Thursday, 31 December 2015

Gift Beyond The Gift

This is what I got for Christmas from Louis.  It came with 'Little Hotties', wax discs impregnated with various fragrances which burn in the top from the heat of a nightlight.  There was also a menu suggesting ways of combining them so that you can create cocktails of smells.

Now small boys are pyromaniacs with a primal attraction towards anything involving a flame.  At 6am the other day I woke to the sound of  gas being lit downstairs.  My first thoughts were that a hungry burglar was down there. Seconds later my son burst in.  He'd set his alarm so that he could pop an infuser next to my bed and waft a cinnamon/coffee combo over me! I'm suspecting, given Louis' enthusiasm for experimentation, that this is really a present to himself.  Maybe the exact nature of my gift is seeing him so happy and occupied.  For someone whose philosophy on life is based around the meaning of doing, this is very precious indeed.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Superb Swapsies

This pile of wood is the by-product of felling that troublesome eucalyptus tree that used to darken my backyard,  In its space  I will be erecting a  7'x5' shed.  Friends on Facebook have insisted that it's not beyond the capability of a girlie who is able to wield a power tool and can build a flatpack.  Failing that I will find a blokie mate, put on my finest damsel in distress act  and proffer beer!

In return for all that kindling I got this!......

It's vintage, maybe from the sixties and spins.  So James Bond, or at least Austin Powers!  All it needs is a huge cushion and I've got some fabric somewhere that I think will do the trick.   This will form the centrepiece of a retro-inspired sunroom.   Needless to say I'm over the moon!

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Smallest Room: Really!

There are real advantages about the unhurried culture here in Devon.  In general we are  people who aren't big on ambition as we want time for chillin' on the moor and at the beaches.  Our kids are not stress heads either.  When I first visited the grammar school with Louis the headmaster told us parents that many of our sons probably wouldn't make the grade for selective education in the South East.  The youngsters are too laid back and we ourselves are not pushy enough.  There is more to life than raising an investment banker.

There's some downsides too.  Our tradesmen are exasperating. The man who diligently measured up my entire house in September to quote for decoration and to install a bathroom hasn't come back although I've been told on the grapevine that he's working on it.   Also too is the carpet fitter who advised me that I needed to buy new carpet to replace the one where I had a massive paint spillage when I first moved in.   'Leave it on the stairs and I'll get the spare key from Mr Metrosexual' he said.  It's been there for two months.

In desperation I've turned to the big guys to speed up parts of my home makeover.  Another friend was pleased with her Wickes kitchen so I thought I'd give them a go re: the bathroom.  I also thought they could tackle this, the downstairs loo.  Leeroy at the Call Centre ran through his scripted questions.  'Would I like a shower in there?'  I chortled.  'Look' I said 'It would be great if I could just shut the door when I have a wee!'.

Last week the bathroom planner came around. He was really helpful.   Ideas for a beautiful place to relax and bathe upstairs  are forming.  'I'm sure you've seen rooms this size before'.  I said as I lead him downstairs to inspect the downstairs loo.  I have never seen anything like it!' he said.  'And we don't stock anywhere near as small as the sink you've got in there anyway.  That's the one that I bruise myself on as I brush past it.  The toilet roll holder and towel rail have given up the ghost as they've taken a battering from body parts so often.

A corner toilet and basin might be the solution that I need but for the moment I'll have to live with Grimville.  That isn't even a window to the outside but hides a blocked off wall.  I've thought of a temporary solution to the problem with privacy though.  Maybe a sign saying 'Sit Very Far Back' will suffice.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Two Blokes: Joseph and Joseph Perhaps?

A little bit earlier than usual Louis is back.  Yay!  Holiday routines are sometimes different.   I met him off the bus in town yesterday morning and we stopped on the harbour for  coffee for me and lemonade for him.   Afterwards we popped into a lovely shop which has kitchenware and gifts.

Now I know that chopping boards are a funny thing to lust over but I love these from the Joseph Joseph range.  They exude order.  The shop sells them and I wondered if they'd be reduced in their sale.  Alas no.  It's probably a good thing.  I need to save pennies for a new bathroom that I hope will be fitted imminently.

We both continued to mooch.  I was casting an eye over Christmas tree decorations, 50% off.  Louis was looking at some of those shabby chic canvases with inspirational and funny quotes.  He read one out.  His voice rang out clear and loud.

'A WOMAN'S FANTASY IS HAVING TWO MEN AT ONCE' he began.  As my heart seemed to stop beating and I waited for that magical hole in the floor to swallow me up  I met eyes with the lady behind the cash desk.  Our jaws dropped simultaneously.

'ONE TO COOK AND ONE TO CLEAN!'  There was  a collective sigh of relief.  We began to giggle uncontrollably.  My laughter didn't really stop until I was halfway up the hill home.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Art of Hart

Boxing Day:  Red Mel invited me to stay with her in Bristol but I declined her kind invitation.  I'll be seeing her later in the week anyway and one day of stuffing my face is quite enough.  Instead I thought I'd take the opportunity afforded by a long weekend to crack on with decorating the landing.  Once that's done, the spare room can be cleared ready to receive guests, crafting can start, full harmony will be restored!  It's got to be worth it.

Barbie Nurse and her husband Dave have recently moved in just four doors down.  They spied me, as they went to walk their dog, Lola on the green.  She's Louis' new best friend and he borrows her sometimes.  All the benefits of pet ownership without the responsibility or expense.  I gave the three of them  a wave.  There was  an Adam Ant effect going down on my cheek and one of my palms was completely covered in white vinyl silk.   I'm afraid I'm a messy mare when it comes to DIY.   I opened the window with the hand that was (relatively) paint free.  'Who do you think you are?' called Dave.  'Tony Hart!'.  I think he got it wrong.  Tony Hart was much, much tidier when being creative than I'll ever be.  I'd forgotten, until I found this clip again,  quite how clever that man was.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Comfort From A Void

Here's a view of my home town on Christmas Day  from the Breakwater, the 1/2 mile long walkway that protects Brixham harbour. The pictures are blurry because of water on the lens of my phone but they've turned out rather well haven't they? The Impressionists would be proud!
I treated myself to a very soggy, solitary stroll yesterday in the eery silence  before a lunch, cooked for me by friends.  In spite of the rain it was wonderful and I felt very blessed.   I took in the views, spoke to the seabirds and sang the  duet from the Pearl Fishers.  I hope to God that the sound didn't travel because I was probably making a right racket.

I had an opportunity to reflect on the last year.  There's been massive highlights: time spent living in my motorhome, a move into a wonderful house that is so exactly right for us it feels as if it was gifted, the brilliant US and Canadian holiday where I caught up with some of my dearest friends and  built some very precious shared memories with my son.   But on a day to day basis it's been hard. Work life was very much out of kilter and dominated much of my existence.  Keeping up took over and sometimes I struggled to meet basic needs.  There were days when I arrived home hungry but was so exhausted I was unable to feed myself so just collapsed in bed. Not good.

Thank goodness things have calmed. I have resolved that this cannot happen again.  And maybe some good has come out of this situation.  It feels like I have extra time now.  So what to do with it?

I confided in a friend that I didn't know what to do with my life anymore.  Mainly I was talking from a career perspective but there's more to it than that.  Questions around how, where and with whom I attain meaning were bugging me and I wasn't coming up with an action plan.  The counsel that I got was very wise. Perhaps I don't have to strive but just need to sit back and see what comes to me for a change.  Opportunities will arise if there's space for them to do so.  I think it might be a question of letting Divine Purpose take over.

In doing a bit of research for this post I came across this very pertinent sermon from a Unitarian minister, Rick Hoyt entitled 'Making Space For Growth'.  It really hits the spot.  I've made good inroads in clearing space, at a physical level and beyond.  Let's see what comes in to fill it!

Friday, 25 December 2015

Christmas Tree Musings

It was a quiet day at the office yesterday.  Phew!  A good job as there was only three of us in, Scary Secretary, Barbie Nurse et moi!  It gave us rare chatting and giggling time.  I'm not anticipating it will be like that between Christmas and New Year.  What happens is that relatives from far afield turn up on the Devon doorsteps of their loved ones with dementia, realise how much they've deteriorated in the year since they've last seen them and then phone me up and expect me to take them home and look after them after they've toddled back to their 'perfect' lives up country or abroad.  I'd have a houseful of sweet, confused people by now if I did that!

Anyway one of the things that we talked about was our Christmas trees.  I love the pine fragrance of the real thing but have made do with the gnarly artificial one that I bought back in 2012 this year.  'My Christmas tree looks like someone has vomited on it!' announced Scary Secretary.  Good job she was not being literal.  Instead she meant that it's a right hotch potch of stuff collected over the years.  Things that she's picked up in little shops and stuff that she and her kid have made.  'I like it like that.' she went on.  'Sod colour coordination.  My tree is full of memories'.
And mine is the same.  Of course, I didn't have a tree when I was living in the motorhome.  That would have been well tricky So it was two years since I'd opened my box of sparkles.   Those memories only span the four years since I became single again but they're precious nonetheless.  And maybe it goes without saying that  the ornaments that have the most value are the ones that Louis made.  The lolly stick snowman, a little felt bag in which he pops a chocolate for me.  They'll get tattier over the years but they're the best.

I don't buy or receive many seasonal gifts.  My best present this year was news on Christmas Eve of a dramatic turnaround for the better in the health of a family member.  Yay! The kindness of my friends is beautiful too. They look after me extra-specially well as they realise how hard it is to  be apart from my child on a day meant for families.

However I was thrilled to receive the two trinkets I'm showing you here.  My 'Disco Angel' was from Dancing Queen Vikki and the handmade fused glass mistletoe was handed to me by Sugar Plumb.  They've been hung on the branches and will be reminders in years to come of the wonderful times that I've shared with these people whose souls are filled with goodness.

So, with the  warmest of wishes.  I will leave you with these wise words from Roy L Smith.

'He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree'.

May peace and blessing be with you all especially those who find these sentiments hard to come by.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Sing David!

Good morning from high on a hill above the sea in Devon. Let's keep this blog  a relatively Christmas free zone shall we?  After all I've got to work today.   Maybe I'll introduce a bit of sparkle on the big day itself.  I been woken up early as it's blowing an absolute hoolie out there.  A good excuse to stay snuggled up tight under the sheets until absolutely necessary methinks.  Anyway, with all that wild weather going on outside, this  incredibly beautiful Bowie song has come to mind.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Braving the Flood

There are lows on this rollercoaster of life.   I will remind my readers that it would not be right if I was always the perky person that I normally portray myself as here. Maybe the darker times occur to teach us lessons,  pull us together and act as a  contrast for all that is good so that it seems even better? Behind the scenes there is quite a bit of sadness, someone close who is very poorly and healing at all sorts of levels that is slow to happen.

I've said before that I do not share every aspect of my life with an online audience.  Some experiences remain precious secrets, my own and other people's troubles are not disclosed and dirty linen isn't aired in public, or indeed all over Facebook!  So today, instead of in depth exposure of personal lives I give you frippery.

When it comes to ornamentation I normally go large.  See the big fish necklace that I'm wearing in my profile picture.  The arty stuff I have around the home too tends to be in your face pieces that make a statement and are hard to miss.  I hope you get the idea.

On Saturday afternoon in Brixham I was banished to wander the charity shops whilst Lou went and bought my Christmas present in Sam's Soaps and More, a friendly place and a locally run source of all things wonderful and fragrant.  This tiny trinket box caught my eye.  At 3x2" it goes completely against the normal grain, and even though a bit of the paintwork is flaky, I love it.  Now it sits on my bedside table, a reminder of a constantly changing life where there is always hope.  Those flood waters will ease eventually.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Big Road Update

This is a street in Brooklyn.  It came up when I searched 'road' on Pixabay.  It's an image that's far more aesthetically pleasing than the picture that Wikipedia uses of the A380 at the Penn Inn Roundabout where I was accustomed to sit in traffic to get in and out of Torbay. So I thought I'd use it.  How random is that?  I'm that type of girl.

But those stoppy-starty queues are no more.  For the past few days the new Kingkerswell bypass has been opened. My colleagues and I have all had a little go on the new 5.5km stretch of road. Ibiza Queen Vikki was thrilled. Her old journey from home to Torbay Hospital took 45 minutes in the old days.  Now it takes twelve! And Blue Light took a detour to work the other day just to try it out and arrived ten minutes earlier than usual. Me?  I haven't travelled the whole route.  I got confused by all the new signage and spent most of the journey on the near empty old road instead.  I'm a bit of a bonzo when it comes to anything involving a sense of direction.

I'm so thrilled as it looks like my guesstimate from earlier in the year was correct.  I used to be an hour away further away from my friends and family in the North and East of the Country when compared to journey times from my old home on Dartmoor's edge.  Now  there's only quarter of an hour difference. But as I do so love to be right beside beautiful coastline, it's so totally worth it. I hope my visitors will agree as well!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

The Force And A Packet Of Twirl Bites

Shh!  Here's that little felt Yoda that's been hanging around in my bag for most of this week who's going to be a welcome addition to Louis' Christmas stocking.  Cute isn't he?  He's come in useful for illustrating today's post.  Of course, with a twelve year old boy it had to be done.  Louis and I went off to the pictures yesterday to see 'The Force Awakens', Episode VII of the Star Wars errrr trilogy!  Well they've dragged these out haven't they?

Now I'm not generally one for the shoot 'em up variety of film. Violence doesn't float my boat at all. Peace and love and all that.  But Star Wars is an exception.  Not sure why.  Perhaps it's the overtness of the good vs. evil theme.  I live in hope that justice will prevail for ever by Episode IX.  And then there's those gorgeous costumes, the wry humour and the dinky droids.  There! That's enough reasons to tag along to the cinema.

Of course we snuck in a drink and sweeties.  I refuse to pay the exorbitant in-house prices for film snacking  although I did acquiesce and buy a coffee that was big enough to cause me to cross my legs for half the performance!  Louis guarded the Twirl Bites.  He gets rather possessive over chocolate even when I'm the one who's paid for it.  'You  can't have one until someone's been killed' he announced at the start of the film as we donned our 3D glasses.   Blimey he likes to lay down the law.   'Look' he whispered a minute in.  'It won't be long.  The Storm Troopers have arrived!'.  Soon enough  a chocolate was popped in my mouth.  'Told you!' he said triumphantly.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Economics of Smoking

I've been working with someone recently who smoked - a lot. How does 40-60 fags a day sound?  Each cheap branded cigarette costs  about 35p.  Let's say that averages out at about £17.50 a day, £122 a week or about five hundred and thirty quid a month. It's more than my mortgage!  No wonder that I balk at the idea of this particular vice.

Now I'm not very judgemental.  Live and let live but don't blow your smoke over me .  That ban on smoking in public places was a godsend.  I get wheezy pretty quickly as a consequence of secondary smoking.  If someone wants to smoke in their own home or outside it's entirely up to them.  In fact I sometimes join my addicted colleagues when they go out to top up their nicotine.  Smoking is still rife in a mental health service where having a fag with a patient used to be a way to foster engagement.  How times have moved on.

The problem here was that this person is far from rich.  Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) report that, in developing countries, tobacco use comprises a person's ability to meet basic needs.  Well this is the case in the UK, a real first world problem as well for those on lower incomes. There was little over for food let alone for the things that we identified might help combat depression. Small things like paint for a bedroom and a haircut.  E-cigarettes seem a cheaper alternative but this person was insistent that they didn't get on with them.

So........ we've been working one cigarette at a time.  35p saved each day doesn't sound a lot but it all adds up. to about £10.50 a month.  Even that's enough to start to make a difference  to someone's diet.

Spelling it out in financial terms fag by fag has really resonated with this person.  They've cut their habit by a massive fifteen cigarettes a day over just a couple of months and will be starting a smoking cessation programme soon. Simple measures such as hiding the cigarettes away and questioning whether they need one each time they have a craving have helped.  This person feels like they have got control of their life back.  Their new financial freedom is one of the biggest factors.

Friday, 18 December 2015

What's In The Bag

Yesterday Cro at Magnon's Meanderings took inspiration for his daily post from the photographer Jason Travis, who takes pictures of the contents of stranger's bags.  'That's a blooming good idea!' I
thought.  So now it's my turn to share what I lug around on my shoulder all day.  It gave me a good excuse for a tidy after all:

So here we have:

Tablet - kindly donated by my employer for personal and private use.  I gave my own one to my brother.  I'm not a fan of having more stuff than I need.
Charger for my laptop - not the device itself as that was by my bed when the picture was taken.
Boomerang umbrella - safe and sound  in my possession - for now!
My purse -  with an inordinate amount of cards but not....
A whole load of loose change - I'm a bit forgetful with zips at times.
Till receipts - now binned following the photo shoot.
Teeny pieces of sweet wrappers - ditto
Pencil case and a tape measure - my nursing colleagues rib me.  Apparently every occupational therapist has those
Loose pens - that zip problem again.  They include my gorgeous fountain pen that makes my writing neater.  It's fairly new and came with a couple of cartridge but there's also an ink converter in the bag for when I move onto the Quink.
Some heart shaped post-it notes.  A impulsive gift from my head occupational therapist, Sarah Joy.
Silver paper hat and nail clippers - from a 'posh' Christmas cracker that I pulled at the weekend
Sunglasses - as I live in hope of some rays
Hand sanitiser - for those less than sanitary situations
My latest reading - I'm still absorbed in finding out about that sensory stuff.
Pear in a bag - part of my lunch
Blue spotty paper bag - containing a scrabble keyring with the letter L.  Louis bought it for himself the other day.
Gauzy bag - containing a handmade felt Yoda.  For Louis' Christmas stocking.  Good job he doesn't read my blog
Rubberised monster purse - contains my pendulum in case I fancy a swing!
And a soft velvety bag containing my phone charger but not the lead.  That's another of those things that's escaped from its proper home.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Is that Iggle Piggle Out There?

This was yesterday's scene from the bus stop where I wait with Louis on the mornings when he's staying here.  I always feel a bit sorry for the bleary eyed boy who accompanies me.  He  looks as if he needs an extra hour or so more in bed. Still that early bird habit isn't a bad one to instil.

The little lights out in the distance on the left hand side of the picture are boats.  I love seeing what's going on in my very own seascape that's just a puny pebble throw from my front door.  It's the first treat of the day to myself.

I'm often minded of the intro of 'In The Night Garden' when I look out to sea whilst it's still dark.  It was a TV series that Lou watched when he was little, one of those that seems to me as if it is the product of minds affected by illicit drugs.  To be honest the actual programme got on my nerves with its repetition and squeaky voices. You'll see what I mean right at the end of the clip  I loved the bit where Iggle Piggle, the little blue fellow, hoisted the lantern, snuggled up under his red blanket and sailed out to sea though.  For some reason it makes me a bit misty eyed.  Silly old sausage!  The narrator by the way is Derek Jacobi.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Mad Wall Update

I'm decorating the large landing upstairs  and hope to have 'Craft Corner' operational by the New Year.  It will also mean that, instead of a storage facility in bedroom two, I'll have a fully functioning guest room soon afterwards . I need one of those. When you live so close to the sea lots of people want to visit!

As a diversion from boring old  gloss painting I've been tending the  spot  in my lounge that Louis has aptly named  the 'Mad Wall'.  There's been lunch time and weekend forays into charity shops and supermarkets where I've picked up bits and bobs that have been hung alongside the original collection.  The resin stag's head from Sainsburys was the  most expensive item. I think it was ten pounds. Every other new find was a fiver or less.  That's the usual budget I'd like to stick to for these finds.

The overall effect is pleasing and yes, I have to admit it is a bit crazy.   I like to think that it creates an atmosphere of fun and frivolity, a style I've named 'Toy Shop Chic' that's got approval from Barbie Nurse.  I'm planning a similar wall in my bedroom to add  more of that colour stuff  I crave.

I thought that I'd hone in  on a couple of my bits and bobs just to show that china plates and plaques are the only things that you can hang on a wall.  Here's a weird plastic bear that I found in a Norwich charity shop for a quid.  He's got that feel about him that shouts 'Collectable!' and I like to think I got myself a real bargain.  However an Internet search to see if he's the key to my fortune has been fruitless.  He'll stay on my wall until I'm offered a mad price for him.

And here's another upcycled find that I'm dead chuffed with   A piece of local textile artist Jane Foster's work  also ended up unwanted by someone.  But Lovelygrey came to the rescue.  It is now a much loved addition to the Mad Wall and will be treasured, as befits a handmade screenprinted toy, for many years to come.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015


No, not a post about food.  I'll save one of those unfeasibly difficult to follow recipes with revolting looking photos for another day. I realised earlier in the week that I couldn't let today pass without marking the occasion of my two thousandth post.  Back in 2010 when I put my first hesitant words out there in the blogosphere I'd never have imagined that I'd  going strong nearly six years later.  Well, maybe not strong but still going!

My 1,000th post was illustrated by the appropriate Roman numeral.    Although I could have gone down the same route again, there's a double M in the title and I won't labour a point.  Instead here's a picture of me and my boy that you haven't seen before. It's appropriate as these daily ramblings often depict scenes from our rather blessed life.

The  earlier post contained this Zadie Smith quote:

“The very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life.” 

These words are still pertinent but there are other reasons too for blogging.   The formation of a near daily habit has turned a vague idea that I'd like to be a writer into reality, at least in my own head.  Of course I haven't been able to give up the day job because of those huge royalty cheques but I'm still hoping!  There's often a symbiotic relationship between what I do and what I post.  'I'll give that a go so I can blog about it.' has been a thought on more than one occasion.  Yes definitely the practice has made me more audacious.  That's got to be a good thing.

If you leaf through old posts no doubt you'll find mistakes, inconsistencies, uncompleted projects, dodgy ideas and sometimes stilted language.  I do!  'Bejesus, did I write that!' I think.  Or 'Did I say that I was going to do that - really?' Yet I keep my body of work up there in its entirety.  It forms a record of the middle part of my life and is there for posterity, unless that is, some massive cyber attack destroys it.

Those words from Leonard Cohen have remained as a headline tag since the start.

'Forget your perfect offering.  There is a crack in everything.  That's how the light gets in'.

There!  Still so much relevance.  They're not about to disappear anytime soon.

Thanks for your visits especially from those who leave comments.  Your kind attention is much appreciated.

Julie AKA Lovelygrey x

Monday, 14 December 2015

Convent Bound?

I've met a couple of women  who have told me that they'd ditched the men in their life for God. Both went on to become nuns.  Each of them felt that an intimate human relationship was a poor match for their all encompassing relationship with the almighty.  Blimey! This falls way outside my own experiential boundaries.  I cannot even begin to envisage how their psyches operate. So even though I have rather a soft spot for Therese of Lisieux and her teachings that give weight to small acts of kindness motivated by love I won't be donning a whimple myself anytime soon.   Sod chastity.  The hunt for a blokey goes on!

It's all come back to me.  I now recall why I dislike the online dating websites so much. The usual ground rules that I follow of speaking truthfully and being reliable and down to earth don't seem to apply.  Nor do conventions about sticking to dating people around your own age. Lord knows how old the 76 year old who viewed my profile really is.  A friend said that it's fun to be seeking and obtaining attention from a myriad of men.  I don't find it so.  'At least it's a boost to your self-esteem' I was counselled when I told someone that a twenty seven year old had been 'winking' at me,  the preliminary sign of interest. But I'm content enough with myself  not to require this.  Any sense of being unworthy went out with the bathwater a long time ago.  And I don't need an entire fan club.  When it comes down to it I'm just after one person for mutual adoration. Hang the rest!

I'm also uncomfortable with the way that I'm making assumptions about others based on, not just their personal appearance but also the environment in which they took their profile picture.  I'm rejecting people on the grounds of dodgy taste in wallpaper and upholstery.  How shallow does that make me! Even so I can't help myself doing it.

Seemingly the problem  is that a pen portrait and a few photos don't provide adequate or verifiable information. There's a lot to be said for meeting someone in person or maybe being introduced through a friend.   Maybe I could forgive a style faux pas if I was convinced they were a half decent human.  I've done so in the past.  Oh well, Mr Metrosexual and Ruff Stuff are loving the intrigue at least.  They live vicariously now they've settled down into routine domesticity together with the dog. Ruff Stu thinks I'm being way too coy.  'Just press lots of buttons.' he advised.    What could possibly go wrong?! 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Read Different

A book arrived through the letterbox yesterday.  Woo hoo!  I'm allowing myself some literary purchases as reference material for work.   Well that's my excuse anyway.

It came with this bookmark with these thought provoking words:

'If you only read the books that everyone else is reading , then you can only think what everyone else is thinking'.  

Maybe this is one to bear in mind this Christmas if you're buying books as presents.  Ignore those bestsellers that are so heavily marketed and go 'off-piste'.  Or, next time you're in the library, seek out a forgotten title from a genre that you'd never normally consider.  Who knows what will happen?   Life changing potential is sometimes found by people who view something through a different lens than the one used by its normal audience.

With this in mind, I've strayed into the field of foreign literature and reserved 'Norwegian Wood' by Haruki Murakami.  It's from this Japanese novel that this quote was taken.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Cosy Friday

Hurrah!  Even though I've had rather a cracking week at work I'm glad to see the weekend's come around.  I'm exhausted.    So it was good to have a snuggly evening with blankies yesterday in front of the telly. No fancy cooking either.  Just a supermarket three cheese pizza with some extra bacon lardons and yes, more cheese.  It was not at all healthy but extraordinarily yummy.  We can't be Martha Stewart all the time can we?

Louis has just introduced me to Russell Howard's Good News.  As you see he finds it hilarious.  Now I'm not a regular TV viewer.  I don't have time. Even so, I'm not sure how this very entertaining programme has passed me by.  It's into its eighth series already.  For those of you who may as well be inhabiting another planet with no access to BBC networks this is a comedic look at the stories dominating the news.  It's irreverent, rude and sweary.  'Hardly viewing for a twelve year old then!' some of you may be saying.  But I disagree.  There's nothing there that Lou hasn't been subjected to in the playground.  In fact I'm happy to let him watch it as it opens up discussion about current affairs and helps Louis form ideas of his own that will shape the way that he interacts with the world now and in the future.  I'm pleased to know that he already abhors inequality, injustice and violence as much as I do. 

Friday, 11 December 2015

Being an Arse: A Reflection

I spent some time on the phone last night with a friend who was distraught.  She done something and felt that she'd made a complete and utter fool of herself.  Consequently she was beating herself up with a rather large metaphoric stick.  Of course it was making things much worse.  Well it would, wouldn't it?

Now I'm not a particularly perfect role model when it comes to getting it right in life.  If I look back there's been some howlers.  And indeed sometimes I can still make an arse of myself, or be an arse.  There is a difference I think.  However I try to view myself in  an overall positive light rather judging myself by my behaviour in my 'off' moments.  My hope is that these will become less frequent over time as I embrace compassion consciously and try to live a life based on tenets such as kindness, sustainability and dignity.

So my message today is the same one that I gave to my friend last night.  I think she found it helpful. Be kind to yourself.  Sure there will be times when you will make a complete tit of yourself.   but don't let these define you.    And if you can muster up the lurve, cut others some slack as well.   Try not to  label them by those incidents where they've behaved badly.  For we are all human and actions and words that are less than 100% perfect stem from suffering.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

First Song

Mostly when  Louis is living with me he takes the bus to school.  I walk with him to the bus stop. We cross the green near our house that overlooks the sea and spot the ships sheltering in the bay and the fishing boats coming in and out of the harbour below. Mr Metrosexual says that I am cosseting my kid and no good will come of it. But it's a little part of the day that I enjoy as it blows away those cobwebs that have been laid down overnight.  So I'll risk creating a namby-pamby and continue  this little ritual  until I'm banished by a stroppy teenager who no longer wants to be seen with his mum, even in the dim first light of day.

Instead of our usual routine I gave Louis a lift to school yesterday.  I was passing in the general direction on the way to a training course so it seemed a reasonable thing to do.  Lou likes to take charge of the music that accompanies us on a journey.  It's like having my own personal DJ in the car. Here's one he played for me specially as he knew it would go down well.  It made rather a lovely start to the day.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Wiki Brixham

It's not as if much meticulous research has gone into today's post as I found these 1895 pictures of my home town on Wikipedia.  They're produced by a process called Photochrom which sounded like a right royal pain in the arse to carry out.  Maybe a few of you might agree though that the resultant palette is rather gorgeous and perhaps worth all that painstaking work.  This is a view east of Brixham harbour.  In modern day photos you can just about see the chimney of our 1930s house peeping over the rooftops at the top of the hill.
As well as finding these beautiful images with these muted hues I've also discovered that a huge cone shaped flying saucer complete with entrance door hovered over the town for 80 minutes in 1967. Now there's something that you don't see everyday.  That might frighten those blooming gulls away for a little while. What the fount of all knowledge failed to mention is the tale of the Brixham Angel. During the Great Gale of 1866 the women of the town selflessly burnt their possessions in a big bonfire to guide their menfolk back to port.  Since then on dark nights you can hear the flap of angel wings over the port.....alllegedly!

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

A Happy Accident

For the first time in ages I'm enjoying work.  It's probably because I'm just doing my own job with working remote technology instead of covering two caseloads over a unfeasibly large area with a distinctly flaky laptop that was in serious danger of being hurled out of a window.  And I wondered why I was knackered and stressed!

It turns out that when I've got the energy I focus on occupational therapy voluntarily in my own time for fun. What a geek!  I'm reading in the evenings to enhance my understanding about how sensory treatment can be used instead of, or alongside drugs to alleviate distress and promote the well-being for people with dementia. Jolly fascinating it is too.  A colleague is getting great results. It's early days but I'm dead excited. I'm also heavily involved in piloting a research project to help my profession develop its evidence base.  Most people thinks that making  links between what people do and their well-being is good common sense but there's not enough proof of that in the academic journals. This potentially huge study hopes to help rectify that.

So, I'm off to support the Prof running the second of three workshops today.  The first was brilliant and offered lots of food for thought as well as a catch up with some lovely people that I hadn't seen for ages.  Somewhere during the proceeding I must have got excited and unintentionally took a photo on my phone of the contents of my bag.  I rather pleased with its textural stripiness!

Monday, 7 December 2015


Two of the most important men in my life are at odds.  Loved up himself, my brother thinks that I should hit the dating scene again given that I’d like someone around to grow old with. ‘You just have to drink coffee and chat!’  Louis isn’t so sure.  ‘I don’t want you to get hurt Mum.’ he told me whilst play fighting me. Given that he’s uncoordinated and I’d just narrowly avoided sustaining a healthy shiner, this utterance seemed tinged with irony.

When I tried online dating a couple of years ago, I largely lurked around the free sites.  There were regular blokes, seemingly looking for the same thing, a bit of commitment after we’d worked out that we could make each other laugh.   I have to say though there was an awful lot of geezers with an entirely different take on life.  For some strange reason I seemed to be particularly prone to attracting fundamentalist Christians from the southern reaches of the USA.  How they were drawn to someone so liberal in their politics and spirituality I’ll never know.  And then there was the bloke in the thong.  But we’ll quickly pass him by. There are some things that I don’t want to relive!

The general consensus is that, I’m more likely to find someone who’s serious about a relationship if  I bite the bullet, and eek! pay for a subscription.  After all an active life hanging out with my friends who comprise mostly of single women and gay and straight couples isn’t proving fruitful in spite of the fact that ‘I’m out there’.  So I’ve taken the plunge.  A few profile rewrites and  my ad was finally done and dusted just before lunchtime yesterday.   Sugar Plumb gave it the thumbs up. There’s a six month minimum subscription so I thought that it could run in the background whilst I got on with my life, doing up the house, sustaining the good relationships I’ve already got, immersing myself in a couple of exciting work projects….that kind of thing.

Many have visited. A few have ‘winked’.  There’s a fair few older guys who are close to my dad’s age and a spate of early thirty somethings who are looking for someone way more cougar-esque than me.   ‘What are you doing this evening, darlin’?’ inquired a keen 32 year old Plymouthian on Saturday night. ‘Eating fish and chips and making sweets with my son’ could have been my reply.  Instead I ignored him and the others.  I’d rather not get into conversations that will go nowhere. This tactic is about freeing energy not using it up. Let's see what happens.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Fudge and Beans

Four month of living here and there's been a sea change. Following  my gargantuan 750 mile tour of the UK. I arrived back on Sunday and, for the first time, thought 'Ah! I'm home!' Finally I'm starting to regard this house as my very own space to relax, create and feel comfortable sharing with the people that are close to me.  It's taken a while.

One of the things that I said I'd do this week was cook something that I hadn't before.  So in a moment I'll regale you with Salty Dog's signature bean dip that she knocks up at every gathering.  Whilst tasty it's not very pretty and hell I'm no food photographer.  So instead I thought I'd headline with a picture recording Louis' latest kitchen antics.  Those random splashes are not marks on your computer screen but the inevitable consequences of a twelve year old being let loose at a stove. More fudge is being made with Louis wielding that sugar thermometer that we bought a couple of weeks ago.  He's making a variant of this Walnut and Maple Syrup flavoured recipe substituting brazil nuts as they're a favourite of mine.  But this was the first of a few  fudgey batches. He wants to sell a whole load of the stuff at school for his house charities for animals and sick children.  Some pesky year 7 boy is beating him in his endeavour to individually raise the most money and that will not do!

Oh okay here's Salty Dog's famous bean dip.  I did warn you it's not very photogenic.  But I promise, cross my heart and hope to die, that it's jolly tasty.  It's versatile stuff.   As well as something to perk up crudites and lovely bread it would be great to fill a chimichanga or fajita or topping a jacket potato. It would also make a pretty acceptable substitute for the meat in a  veggie version of a shepherd or cottage pie.

It's dead easy.  Just fry up a chopped onion in a bit of oil.  Once this has softened add one tin each of baked beans and drained kidney beans that have been mashed with a fork or whizzed in a food processor.  Season with salt, pepper and paprika and grate a generous amount of cheese.  Just heat through and serve.  For those who don't losing their last shred of sophistication, follow my example.  It made a fabulous dunking dip for a home-made sausage roll!

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Every Girl Needs A Small Space

You know sometimes people asked your advice but have already made up their mind?  I got an excited call from Salty Dog on Thursday night.  'I'm in love.' she said.  Sensibly it turns out that the object of lust has wheels and isn't one of those incomprehensible blokey things that we're strangely drawn to in spite of their quirks.  This is it.  Like my own second home this is a Fiat Ducato but it's a van conversion rather than a factory built motorhome.  It's got swanky upholstery, plumbing, electrics, an awning and room for a porta-porti. And stickers to make it go faster.  On the downside Maff the Mechanic has taken one look, spotted rust, muttered about the need for welding and told Salty Dog not to touch it with a barge pole.  This is in spite of the bargain price requested from our friend who is selling it to raise funds for her dream cottage in Cornwall.

Here's a rather fuzzy interior shot. Salty Dog doesn't like the paint colour but is up for changing that. I'd go with a very pale grey myself to enhance the quality of the light in there. Salty Dog started dreaming the dream.  'I could take my nephew and niece away, nip over to Cornwall and France and even live in it if I had to.'  She baulked at the cost  to insure it but when you're new to this type of vehicle you've got to bite the bullet.  The price, of course, drops as you rack up driving experience.

'I'll sit on the fence.' I said, with my ultra-sensible hat on.   'Every girl needs a van and this one is well planned and equipped . But what do I really know about the ins and outs of vehicle maintenance?  I'd seriously be thinking about Maff's advice before going ahead'.

'So you think I should buy it then?' said Salty Dog. 'Good!'

Friday, 4 December 2015

The Heat Is On: Is It?

When it comes to house buying I reckon that I've sometimes taken longer to choose a skirt than the bricks and mortar around me that cost a five figure sum.  I go on the feel of a place rather than investigating the niggly details. Even though I'm loving my Brixham home more and more as stuff is getting straightened up, there's niggles that I didn't notice when I first looked around. Like the fact that, aside from  unused open fireplaces there's only two radiators to heat the large expanse of ground floor living space. Consequently with winter drawing in it's fairly nippy down there even though I've cranked the boiler up from its paltry eco setting.  It would help slightly if I worked out how to set the timer on the thermostat to come on before I get home. It's something that I'll try to get my head around over the weekend when my head isn't full of work mush

Red Mel says it's just the excuse that I need to fit that coveted woodburner but that's on the 'nice to have' rather than the 'necessary' list.  In the meantime  I've found this sound Energy Mythbusting advice from the Money Saving Expert.  I'll see if I can work my way through instigating the tips that don't happen to be old wives tales to make my house a little more toastie.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Thanks For The Basics

I've mentioned Mrs Simpson, my English teacher before. She's the one who put me off poetry for many a year.  But she could be funny.  'In my day' she once told us. 'We wanted a man to look like a man.  You young girls  seem to like weedy effeminate types - like Rod Stewart!!'  Lord knows what she would have thought of this bloke's hair.

I'd been thinking just how lucky we are in this country that there is clean air and water and imagining the plight of those who don't have these basics for their kids when this song came to me.  Even though the lyrics don't quite relate to my pondering they're quite beautiful.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Mad Wall Wish List

Louis has named the place near the telly where I hang an eclectic mixture of bits and bobs 'The Mad Wall'.  It's evolved since you last saw it. There's all sorts up there now: Plastic, wood, fabric,  a mixture of media  that seems to work.  All least it does in my eyes.   I'll show it off again soon once I'm home to take a photo at a time that when it's light. That's the problem with this time of year. Both my journeys to and from work are in darkness.  I feel a bit like a pit pony.

I'm so pleased with the effect that I'll be creating 'Mad Wall 2' in my bedroom, another attempt to liven up its dour white palette.  My hunt for more interesting artefacts is on around the house, in shops and outside to see what nature can gift me.  Even though they're outside my usual budget (nearly non-existent!) I'm rather taken by these Poochies side plates by Carola Van Dyke, who came to my attention when a meal was served to me on one of these the other day.  They make a change from boring white porcelain and would be a dead good fit  interspersed with other wacky finds.   Their patchwork nature could suit a patchwork wall.    Go to  the website and take a look at the fantastic line of 'textile taxidermy' too.  It's much less macabre than a stuffed dead animal!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Random Thoughts on Stuff

How did you do on Buy Nothing Day aka Black Friday?  I always start off with good intentions but then it goes tits up.  Sometimes I have to pop out for a forgotten essential ingredient in a recipe.  This year I bought wine, flowers and chocolate for those who kindly showed me hospitality last week.  I did think of nipping out the evening before to get them but I couldn't be arsed!

I've just finished the Stuffocation book that I bought the other day. It'll be passed on soon so it doesn't clutter up my home and become part of the problem that it tackles.  It was an interesting read and surprisingly didn't take an ultra-minimalist stance.  There's talk about how some of our possessions have intrinsic value because of the positive experiences that they give us.  That can be because of what they're used for, such as our hobbies, or it may be just that their presence in our lives lifts our spirits.  Like some of the arty stuff I've got around the house.  I like that idea. It's so William Morris.

Salty Dog and I came across this quote the other day which spoke to us loudly and clearly.  It feels particularly pertinent to me.  Last week I decided to honour a commitment rather than act in my own best interest in a situation where materially the stakes were high.  I'm feeling some disappointment but this is countered by the knowledge that I've done the right thing.  Even so,  I'm truly surprised by how many people think I should have looked after number one.  It's made me wonder about just how pervasive the practice of putting one's own self-interest first and foremost has become.