Thursday, 31 March 2016

Campfire Violation: Pay $200!

Red Mel joined us for Easter Sunday which included playing board games.   I enjoyed her travel version of Pointless but thought that I'd show off Louis' gorgeous and non standard Monopoly set in today's post  It's one of the much loved souvenirs that we bought at the Old Faithful souvenir store last year. The counters include a tent, a canoe and a bison.  Instead of stations there are outdoor activities and of course Yellowstone rightfully replaces Mayfair.  Louis trashed us. He's a very inventive wheeler dealer!  

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Barbie's Little Sister Grows Up (And Outwards)

Here's a video of a version of  Barbies little sister, Skipper,  produced by Mattel, in 1975.  She's a girl that goes from little girl to grumpy hormonal adolescent with just a twist of an arm.  Now there's a toymaker with a bit of a weird take on product design!

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Stick Kid

Louis is thirteen today. How time has flown!  In spite of some moments that I'm putting down to hormones that surfaced a couple of months early he can still be a little darling. Out of the blue the other day he told me that I deserved love more than anyone else on the planet.   Of course this is absolute nonsense for we are all equally worthy but I was very touched.

These may be the last sweet words uttered from his lips for some time.  I've awoken fully prepared for  that total Kevin transition moment when the hormones suddenly surge forth.   They may come halfway through the bowling trip planned in celebration of this milestone birthday. Midshot I'll become too embarrasing to associate with for the next five years.

His present list was remarkably short. There's a Minecraft game for the Xbox and some Artemis Fowl books as he's reading through the series. For the surprise element I had to get my thinking cap on.  I remembered that  he liked a ukelele in a local charity shop a while back so I got him one of those. As musical instruments go they're as cheap as chips.

I also bought this book as another attempt to further counter all the relentless technology that kids today are exposed to.  It comes with a host of fabulous reviews. When we go out Louis often picks up a stick which then becomes his plaything' invariably a weapon. Usually they're quite large, branchlike even, and there's often a little battle afterwards when I refuse to let him bring it in the house. We'd have a woodpile in the living room by now if I acquiesced.

Yes, I think he'll like this book.  Unless, that it, the adolescent transformation brings adverse change of the highest severity.  If this is so, I think that this is definitely at risk of being labelled as 'lame'!

Monday, 28 March 2016

Post About Posters

You know those cheesy posters that are all over the Internet with funny or meaningful quotes?  Did you realise that you can easily rustle them up yourself using  Canva?  I've been meaning to share this for a while but just needed to come up with something suitably pithy to share.  I think this will do.  It fits my current situation quite nicely.  Just got to find that cruel to be kind individual who can give me a push.

There are a few free images to use on the site otherwise you'll pay one whole US dollar for the previous of uploading one of Canva's own.  I passed on that and found this birdy picture from Pixabay.  There's millions of free images there.  Then it was just a case of a bit of cropping and  cutting and pasting in Guillaume Apollinaire's wise words. 'Who's he?' I asked Wikipedia.  In summary:  Italian bloke who moved to France in his teens, artistic all rounder and friend of the famous died far too young of 'flu!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

I'm Going To Be A Grandma!

Hold your horses!  This isn't likely to happen anytime soon.  My son is only just approaching adolescence and merely shows a perfunctory interest in members of the opposite sex.  What I speak of is a hope for the distant future.

I am an arch declutterer. Even stuff that's jolly useful gets thrown away if I don't recognise what it's for.  In particular I'm thinking back to the time when I discarded an unidentifiable object that I found in the boot of the car.  It turned out to be essential when I got a puncture as it was the tool to remove my alloy wheels.  Oops! You live and learn.

So  as it's highly unusual that I'll keep something that's not in current use, I'm sharing the fact that this Lego is going in the loft.  Sadly Louis no longer plays with it but I can't bear to discard it.  I'm keeping it for my grandchildren.  And in a sadistic way, I'm looking forward to the time when Louis, too feels the pain of treading on a Lego brick that his own littl'uns have failed to put away!

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Days Out In Devon: Berry Pomeroy Castle

'Can we visit a castle?' asked Louis. It's an easy wish to grant. There are four within a ten mile radius of our home which must mean that Devon was rather a fighty place in the olden days.  Until yesterday I'd only visited the one at Totnes, which I can see from my office window. Now I've got another under the belt. We chose Berry Pomeroy as it is reputed to be the one of the most haunted places in Britain.  Wooooo! There's several badly made ghost hunting videos by local yoofs on YouTube.  You'll get the gist if you have a look at this pretty underwhelming example.  Don't hold your breath!

I've heard it said that electronic devices can stop working during a visit to the castle.   As a precaution I delved into the pool of knowledge that I've acquired from hanging out in one of the most hippy towns in the country and imagined a  protective white light around my mobile. It was  rather like that Colgate ring of confidence.  After all I find it easy enough to trash phones on my own without any supernatural interference so I need all the help that I can get.  Louis was rather scathing.  That hocus pocus stuff doesn't wash with him.  He is a scientist through and through.

Many folks around here are familiar with Berry Pomeroy as it's on the busiest ratrun between Torbay and the South Hams.  The castle isn't visible from the village.  It's tucked away in a valley which is reached by a single track road.  In spite of being a ruin it's absolutely stunning. There are remains of building works from three different periods.  The earliest castle was a proper fortification but then two successive rebuilds turned it into the ultimate 17th century des res fit for a visit from Queen Elizabeth I.  Sadly this never happened.  The queen was too old to travel by the time the place was swanky enough for her.

This is  the bottom room of St Margaret's tower in one of the oldest parts of the castle.   It's supposed to be haunted by Eleanor Pomeroy, who fell in love with the same guy that her sister, Margaret, fancied. The story becomes like the Tudor equivalent of something from the Jeremy Kyle show.  I'd say that  Margaret slightly over-reacted.  After all she was reported to have been the prettier sister and so the odds might have been in her favour without any drastic action being necessary.  She imprisoned Eleanor here in this dungeon where she endured a gruesome and slow death from starvation. That taught her!  I wonder Margaret melted the heart of the bloke as a consequence of her actions.

I'd hoped to have been able to show off lots more pictures of the castle.  It is incredibly photogenic.  But get this!  My phone konked out just as after this picture was taken. No!!!!  Okay the battery has been a bit dodgy for a while but I prefer to believe that the strange forces were at play.  Perhaps Eleanor's ghost, the White Lady,  is camera shy and didn't want her spooky image appearing in any shots.   Thankfully the malfunction was only temporary as a good long charge sorted the problem out. Maybe my little protective ritual was effective after all!

Friday, 25 March 2016

A Big Old Edwardian

Even though I regard myself as pretty darn funky I don't think I'm  on trend or, ever will be.  I've absolutely no idea what's fashionable.  With music, books, food, art and clothes I like what I like.  It's probably why my son thinks that I am uber-uncool.  I take umbrage with that!

My way of designing an interior is pretty simple.  I fill it with stuff  that I'm certain I'll be able to live with for the rest of my life.  It seems that I've been going hell for leather to kit out the house that we moved into last July. But  I don't want to be faffing around prettifying my home forever.  Once it's done, I'll leave well alone and have time to spend on more exciting stuff. I won't be changing my furniture and soft furnishings to keep up with the current fads. That'll be it.

I'm confident  that my home will never feel  dated. The key seems to be mixing and matching items and not going with any one dominant theme. I've got the lot here, a mixture of different eras and materials.    Of course I have shelving from Ikea. Doesn't 99% of the population who live within a three hundred mile radius of one of their shops make the sacred meatball pilgrimage? But for  key pieces I look to the secondhand market and snap up items for a fraction of the price of new furniture in mid range stores.

My excitement levels rose to a crescendo the other day when I found this on Ebay.  Just what I was looking for to make a statement in the boudoir department.   It's by Maple & Co who were the most successful furniture makers of  the Victorian and Edwardian periods.   The proportion are just right for the alcove that'll be its new home.  I got it for just over £200, not a rock bottom price, but I'm happy that's this is  a bargain given the quality . There'll be a little wait for it to arrive as the seller has to arrange a courier.  But once it's here it's going in my bedroom as a companion to my huge Edwardian wardroom. I'm sure they'll look fine and dandy together.  The utility chest of drawers  that seems out of  place will be rehoused in the spare room.

I know that there will be doubting Thomas' out there that will think that I've bought a pup. Yes this is big and heavy and dark wood.  No, Sugar Plumb!  I'm not going to get out the chalk paint and 'shabby chic' it . Look at that beautiful grain of that oak.  That shouldn't be covered up.  I'll show it off again when it's in situ.  I promise that it will look alright.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

'Snot Needed

I've just come across the most stomach churning piece of kitchen paraphenalia I've ever seen.  Even though I know Louis would love the
Bogey Man Egg Separator it's definitely not being given house room here  It would put me off my meringues!

I used to have a much more boring separator, beige stoneware with a slit.  However in a decluttering frenzy it was  donated to the charity shop.  It had became redundant after I learned a nifty technique that involves no special equipment. Now when the recipe calls for it, I divide the egg by gently juggling its yolk between the two  cracked shell halves and letting the white drop into a bowl below.   Follow this link and a nice Frenchman will show you how to do it.  It works a treat!

Addendum:  Lordy I was wrong.  You think you know a person and then..... I've just shown this to Louis and he thinks it's disgusting too!

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

I've Been Thinking A Bit More....

When I'm being the therapist rather than having therapy I often come across people with  anxiety or depression who believe that their distressing and uncomfortable symptoms must be pretty unique.  I've often felt moved to let them know that what's happening to them is the bread and butter of my work as the same themes as theirs have arisen time and time again.

I was signed off from work for another three weeks last Friday.  I told the GP that I felt fraudulent.  Why can I go out and enjoy myself, laugh and chat with friends and get stuff done around the home yet basic childcare is onerous and  a return to work still seems impossible?How can anyone else believe that I'm ill when I can't quite fathom it myself?  In lots of aspects of my life I'm too bloody normal.  Shouldn't I be curled up in a sobbing unwashed heap?

The doctor concurred that this was a tricky one for me to understand let alone expecting others always to do so.   But then he told me that patients repeat the same kind of tales over and over.  My story is typical for those with work related stress .  I cannot emphasise how immensely helpful hearing this was. Perhaps I'm doing something right as a therapist when I give the people that I work with similar assurances.

Previously I believed that acceptance in the context of ill health might be just about being stoical about the limitations that a condition imposes.  But I've learnt that there's more to it than.  It's  also tricky to accept wholeheartedly the things that I can do. Rather than feeling guilty I'm trying to change my perceptive and  be grateful for the inner resources that I've retained.  Simples?  Well no. It's actually much easier said than done.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Bringing A Book To Life

This rather stunning little film is  just a shade over two minutes long but goodness knows how much time it took to make. I am a little in awe of its creators' artistry and patience.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Rather A Lot of Ham

Apart from when I'm  in charity shops and that yellow sticker region of  the chilly aisles in the supermarket I rarely make impulse purchases. But temptation overcame me in Lidly Didl the other day. Perhaps memories from the wonderful tapas bars and bodegas encountered on my recent Andalusian odyssey came into play as I walked out of the shop with the butter that I'd planned to buy and a whole leg of Serrano ham in a suitcase-like box that certainly wasn't on the shopping list.  6.5kg of the stuff,  an awful lot of meat for a household of two people.  I've  been meaning to try eating vegan food for a week.  It looks like that one's on hold for a little while.

It soon occurred to me when I got the ham home that I didn't know how the devil I was going to store it. My kitchen isn't awash with handy nooks and crannies, certainly none that could accommodate the whole leg of a white pig. Sure it came with a jaunty cord so that I could hang it from a hook but I haven't got one of those.  Even if I had one I'm not sure that I would have used it. Abattoir chic isn't quite the look I'm after in my open plan living space and I do have vegetarian friends whose sensitivities I have to be aware of.

A little recce through some online forums convinced me that what I needed was a ham holder. Blimey I didn't even know such a thing existed.  That big chunk of meat wasn't quite such a bargain once that had been factored into the equation. It arrived yesterday, in IKEA-like flatpack form but with no instructions. So I guessed from the illustration on the box how it might be put together and this is the end result.  It gets covered with a tea towel when not being nibbled.  If you know us personally and are carnivorous please pop round and help  eat it! You'd be particularly welcome if bring something to wash it down with or if you're a dab hand with a carving knife.  I'm sure thin slices are in order rather than the chunks I've been hacking off!

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Days Out In London: The Horniman Museum

Hmmmm!  Now there's a name where you might expect me to come out with a whole load of Carry On-esque innuendo  but oh no!  I'm going to set aside puerile humour and prove to you all that I'm a grown up.  Yesterday I took a car ride and four trains for a trip to Forest Hill, an unfamiliar corner of South East London.  My first meet up with fellow Essex girl Aril from Gnat Bottomed Towers was a huge success so we thought we'd plan more.   The Horniman Museum with its mixture of ethnological artefacts, musical instruments and stuffed animals seemed just the place for us to indulge our shared love of the eclectic.  It's housed in this amazing Arts and Crafts style building.  Isn't that curvy clock tower brilliant?  Oh Lord  a strong irresistible urge has come over me.  Don't those things on top of it look like willies? Horniman - Horny Man!  Geddit!!!!!!!

Right, it's probably better that it's out of my system.  We'll move on.  I forgot to mention that there's also a collection of sundials in the beautiful grounds.  A stained glass one high in the wall of a gorgeous ironwork conservatory has to be my favourite. The arm of the dial, the gnomon, situated outside creates a shadow that can be seen on the inside of the building.  Very clever!

Aril was more clued up than me.  She knew that the museum's most famous exhibit was a real live merman!  Well actually he's not alive at all but dead - and stuffed.  And disappointingly he's not real either but was cobbled together, perhaps by some jokey Japanese fisherman, from the head of a monkey and the back of a fish.  It's starting to sound like a witches spell.  He was quite hard to find and we had to ask.  A friendly museum guide directed us to the bottom of a dim display case.  Apparently we were lucky to see him at all. Seemingly he gets bored and goes off to tour other museums when whim takes him.   Most pictures  are taken from the side to show off his tail but I'm particularly taken by my own photo.  The flash caused his mouth to glow in a ghostly manner.  Woooooo!

Here's a badly photographed stuffed octopus.  I need him because when I've finished my long awaited linocut of hares, one of his kind is next on the list. It won't be long.  Work is again in progress.

Let's have a bit of colour shall we? The last two shots have been a bit gloomy in tone.  There you go!  This voodoo shrine will do nicely.

Follow the link to Aril's blog if you want a bit of sensible commentary on our visit.  She said that she was going to write a post or two about what we saw.  Alternatively the catalogue of the collection on the museum's website is rather excellent.  I'll leave you with a shot of these little men.  Just like those adornments on the clock tower they're a bit phallic as well. Snigger!

Saturday, 19 March 2016

UK Pharmacies: Random Places

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, in among the lotions, potions and pills,  small pharmacies in the United Kingdom will always find room for a bunch of strange shite.  You pop in for, I don't know,  say painkillers or eye drops and you find  a bunch of  odds and sods that don't have anything to do with healthcare or beautifying yourself.  Go and have a look if you don't believe me.

I went to the GP yesterday and have been signed off again.  We discussed my persistent insomnia and have agreed to try and kick a regular sleep routine back into touch by giving sleeping tablets another go. When waiting for my prescription to be processed at the nearby chemist shop I had a snoop around. At first it appeared strange, like no other retail outlet of its genre.    All the goods on sale seemed perfectly appropriate to the setting. Something didn't seem right.

But then I found what I was looking for. Tucked away behind a pillar in a corner were  two paper lanterns,  water pistols, some misshapen rubber balls, solar garden lights, picnic blankets, battery operated fans and pots of bubbles pretending to be ice cream cones!  I somehow knew that I would not be disappointed if I searched hard enough.  These were some of the best weird pharmacy shelves that I'd ever come across!

Friday, 18 March 2016

Nurturing the Inner Nerd

What sort of facilities do you expect a school to have?  A library? Tick! Science labs? Tick!  Sports fields? Tick!  Art Rooms? Tick! An observatory to gaze at the stars? Hey, hang on a minute!  We didn't have one of those at my school.  I feel cheated.  But Tick! Louis goes to one of the few schools in the country that has one. As such the late great Patrick Moore used to hang out there.  And it just so happens that Chris Lintott who currently presents 'The Sky at Night'. is an old boy. He came to the school last night to give a talk 'Is the Milky Way Special?'  I thought I'd go along.  To temper all the other unfathomable mumbo-jumbo I like a bit of science.

Just as I expected it was fascinating.  After all I can be geeky when the mood takes me.  The evening started and ended with a live shot of Jupiter from the school's telescope projected on a big screen.  Be blowed if I could see any of its 63 moons. But you could see Jupiter's rings.  I didn't even know it had any.  But there you go.  You learn a new thing everyday.  These were only discovered by the Voyager spacecraft in 1979 but you could see them as clear as the light of day.  On a humble school's telescope that is not on one of those incredibly cool 'Extremely Large Telescopes'.  Isn't technology today amazing?

And is the Milky Way special?  Me, I find them a bit insipid and would prefer a yummy Dime bar any day.  Oops, I forgot we're not talking about chocolate.  I'm easily distracted.  Our starry galaxy is special, not only because it is our home but because of its position in the green valley on the galaxy colour-magnitude map.  In this sense  the Milky Way is special because it's rare.  Most galaxies fall within the red and blue zones of the map.

What struck me the most was how much empty space there is in!  Okay, the clue might be in the name.  It yielded the most fascinating fact of the night.  At some time in the future the Milky Way is predicted to bump into Andromeda, our nearest neighbour in galaxy terms.  Yet because distances between celestial bodies  are huge the likelihood that any one of them will crash into another when this event occurs is tiny. Wow!

Thursday, 17 March 2016

On A Star

Recently I bought one of those Fire TV Sticks from Amazon. I'm already a member of Prime and Louis and I used to watch stuff on our tablets and laptops. Now that our viewing has been transferred to the telly's slightly bigger screen, movie night is a regular occurence. That's great as it's one of the things that I wanted to do.

As a person who's also scratching around for ideas for blog posts I could review everything that we watch.  But I'm not going to do that.  It's too easy and I'm not one for making my life easy(!).  But I am going to point you in the direction of an utterly brilliant film we both watched the other night as it was so funny yet thought provoking.  I think that it's destined to be one of the memorable movies I've ever seen. There's bad language and scenes that involve misplaced sex, drugs and compulsive behaviours. The Care Bear Movie  it ain't.  Maybe it's not some people's ideas of viewing for a twelve year old. But I can't brush the uncomfortable stuff under the carpet and ignore it.  It's  been the catalyst of quite a few deep meaningful conversations initiated by my soon to be teenage son.  That's got to be a good thing. Hurry if you've got Amazon Prime membership.  For Interstate 60 is free at the moment but it says it's only available for a limited time only.

Now the person who wrote the Wikipedia review that I provided the link to above seems to really like this film,  I mean REALLY like it.  In fact they summarise the whole plot.  Don't go there if spoilers aren't your bag.  Instead I'll sum it up concisely without giving the game away.  A young bloke goes on a soul searching road trip along a fictitious US interstate as a consequence of making a wish.  Along the way he meets characters that provide much food for thought, some of whom have also had wishes granted too.  These  haven't always panned out in the positive way that they'd expected.

This film has brought back to mind the old maxim  'Be careful what you wish for.'  Funnily enough I have a spare wish that I haven't used.   I'm putting a lot of thought into the process before I use it up!

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Pet Therapy

This picture is for the animal lovers out there for I reckon there's a few of you. Some people assume, that as I'm adamantly against owning a pet myself, that I'm not one.  Not at all.  It's something that I've thought through  and decided the responsibility that comes with a non human family member is not for me.  I want to be free to bugger off wherever the mood takes me without having to think about who's going to look after my four legged, finned or winged companion while I'm gone. For that reason I'm never going to be one of those people who impulse buys a puppy at Christmas, however cute and doe-eyed they are. However I'm jolly glad other people don't feel the same way for I love being in the company of other people's pets.  I'm like that annoying person who coos over your baby and then disappears when they start crying or when that distinctive smell fills the air which means nappy changing is in order.

Stress relieving therapy for myself involves daily exercise. So I arranged a hearty dog walk yesterday with Mr Metrosexual to Berry Head, a local beauty spot.  There's a beautiful cafe there, The Guardhouse, within the grounds of a fort. It's got to be one of the most canine friendly establishments that I've ever been too.  Now Mr Metrosexual, a retired mental health nurse, was having none of my current nonsense. 'Don't come too early'.  I begged, thinking of my cosy bed where I'm  prone to linger for the morning if I can possibly get away with it. A girl needs to catch up on her beauty sleep and after all aren't I supposed to be sick?   'I'll be round at 11.' he replied assertively. 'Can't you make it 11-ish?'  I begged.  My doorbell rang at 10:50.

He arrived with Baxter, his own dog, one of my four legged best mates.  Surprise, surprise there was this one as well.   Alfie belongs to Mr Metrosexual's mum.  'There you go,' he said passing me the suitably appropriate tartan lead.  'This is your one'. Cute!  Staff at the cafe thought so too.  Alfie got plenty of fuss and free dog biscuits.  In fact he felt so welcome that, after I'd let him off the lead for some free range exercise outside, he snuck back and sat outside the door trying to gain readmission by himself. He was great company and there wasn'teven any of that nasty responsibility stuff that comes with pet ownership. No nasty scooping to do.  He'd had a poo before he arrived!

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Sunny Sun Room

Things are coming together.  I've invited Reiki Ray for lunch tomorrow. Last time he was here he said that every time he visits my house it just gets better and better.  He described it as like a bud coming into flower and becoming more beautiful. He can be quite poetic at times.

I think he'll approve of the makeover of my sunroom  which he hasn't seen yet.  It occurred in  the same way as the the annexe to my bedroom.  I didn't really know what I was going to do with either space and then all of a sudden they came together really quickly.   I already had the super cool swivel chair that I swapped for a pile of wood and that funky rag rug.  Then by chance I was passing a local charity shop after a GP appointment and found this retro style sofa.  It was a month old and cost just £100.   All of a sudden a room plan was forming. It didn't seem like a big job once I'd painted my bathroom ceiling to continue with my roller and transform this room. Thankfully I was right. There's a lot of openings and glass out there and not an awful lot of wall to cover.  The job was done at a leisurely pace in less than a day.

That chair has to be the star of the show.  Its wicker was a bit uncomfortable on the derriere so I found a big round cushion cover on Ebay that's made out of old saris.  I was going to stuff it with polystyrene beanbag filler but discovered that Dunelm Mills sells bags of Wotsit shaped bits of memory foam.  It was just the job and makes for a very happy bottom indeed!

Do you remember the nautically themed linocut print  by KT and Paul that I bought as a souvenir from Granville Market in Vancouver?  Well it's now framed and I think I've found a deserving home for it here.  The mirror is from that Homesense shop where I bought the storm lantern in the bathroom.  It's from Vietnam and the multi-coloured frame is made up of thin rolls of recycled magazines.

There are  charity shop finds on the other main wall.  The two leaves on the right are also examples of Canadian craftsmanship from the Blue Mountain pottery.  They're hung using those plate disc holders that came in jolly handy when I created the Mad Wall.

Here's a closer look in the corner. It's had the Habitat treatment.  The nest of tables is a white set but the little green table was on offer and sold separately.  With a discount code it cost less than a tenner.  The spare middle table  is in 'Yellowstone Corner' in my bedroom.  I needed a home for  a table lamp and my cuppa whilst reading.  It's just the job.

The bird cushions which cunningly match that middle table are also from Habitat.  They've given me ideas about printing some of my own linocuts onto fabric.  Flowers were from my friend Little Wren and the mosaic lighthouse lamp is a make of my own, recycled yonks ago from a shabby old money box.

Have a better look at that bargain sofa. I really can't believe my luck! It's transformed the room from an awkward through way  that I didn't know what to do with to one of my favourite places in the house.  No wonder I now spend so much time in there. It reminds me of my motorhome.  There's so much light!

Monday, 14 March 2016

Lazy Bones?

I'm uncharacteristically late blogging today as I returned to bed exhausted just from the effort of waking Louis up, feeding him breakfast and getting him to the bus stop on time. And this was a morning where everything went smoothly.  There were no major revelations about lost kit or homework that should have been done over the weekend.  The school bags were packed last night ready to go by the door.  He was as good as gold.   I did not throw one of the paddies that have been more frequent of late!

So what's the reason for my complete lethargy? Well these lines sum up the main problem.  I'm loving them.  They so speak for me.   For God knows how many months I've  woken in the wee hours in a blind panic about the stuff that shook my view of myself  as someone who could pretty much cope with whatever crap life threw at them.  

I thought that this time off sick would be a chance to work out the complex stuff like whether I can still sustain working in the mental health sector of the NHS or whether I should look for another job or self employment.  But I'm leaping ahead of myself.  I realise now that I can't answer things like that until I suss out solutions around getting my basic needs right first.    I didn't realise that it would take so long to work these out.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Hoodie and Tee

Okay delayed confession time!  I bought this unisex snowboarding hoodie from Decathlon whilst I was away in Andalusia, the fifth piece of clothing that broke this year's resolution not to buy clothes.  Still I console myself with the fact that  If I continue replenishing my wardrobe at this rate I'll have around twenty new things in 2016.  That is  way less than the sixty seven items that Ms Average buys annually.  Naturally I do have an excuse. Whilst I had plenty of warm clothes in my wardrobe they did not make it to Spain.  It's meant to be a hot country innit! How was I to know that I'd need something toastie warm in February?  It's been useful since I got back to nippy old Blighty as well.  It's also the first item of clothing that I've ever bought that Louis has asked to borrow.  I must be doing something right in the cool stakes if it passes muster with a youthful one.

And whilst we're on the subject of sheer accident I discovered that you can get a pair of high heels that are done out to look like a Vauxhall Agila.  Honestly, go and check out the link if you don't believe me.  I wondered if my beloved Citigo had been given the same treatment so did a Google search. Sadly not. That's when I discovered this from the online T-shirt company Uber9.   They can make it up a skinny  girl's version in lots of different colours. I'm passing as my preference is for plain tees but I'm sharing it as I love the sentiment.  Behind the wheel of that once much maligned Skoda sits a revolutionary!

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Spice Up Your Crafting

Let me prove to you all that my trademark infectious giggle is still alive and well!  It was certainly  in evidence the  other day when I came across a link on Facebook to '40 Worst Book Covers and Titles Ever'. I shared it so that my friends and family could have a laugh as well.

My brother pointed out that, unfortunately, the featured edition of
Make Your Own Sex Toys was unavailable on Amazon. On the cover it looks as if the beardy bloke from the first editions of the Joy of Sex is taking a well earned break from servicing the missus and has retired to his workshop to get his creative juices running.

This particular book must have grabbed my brother's attention for when I phoned him later in the day he was very keen to tell me that not only was a later edition for sale on Amazon marketplace but you can click on the image on the website to have a look inside.  The few pages that are available do not disappoint from a comedic perspective. " Say goodbye to furtive trips to sleazy shops or hours of wading through gross Internet pages - everything you need is here!" boasts the introduction.  And these are not just common or garden sex toys.  No!  They can be custom built to provide a perfect fit for the lucky recipient.  A handy guide to measuring appropriate parts of both male and female anatomy is included.  The author seems to have had a rare, coy moment when illustrating how to find out the length and girth of a penis as he substitutes drawings of a banana instead.

I was pleased to see that there's quite a comprehensive section on health and safety.  After all A&E staff dine out on stories about household objects being used for purposes other than those intended.  One nurse told me about the unfortunate man who had accidentally fallen naked onto the nozzle of his vacuum cleaner.  I felt the advice to remove pins from knitted or crocheted objects was particularly handy.

Even though I commend the book for its innovation it's not an area of crafting that I'll be exploring myself anytime soon.  The back cover shows a nifty bit of carrot carving but for those more innocent souls out there why not make some cymbals for Santa like those here?  Or you could always stick to really traditional uses of vegetables and errr,  cook with them.  I made a very satisfying Carrot and Cheddar Soup the other day.  It kept me happy!

Friday, 11 March 2016

New Music (For Me Anyway!)

Isn't 'early adopter' a marketing term for people that are on the ball?   I like to think that I'm one of those, pioneering trends before the masses catch on.  Ha!  I don't think so. It's only in the last week that I  discovered The Libertines.  They've only been around since 1997. I think that I must go around with my eyes (and ears) closed most of the time.  Sure I'd knew about the dark side of Pete Doherty but didn't realise that, if I delved beyond all  that paparazzi stuff about his troubled life,  I'd discover a superbly talented songwriter and musician.  Here's a song.  Maybe I'm particularly taken by this song because it's angsty tone is a good fit with my current mindset!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Two Messages?

On the way back from my doctor's appointment on Monday I took the High Street route back home. There's a Sally Army lady who's a bit of a local character.  I've come across her collecting money in the local pubs at the weekend and there she was, with her tin in town.  As I stopped to rummage in my bag to find some change for her I thought I'd dropped something.  I looked down and instead saw a white feather.  Of course these have nothing to do with the manky pigeons who lurk in the High Street or indeed the gulls which are, of course, numerous near any fishing port.  Everyone knows that feathers come from the wings of angels don't they?  Those celestial beings have been known to hang around in Brixham in the past.  There'd be no bird 'flu germs there then.  Angels are as clean as a whistle. So I picked it up.

There wasn't much in my purse but I found fifty pence.  It didn't seem right to take a copy of The War Cry.  My donation wouldn't have covered the printing costs but I did.  But I did accept a little slip of paper.  On it was a Bible verse.

When pride comes, there comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.  Proverbs 11:2

Was someone trying to tell me something with these two 'messages' that came so quickly in succesion?  Reiki Ray thinks so!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

My Bathroom: Before and After Its Beautification

This was my old bathroom with its shabby, unadorned suite.  True an airing cupboard is a desirable feature but this one's slatted shelves fell to the floor every time it was used. And a small space was made even more oppressive as the door to the room opened inward.  It wasn't a place where  a cat would be happy to be swung or where I relished spending  time to spend a penny let alone lingering for a long leisurely bath.   When I bought the house the room didn't feature in the glossy details.  Funny that!  This wasn't somewhere that could be spruced up with a minor makeover. Drastic measures were called for.  It had to go.  Luckily two blokes agreed. Remember when they trashed the place in about two hours.

So after just under two weeks of hard graft by Che, a totally wonderful bathroom fitter and creativity on my part when it came to maintaining personal hygiene, my bathroom has been transformed.  The layout was designed by a bloke called Lawrence but I take credit for choosing what went in there and deciding that the door should be rehung to open outwards.  I have to say the idea was genius.  It feels positively palatial now.  Oh okay I exaggerate but it does seem a bit bigger.  Here's your first little peep through the freshly glossed doorway.  Please say it's looking better than before!

You might think a bathroom's  cost might be proportional to floor area but you'd probably be wrong.  To make clever use of space I had to go a la carte and forget an ill conceived initial budget.  I wanted fixtures that didn't swamp the room with hideaway storage for toiletries and cleaning materials and space to hang towels. None of those special offer bundles where the DIY stores discount a bathroom set that they've lumped together fitted the bill. The room works totally as I wanted.   I've not had to compromise on anything so I'm in no doubt that it was right to incur the extra expense -  even if I have to live off stale bread and water for the next two years!

Here we are right inside.  The astute among you will notice that this picture and the last were taken at different times. There's a bit of a spot the difference thing going on, for example that squirty bathroom cleaner is meant to be tucked away.  I chose to have a wall hanging basin rather than a pedestal to increase that sense of space,  And do you like that beautiful wooden floor that replaced the old vinyl?  Ha!  Fooled you!  It's not made of planks at all. These are ceramic tiles masquerading as timber. I wanted a dinky bathmat to show off that floor to best effect. Ikea's bargain £1.50 one does the job rather nicely.  Some of the other accessories are from Sweden as well.  The storm lamp on the window ledge that holds a great big candle to create ambience comes from Homesense, a shop I've newly discovered that is just like TK Maxx but without the clothes.  Similar versions can be found in gift shops around here for around the seventy five quid mark but I got mine for less than half that price.  I had to get a couple of bargains in there somewhere just to make me feel better about the overspend elsewhere.
My bath is one of those new fangled ones that give someone with a 'big fat bottom' (quote from Lou!) extra room when standing up.  I couldn't forego the occasional soak with bubbles and a book so this is a good compromise.

This is probably the best shot of the tiles which cover the walls fully and have replaced the manky wooden window frame.  Again they're ceramic masquerading as something else.  They're textured and look like much more expensive rough hewn stone.  Conventional wisdom goes against using dark colours on walls in such a small space but I think it's worked here.  After all gleaming white everywhere wouldn't have made this room look the size of a banqueting hall.   More savings could be had if I'd settled for splashbacks and a modest tiled bath surround with paint on the walls and window frame.  Given the focus on doing up my house lately it may surprise you that I'm not a DIY lover.  It was worth spending a little bit extra so, aside from the ceiling and door, I'll never have to decorate again.  Now that's what I call an investment.

'I need storage space and somewhere to hang towels.'  I told Lawrence.  Initially he doubted that it would be possible but we did it.  I have this brilliant slimline  unit with three separate cupboards.  That glass is a bugger to keep clean even if there are dinky handles down at the bottom of the doors that are supposed to stop you touching them. Even so I love this  fixture for its practicality. It holds everything, even a gaslighter for the candles.  All the bottle of bleach and cleaner can be hidden unless I forget to put them away.   Those downlighters are a godsend  too when it comes to tweezing eyebrows.   'It's not at all what I would have expected of you.' said Mr Metrosexual when he came to give his very approving verdict. 'It's much more Liz Taylor!'

And here's the radiator that will keep my towels toastie.  I splashed out a bit  and went for something funky and designer rather than bog standard. After all I've already said that I only ever plan to remodel this room once so wanted it to look top end.  'Oh hang the cost. This project has already broken the bank!' I thought and bought new towels as well.  These are from George at Asda and that Swedish shop again.  My old ones were mainly greying white and I wanted a bit of bright colour to break up all that monochrome and metal.
When I went to the showroom for the design consultation I dragged along a grumbling Louis. 'It's your house as well and I want you to have a say.'  He perked up when he saw these waterfall taps.  'Wow these are so cool!'  I nearly backtracked on getting my kid's input into the process.  They were some of the most expensive on offer but I love them as well.  I'm justifying the expense on the basis that they have eco credentials and would save on water bills but for the fact that I'm now having lots more baths.  My boy's other contribution?  He insisted that we needed a designer duck!

I have to say that we're absolutely over the moon with our swanky new watering hole.  The fixtures and fittings came from Wickes and whilst they're not the cheapest on the market the quality is superb for a mid range price.  Given my lack of success at procuring tradesmen around here I used the store's fitting service. I couldn't cope with  cat herding.  The job was started within a month of my order being taken. Result!  And even though I've joked about the expense it was really rather reasonable.  I know it's rude to talk about money but I guess some of you will be dying to ask.  The total cost came in at around the 5K mark (including duck!).  The general consensus is that isn't too bad.

Thanks must go to Lawrence for his design prowess and I'm extra specially pleased that he assigned Che to do the work.  His workmanship was brilliant with a superb attention to detail.   Thanks mate for making my bathroom  as special as the rest of my home.   I'm extremely chuffed.   I definitely owe you and the missus a beer!

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

How's Things?

What I thought was a cute Pixabay image comes with the labels 'Drunk, Wall, III, Stagger, Bad, Evil, Drink, Alcohol' Blimey!  It's not what I had in mind when I chose this little fellow to illustrate today's post.  I thought that he was doing a one handed version of an exercise that my therapist has suggested.  I push against a door, watch my breath and see what thoughts come to mind about what it is that I'm trying to force away. Although it stirs up emotion aplenty I haven't come up with any ideas yet.  Perhaps this is significant in itself or if it's not, maybe I should hit the wine before doing it!

It's now over a month since I walked out of work one Friday without knowing that I wouldn't be able to face going back the following Monday. I went back to the doctors yesterday and was signed off for another two weeks. I am still not 'right'.

So here's a full answer to the question above.  I get asked it a lot and my usual reply along the lines of 'Not great but I'll get there' sums it up.  Lots of the time everything appears as if it's going swimmingly.  It might look to others like I'm taking a fraudulent sickie.  Often I don't believe I'm poorly myself.  I've done lots around the house, write, exercise and meditate and have good times with friends.  I smile and laugh, even at my predicament.  My head is mostly free from the  ruminative and anxious thoughts that were persistent when I've suffered from depression in the past.

But it's the little things that cause me to crumble.  I  go into panic mode and feel overwhelmed when I don't feel in total charge of a situation.  It's as if my inner control freak has gone berserk.  Of course I know that it's impossible to regulate everything around me.  Adults, kids and nature have their own ideas of what's going to happen and that impacts on my plans.
Knowing that I'm being entirely unrealistic doesn't stop me feeling overwhelmed when the tiniest thing  doesn't work out MY way. I'm exhausted just getting Louis out of bed and off to school with all the kit he needs for the day ahead.  It's a situation that cannot be precisely engineered.  There's so much that can go wrong!    This hypersensitivity to things that I cannot control is the consequence of sustained stress over a long period of time.  It's still affecting my sleep.  I often wake in a state of panic recalling events that have happened  where I was overcome by helplessness in spite of putting up a huge fight.  The people that I work with  more serious mental health problems than my own are unpredictable. It's the nature of their illness and precisely why I can't work with them at the moment.

Up to now my Fit Note allowed me to do a limited amount of work that didn't include clinical stuff. I thought that keeping going might kick start wellness.  But it hasn't so I'm taking a different tack. I've been signed off completely to prioritise rest and reflection. The other stuff must fit around these. After all, at the times that I've been physically poorly it would have been mad to keep running around like I've done over the past few weeks.  No medication yet.  I need a clear head to examine what went wrong.  Surprisingly it seems like a very positive thing has come to pass.  Even though I'm metaphorically bruised and battered I feel that this situation has come about so that I can learn and grow.  It's taking  much more time  to get back to perky than I ever imagined but I'm hopeful that I'll get through this with a little bit more wisdom and resilience tucked under the belt.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Frugal Flicks

Remember how I wrote about sneaking in 'illegal' goodies to cut the cost of those cinema trips?  It was yonks ago.  But belated  thanks must go to Rachelradiostar at Etermally 28.  She pointed me in the direction of this video on the same theme by the Lancashire Hotpots that makes me think that the practice must be widespread.   It made me laugh so much that I thought that it merited a post of its own.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 6 March 2016


A little bit more painting to do and then my bathroom that is no longer a building site will be ready to show off.  I painted the ceiling yesterday and as I had some vinyl silk left over in the decorating tray I thought I'd make a start on the sun room!  Don't ever let it be said that I shirk multi-tasking.

Before I tackled the job I went on the hunt for the filler that I'd bought the other day. It wasn't anywhere to be found.  The nearest DIY chain store is about ten miles away but luckily Brixham has not one but two little hardware stores with really helpful friendly staff.  I frequent both. After a longish hunt  I popped out to the nearest to buy a replacement.  'I'm sure that I've got a tube of this at home.'  I told the bloke.  'I expect it will turn up in about three years time.'  'Oh no it won't' he said.  'What will happen is that you will get home, you'll find it just after you've put the key in the door.'  Be blowed if he wasn't right!

Saturday, 5 March 2016

A Bit of Japanese Culture

There are two books called Norwegian Wood, probably both named after a Beatles song that I never knew existed. I know that it's sacrilege to say so but I'm not really a fan. The first one that I heard about is a nerdy tome by a Norwegian about the art of chopping, stacking and burning logs.  It kind of appealed but I'll wait until the fitting of a wood burner is imminent before I'll get into that one.

The second is a Japanese modern classic, a story that captures extreme angst in young adulthood.  It was huge in its native country, probably because of its appeal to Emo students and it propelled Murakami, its author to reluctant superstar status.  You may have worked out ready that  it's not a happy read - I think I counted four suicides - but it's beautifully written and absorbing. Unlike many books that are deemed worthy of translation into English I found it an easy read.    Don't go there though if you're after something chirpy and avoid if you have the disposition of Mary Whitehouse.  There's plenty of 'rude' bits that would definitely shock.

I was quite taken by the character of Midori, seemingly the most stable of the women in Watanabe, the main character's life.  I love these words that she uses to lay her cards out on the table.

" I'm a real, live girl with real,live blood rushing through my veins. You're holding me in your arms and I'm telling you that I love you.  I'm ready to do anything you tell me to do.  I may be a little bit mad, but I'm a good girl,  and honest and I work hard.  I'm kind of cute, I have nice boobs, I'm a good cook and my father left me a trust fund. I mean, I'm a real bargain, don't you think? If you don't take me, I'll end up going somewhere else.'

Maybe I should adapt these for my dating site profile.  It seems a pretty good fit except the bit about a willingness to be obedient.  Oh, and  unfortunately there's no trust fund either!

Friday, 4 March 2016

One Angry Squirrel

I was waiting around in  a hotel lobby the other day and  picked up a copyof the Daily Telegraph, not my usual rag.   A story caught my attention for its personal relevance. In response to the news that geneticists have pinpointed IRF4 gene, a banner anounced  'End of Grey Hair In Sight As Scientists Find Gene Responsible.'   Yikes! Am I just about to be follicly challenged?

A friend, who shared my capacity for being easily distracted,  pulled out my first grey hair at the age of sixteen when we were supposed to be doing homework in the school library. By the age of eighteen there were too many to pluck. It's a strong familial thing.   I have no recall of my Dad having any different hair colour and my brother is grey too.  Inevitably in my younger days I hit the hair colourants but since my late thirties I've embraced the silver vixen look wholeheartedly.   I wish I'd been bold enough to do so at a younger age.    I love my natural hair colour  and wouldn't change it for the world.  Others seem to agree that it looks perfectly okay.  It isn't unusual for total strangers to compliment me in the street.  So I'd encourage others to take the plunge and give ditching the dye a go.

It won't come as a surprise then if articles that talk about grey hair as if it were a problem that should be treated or cure really get my goat.  I'm cross and so is this squirrel!