Thursday, 30 April 2015

When to Walk


Here's a picture taken at the gloriously tranquil Stover Lake the other night.  As least it was peaceful until Louis arrived. Even so, one new friend, the robin stuck around a while, unbothered by the incessant yabbering of a twelve year old.

I've been doing a lot of little hikes after work now the evenings are lighter.  Of course I'm spoilt for choice in South Devon.  I can head for the hills, the woods or the sea.  It seems though that I might be picking the wrong time to treat myself to gentle exercise for Henry Thoreau says:

'An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day'.

Hmmm!  Good advice that I really might benefit from taking on days when I'm not the one doing the school run.  I'll need to reschedule my blogging and chores so it's achievable.




Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Wanted: One Magic Carpet

For the last few weeks, yes weeks, I've been sleeping really well.  This is unheard of.  What's more I'm not resorting to any strange rituals or techniques.  I just sink into the pillows and drift off to the wonderful Land of Nod.  I'd like to recount fantastical dreams involving magic carpet journeys to strange lands with an attentive handsome prince but it's rare that I remember any of them, even those where the subject matter is more mundane. What I do know is that life in the real world is very happy indeed.  I'm not fatigued and seem to have plenty of time on my hands for all the things I need or want to do.  I'm studying, being creative, volunteering with the Scouts, planning wonderful holidays and doing quality stuff with my friends and child without thinking about how I'm going to fit everything in.  It just fits!  What's more it seems Louis' pretty pleased with the situation.  He turned to me the other day and said that he wished that he could be twelve forever as he's having such a good time.  That melted my heart.

The reason for this sense of freedom is all too clear.  There's been a rare lull in my workload and I don't come back home with a head fretting about the stuff that I haven't done.  Mainly I clear my desk or, if I haven't, I know that the stuff is pretty unimportant and I'll do it the next day.  It would be lovely if I could make a resolution and say that now I'd reached this state of affairs I could maintain it by my own efforts.  But I can't.  Too much of what I do is outside my control.  In mental health crises happen.  So I need a good think.  Do I continue to work in the public sector until retirement age with all the perks that provides and accept the times of stress or do I create a working life where I am more in control and probably healthier physically and mentally? I think that I know the answer.  It may take me a while to dream up with the details. Maybe that magic carpet will come along and  take me on a journey to show what's possible!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Days Out in Devon: Dartmoor Prison Museum

Someone staying on the campsite the other day told me that there was a museum at HMP Dartmoor.  I hadn't realised.  It seemed like a good idea for a day trip so I took the boy on Sunday.

Those inmates are a crafty lot, and, of course, with a lot of time on their hands they need something to do.  Some of them have got a bit too enthusiastic painting plaster cast ornaments to sell in the shop.  There are literally hundreds of gaudily decorated figures; gnomes, Buddhas, frogs,  Super Mario Brothers, Hedgehogs and individualised 'Fingers'.  No penguins though.  Another visitor was asking if they had any and it doesn't look like that particular mould is in the workshop.  Perhaps they need to get one.  It could be a bestseller!





Now many museums have gone hi-tech these days with all sorts of gadgetry and push button wizardry.  Not this one though.  It a collection of lovingly curated objects which tell the fascinating story of the prison from its origins as a stronghold to house Napoleonic prisoners.  Today it's a low secure establishment, mainly for inmates nearing release.  One room houses a collection of objects that have been found on those trying to plot their escape.  Apparently it was quite easy to get out in the olden days.  Here's a map from one prisoner's escape kit showing just where he was heading to after he'd legged it over the high walls.


There's collection of artwork as well that leans heavily on models made of matchsticks.  I particularly liked this kitsch film poster-esque picture of Father Costello, one of the prison chaplains from the sixties.










Of course there's an arrow suit.  It looks a bit scratchy to me.  I hope the prisoners had thermals to wear underneath.  Its wild and woolly territory for most of the year.  The picture below shows the actual prison, perched on the high moorland.


We weren't disappointed  by our trip. Nor was a work colleague who'd been a couple of months earlier.  'Three pounds fifty well spent' she said, and then showed me her souvenir keyring, made by an inmate, with the familiar arrow motif cut out.  Now there's a symbol that hasn't been used on prison clothing since 1922!

Monday, 27 April 2015

Vintage 'Toffee' Cookies

Louis' school is running its version of the  Great British Bake Off today. The entries, if they make it to school in the first place, are then going to be sold off to raise funds for the local hospice.  Year 7 have to make cookies and unfazed by the fact that this is virgin territory for the halogen cooker, Louis throw himself into the task with gusto.  Not only did he bake these but he invented  bits of the recipe himself. Here it is


  • Take a recipe for Vintage Chocolate Chip Cookies on the Internet.  Check out what ingredients you've got in the house/motorhome. I just needed the vanilla extract. Omit the  chocolate chips and replace with toffee ones.  Asda in Newton Abbot don't have those.  After way too much deliberation we bought a packet of  Devon fudge instead.
  • Unwrap every piece of fudge and cut it up into tiny pieces. Discover that the recipe calls for 250g of chocolate chips.  There was only 150g of fudge (minus a couple of bits that I'd surreptitiously nibbled when Lou wasn't looking).
  • Use a calculator to convert quantities in recipe to three quarters of those stated.
  • Get pernickety child with SPLD to do weighing.  They will insist on exactness.  Take 112.5g butter and cream it with 60g castor sugar and 60g muscavado sugar.  Lie and say that the white stuff is granulated otherwise all hell re: wrong ingredients will break loose.  Mix in 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and one medium egg and the 168.75g of plain flour 0.1875 of a teaspoon of salt and 0.375 of a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.  Add fudge chips and a bit of maple syrup as that might be quite nice.
  • In absence of greaseproof paper pop a piece of oiled foil onto the baking dish in the halogen oven.  Cook four teaspoon sized balls of dough for about seven minutes on 190 degrees celsius.  Watch as they meld together and get a bit burnt.
  • Take out of oven and fail to release anything that looks like it could be entered into a cookery competition from the foil without breaking it.  Eat messy baking remains  Mmmmm!  
  • Brace self and be prepared for long hunt to buy greaseproof paper.  Yet, miracles do happen in small town Devon. The Spar in Ashburton stocks it!
  • Walk back to car with small boy hitting mum on arse with greaseproof paper box.  Utter death threats.  Drive back home listening to boy band rubbish.
  • Cook remaining dough in five, yes five batches on greaseproof paper.   What a palaver! We squished each dough ball with the back of a spoon before cooking and put them wider apart.  Duh!  
  • Makes 21 - but only fourteen will make it into school tomorrow.  Not the tidiest looking biscuits as far as appearance goes but as the disappearance of one third of the batch shows before they could cool down, they are really yummy.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

An '80's Reward




Louis and Sugar Plumb's kid, Isaac,  tested out his tent last night.  We think that it was alright.
There's been no sight nor sound of them yet so they must be cosy.  Sugar Plumb and I drank a little bit too much Prosecco which must be the reason why we've got muzzy heads this morning.  Nothing that mainlining tea for the next hour or so won't sort out.

Late at night, fuelled by bubbly,  we got to reminiscing about our '80s youths, a time when women were girlie and the men on Top of the Pops that we 'loved' mostly wore more eyeliner than I did.   And that was saying something.  The stuff  dripped down my cheek.

Julian Cope from Teardrop Explodes was an exception though.  No excessive face paint for him. Here's the band's anthem.  The motorhome rocked to this at midnight!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

A Cockroach Speaks

According to Pixabay this is a cockroach.  I have to say that I'm rather taken with him although have my doubts that he's the real thing. Surely it's not a real creepy crawly but the result of some bizarre holiday club craft project using leaves?

I've been in two minds about speaking out about Katie Hopkins for a long time on the grounds that 'all publicity is good publicity' even if it is from a tiny blog.  But now the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein has spoken up,  I feel that I should add my voice. After all hasn't history shown that remaining silent in the face of unacceptable pourings of hatred been very dangerous indeed?

Katie Hopkins would probably dislike me intensely. Hell, as a pinko leftie van dweller I'd probably be given cockroach status alongside those poor refugees who she obviously views as worthless.  I also waste taxpayers' money by working with people with dementia to help them explore why their lives are still valuable rather than coshing them with a big stick as soon as they are diagnosed.

Firstly I'd like to express my utter disgust at those media companies who is paying her to spread poison.  All that press coverage, those TV and radio appearances are outrageous.  What has the world come to when this is viewed as entertainment?  Secondly spare a thought for her three  young children.   Katie Hopkins fears for them so much that she has had a panic button installed in her Exeter home.  Now that may be routine in some parts of the world but it's  certainly not normal for Devon.  My son is safe and happy. There's no need for over the top security because of the venom that his mother is spouting . He's taught what matters, how to be kind and that he is loved.  I fear the messages that these kids are getting and the effect that it will have on their later life.  No doubt they wouldn't be allowed to play with Louis but can't his mother see that her own behaviour represents a bigger threat to their welfare  than playing with ' a poor kid'?

Friday, 24 April 2015

Bear? Bull? Who Knows!

It's been a while since I talked about my stock market investing so let's give you an update.    About a year ago I decided that I wanted to make a better return on my money than I could  achieved from a savings account.  Interest rates are so paltry these days. Share dealing was the way that I was going to make my fortune.

Let me say it hasn't entirely worked out in the short term.  I'm not going to be retiring anytime soon.  The gains I've made probably are about same as those teeny tiny interest rates for an awful lot more work.

The market sank alarmingly a few months back but that's not the problem.  It's bounced back since.  I haven't made gains as I took alarming hits on just two shareholdings that sunk to about 50% of their value.  Rather than play a waiting game I cut my losses and sold them.

I'm not giving up though.  After all I'm an optimistic soul.  It's been interesting and after all I haven't lost anything.  During my journey I've learnt a lot more about analysing the market and understanding broker speak.  My investment strategy has become more cautious.  I'm  mainly sticking to the FTSE-100, the top rated shares in the UK, from which to take my pick.   There's so much more data on these on which to base decisions.   I'll leave the more risky stuff to those who are braver souls than me. After all it's my nest egg that I'm playing with.  It seems right to be cautious.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Ear, Ear, Ear

Photo: Chris Chapman
My colleagues got a bit of a zoology lesson last week when I  told them that hares and rabbits are not related in any shape or form but entirely different species.   Some of them were as surprised as I was when I found out. With the joint characteristics of those pointy ears and fluffy tails it's easy to see how the mix up came about.

I've just come across the 'Tinner's Rabbit's' wonderful symbol that repeats itself around Devon, in stained glass and most frequently carved in the bosses of church roofs.  Yet they're not restricted to these parts.  A German Riddle describes 'Three hares sharing three ears, yet everyone of them has two'.  A Bavarian town uses the symbol as part of it's town crest.  Now that's got to be better than a couple of wavy lines and a few swords.  If you read the Wiki article it seems that these interconnected creatures can be found in ancient sights much further afield.

There's a trail that takes in seventeen churches where the hares/rabbits can be spotted.  Now that looks like something that me and Louis could do.  And local artist Chris Chapman must have cricked his neck taking photographs of all those fine roofs.  I'm very taken by the imagery.  Perhaps I now have an idea for my next linocut.




Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A Concerted Effort

In this day and age of modern gadgetry it is all too easy for our kids to have their nose to electronic devices for way too much of their time.  After all they're brilliant toys and educational resources that can be adapted for a myriad of uses.  No wonder they're hooked.  I'll admit too, that it can be bliss for a parent to have a child that's completed engaged in an online game or movie.  It makes it much easier to get on with your own stuff.

There is more to life though than staring at a addictive, virtual world.  Balance must be restored. I'm sick of telling Louis off for tablet use at inappropriate times and places and putting bans of varying lengths in place.   A more positive, upbeat approach is needed.

So I'm making an extra special effort to do something daily with my son that doesn't involve screens.  It might be based indoors, like the badge making activity the other day.  On one evening last week we pored through guidebooks to plan what we'll do in Seattle and Vancouver in the Summer.  A Duck Tour is on the top of Lou's wishlist.  Mostly though we're out and above.  Who wouldn't be with Dartmoor on the doorstep?  We had a Nerf Gun battle around a tour one evening.  I don't think I've laughed so much in ages.  Last night we thought we'd check out the wildlife at Haytor Quarry.  It's a favourite haunt and now it's warm enough for the newts to come and play too. We named each of the ones we caught.  There was Isaac Newton (of course), Newt Gingrich, Olivia Newton-John and Florence Newtingale.  There were even one called Bob!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

And So The Plan Is.......

Right!  I said that I'd come up with a definitive plan about our living arrangements  so yertiz as they say in these parts. Or , let me point out that it's as definitive as it can be in a world where things can change in a split second for better or worse.  It is good to remember that things are not set in stone.

As many of you might have gathered Louis and I will continue to live in the motorhome over the summer. Life is good here and, with warmer weather, it is likely to get even better for a couple of peeps who love the outdoor life.  I bought Louis a lovely red pop up tent for his birthday and already there is a little line of small boys and a girl or two who want to sleepover and burn themselves on the barbie or fondue set.  If we fancy a weekend at the beach, well we just move our house.  It saves all the palaver of all that packing.

If I were on my own this life would continue ad infinitum, well for a fair while anyway until I actually did get fed up or the van fell apart.  But with a growing lad in tow half the time I have to be mindful of another human being.   I'm not sure how enamoured Louis will be about living long term in a very small space with an embarrassing mum.  He's enjoying it now but  I want his memories of this spell of our life to remain warm and fuzzy.  I don't want to extend our stay until he's well and truly fed up.

And so we will move into our spacious  Brixham home in the autumn.  Unless that is, my tenants decide to move out sooner.  We'll then head off to our new seaside bound life earlier.  For I've learnt from past experience that it is wise to factor a little bit of fate into the equation.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Knobbly Bobbly!

Now I'm a big fan of those vintage crochet blankies.  I have two, this one and this one.  They're in storage at the moment ready for me to enjoy when I grow up and stop messing about  in my Wendy House on wheels.  When I move into my bricks and mortar home I'll then drape them artily over my living room seating again to give that  retro homely feel that I like.  Living in the motorhome I just have to make do with my poncho which has a similar patchwork theme going on.  It's great to snuggle under at festivals or the beach.  I'd be mightily pee-ed off if I turned my back and someone cut up any of my woolly treasures to make the latest must-have garment for the man who wants to get in touch with his inner hippie.

But that's exactly what Lord Von Schmitt is doing.  Beautiful old blankets lovingly knitted by grannies are being 'upcycled' and sold on Etsy.  Here, I've chosen a selection for your viewing pleasure. Now there was me thinking that down, fleece or Gore-tex might be appropriate attire for a walk in the snow.  Silly me! Of course, encasing those jubblies in a open knit garment is going to suffice.  I'm not sure how quickly that this will catch on in Devon though.


I think this gravity defying pair  are the ones that made me giggle the most.  It's the colour and the knobbliness of the knit that's cliched it.   How is something so bulky staying up on such a skinny guy? I'd hate to think what would happen if they got wet.

Just in case any blokes out there have a hankering for that scratchy woollen feeling around their parts  I've included this link to some fabulous '40s style trunks.  Just make sure that the little woman in your life who's going to make them for you heeds that advice about tight tension.  Now we wouldn't want you to suffer from saggy bottom syndrome would we?

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Metta: The Antidote to Snakiness

A little voice told me to reintroduce Metta Meditation back into my life. I'm not sure if it was my inner self or of one of those elusive celestial beings that I'd like to believe are around to protect me.  Who knows? It doesn't really matter who had the idea as it's a good one anyway.  The intention is to invoke feelings of warmth and friendliness.   That can't be a bad thing in this world where often these niceties are lacking.   And let's 'fess up.  I myself can be a bit snaky at times so I need to do something to get this out of my system as much as the next person.

The  practice starts with directing those good vibes towards yourself for we can all be too self-judgemental at times.   Even though I'm far more self-forgiving than I ever used to be I still need to be reminded not to be too hard on myself as an erring human.  After becoming still and focusing on the heart, words along the lines of the following phrase are repeated.

May I be safe, happy and well. May I be peaceful and at ease.

The same sentiment is then expressed in turn about a loved one (Louis!), someone neutral for whom there's no particularly strong feelings and then a person where the relationship is difficult.   One talk I heard was very clear that you only needed to bring to mind a singular individual who had pee-ed you off.   You don't have to think of  everyone who's been hurtful,  cheated you out of money or cut you up at traffic lights.   Grrrrr! Just a solitary miscreant suffices as they will act as a paradigm, an example from which loving thoughts can be extrapolated to all those other bastards.  You see I'm not there yet!

There's lots of free resources out there .  Just have a little look on YouTube if you're interested. There's guided meditation and talks aplenty  to whet your appetite.  My favourite resources are a couple of long talks by monks, which incorporate meditation practice that have caught my fancy, this one by Ven Ajahn Sujato and another with the incredibly smiley Bhante Vimalaramsi.






Saturday, 18 April 2015

Van Half Empty, Van Half Full

Gotta share, gotta share!  Remember last month Salty Dog and I went to see the awesome local band 'Land of the Giants'. Well they were playing again last night in  Plymouth as the main act   in the first of four live free music events held in the Piazza in the middle of the city. A big group  of people, friends, friends of friends, random strangers were up there at the front dancing our little socks off.  And what do you know. One of the guys  who I got talking to is the photographer at some of the band's gigs.  He introduced me to the unfeasibly cute lead singer who (sigh!) picked me up gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek! No I didn't dream it.  It actually happened.  Salty Dog is dead jealous and I won't be washing ever again!  Here's a link to one of my favourite tracks in celebration.

Excitement over.  Soon I'll be heading back up the A38 to the motorhome.  There's work to do.  I want to get the latest module of my Masters out of the way so that I can enjoy the summer.  And so my mult-functional teeny tiny living space will be transformed into a study.  Thank goodness that most of the books and papers that I use are online, can be stored electronically and don't take up oodles of space.

People react in diametrically opposed ways in response to the notion that I live in a motorhome. When Mr Anonymous from Guyana was introduced to Klaus the Knaus he looked at me with genuine concern.  'How do you live like this?'  Lots of others get it and seem to have a wistful look in their eyes.  I'm living their dream.   Now  I've been full-timing in my cosy home on wheels for six months, half the time with a rambunctious kid.

So I've been thinking about why it works and I haven't succombed to claustrophobia.  Of course I'm not holed up there all the time and that's part of it.  I go out a lot, seeing friends, walking or cycling and now the weather is warmer I'm sitting outside more.  When I'm home, even when it's dark I keep all the blinds open which adds to a sense of space,  Keeping it uber tidy and uncluttered obviously preserves my sanity.  As does normalising the experience.  I do pretty much what I used to in a brick built house in my motorhome - baking, crafting, writing, meditating, playing  with Lou and helping with homework.  Friends are welcome to visit.  I feed and water them and they sometimes stay over.  Maybe this sharing fills the van with good vibes.  Who knows?  What I am sure of is that I'm happier than I've ever been.  My glass is well and truly half full.


Friday, 17 April 2015

Repetition


A couple of friends shared  this short video with me on Facebook.  It illustrates beautifully a familiar topic that comes up a lot in my work with people with dementia and their carers. 'She ask things over and over and over again!'  an exasperated husband said to me just a few days ago.

It's easy to think badly of  the son in this little story don't judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes and all that.  This is a problem that is hard to live with day in, day out.  It would drive me absolutely potty!  So, if you know someone looking after a person with dementia, are you in a position to give them a break?  Allowing them to walk away from a situation for a little while  gives them time to recharge their batteries.  And that repetitive questioning can be due to boredom, the sign of a mind that's not sufficiently occupied.   Doing something with the person  that they find enjoyable while you'll with them can make a lot of difference.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Who Gets My X

'Tis the season that those politicians seem to be ignoring the wise advice 'If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.' even more than usual. They're all PR-ed up to the hilt these days too.  It's rare that someone is interviewed where we are to see the genuine person behind the carefully manipulated facade.  When we do  get a glimpse of  the human frailty that we all possess they're pounced on and criticised.

Sometimes I'd like to wash my hands of it all and ignore the political furore going on.  Yet I can't as people died so that I could vote. I view it as a duty and not  optional.

I also do so  because I've got a sense that a wealthy and increasingly powerful minority would  prefer it if us minions kept our traps shut and did not express opinions. That would never do.   And maybe my moderate vote counters extremism too.  It's sensible to remember that the Nazi Party in Germany were elected on  nowhere near a majority.   Some of the stuff that I'm hearing from some parties seem to express far too little compassion for those who are disadvantaged and oppressed.     Am I overreacting if I think this seems dangerous to me? No matter if I am.   A healthy dose of paranoia is acting as a good motivator.

So who will get my tick in the box on polling day? Just in case I've got some parties completely wrong I decided to examine whether their policies were a good match with  my own beliefs and values.  After all leopards sometimes change their spots.  I've been trying a few of those online quizzes. like whoshouldyouvotefor.com, voteforpolicies.org.uk and votematch.org.  Have they shown that my true colours are indeed blue  or, horror of horrors, purple?  Unsurprisingly no.   Nor, thankfully am I a good match with the Liberal Democrats who betrayed many   tactical voters in 2010's General Election who'd hoped to see the formation of a left of centre government.  That would have caused a bit of emotional turmoil.  I resolved after the event never to vote for them again.

I pretty much knew that I'll be putting a tick in the box of either the Labour Party or Green candidate. So have all those quizzes helped me decide between these parties? Sadly not.  My views seem to sit squarely in both camps.  I'm still in a quandary about what to do.  What I need is someone to come up with a really good tiebreaker to help me decide!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Not Really Silly String

Every so often I come across a piece of art that gives me goosebumps.  I never know when it's going to happen. It might be when I pass a gallery, stumble upon something online or visit someone's home. This time I was flicking through the free 'Plymouth Magazine'.  Salty Dog had picked one up and left it in the motorhome.  Bah!  It told me that I had missed the exhibition of the work of the cityscape artist Edward Waite and showed this example which I covet very badly indeed.  It depicts the top of Smeaton's Tower, a  familar landmark in Plymouth that was originally the lighthouse that stood to ward ships away from the Eddystone Rock.   I love the use of colour and the silly string-like texture of the work.  Sometimes art is better when its made that transition from 2D to 3D.


I went off in search, on the artist's website, for more squiggly familiarity and found some.  He's a well travelled guy and depicts his own take on urban landscapes from around the globe.  This was somewhere I've visited many times.  Once, in my late adolescence, I ended up to Trafalgar Square, on New Year's Eve with a group of friends where we went with tradition, jumped in  fountains and kissed policemen.  It's a bit of a change from December 31 2014 when midnight found me tucked up in bed bringing in the New Year in the Land of Nod.

We were back at Nelson's Column on the day of my birthday a couple of weeks ago.  There's a security guard who has the almost impossible task, being unarmed, of keeping the kids off the four lions at its base.  I took a photo of Louis earlier in the month on our birthday trip sitting between two of those enormous bronze paws. Even though the big cats seem to be missing, this lovely artwork brought back memories of a great day out.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Crafting in the Motorhome: Badge Making


Red Mel bought me this Indie Rock Button Factory by the Yellow Bird Project  for my birthday  It's one of a number of bits of merchandise that raises money for a charity based in Montreal that's supported by indie bands so it's credentials are dead cool.  What this kit contains is the gubbins to make what we Brits call badges twenty five of them. Buttons are  something different.  We have to sew, rather than pin those on our clothes.



One evening last week I banned Louis from any more screen time. His nose had been glued to his mobile phone for way too long. So I suggested that we made those funky badges.  He agreed and we got a bit of a production line thing going on.  The kit contains a piece of retro cloth covered in music themed designs. After he'd used the template on the back of the instruction book to identify which parts of he'd like to use I cut them out and he used the simple two piece press to make up our finished pins. There are twenty five of them altogether.  We made them all in about an hour.

And so what to do with them?  Louis wanted to put them all over his school bag.  But they were my present so my badges.  Actually I wouldn't have minded giving some to him except for the fact that I know they'll get lost PDQ.  So I've held my ground and insisted on sticking them on one of our cushions for us both to enjoy as a reminder of an evening of great mum-son crafting.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Bye Bye Mr Metrosexual

It's the end of an era. My lovely friend Mr. Metrosexual who's sat next to me at work for the last four years retired on Friday.  Hence yesterday's manic sausage roll making.   They all got eaten at his leaving do at a Brixham pub today.   'How are you going to survive without your boyfriend?' the girls who work on hospital reception have asked.  They see us going out together most lunchtimes to sample the delights of Totnes together. 'Do you know there's rumours about you two'. said one of the receptionists.  'Mr Metrosexual will be dead chuffed about that.' I replied.

This was his leaving present from all his colleagues, a fabulous raku hare made by Paul Jenkins, sold in the Ninety Three gallery at the top of town in the historic Narrows.  We went out to choose it together the other day. After all you don't want to surprise someone with something that they're not going to like.

Mr Metrosexual counts as one of my closest friends.   We share the same sense of humour and love a bit of juicy gossip.  Will it be so hard for me to manage with our daily banter?  I don't really think so. There's  geographical distance between many of the friends I've made along the way yet we remain close.  Sure Mr Metrosexual's departure will leaves a gap in my everyday life but past experience suggests that there's almost a certain guarantee that it will be filled.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

In the Realms of the Sausage Roll Factory

I have been a busy bunny already this morning.  No  lingering Sunday lie in for me.  Does that mean I have been very wicked in a past life?

We're partying this afternoon, an event that is bittersweet for it marks a transition in my life.  More about that tomorrow.   Food offerings have been requested from some of us and apparently I'm famous for my sausage rolls.
I don't know if that is a good thing. Maybe it would be better to be renowned for something way healthier made with lots of vegetables and wholemeal grains. But I'm not a Gwynneth Paltrow kind of girl. Perhaps if I were I'd get a guy more easily  Secretly I think they hanker after someone who will nag them and is hard work rather than a co-conspirator who will collude with them when they're in need of a meat and pastry based treat.  Now that's the kind of bloke I'm after.

There's nothing really fancy about the sausage rolls that I make.  I just use shop bought puff pastry and fill it with really good quality minced pork from slit sausages.   But as I've said before these homemade treats are way better than most shop bought counterparts because of the quality of the filling.  They're even more tasty if all butter puff pastry is on offer in the shops but that's as rare as rocking horse droppings around these parts except at Christmas.

Baking on this scale takes a bit of forethought in the motorhome but it's eminently do-able.  A little production line thing has been going on.  Fifty sausage rolls have been cooked in four batches in the halogen cooker.   The last lot are cooking as I write.  They've turned out beautifully golden and crispy.  But looks aren't everything.  It's the taste that counts.  Louis is insisting that they need to be tested to make sure they're okay!

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Lyrics to Live With

I like the current trend for using old fashioned typeset.  Take that lovely 'Light Living' print by Lesley & Pea that I showcased a while back.  It never made it into my motorhome as lack of wall space wouldn't have done it justice.  Perhaps its minimalist message will be pertinent when we move back into a 'proper' house later in the year.

It wasn't surprising then when this caught my eye on one of those banner ads that pop up when you're on the Internet.  I find them a bit spooky. It's as if some celestial ad-man can read your inner thoughts.  Over and Over on notonthehighstreet.com will take your chosen song lyrics and display them in poster form.  I love it - except  there's no room here at the moment to tempt me to make a purchase.

But it got me thinking.  What would the words be that were up on my wall for all to see.  What would yours be?  Many of the songs I like are too morose.  Take what is probably my all time favourites 'Forbidden Colours' by Riuichi Sakamoto and David Sylvian.  It starts like this

The wounds on your hand never seem to heal
I thought all I needed was to believe
Here am I, a lifetime away from you
The blood of Christ or the beat of my heart
My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes
Senseless years thunder by
Millions are willing to give their lives for you.
Does nothing live on?

Poignant and beautiful yes, but blimey!  Not words to gaze at after a return home from a particularly hard day working in a mental health team.

So what to choose?  A Kind of Magic by Queen was a close contender, a happy living room vibe going on here.   On a domestic theme  I love 'Home' by Simply Red and I'll Find My Way Home by Jon and Vangelis.  But they narrowly missed out.  Instead I'll plump for this one that conveys a sense of peace.  In my seaside home I'd display the words in the bedroom in the hope that on hot summer nights they'd spur me on to sneak out and swim in the cove across the street.


Nightswimming deserves a quiet night

The photograph on the dashboard taken years ago,
turned around backwards so the windshield shows.
Every street light reveals a picture in reverse
Still it's so much clearer

I forgot my shirt at the water's edge
The moon is low tonight



Friday, 10 April 2015

Inconsistencies

These are turnstones that I spotted in Mevagissey last week.  Some of their relatives live on my beloved Sarfend pier.  Along with long tailed tits and budgies they count among my favourite birds. They have a winter and summer coat to ring the changes. Rather like me under normal circumstances.  However, living in the motorhome my small collection of outerwear has to suffice.

I liked the fact that these little creatures had parked themselves on double yellow lines.  Try to ticket them Mr Parking Warden!  It's a bit random but I thought my snap might serve to illustrate inconsistencies in traffic law.  Take those double yellow lines.  I thought that they were meant to be painted in places where parking would cause a nuisance or a breach to safety.  Yet a lot of the time they seem to be one of the tools of a money making plan for councils.  Are we barred from many perfectly good parking spots in an attempt to force us into paying parking places?  It doesn't work for me if I can possibly help it. I'll seek out an unrestricted zone even if it does mean a walk.  After all I like a little stroll.

What's even more of a mystery is how speed limits are imposed.   Take for example, my drive back from Cornwall last week, when I passed through three villages called West Taphouse, Middle Taphouse and East Taphouse.  Each had pavements and houses yet one I could, in theory, bomb through at the National Speed Limit, another I had to slow down to forty or fifty mph and the final one I was sensibly restricted to 30mph.  Madness, or maybe I'm missing something.  There does seem no rhyme nor reason.  Sometimes I'll be crawling through an area, my speed restricted for seemingly no good reason.  At other times it's full speed ahead in areas where there really should be a bit more guidance.  A further worrying example  illustrates this point.

A few years back I was alarmed because  after driving along a busy two way country lane in the Teignbridge council area. There's a  school tucked away in a sleepy hollow just off it that sits just outside the village it serves.  Parents park on the main road to pick their kids up.  In fact there are marked parking places for them to do so.  Am I right to find the speed limit of 60mph alarming or am I over-reacting?  I don't think so.

In an act of responsible citizenship I wrote to the council pointing out my concerns for life and limb. They came back and said that they did not feel that that there needed to be changed as traffic slowed down to 30mph during school picking up and dropping off times.  Does it ever!  I know the problem has been highlighted since because Louis went subsequently went to that primary school.  Once a dad took it on himself to cut the overgrown hedgerow that meant that people had to walk in the road rather than on the pavement.  For reasons only known to themselves, the council hasn't budged and, thank goodness, there hasn't been a serious accident.     I hope to goodness that I'm never in a position to say 'I told you so'.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Not Needed but So Wanted!

I've coveted those huge festival flag on their skinny, bendy poles for a very long time but couldn't justify the expense of buying one myself.  Soooo frivolous! Ibiza Queen Vikki must have been reading my mind for she spirited me away to the car park in Ivybridge after our team meeting the other day to get my birthday present out of her boot (that's trunk to you Americans). She presented me with this beauty.  From the shape of the packaging I knew what it was going to be before I got it out of the wrapping paper and Vikki joined me in a little dance of joy that caused some passing shoppers to look a bit bewildered.   After all we're both 50 and not 12 so we're supposed to be a bit more demure. There might have been some whoops as well that attracted yet more attention.    I love it. Vikki and her husband Bean decided that this one was 'so Julie!'.  I tend to agree though am not sure why I should be associated with a pointy rainbow.

Louis was excited as well and put it up in double quick time after we arrived home on Tuesday.  We're displaying our groovy credentials in our staid quiet caravan park.  The banner will go with us on our travels this summer making sure that we're easily found by new friends and old at festivals and other forays.


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Escape from Death Row



My blog represents the quirky mix of stuff that passes through my brain.   Goodness knows what I'll pull out from day to day.  One moment there's a smattering of naughty humour, soon after there will be a piece art or craft that's taken my fancy  and then you may be subjected to a bit of navel gazing.  Sometimes I use my little home in the virtual world to speak out about something important, just in case a small female voice from the rural reaches of the UK somehow makes a  difference to the US justice system.  There's a slim chance but you never know.......

Yesterday morning the story on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme sharing the news that Anthony Ray Hinton had been exonerated from a double murder that he didn't commit.  This interview with this strong, dignified man who was freed from Death Row after thirty years of wrongful imprisonment brought tears to my eyes as I was driving.  I'd hoped to share the seven minute audio clip at the top of this page but somehow it didn't pan out so you can follow the link here instead.  Instead I've found this longer video from democracynow.org.  It also features Bryan Stevenson, the lawyer who fought for Mr Hinton's release.  I wrote about him just over a month ago after he appeared on Desert Island Discs. There's a happy ending to this tale but how many more people will die needlessly because they've been given a rough deal by a legal system that's skewed against those who cannot afford to put up an adequate defence?  I pray that the same thing doesn't happen in Britain but with so many cuts in spending I'm not so sure that we won't go down the same route if we haven't already.

And still I talk to my son and suggest that when he grows up he might not just use his intelligence to line his own pocket but to think of how it might benefit those in desperate needs.  I'm going to keep going with this.  It looks like it might be sinking in. Hopefully my pleas won't fall on deaf ears. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Boots Back On!



My walking activities have been curtailed in recent years by the arrival of a small child, pain from a Morton's Neuroma that has been successfully managed with a custom made shoe insert and then that darned knee with a bit of bother from my ankle thrown in.  But finally it seems that I'm on the mend so Salty Dog and I decided to head down to Cornwall this weekend and see where the path by the sea took us.   We were blessed with some beautiful weather.  Here's the view on day three on our jaunt from Mevagissey to Gorran Haven.  We tackled it in both directions and this together with a jaunt inland to find a hostelry at Gorran this meant that we covered a very acceptable distance indeed for two out of condition laydeees.
As someone who's done a fair bit of long distance hiking in the past I feel that I can talk with a bit of authority when I say that the South West Coast Path is some of toughest terrain that I've hiked. What it lacks in altitude it makes up for in rises and falls in elevation. There you are all pleased with yourself after climbing a bloody great steep bit and whoosh! The next thing you're negotiating an equally tricky decline on your arse back to sea level.   It's not good trying to take 'short cuts' across rocky beaches either like we did on Saturday.  That boulder strewn stretch looked easy terrain from above but was slippery with massive stones and took ages to traverse.   At least when we finally got to Charlestown there was a pub to catch our breath in as well as tall ships to admire.

If you fancy following in our footsteps and taking in a bit of the longest trail in Britain, a good start is visiting the website of the South West Coast Path Association and a good public transport timetables for the area you're in.  Don't do as we did and wait at the wrong top though.  We watched as our bus sailed past. It's lucky that we'd made friends in the beer garden who took pity and gave us a lift back to the campsite!

Monday, 6 April 2015

Speedboating with Stevie

A break from blogging although not self enforced.  I've been away in Cornwall with no phone signal or internet.  Nothing then for it but to go back to the communication Dark Age of the past.  Perhaps it's a good thing to do this every so often.

I've got a little backlog of stories to tell and so today I'm reliving memories of London from the day of my actual 50th birthday.  Instead of marking the occasion with something sedate to fit my advancing age, like tea in the Ritz (which we'll have to do  sometime),  someone had another idea.

Remember when I got roped into cooking nigh on a thousand canapes for e-Laura and her husband ?  Well, partly to thank me for that they bought a super-duper joint birthday present for me and Louis.  Given that we prefer memories to stuff they came up with the idea of a high speed trip up the River Thames on a high velocity speedboat to the massive flood barrier.  'Would that be okay?' asked e-Laura.  It wasn't just okay but perfect!




The guys from Thames RIB experience did us, and another party of another mum and a group of excited boys, proud.  The journey starts with an informative little jaunt in the wrong direction,  westwards from Embankment Pier, past the London Eye and on to the Houses of Parliament that according to the guide is owned by the Queen.  Then we turned around and headed at a slowish pace towards Tower Bridge.   It was there that things hot up.  Out went the powerboat throttle and we raced westwards, making huge waves and tipping alarmingly onto each side of the boat as the boat cornered this way and that.  Blimey I thought that we'd be in Southend in no time and could pop in to see Mama and Papa Lovelygrey for a cuppa!   We slowed down at Greenwich though to have a look at the Cutty Sark, the Observatory and the Naval College.


Then another twisty turny speedy ride down to the Thames Barrier. Wow!  Those pods are huge. By now we were getting chilly.  Just a little tip if you follow in our footsteps. Take woolly pullies, gloves, hat, everything that we didn't have.  The lovely waterproof clothing that we were lent didn't quite cut the mustard.



This funky boat moored on the north bank of the Thames was one of my favourite sites but apparently that funky decor isn't modern at all.  It was applied during the First World War and is a camouflage effect designed to confuse the enemy. Well it  certainly confounded me!





There was an eclectic soundtrack to our voyage.  Of course, we had to have a bit of Bond and the theme from Hawaii 50.  And to mark my birthday and that of one of the kids on the boat, this was played.  Stevie Wonder's album 'Hotter Than July' brought back memories from the eighties.  'That's old people's music' I told our tour guide, who was about the same age as me.  'I know' he said.  'It's why I chose it'.

  

Friday, 3 April 2015

To Baa or Not To Baa

Back to the peace and quiet of a campsite in rural Devon after the hustle and bustle of London.  Both good in their own way.  It's nice to ring the changes.    Anyone looking for something free to do in the next few months might like to consider another one of those sculpture trails that seem to be increasingly popular around Britain.    If the people that we met en route were a representative sample they seem popular with all ages.  We ran around the capital just after Christmas in search of Paddington in his many guises.  This time it was Shaun the Sheep's turn.

Shaun in the City comprises a collection of 120 statues.  It kicked off in London last week.  There are four trails and few lone off-piste Shauns.  All in all there's a total of fifty to find.  But there's more!  In June the action moves to Bristol, home to Aardman Animation, the creators of Shaun, Wallace and Gromit, Creature Comforts....They'll be seventy more to tick off there.



The trail raises money for the Wallace and Gromit Children's Charity and The Grand Appeal for children in hospitals across the UK. So I didn't mind forking out £1.95 for accompanying app.  This is excellent and has interactive trail maps, awards trophies for each milestone and allows you to tick off each Shaun as he's found.  As a mum and son combo with wanderlust, we think that 'Globetrotter' situated on Tower Bridge was our favourite.  It featured zany world maps on Shaun's back.



And here's the one outside Shakespeare's Globe theatre.  The Baard (geddit!) would have been proud.  Shaun as Yoric maybe?   Not called 'To Baa or Not to Baa' as I guessed but the equally corny 'To Sheep Perchance to Dream'.

So how did we do?  Well, we were on a mission to tick off the entire London tally on our two day trip.   We failed but managed an acceptable thirty eight.   Aching feet and a failing battery power in all electronic devices scuppered our plans.    Another trip is planned.  We'll bag the final twelve in May.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Patting a Pelican



I'm not sure if this is an act of extreme bravery or utmost stupidity but here's a shot of Louis getting way closer to a bird with a big beak than I'd dare. It was taken in St James'Park in London yesterday and I only agreed to let him do it after a fair few other tourists had done the same thing and hadn't had their arms bitten off. Apparently pelicans have very soft heads!  It's not something he'll be repeating with the grizzlies later in the year in Yellowstone that's for sure.

Yesterday I had a perfect birthday.  Lots to share but it will have to wait for another time. We're off out early. I've been given a mission that just has to be accepted!



Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Lessons Learnt

Top of the morning to you  from a 5 star hotel in London.  This was an item on Louis' bucket list so as a birthday treat I bit the bullet.  It's one of the lesser known ones and was way cheaper than I expected.  Phew!  The clever designers have lured my son into taking multiple baths without any nagging at all by putting a telly in the bathroom!  There's multiple gadgets for him to play with. Me? I'm impressed that the cup are made by Villeroy and Boch and there's fresh milk in the fridge for my morning cuppa.

Today is the day that I embark on the sixth decade of living on Planet Earth.  And here I'll firmly stay for the rest of my life.  You won't get me volunteering for one of those space missions to Mars.  We were shown the toileting arrangements on one of those spacecraft in the Science Museum once and I don't want to be doing that for a few years.  No, I'm better off staying down here.  There's plenty still to see.

So, my forties have now been and gone.  It was a rich and eventful decade.  Here I'm passing on some of the things that I learned.

  • I'm pretty nifty with a blowtorch and can now turn my hand to making something out of precious metal when the mood takes me.  But my crack cocaine of crafts is lino cutting, something I'll be exploring a lot more of in the fifties.  By the way my lovely necklace isn't one of my own creations but was made for my birthday by Sugar Plumb.  Thanks Tanya.xxx
  • It's not normal to have levels of anxiety that make you feel like you're being chased by a very ravenous tiger all the time.  Using meditation, self-studied cognitive behavioural therapy and yes, a bit of medication I've finally got shot of the mood disorders that's plagued large bits of my life since my teens. Unpleasant emotions such as sadness and sadness are part of normal life.  They aren't a sign that I'm going to plummet into mental illness again. It's best to acknowledge and face them.
  • You are rich if you have enough money to do and buy what you want.  If your desires are fairly modest then wealth comes quicker.
  • It's okay to write, sing, dance and have a go at stuff even if you're not perfect. Your efforts will at least give you something to laugh at.
  • You don't have to be liked by everyone especially those whose values, beliefs and actions are way off kilter from your own.
  • People can change but only when they want to and not at your bidding.
  • Being a parent is the most important and fun thing that I've ever done.  I've raised a happy, wise, funny and kind human being who's my best little mate.  I'm proud of that.
  • Life can be taken away at a moment's notice. Mine nearly was.  It's up to us to use all those precious moments in the best way possible.
  • I can drive a great big motorhome.  Whoop whoop!  That's in spite of the fact that I'm as accident prone as they come and words of doom from  doubting Thomases . Touch a bloody great plank from a Redwood tree.  I haven't done any major damage yet.  I don't intend to.
  • What goes around comes around.  So I strive to be kind and put things right when I've done wrong or see things that are unacceptable  I reckon that the generosity and love shown to me means that I'm reaping those karmic benefits!
I wonder what I'll learn in the next decade and where it will take me!