Monday, 29 February 2016

The Chilli Kid

Like most parents these days I  have to battle with 'The Evil Screens'.  It seems that if you left modern day kids to their own devices they'd stare goggle-eyed at their laptop, phone, tablet or the TV during every waking hour.  It drives me nuts finding Louis erroneously  thinking that he can multi-task, for example getting dressed and watching a Youtube clip at the same time. Inevitably what he's supposed to be doing comes to a near standstill and results in confiscation of electronic gadgetry. Any activity that diverts his attention from technology is a godsend especially if he initiates it himself.

'Can we visit the chilli farm near Kingsbridge?' he asked the other week.  He's been fascinated by the potential of these humble plants to inflict torture on his friends since he experimented with ghost chilli chocolate on me!  'Sure!' I thought.  Perhaps he could be persuaded to get interested in their more benevolent culinary uses.  And so it was that he came away with the South Devon Chilli Farm with more searingly hot chocolate to feed to unsuspecting mates, a bottle of plant feed and two packs of seeds, some pretty Cherry Bombs and Pimientos de Padron. With the latter you can play a kind of Russian Roulette.  Most of these little green beauties are mild but occasionally you get a hottie, albeit one that does not cause anywhere near the level of pain inflicted by those horrid ghost chillis.  They're lovely fried in a bit of olive oil and then served with a generous seasoning of sea salt.

And so I've been pestered for some gardening equipment.  How refreshing and much better for the young soul than an Xbox game!  So at the weekend I treated my son to some pots, soil and an electric propagator.  I was amused to see how excited he was by this last item.  So  here he is potting up.  I'm hopeful that it will lead to other horticulture endeavours.  After all one of us needs to be green fingered around here.  It certainly isn't me!

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Comida Glorious Comida

Let's return to Spain.  Why ever not! It is a blooming marvellous country. While I was there last week I did rather a lot of eating.  Meals were prepared at our finca by the gang, tapas that came free with drinks were consumed with gusto and we ate out rather more than we would do at home.  This is part of the finest meal that I've had for a very long time following a winery tour at the Bodegas Bentomiz.   I cannot praise this place highly enough and I'm not alone  Critics who know a hell of a lot more than me are truly enamoured with the place.

My own cooking style is way more rustic.  I'll leave the fancy styling to the professionals.  These were my own peppers, a take on an old Delia Smith recipe.  They're each stuffed with an anchovy, an olive and a scattering of chopped garlic.  All that's then needed is a bit of seasoning and a drizzle of olive oil before they get baked in the oven.

I also served up Nigella's Spanish Stew although adapted the recipe by leaving the whole think to stew on the stove top rather than transferring to the oven.  If you follow this recipe remember to leave the lid off.  You get a wholly different and more liquidy beastie if you don't.  Eggs Flamenco of course made an appearance and I also made up a recipe using slices of fried aubergine and potato which I layered in a big cooking pot with cheese and tomatoes and then popped in the oven under browned on top.  No photo but take my word for it.  It was lush!

Saturday, 27 February 2016

168 Hours

The current blip in my mental state has initiated a bit of hearty navel gazing.  What do I want from life?

It's occurred to me that I can't do absolutely everything that I need and want to do. Things have to be prioritised.  Maybe before I was trying to live as if there were more hours in the week than there actually are. Of course this isn't possible. Each and every one of us only has a fixed amount of time. Just like money perhaps it needs to be budgeted.  It seemed a pretty good idea to reflect on this.

So here's is my first pretty flawed attempt to allocate time over an 'ideal' working week. The first figure after each activity shows the amount of hours to be spent on it.  The second is a countdown from the weekly total of 168 hours.

I've done this exercise on the basis that I'd be getting enough sleep and am back to the office full-time.  I wanted to make sure that exercise and meditation were prioritized too. I've also accounted for the fact that I'll  be studying again soon.

What I've noticed is that I haven't factored in any time for travel, appointments or keeping in touch with family and friends let alone a nice long bath or time watching the odd movie or two.  Lordy, this is difficult.  No wonder everything goes to pot when this moves away from being a theoretical exercise and translates to real life!  It certainly gives me a clear picture of why things go wrong when I'm working more than my contracted hours.

So this is something I'll be pondering on over the coming days.  Maybe there's ways that I can cut or combine the hours spent on some activities in my life to make room for those that hold greater meaning.  Watch this space.  I'll come back on this one!

Friday, 26 February 2016

Check In And China

Wendy at the Contented Cavern, who appears to be off on her own travels,  asked me to show off my purchases from Granada and here they are.  Beautiful colourful ceramics are a snip out there even in the main tourist part of town.  The whole lot came to a shade over 30 Euros.  Even though I'm at home my new pretty stuff hasn't arrived yet.  I was sharing a suitcase with Salty Dog and the logistics of getting everything home without incurring excess baggage charges had to be well planned.  So my treasure trove went home with Sugar Plumb.  I'll be reunited with it in a couple of weekends time.

This is my favourite piece, a pot stand that naturally, will be going on a wall!  The colour palette and design can be inspiration for my own creative ventures. Organising luggage isn't the only thing that can induce a headache during air travel.  I find automated check in bewildering and the whole airport experience a bit of a nightmare.  The worst is the fear of leaving something behind in an inappropriate place.  I wouldn't mind if everything stayed packed but oh no. Documents and laptops are in and out of bags like yo-yos and then there's all that stripping that you have to do through security. Of course I'm always wearing my most unwieldy stuff, again to cut down checked in weight.  Half a tonne of clothing has to be removed to ensure that dreaded machine doesn't beep.

This canvas print  by an unknown artist from Barcelona caught my eye in a tourist shop in Frigiliana.  It was as cheap as chips and light so was packed with my own possession.  It will hang in my work area that needs jollying up.  I love the fact that there's a sea-inspired theme but it doesn't have a conventional nautical feel to it.

Security at the airport was even more tension invoking yesterday.  I was called aside and my rucksack was swabbed for goodness knows what.  Do I fit the profile for a drug dealer or terrorist?   I  think not.
I'm not into lawbreaking anyway but especially not crime on a major scale in a foreign land. The whole airport experience is stressful enough without the added 'excitement' of throwing a bit of criminality into the equation!

Wednesday, 24 February 2016


I have been holidaying with girlie girls, ones who play with their hair  and nails far more than I ever do. Much preening and pampering has gone on. Some beauticians came  to the villa the other night.  I had a great aromatherapy massage and was surprised at the tension that I carry in my feet.  The lovely lady seemed to unknot them for me.  You live and learn.

A few of my friends have  been pestering me for a while to let them make me up. They can't quite believe that my lack of desire to paint my face isn't a consequence of  extreme self esteem issues.  It's quite the opposite actually.  I'm happy with what I look like without warpaint.

But I succombed to a full,and admittedly relaxing, facial and the works.  Foundation, blusher and even stuff on my eyebrows. And here's the result before someone, who didn't know when to stop, had another go and painted what looked like a slug above one eye!  I have to say that the resultant makeover was a lot more subtle than I'd imagined.  I was ever so nearly convinced. Until that is I started to itch and swell up, an allergic reaction to some of the gentlest cosmetic ranges on the market.  Not an alluring look at all.

 So that's it.  People are going to have to take me as I come.  I have to say that I'm a bit relieved.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Very Scary Caterpillar

These are processionary caterpillars. They  march down a tree each morning and then hang out by the swimming pool here.  As their name suggests they follow each other around as if they're having their own little carnival.

I'm fascinated by them. Apparently a scientist did an experiment once. He arranged the caterpillars in a head to tail circle with a food supply on the outskirts for when they got the munchies. They carried on doing trotting around  for an entire week.

I think this might be a nest!
So cute!' you may be thinking. But hold your horses. The Spanish around these parts view these mini beasts as devil spawn and zap their nests whenever they come across them. We've learnt this week that their hairs, which they can eject by the way, cause severe skin reactions.  They present a particular danger to dogs who have had to have their tongues cut out after they've necrosed after taking a lick. Worse still they die if they injest them.   It suggests a horrific take on Eric Carle's hungry caterpillar who was pretty unassuming.  On Monday he ate a dog's paw; on Tuesday he ate two bollocks of an unsuspecting naturist.  You get the gist.  The lesson is don't let your hound run around or sit down naked in the pine forests around these parts.

We didn't know this when we arrived. During our first lunch outside one fell on Salty Dog's lap. 'Oh how sweet!' she exclaimed 'Look at his lovely little face.' She then proceeded to stroke him as if it were a fluffy kitten.  No ill effects yet. I think she might have had a lucky escape!

Monday, 22 February 2016

Granada For The Day

My laptop is shagged.  What is it with leads for electronic devices these days? They never last very long.  So I'm reduced to blogging on my phone and I've never quite got the knack of being nifty on a phone keyboard.  It's a bit painful to watch.

So it's quite a short post today with a picture of Granada, a city that's been added to my favourites list.  No flamenco, it got logistically difficult but I did dance with my friends in an alleyway outside a charming bar to the strains of an impromptu guitar performance.  And of  course I visited the Alhambra, ate pomegranate ice cream, bought beautiful reasonably priced ceramics for Mad Wall 2 and strolled in safe streets by the light of a near full moon.  It was fab!

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Another Nook

I'm scheduling  ahead for at the time that I  normally publish posts I'll have only been in bed for a couple of hours. We'll hopefully have been to a flamenco club in Granada and because it's Spain the action won't have started until stupid o' clock.

So I'm taking you all on a virtual trip back to my  place. Over the last few weeks my homemaking has been coming on in leaps and bounds.  Here's my work space at the top of the stairs. In a normal '30s semi it would have been the box room but the former owners opened it up when they had the loft conversion.  It works and now is a light, bright area that's just right for crafting with plenty of storage for tools and materials. Not the prettiest corner of my home granted but here I was aiming for utility rather than aesthetics. I think it will work.  Look out for some printing, jewellery and mosaics soon!

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Me Cave Woman, Make Fire!

Look what I made yesterday!  It's probably the first time that I've built a fire on my own since I was a Girl Guide.  I started it with a few bits of cardboard, oodles of that squirty lighter fuel, squillions of matches and a wine cork. We seem to have a few of those here.    Ray Mears, eat your heart out!

I had a little fantasy that's cleaner than the one with Russell Crowe in the gladiator outfit with no pants.  It involves having a log burner and collecting my wood in a big rucksack when I go for walks.  Then I decided that it would be too much of a pfaff. My firemaking experience has awakened something primeval.  I found it tremendously satisfying.  Maybe I will after all make space for flames in my own home.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Proper Milk

I have in mind that I might live in France one day.  Either Brittany or somewhere south of Bordeaux where I have easy access to sea and mountains.    However I'm coming around to the idea that Spain could be a goer too.

On our trip up from the airport we stopped off to stock up on provisions in a Dia supermarket. Salty Dog has lived in Spain.  'This will do.' she said.  'It's dead cheap.'  We were catering for seven so cost definitely comes into play.  Even so, as a foodie, I am fussy.

I need not have worried.  The choice was great, lots of fresh fruit and veg and interesting Spanish fayre that would cost a fortune at home.  The price of our overloaded trolley which included shedloads of alcohol for our house party was a shade over 200 Euros.  We estimated it would have been more than double that in England.

There was no fresh milk though.  Just the boiled to death UHT kind that tastes minging in tea.  That swayed it for me.  France it was gonna be, even though their food prices were way higher. That was until we popped into Lidl yesterday and found some of the proper stuff.   Yay!  The little house in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada isn't out of the question after all.

Thursday, 18 February 2016


My GP and I speak as one. Prescribed drugs aren't the answer to my current situation.  After a five day course of sleeping pills didn't do the job of propelling me back from the realm of insomnia the doc felt that I needed to address the underlying causes of what was keeping me awake.  He is a sensible man.

Perhaps a break away from it all would do the trick?  Luckily I had one planned!  I've rocked up in the foothills of the Andalusian mountain to a finca with this view.  And there's two lemon trees in the garden.

It's Salty Dog's fiftieth birthday and she's hired this place.  Friends will arrive over the next couple of days but we had it to ourselves yesterday.  Although we were swathed in blankets I think that what we did yesterday afternoon counts as sunbathing.  I alternated between reading, sleeping and admiring the view.  We then went for a stroll and a glass of vino tinto in the nearest whitewashed village to here.

Today we're planning a wintery walk at a higher elevation.  There's snow in them there distant hills.  I'm hoping that being able away from home away from the responsibilities associated with normal life will supercharge the batteries.  It may be just what the doctor ordered!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Flocking Marvellous!

Here's a fascinating little video from the olden days showing how posh wallpaper was made in the 1960s.  I'm betting that if you're prepared to spend a bob or two on an artisan produced roll today the processes that you see here won't have changed very much.

And have you ever wondered how flock wallpaper, the standard decor in a  '70s Indian restaurant or old fashioned French hotel was made.  Of course you have!  Well here's a  video that will well and truly sate your curiosity. It's just like fluffy glitter. I bet you'll all be wanting a flocking tank of your own! 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

No Pulling The Wool

As part of my rehabilitation back into the world of clinical work I'm having some therapy.  My employer has a contract with a counselling service that offers it for free.  I'm going to be really upfront and honest here. For the most part I only signed up to demonstrate to my managers that I'm doing everything I can to get back on track.  Dotting I's and crossing T's as it were. After all I am a therapist myself.   Don't I know it all already?!!!

So I was given a telephone appointment.  Before I made the call I decided that I'd ask to work on goals around maintaining a better  work-life balance.  It's something that I'm capable of doing by myself but I reckoned that two heads might be better than one.  Surely I could get away with skirting over some of the difficult things that have been going on over the last few months.  After all even though I've been responsible for dealing with the aftermath of recent metaphorical train crashes it wasn't as if I was the driver.

The session didn't go to plan.  My attempt to make light of what's been happening wasn't washing. Thank goodness my therapist wasn't having any wool pulled over their eyes. Oh no!  Consequently I've recognised the need to acknowledge the impact of recent trauma  and work out how to recover from its after effects. It's quite a tricky process.  I was left exhausted after yesterday's therapy sessions.  My other plans for the day had to be put on hold but so it must be.

Professionally I'm right at the coal face when it comes to tragedy.  Once I gave an acquaintance who was a counsellor an overview of a typical case that I worked on.  'Oh!' they replied.  'That's really complex. I think you ought to refer that on'.  What they'd failed to appreciate was that the service that I work in is at the end of the line.  We are the people who are the recipients of the most tricky cases.

It's just dawned on me that because my exposure to suffering is so frequent I underplay my own struggles and as such underestimate the toll they exert.   For they seem inconsequential compared to so much of what I regularly see. Yet their cumulative effect is substantial.

I'm sharing this, not as an act of self-indulgence, but to speak to those in similar shoes.   There's got to be a few of you out there in the same boat in our overstretched systems. Jobs like the ones in health and social care, and the other emergency services do not come with a cloak of invincibility.    If enough is thrown at us, whether it be personally or professionally, we break like anyone else.  I'm thanking my lucky stars that I recognised this as an early stage.  A little bit later and repair would have been so much more difficult.

Monday, 15 February 2016

In The Interim

In lieu of the unveiling of my new bathroom I thought I'd show you how another room is coming on. Previously I'd complained that my bedroom was  gloomy  in spite of having the white walls, one of my home decor trademarks. They are in a poor state and along with the woodwork desperately need TLC in the form of a bit of plasterwork and new coats of paint.  It's a big daunting job which will take time that that I don't have at the moment. So for the time-being I'll have to live with what I've got.  In terms of a temporary transformation where I can happily spend time I might have suddenly cracked it.

My bedroom has quite an odd extension that's housed an exercise bike and a box of books since I moved here.  It's quite an weird space, like an afterthought.  I've been toying with the idea of a relaxation/ meditation space but was struggling to come up with ideas of how this might be achieved on a limited budget,

I found  a small retro-style settee in a charity shop which is due to be delivered today.  It will provide extra seating in the sunroom.  Its imminent arrival called for a hasty rearrangement of furniture downstairs and this wobbly old display cabinet became spare.  I thought that I'd stick it outside the house to see if it would be rehomed but then wondered if it would serve as a bookcase upstairs.  As you see it fits a treat.  I've stolen the idea of storing the books in a rainbow order from Red Mel's son Toby.  Sod the Dewey Decimal System. Aesthetically libraries up and down the country could learn a thing or two.

The other side of the extension has a bit of a Yellowstone theme going on.  It needs a bit more work but its way better than the grim corner that it was just a few days ago. There's a bargain five dollar Old Faithful poster with a rather kitsch bear gazing on at an eruption.  My old Lloyd Loom  chair that needs painting and reupholstering is disguised with a geyser-inspired throw, a gift from our friends John and Julie.  The lamp was a spare. This corner needs work but it's getting there.  I want to source a small table and possibly a footstool.  I already had the rug.  It used to live under my pallet table in the living room until  I replaced it with the bigger more colourful raggy one.You'd think that mix of fabrics covering the chair and floor would be a no-no but funnily enough I think I've got away with it.

Here's where the Union Jack chair ended up!  The utility chest of drawers that's been with me since childhood isn't really a good match with the other furniture and will be moved to the spare room when the right replacement turns up.  I'm on the lookout for something that's more in keeping with my Edwardian wardrobe.  With dark wood not being particularly fashionable right now it might come at a bargain price.

I couldn't resist showing off my hat collection even though my door needs a right good glossing.

And here's my decluttered bedside table with just the book that's on the go at the moment.  I have to say that Norwegian Wood by Murakami is an absolute cracker in reading terms.

With the addition of texture and colour I've succeeded in making this room a cosy space.  All of a sudden I love it!  It might even be my favourite room in the house. I had in mind that it would be my personal space, an adult only sanctuary for recuperation and reflection.  It seems that the kid of the house has other ideas. He's rather taken with it too!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Valentine's Day: Bah Humbug!

For those hopeless romantics  I suggest you go elsewhere.  I wish you well in your hunt of inspired gooeyness.  May your day be truly special and full of love, kisses and soppy stuff!

The 14th February has always passed  like an ordinary day for me.  I've never been showered with flowers, cards, champers and chocolate or wined and dined to the strains of someone declaring their undying love.  The men in my life have  mostly been of the a) poor  or b) tight walleted varieties.  'How much!' you might have heard them say as they perused the special menus with their over- inflated prices.  To be honest I've been with then on this. I'm always suspicious that food and service would not be so good on a day where a restaurant is packed out or the roses in that bouquet wouldn't last as long as normal.

It's not that I'm adverse to a little romance but of the spontaneous non-commercial type.   I can be deeply touched by small loving gestures,  especially flowers and  thoughtful deeds and words.  I probably wouldn't baulk at hugely expensive outpourings either.  Bring on that trip to Easter Island with the man with a beautiful artisan crafted engagement ring in his pocket!  It's unlikely to happen anytime yet.  Depending on the perspective at any given time, I'm still apathetic or fussy when it comes to my own search for love. And maybe it's not the right time.   Okay I'll grant you that relationships come with the rough and the smooth.  But who'd want to start out on the rest of life's journey with someone who's got a bit of a stress head on?

It could seem like I'm cocking a snook with the picture today but that's  not the case.  I didn't know anything about St Valentine until I saw it.  Given his story I'm genuinely puzzled as to how this particular saint became associated with love and romance.  A little bit of research didn't set me straight.  There was mention that it had something to do with Chaucer but I'm none the wiser.

And here's  song titled 'Valentine'.  Except it's about break up and doesn't really set the tone .  However it's one that I'm partial too  as it's clever, quirky and catchy.   For those more conventional hopeless romantics who've somehow stayed the course  here's a link to 'Unchained Melody'.  I find this golden oldie incredibly touching.  Maybe there's hope yet!

Saturday, 13 February 2016


I told you all the other day that I was geeky.  So when someone posted this really short video on Facebook of what goes on at  footplate level on a sewing machine  it rendered me mesmerised. Perhaps Version 2 should show what happens when everything goes tits up and you end up with that gnarly mass of thread that takes hours to unpick!

Friday, 12 February 2016

A Good Bunch

Cro at Magnon's Meanderings recently inspired me to spill the beans on what I lug around in my handbag.  He recently shared what was on his keyring.  'Another good idea! ' I thought. I am not adverse to snitching ideas  to avoid writer's block, that thing of a daily blogger's nightmare.  Here's my jingly stash. It kept a toddler at the GP surgery rather amused yesterday. First, the boring bit.

  • House keys x 3:  The front door one and two for around the back of the house.  I'm not sure why I've carry the whole blooming set around since I've moved in.  This exercise may force me to revise this.
  • The electronic fob for Leif, my little green froggy Skoda.  It's pretty identical to the one for my colleague's VW.  In an absent minded moment I nearly nicked his keys as a consequence the other day.
  • Keys at two and five o' clock belong to Klaus the Knaus.  The big'un is the ignition one and the other gives access to the living space and all his exterior nooks and crannies.  I keep them on there so I can pop into the motorhome if needed.
Moving on to the stuff that would be of no interest to a locksmith whatsoever:
  • A keyring from the ski school at Soldeu.  My ex-husband 'won' it early in the '90s in a race where he demolished the finishing poles.  I really must return it one day.
  • A bottle opener.  How that got on there I'll never know. It's staying though.  A girl never knows when she might need the sustenance of a good beer!
  • Arachnophobes beware!  There's a silver spider at one o' clock.  Eeeek!  He was bought on Exeter Quay years and years ago and is made out of nails.   He was more realistic when I bought him as he was covered with  a black plastic coating.
  • A token for a supermarket trolley:  Salty Dog gave it to me, a freebie from a Boat Show that she thoughtfully gifted on.  
Cro's little stash seemed to contain a number of 'lucky charms' whereas there's nothing on my jangly bunch to encourage good fortune through magical means.  Now there's a situation that I might have to remedy!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Testing, Testing

The bathroom that was a building site is nigh on complete!  It is all tiled and there's an operational bath and shower, sink and toilet.

'Louis christened the loo.'  I told the builder.
'A number two?' he asked hopefully.
'No', I replied for I'd been told uncategorically what had been deposited.  Kids are like that
 'So it's not been tested with solids then?'  He looked concerned.

Bodily functions did not seem an appropriate topic of conversation with a near stranger even though we've shared a bloody good laugh over the last fortnight. I realised though that this was a necessary line of inquiry in terms of ascertaining the  integrity of the pipework for what had been quite a difficult installation.

'It might have been.' I coyly answered.  I may have even gone a bit red.   After all, it's not nice discussing one's own  toileting habits with a non medically trained person.  I do have boundaries you know.  Thankfully my builder seemed satisfied with this reply. Phew!

I know that you'd love to see the finished article and I really can't wait  to show it off either.  It's lush and a squillion times better than my old bathroom. Alas it's not quite done yet.  There's been a delay in the delivery of the radiator.  It's no ordinary one I'll have you know but a swanky chrome designer jobbie that I couldn't resist as it will add  impact to the room.  There's also a bit of painting to be done.  So for now, I've decided to keep you in suspenders.  The wait will be worth it.  In the meantime  you can make do with  this picture of the funniest medical assessment in cake form.  It  seems appropriate given today's topic of discussion.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

My Mind: My Mate

The Bible yesterday, Buddha today. Honestly! What is this blog turning into?

'Your mind can be your best friend or worst enemy'.  

This unattributed  quote struck me as particularly significant a couple of weeks ago. I was working with someone who was incredibly troubled.  This was not because of what was happening in their physical environment  but through the unimaginable torture conjured up between their two ears. Their distress was tangible even though what disturbed them wasn't.

'Maybe my mind has turned against me as well!'  That was one of my own thoughts  since I've been signed off with stress.  For instance, my sense of what is difficult is disproportionate.  When I awoke yesterday, transferring money to Louis' music teacher, writing an email and doing the washing up  took on the air of the impossible.   I'd normally deal with such mundane stuff on autopilot.

Thankfully there's part of me that seems separate, a dispassionate observer.  They're not seeing my mind as a new enemy,  a turncoat. For from it stems creativity, love, analysis. logic, humour,  a sense of what is right and wrong and the idea that there are hinterlands where morality  or reason is unfathomable.  It usually serves me beautifully and my inner life is  something that is cherished.  At the moment it's just been stretched beyond capacity with multiple things that cannot be blogged about,  tales of trauma outside my control, yet where my input has been needed.  I had my first telephone counselling session last night and it was only then the breadth of what I've been dealing with lately sank in.

My mind is still my friend but maybe one that is in need of a bit of firm TLC at the moment.   'Rule your mind or it will rule you'.  So said the Buddha.    The part of my psyche that remains objective urges the addled bit to remain rational, encourages it to properly assess the difficulty of what needs to be done and coaxes it into action.  Because of it money was paid, dishes got cleaned and an email was replied to as normal.  My mind is also reminded to go easy on itself and notice the things that it's still doing well and what is being achieved.   After all wouldn't I be offering similar support for any other mate in the same situation?

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Burgers And The Bible

It's occurred to me that I no longer browse through recipe books as often as I used to.  I've still got a reasonable sized collection housed on one of the shelves in my utility tallboy.  My arty books, that don't get much use either, are on the other.  The Internet has taken over whenever I'm looking for something to cook or a crafting technique. In some ways it's a bit sad.

Maybe this is the reason that I didn't buy A Girl Called Jack  when after it was published in spite of those thrifty recipes being right up my street. I'm a bit of a fan of Jack Monroe in terms of values, tenacity and sassiness. There's brownie points for demonstrating that people from Essex don't all fit the TOWIE stereotype.  It seems that neither of us is particularly keen on Katie Hopkins either who brings shame on my current homeland of Devon.

There's an early life here that somewhat parallels to my own. We both had working class childhoods in Southend-on-Sea and were educated at grammar schools, albeit different ones, in the town. Those years weren't particularly happy  for me. I was often ostracised by better off pupils and their parents for being common.   Conversely my solitary bright green uniform meant that I was alienated on my own estate where  the other kids, who went to the local secondary modern or comprehensive, labelled me a snob.  It was all a bit puzzling. Jack is younger so let's hope that attitudes had moved on for a later generation though I suspect that, given Katie Hopkins' attitude, things have changed little down the years.

Thankfully Mum still adds to her paper based recipe collection and she'd bought the book after I'd told her about Jack.   Even though she's better off than she ever has been as a pensioner she still loves making her pennies stretch as far as possible.   I had a look through whilst I was back in Essex last weekend.  There was lots to tempt. Those 9p burgers definitely seem worth a go and instructions are thankfully available in cyberland.

At the start of the book before the recipes I was surprised to find a  quote from the New International version of the bible which accompanied a picture of Jack with their boy child . I shared it with my old school chum, Calamity Jane, who liked the words too and is going to use them to send her own bigger son off  when he goes travelling later in the year.   Even though some Christians might find their use out of context, I'm going to borrow them to accompany today's picture as well.     It seems that we have a common source of happiness as well as childhood similarities.

'This is my son whom I love; with him I am well pleased'.  Matthew 3:17.

Monday, 8 February 2016


Have you ever marvelled what's inside a lightbulb?   That's why one features as the picture for today's post. It's quite intricate. Perhaps it's just me that finds them beautiful.  I'll admit to being well geeky at times.

I'm travelling back to Devon this morning.  I have appointments to attend and Louis is back with me after school tonight.  There's no rest for the wicked even if they have a sick note.  My short trip to Southend-on-Sea involved a visit to my favourite seafront cafe to mainline coffee with my old schoolfriend Calamity Jane.  It's right on the beach, the tide was in and the waves were HUGE!!!! I also wandered into town with Mum with a shopping list.  Yep, lightbulbs were on it.  I'm managed to knock over both my bedside lamps in the last week.  Being accident prone is expensive.

It's rare that I venture into a proper town centre. My usual shopping haunts are the small towns of the South Hams and the relative metropolis of  Newton Abbot.    I like Mutley Plain in Plymouth too as that's stuffed to the gunnels with charity shops that have been very fruitful hunting grounds in the past.

Remember my resolution not to buy clothes in 2016? Well,  surprise, surprise, with that wealth of retail opportunity,  it's gone out of the window.  But let me hastily explain. Black leggings are a staple of my wardrobe.  I wear them with boots instead of tights.  Given that I am Frank Spencer's female alter ego  I managed to cover several of them with paint during recent decorating endeavours.  Now most of the remaining pairs have started to get indecently holey.   So after browsing in several clothes shops as I am fussy about length, texture and thickness I bought four new pairs.   They were planned purchases. Believe me I resisted lots of gorgeousness including dresses in TKMaxx and H&M that were right up my street.  I reminded myself I have a house to decorate and travel plans to fulfil.  It did the trick.

So I have revised my wardrobe replenishment plans from zero for 2016.   I've shown myself that I can resist the frou-frou.   For  comfort and decency I'll allow myself replace the basics if they wear out.  That should still keep me well below that figure for the  annual number of clothes purchased by women of sixty seven.  If I can sustain the willpower I'll be well pleased.   Watch for a future post where I make excuses and change the rules again!

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Real Retro

For reasons beyond the realms of the blogosphere I'm spending the weekend in Essex. In 1968,  my family moved into a solid brick built terrace on one of the big council estates that went up after the war. Mum and Dad have remained here ever since. When they arrived the house still had its original kitchen.  Nearly fifty years on and it's still going strong.  The quality of all that joinery is a cut above those flat packed chipboard units available today.   Aside from a lick of paint and different tiling and floor covering, little has changed since my childhood.  My toy cupboard was in that space below the curtain you can see.  Each morning I used to empty everything out and then sit on the floor and chat to Mum.  I only went quiet when 'Listen With Mother' came on the radio just before Woman's Hour.

Mum, for always the kitchen has definitely been her domain, still has this very capacious old fashioned larder behind that door on the left.  The other cupboard that you can see contains cleaning materials. Latter day housebuilders could learn lots about built-in storage space.  It's in abundance around the entire home.  However a modern day wannabe chef would find the space for food preparation intolerable. That work surface shown in the picture above is the only one.  Yet somehow Mum has managed to rustle up incredible meals and baked goods in this tiny spot.  Even after my experience of living in the restricted space in my motorhome, I'm not sure how's she's done it for the last half a century.   There must be something Tardis-like about it that kicks in when the dining room door closes.  There is always homemade cake stored in Tupperware boxes when I arrive home.  The current offering of coconut muffins are so reminiscent of my childhood. Lush!

There's only two appliances, the cooker and the fridge.  Oh, there is a microwave tucked away but I haven't seen it used very often.  Yes, there is a washing machine but that's in the lean-to outside the back door.  It's an old fashioned top loading type.  In marketing terms my parents definitely aren't early adopters!

This is a very different beast from the kitchen in my own home that meets the modern requirement for being a hangout for friends and family.  I have to say that I prefer my own house's open plan feel and the sense of belonging that I have whilst I'm slaving away over a hot stove to feed the masses.  It's very  likely that the next owners of my childhood home will make some very big changes.  I wouldn't blame them for the different way of living of younger generations demands a different environment. However it would be great if some of that retroness, which really must be rather rare, could be preserved.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Down To Earth And Up In The Clouds

Time for some bollocks or spiritual reflection.  It all depends on your perspective. In recent years I've learnt to be very accepting of  the different ways that others make sense of the world.  My way of doing, thinking and believing is very personal to me.  Everyone else can work what suits them best. Anyway I've bought myself a new pack of angel cards.  It's one that features in the free readings on Angel Messenger that I sometimes use.  This was the first that I drew.  Spooky!

Yes, I'm heeding this.  For instance,  I'm swimming most days. For the moment it's in a pool but I find it such a sterile environment.  I'd prefer to be outside.  For a time now, I've been a passive member of an wild swimming group on Facebook. Someone actively involved has been gauging other people's interest before she organised a talk about swimming safely with seals. It seems that my mammalian Brixham chums are keen to be friendly.  I made contact and asked if attendance at this event might be an good introduction to the group.  There was a swift response inviting me for a sea swim.  'What's the temperature at this time of year? I asked, for I am a namby-pamby when it comes to being cold.  'Eight degrees'  Yikes!  I'm going to have to psyche myself up.  Apparently you can acclimatise quite easily.  I'll have to sleep on that one.

And sleep I have, right through the night! It's almost unheard of.  The Zzzzzz-drug that the doctor prescribed has worked a treat but I took my final one last night.   I'm hoping that the short medication course has kickstarted a habit where I won't find myself lying awake in the wee hours anymore.

I've organised appointments next week for counselling and physiotherapy to nurture my head and leg. The GP is also investigating where to refer me for a dyspraxia assessment.    I'd been putting this off fearing that others would see it as an irrelevance given that I've lived and learnt to cope over the last fifty years.  It's lovely to know that someone with medical knowledge doesn't think that I'm being over indulgent.

So I hope Teresa With The Wings thinks that I am heeding her,advice.  I'll end today with a link to the current meditation I'm using regularly.  Steer clear if angels aren't your bag but I've found this helpful for reflecting on healing in its widest sense. Even though I'm supposed to be focusing on myself, it feels good from a wellbeing perspective to keep others in mind.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Love It!

Photo:  BBC
Noooooo!  I'd run out.  Marmite was on my shopping list this week.  A big £4.50 jar as those poxy little ones don't last five minutes in this house. That's even though Louis views the stuff as devil spawn.  I have expressed the view before that he could be a changeling based solely on this fact.  What's there not to love about a salty something on buttered toast.  Funnily enough I don't pile it on thick.  My spreading action is just a gesture.  A little goes a long way.

I love the fact that there is this sculptural homage to Marmite in Burton on Trent, the town where the product is made.  If you click on the link below the photo you'll find out some facts about my favourite savoury spread.  I was particularly taken by the idea that prisoners use it as a constituent of illicitly made hooch.  Allegedly the Dartmoor lot were making one called Marmite Mule.  It can't be true.  If it were, the story would have definitely been told in that kooky prison museum!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Bathroom or Building Site?

Like it?  My bathroom is hardcore shabby chic at the moment. The only operational toilet is in that teeny tiny room downstairs. Scope for maintaining personal hygiene is very limited indeed.Louis is delighted as that aversion to water seen in most well-rounded small boys can be nurtured.  Me?  When walking the Appalachian Trail I was seen as OCD for my capacious use of wet wipes.  Most others were happy to smell as nature intended between stops in towns.  Believe me after four days the stench of an unwashed human body isn't an odour I'd like to be associated with.  I can't bear being dirty.   My brother says that girlie nadders become self cleaning after two months. He then said that he was joking.  Even if he wasn't I wouldn't be embarking on a trial to find out.  Anyway the bathroom will be finished in a week.  There may even be an operational bath, albeit in stark surroundings by this weekend.

In the meantime  an act of killing two birds with one stone has ensued. I've taken to the local pool.  Non weight bearing but aerobic exercise combined with the ability to shower.  Perfect! I'm a real water babe and can swim until I get bored.  I might even keep it up after I've got a finished bathroom to show you. Watch this space for that rather impressive makeover.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

One For Me

Move over 'So Long Marianne' for  'My Oh My'.  'I've mentioned before that I'm much keener on the newer work of my mucker Leonard Cohen.  Ditto Billy Bragg whose musical style has mellowed with time even though he still packs a poetic punch message-wise.  This one, not of the olde-worlde protest song variety, is a favourite that speaks to my inner eternal optimist who remains in spite of the stressy head. Even though she's taken a bit of a knock lately, she's still there holding her half full glass  high.  It contains beer of the ginger variety rather than my preferred hoppy version.  I'm told by my GP that sleeping pills and alcohol should not be mixed.   I remained in the Land of Nod last night for the first time in yonks.  A decent kip does wonders for keeping all those hopes of a good tomorrow alive!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Gone Quiet

People who know me well are au fait with the fact that, if I am not my usual chatterbox self, it is a bad sign. There's been a lot going on lately in a background that my blogging life seldom touches. So many friends and family in need of practical help and emotional support and a work life that quickly threatened to take over more  time than is healthy because of events that are well and truly outside my control.

A straw suddenly broke the camel's back.  I'm not sure which one.  It could have been that it seemed impossible to fit in a trip to the physio for knee advice around all the pressing appointments at work.  My sleep hasn't been great for a while but over the last few days it's gone completely tits up.  I awake in the early hours panicking about what I have to do.  This needs nipping in the bud so I've been to the GP and been signed off many of my work duties for a couple of weeks.  I'm also armed with a short course of sleeping pills  to restore those ZZZZs.  And yes there's time to fit in that rehab appointment so I might be able to walk again without pain.  'I thought you were quiet.' said Salty Dog when I told her news that I felt might come as a surprise.  You see. They notice.

I pride myself on being resilient and strong and it's hard to share news about the toll that cumulative stressors have taken.  Yet I do so  as there will be others out there who need to stop the hamster treadmill that they too are on and take stock.  You know who you are.   Don't worry that acknowledging your own frailty is a sign of failure.  Far from it, taking action in a world so geared for success takes guts.

Monday, 1 February 2016


More money spent!  I've could really be mistaken for a shopaholic since I moved into my home.  Yet I'm not a person who changes their interior decor to keep up with current trends. White walls accesorised with lots of colour is likely to be the style that I'll embrace for a lifetime.  I'm hoping that my furnishings will stand the test of time.

Downstairs is echoey as it's a big open plan space.  Four rooms in one really.  Sound waves bouncing off surfaces do not create that air of cosyness that Louis and I crave.  Soft stuff is needed to act as mufflers.  There you go.  I do remember some of the physics that I studied to A-level.  It sometimes comes in handy in everyday life.

In my quest for acoustic perfection I decided that more rugs to cover the bare boards and the ceramic tiles which form my downstairs flooring.  I'm delighted with the beautiful Habitat one and am now a rag rug convert.  In an ideal world I'd be making my own but hey I'm not delusional enough to think that I could knock a couple up in between everything else that I do. So I set out on a mission to find some that had already been made by other clever people.

And here's what I found via Ebay.  Second Nature is a great online store with a huge selection of reasonably priced and ragginess.  I've had a sniff around the website and there's loads of other lovely stuff aside from flooring.  What's more the products do not prick the eco-conscience.  Both my rugs are fair traded.

It was really hard to choose but in the end I picked the ones that you see here.  I'm really pleased with the quality.  The rag strands are so tightly packed that it's hard not to believe that they aren't a woolly weave.  I'm hoping that they'll last years and years and be a good fit with my philosophy of keepsies for good.

This one with the circles looks fabulous in the sun room with my retro chair that I swapped for a tree.  All that I need now is a similarly themed big cushion and a bit more furniture.  The other ziggy zaggy one in the top picture is bright and fun and looks great with all my crocheted throws and the big knitted pouffes in the lounge.  It's a great addition to all that 'toyshop chic'!