Sunday, 31 January 2016

Other People's Husbands

Yep I'm still single, not surprising since my tactic of late on that dating site has involved adopting a near total stance of passivity. Sometimes I'll glance at a profile of someone who's shown interest.  If they're particularly cute, or conversely, odd I might give Chicken Mama, who sits next to me at work, a peep.   But apart from the accidental winks that I give to people instead of pressing the back button on my phone, that's about it. To be honest, I'm too busy to give the process much time and attention. It can tick along in the background until......

So why am I still bothering given that my life is pretty full and contented anyway?  Shouldn't I be considering that man hating mantle that I've seen others divorcees adopt to avoid hurt and let down? After all my own marriage wasn't a walk in the park, particularly in the last few years. Duh!  If it had been okay I'd still be there. It's not as if I'm particularly flighty.

What stops me giving up altogether are the brilliant examples set by many of the menfolk of friends, family and the people that I meet in my professional life.  I get to peer in on shared love and laughter during the good moments and those that are  goddamned awful.   As a singleton with no predatory instincts I'm allowed to borrow  the kind partners of my girlfriends sometimes too!  Barbie Nurse's Ken set up Louis' Xbox the other day, a job that would have taken me yonks.  It was a friend's husband who sat with me in a French hospital until midnight with Louis a couple of years ago.

Yes, there's many decent blokes who set enough of a good example in their own relationship for me to think that coupledom might be something for me to try again one day.  A chance to get it right another time around.  It seems that other people's husbands hold onto hope with me.  For they're often the ones who are urging me not to throw in the towel on the whole idea.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

RIP Paul

I went to an amazing funeral yesterday for my funny, kind and dedicated colleague who passed away suddenly.  Mr Metrosexual and Kanga had worked with him at earlier stages in his career so I gave them a lift  as they wished to pay their respects too.   'I wanted to come because he was so good to me.' I told Kanga in the car.  She had no hesitation in replying.  'He was like that with everyone.'

We arrived thirty minutes early and there was already nowhere to sit so we stood at the back.  'It's a good turnout.' I heard someone say behind me.  'He was a very well liked man.'  More people streamed in behind Paul's coffin and the numbers in the already packed church doubled.  It included many members of his football club wearing team strip.   How much comfort must his family have gained from knowing that this guy was so respected and loved?  At the end we are not measured in terms of material gain but the effect that our own life has had on others.  This was a large life.

These words from the Book of Wisdom were read, a reminder that a meaningful full life might not necessarily stretch to its expected  span.

I phoned my mum later in the evening and told her about the service and the wonderful memories that had been shared.  Louis overheard my conversation.  Afterwards he summed things up nicely in a no nonsense kid way.  'If that man doesn't go to heaven then we are all screwed!'

Friday, 29 January 2016

A Little Lie Down: Anywhere!!!!

Usually I'm pretty immune to the lure of the marketing man as he throws images of a whole load of gizmos and gadgets my way.  It's rare that anything tempts me.  My interest has been  slightly piqued by those fitness bands that track sleep and activity levels but it's definitely a want rather than a need. Not a priority at all.  And anyway my exercise regime is still on standby.  My dodgy knee is still not playing ball.  It swells underneath just with regular daytime activity and there's a big bruise that's come out of nowhere. I am exasperated and slightly sad.

Perhaps my need to rest up is why the Lamzac Hangout has got my attention.  It's a big inflatable cushion  that's folds down nicely into its own  13.8 x 7" bag.  Weighing just 2.7lb it's definitely portable. The Dutch name is derived from the word 'lazy'.  Now that's the ticket!  The nice man in the video shows that can be filled with air in seconds to make a handy sofa or lounger.   The inventors give assurances that it's just as easy to put away.

Now here's a  recently developed product which really would have a multitude of uses  in my own life. They don't come along everyday.  It's given me loads of ideas.   For example, it could provide extra seating inside the home when there's a crowd and would be a great alternative to bulky loungers in the garden.  Lengthy waits at airports could be far more comfortable and of course there's multiple possibilities for camping trips, hikes and at festivals.  Stranglers, that woman lying down at the front of the stage when you headline at  Chagstock will be me!  I've also thought that lunchtimes could be enhanced if I carried it in the car and set it up for  a little snooze at some of those beauty spots that I come across on my travels around the South Hams.   Mini siestas to break up a working day would go down a treat.

I'm sold!  Give me two for I know a little man who likes chillin' who'd be interested in one as well. He'd nick mine if I don't buy him his own.  Sadly demand has outstripped supply so I've had to register my interest on a mailing list to find out when they're available again.  I'm hoping that it will be quite soon!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Pop Star in the Car!

This is cheesy, beautifully crafted, retro pop at its best.  I've finally worked out how you'd describe my singing style.  It's falsetto!  I can keep perfect pitch with these boys as I  join in with all the warbly bits. I found this out the other day during a rather enthusiastic little session after a  particularly gruelling day at work in a mental health team.   A proper little  disco in the car all the way from Totnes to Brixham.   All I was missing was a disco ball and a sequinned boob tube.

I only curbed my enthusiasm a bit when I drew up next to a police car at traffic lights.  I didn't fancy explaining how exuberant musical participation does not preclude paying attention to the road or. like another friend who was stopped in similar circumstances being told that the only crime  committed was her singing.  Surely that would have ruined the illusion that yes, I could indeed have been the fourth Bee Gee!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Saturday 4pm

Photo: The Mirror
Many of a certain age (around about my own and a bit older!) know that this was the time in the 1970s when a nation stopped what it was doing. It was sacrosanct. Indeed you may have well have delayed that decision to buy those culottes in Chelsea Girl and rushed back from town for the event. For this was a time for 'serious' sporting action when a nation sat in their front rooms and watched the wrestling.  In our house Dad was on the settee whilst my siblings and I mimicked the onscreen action on the carpet.

Here's the greatest 'goodie' in action against the legendary Giant Haystacks, a forty-something stone brute of a man.  This is Shirley Crabtree aka Big Daddy of course.  Did anyone want taunt him because of that surprisingly sissy sounding real name? I think not.  They'd have been locked in a half nelson before they knew it!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Slowly Does It: Lemony Chicken

My poorly knee with the ACL repair is playing up yet again.  I thought that I'd  be able to keep on target with the Couch to 5K challenge as it's a rather gentle way of getting back into the habit of regular exercise.  Those little trots around the block were enjoyable.   However pain below the patella that causes me to wake in the night has halted progress.  Instead I'm opting for  the gentler alternative of walking 10,000 steps daily until that niggling subsides.

Yesterday saw me strolling before daylight to our local Costcutters for a couple of lemons and tin foil.  For these were the missing items needed for an slow cooker recipe that Barbie Nurse had shared with me.   It was easy-peasy and reported to be lush.

Defrost a yellow stickered good quality chicken. Overnight of course.  You'll be in danger of making yourself very poorly if you try to speed up the process with a bucket of boiling water. I've cuddled the toilet and wanted to die for a couple of days when I've had food poisoning. Believe me it's not something that I'd wish to inflict on anyone.

Make some tin foil balls and pop in the bottom of the slow cooker. Mine were about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Be sensible with the size or you won't get the lid on.

Rub the chicken with a bit of oil, season with salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Shove half a lemon up its jacksy.  Use your imagination if you don't know what the word means.  You'll probably get it right.  Pop the chicken on top of the tin foil.

Surround the chicken with lemon wedges and the unpeeled cloves from a head of garlic.

Pop on the lid and cook on low for about ten hours.  No extra water or nothing.  The flesh just falls off the bones.   You'll see from my before and after shots that you don't get the crispy skin of a roast but no matter.  'This chicken is so good!'  announced Louis. Take his word for it.  He's a bit of a meat eating connoisseur. 

Monday, 25 January 2016

Pinky Rings

I'm not a big souvenir buyer. Memories and photos are mostly enough to remind me of my travels. But I did want to bring home a few bits and pieces from our extra special trip to the US and Canada last year. There was a lovely KT and Paul print from the market on Granville island Vancouver, some touristy stuff from Yellowstone and these silver rings that I found in a store in Seattle.  I wear them on my right hand pinky and whenever they catch my attention they bring back beautiful memories.

They're designed by Amy Peters who inscribes her pieces with inspirational sayings.  I was very taken by the band with the words 'It's not the destination, it's the journey'.  Just the thing for a women with wanderlust and a passion for metaphor. The other,  'Love You To The Moon.....'. of course quoting Nutbrown Hare, was chosen by Louis.  Handily he'd forgotten to bring his wallet on the trip.  'You have to buy that one' he told me. 'If I had my money I'd have bought it for you.  You'll just have to pretend it's from me.'  I do.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Seals: Like Buses

My eyesight is not as good as it used to be. Consequently my powers of observation can be lacking.  To illustrate this I'm going to tell the story that Salty Dog has been dining out on since 2014. At the Cornwall Cider and Music Festival we were shown around the orchard at Healey's Farm on the back of a tractor  It's from their apples that the rather delicious Rattler cider is made.   We were told birds of prey nested in the trees. After the tour I spotted something in the sky.  'Look!' I said excitedly to Salty Dog. 'Do you think that's one of the buzzards that live here?'.  She gave me a scathing look.  'Are you blind?' she replied. 'It's got wheels!!!!'

Yesterday Salty Dog and I made the most of a rare spell of dry weather and went for a walk.  The ground was sodden and she didn't have very robust footwear so we strolled down to the harbour and along the Breakwater. It's getting to be a bit of a habit.   There's always something different to see. Near the fish market a seal poked his head out of the water.  Now they're probably around all the time providing the tourists with photo opportunities but I've never seen one before.  I got a bit excitable as  a bit of impromptu wildlife spotting is right up my street.  And then what I erroneously thought was a big brown hessian bag was another one!  A smaller black pup, whose head you can just see poking out of the water here,  hopped onto the pontoon and joined him.  Wow and thrice wow!

The best was yet to come.  Yet another, this cheeky chappy hung around for some time and posed for pictures right near the breakwater. Why have I not seen these guys before? Is it because I haven't noticed them or are they usually more elusive? Now I know that seals hang out my harbour I'll be looking out for them!  Their presence makes a stroll very special indeed.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Grey Top

It's D-Day on Tuesday. Or maybe that should be called B-Day for it's when all the bits and bobs that are needed to transform my bathroom are arriving. Actually bits and bobs is an understatement. There's loads of stuff arriving: tiles, a wash basin, toilet and a bath of course.  I'm not someone who could make do with a just a shower cubicle.  I like the occasional, indulgent soak....with bubbles!

It means that I've got just three days left to clear what will eventually be my spare room so I can store it all until the fitter arrives on 1 February.  I'll be cracking on with that over the weekend after a nice coastal walk to start my Saturday.  At the moment it's still in a state of carnage.   I'm a bit amazed by all we've accumulated over the years and didn't need when living in the motorhome.  I thought I'd done a good job of sorting it out when we moved out of our last home.  But lots more stuff is being shed.  There's been trips to the dump and gifts to friends and the charity shop.

I came acroos this  picture that Louis did at nursery.  Of course it's a keeper.  As you can see I'm instantly recognisable!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Sticks, Stones

'Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.' What utter bollocks that denies the transformative nature of language for good as well as bad!  For our tongue is an immensely powerful tool. I could relate many stories from therapy sessions  about how people's lives have been changed for many years through another's careless sentence or two or by labelling themselves based on one unfortunate act.

Over the years since I first studied mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy it's become more and more apparent that it's good to be careful of what I say.  Let me hastily add that I don't always get it right.  For I am human and rather good at erring.   Here's some of my ever evolving rules for myself around the use of language that I try to adhere to.  I wince a bit when I discover myself straying from them.
  • Generalisation:  e.g. All men are bastards;  All immigrants are criminals.   Teenagers are useless. They're not.  
  • Defining people or myself by an action.  People who cut me up on a roundabout are not  devil spawn because of this one act.  They might have been having a bad day and be pre-occupied. I'm not out and out stupid if I put stuff in a cupboard and it's inevitably going to fall out (like I did with the Pyrex dish the other day!).  I was 'being stupid' at the time.  There is a big difference.
  • I should have/ought to have: These phrases seem to foster negative thoughts about what might have been.  It seems more helpful to use terms such as 'It would have been better if...'  That helps me to reflect positively in order to change future actions rather than unconstructively ruminate.
  • He/she should have:  This seems to fuel unnecessary anger and confers an outright judgement on the acts of another.
  • 'No such thing as can't':  Yes there is if you're already overwhelmed.  Stipulating what you are and aren't able to do in a situation can be jolly helpful.
  • 'I'll never forgive them'.  Tricky;  This week I heard Marietta Jaeger Lane who campaigns against the death penalty in the US and whose seven year old daughter was accidentally killed by her kidnapper whilst he was raping her.    I am convinced from listening to this remarkable woman that she has been able to forgive her child's killer outright.  I can't imagine how I'd be able to do this in the same situation.  Believe me if anyone hurt my son I'd want to hang their privates to a tree, preferably with them still attached!  All that love, peace and hippy shit would go right out of the window!  However this story provides hope that forgiveness, and the release of the resultant self consuming hatred, is possible even in the most horrific circumstances.
  • I try to outward label  emotions  so that others are given permission to do the same. Not very British I agree but bottling up stuff causes all sorts of problems.  Best tell a person you're angry or upset with them rather than festering.  More commonly I'll share my positive feelings for in general I am a happy soul.
  • 'A leopard doesn't change its spots'.  Yes they do but it's unlikely that you'll be able to force them to.  They've got to decide to do it themselves.
  • 'They made me do it'.  No they didn't.  Taking responsibility for our own actions, good or bad, confers strength and denies victimhood.
  • I need [a material object].  Food, clothes to stand up in, a bed, spectacles, water, shelter, transport to work, warmth; Yes!  Most other stuff comes under the category of wants. That doesn't necessarily mean that I'll deny myself all the time.  It just puts my accumulation of stuff into proper perspective.
This isn't a comprehensive list by any means.  After all I normally rustle up blog posts in the time it takes to have a tea break.  This isn't an exception to that rule.  I hope it provides food for thought.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Digging Down

Photo: Rightmove
This little cottage that's currently on the market caught my eye yesterday.  I'd be sorely tempted to buy  if I wasn't ultra happy in my Devon seaside pad and fancied a move to rural Shropshire.

This was previously the home of artist Antony Dracup and the cottage bears his name.  Quite rightly too for beneath that cutesy frontage lurks a secret, magical world created by its creative former owner.

Photo:  The Guardian

Most people who fancied a bit of extra living space would declutter, build an extension or move.  Not Mr Dracup.  He wielded a chisel and started carving into the sandstone on which his house was built.  The end result was this amazing cellar. Lord knows how long it must have taken him or the mess that must have been made whilst work was in progress.   I think that you might agree that all that effort was entirely worth it. This is a dream living space for humans.  I reckon a hobbit or two might be putting in offers too.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Keeping A Kid Talking

My parenting style may look pretty chilled and carefree it but the way that I interact with my twelve year old son, Louis, is actually thought out very carefully.   For example, if he tells me a rude joke I often laugh my socks off.  I'll only comment negatively if I find his material offensive or inappropriate.  It sometimes is as playground censorship isn't all it should be.

What my liberal stance means is that lines of communication are kept open. At times he's shared some pretty difficult stuff which I've then been able to deal with in an appropriate adult way. I'm not sure he would be so open if I told him off every time his humour was a bit lewd.  After all I'm not as green as they come.  He won't stop being smutty at my behest.  It would just be kept under the parental radar. It's best that I know what's going on.

Anyway I'm up for a good bum, fart or willy joke myself.  This is one of the titbits that Louis shared the other day. It's a bit rude and yes, childish but dead funny.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Spud Update

Here's a strange botanical specimen that I spotted at The Eden Project.  I nearly convinced the others that potatoes grow on trees.  Lord knows what it really was!  It'll do nicely as the illustration for my 'Couch to 5K update.

Sheer apathy or re-emergence of knee dodginess thankfully hasn't forced an early retirement from the scheme.  In fact I'm well into week two.  I'll 'fess up.  On two occasions my jaunts have been three days apart rather than two.  Really torrential rain put me off on one occasion. 'No way am I going out in that!!!!!' I told myself as I snuggled up in bed. I'll put up with the odd shower though.  After all I'm a real runner now albeit a puny one! It's a bit of an effort to get going when it's dank and drizzly but once I'm out I enjoy myself.

The first week alternating 60 second bursts of running with fast 90 second walks was easy.  There!  Perhaps I wasn't as unfit as I thought after all.  This week the pace has been stepped up but it still doesn't feel too drastic.  The longer 90 second jogs are interspersed with two minutes of walking.   It's entirely manageable.  I get home from my little half hour circut feeling invigorated and for some reason my skin always feels great afterwards.  Like I've had some sort of peely face mask.  I'm not sure why  but bring it on!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Looking Up At Eden

For a couple of low season weekends each year the Eden Project offers free admission for various folk who live  in Devon and Cornwall. NHS staff are among those who qualify and they can take friends.  Up to two adults and three children are included in the offer.  That could represent a saving of £83 on the full admission cost at the gate so it's a great bargain. What a generous community spirited thing to do!  One of our party of three adults and a kid had to pay for entry but there's also a local's pass that, for a one-off fee of £15 gives unlimited admission until 31 October.

So Salty Dog, Lil' Chris and Louis explored those iconic biomes. We'd all been before but there were new things to see. We climbed a wobbly staircase to a viewing platform to peruse the rainforest below.  Louis doesn't remember his last visit.  I think he might have been a babe in arms. Personally I found it a more pleasant experience than a summer visit with less crowds and lower temperatures.  That tropical spot is sweaty in summer.

I took a few pictures but I'm really quite pleased of the ones like this where plants, real or sculptural seem silhouetted against the honeycomb supports of those big bubbles.   I think these would look good enlarged and framed to make a memento of a wonderful day.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Mad Walls Mk. 1 and 2

My mad wall is complete! Well maybe one little long thing can go in the far bottom corner. Now my assorted collection of odds and sods curve around the TV screen when it's positioned in exactly the right place. Since I last shared the work in progres I've added finds from the charity shops along with other bits and pieces from around the home.  They include a dinky Japanese doll that's meant to be a Christmas tree decoration and the bit of pier that I found on Brighton Beach.

Feedback from friends has been very positive.  They seem to think that the hotchpotch works well. 'If I did that it would look like a dog's dinner' said the Second Martha Stewart.  She thought though that I've pulled it off.  I wonder if it's because I've made mosaics in the past.  My random wall art seems to have a similar feel.

The unattractive tangle of wires at the bottom of the picture is part of Louis' latest haul.  He was given an Xbox 360 and lots of games by Barbie Nurse's son.  Of course he's over the moon.  I am too.  It saves me buying the games console I'd planned as a birthday gift.  Nothing like a bit of secondhand recycling to warm the cockles of my heart.  I must get it looking tidier though.
Well making that was fun but what now?  Mad Wall Mk 2 of course. I'm thinking that the chimney breast in my bedroom could do with some livening up after it's been redecorated up there.

In the meantime the collecting goes on.  All but the funky bird clock (£4 in IKEA) are things that I've had already.  They'll grace my pallet table until they're ready to be hung. I'll be adding to them over the next few months. It's a lovely excuse for charity shopping after I've said that clothes are a no-no!

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Pinko Cassoulet

We haven't had a crazy recipe with unappetising pictures  for a long time have we? It's time to set that straight.  I realise that in  periods in between it could look as if  Louis and I secretly live off a diet of Turkey Twizzlers and Deep Fried Mars Bars.  Thankfully this isn't so.  I've already blogged about many of our staple meals. And then there's the simple stuff, roasts, pies, a meaty sausage or two.  Lovely but they don't necessarily make good post material.

So, on New Years Day the Second Martha Stewart gave me masses of duck confit and special food calling for special treatment.  Cassoulet sprang to mind. Mmmm!  I've never blogged about that.  So here we go.

The first one that I tasted, in a weird little cafe/nightclub combo in the Auvergne was a revelation.  It's one of those meals that I still remember, like the fried eggs with the runny yolks that I had as my first meal on returning from hospital after giving birth.   There's a plethora of recipes on the Internet but which one? Eventually I turned to the Guardian.  As you do if you're a pinko leftie.  They have a series where they de-construct many recipes to come up with a perfect version of dishes.  The cassoulet, on which mine was roughly based is here.  It looks a bit of a pfaff but it's okay if you start cooking the night before and leave a bit of time for sourcing ingredients


Goodness knows where you find duck confit if you haven't got a gastronomic Fairy Godmother so ha! I'll leave that to you.  The belly pork was easy to find but I replaced the unsmoked ham hock that the recipe called for with a smoked one because that's all they had in the butchers.  It tasted fine to me but I expect somewhere  a proper foodie will be throwing their hands up in horror.  Garlicky French-style sausages?  It just shows that the recipe was written by a posh Londoner with a plethora of artisan delis within a stone's throw.  These are harder to source in Devon so I used the Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' Toulouse-style sausage.  Adequate but I might be track down some more authentic for Cassoulet Mk 2.  There was another substitution.  Dried cannellini beans replaced haricot beans.  They were the nearest thing they had in Sainsbury's, the third store I'd tried to source the ingredient.  By then I was losing the will to live.

The Night Before the Night Before

  • Soak 800g cannellini beans.  That's an awful lot of beans that take an awful lot of water!

The Night Before

  • Boil the cannellini beans, a whole unpeeled head of garlic, a whole peeled onion and the ham hock.   I didn't have thyme so added a few sprigs of rosemary. The beans were done in about ninety minutes.  After removing them and the garlic, I left the hock to boil for another hour until tender.
  • Throw away the onion but keep all the other stuff that's been boiled to within an inch of its life.
  • Once the hock was cooled  I stripped it of meat.
  • Pop the beans in the slow cooker bowl.  Realise that there isn't a hope in hell that all the ingredients will fit.  Revert to the boiling pan as a substitute casserole dish.
  • Defrost the confit
The Morning of The Feast

  • Wade into the confit packet.  This is a task that the nightmares of Gwyneth Paltrow might be made of.  The duck is covered in loads of its own fat.  Melt some  in a pan.  Put the rest in a dinky little bowl in the fridge to join the squishy garlic clove and the ham.
  • Fry cubes of belly pork and the duck meat.  The recipe said to add the duck too but it already looked cooked to me so I went off piste.
  • Then amalgamate everything in your biggest saucepan, the meats, beans, a bit more duck fat,  a great big squirt of tomato puree squishy garlic squeezed from its cloves and 2 crushed cloves of fresh garlic.  This is a French dish after all.  Top with breadcrumbs.
  • Pop in fridge and go to work.
  • On return pour a beer, pop on the oven to 140 degrees and shove saucepan in the oven for a couple of hours. Take out halfway through, stir in breadcrumbs and add more to the top.  Cook until crispy.  Bloody delicious. Way more yummy than those pictures would ever suggest!

Serves an army!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Who Knows?

Reiki Ray popped round last night to sort out my energy levels, eat and disseminate his own brand of wisdom or madness.  It depends on your perspective.  He's a vegetarian so I cooked him Daily Dal topped with grilled halloumi, a wonderful East-West combination. The texture and flavour of the salty cheese works  really well with the soft spiced lentils. Ray left with a doggie bag for today's lunch.  I reckon though that he could have nobbled some of the stuff that I was cooking up for a cassoulet if I hadn't been watching carefully.  'That looks bloody lovely!' he said as he eyed up a ham hock.  I don't reckon that he's a man you could really trust if he stayed overnight and the leftovers of a cooked chicken were in the fridge!  It would be like the Secret Lemonade Drinker....but with meat.

And it's official.  According to Ray I've been in Brixham before in a past life in the 19th century.  So too seemingly were many of my friends, family and acquaintances past and present!  The here and now is like one bloody great reunion!  Remember that person who took me that I waited for someone who went to see and never came back?  Yep,  apparently that happened here.

Now I know that there's a lot of people out there who will be pooh-poohing this, assigning the 'bollocks' label. There are also those who believe that this kind of 'dabbling' is dangerous stuff indeed. Me?  I'll keep a very open mind thank you very much.  But what's occurred to me over the last few day is whatever I choose to believe is somewhat inconsequential. Truth is the truth no matter.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Marge Simpson: Sex Symbol

Let's lighten up shall we?  The last couple of posts have been on the heavy side after all. This made me giggle.  Nancy Cartwright is, of course, the voice of Bart Simpson.  I have to let you know that her husband isn't the only one who's a bit aroused by the lady with the blue hair.  Honest to God, someone once shared their lust for Marge Simpson with me. Maybe they'll remain nameless if they offer up a big fat bribe. Desperate times call for desperate measures.  It could be that extortion may be the only way of making ends meet given that it doesn't look like we'll have a meaningful pay rise in the NHS for years to come.

This fantasy could far more common than we'd ever believe.  Might I be onto something here? I like to think that perhaps there are women all around the globe, who are donning a big blue wig for the sake of spicing up their flagging love lives.  Ann Summers, I believe that I have an idea for a new product line!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Another Passing

After yesterday's tribute to David Bowie, I'd planned to share something perky.  But my normal habit of ringing the changes between blog posts seems inappropriate.   For yesterday I heard that a colleague had died suddenly. He had a heart attack whilst out on a run.   He's been instrumental in helping us getting the pilot for the occupational therapy research project that I'm involved with off the ground. So I've got to know him quite well over the
last year or so.  A lovely man who spurred me into action with whom I shared a  laugh or two. Not a close friend but more than an acquaintance.  Goodness knows how his wife and other family members have responded to the death of someone so overtly healthy, where there was no expectation of a goodbye.

I am sad with intermittent tears. Louis has seen these for I have not attempted to hide them. Children need to know when it is appropriate to express emotion.  Anger, sadness and fear all seem the right responses sometimes.  He snuggled, swaddled me in blankets in my favourite chair, made me tea and played me the Book of Love.  I am in awe of his compassion.  He's a wise being for a twelve year old.

I've been meaning to return to the Buddhist practice of reflecting on impermanence for a while now. This seems a fitting time to do so.  I'm sharing a link to a  beautiful meditation on the Nine Contemplations of Death. It will be a helpful resource over the next few days to help me prepare for my own  passing, whenever that might be. With that comes an awareness of what is important in life.

For the second day I say 'Carpe Diem'. It could be our last.  And let those who are important in your life have no doubt that you love them.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

A Life Well Lived

RIP David Bowie. So sudden.  Just on Friday, I was having a little music sesh with Barbie Nurse and 'Ken' and eschewing this man's praises.  I shared my favourite track, the one I'd blogged about on Christmas Eve.  This was Barbies Nurse's haunting choice.

As I was driving home last night, a tribute was playing on the PM programme on Radio 4.  The presenter talked about the fullness of Bowie's life and marvelled at the reaches of his creativity.  I'd be dead proud, if when sitting on my cloud after I've gone, I heard those who knew me saying the same about me.  My sense of mortality that was borne from a time when I looked death in the eye has made me bolder, more productive.  We have just a short span on this earth.

Take inspiration from this man whose talents spanned many arenas.  Carpe diem peeps.  Live life as if each day were your last!

Monday, 11 January 2016

Shades of Beautiful

Do you know the other day I was thinking about blogging about the fact that brown was my least favourite colour.  Ten minutes later Aril at Gnat Bottomed Towers beat me to it and said the exact same thing.  How spooky is that!  But then she went on to describe the hues of brown that she loved and darn me I'd already come to the same conclusion.  Even though it's not a colour I'd contemplate as a decorating scheme or to wear, I love the variation in  autumn leaves, tree bark, polished and waxed wood, the hue of dark skin and chocolate.  Lest not forget that one!

In the olden days when I was a miserable goth who contemplated her own navel far too much I clad myself top to toe in black and grey. Thankfully that's no more.  Okay there's leggings and vests and the odd jumper in these neutral tones but my wardrobe is vibrant these days. Blues and pinks predominate and you'd be given for thinking either of these might be my favourite choice from the pallette.   You'd be wrong. For, in the right place, I find all the infinite shades in the spectrum equally beautiful.  These dear little birdies so wonderfully demonstrate this.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Winter Waspie

I don't want to speak too soon but by the end of the week I may well have a crafting area on my landing. It's all painted at last, not to the high spec that Papa Lovelygrey would expect, for he was a painter and decorator, but it will do.  I'm sure he'd find bits where he'd hold his hands up with horror but those walls were rough.  I haven't the time to hang around for a plasterer, and in any case, they'll mostly be covered by shelving.

I thought I'd give the carpets a good clean before moving in the furniture. Lo and behold, as I was just about to start the job, I found this creature.  Sluggish but alive and well.  In January!

Now I'll come clean and say that wasps weren't my favourite creatures for a long time.  Anyone who's ever had a blast of their neurotoxin, seemingly for no reason other than malice, will understand why. But since a bunch of them built a nest in my compost heap I've marvelled at their cleverness.  That structure was so fine and intricate.  They didn't get troublesome until the autumn either.  Then I'm afraid that, at a neighbour's request, Rentokil had to move in.

I was loathe to terminate the life of this little beastie.  After all, a little bit of Internet research suggested that, due to her size, she might be a queen.  Apparently, I found out that wasps provide effective pest control so they're not completely devil spawn after all.  And I'd listened to a TED talk by a monk, Matthieu Ricard earlier in the day. He'd advocated that we adopt altruism as a lifestyle, not only towards  humans but to other animals.

Lesson learned.  I carefully picked queen wasp up.  She was verrrrry sleepy and I've popped her at the back of a cupboard with the door open a crack so she can get out when she wants to leave. Hopefully she'll wake up in the spring and find somewhere to build her home, a long way from my own garden!

Saturday, 9 January 2016

'He's Not My Dad Anymore.'

That's what someone told me last week.  Their misery was all too evident.  I've heard variants on the theme often in my work with people with dementia.  No doubt they'll ring in my ears again. Always a little bit of my own heart breaks too.

At what stage in the disease process does a person's lifelong identity disappear?   There is no right answer here.  Sometimes I see a struggle to hold onto selfhood.  For others those little lights that Passenger sings about seem to dim fast especially in environments which are just plain wrong in terms of the stimulation that is provided.   Is the person themselves aware?  I think that they often are.  Maybe it's the reason for their indescribable sadness, aggression or agitation.

It's a rare case indeed when a person has disappeared altogether.  With patient work, glimmers of former individuality can be drawn out of people.  But it's often time that loved ones don't have.  That's an observation not a judgement.  Waiting for greatly extended periods of time for a person with extraordinarily slow process to express a preference about what they would like to drink often isn't feasible.  Life goes on for us lucky ones. But a few carers persevere.  They are my inspiration.  Some of the most remarkable people I've ever met.  'She's still my Mum.' asserts  the daughter of a woman told me whose  heightened distress takes hours to calm.  A contrast to those words that make up today's title.   There is still hope.

Friday, 8 January 2016

From Potato to Peachy

2016:  A New Dawn.  There were no resolutions but I  decided that enough was enough as regards to working gratis for the NHS.  When I figured it out I discovered that I'd given more free hours than I'd taken annual leave!  And at what cost? Was I showered with thanks and considered for greater things?  I wish! From some quarters my ability to organise myself was questioned even though more was heaped on me than one person could possibly deal with.

The impact on my personal life was huge. Some nights I was too knackered even to fix myself a simple meal let alone crack on with the house.  I don't even think for a minute that I'm the only public sector worker that has been in this situation and in this place, our health is at serious risk.  I was very much in victim mode last year.  No more!  I am going to do everything in my power to preserve that lovely sense of space that hasn't been there for ages even if it means being stroppy when I need to be. It's very precious and I don't want to lose it.

I now have the energy to get the house straight.  My bathroom is due to be remodelled at the beginning of February.   With a weekend with no plans ahead it looks like I'll be able to finish decorating the landing and  crack on with creating a craft area.  And I'm using some of my free time to think about occupational therapy related stuff but that's on my own terms rather  than being from a need to stay on top of paperwork. There's reading and an article to be written this weekend. These things I do with relish rather than dread.

Most importantly I've got back into a rhythm of life that promotes well-being.  I'm eating healthily and  reading and meditating daily.  There's time to give to my friends and family when they need it. Reinstating regular exercise seemed to be the last piece in the jigsaw andyesterday I got off to a good start with doing that.

Disco Queen Vikki pointed me in the direction of NHS Choices, Couch to 5K programme, a nine week graded exercise programme with podcasts that encourages exercise on alternate days.   I've enjoyed running in the past and even done a couple of half marathons.   But where does a woman with a knee that's prone to be dodgy start? Well, downloading the app onto my phone was the beginning.  And then I spent a week procrastinating.  The weather was awful, my headphones weren't charged and I couldn't find a  sports bra, essential kit to avoid eye injury! In the end though I ran out of excuses and bit the bullet.   I stepped out in the first light of dawn to explore the neighbourhood, admire the really thin moon, the wafty clouds and the birds flying by.  There was a five minute warm-up and then eight runs lasting just one minute interspersed with ninety second walks.     It was wonderful and very achievable even on Brixham's hills.  This couch potato is a convert!

Thursday, 7 January 2016

A Veritable Charity Shop Haul

It's ugly and now taking up unnecessary room in my kitchen drawer.  How so un-William Morris!  However I was beaten down.  For the princely sum of £1.50 Louis is now the proud owner of a  very cheap and nasty  fish-shaped jelly mould. It was immediately set to work making something stripey for pudding.  Who am I to interfere with a kid's desire to create in the kitchen?   It may have been beyond the call of duty but I was downstairs at 6am on Sunday adding a blackcurrant layer so that he could present a stripey pudding to his chum who came for lunch.

And there was more charity shop finds, rich pickings this weekend.  Most of my tea towel stash went missing in storage.  I've decided that vintage is the way to go.  Have you seen the price of those things on Ebay!!!! Anyway I found a couple in the chazzas, one from the Lake District and this.  How bizarre is this! Did people in the '60s really go to university and seek out Irish linen drying clothes?

My mad wall is nigh on complete.  I'll show it off another day. I blog in bed and can't be arsed to go downstairs and take a photo. It's too snuggly here!  Saturday's delving yielded two more things to hang there.  Here's the first.  She's about six inches high and has some indeterminate European language on the back.  She's a bit reminiscent of a Russian doll and maybe hails from those parts.  Four quid well spent.  I absolutely love her.

Here's another animal head to complement the resin stag.  What woman would be able to resist a wooden giraffe's head for their mad wall?   Again it was mine for under a fiver.  I cannot remember the exact cost.

Most of the shops selling new stuff seem so sterile these days. The idea of a day of conventional retail therapy leaves me cold  I especially  avoid those big malls like the plague, unless on a sheep hunt.  Give me random displays rather than those carefully manicured aisles that are conceived to make people spend more.  And there's that warm fuzzy feeling too. An ethos of recycling and raising money for a good cause has got to be a good thing!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Days Out in Devon: Babbacombe Model Village

Here's my Lou, seemingly at Stonehenge!  Except that the observant among you will notice that something is amiss.  For those ancient stones do not have a leafy verdant background.  They are set against the stark backdrop of Salisbury Plain.  And what's that bear from The Golden Compass doing there?  This is not the real druid stronghold but the one Babbacombe Model Village.
We went there on Saturday, mainly so that I could atone for the guilt that I felt at being a bad parent.  I had to work over the Christmas period and left Louis home alone for two days. Not that he seemed to mind.  Mainly he had far more screen time than would normally be allowed, reduced what seemed like an unfeasible amount of gifted chocolate to a very manageable level and walked his new doggy friend, Lola.
It was Lou's idea to go miniature. He perused a 'What To Do In Devon' guide online and decided that it looked really cool. Really!  Words like 'naff' and 'expensive' were springing to my mind when he suggested it.  But there was 20% off the admission charge for local residents on Fridays and Saturdays which made it more palatable.  And it taught me that sometimes I can be way off the mark when it comes to working out what makes a little man tick.

What do you know!  We had a brilliant time.  The models are incredibly detailed.  They've been updated since the park opened in the '60s and now include technology such as working TVs in some of the houses.  There's a streaker on the football field and the Beatles outside the Abbey Road studios.  And lots of incongruous figures to spot too including the casts of 'Where's Wally' and Star Wars.  There were also the characters from Letterland.  We  got 20 of those, ticking them off from a list on my  phone.  In the spirit of the season festive figures made an appearance too.  Santas, elves and the Grinch were dotted around the scenes.  I was skeptical that this was an attraction where we would spend a whole afternoon but I was proved wrong!    This is a brilliant well cared for attraction that, by honing your powers of observation, makes for a very good day out indeed.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A Good Day At The Office

Years ago someone told me  that I was put on this earth to be a healer.  So off I trotted and became a tax accountant for nine years!  It was the very same person told me I'd been reincarnated many times and that they could see me in one life looking out to sea and waiting for someone who never returned.
I'm not sure what that was about.  Was is at Brixham and that's why I'm back here? Who knows!

Since my marriage separation I've explored a spirituality that's viewed as alternative, or indeed complete tosh, by some.  I also spend time with The Prof a bit these days as I'm helping her implement a research project that designed to be as robust as possible from an academic perspective.  I tease her, saying I've come to decisions based on my 'evidenced based' angel cards or the swing of a pendulum. 'What the hell am I doing hanging out with you!'  she says.

Those prophecies about being a healer may have come true, played out in the arena of mainstream healthcare.  At times, it seems no less a spiritual pathway for being conventional.   For instance there was a time just before Christmas I 'connected' with an elderly man. His perceptions were awry due to multiple strokes.  I sat on the carpet, stroked his hands and looked into his eyes as I talked slowly.  He repeatedly and gently  asked me if I was okay.  And then I got a smile.  'That's the first time he's done that in ages.' said his family.  'Did you realise that you were probably sitting in wee?' remarked my student, who'd come on the visit with me.  'No matter.' I replied.  'Clothes can be washed.'

When I can forget the cumbersome paperwork or I'm not bogged down in trying to find services for someone in an overstretched health and social care environment  I am very content in my job. Yesterday was very satisfying indeed.   I saw four people on caseload and came away knowing that I'd made a positive difference in each and every case. Could it be that days like these are so fulfilling because I am aligned to my life purpose?

Monday, 4 January 2016

A Bit of Skirt

Addendum to the last post: I feel compelled to say something about what happened yesterday  It appears that my online dating experience could be taking  a Stella Grey turn.  A guy contacted me.  He's rather cute and there'd been a brief smattering of inane banter before.  This time it was different. Out of the blue he asked if I was a dominatrix because I had 'the look'. Ye gods!  That's not the image I'm trying to create.  I briefly toyed with the idea of whether I could possibly come up with the goods but decided that I didn't have a clue where to start.  And  I haven't got the money for a dungeon or all the kit I'd need for those shenanigans.  I've just ordered my new bathroom! Anyway it gave my mum and Sugar Plumb who came with her kids for lunch a bloody good laugh.

Here's Miss Whiplash herself!  A little while ago Sol from Be Sol Be asked me to show off the narrow mirror that I brought back from my Norfolk travels.  So here it is.  It was bought in a Norwich charity shop for a tenner. If you enlarge the picture you'll see that the wood is rather lovely. I'm wearing one of my wraparound, reversible skirts.  I have four now which is enough.  This one's made by Zand Amsterdam.  Each is unique, fair traded and has a zip on waistband so can be worn four ways. There's  a useful  detachable purse as well.  They're ideal for travelling and really came into their own on our North American trip.

It's occurred to me that I really do have enough clothes, especially as my wardrobe contains versatile pieces such as these.  I read somewhere that the average woman, possibly in the UK or US buys 67 garments a year.  There's lots of reasons that I'm toying with the idea of seeing if I can make my total a big fat zero in 2016.   Countering over consumption and assuaging guilt for past demeanours in this department is the biggie.  My resolve has been lacking when it comes to the wardrobe department in the past but let's just see!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Too Fussy?

Backalong Kim Cattrall guest edited 'Woman's Hour. She described dating in her fifties and categorised men of a similar age into three  groups.  There are those already  in a relationship and then others who are either damaged or incredibly hurt.  Is she right?  As the eternal optimistic I  hope to God that she is not.

The online dating thing is a funny old business and I'm using it on my own terms, treating others as I want to be treated myself.   It's running in the background and I'm not trawling for men.  After all I believe in all that hippy shit that involves a bit of divine intervention.  What will be will be.  I'm just helping things along by opening a channel of communication.   There's no talking, or indeed winking at people who I have no interest in whatsoever.  It doesn't seem fair.   So, it's not going to happen with the 32 year old who's into wrestling and motorsport and seems as if he shares his house with half  a zoo,  even if he has just favourited me! If I start a conversation and then find I'm uncomfortable or  bored I say goodbye. I don't just bugger off unannounced.    I'm not rude or inconsiderate in real life and don't intend to start being like that in the virtual world either.

I've arranged to go for a coffee with someone next week  but it's not as it seems.  The bloke, with the dead normal profile, seemed depressed enough for me to have concerns for his wellbeing.   I'm meeting him to check out if my 'phone assessment' was correct and if needs be to encourage him to access mental health services.   It's not the romantic encounter that I envisaged.  'You don't have to do this, Joo' said one friend.  But one of my colleague who works with me agrees with my response. There's something about reaching out to fellow humans if it needs to happen. You can do this without getting over involved or feeling personally responsible.  I don't envisage being a therapist in my private life as well as for the day job.

Another friend, who will remain nameless, thinks that it could be a goer in relationship terms.    I was heartily told off for being picky when I expressed grave doubts.  I stand firm.   My life is too happy and fulfilled  to risk damaging it with an unwise hook up. And I have my son to think of.   There are consequences for him of having a mother in an unhappy relationship.   'Let the memories be good for those who stay' says the song that's been going around in my head.  It's another one of those with a windy theme.  This turbulent weather has a lot to answer for.   I'm totally convinced.  There is no such thing as being too fussy in this game. Fussy is good!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Bashing a Monkey

The Second Martha Stewart and her family arrive from the States each year for Christmas and take over a big house overlooking the sea.  Heading to Exmouth on New Year's Day has become a bit of a tradition.  A big group of friends descend on the place, she cooks with leftovers and we 'help' eat up all the food she has left over from the festivities.  It is an absolute chore!

I'm always laden with goodies when I leave too.  Last year it was a gorgeous pork tenderloin, smoked salmon and Gu puddings.  This time my stash included cakes and cookies, smoked duck breast  and about 2kg of duck confit.  I feel a few cassoulets coming on.  Watch this space for one of those mad recipes that I'll defy you to follow.

Red Mel came with me this year as she's been staying for the last couple of nights. She brought fizz for the hostess who definitely has the mostest and this, a cute monkey shaped pinata stuffed with sweets. Genius!  For a excited gaggle of kids are around on this day.  They thrashed the living daylights out of it and little Frank claimed the decapitated head.  It went down an absolute treat!

Friday, 1 January 2016

The Beauty in Broken

Picture: The Odyssey Online
Today I give you Kintsukuroi! It's the Japanese word for repairing pottery with precious metal to create something more beautiful than before.  I won't spell out  that this might be a metaphor for our lives. You are a clever lot and are perfectly capable of working it out yourselves.   And anyway I've spoken on a similiar theme before.

This image comes from a post shared on Facebook. Plagiarism on the first day of a New Year, I ask you.  What about something inspiring and yes, original? But this piece shared eleven wonderful Japanese words that have no equivalent in the English language.  It moved me greatly.  Go on!  Click on that link above.  You know you want to.

I'm very taken by 'Monoaware', consciousness of the impermanence of all things and the sadness of of their passing.  Yuugen an awareness of the universe that triggers emotional responses that are too mysterious and deep for words, definitely needs an English equivalent.  My favourite though is Shoganai, the acceptance that some things are out of our control and not our fault.  With it there is encouragement to move on without regret.  Wow!

Oh and a happy 2016 everyone.  May many blessings come your way!