Saturday, 30 April 2016

Angel Watching Over Me

I am pleased to say that my brother, Paul, is one of my closest friends. It is not always so with siblings.  When I have a conundrum he is often the person I will turn to for a sounding out session. We share a love of talking random shite too and have a similar sense of humour.  Some of our connection must come from our pool of a half century of shared memories.  Mind you, these don't  always concur.

When I was a child I had a wooden pelmet over the top of the curtains in my bedroom.  I used it to display treasures.  The totality of what was up there is lost to me but I do remember that at each end there were pictures of Alsatian dogs, the results of rather a successful foray into painting by numbers by Mum.  Next to it was this.

It  was my Catholic Grandpa's and it looks as if it came from one of those very kitsch souvenir shops at a religious site like Lourdes or that place in Ireland where the Virgin Mary's face appeared on a slice from a  Warburton's white loaf.  I may be making up the last sacred site but you get the idea.   When I was younger I took the stamp on the back of the ceramic angel plaque as evidence that it was a two hundred year old artifact.

It turned up a few years ago at my brother's home.  I laid claim to it.  'That's mine' I said.  'It was on my pelmet.' 'Bollocks!' replied my brother.  The deluded bugger insisted that it had been in his bedroom throughout his childhood years. I brought the subject up every time I visited.  At last!  My relentless badgering has paid off.  It arrived in the post for my birthday this year and has, at last, been returned to its rightful  owner. Quite right too!

You'd think that this might be a candidate for the latest mad wall but I disagree.  It's a significant memento from my past and I wanted it displayed in a place where I could appreciate it in its own right.  So it's on the cabinet next to my bed for extra protection! 

Friday, 29 April 2016

It Was Bugging Me

It's occurred to me that the songs that I share on my blog are mainly on the morose side.  I must rectify that sometime soon but today maudlin is again the flavour.  Please don't think that this is a reflection of my overall state of mind.  I really am pretty perky most of the time even when I'm in therapy.  Maybe it's because I prefer to dance to the more upbeat stuff rather than listen intently.

Lou played me this ages back and I've been trying to trace it ever since.   I tried to sing it to him once. My voice can be hauntingly beautiful or rough and tuneless depending on how self conscious I'm feeling.   On this occasion the latter applied and I got very short shrift.  I even tried a song recognition app to no avail.  All that I could remember were the words 'down in the valley' were in the lyrics somewhere and it wasn't enough to go on.

The hunt was over the other day.  Hurrah!  I did that thing on Spotify where you can recreate your very own radio station based on an artist that you like.  I chose   Mumford and Sons and it came up.  At last! It turns out that Jake Bugg's song comes from one of the best selling albums of the decade.  You probably all know it anyway.  Sometimes I wondered if I go around with a head in a big bag of cotton wool! 

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Crap Days Out in London: The Soho Pump

Goodness knows what's contained in my boy's head.  If his pockets are anything to go by Lord help us.  I fail the good mummy test as I often forget to empty them before everything goes in the washing machine.  There are headphones drying out on one of the radiators at this very moment.   Sometimes there are clues as to what's going on up there. Watching Louis solves maths problems is a joy.  It's as if you can see all the little cogs whirling. Ping! Out comes an answer!

Then there are times when something grabs his imagination and he can't stop talking about it.  Back in the 19th century, a bloke called John Snow proved cholera wasn't airborne as previously suspected.  He mapped incidences of the disease in one area of London and identified that the cause of the outbreak was contaminated water from the public supply.  Once the pump in Broad Street had been shut off, the outbreak ended. Howzat!  Louis became obsessed by this story.  I am now a leading expert on epidemiology as a consequence.  He begged me to take him to see the site of the pump when we were next in London.  The idea didn't fill me with excitement.  A trip to a dodgy old water source does not make a good day out in my book.  But who am I to stamp out my boy's nerdy proclivities?  I acquiesced and agreed to help him  find it on the way to The National Maritime Museum the other day.  Believe me it was  a bit  of a detour.  Soho is nowhere near Greenwich.  This is a combination of 'attractions' that  will never catch on as far as self guided tours in the capital from Southend-on-Sea go.

Were my doubts unfounded that this could be a new tourist attraction to rival the Tate or the Tower of London? Err no.  In fact it was more of a let down than I could have possibly envisaged.  There was a pub named that bears the name of John Snow but it was a bit early for a pint in celebration of finding the source.  The site of the pump itself is normally marked by a replica but it had been taken away because of building work in the area.  We had to make do with this placard and were  seriously underwhelmed.  Louis' perky smile must have been put on.  There was a consolation price.  Our detour took us past the Japan Centre in Leicester  Square.  We had proper sushi on the tube on the way to Greenwich  for elevenses.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

There's A Floor In There!

For months my spare room did my head in. There was a stage where even opening the door was  a bit of a feat.  I risked life, limb and especially ankles, going in there.  I reckon Diogenes would have given me give me a hearty, congratulatory pat on the back if he'd seen it back then. But no more!  It's spick and span and my old double bed has been reassembled. That took some doing I can tell you. Parts that had gone missing in a move needed sourcing and there were all sorts of  antics putting it together that involved Louis crawling into small hidey holes with Allen keys.  He was put under impoverished conditions that were not dissimilar to those of  Victorian chimney sweeps!

So finally, I've now got somewhere for my girlies to rest their weary heads when they've had a few sherbets.  Believe me, there's plenty of eager visitors that come calling when you live so near to the seaside.  It's a good job that I'm gregarious.  But I'm not in a position to show the whole room off.  The arrival of a wardrobe will coincide with the departure of a chaise longue in a month.  That's when I'll be ready to reveal my makeover from junk heap to comfortable lair for my visitors.

So here's a little taster of what's to come.  My nudie ladies that upset the sensibilities of my son have, for the first time in their existence, been properly framed and displayed somewhere where he doesn't have to look at them whilst eating  And just to counter the proper art there's another one of my mad walls in progress.  It's an ongoing project.  Like yesrterday's post it's a bit like a mosaic but with much more manageable sized tile.

I'd like to give instructions on how to put one of these together if you fancy doing it yourself but I haven't a clue how to guarantee that you'll get a result that you're happy with. It's really a matter of experimentation.  Probably it's not the best idea to troll on down to the nearest charity shop and raid the 50p box,  Let the walls  evolve with time and hang things you fall in love in rather than a whole load of random tat!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Busy Beader

Photo:  Bored Panda
In an effort to devote more hours in pursuit of making stuff, I've been clearing out all the superfluous stuff in my work area.  It means that when creativity strikes I can actually lay my hands on the materials I need before frustration sets in and puts me off the idea altogether. I also have storage for completed prints. Genius? No, just sensible

Today I'm showcasing the work of an American artist called Liza Lou who definitely seemed to have more time on her hands than I do.  For over a five year period she created this kitchen.  At first glance it looks like a painting.  A bit Van Gogh maybe I thought.  But no, it's actually a full sized room and all the surfaces are  meticulously covered with beads, even the crisp packets and the cereal box.

Photo: Bored Panda
This is the work of someone with way more patience than I've got.  Even a small scale project like this would reduce me to a swearing wreck. The air would turn a thick navy shade! There'd be glue everywhere and beads getting lost down my bra!  I will stick to big tiles when I next mosaic. It's a far safer prospect.

Liza Lou didn't stop once she'd made the kitchen. There's a garden as well.   These shots show just how intricate this work is, a mosaic of tiny glass objects.  Look at that weeny bee! I am in awe.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Long, Green and Fretful

A short post today as, for the first time in nearly three months,  I'm going  to work.  It's a little daunting so I don't want to stress myself out thinking about what to blog.  Actually I don't want uncontrollable stress to be a regular feature of my life anymore at all.  Chill, chill will be my new mantra.

So I've shamelessly lifted something off Facebook so that I don't have to bother too hard with posting.  Although silly it seemed to ring true and made me smile. I hope that it touches the giggle gland for some of you too!

Sunday, 24 April 2016


Let's talk about my most recent dating site exploits shall we?  I reckon we all need  humour in our lives.  As my membership is shortly ending on that paid for site  I thought I'd up the ante and increase my efforts a little bit.  Think sloth to slow loris!  So I've changed my profile picture there and additionally signed onto what is probably the UK's best known free site  It's comedic value is unfettered and has already given me and Mr Metrosexual a bloody good laugh. 'You could base that comedy stand up routine you want to do on this' he said.  'Your reactions and the commentary are hilarious'.

The response to a newbie on the scene was immediate.  'Wearing well, I can't believe you haven't been snapped up already'.  messaged one man.  'Ah but that's because I'm really fussy'. I replied. And so it seems.  The site has a  feature where you can indicate interest by swiping left or right on your phone.   I've already exhausted its database in a geographical radius that takes in London and the home counties as I am really rather shallow and judgmental.   It will leave some of you thinking that I am going to end up a sad and lonely old lady at this rate.  Gone are the men holding fish trophies, ones with dodgy furniture or heavily artexed ceilings, those with their legs apart who seem to have the contents of a fruit bowl down too tight shorts,  the badly turned out,  the too old and too young, those that seem illiterate or, conversely, pretentious and perfectly decent blokes where I wiped them off the scene forever by an flip of the wrist in the wrong direction.  Oops! Que sera.  Not meant to be perhaps.  Definite rejections went to the man whose profile name was something like Psycho '67, the totally nude biker dressed just in a string of onions and the guy with his head up a woman's skirt in a lap dancing club.  What were they thinking!  One guy contacted me and seemed great but then spoilt it with endless messages about all the WWII graveyards and monuments he has visited and those on his bucket list.  It's wonderful for someone to have a passion but really! I got bored, made my excuses and went back to my printing.

Congratulations must go to a 38 year old Londoner who has surpassed the man who had high hopes that I was a dominatrix.  I'd normally ignore messages from one so young but couldn't resist.  He make a good start  by complimenting my hair but then spoilt the mood by asking  if I had any thought of shaving it off entirely!  Further inquiry confirmed my suspicions that yep, he had a 'bald women' fetish. As he admitted, odd but harmless. I've wished him luck in his hunt elsewhere.  It's a look that would alarm my kid and  the elderly people that I visit.  They're confused enough without a totally shorn woman turning up on their doorstep.  On that note I'm returning to work tomorrow.  I feel much better!

Saturday, 23 April 2016

By George!

Happy St George's Day one and all!  Let me say unequivocally that, even though  a little bit of Welsh, Scottish and Romany blood courses through my veins,  I am extremely proud to be English.  After all, it's the country where was born, raised and have lived for half a century.  In the main, it's a breathtakingly beautiful land.  We have everything:  forests, a stunning coastline, historic cites, mountains albeit titchy ones.  I even see that Dungeness beach has been dubbed England's only desert! Most of the natives are pretty friendly and our food, that used to be the butt of the world's jokes, is often superb.  We have a rather reasonable democracy and human rights record.

Yet national pride is something that my fellow countryfolk find it difficult to muster.   True we have a nasty past when it comes to raping and pillaging in other lands but surely we can't bear the sins of our forefathers forever?  What seems more prominent is a belief that pride in being English is seen to be commensurate with being  racist. often with violent undertones.  Our flag has sometimes been used to symbolise the dark and unwelcome in recent times.

A couple of World Cups ago, my co-workers stuck a big England flag in our office window in support of our national team.  We were told to take it down for fear it would be seen as racist.  I found this sad. For  I strongly believe that the moderate decent human beings in our country should be reclaiming the flag of St George for themselves. We need to show, like other countries do so well, that national pride does not have to equate to hatred and tolerance.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Goodbye Mr Nelson

As a child of the '60s whose formative musical years were the '80s I cannot ignore the unexpected passing of Prince Rogers Nelson aka Prince the artist formerly known as Symbol formerly known as Prince.   We were in awe of this guy!    I would have picked  a video of one of his own performances but they are woefully thin on the ground on YouTube.  It would have been a difficult  choice to make if they had been available. Kiss'/'Purple Rain'/'When Doves Cry'/'Little Red Corvette'?  Actually this song might have come out on top.  It captures a kind of heartache that many of us have experienced sometime in our lives so well.

Perhaps it's fitting that I've had to make do with the Sinead O'Connor version for it's certainly the one  that stirs up the most vivid memories.  I can't hear this song without recalling a three month period in my twenties.  We used to return to a friend's house after being kicked out of the pub at closing time.   She'd split up from her boyfriend and as part of the rather long drawn out healing process she insisted on playing this over and over again.  Happy Days!!!!!  

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Boring Bit

I am really itching to get out my rollers and do some printing from my linocuts  There's Flamingo Mk. 2 and of course my more recent Tinner's Hares designs to be getting on with.  But it's not completely straightforward.  You have to make sure that the ink ends up on the right place on your paper.  Otherwise the print won't be centred properly and the image can go all skew whiff if lino isn't lined up and colours end up in the right place relative to each other.

So I've been making registration boards.  Yawn!  After lots of measurement little tabs are cut and secured in place on a big bit of backing cardboard.  It means that the paper and the lino can be lined up consistently each time a print is made.  I don't mind boring jobs where you can let you mind wander elsewhere but this isn't that kind of task. Precision and full attention is called for.  A wandersome mind can cause misalignment so easily.   If I could skip this part  I would, believe me. I don't though as I know the effort is worthwhile.  It saves a whole heap of frustration down the line.
I've finally managed to do a couple of test prints of the backdrop for my hares. Yay!  Now that's so much more fun. Can you spot the single four leaved clover?

Often there's an image in my head of how a finished work will look.  The green is not the one that I've been carrying around up top. That one was soft and mossy.  The colour I mixed  was different but I loved its vibrancy so I'm going with it.   A few adjustments to the design were needed to make some of the lines more distinct. It meant getting out my tools again.  I think cutting into the lino is my favourite stage of the process.  It smells so lush!

Today I plan to turn my kitchen and dining room into a print workshop!  It will be strewn with images of leaves and flamingoes.  Then there's the not insubstantial problem of finding enough flat surfaces that are out of the way to let everything dry before the next images are superimposed on top. Fingers crossed.  I'll be able to show you the finished prints in the next week or so. 

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Beach More Beautiful

'Go and play!' said my therapist. 'You overthink things.'  I took this on board. After all her advice to cut out caffeine after midday has worked a treat.  So, yesterday evening, to make the most of the glorious weather,  Louis and I, together with an under-inflated football,  headed off to our nearest cove.  I still can't quite believe my luck seven months from moving here.  This place is actually on my doorstep!

We played footie through the park and along the road on route.  Luckily it's closed to traffic at the moment.  Even so the ball nearly came to a sticky end a couple of times down a workman's hole and off a cliff.  Oops!  At the beach Louis chucked rocks around and helped me make Hag Stone Rock.  His little beady eyes are much better at finding those little holey pebbles than mine.

I've mentioned before my penchant for litter picking.   Give it a go  on your own little strolls.  You may well enjoy it. I, for one, find it fun. It also gives me that warm glow of fuzziness that comes from doing right to the world.
 Here's my haul from  last night.  To give you an idea of scale that piece of black netting is about eighteen inches square.  As you can see there was lots of plastic and netting that is harmful to marine fauna.   I like to think that maybe, just maybe I might have saved a life from my endeavours last night.  At the very least I made my favourite beach prettier.  That can't be a bad thing!

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Fast and Veggie

Before I became pregnant I was pescatarian.  It always seemed to beggar the question 'What did the fish do wrong over and above the other animals?'  When I had Louis his father wanted him to eat meat so I reverted to an omnivorous diet.  By the early 2000s it had become easier to make ethical choices about buying meat.  And perhaps my heart was never in it.  I love a perfectly cooked steak, dried French sausages, lamb stew and my mum's chicken, bacon and mushroom pie.

I still savour a plate of veggie food though and, will choose innovative neat-free options if we eat out.  I cook it for myself too when I don't have Louis with me.  A big bowl of warming dal is my favourite although sometimes I'll ruin it for the vegetarians and serve it with a sausage on top.  Don't even go there and suggest I could substitute a quorn or soy protein one.  They're really not the same beastie.

Now Louis is a carnivore extraordinaire, out of the same mould as his 'meat and two veg' loving grandad. Although he eats a variety of food he's not keen on hot or spicy numbers and quite a lot of vegetables that I adore are off piste too.  Aubergines are one of them.  Probably too slimy but I want to introduce them regularly into my diet big time since I had a serving cooked in teriyaki sauce in a Chinese restaurant.  They are lush and easy to do at home, particularly as Lidl had ready made teriyaki in their special's aisle.  The sachet was enough for two greedy servings.  Easy peasiness itself.  For each portion I fry a sliced aubergine in rapeseed oil and just heat it through in the pan with the sauce.  It's all the yummier for being simple.

A few days ago I came across an easy recipe for Macho Peas that come semi mashed and mixed with parsley, mint and chilli.  Apparently it's a Nandos staple but I've never eaten there.  Not sure that it's an omission that I need to be rectifying.    Here was tea/supper/dinner last night, an aubergine pea combo served with a breaded Camembert.   Japan meets Portugal meets France!   Louis wouldn't have touched it with a barge pole.  However the peas needed cooking first.  I just separated off his portion and served them with an all steak Pukka pie for my small hunter-gatherer.  It's one of his favourites.  Both of us were very happy bunnies indeed!

Monday, 18 April 2016

Obscure '80s Indie

I've got my nose in a book at the moment, Juno and Juliet by Julian Gough.  Lord knows where it came from. Probably that shelf in reception at work where books are sold to raise funds.  Maybe with an increased effort the entire NHS could be funded from secondhand trading.  Dave, George and Jeremy would like that I expect.

Anyway let's get back on track.  I'm enjoying my read.  It's a well written, funny account of undergraduate life set around the time of my own university days.  One of the participants in an English tutorial was described as wearing a 'Fatima Mansions' T-shirt.  As I'd never heard of them I went off on a little internet trawl to educate myself and found this zany Irish indie rock band named after a block of flats in Dublin. They sadly disbanded in the '90s. 

Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Seal With No Name?

My 'up close and personal' encounter with a seal off Brixham Breakwater whetted my appetite to learn more about these creatures. Do we have our own local colony who loll around the bay all year? What do I do if they approach me when I'm swimming in the sea?  I'd heard that this is highly probable around here. They pop up when you least expect them and sometimes butt or mouth you.  Yikes!  That could be pretty alarming.

So yesterday I woke up very excited because I was going to a talk by Sue Sayer from the Cornwall Seal Group.  She answered my first question pronto.  Actually our lot are not exclusively Brixham seals.  It's likely that the ones I've seen swim bloody miles each year.  They could have turfed up along the South West English Channel Coast, the Scillies, Wales, Ireland and Brittany. Wow!   Here's another ten amazing seal facts that I learnt.

  • Grey seals are rarer than African elephants.  There's only about 4,000 of them and a third live around the South West coastline.  That makes me pretty lucky that they live on my doorstep.
  • Each seal has its own unique and seemingly random travel itinerary and often goes on the same annual trip unless something disrupts the pattern.
  • Even though they moult they can be identified throughout their lifetime by their distinctive spotty markings. In fact, this is the main way that they are surveyed.  Some are radio tracked but this can cause injury and anyway, the antenna only stays on for one season.
  • Grey seals sometimes look brown. That is because they have rolled in poo.
  • Seal whiskers have amazing numbers of nerve endings in them and they are more sensitive than our finger tips.
  • After seals have mated, the embryo has a rest after dividing a few times.  The female will only go on to be properly pregnant if she fattens up nicely.  There is no seal menopause so the girls can theoretically go on breeding throughout their lifespan.
  • Seal brothers and sisters are often born on the same day of the year on the same beach.
  • Seal pups are weaned and on their own from about three weeks onwards.
  • As a greeting they stick their noses in each others ear holes.  They might not tolerate this from a seal that they don't know!
  • Seal spit is full of germs and if you get bitten to the extent where blood is drawn any sign of infection should be taken seriously.  The Cornwall Seal Group can give advice about treatment as standard antibiotics don't cut the mustard.
As regards swimming with seals, not being frightened may be the key.   Gesturing them away with an arm wave if they're too close seems to work.  They do the same thing to each other with their flippers.

Even though my own photos that I took in January aren't  that great I'm going to send them to She might know who the seals I've spotted are. If she does it may help build up a picture of their annual movements.  Call me geeky but I find that utterly cool!!

Saturday, 16 April 2016

OMG I Am So In Love!!!!

Photo: Georgia in Dublin
...and not with one of those blokies from the dating site.  All is very quiet on that front.  An unfeasibly cute twenty nine year old was 'winking' at me yesterday. He came hot on the heels of a thirty two year old on Thursday. All this has stirred up is the urge to dole out lectures about getting over serious mummy fixations!

To be honest I can't really muster up any enthusiasm for the process.  'Let me see your selection for the day.' requested  Calamity Jane when I stayed at her house a couple of weeks ago.   I gave her a peep on the condition that she didn't press tabs on any profiles to take a closer look. After all I don't want to encourage any of them.   She was seriously underwhelmed  particularly by the 47 year old going on 77 whose profile name should have been Pinocchio and the bloke in his swimming gear with legs akimbo smoking a cigar.  We giggled quite a bit.  'And you're paying for this?!'   As I've heard say about Alaskan men.  The odds are good but the goods are odd'. Likewise here maybe.   I don't think I'll be renewing the membership even though it's given me and my mates a bloody good laugh.

No, at a time when I'm not supposed to be adding to my wardrobe I've fallen head over heels.  Salty Dog started it.  We went for a lovely moorland walk on Thursday but got completely drenched.  Somewhere between a lot of moving between houses and the motorhomes I've lost my waterproof trousers.  They were good Berghaus ones.  I mentioned my need to replace them and Salty Dog said she'd seen waterproof leggings.  She might have meant the  Kiwi Pro Stretch Lined Trousers that Craghoppers make. They're pretty slimline.  It got me thinking.  Is there such a thing as a waterproof skirt? There certainly is and I'm hopelessly in lust at a time when clothes buying is supposed to be off limits.

Photo:  Georgia in Dublin
Never in my life have I got quite so excited over raingear.  This are waterproofs from  Georgia in Dublin designed for riding both gee gees and bikes. Gorgeous as well as being stonkingly practical, they put pack a macs to shame.  As well as the skirt I'm very taken by the jackets that would not look out of place in a period drama. I'm rather taken by this red Dublette but maybe the sky blue Bronte with its clever recycled inner tube fastenings pips it.  I'd look sooo alluring on my bike in that getup and maybe I wouldn't need that bloody dating site!  That is when I get the gears to work properly.  I still haven't quite resolved the cycle/flatpack problems conclusively.

Sadly this isn't a sponsored post so I haven't been sent a lovely set of waterproofs to try out around the rain sodden lanes of Devon.   Even though their price seem remarkably reasonable (50 Euro for the skirt and 150-170 Euro for the jackets) I'm not flush at the moment. Something to do with kitting out a house I think.   I'll add them to my wishlist in case I get a windfall in the meantime.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Blown Away By Glass

Photo: Harvard Museum of National History
Maintaining fine motor control isn't my forte. Come to think of it, some of those less precise gross movements don't work out quite as intended.  I end up knocking and bumping into things way more than 'normal people' do.  Please run away very fast  if I'm in a playful mood and look as if I am going to throw a mock punch.  I'm more likely than not to hit target unintentionally!

Photo:  National Museum of Wales
I've adapted my creative endeavours to allow for my kinesthetic deficits.   Like Phil Hansen I embrace my limitations and work in a way where clumsy execution lends charm and individuality. I'll leave precision to others but  admire them big time  for having a skill set that is so completely different to my own

I came across the work of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka the other day and couldn't believe that I wasn't looking at photographs of natural specimens.  Click on the links below the photos and prepare to be amazed at their amazing workmanship.   The German father-son duo worked at the end of the 19th century producing incredible biological models of marine and plant life.   They're so accurate that they were highly sought after by academic institutions who wanted visual aids to support their work at a time when preservation techniques were lacking.  After all isn't a glass jellyfish so much nicer than a stinky rotting week old dead one?

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Back to Basics

Very slowly I am getting well.    As an impatient bunny it's been difficult to accept the pace of recovery but I've learnt the hard way that it's something that can't be forced.  Indeed the act of effortful trying  seems to slow the process down by increasing my stress again and getting me in a proper tizzy.   Being back at square one sucks.

So with the help of my therapist I'm working to try to tackle poor sleep and daytime fatigue.  As from yesterday I've gone hardcore with applying sleep hygiene rules.  This means a snack at bedtime.   Result!  I took a little bowl of walnuts upstairs with me last night for their melatonin containing problems.    Well that's not too difficult is it?  The advice to cut all caffeine from midday is a real bummer though and had me scuttling to the supermarket at 8pm last night for decaff  Yorkshire teabags.  They are not the same!!!!!!!!

'Focus on your 'art'' was my homework last week. Well that's alright as well  I thought I'd take my handiwork to my therapy session.  Here's what I took to my 'show and tell'.

Above it my newly completed background for the linocut of hares that I started last year.  The pressure of work meant that I put it to one side.  My attention isn't great so it's taken a time to do.  And that's the beauty of this craft.  You can do a little bit  at a time and then put it to one side easily.  I hope to make some prints from these plates next week.

My therapist was impressed. 'Are you going to sell these?' she asked. One step at a time.  The plan for the moment is just to reinstate creating stuff as an enjoyable pastime.  It's like restoring sleep and energy.  Let's get the basics right first!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Bling Pizza

How do you like your pizza?  Well the one in this picture looks pretty good to me.  It has a thin, rustic crust, just the right amount of topping and the ingredients seem nice and fresh. I like them cooked in a wood fired oven if possible.

When I phoned my folks in Southend the other day, Papa Lovelygrey was indignant.  He'd just had a takeaway leaflet through the door.  'What's the most you've ever paid for a pizza?' he asked.  He'd caught me off guard. I wasn't sure that I could say.  I'm certain that it couldn't have been more than say, twelve or thirteen quid at the very most.  The ones as the Stable on Plymouth's Barbican can come in at around that price but they're really good and I haven't felt hard done by when I've eaten there.  And I've always been partial to a Fiorentina with spinach and egg from Pizza Express although I haven't been there in yonks.  I'm sure that's even cheaper although still a bit pricey to admit to Dad.  He is a pensioner with a tight grip on his wallet after all.

'Five Hundred Pounds!' said Dad indignantly.  'It's got gold and caviar on it.  What a bloody waste of money!'  I hurried off to Pizza Gogo's website to take a peep. Indeed it has along with lobster, fantail prawns and a bit of white truffle oil.  It's brought to you, not by a sulky youth on a clapped out moped but with red carpet delivery, whatever that means, and butler service.   'Only in Essex!' I thought and then I saw that this is an offering from a chain and can be delivered further afield.  I'm sure it was in the county where I spent my formative years that the idea was spawned.

Luckily I haven't picked up any TOWIE attributes.  I'll stick to traditional toppings. Travel Man   visited  Dubai, another place that likes its bling.  It featured Johnny Vegas, on whom I have a inexplicable crush  that I  have trouble justifying even to myself.  Maybe it's the fact that he can throw a decent pot.    He passed comment  on the gold leaf that had been added to an ice cream.  'It's like I've licked the exhaust off a Capri!'  Thank you Johnny.  You've confirmed my decision not to be adding any precious metal to meals anytime soon.  I'll stick with making jewellery with it.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016


Apologies must go to the Tyr, God of War and Law, for I don't think with his remit that he's someone that I want to upset. However I have to 'fess up and say the day of the week which bears his name really isn't my favourite. Much poking and fussing is needed to get Louis out of the house by 7:30am. On other days this is bearable  as, when I am working, I have another hour to unwind before heading out.   But  Tuesday is team meeting day. I have to nip in the car almost straight away to drive to Ivybridge, another half hour on from my usual office base at Totnes.  It's not a start to the day that is conducive to feeling particularly sunny.  Even though I'm still off sick at the moment Tuesday somehow still holds dread.

A few weeks ago things were even worse than usual. Louis missed the bus.  He was peeing around and had forgotten his fare even though I'd reminded him to take it.   He ran back to the house  and was still there as the bus sailed past.   I had one of my incandescent moments, rare but scary!  I toyed with the idea of sending him down to the  stop in town to catch the number 12 that runs regularly and  pitches up quite close to school. In the end I decided it would be far more of a punishment for me to drive him there. After all I had wrath to vent!

It turned out to be a bit of a revelation.  After my rant was over it was rather lovely to have a bit more shared time with my son and thanks to the new Torquay bypass I got to the meeting well ahead of the 9am start.

My whole philosophy on life involves making things as simple as possible. It extends to many areas, how I organise myself and my home my relationships with others, the way I cook.  I've talked about eliminating annoyances before and it extends far beyond the way that my kitchen is set up.  With a bit of thought our Tuesday regime  changed for the better. If I drive Lou to school we only leave the house ten minutes later but somehow each get a half hour  'lie in'.  We have a lovely chat and music session in the car and Louis buys a breakfast wrap from the school canteen.  When I am working I arrive there far less frazzled.  It's win-win for us both.  Maybe Mr Tyr is happier too!

Monday, 11 April 2016

Hey Speccy Four Eyes!

Men seldom make passes with girls that wear glasses. Well is that so!  They could well have been making them when I was specless but I was probably too blind to notice.  Think back to the bird with roller skates incident for evidence of how impaired my vision has been for a time.  My mobile phones have been getting bigger too.  Someone quipped that if I continued to compensate for sight loss by buying bigger and bigger devices I'd be carrying around a widescreen TV shortly.

A couple of years ago I bought two pairs of prescription glasses from Tesco that both fell apart PDQ.  I noticed after just a week that I was wandering around the house with just one lens in place in one pair.  I thought I'd get profuse apologies when I went back to the store but no. I was told that they'd have to ascertain if it was my fault that they'd broken.  They were, in fact, mended free of charge but promptly came to pieces again.  It was at a time in my life when things were stressful and I had so much on my plate that I gave up.  All that expense for nothing.  But I vowed that, in my tiny way, I'd get my own back on Tesco.  I think I've only shopped in one of their stores once since then.  A bit more payback was the order  of the day when I took advantage of their free eye test without having any intention of buying specs from them again.  I have to say though that the ophthalmologist in their Ivybridge store was lovely.  Let's not tar everyone with the same brush and give credit where it's due.

I've  been making do with shop bought reading glasses for a while now but they weren't ideal.  The latest results confirmed this and it's been recommended that I should be wearing varifocals most of the time.  Apart from when I'm feeling particularly vain that is.  Then I'll go back to being all squinty and mole-like.

Now spectacle buying is a thrifty girl's nightmare.  Those 2 for 1 deals on frames look enticing but once you've added in all the extra bits and pieces what looked initially like a bargain ceases to be so.  I toyed with the idea of one of the online providers but hit a snag.  I didn't have a vital measurement needed for the prescription and the Tesco helpline told me to use their online tool to measure my pupillary distance. GlassesDirect, quite reasonably, refused to accept a measurement that I'd taken myself and refunded my order.  To be honest I really wanted to choose glasses from an instore selection.  Sometimes e-commerce doesn't cut the mustard.

In the end I took my prescription to Asda.  I have to say that I was slightly wary of using another supermarket optician but their deals were really good.  They display the price for the entire pair of glasses, including scratch resistant and anti-reflective coatings, tints if you want them and yes, varifocal lenses.  There's normally a big add-on cost for those.  The downside is that the nearest store with the service was in Taunton is a 100 mile round trip from home but the savings warranted it.   The staff were attentive and lovely too and took real care with the measurements that they needed.   I chose these two frames from the midprice range for £99 for the two pairs.  The funkier ones at the top  from the Andie MacDowell range that have cream arms are my favourites. I'll be wearing these regularly.   My second pair, with their bigger lenses and thinner frames were chosen with crafting in mind.  And in the unlikely event that someone now makes a pass, at least I'll be able to spot them doing it!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

More Of That Poetry Stuff That I Really Must Get Back To Not Liking!

My lovely friend Aril posted some some rather thought provoking poetry on her blog at Gnat Bottomed Towers yesterday.  So I thought that I'd follow her example.  Not the same poem sillies!  I'm not that much of a copycat.  I've found one all by myself to share.

These wonderful words are by Brandi R Lowry who publishes her work on Hello Poetry.  It speaks to me of both the books and the people who've already touched my life and those that have yet to do so.  I wish that I could write so eloquently.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

A Bit Late: A Wheelie Happy Birthday to Me

It is with regret that I have decided to retire my trusty steed, the Giant branded hybrid bike. I gave my ex husband a hundred nicker for him well over ten years ago to contribute towards a cycle upgrade.  That's not bad at all.  Even though I've had him serviced quite frequently, in recent times everything seemed to resort to clunky soon afterwards.   Bits and pieces are worn out.  Being stored outside for nigh on two years through living in the motorhome and being shedless hasn't helped.  I reckoned that the cost of spares and repairs would cost as much as a shiny new bike.   I love the sense of freedom and adventure that cycling brings.  It brings out my inner child but it wasn't a pleasure riding a bike that felt unsafe and troublesome.  So as a belated birthday treat to myself, look what I bought!

I  diverted from my usual tactic of buying secondhand to save money and decided to get a new machine. That way I knew that I wouldn't have any pre-existing wear to worry about and settled on this Ridgeback Speed.  It's a brand that I'd owned before in younger adulthood.  It was a bargain, about £100 less than its recommended retail price.  I waited in anticipation yesterday for the delivery.  I fancied a little cycle as soon as I got it.  Yikes!  I  hadn't expected it to come in flatpack form with the poorest set of instructions in Christendom.  For example the advice about setting up the handlebars was to seek guidance from the manufacturer!  Eek!  I thought that I was doing that when looking at the manual.

Actually after an initial panic and a little look at YouTube, everything was pretty straightforward.
Voila a bike!  Isn't she pretty?   Could a new career as a roadie on the Tour de France await me?  In the meantime I'll just get out there and start exploring.    Now there's just the matter of somewhere to store her so that she remains in tip top condition.  There's another story!

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Pipping Golden Brown

I am prematurely excited.  In July, the Stranglers are headlining at Chagstock, the festival that is dearest to my heart. Hugh Cornwell is no more, having left the band way back in 1990 but our teenage pinup Jean Jacques  Burnel still plays the bass guitar.  Sigh!!!

It's hard to pick a favourite song from the band.  For its capacity to make the hairs on my neck stand on end, Golden Brown is up there.  But I think that this lesser hit may just have the edge.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

A Good Bit of Glazing

In the mode of those American and Japanese tourists who seem to be able to fit both Stonehenge and Stratford upon Avon into a day, Louis and I decided to 'do' Greenwich yesterday.  However the National Maritime Museum turned out to be so glorious that it was the only place that we toured.  The other attractions in this incredible part of London will have to wait for another visit.

This isn't just a place for old salty sea dogs and maritime types. For instance there's plenty for kids to do including a simulator that's used to train ferry captains.  The kid before Lou having a go didn't pass muster and managed to embed their ship into the bank of a river before even leaving port!  There's stuff for us chaps and chappesses with arty dispositions too.  I turned a corner and Wowzer!  It was as if my breath had been stolen from me. I'd  come  across this dome of  Memorial Glass.  It was designed by John Dudley Forsyth and was installed in the original Baltic Exchange in the City of London to commemorate the lives of sixty of their members who lost their lives in World War I.     Then in 1992 a bomb  planted by  the Provisional IRA destroyed the building and the majority of glass panels.   The Baltic Exchange itself could not be saved.  In its place stands 'The Gherkin'.  However  thankfully some good people had the wherewithal to salvage as much of the glass as possible and  undertake the lengthy restoration.  It was so worth it!
I wonder if, in their newer home, the dome and windows from the building representing Justice, Trade, Fortitude, Hope and Truth can be appreciated more fully as they can be experienced at such close proximity.    When standing under the dome sections I was moved in so many ways, by beauty,  the exquisite craftsmanship of the original artists and the restorers and the reminder of tragic loss on all sorts of levels  brought by war and terrorism.  The imagery is of strong people. I'm reminded that good can re-emerge after tragedy and suffering.  It's comforting to realise that.

The memorial glass is tucked away at the back of the first floor in the museum.  The blurb on the website invites visitors to take a quiet moment in this space.  I felt incredibly privileged to have the space to myself yet it seems that this is an exhibit that should be on people's must see list and a spot that is much more widely visited. 

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Next To George

It seemed high time that I visited the grave of my paternal grandparents in the huge municipal cemetery in Southend-on-Sea.  I'm not sure what prompted me to do this.  Perhaps it's because I need all the help I can get at the moment so dead ancestors can have a go as well!  Usually  we're not a family who spend a lot of time in graveyards and no-one's gone up there for years. Maybe it's because the living take precedence.   As  I thought that it would be cool for Louis to know where members of my family were buried I took him with me.  I didn't tell my parents what we were up to.  I reckoned that there was a task in hand before I spilled the beans.

The lady in the cemetery office was great.  She passed us a great big book with handwritten entries that enabled us to find the burial site.  Once I'd done this she marked its position on the map. Simples!

Now I reckoned that a headstone that was forty years old would be really grubby.   I wasn't wrong. It's a good job that we went armed with cleaning materials.  I wasn't sure what would do the trick.  After all you don't clean graves everyday.  So I took a selection.  Bleach spray, cream cleaner, scourers, soft cloths and a toothbrush to get into those crevices.  It was a job that took a couple of hours over three visits.   My brother helped us on the last occasion.   No pressure washer just a lot of elbow grease.

I wish I'd taken before and after shots but the grave of George next door on the right gives some idea of what our handiwork achieved.  We wanted to add some horticultural interest but the local rabbits ate our pot plant before it even went in the ground.  So, we'll come back with bulbs when it's the right time to plant them.

My Mum and Dad are really pleased with the job we've done.  I wonder if my Nan and Grandad are happy too that we've had a tidy up.  And I wonder if they appreciated their visit from their ageing grandchildren and lively great grandson!

Monday, 4 April 2016

Politically Incorrect Postcard

During my childhood no self-respecting kiosk on Southend seafront would be complete without a rack or two of saucy postcards next to all those sticks of rocks.   I went in hunt of one to send a friend  who hasn't shaken off their Carry On sense of humour and found that they're surprisingly hard to come by these days.   It looks like all that equality and diversity training and digital technology have taken their toll.

Finally I was successful.  One of the little shops had a small selection of rather moth eaten stock tucked away on a teeny stand.  I reckon  that, back in the 1960s, someone, tempted by a bulk ordering discount,  had overestimated stock requirements and, fifty years on,  they were still trying to get rid of them. The one with folk outside a butcher's shop making innuendos about breast and rump was quite expected.  No surprises there.  This one shocked though.   Wrong on all sorts of different levels, it's the white lips that disturb me the most.  It seems to harp back to a time when blackface makeup was still an acceptable way to represent black people.  A bit of social history but I was astonished to find it was still on sale today.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

East of the East End

We are in Southend on Sea resting up and visiting my family.   So what are we up to?  Of course a jaunt down the world's longest pleasure pier is on the agenda.  It's a given that we'll take the train down to the end and then walk back to land.   And, if I can muster up the energy, there might be a day out in the Big Smoke.  It's less than a hour away by rail.

We've already visited the newly housed Beecroft Art Gallery.  The collection used to be in an Edwardian house in Westcliff but is now in the Old Central Library, one of my favourite childhood haunts, for I was, and still am, a bookworm.  'Old' is a bit of a misnomer for it's a building that only dates back to the '70s.  I must feature it in a later post for it's a brilliant example of how finely executed brutalism can work very well indeed.

Currently there's a temporary exhibition highlighting the East London Group, artists who worked in the 1920s and 30s.  This has to be my favourite painting, one by Brynhild Carter.  It depicts a local spot, the beach where I spent most of my summer holidays as a kid.  The bathing huts on wheels were long gone in my era but it's still a recognisable scene.  Ah!  This is my hometown.  It's not the prettiest place in the world but it's jam packed with fond memories.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

A Few Fishy Feasts

Although I love to cook, eating out is one of life's little pleasures.  It's an expensive old game though and,  as a single mum on a budget, it's something that's saved for a treat these days.  I like to eat food that it's difficult to prepare and  cook at home. Perfectly cooked fish and chips comes into that category.

And it just so happens that we have one of the UK's biggest fishing ports on our doorstep.  Well fancy that!  What good planning for a foodie family.  Our favourite restaurants?  Well it's hard to choose because we're so spoilt for choice. Louis loves Rockfish with its very cool interior and view over the trawler basin.   For me, the much smaller Simply Fish on the harbour just has the edge in terms of value and quality of food. It also has a great view but I haven't done it justice here!

We went to Simply Fish for lunch on Easter Sunday.   The biggest crabs in the world that were about the size of Shrek's head were on offer.  Red Mel and Louis couldn't resist those. I settled for gurnard.  After all I had fish and chips on my mind. The crabs came partially dressed.  A little bit of the hard work of dissecting them had been done in advance but there was still a bit of fun to be had with those crackers.

There was far too much for our tummies to cope with.  That's often the case with eating out.  No fear! We've got in the habit of asking for doggy bags.  It's something the Americans do routinely but us British are more coy about asking to take out leftover food.  We shouldn't be.  After all, we've paid for it and surely it's a compliment to the staff that we don't want to waste their delicious food that they've taken time and effort to prepare. Restaurant food becomes much better value if it can be stretched to provide a couple of extra meals. Here's our crabby takeout.   There were quite a lot of chips as well.

Now Rockfish makes a mean crab roll. The last time Louis had one it hardly touched the sides on the way down!  I concocted our own version at home by mixing the crabmeat served in a soft white bun with a pink cocktail sauce made from mayo, ketchup and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.   Leftover chips are like gold dust in our house.  They can be even better the second time around if shallow fried in a little bit of oil.  They were a fitting accompaniment to our homemade fishy feast.  No doggy ate our leftovers.  They were used to provide a couple of rather wonderful lunches....for humans!

Friday, 1 April 2016

What Does The 52nd Year Have In Store?

Happy Edible Book Day!  It's also the day that French people go around sticking fish on people's backs.  Here's the most famous 'Fool's Day' prank that the BBC have ever played.  An well known oldie but perfectly executed goodie.  Oh,  and I've just found out that on this date, sometime in the 17th century, crowds of Londoners were fooled into believing that they were congregating outside the Tower of London to see the lions washed.  I had a bit of a giggle imagining that.

It's my birthday too.  'How sweet!!' said a girl on a phone line the other day when I told her my birth date.  Bless!  I've never heard it described in those terms before. Apt is a more commonly used word. I can be a bit daft.

The 365 days after I turned fifty has been a notable one.  I crossed the pond for a special trip, finished my 'living in a van' experiment, moved into a beautiful house and fell in love with Brixham, my new seaside hometown.   But there's been cumulative stressors which took their toll. Suddenly cracking under the strain two months ago means that I've ended my 51st year on this planet poorly in an invisible way that it's been hard for me and those around me to fathom out.  I appear 'normal' most of the time yet the little routine tasks of life still seem so daunting.  And there's still those sleep problems to crack....

So I enter  my 52nd year on a road I never envisaged being on.  It's already taught me  lessons that I needed to learn and given me insights about myself and other people that wouldn't have been apparent if life were perfect and cosy.  Let's see where I end up on 1 April 2017.  Being a perky optimist at heart I'm pretty certain that, in spite of the current struggles,  it might well  be a good place!