Saturday, 31 October 2015

Eliminating Annoyances

Call me OCD, as Louis erroneously does, but I can't bear living in a messy house.  It has an enormously negative effect on my psyche. I've noticed that it goes two ways.  If my home is untidy my mood dips.  Conversely if I'm feeling a bit blue you can bet your bottom dollar that, if I don't pay attention, the housework slips.   It's important then that things are shipshape for my sanity.  The fact I'm still living  in a degree of upheaval is one of the reasons why I'm a bit stressy at the moment.

My kitchen looks gorgeous but if I'd have been the designer I would have done it differently. It doesn't seem to have been properly thought out.   For example the sink is way over to the end of the worksurface.  There's nowhere to put the dirty stuff whilst washing up.  The island that divides the dining room from the kitchen is also positioned wrongly.  A foot over to the the left and there'd have been room for another much needed storage cupboard by the wall over to the right.   It would be parallel to the fireplace as well.   Minor problems I know when compared with world hunger or health epidemics but I can't help that they're important to me.  And my little niggles are something that I can do something about so let's crack on!

My biggest bugbear is that there is no dedicated storage for cutlery and utensils.   I have to go walkabout  to get a fork from the unit on the other side of the dining room.  And stuff like the potato masher and slotted spoons  were rattling around in one of the deep drawers with the saucepans.  It was a right bloody mess that was doing my head in every time I cooked.  That is until yesterday, when this arrived.

It's the Tool Turn-around by Pampered Chef.  Salty Dog has one and I thought it was just the job for me as well.  This cleverly designed utensil holder rotates and  holds up to 4.5kg of tools.  I've put it next to the hob where I'm most likely to need  the gizmos that it holds. I like the way they look.  Like some mad flower arrangement ....with spatulas!

Friday, 30 October 2015

Nutscaping for Girls

Photo:  Nutscapes
No-one can accuse me of not giving my readers variety.  If I'd have stuck to one subject I would have made a mint from blogging by now.  That's what I like to think anyway.  But instead one day you'll get a bit of madcap cookery, the next, some deep spirituality and that could be followed by my holiday snaps or a bit of art or navel gazing. Who knows what the next post will bring?


Photo:  Nutscapes
The latest  treat from Randomville is an extra special first.  Today I give you a photography lesson!  Gentlemen, have you ever taken a shot of a beautiful scene but thought that it lacked a certain je ne sais quoi?  Well I can tell you just what was missing. The enhancement you were seeking was a close up of your balls at the top of the frame.  You know it makes sense. Ansel Adams would be kicking himself if he was alive now.

Nutscapes gives clear instructions on just how to achieve this stunning effect.  It involves wearing loose trousers and then dropping them just at the point where you feel moved to take a photo through your legs.  There's some fine examples of the genre on the website.  I particularly like the ones where the gonads seem to glow.  Why hide away the family jewels when you can create such beautiful images for posterity?

By now, I reckon some of the girls out there might be feeling a bit miffed about being left out.  After all we don't have testibobbles to dangle in front of lenses whenever we come across 'an awesome scene'.  Never fear!  After much thought during the car drives between my visits to heal the sick,  I have come up with a perfectly acceptable substitute.  It doesn't need you to don an unsightly pair of jogging bottoms, stand with legs akimbo or bend over to take the shot.  You'll do nothing to offend the style police with my methods.

Here's the result of my experiment in Brixham today.   I'm sure you'll agree that the harbourside scene is enhanced with what looks like a perfectly adequate bollock.  One that is far much more symmetrical than the poor geezer's in the sunset scene above.    Let me reassure you that no male private parts were bared whilst this picture was taken.   What's more I was  wearing a rather pretty skirt, my apple catchers remained firmly pulled up and  I was standing perfectly upright.

Here's the secret.   I  didn't really fancy explaining what I was doing to passers-by.  People can be so ignorant when it comes to making profound art.  So after making sure that no-one was around I whipped out ......... a Scotch egg that had been lurking in the back of the fridge.  I'm sure you'll agree that, in spite of its lack of translucence it makes a more than adequate substitute!  If anyone has a better idea I'll be keen to hear it.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Buffers

In spite of being a glass half full person and one who's written about the Danish concept of Hygge in past posts,  I do not relish the return of darker days.  I know from past experience that my mood can be affected by  lack of light and, at the moment I've got to take  particular care.  There's too many stressors from work and living in a new home where there's so much to do to get it shipshape.

So I've taken stock.  I need buffers in place to protect me against the depression that hasn't been a feature of my life for so long now.  Blimey I've just looked back and realised that I've been off the happy pills for two and a half years.  That's good going!  I really don't want to  relapse.  So here's the measures I'm in the process of putting in place to stop it happening.

  • Eating and properly:  Duh!  I know it's obvious but when you live on your own and come home exhausted it's easy to fill your gob with crap.  I make sure my fruit bowl is full and I've batch cooked and portioned soups, stews and dal which I defrost in the morning and simply reheat at night.   I make sure that there's leftovers to supplement a healthy packed lunch.  Most days start with porridge and a banana.
  • Meditation:  I'm doing it again daily!  Sometimes mindful breathing practice in silence but at other times using Youtube as a resource for guided inner journeys.  
  • Making stuff:  This is so important to me.  I lose myself when I'm printing, sewing or making jewellery but it can't happen until I've unpacked my crafting goodies and the space to create has been set up.  Even though I'm not keen on DIY  I've reframed my view of painting walls and woodwork to see it as part of an arty project.
  • Sitting with my SAD lamp:  This beast of lux used to double as my bedside lamp but no more. It needs a new home where I can multitask by reading and getting the benefit of its rays at the same time.
  • Drawing on my inner resources:  I used to be really avoidant in an attempt to quell anxiety.  In actual fact that makes things worse.  Read about safety behaviours if you're interested in finding out why.  Someone told me the other day that they admired how I always tried to come up with solutions and worked on them even when lots of the brown stuff was hitting the fan.  I liked that.  It shows just how far I've come.
  • Accepting invites:  It's all too easy in the wintery months to hole up and become a hermit. Having things to look forward to seems a key part of keeping well.  November heralds a couple of parties, a trip to see a basketball game, Scout quiz night, a trip to Norfolk and making use of the offer of a free trip to the Eden Project for Devonian NHS staff.  'Yes I'll be there' is my new mantra.
  • Exercise: To replace those long evening walks and cycle rides  I've signed up for a yoga class and dug out the timetables for the local swimming pool.  On Ibiza Queen Vikki's recommendation, I'm embarking on the NHS's Couch to 5K plan to kickstart running again. There's an extra special effort involved with making time for hiking and biking at the weekends.
  • Giving:  What I've noticed in my work is that people with mental illness often become self-absorbed.  I try to encourage them to look outside themselves and do little acts of kindness for others.  It's time to take a bit of my own medicine!  As an ex-brownie guide I consciously think about what my good turn for the day might be.
There!  That should keep a lid on things until those lovely light days are back in the spring.  Perhaps I might even end up enjoying this particular winter!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Pebble Power

Thank you so much to my lovely friend, Aril, at Gnat Bottomed Towers  for directing my attention towards the work of Nazir Ali Badr, a Syrian, whose work is inspirational on all sorts of levels. This depiction of the country's refugee crisis is heart stopping.  It's the inclusion of so many little'uns that gets me.  Children worldwide should have a chance to play and learn and not caught up in the crap that a minority of  destructive adults, who have lost touch with our real purpose on this planet, have created.



On another level it is wonderful that this artist can give a woman who lives by a beach ideas for artwork of her own. Follow the link from the artist's name above to his Facebook page and then look in his photo album.  I'm sure others will find plenty there to spark their own creative processes. I reckon the resource to produce copycat art is freely available everywhere!

Perhaps the inclusion of so many whimsical works, that show everyday life that I can relate to, means that there are moments of normality for folk in the war  torn land of Syria. There's also some wonderful photos of children being encouraged to produce pebble art of their own.  Maybe these are times of respite where they can laugh, love and experience peace. I really do hope so.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Tooth Hurty

I paid an impromptu visit to the dentist yesterday, the third in a month.  The first was a regular check up for me and then there was one with Lou where he had the fluoride varnish applied that's supposed to prevent decay.  I didn't mention in my last post that it's free on the NHS for kids even though it comes highly unrecommended in terms of taste!

My latest visit was an emergency appointment.  Pain in a niggling tooth that my dentist thought was just a sensitive soul suddenly flared up to a level where eating and drinking was impossible.  Luckily ibuprofen staved off the worst of it so that I could quieten the rumbling tummy but PDQ action was needed.  There's an infection for which antibiotics were prescribed.  I was feeling a little rough yesterday evening and did pretty much nothing after the working day.  I beat myself up about the lack of decorating and getting on top of paperwork before exercising a bit of self compassion.  How can I relentlessly carry on when I'm not well?

At the surgery I spotted a poster that stopped me in my tracks.  It's from a charity called Bridge2Aid. 'What if your child had toothache and no hope of help?' was the headline.  It then pointed out that 70% of the world's population has no access to dental care.  Scary stuff for toothache is the worst!

I've been drafting my will lately.  Oxfam have an arrangement where you can have one written for free.  There's no catch.  Most of what I own will go to the nipper of course but I want to leave some of my estate to charity.  There's a few on the list already but I was looking for another.  Bridge2Aid who train healthcare staff around the world to provide emergency dental care fits the bill nicely.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Yep, That About Covers It!

Native American Code of Ethics
  • Rise with the sun to pray. Pray alone. Pray often. The Great Spirit will listen, if you only speak.
  • Be tolerant of those who are lost on their path. Ignorance, conceit, anger, jealousy and greed stem from a lost soul. Pray that they will find guidance.
  • Search for yourself, by yourself. Do not allow others to make your path for you. It is your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you but no one can walk it for you.
  • Treat the guests in your home with much consideration. Serve them the best food, give them the best bed and treat them with respect and honor.
  • Do not take what is not yours whether from a person, a community,the wilderness or from a culture. It was not earned nor given. It is not yours.
  • Respect all things that are placed upon  this earth – whether it be people or plant.
  • Honor other people’s thoughts, wishes and words. Never interrupt another or mock or rudely mimic them. Allow each person the right to personal expression.
  • Never speak of others in a bad way. The negative energy that you put out into the universe will multiply when it returns to you.
  • All persons make mistakes. And all mistakes can be forgiven.
  • Bad thoughts cause illness of the mind, body and spirit. Practice optimism.
  • Nature is not for us, it is a part of us. They are part of your worldly family.
  • Children are the seeds of our future. Plant love in their hearts and water them with wisdom and life’s lessons. When they are grown, give them space to grow.
  • Avoid hurting the hearts of others. The poison of your pain will return to you.
  • Be truthful at all times. Honesty is the test of one’s will within this universe.
  • Keep yourself balanced. Your Mental self, Spiritual self, Emotional self, and Physical self – all need to be strong, pure and healthy. Work out the body to strengthen the mind. Grow rich in spirit to cure emotional ails.
  • Make conscious decisions as to who you will be and how you will react. Be responsible for your own actions.
  • Respect the privacy and personal space of others. Do not touch the personal property of others – especially sacred and religious objects. This is forbidden.
  • Be true to yourself first. You cannot nurture and help others if you cannot nurture and help yourself first.
  • Respect others religious beliefs. Do not force your belief on others.
  • Share your good fortune with others.  Participate in charity.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Louis




Since I was in my twenties I was pretty certain of the name that I'd give to my first child.  If he were a boy there was never any doubt that  he was going to be  called Louis.  I like how the sound feels on the tongue and its French origins given my Francophile leanings.   I settled on Phoebe for the girl that never was. My first choice was another French name, Agn├Ęs, pronounced 'Anyes' but I knew that my daughter would always be saddled with correcting  its pronunciation from the harsher anglicised version ,

 Louis means 'Famous Warrior' and whilst my son is not an especially fightie person in the physical sense, he is as tenacious as it comes in a verbal battle.  Believe me I've had a few of those!  Many people think Louis Theroux was the inspiration behind my choice.  After all I'm a bit of a fan.  But the decsion pre-dates 'Weird Weekends' where I first came across him.   I reckon this guy, whose utterly joyous music  was part of the soundtrack to my student days, may have been the one who inspired me!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Impromptu Play

I won't see my boy until Monday week as he is off to Crete to spend half term with his dad.  Long absences are one of the pitfalls of co-parenting.   Unusually after today I've got nothing planned for the whole time he's away.  It'll mean that I can crack on with decorating, the perpetual game of catch up that I play with clinical notes and a job application.  More about that as the story unfolds.

Yesterday I took Lou to the dentist for a check up and his first ever application of fluoride varnish.  He wasn't particularly happy with that.  It tasted horrible. 'Like black banana!'  We arrived at the surgery with lots of time to spare. You never know how that Newton Abbot traffic is going to be. It gave us time to mess about in the grounds of Old Forde House, a Jacobean manor that's owned by the council and used for weddings.  It was a good job that one wasn't in progress while we were there.  We would have ruined that air of romance. Here's Louis on top of one of the sculptures that looked like a big stone version of Jenga.



There's something about being around a kid that brings out my inner child.  Rather than doing something grown up and sensible like contemplating the scenery or trying to identify plants I found some small spiky balls growing on this tree.  They were rather like mini chestnuts in their  spiny cases. Perfect ammo!  And so a battle commenced. I started to throw them at Lou on top of his tower. Of course that lead to some enthusiastic retaliation and lots of laughter. Passers-by with dogs looked on with amusement.

This spontaneous messing about was a lovely unexpected prize in a day that had seemed chore laden.  It's  a great memory to sustain me until Lou returns with the stories of his travels.


Friday, 23 October 2015

Pinko Pottery

Once when I was a tax accountant, a colleague who was around about the same age, told me that I would vote Conservative 'when I grew up'. Ha! That's why I remain young at heart. It's never happened yet.

 Maybe those left-ish leanings can be traced back to a 70's episode of 'Blue Peter'  where I learned about the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of agricultural labourers from Dorset who were transported to Australia for protesting when their wages were lowered from ten shillings a week to six  I must add a visit to the museum at Tolpuddle that commemorates them to learn more. It's really not that far away

I first came across this plate in a Totnes charity shop.  It was being sold for a fiver.  Then in the weeks afterwards I kept kicking myself for not buying it.  It was commissioned by the Trade Unions Congress to mark the 150th anniversary of the Martyr's transportation.  I particularly liked the colour scheme as well as the sentiment.  Thanks to good old Ebay I'm pleased to say that I now have one of my own.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

A Little Corner

At snail's pace so it seems, for I am an impatient bird the house is coming together.  The spare room still looks like a small thermonuclear device has been detonated in there but for the first time in ages I can get in there without imaging I am on a beginner's scrambling course. I can even see glimpses of carpet!  Each day I try to do something towards creating my vision of home, however little.

Although Louis' bedroom is nigh on done and dusted mine needs some work to make it cosy and welcoming.  In spite of having white walls and bedding it looks gloomy.  Perhaps when the eucalyptus tree in the garden gets the chop next month it will make a bit of difference but I'm not sure it's the entire solution.  There's a thinking cap that's well and truly wedged on.

On the plus side I am loving my beautiful big brass bed and here's the bedside tables that I've bought.  My old ones, storage type ones to go with my ill fated futon bed, looked dreadful.  Far too modern to be a good match.  They'll be used elsewhere in the house.

These are from Sylvester Oxford, a bargain £99.50 for two.  I'm really chuffed with them. Let me say that your'e not going to get craftsman quality at this price.  The drawers action is far from smooth and there's not a dove-tail joint in sight.  But I love the ornate fretwork and they are a really good fit with my vintage bed.

Here's the one on my side of the bed.  Even though there's no-one here to share it with I haven't migrated to the middle!  It holds heart shaped treasures from Louis and books. The drawers are handy for hiding away ugly charger cables. The lamp?  Yes it's another yet find from George Home.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Emaciated Student

I'm always on the lookout for copyright-free images to use on the blog.  Very occasionally I'll secret squirrel one in that isn't legit but always feel terribly guilty. Experience has taught me that I'm not cut out to be anything but squeaky clean and upfront.  It causes too much angst to be anything other.

So I was delighted to find out that the British Library has released an enormous and fascinating bundle of free to use pictures from its collection.  I'm not sure if this one demonstrates the effects of  too much book learning or if it serves as a warning against the excesses of student life. No matter.  It made me giggle!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Pre-Empty Nester

I looked back through my photos from our trip to the Pacific North West to source today's shot.  This'll do,  a weird and whacky one of me and the lad taken at the EMP in Seattle. It's a precious memory from a fun time together.  We've been incredibly fortunate to have loads of those.

My son is changing.  His newly decorated attic bedroom has gone down a treat  and he's taken to hiding himself in 'the apartment' as he calls up there.  From what I can recall I reckon that this is pretty normal for someone who's approaching their teens.  It's a wonder that my family even recognised me because I tucked myself away so comprehensively at this time of life.

In the motorhome we were used to sharing a very small space.  Even when we were each doing our own thing we were in close proximity.    I wonder if this is why this seems like a time of huge adjustment.    I've spoken before about being a highly sociable being who likes a fair amount of solitude.  That's still true.  On the days that Louis is with his dad I savour  times I have alone.  Being in a house together yet physically apart though is something that I'm having to get used to.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Move Over Lisa Simpson


Money seems to be pouring out of my purse since the move.  I suppose it's more or less inevitable.  This weekend it was an oil fired radiator as the central heating system doesn't extend into Louis' loft.  Not a purchase to warm the cockles of my heart although it may keep Lou's tootsie's toastie.

My latest buy has made me a bit more excited. Louis' last school report highlighted his aptitude for music.  It said that his progress learning the saxophone for the class band had been outstanding and that we should consider lessons for him.  He starts soon.

Now I know diddly squat about saxophones. I didn't even really register that they came in two different sizes, one of which, the tenor, would be too hefty for my less than burly son to lug around.  'Hire an alto' was the advice of the teacher.   Apparently that's a little one. He gave me a website and I baulked at the cost Sixty pounds a term!

Ebay is my friend.  I decided to seek out a secondhand model.  After bidding on a couple this is the one that will be winging its way to our door, the Stagg Alto 77 SA, a reasonable beginner's model at half the price of the new and less than the cost of a year's hire. And should Louis decide that he does not want to continue with lessons or wants to upgrade to a better instrument then it can go back to auction so that we can recoup our costs.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

A Fishy Feast

I've looked back and I can't believe that I haven't written a post about fish pie!  It's one of my favourite suppers and one that was out of bounds for a long time except as a pub meal.  The ex hated it.  He'd scour his meal for bones and inevitably find the only one around. It was torture to watch.  Luckily Lou hasn't inherited his dad's abhorrence. He's a  big fan too.

This is last night's fishy medley which I made myself.  I tend to pounce on those yellow stickered packs in the chill cabinet of the supermarket and then freeze them until they're needed.   I cut up fillets of salmon, cod and mackerel for yesterday's offering and added in healthy handfuls of peas and prawns.  

I covered this in a white sauce.  Sorry I can't give proportions of ingredients as I do this by eye.  A good dollop of butter and a similar amount of flour goes in a saucepan and forms a great big lump.  It looks like you'll never get rid of the bloody thing.  But little by little, with stirring and the addition of milk a smooth sauce forms.  Voila! as Raymond Blanc would say.  Just a little bit of seasoning and its ready to be mixed into the fish.

Now all that's left to be done is to top it with buttery mashed potatoes.  Oh! Start cooking those first or you'll have a long wait before eating.  The finishing touch is enough grated vintage cheddar to keep a whole colony of mice very happy for a long time.  Purists don't like the mixture of cheese and fish.  Bollocks to them I say!  Then the pie goes into the oven at about 200 degrees for about half an hour until the cheese is golden and crispy.  Mmmmm!

There was enough here for about four hungry folks so I've frozen half the pie for Ron.  That's slang for later around here and not some random Brixham bloke who's coming to tea.  This beastie was so good that we're not about to share it with anyone.



Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Coolest Man Ever?




When I look back on my early years pop star crushes some of them seem pretty strange. Donny, Gary Numan, Graham Bonnet, the lead singer of Rainbow,   Morten Harket from A-ha with his dodgy mullet.  Whatever was I thinking!  Then I get to this bloke and, even now, congratulate myself on my good taste.   Even in this incredibly odd '80s suit he is the epitome of style. Such a great voice with timeless looks to die for.  Swoon!!!!

This still has to be my favourite Robert Palmer song, first heard on Radio Luxembourg in 1980.  It was their record of the week that was played hourly.  I had to content myself with staying up into the wee small hours putting up with the very crackly reception on my cheapo radio set to listen to it until I could buy my own copy.  No Spotify in those days.  Then I had to wait for a Saturday trip to the  Golden Disc record store, a Southend legend. Incidentally I've just found out that one of my other virtual 'loves of my life' Morrissey filmed one of his videos there.

Its theme of meaningless within a relationship are now apparent to me.  Back in simpler schoolgirl times I just found it rather haunting.

Friday, 16 October 2015

From Art With Love

Photo: The Independent
What I love about art is its power to elicit an emotional response. I was unexpectedly moved to tears twice yesterday by the creative endeavours of others.

The first piece was Tamara Kvesitadze's striking dynamic statue 'Man and Woman' which is installed in a Georgian town and comes to life at 7am each day for ten minutes.  It portrays a Muslim man and Christian woman coming together and their separation at the dissolution of the Soviet Union. But maybe it spoke to me of personal union and partings.

And then those tears fell again!  I was driving back to the office after visiting a man who was living apart from his much loved wife because he could no longer provide the care that she needed.  He was not depressed, just exhausted and understandably grief stricken.  Radio 4's Ramblings featured Matthew Hopwood, a man who, like me, listens to people's stories for a living.   His own story touched me because it talks of love born out of a time of fragility.   His website contains some powerful stuff too.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Meerkats in My Attic

My attempts to save on the DIY and convince my twelve year old son that it was hip and trendy for boys to have rose bedecked bedrooms were unsuccessful.  Bah! That flowery wallpaper in the attic had to go. It's taken way longer than expected but finally I can show you how Louis' attic transformation has turned out. He's delighted. Me?  I still see little jobs to do up there.  For instance, the transition between the grey feature wall and the white roof isn't as neat as I'd like.  Something to do with masking tape failure.  The inner perfectionist tells me that that must be revisited within the next few days.

There's a mixture of old stuff and new up there. This chair used to be in the conservatory in my old house. When I've got a moment to spare I'll be sprucing up the sun bleached covers with some of that Dylon that you pop in the washing machine. Inspired by our badge covered cushion from the motorhome, the grey one here harbours Louis' nascent collection of pins. The blankie with the eagle is one of those that result from helping our American friends declutter their home.



What I've tried to do is create a grown up space that'll see Louis through to adulthood and give him a place where he can relax and study.  The room is quite small but I wanted a double bed in there.  My son is wriggly and getting taller.  It took a lot of thought to fit in the other furnishings without it looking too cramped.  This take on an old fashioned bureau from the PS 2014 range at IKEA is a fantastic storage solution. It goes without saying that a lot of swearing was involved during its construction.  I left the office chair to Louis.  Who needs Lego when a kid can assemble flat packs.   That clock is a good old George find as was the striking duvet cover.  Louis loves owls....and meerkats..... and wolves.  You might be able to tell.  It's a proper menagerie up there.


I think Louis' favourite thing is the Coca Cola Fridge that doubles up as a bedside table.  We went halves on the cost of this. Lou's super happy with the glass globe light which, yep, is another George find.  It seems that I've become a walking talking advert for Asda's range of funky inexpensive homeware!

The rather kitsch calendar which features a photo of the harbour has a nice story behind it.  'Where do you live?' asked a new patient who seemed rather too perky to be on the books of a mental health team. 'Brixham' I replied. 'I've got just the thing for you then. I was taking this to the charity shop.'


Aside from a little bit of finishing off, I've ticked off the first of my decorating chores.  Next stop is the landing outside the attic room.  That'll be the main storage area for Louis' toys and books which are still stashed in the spare room.  If I want somewhere cosy for my guest to sleep anytime soon I better get cracking on!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Oh! PS

Here's something from my past that I found whilst looking for an illustration with a vehicular theme.  It a Matchbox Models of Yesteryear Palm Toffee Van.  See the printing on the side?  There's a good chance that I did that.  I reckon that I was involved in making 250,000 of the things during my holiday jobs at the toy factory, a place to work that sounds nicer than it was in reality.

It's proper cars that I'm going to talk about today, not ones that you have to push along the carpet vocalising vroom vroom noises.  The inaccuracies of carbon emissions reporting came to light because of the Volkswagen diesel car scandal.  I wonder if my two former Skoda Fabias will have to be tweaked.  Anyway it seems that governments around the world want to sort this out.  Whilst they're at it could they also deal with the frankly ludicrous claims that the manufacturers make about urban and extra urban fuel economy at the same time?  Even though I love my  Citigo and especially appreciate its heated seats on chilly autumn mornings, its published meagre petrol consumption smacks of fantasy.



Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Green Man Memo

This post is a reminder to myself for  my blog can serve that purpose. Sometime I'll return in search of a recipe that took my fancy.  Or I'll merely go back to recreate memories.  It's amazing how small Louis was when I started this venture.

 I'm also hoping that nothing will happen to the World Wide Web and my ramblings will be available to me to peruse in old age.   It'll be a souvenir of what I've done and a record of what I've felt at various stages of my life.  Maybe I'll look back and think 'Silly Old Sausage!' when I revisit certain posts about my exploits

I was rather taken by this wall of Green Men in a shop in Mevagissey When the outside of my house has been painted I fancy one to adorn the front.  Perhaps I'll make my own version.  This bunch certainly will provide a heap of inspiration when I get round to the project.  I'm thinking they'd translate nicely into mosaic.  And I wondered whether a woolly version might be something that my chum Aril at Gnat Bottomed Towers might like to create.  She knitted a rather impressive gargoyle the other day!

Monday, 12 October 2015

The Straw

I bet that there's a few of you out there who remember the campaign that urged kids to drink up their Unigate milk  before the Humphreys got it  Those stickers depicted those tell-tale  straws were like gold dust at my junior school.  Never at any time in history have milkmen been so harassed by small children begging for freebies.

The straw that I'm going to talk about today is the type that broke the camel's back rather than the one that was a  '70's milk thief.  I suspect that one is the type made of plant material rather than of the red and white striped variety.   I nearly came to the stage last week where one more tiny thing was added to the pile and  I came close to collapsing under the burden of everything that there is to do....work, the house, studying, looking after myself and my boy.......

And then someone told me that they admired how, when faced with adversity, I always sought solutions rather than throwing in the towel. It felt like an affirmation of strength at a time when I was feeling more than a  bit creaky. This time I took a deep look at what I have to do at the moment and decided it all really is too much. What could be realistically cut out?  Socialising?  No, I need time with my friends and family to destress.  After all my work isn't a picnic in the park.

So with a little reluctance I am delaying my master's studies as it was the only thing that seemed to be able to go. It would have been nice to get it done and dusted but I can't give it the time and attention at the moment.  I'll review the situation after Christmas.  In the meantime I'll use the freed up time to  try to get a handle on work, straighten the house and do some exercise. Let's hope I can get my head back in a book early in 2016


Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Love of a Good Van

Klaus the Knaus, my trustee motorhome, has been causing me some angst recently.  Water was pooling on his roof and dripping in through air vents in the skylight.  He was also refusing to start even though his main battery was connected by a trickle charger to the leisure battery which is in turn juiced up from the solar roof panels. It was all too much.  Possessions bring responsibility.  'I think I might sell the motorhome.' I confided in Red Mel.  'You can't do that!' she exclaimed.  She's got used to the comfort of camping in a vehicle and wasn't keen to go back to a tent.

I needed to rekindle the lurve between me and my van.    Fixing the leak and mending the trickle charger (a simple problem with a broken circuit) went some way towards doing this.  I decided I had to get away in Klaus to further ignite the passion.

I took Red Mel and Little Wren down to Cornwall this weekend.   After all we all needed a break. We stayed beachside at Pentewan Sands. From there we swam in the wonderful campsite pool, beachcombed and shopped in the chi-chi boutiques of Mevagissey where we all bought ourselves treats.  Of course some eating and drinking ourselves a little bit merry came into the equation as well. Klaus felt like a home from home and it's lovely that he's now been decluttered, devoid of the stuff needed for everyday living.

So my threats to sell up were short lived.  My motorhome is a relaxing place where friends and family will be sharing adventures for the foreseeable future.  The love is well and truly back!

Friday, 9 October 2015

Wakey Wakey with Brian Blessed





I love the eccentricity of Brian Blessed.  If this alarm clock were still available through my phone's Play Store it would replace the twee little tune that plays at 6am.  Those episodes of 'Have I Got News For You' where he's the presenter make me cry with laughter.   The story, on Radio 4's Midweek, of how, in the sixties, he'd helped to deliver a baby in Richmond Park was astounding. A lack of surgical implements and wet wipes was not a barrier to his impromptu midwifery. He bit through the umbilical cord and licked the baby's face clean. What an entrance into the world!

He'd be pleased that in 2011 York University students voted for a building to be renamed 'The Brian Blessed Centre for Quiet Study'.  as  he admitted to loving solitude and quiet.  That may be more surprising to some than the birthing  incident but as a noisy person myself I totally get it.  Those moments of peace may be more important to us.  We can't keep all that exuberance going all day.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Ooh Missus! Great Big Balls!

Nothing like a good excuse for a  bit of innuendo!   Now where was I? Ah yes! The living room in my new home is smaller than in the last brick built house that I left nearly a year ago.  I'd remembered it as positively palatial when I was living in the motorhome.  In reality the floor area is quite small and  door openings reduce the space where furniture can be put.  I'm one chaise longue down from my previous living space and I don't quite fancy playing 'let's all snuggle up together on the sofa' with quite everyone who comes through the door.

So in order to expand the range of perches that my guests can choose from I've bought some of these giant pom poms that I've been coveting for a while now.  I first spied them in Habitat but of course, I was on the hunt for something a bit more cheap and cheerful.   Mine are from the George homeware range and, fingers crossed, there seems no compromise in quality.   It looks like a mad knitting artist has plonked an installation in the corner.  The small red one came first at the bargain price of £19 and I added the others that cost £39 apiece earlier this week.  

I'm really pleased with their versatility.  They make great footstools as well as seats and are light enough to drag into the sun room when extra pews are needed there.  And Louis' been doing that usual childhood thing where imagination extends an object's use beyond that intended. Perhaps their proximity to his stilts gave him ideas.  He's been using them as balance balls!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Baldilocks and The Three Hairs

This is the new nickname given to me by my son!  It's been nigh on two years since I had my last misadventure in home haircutting.  I reckon I was due for another.  Now my peepers do not operate anywhere near the 20/20 range anymore.  Eagle eyed I am not.  I think of myself as more like a particularly observant mole.

Anyway I thought I'd picked a grade 4 attachment for my clippers.  It turns out that, with a blurry gaze, an upside down 2 can look pretty similar.  I noticed my error early into the cut. There was rather more of a pink glow from my scalp showing through. However, once committed there was no turning back.

I have to say that I'm not really too mortified.  It makes a change albeit a chilly one now those sea breezes are picking up.  Nothing that a natty hat won't sort out. And it feels great, like velvet.....or maybe the coat of a whippet.   Chicken Mama, my lovely friend who has sat next to me  at work since Mr Metrosexual retired, couldn't resist stroking me several times yesterday.  If I can give her comfort so be it!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Jamie's...No Louis' Fish Cakes!

'I am going to cook you lunch'. Music to a mother's ears.  Louis reeled off a list of ingredients from the recipe that he'd found on the internet including the 'ethically sourced salmon'.  The stuff that I had in the freezer, liberated from Sainsbury's yellow sticker area was organic.  Phew!

I guessed that we were having fishcakes which are a bit of a favourite of mine.  When I emerged downstairs covered in paint from my decorating antics potatoes were boiling away merrily and salmon was laid out on a chopping board.  'I need foil to cook the fish' said Lou.  Ours is twenty miles away in the motorhome.

Now I know that you can cook fish with good results in the microwave but Louis was having none of it. Jamie had prescribed a particular cooking method.  He is a god as far as my boy is concerned.  The salmon went in a colander and then was put on top of the potato saucepan to steam.  Thankfully I managed to persuade the boy that greaseproof paper was a good alternative to cover the fish.  It was cooked perfectly in ten.

And here's the finished articles.  They were lovely.  Louis followed Jamie Oliver's recipe here.  He made it his own by omitting the lemon zest.  Now that was too much of a faff. 

Monday, 5 October 2015

Pricey Bag Monday

It's the day today that big UK retailers have to start charging 5p a pop for carrier bags by law.   It's a step in the right direction but maybe not far enough. Have you heard about those great big patches of rubbish that accumulate in the world's oceans? Modbury, one of the towns in my work patch banned the things altogether in 2007 and a  jolly good thing too.

My regular  readers will know that I'm a big fan of the stringy, those capacious bags that serve me well for a grocery shop.   Those things hold so much that they turn heads and are a subject of conversation at the checkout There's all sorts of totes around the house and car as well that are useful for smaller shops.  This is the latest and I'm rather fond of it.  

I've become a supporter of the Guardian to support the editorial freedom of my newspaper of choice.  To thank me they sent me this rather useful free gift that helps me advertise my pinko leftie credentials wherever I go!




Sunday, 4 October 2015

Tempted by Toast


I don't feel very thrifty at the moment what with all the wonga that I forked out on our very special holiday.   And now the new house seems like a money pit!  What I'm trying to do is create a beautiful home which is resistant to fashion. I'm not the type of person who changes the look of where they live in response to the latest fad.  I've got better things to do.    The things that I'm buying are carefully chosen for their potential to be with us for a long time.  My spending is carefully thought out.  It's just that there's so much of it.



It will come as no surprise that I'm not a sucker for buying novelty impulsively. Vendors of chocolate penises and the like would have a very tough existence if everyone was like me.   But when bimbling about the shops in Bristol the other day I was nearly tempted by the
Holy Toast Miracle Bread Stamper.  Think what fun I could have with unsuspecting breakfast guests!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Message From 'An Oil Tycoon'

We have been rushed off our feet since I got back from holiday.  From the mouth of one who normally pees off hardened cynical colleagues with her Rebecca of Sunnybrook approach comes these words.  We are truly stuffed in the NHS and I can't see how the situation will improve.  There!  I have lost all my va va voom and am struggling to find ways of getting it back.

This arrived on my phone by email in the middle of a working day.  Not sure why I was picked out to be the recipient although of course I AM gorgeous and irresistible!!!!  I have to thank Mr Richwater. For in the midst of all the chaos and despair caused by funding crises he gave me and my colleagues a bloody good laugh!

Friday, 2 October 2015

A Handy Guide To Bison

Here's something that I meant to share from when Louis and I were in the USA last month. How time flies! This useful chart was shown to us by a ranger in Yellowstone during one of their very informative evening talks.    We learnt about the super volcanoes. Cue tug on sleeve and small voice saying, 'Mum, I'm scared, really scared!  A whispered discussion about the teeny statistical likelihood of eruption happening whilst we were in the park ensued.  I'm really not the type of parent that takes their kid to places where there is a high risk of death.

Then there was the one about the geysers.  Louis came with inquisitive  new friends that he'd met in the campground.  'What  happens if you put an ice cube down a geyser?'  The ranger patiently answered that it was unlawful to put anything down them but an ice cube was unlikely to make any difference. The same hand went up in the air thirty seconds later. 'What would happen if you put 100,000 ice cubes down a geyser........by accident?!'  The erupting super volcano was again touched upon (there was a bit of overlap in the talks).  Again a  small boy with a very vivid imagination needed answers.  'If you put two thermo-nuclear warheads either side of the super volcano to reduce the impact of the blast, would this be helpful?'  The poor ranger looked exasperated.  'Look!' he said 'If this thing blows we'd be in enough trouble without the addition of thermo-nuclear devices!'

Back to the bison.  We encountered one at very close quarters as we turned a bend on our final drive in Yellowstone, out of the park.  He was walking resolutely towards our car.  My plan was to slowly veer to the other side of the road and get by.  Then another tourist came in the opposite direction and blocked my escape route by stopping to take photos!  With about ten feet to go the bison changed direction and we snuck past.  He could have been in a petulant, skeptical or happy mood.  Who knows? There was no doubting our emotion though.  We were scared!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

A Lender and A Borrower


It seems a long time since I last wrote a post about Lend With Care so I best put that right.  It's one of my favourite ways of helping out.  Many of us in the developed world take credit for granted.  Banks lend to us at the drop of a hat so that we can buy our houses or make other important purchases.  I'm helping to provide loans to people in the Third World  where money isn't so readily available on tick.  There have been fifteen entrepreneurs so far who I've helped to fund projects that make life better for them and, apparently 254 of their family members.  Wow!  That's quite a big impact.

What strikes me is that people often ask for such pitifully small amounts.  My latest loan was to Shazia, a mother of four,  who was asking for just £178.38 to expand her husband's business in Pakistan.  He has no identity card so couldn't apply on his own behalf.  There's got to be some hidden struggles behind that story.  I topped up my account to become one of her lenders.

And that's what I do every few months. Fifteen or twenty pounds goes in the pot.  Not much in the scheme of things for someone that counts themselves very privileged but small sums seemingly  make a hell of a difference elsewhere.  What I'd like to do is lend to a scheme that helps my fellow countrymen as well.  A quick Internet search didn't come up with anything.  If anyone knows of something similar for UK residents let me know!