Sunday, 31 May 2015

Postcard from the Dock of the Bay

Morning all from the ferry port that sits on the edge of the beautiful little town of Roscoff where we arrived yesterday afternoon.   Here's a final shot from the Pink Granite Coast that we reluctantly left.  There was the obligatory stop at Decathlon,  the sports and outdoor store. Lou needed shin pads, a rucksack for Scout hikes and new football boots.  His feet have run away with themselves.  Ha! Even though he's a head height shorter than me his shoes are the same size.  All I bought myself was the second bike inner tube of the week to replace one of the one that was going to last forever. 'Don't ask!  It's a long old story but I'm now pretty adept at changing the damn things albeit in an unsuccessful kind of way.  Then another visit to E Leclerc for French goodies to help us preserve our memories a little longer.

It's become a tradition to spend a few hours wandering the streets and beaches of Roscoff. We had one of the best meals for a long time in a restaurant overlooking the sea, bream for me and scallops for Louis.   I told him he would like them.  Then we bedded down for our last wild and woolly night in France.  It's blowing a hoolie out there.  Fingers crossed that the crossing will be calm!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Airing My Clean Linen.

I'm writing this as I drink my first cuppa of the morning.  Bliss!  But don't think that I've been sitting on my backside since I slid down from my very comfy sleeping platform in the sky.  Oh no!  Some of us have work to do.  In my effort to eliminate those post holiday chores that I used to hate when I lived in a proper house I've already been to the laundrette and two washloads are in the midst of their soapy cycles.  As we leave the camp today,  I'll use the driers so everything can go back in the wardrobe before we pull away.  We don't want piles of wet washing sliding around in the back of the motorhome now do we?

At the UK campsite I currently call home I've been drying  my washing on the communal lines in an eco-friendly penny saving drive.  It's a lovely safe place to be where there's no fear of crime. Nothing (touch wood) gets nicked.  But it occurred to me the other day as I was pegging everything out that I would be very sad indeed if my clothes got stolen.  Okay I'd be peeved if say, more covetable electronic goods were taken.  But they are easily replaced.  What I wear is chosen because I love it and how I dress augments my personality.  Some stuff has been made by my mum and other garments have been bought new over time.  Some came to live with me long ago.   All those pretty dresses and skirts hold so many memories and are damn near irreplaceable.  There's not a pair of trews in sight aside from black leggings and the yoga pants I sleep and exercise in. After 600 miles of walking the Appalachian trail in trousers I still remember how great it felt to wear a skirt again after ten weeks.  I ditched my final pairs as the hair got shorter.  There must be other hikers who eschew walking in trousers but I don't come across many.

I thought that I'd show off my latest buy today that's spinning in the  machine as we speak.  It's destined to become a favourite for years to come.  Pickings from charity shops haven't been particularly rich lately so I turned to Asda for this beauty from the London Chic range. It's still available if you hurry.  This vintage inspired dress has been made from a gorgeous stretchy crepe fabric with a Bardot neckline. Now that Brigitte could dress!  What makes this even better is this is a supermarket offering  was designed and made in the UK.  Okay it may be a little more expensive than the stuff at Primarni, but in my book £22 for something home grown and this well made is a bargain.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Angels: Not!

Like any regular kid Louis can be a pain in the arse at times.   Other people, particularly those across the pond, may be deceived by those big  blue eyes and perfectly formed cherubic lips but I am his mother and know him better. Don't be fooled by that perfect veneer of innocence! Having said that I'm okay with a bit of naughtiness.  I am totally perplexed by the few children that I meet that seem to be good all the time.  There's got to be something wrong there!

Yesterday was one of those days that   I seemed to have far too many conversations that involved using words like 'respect', 'consideration', 'politeness' and suchlike.  Mostly they seemed to be falling on deaf ears.  Just in time I got wind of a plot to feed two pence pieces into a vending machine that took a much higher denomination in Euros  so 'theft', 'illegal' and 'deceitful' were added to my repertoire of tellings off. In painting a picture of the evil and wanton destruction that occurs if children are left to their own devices in the 'Lord of the Flies', I don't think Golding was being too far fetched.  Angels they are not.

Louis and his mates did however give the impression of turning into spectral beings a couple of days ago on a visit to La Roche Jagu, again a journey undertaken in a packed VW Golf.   This chateau, set in beautiful grounds on a river bend in the middle of nowhere, is stunning.  Decaying pile it is not.  This is an impressively preserved corner of France with an interesting programme of events including concerts and apparently a fabulous exhibition of papercutting in 2014 that I missed.  Bah!. The proceeds of all these activities  must contribute to its excellent upkeep. Currently there's an interesting exhibition about the use of plants for healing.  And after a long, long climb up a winding stone staircase we came across  an art installation by the digital artist, Miguel Chevalier called 'Paradis Artificiels'.

The installation was a simple enough concept,  Beautiful images of nature projected onto a silky fibre-optic curtain hanging from ancient beams in the roof of the chateau.  We had trouble tearing the kids away.  They enjoyed walking through, wrapping themselves up and jumping out of those silky threads.  In doing so they changed the nature of the piece. This interactiveness makes it one of the most memorable pieces of art that I've seen for rather a long time.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Wisdom from a Whippet Owner

Yesterday I visited the campsite spa for the first time this year.  Whoever decided to build  this haven of peace and tranquillity was a bloody genius.  It is the perfect antidote to the hullabaloo that goes on elsewhere around here.  For noise is the consequence of bunches of happy kids playing in that rough and tumble kind of way that brings a nostalgic smile to the faces of older generations.

The date tea from last year is still available but alas my Dalai Lama coffee table book is not on the 'chillin' room' shelves anymore for me to peruse.  Perhaps someone who sorely needed to heed its advice stole it and is now in a Tibetan monastery as we speak, clocking up some good karma to cancel out the bad debt accumulated by nicking it.   Or maybe after being flicked through by people that had just got out of  the swimming pool it inevitably turned into a soggy mush.

So instead, between a few lengths of breast stroke and a go on some underwater exercise bikes I turned to the current book I'm reading.  I got quite excited  when I found it in the library. Narrow Dog to Wigan Pier  is the third of Terry Darlington's beautifully written tales of intrepid trips on narrow boats accompanied by his wife Monica, Jim and latterly Jess, his dogs.   He's a very funny bloke and I've almost been tempted by him to buy a painted barge and a couple of whippets myself.  The spot-on humour as he describes trips on the canal system in the Northern throes of England- is interspersed with fascinating autobiography.  Thrown into the mix there's wonderful snippets of thought provoking prose and verse.   Perfect for a bit of navel gazing in the spa.  Even before Chapter 1 there's a beautiful  quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery does not consist of gazing at each other but in looking together in the same direction.

I was rather taken by Allen Ginsberg's rhetoric. 'Don't you ever feel that you want to f*** the stars?' Sometimes potty mouthed descriptors are just what is needed to express sheer wonder.   As an outdoor type of girl I totally get what this means!   And  one of Darlington's own poems which reflects the state of my easily distracted mind.

While  in the sales office this morning
To discuss the allocation of bargain packs in Scotland
It occurred to me
That the waves seethe along the rocks in Barafundle
And the seas lies in the bay's hand like a green stone.

As I lay on a sun lounger sipping the tea, probably provided to reverse the negative effects that eating all those white baguettes are having on my gastric system,  this poem by some forgotten bloke called John Millington Synge leapt out of the pages.  Sometimes words seem to sing.  I can't decide if this is funny or desperately sad as a misspent youth of daydreaming in very boring English lessons means that I'm not the best at analysing literature.  Maybe it's both.

In a nook
That spread south
You and I
Lay mouth to mouth

A snowy gull
And sooty daw
Came and looked
With many a caw

'Such' I said
Are I and you
When you kissed me
'Black and blue!'

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Hallucinating Jesus

Yesterday we ventured away from the campsite further than Shank's pony or our bikes could carry out without Louis grumbling more than I'd be able to stand.  Adrian, my knight in shining armour who ferried us to hospital when Lou hurt his knee last year, his wife, Joy, and their two kids are now our firm friends.  Six of us squeezed in their VW Golf and we headed off to the Radome at Pleumeur-Bodou, a huge ball of silk which held the receiver for the first Trans-Atlantic television pictures that were transmitted by Telstar.

But I not going to write about that as my post yesterday had a space theme and I like my blog to be eclectic. Those in the social media know  tell me it's why I haven't got squillions of followers.  Bollocks to that!  Let's keep it to a select few.

So today I'm going to show you something brilliantly random from another exhibit on the site.  The Centre of Telecoms has a wonderfully interactive permanent exhibition of optical illusions.  Adults and children alike had so much fun.  This one was  our favourite.  It caused Joy to startle impressively.  If you stare at the four dots at the centre of this image for thirty seconds and then close your eyes you will see a miraculous vision.  No hard drugs or hocus-pocus were involved!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

May the Wool Be With You

Let's move away momentarily from France and go a woolly way.   This book made me giggle.  It's insane!   I thought that I'd produced a post in a similar vein yonks back after  I came across the Knit Your Own Royal Wedding book but be blowed if I can find it.   Somehow amongst my 1,799 other posts it's gone missing.  I've tried searches on corgis and allsorts.  Maybe I was imagining that I'd written it.

Anyway I was never tempted to conjure up my own cuddly Prince Philip. If I wasn't all thumbs and could work out which way round a crochet hook goes, a cuddly Yoda would make a very nice little project indeed.

Monday, 25 May 2015


Here's a little taster of why we return to this spot on the northern Breton coast again and again.  As I'm sure you'll concur it's sublime. My intention is to retire to France and this could be the place that I settle. Pink granite meets idyllic beaches and I do not have the dilemma of whether to choose between the moorland and seaside.
It is all here.

Other parents agreed to be on hand for Louis whilst I went for a walk yesterday and I returned the favour later in the day to give them some adult time.  With my little bit of freedom I wanted to see where my wandering without a map would take me.  Sometimes it is good to be intentionally lost.  On my stroll I found another one of those hag stones.  Can you spot the hole in the top?  Now this one is way too big to fit in the glove compartment with the one that I found in Essex!

Sunday, 24 May 2015


We are amongst friends.  Within five minutes of arriving at our Breton campsite the gang of kids that Louis met last year had turned up around the van.  Let me say that it's mighty tricky putting up an awning and setting up tables and chairs with a full - blown water fight going on in the immediate vicinity. A return  here in 2016 has already been agreed. After all, as one of the grown ups said, if you have a winning formula why change it?

The French contigent of my chums, all couples,  are disappointed that I do not have a man in tow yet.  They are on a mission to see me remarried, number two on my own bucket list after a trip to Easter Island!  But I'm in no rush. For pretty much all that I personally know about relationships is that it is better to be lonely alone rather than in a couple.

The Frenchies think that they have a solution to hurry things up. Apparently I would be absolutely ideal for their friend Jean.  He is 40(!) and, 'ow do you say, ah yes!, works in a forest.   Apparently he has been too busy chopping down trees to look for the love of a good  English woman. No matter that he spends all his days wielding a chainsaw.  He is kind, fit, dead manly. and won 't mind that I'm ten years older.  Even though there was alcohol in the equation I'm sure they were all right when they reassured me that I could easily pass for a much younger bird. Sorted then! It seems that we  have a plan.

In the cold light of morning I'm giggling at the outrageousness.  I'm not going to be running off to my log cabin in a French forest  to live happily ever after anytime soon.    It's a pleasing thought though. How would my chums have known that I've been harbouring those woodcutter fantasies for years!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Fromage to the French

Bonjour mes amis.  Louis and I are outside the E Leclerc supermarket at St Pol de Leon. waiting for it to open.  Just enough time for a quick post then.  When the store opens delights await us:  patisserie, crepes, kouign aman, rillettes, fresh shellfish,  fish soup and of course some of that reasonably priced wine. Our mouths' water at the thought.

But after my lament last year about how there wasn't a French substitute for Cheddar  and an absence of that great British stalwart in the fridge we stopped off at the Sainsbury's on the outskirts of Plymouth on our way to the ferry port last night. It had to be done.   They didn't stock vintage Wykes, a brand I favour because of its strong balanced taste and satisfying salt crystals so chose this one.  Sending cheese to the French?  It seems like sacrilege but to keep us happy for a gastronomic point of view it'sit's absolutely necessary! 

Friday, 22 May 2015

Moving Day!

Today I have woken up very excited for a number of reasons!  First it is the first day of the rest of my life. Cheesy!  Then, after a nine day absence  I'll get my Louis back this evening.   He'll be home from school about thirty minutes before me. I want him to have his present from my trip  as soon as possible so I've hung it in a prominent place.  Do you think he'll spot it? Finally, we're moving  albeit temporarily!   After a three night trip away in a sparse hotel I was really glad have some time at home.  I want my own bed for a while  The good thing about living in a motorhome is that  nothing stops us upping sticks whilst maintaining that familiar environment.

Tomorrow we'll wake up in  my beloved Brittany, the first of this year's French trips.  There's a week off work with the best of both worlds.  We get to spend time chilling in our own space but in a different location.  How cool is that! A lot of the nonsense that goes with a trip away for people with a regular home is eliminated too.  I unplug the electricity supply,  turn the gas off (important!), stow stuff away for the journey, make sure the main battery is charged and pop the bikes on the back.  We're off  in about twenty minutes.  Here's some of the other advantages.

  • There's no packing....
  • ....or unpacking at the end of the trip.  Now that's the job I really used to dislike.
  • There's no worries about luggage allowances as we've got everything with us.   I don't have to choose what to take from my wardrobe, for instance.  It's all there! 
  • We can't forget anything.
  • We don't have to use up a whole load of food before we go away.  Our fridge goes with us
  • We can do an entire food shop in France so we can pretend that we're still there for a while afterwards.
The best thing is that we know that we're going to be comfortable in our surroundings. It is the home that we've created after all.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Random Retail

The holiday atmosphere continued on the journey home from our course last night.  Given that there is an unholy wait for the Ikea store to be built in Exeter, the first in Devon we took the opportunity of stopping at the one at Wednesbury near Birmingham to fill our tummies full of meatballs and the boot of the car with bits and bobs.  I was on the specific mission to see what they had in the way of picture frames for the prints I'm making and planning to sell.  I came away with a 50cm x 50cm one that cost £8.  Some felt storage boxes, another cuddly rat for Lou that I'd promised him and a foldaway rucksack may have escaped the store too.    Ibiza Queen Vikki was very pleased with her faux zebra rug.  She'd be looking for something for the lounge for ages.

We sang our little hearts out all the way down to the services at Sedgemoor where we decided that a leg stretch and coffee was in order.   As it was too chilly for a walk outside we decided to peruse the shop.  Now this place could be the first stop for landlocked Midlanders escaping to the coast.  That explains the buckets, spades and wetsuits. Vikki thought the gardening equipment could be so that people could tend the areas around their caravans.  Tenuous but possibly feasible.  It doesn't explain the sheer horribleness of this solar operated owl.

Vikki thought that the exorbitant price of a pack of chocolates could well have been plucked out of the air by a random number generator.

Now I know I can be a little alternative but even I wasn't tempted to impulse buy a dreamcatcher.

Vikki thought that I had to buy an embossed silver initial for myself. Errrr no!   I'm going to have to apologise about the quality of the shots. They were taken in haste as I thought that I might be told off if the shop staff got a whiff of what I was up too.  In fact I didn't even take some of the pictures I thought.  I'm really disappointed that there's no record of the wall display of 'humorous' toilet signs.

There's more!  A garish tin frog or elephant tealight holder anyone?

Or how about table top air hockey? Now I know that a few games in the car might be useful to entertain the kids on a long journey but they'd struggle to set this up on the back seats.  Can you imagine the arguments?

What does this show?  Well it seems that with a captive audience,  retailers will try to sell you anything.  What's more this weirdly incongruous stuff is on sale because there must be a demand for it!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Right Kind of Crazy

Picture:  Amazon
Ibiza Queen Vikki and I will be Devon bound later this afternoon as it's the last day of our course in Stafford.  We've worked hard and played pretty hard too.  Each night we've ended up  on the leather sofa in a lovely local, The Spittal Brook, just down the road from the hotel. Great food (though not on Sunday evening!)  a brilliant selection of beer and lovely bar staff and locals who made us really welcome.  What's there not to like?

There's a version of this print hanging in  the pub.  There the words were attributed to Steve Jobs but I think Jack Kerouac might have originally coined them.   That call to be different  to make a difference resonated with us.  But there's crazy and crazy.  We both agreed that, for it to work for the positive, there has to be a bedrock of sensibleness.  Good relationships, acknowledgement of responsibility, structure, boundaries know. Boring stuff like that.  For as we've been hearing from case examples  on our course, when craziness goes wrong things can go very pear shaped indeed.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Could I Have..........?

Ibiza Queen Vikki and I have been booked into a Travelodge for our trip away.  Okay it's perfectly adequate but extraordinarily soulless.   I'm pretty glad that I don't have to go away on business and stay in one of these rooms very often.  It would not be good for my sense of bonhomie particularly if I was travelling alone.  My van is way more cosy and comfy.

After finding this sign on my desk we were very tempted to 'just pop to reception' and request a bath, some of those dinky toiletries, a door for the wardrobe and a fridge with some fresh milk so we could have a decent cuppa. Oh, and a Kirby trouser press.  Aren't all hotel rooms supposed to have one of those????!

Monday, 18 May 2015

There are Wetherspoons and Wetherspoons.

I've escaped Devon with Ibiza Queen Vikki, the girl who gifted me the much coveted LGBT rainbow flag for my birthday.  Red  Mel doesn't want me to take it to Chagstock this year in case people assume that we're a couple but I'm displaying it with pride.  After all, I'm sure that my gay friends will agree that inclusiveness is for straight people as well.

Anyway after a three hour drive where I learnt that penises can be broken and I've nearly been convinced that I need to go to a foam party in the Ballearics, we've arrived in Stafford!  A little while back I did one of my back of the envelope bids for funding and hey presto we're on an occupational therapy course.  'Don't ask: don't get' is the mantra I hate the most. What a silly thing to teach kids.  We're hoping to put to use what we learn to help the most difficult people that we work with.

In between our studies we've decided to make it a bit of a holiday.  I haven't laughed so much in ages and have perked right up.  Yesterday evening we went out to see what a town that we might have never dreamt of visiting for a holiday has to offer.   We have been pleasantly surprised.  There's friendly people and great pubs.  However the little independent ones didn't do food on a Sunday evening so we ended up at the massive 'Picture House' for a burger and drinkie-poos. Yep, it was a Wetherspoon's.  Here's Vikki tucking into food that would cause Rosemary Conley to have a hissy fit.

Now people can be a bit snobby about  this chain but when the location is right, they nearly tick all my good pub boxes.   They're often in some interesting old buildings. This one was in a beautiful old cinema  The ceiling was to die for!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Be Active

I've noticed on this blog there's quite a few things that I've started and haven't finished.  Like 'The Alphabetical Tourist' for instance.  I never got past 'A'!  It might be one I'll come back to on days where I lack other inspiration   If you listened to my ever so astrological minded friend, Reiki Ray, he'd say this lack of ability to complete tasks was because I am an Aries.  Now I take this stuff with a pinch of salt but a hell of a lot of my friend born under the same star sign have the same trait.  There's a hell of a lot of projects going on at once, that are taken up and then discarded or postponed. It's a trait that is endearing or infuriating depending on who's looking at it.

With the doldrums that set in the other day still with me I thought it was a good time to revisit  'The Five Ways to Wellbeing', a really useful publications that my employer has produced to encourage people to engage in activities that maintain wellness.  I give it out a lot to people that I'm working with, those whose anxiety or depression plagues them.   But it's not just for them.  These are wise words for everyone, including myself.  I like to practice what I preach.  Oh, by the way, that's for the kindness expressed in the comments on my previous post. It is gratefully received and comforting.

Let me point out that I'm not depressed at the current time.  The word is sometimes used too freely in our language.  Whilst I'm more sorrowful than usual it is easy for me to buck out of it.  I'm enjoying interactions with others, the future seems bright  and rosy and  I'm pretty motivated.  I was chuffed to bits the other day when someone described my enthusiasm for life as infectious.  But it's important to recognise there's a slippery slope that could be fallen down here.   So I'm making an extra special attempt to keep well.  And those five headings for action are kept in mind.  'Be Active' is the one I'll mention today.     I'm walking a lot, not just evening strolls like the one on Dartmoor where I took today's photo,  but planning lunch breaks and visits at work so that they incorporate a little meander. The bike gets an airing and when it warms up, outdoor swimming will again be on the agenda.  And I dance when I can.  Not with any finesse I'll have you know but just to express the joy that I feel when I hear a catchy tune.

The advise from the New Economic's Foundation, who orignally devised 'The Five Ways of Wellbeing' is to find something you like doing that's within your physical capability.  And don't think exercise has to be expensive and needs fancy gear.  Being someone who likes to dress in a girly way, I don't even have a pair of trousers, let alone those specifically designed for walking, in my wardrobe.  A  colorful skirt over leggings with a pair of sturdy shoes/boot does the trick even for those long evening rambles or day hikes.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Two Poets

Recently two lovely men who sing to me as I go about my life have brought out new albums.  Firstly there's 'Can't Forget:  A  Souvenir of the Grand Tour' from Leonard Cohen. Just watch this little clip that's featured to introduce a really cracking new  upbeat version of 'Tower of Song'.  It's  funny and further proof that this bloke should be remembered for his wit rather than being a miserable sod.

Passenger also has a new offering.  He's a prolific little soul.  Whispers II is filled with really sad tracks but then you do sometimes need melancholy, maybe as a reminder that suffering is part and parcel of the human condition and something we all face.  There's a version of this song, 'Words'. It's incredibly poignant and seems to sum up a quote  that I came across a few months back.  'If you have chemistry you only need one thing. Timing.  And timing's a bitch'.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Buttered Up

On the crafting front my head is full of hares at the moment.  For those who are pernickety about spelling, yes, I have got this right.  I'm planning my own print of the 'Three Hares' symbol that grace the bosses of many Devon Churches.  This is the way it often goes. Brain space is taken up by my latest art project before there's much action. Thinking about what I'm going to produce makes those drives around the Devon countryside even more enjoyable and rewarding.  This one's particularly challenging because it's a symmetrical design.  A geometry set has been purchased and bunny-esque cardboard cutouts, can be found, at times, scattered over the motorhome table.  I'm getting close to making the first incision into a pristine lino block but I'm not quite there yet.

In the meantime I've done a bit of quick and dirty crafting.  Salty Dog has been on the hunt for a nautically themed butter dish for a while.  She admires my own Breton beauty, a reminder of all those holiday in my beloved France that are in the past and to come. However she was adamant that she wanted boats on hers.  So I popped into Clayart, the ceramics studio on Plymouth's Barbican, and painted her one. Now a butter dish is approximately liner shaped and that was my first idea.  In the end I plumped for cutesy  fishing boats.  Not a bad result for about an hour's work.  She's chuffed to bits!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Unhappy Bunny

I was sad yesterday evening for no identifiable reason.  Unusually I felt lonely as well. That's rare as, for a sociable beastie, I relish my solitude more than most.

Maybe my burst of unhappiness was because I haven't got my son with me for nine nights in a row.  Louis' staying with this dad for longer than usual because I'm on a course next week. In the master plan that I designed for myself in earlier life this was not how it was meant to be. Nowhere in the scheme of things was the idea mentioned that I would be parted from my son regularly during his childhood.   There was a happy ever after marriage clause that should have prevented this from happening. But it was not to be.

Mark Twain said that anger was an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.  Perhaps that's same for sadness too. It seems to make sense that it's better out than in.   I cried a tear or two and it seemed to help.

Normally I value this lifestyle of two halves.  It affords lots of opportunities that I wouldn't have if I were a full-time mum with the brood of kids I imagined of old.  I have me-time aplenty. It's good to remember too how Louis summed up our situation the other day. He's a wise little person and it's evident that he's perfectly content.  The motorhome experiment has gone better than I could have possibly imagined.  'Do you know, Mum?' he said during a snuggle the other day.  'If you weren't single and I wasn't an only child, I don't think we'd be able to live like this.' Even though I'm doing absolutely nothing about it I still harbour those fantasies about meeting someone to grow old with. However I reckon my son has a point.  At this moment in time, things are how they should be.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Moorland Musings

The camera never lies they say.  It bloody does.  This wasn't at all what I saw through the lens when I was photographing Louis high on Dartmoor on Monday evening.  It turned out alright though didn't it?

On summer evenings I head into the National Park three or four times a week, either on my own, with friends or Lou.  I'm overwhelmed by the bleak landscape dotted with fascinating natural and manmade artifacts, mainly of the granite-y kind.   It's nothing like the flatlands of Essex where I spent my childhood. I love the fact that it's all just a hop, skip and a jump away from my doorstep.  Lou's rather partial too.  I heard him telling his Dad in a goodnight phone call how beautiful it is.

In the autumn we'll move to our gorgeous seaside home.  The South Devon coastline is beautiful too but  I wondering if we'll both miss the close proximity of the moor.  Sure it will be a short drive away from home and some of my work patch covers its south western reaches but will that be enough?  I've voiced my concerns to Mr Anonymous from Guyana who thinks we'll be just as happy .  After all he's right when he says that we'll just be swapping one idyll for another.  It's not as if I'm moving to some urban ghetto.  I'm thinking though that the pull of the moor is strong  for us both.  It may lure us back to live there. Perhaps it will be enough to strategically site the motorhome  so that we can sneak back for evenings and weekends of inland respite.  I'm in a bit of a quandary but as dilemmas go it's not too bad.  The choices that await us are all good ones!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Move Over Doc Brown

Forget 'Back to the Future'  It's here in the present!  After Louis and I had finished our 'Shaun the Sheep' hunt on Saturday we didn't just chill out for the rest of the day watching the world go by.  We met Mama and Papa Lovelygrey for coffee, then lunch by the banks of the River Thames. I  then introduced the whole family to the annual exhibition which showcases Designs of the Year.  I've attended the last two on my own but decided that my inner geeky fascination for novel gizmos and gadgets was best shared with others.

Let's start off with a simple black box.  It's an router that's designed to bring  web access to those in remote places that lack a communication infra-structure.  That'll be Devon then!

Papa Lovelygrey was rather taken by this beautiful bench which is covered by stained parquet.  He got told off for touching it!

Louis' favourite entry was the 'Monumental Valley' game which he spent rather a long time playing.  Given that there was many other things on show that were designed to make the world a better place, I told him that his choice was shallow.  He and a passer-by laughed their socks off.

Oh okay, I did like the Star Wars themed evening dress myself.
Way more useful than building a world in cyber space!


What's there not to like about vegetables with genitalia?  This carrot with a knob (snigger!) has a serious point.  It's a campaign by the French supermarket chain Intermarche to persuade people to buy misshapen fruit and veg.  Finally we're getting into worthy territory!

You can vote for your favourite exhibit. I eschewed a very snazzy looking bike light, a gadget that you attach to a cow's tail to show it's just about to give birth and indeed the R2-D2 frock for Project Daniel. I'm fascinated by the medical use of 3-D printing and this idea is right up my street.  A lab has been set up and local healthcare staff have been trained to make prosthetic limbs for people in war torn Sudan. An example of design making at its best when it's making a huge difference.

Monday, 11 May 2015

The First Stone

Something that I read the other day stopped me in my tracks.  It may have been on Facebook or Stumbleupon and was presented in the form of one of those inspirational posters.  You know the type of thing. A meaningful quote superimposed over a sunset, a woodland scene or a beach scene like this one perhaps. Be blowed if I can find it. A dirty great Google search hasn't yielded anything.  So I'll have to paraphrase.  It said something along these lines.  Criticising others will never make you feel better about yourself.

Now I'm not perfect by any means.   Although I try not to be, I can be as stroppy, selfish and judgemental as the next Tom, Dick or Harry.  So those words spoke to me.

They came to mind again on the train over the weekend.  I had time to read Jon Ronson's latest book in its entirety.  It discusses the topic of shaming.  It considers the effects of public humiliation and the punishment that's meted out in all its various forms.  Here's three bits of that stuck out.

  • When people are humiliated they die inside. Think of the origin of the word 'mortification'.  Once dead they are capable of acts of inflicting terrible harm on themselves or others.
  • Be careful with what you divulge to a worldwide audience.  In a world where things can go viral online within hours hastily published words and images may come to haunt you.  My own way of checking is 'Would I want my mum to see this'.
  • There's an account of a meeting that Jon Ronson had with Clive Stafford-Smith,  He asked him three questions that we all might consider ourselves.
  1.  What's the worst thing that you've done to another person?
  2. What's the worst criminal act that's been committed against you?
  3. Which was the most damaging for the victim?   He went on to say that the criminal justice system exists to repair harm yet sometimes we do things within the law that are far more damaging, maybe at an emotional level,  than illegal acts.  
For once I am speechless.  There's nothing more to say today except to utter a plea inwardly and to the wider world for self control and kindness.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

All 50!!!

Because we have a 'Friends and Family' railcard it's cheaper to make train journeys with Louis than alone.  There's no equivalent for us singletons although there's now one for two named people that often travel together that are under 65 to save a third off UK  fares.  Best for me to have the boy in tow then!

Remember back in April when we scurried around London spotting the Shaun the Sheep statues that are raising money for sick children?  Well yesterday we got the unfeasibly early 6:20 train from Newton Abbot and were in London by 9:30.  That meant a quick hike to the Regent's Canal Basin.  We knew where that was because we'd been there to spot Paddington statues in December. We were at our first Shaun of the Day, a sheep disguised as Paddington(!), before 10am.  That meant that we earned an extra 'early bird' trophy on our  Shaun in the City app.

After bagging the first of our remaining twelve London 'Shauns' the rest were easy.  A quick hop on the Tube to Barbican where the last eleven were in walking distance of each other.  Most were in the vicinity of St Paul's Cathedral.  I think this one 'A Capital View' was my favourite of the day.


Lou liked this one, 'The Guardian' by Vivi Cuevas.

Yes!!!!!!!  By 11am we completed all the trails.  It's been a good exercise in giving Louis some map reading practice and all credit to him.  We didn't get lost once.  That might not have been the case if I'd have been the navigator.    It was fitting that this one,  'Sheep Shape and Bristol Fashion'  was our last in London.  It's sponsored by 'Visit Bristol and we'll be going there to spot the remaining seventy Shauns when they arrive in July.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Avocado Angst

My regular readers will not be surprised to hear that I woke up to news that upset me yesterday morning. We'll pass over election talk quickly. It's too depressing.  Another completely different report didn't make great reading either.

I'm thinking that lunchtime carbohydrates make me dozy.  Really dozy. I have a nap in my office chair which I get away with because I'm known as eccentric. But its not really ideal to be snoring in the workplace.  So I'm trying to choose food that keeps me perky. And deliciously creamy avocados were ideal.  That was before I read in the Independent that because it takes 318 litres of water  to produce them, parts of the Americas are at risk of water shortage.  Even worse is the fact that, in Mexico, the groves are often  owned by cartels for whom murder and extortion is a way of life.

It all goes to show how complex modern life is. You think that you're making a sound decision for one reason and find out there's an adverse impact that you hadn't even thought of!

Friday, 8 May 2015

Art is for All

Yesterday someone told me  that some people aren't creative. 'No!' I said.  I feel for who are unaware that they have this  inherent human quality.

Please follow this link and go and have a look at the self-portraits that William Utermohlen produced in the years after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1995. He adapted his style as the disease progressed.  Now if I had any training in art I'd probably be able to describe a deterioration in technical prowess with time. This does not make the later works any less complex or compelling. This pencil sketch produced in 2000 is my favourite.  I find it very moving.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

An Impromptu Dolphin

Now I'm not going to win 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year' with this one.  No, it's not Nessie.  I didn't drive as far as Scotland yesterday.  It just felt it. My day was a whirlwind of hectivity.   Blimey!  I thought that I'd made that word up but it actually exists.

I paused for breath on my second visit to Plymouth of a day. Miraculously in a schedule that looked like it needed forty eight hours to complete I'd arrived early for a meeting. So I sought Salty Dog out in her office base with a sea view to die for. After she'd made me a coffee she spotted the dolphin playing outside.  Now I've seen these guys at sea in the bow wave of her boat, and on course in a dolphinarium begging for fish. But in all my years I've never been lucky enough to see one from the shore.  Yesterday was good, productive, exciting, enjoyable in lots of ways.   These few minutes though made it very special indeed.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Moomin Charity Shop Treasure

Now you may think that I've forgotten about the 'Five Pound Challenge' that I set myself a couple of months back but you'd be wrong. It's just that digging around in the local charity shops hasn't yielded very much  that has the potential to be sold on at a profit. Everyone's a lot more savvy these day. That's not such a bad thing as it's best that as much money as possible is raised for those good causes.

Finally I thought I'd snapped up a saleable bargain on Tuesday. Regular readers may know that I'm rather partial to a Moomin. At first glance I thought it was a plastic drinks container.  'Lou would like that.' I thought.  However it's actually ceramic, in perfect condition and was on sale for the princely sum of two quid.  Well within the challenge budget.  Could this be the item that would provide the initial hefty hike in funds?

A little bit of research later suggested that my hunch about its added value was totally correct.   It's a storage jar by Arabia that marks the 100th anniversary of  the birth of Tove Jannson, the creator of the Moomins in  2014.  They're still available in the shops and are retail  for thirty three pounds, Some though have been sold on Ebay at around the fifty pound mark.  That would represent rather a big profit even after dealing costs are taken into account.

There's a small problem though. I've fallen in love with it.  It doesn't bode well for a future career as a trader in retro themed memorabilia. I'd end up selling nothing and instead have a houseful of treasure that I couldn't bear to part with.   In desperation I turned to my  friends. Surely they'd forced me to see sense.   Both Scary Secretary and Salty Dog were unanimous and very forthright with their advice.  'You have to keep it. It's lovely!'

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Where's the Bl**dy Gate!

I've bought a few things lately  so more 'fessing up to taking up valuable motorhome storage  space is required. To balance all the wanton capitalism  I've also taken two bags of stuff to the charity shop so we're not tunnelling in our thirty-odd cubic metres of living space yet. Wardrobe additions have included a new handbag to replace my staple that was looking well tatty and some summer clothes as most of mine are unavailable, no doubt buried near the back of a storage container somewhere on the edge of Dartmoor.  As we'd planned to move into our house this month I only brought a winter wardrobe.  On the practical side I've added a rolling pin to my kitchen accoutrements and a nice basket of clothes pegs have a home in the cupboard under the bathroom sink.  Now that the weather is warmer I'll be making use of the communal washing lines rather than spending a fortune in the campsite dryers.  Fingers crossed that my knickers don't get pinched!   I've also bought two great big bits of lino for I have printmaking plans and this book.  I've been hankering after a walking guide for Dartmoor for a while now and this one fits the bill.  I've used Cicerone Guides in the past in Mallorca and Corsica and found them excellent.

Rain was due to set in later in the day  yesterday so I thought planning a shortish early morning amble was a good idea.  Especially as my rain gear is in Brixham.  I always leave something there when I go and stay with 'my boys', as I did this weekend.  It's  become a standing joke.  Route 23 looked a good'un.  A five mile jaunt, with a start point just a ten minute drive from home with lots of ancient history to spot to keep me occupied en route.  I strode out confidently at around 8:30 with just my guidebook and mobile phone for company.  After all I am a creature of the moor.  A full set of gear is for Walter Softies. Isn't it?

' Walk about 300m north, parallel to the road and enter the newtake by the gate on the east side, which is set back in a recess'.   Thus began the instructions.  What's a newtake when it's at home?   I was hoping to find out.  After about 150m I came to a promising path which had no gate. Obviously too soon so I continued a long way down a hill to another car park.   Well that wasn't mentioned in the book.  At least there was a track heading away from it so I thought that I could meet the one that I was supposed to be on.  Well I finally met a path but now the instructions were totally out of kilter with the surrounding landscape.  There was supposed to be burial cairns and all sorts but even in my wildest imagination I couldn't see anything that looked like that suggested that there were a few dead cavemen under a pile of rocks.

The furthest point of my walk ended up on the summit of a random tor.  I'd no idea of its name. Luckily I was able to retrace my steps easily.  I was back at the car within about half an hour, down that bloody path that was supposed to have a bloody gate near the bloody road that was too near the bloody car park in the first place.  So much for getting a good amount of time communing with nature.  I scurried back to the motorhome in disgust for a consolatory bacon sandwich, ready to write an angry letter to the publishers.

Thankfully before I started to pen something furious,  I looked at the map that I'd left at home.  Oops! I'd headed off in a westerly direction rather than northbound at the start of the walk.  If my map reading skills serve me better than my internal compass I think that I climbed Top Tor.  Without the grumpiness it would have been a nice little hike in its own right.  If Thursday brings a fairweather evening I'll make attempt number two at Walk 23.    I've learnt my lesson and will take my map and compass next time!