

Babies are so, so cute with their big, big eyes, lovely milky smell and all the excitement that they muster at the slightest stimulus.  This is not Louis but a pink one whose picture I found in Microsoft Clipart. No-one would deny that they're a lot of work though and need to be looked after really well to ensure that they thrive and are safe. Government guidelines which are really strict mean that in a nursery staffing ratios have to be one carer for every three children under two rising to one carer for every four kids up to the age of three.  I'd say that those people have got their work cut out at even these levels. As a parent of an only child I think that being able to look after more than one single handed is an urban myth.  I reckon that it's a closely guarded secret that families with multiple siblings have fairies or some other magical beings helping out!

But old people with advanced dementia who need looking after?  Now they're a different kettle of fish and it seems rarely regarded as appealing in any way shape or form.  They are seen as wrinkly, incontinent, dribbly, cry babies and a damn nuisance.  And they often spill food down their clothes if they try to feed themselves.  If they're still mobile, a constant eye needs to be kept on them to ensure that they don't hurt themselves.  And sometimes, like children, they hit out when they don't understand what's going on.  Because they're bigger and often stronger they can cause way more damage.

Now normally I don't do comparisons of people with dementia and kids.  It's wrong on all sorts of different levels, for example denying them of  respect for what they've done in life and ignoring that often, even people with significant cognitive difficulties have strengths in some areas of their lives that are way more advanced than those of any child or baby.  But in terms of care, their needs seem similar.  After all don't they need changing, feeding, mopping up, their skin checking so they don't get sore, comforting when they're distressed, distracting with interesting things to look at, hear and do and steering away from trouble.  Many don't understand the need for this as they see themselves as fully functioning adults who don't need help. That makes the job all the more difficult.  So my question today is why is it that older people are deemed to need way less staff looking after them,  just one in under one in ten in those big swanky care facilities?  Is it that they do not way less supervision or does it reflect the value that we placed on our elders?  I think I know the answer but I'll hold back and just be rhetorical here.  

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Darkness

Ha!  The second trap for Leonard Cohen fans that I've set in a week.  Today's title does not refer to the intensely gloomy track from the 2012 album 'Old Ideas' which is a tuneful warning about the possible consequences of getting involved with someone who is depressive.  It's clever and insightful but I have to skip it in the car  if I'm determined to keep those happy vibes intact. It's just so glum.

No, today's post refers to the darkness that falls at night.  Incidentally have your guys seen the moon over the last few days?    I've pointed out how lovely it looks to Lou and he's suitably impressed.  Obviously he's been given the essential gumph about what it's made of but we're trying to work out what kind of cheese that would be.  It can't be anything like brie or camembert.  At the first sign of sunshine the moon would be slipping down the sky.  Perhaps it's a very good cheddar, one of those that I particularly like with the little rough crystals of salt dotted through it.  In lieu of a photograph this is a 15th century map by Johannes Helvelius.  It's rather beautiful don't you think?

In spite of the long dark nights that the moon heralds, insomnia has revisited,  If you've seen a woman in Totnes Fore Street at lunchtime tripping over the bags under her eyes that's me.  But for the last couple of nights, I've had a good night.  My bedtime routine has changed. I've sacrificed the scene of rather pretty twinkly lights through the trees that is the view from the window at the foot end of my bed. Now, I try to get rid of as much light as possible from my sleeping area.  All the blinds have been shut tight, phones and laptops have been relegated to the cab and I've covered the green fridge light in the main motorhome living area with a scrap of fabric.  And it's worked.  Last night I slept for a full seven hours and I've woken up perky!  So, I nipped around the Internet to try and find an article to explain why this might be.  Here's the one that I liked the best.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Rickshaws and Pig Poo

This is Dinh Cong Lon from Vietnam and she now owes me money!  Not that I'm going to be sending the boys around soon.  She's the latest addition to my Lend with Care portfolio which consists of a bunch of entrepreneurs in developing countries who've needed a bit of extra funding to give their business a boost.  They're a mixed bag and I like it that way.  There's shopkeepers, craftspeople, hairdressers and farmers among them.  My favourite has to be that I helped to fund the replacement of a clapped out rickshaw in Pakistan.  How cool is that!

This lady has an interesting story.  She farms a plot of land next to her house.  Now her living quarters are a bit smelly because she keeps pigs and we all know that they can ronk a bit.  It probably comes from rolling around in poo.  Not a nice habit.  Anyway the loan is so she can install a biogas system to convert pig waste into manure for her sugar cane and fuel for her stove.  And she gets a sweet smelling house into the bargain with not a can of Febreze in sight.

What moves me about these people is that they are asking for such small amounts to make a tremendous difference to their lives.  Dinh Cong Lon requested total funding of £369.08.  Okay, it's more than pocket money but not a huge amount in the scheme of things.    And it's not a handout. Because it's a loan you get your money back to spend on frou-frou and fripperies for yourselves or to re-invest again and again in other exciting life transforming projects around the world!

Friday, 5 December 2014

A Boy's Scribblings

I bundled up a whole load of papers for work yesterday.  This one was in there by mistake. Now, my handwriting is fairly dire.  A calligrapher I will never be. But it's not quite as bad as Lou's dyslexic scrawl.  I can make out most of it though and have to say that I found this little insight into what goes on in my boy's head quite moving.

It happens to be notes for homework for his Philosophy and Ethics class. I like the fact that Lou's school places a lot of emphasis on this subject.  Maybe it'll mean that although it's selective it won't just churn out greedy kids who have the sole ambition of making lots of money and looking after Number One.  Perhaps they might consider using their intelligence for the greater good of the world.My worst nightmare is that he will turn out to be a merchant banker - both literally and in the rhyming slang sense that I'm entitled to use being from Cockney stock.

The top section is what Lou believes.  He likes the concept of being an agnostic with all the sitting on the fence that entails.  I'm not sure what that middle line is about.  There's something about good in there  Here the writing really is illegible. The sooner he relies on electronic devices to communicate what he needs to say in print the better.  The bit about bullying is spot on though.

The second paragraph is what is important to him and there's lots of hope here!  His loved ones make top spot and there's no mention of material goods whatsoever.  I'm loving too that he's inherited his mother's wanderlust.  He'll go far in all senses of the word!

The bottom is how he perceives himself and I'll concur with his summation  - warts and all.  Most of the time his kindness shines through, especially when he's around little kids.  He has a bit of a gift with dealing with them.  And at least he recognises the fact that he leaves a trail of destruction in his wake.  Self awareness might be the first step to doing something about it.  Could he be ultra tidy by the time he's eighteen?

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Buy Nothing Day: The Frugality Continues!

By sheer accident this year I got through Saturday's 'Buy Nothing' day successfully. I forgot it was on.  Past attempts to navigate through the assigned  annual day without spending a jot have been variable as you'll see if you navigate these highlighted links.

And since Saturday there have been two other days where the purse has remained firmly closed.  That's pretty good in the run up to the festive season.  May it stay that way and most of the merriment be induced by spending time with the people that matter to me rather than indulging in massive shopping sprees.  I need my money for more important things than filling my van with tat and extra gadgets so you won't find me fighting in Tesco anytime soon.  Really, I found reports of the lengths that some shoppers will go to bag a bargain terribly sad.

It's our work Christmas do tomorrow, a dinner dance at a swanky hotel.  Even though I'm a clothes horse I'm resisting the urge to go out and buy something sparkly to wear.and instead will dig our my burgundy velvet 'dating and clubbing' dress.  I will wear a smile as well.  That should do it. Apparently there's a party of prison officers going too and my meddling colleagues are keen on matchmaking.  I think I'll give there efforts a miss and hide in the toilet at the first sign of meddling. Although I'm in danger of massive and possibly erroreneous stereotyping, I worry my free spirited little socks off.  How controlling might someone who made that career choice be!

In search of a picture for today I found this video by Gary Turk.  It used to be on the UK Buy Nothing Day website but no more  There's hope! Members of a younger generation are not all rucking over tellies.  Some might even have the similar philosophies around consumption to my own.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Reframing Laundry

Remember the other when when I was harping on about how difficult is was to do the washing here on the campsite?  Well, it's sorted and now I'd even describe this job as  a rather pleasurable experience.

Even though I've found somewhere that does service washes right beneath the office base in Ivybridge where I go for a team meeting every week, I've stuck with the facilities here.  So what's changed? Well, I've problem solved and turned around my thinking about the task in hand.

If I do a washload and divide it between two driers, rather than the one I was using before, it comes out warm and toasty, without a spot of dampness.  Okay it's a little more expensive but worth it.  There's no  worries about a damp motorhome anymore. What's more its crease-free and all ready to put away so none of that ironing.  Result!   The whole task takes a fraction of the hands on time that it did in a house.

And the laundry is THE place to be here on a site that's devoid of a bar or any other meeting place. It's where the other campsite residents hangout, albeit for a brief time.  There's all sorts here: retired people, Irish travellers, young people saving for a deposit, contractors from here and abroad, holiday makers.... Some, like me, have actively chosen this lifestyle and others have a real hankering to get back to a more orthodox way of living though can't afford to.

 'We're both chatty and clumsy' said Lou, the other day.  I'll concur with that. That laundry room isn't a place where I despair over damp bed sheets any more but is somewhere where my talkative self can flourish!  My neighbours are a right old mix, of mostly lovely interesting people.  I wouldn't have known that if I'd taken the service wash option.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014


Ha! I bet that after reading that title, some of my regular readers thought that I was going to write about the legendary Leonard Cohen for I am his No.1 fan.  Actually, I don't really want to make that claim. The holder of that accolade would probably be way more weird and stalker-esque than I am, hanging around outside stage doors worldwide and sending Len unsolicited pants!  I do nothing of the sort and just admire from afar.  After all, dignity is my middle name, unless I've been on the lash!

No, although 'Suzanne' is a rather famous song it's not the topic of today's little musing.  In my journeys around the South Hams over the last few days, all snuggly because I'm making full use of those heated seats in the Citigo that I knew would come in jolly handy, I'm listening to early Suzanne Vega and reliving my angst filled youth.   Believe me, I did angst well in those days.  If I had a working wand, rather than the ineffectual ones from Louis' magic kits, I'd sod the consequences of messing with the space-time continuum, turn back the years and cast a spell to make my younger self a happier bunny.

Vega's music has stood the test of time and suits the slightly melancholic mood I'm currently dipping in and out of, that's probably come on as a consequence of these short SAD inducing December days. Best dig out my special lamp for a boost of extra lux.  I packed it under the back seat of the van just in case.   Anyway,  I forgot that this song had been a favourite.  It's stark and beautiful but dark. Now I know that we have to protect ourselves from the vagaries of men.  After all, they're unfathomable beasties.  But killing to nip becoming involved with one in the bud?  Now that really is rather extreme!

Monday, 1 December 2014

'Tis The Season of The Choccy

The first of December has come around again.  Doesn't time fly when you're enjoying yourself or if there's an essay deadline to meet?  Just under 1,500 more words added over the weekend.  That's good going in the scheme of things.  After a weekend with his Dad, Lou returns to the motorhome this evening.  I'd be hung, drawn and quartered in the nastiest way known to man if there wasn't an advent calendar waiting for him.  Of course they all contain chocolate these days. In my childhood we were content with a chintzy picture behind each door.  How were we so easily pleased?  Anyway in celebration of this season of confectionery I thought I'd give you a run down of my favourite choccy treats.  Not the artisan hand crafted, ethically pleasing stuff but the bog standard sweet shop varieties that we all know and love.

10:  A new one on my radar.  I didn't like this when Lou got into them earlier this year.  Too sweet and sickly.  But you know how it is. If you're on your own and one of these is the only chocolate bar in the house there's nothing else to do but build up a bit of tolerance.  That popping candy experience brings back adolescent space dust memories.

9.  I'd much rather there was one of these around though.  That Fry's number that's like a gloopy bar of slimy soap isn't an acceptable substitute.  The turkish delight in the Cadbury's bar is much more perfumed and flavoursome.

8. Now I do like these although haven't had one in yonks. They don't seem to be standard fayre. It's that big wad of caramel that clinches it.

7. What's there not to like? A flake...but with extra chocolate. And Galaxy chocolate at that. Genius!

6.  Ah the dark chocolate bounty.  All that coconut.  Mmmm!  Well okay, if you've only got the milk chocolate ones handy I'll be a sport and wolf those down as well.

5.  There's something about the substantial nature of this bar and the contrast between the texture of the layers that makes this a gem of a chocolate bar.

4. These used to be a nice safe store cupboard bet, guaranteed to be there when I was having a Winnie the Pooh moment and decided I needed something honey-ish.  Then Lou, after turning his nose up for years, found out that he loved them too.  They don't stick around long anymore.

3.  This one nearly didn't get included on account of being too posh.  But then it's so yummy that I couldn't leave it out.  The balance of the good chocolate and those buttery pieces of toffee make this, as they say on the packet, very moreish indeed.

2. Right!  Here I get really fussy.  I love Toblerone but it has to be the big bars.  The little Quality street mimicking numbers or even the bigger Mars bar sized ones are a complete disappointment.  It's all about the size of the nougat chunks you see. I think the experts would say they have a different mouth feel which, fussy mare that I am, just doesn't cut the mustard.

1.  Ah!  This has been at the numero uno spot for a very long time indeed!  In university days, which were, blimey, over thirty years ago now, I'd head over to the local garage and get three Dime bars, as they were then, and eat them in a pop. My addiction was total and serious.  I'm a more restrained human being now so they're not a feature of my everyday diet.  However if ever I was condemned to death by chocolate, this is the way that I'd want to go!