Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Sacred Space

Over the last few days, I've been dipping in and out of sadness frequently. Certainly this is in part due to working on my hardest writing assignment ever.  One of the reasons that I decided to park up in a conventional camping spot was to take advantage of proper Internet access so that I could use my laptop to write my sister's eulogy for her funeral next week. The clunky intermittent reception on my phone wasn't cutting the mustard for this task. Whilst poring over family memories and poems by others about death I've shed many tears.

I must have written before about how I believe how normal it is to experience a full spectrum of emotions.  Indeed we are blessed if we can.   In the modern Western world we seem far too quick to medicalise those that are deemed unpleasant - anger, sadness and yes, fear in appropriate circumstances.  At a time of great loss, being chipper all the time would be dysfunctional in itself and  deny the meaning behind significant events.   Anaesthesia is not the answer.  And so, I've been lounging in my recliner under the trees where I watch my sadness.  It manifests itself physically.  There's a real sense of heaviness in my heart but also heightened sensitivity in my face which often leads to crying.  My mind empties.  I wonder if there is a degree of dissociation that acts like an internal comfort mechanism. When faced full on, the emotion does not seem unbearable or threatening.

I  found the beautifully named church of Notre Dame de la Joie on my last trip to this part of the Breton region.   It was thoughtfully restored at the end of the last century and seems to be in symbiosis with its coastal environment.  For the rest of our time here it can again be another place where I go to sit, reflect and maybe transform.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Bike Banter

Once we have hit a particular camping spot that's it for Klaus the Knaus my  motorhome.  He's done his job and can have a little rest for a few days.  We then become reliant on Shank's pony and two wheels to get us around.    The advantage for me is that I don't have to fiddle around getting him ready to move off.  This involves quite a lot of packing away, shutting down gas and sometimes, heaving in an awning.  I don't want the bother of that as part of our daily routine and, anyway, I do enough driving as part of my work at home.

To some extent my decision to stay firmly put dictates where we stay.  Places must be near enough for us to stock up on provisions if we are going to be resting awhile.  There also has to be enough of interest locally that we can reach under our own steam.  Where we are now has a brilliant track that extends for miles to pretty seaside towns to the East and West.  It is lighthouse city out here.  On a little two wheeled jaunt yesterday evening.  I counted at least eight.  It's a pretty but obviously dangerous old coast line out there.

We're both jolly pleased with our new bikes.  I am particularly chuffed that mine came with a rack on the back  which enormously increases what I'm able to carry. Aren't bungees a wonderfully versatile?  I bet that their inventor never knew that one day one would be used to form a baguette carry device.

Cycling here though has  has seemed rather more effortful than usual.  It puzzled me because of all that running that I've been doing lately.  Surely I'm a little fitter than I was a few weeks back?  Then I realised the tyres were a little flat.  That accounted for the rockiness of rides too.   After a good dose of air my little jaunts out seem almost effortless. There's got to be a metaphor that relates to life there somewhere!

Monday, 29 August 2016

So Geeking Cool!

Often a particular tune becomes the soundtrack of our travels in a certain place.  Last year it was a haunting song from Siskiyou that stuck with me after  I heard it in a Vancouver museum.  This holiday my son has introduced me to this little number so it will stay stored up top to remind me of the summer of 2016.  We play this on our travels and sing along. Except when we're going over those speed bumps that are so beloved of French villages.  Then  I've been know to holler  'Can you turn that bloody racket off? I can't concentrate on driving!'   Musically, I am a fickle beastie and yes, 'holler' is a word that definitely captures lack of subtlety of my communication at those times

Do you know that there are people on YouTube that make a living by making videos of themselves playing games?  Louis sometimes watches them and it drives me crazy as it seems like an inordinate waste of time.  Anyway this is a song based on one of these sessions where this guy,  Markiplier, plays a game which stimulates events in space that are chosen at the whim of the user.   It takes bits of the commentary and sets it to music.    To us grown ups it sounds dreadful doesn't it?    But please bear with me.

To my surprise I absolutely love it.  It awakes the soul of my inner nerd.  This smiley guy has such abundant enthusiasm which is so infectious.  It makes my own, not insignificant awe, when I contemplate the marvels of space seem inferior.    'Every tiny speck is probably a star.  It's so BIG!'.  Wow!   I do hope Marky sometimes steps away from his computer and goes off to contemplate those billions and billions of stars and galaxies in the real night sky.  

Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Confirmed Three Weeker

I'm late blogging today doesn't matter! There's no set routine here.  This lifestyle of being a bohemian traveller suits me well. I wonder if it could be sustained after Louis has flown the nest?  Hmm! I've got at least five years to ponder that one.

Actually life on the road has stopped still.  No photos yet so I'm using shots from earlier in the holiday as my piccies have gone down well will some of you who've commented. Here's one from a gorgeous morning walk on the Crozon Pennisula that I took alone whilst Louis had one of those long teenage lie ins.  The next picture is another beautiful Chagall painting  from the exhibition at Landerneau.  You might even get a scene from Quiberon if I write enough.  Often I have no idea how posts are going to pan out

We've moved to a campsite for the next few nights. I heard on the grapevine, aka Facebook, that friends we met a couple of years ago were nearby. So we've joined them. Remember Bob the Fish who allowed Lou to experience his first catch?  I've already had a lovely time  catching up with him and his wife, Cloudy Karen, over a couple of jars of the pink stuff.   As I predicted it involved rather a lot of mirth.   They have a son, Ollie, who's here with a friend so Lou has people of his own age to muck around with.  This is v. good as sadly,  the teenage code  is different from my own and that of younger kids.  It doesn't involve approaching random strangers and making new acquaintances. That just isn't cool.  

There's extra costs attached to our conventional camping stopover that I hadn't factored in to the price of the holiday. But it's  offset to a large part by savings on diesel and the now common fees for parking and services at aires. And a camping pitch in August can be had at low season rates as French schools return earlier than ours.  I think I've mentioned this handy tip for UK travellers in an earlier post.  It's why we always come here at the end of the summer break.

Ooh there's space for another picture.  I've been rambling on this morning haven't I?  Here's a rather random one from that Sound and Light show where I met Cro.  The thing that the Viking is holding appeared to be a severed head. Family entertainment at its best! Haven't we done a lot and there's still  nearly a week to go!

Our North American holiday last year demonstrated the restorative benefits of a three week summer break.   It's such a lovely long time to have away from work. I'm so grateful that my generous NHS long service holiday entitlement gives me the privilege of being able to have extended time to chill, potter, ponder and play.  So I've decided to make this extra long break a tradition.   With an emphasis on self catering and focusing on free and low cost activities rather than visiting costly attractions this doesn't have to be expensive. Being on holiday for extra weeks can be just as cheap as staying at home.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

The Best of Days: The Best of Places

This is Ster Greich, my favourite spot  in France to park my motorhome.  It's nothing fancy,  just an isolated little cove where I watch the tide come in and go way out, tying me in to the cycles of nature.  When I was last here two years ago  I finally made the decision to live in my motorhome.  Yesterday no big plans were formulated.  Now seems to be a time for watching and waiting. I drank a verre or two on the beach, picked litter and sloes and swam in the clear water.  Like my own version of Lou Reed's 'Perfect Day' maybe? When it comes down to it I'm quite a simple soul. This place never fails to inject a healthy dose of contentment.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Harping On

 We've spent the last two nights on the Quiberon Pennisula, the French equivalent of Portland.  At its narrowest point this little bit of land that juts out into the sea is just 22 metres wide.  Louis expressed concern that overnight it would break off, become an island and leave us stranded.  But it didn't happen.  We make our way overland back to the much bigger chunk of Breton proper today by four wheels. Phew!

Our aire was by this gorgeous bay on the Cote Sauvage where Lou dipped his toes in a lively sea.  Looks beautiful doesn't it?  Except the beach was strewn with rubbish and it took me two evenings of clearing it to get it to be acceptably clean.  It breaks my heart that fellow humans care so little for the world we live in.  How tortured they must be not to notice the damage they cause.

Now there's part of me that feels that if we do good it should be done without fanfare.  So ideally I'd like to do my litter picking without telling everyone.  But again, as I reported about my activities back in May on the Ile de Brehat,  I'm sharing my exploits in the hope that others join me.  I don't know if I'm making much impact but maybe; maybe. if I even save one or two animals over a year of litter picking on holiday and back at home  it'll be worth it.  And if I persuade anyone else that there's real dignity in this small act of cleaning our beautiful Earth then my efforts might be multiplied.  

Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Sausage of Knowledge

In Concarneau market on Monday Louis bought his dad this rather sensational sausage. I know it's lush because we nibbled samples. Anyway this piece, an eye watering 10 Euros worth , is now sitting in the cupboard in the motorhome. It's out of bounds being a special gift but it's been so tempting. Surely no-one would be any the wiser if I took a knife to it and carved off just enough to have a nibble. The temptation is almost unbearable It's like the sausage version of the apple in the garden of Eden!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Pebble Duck

Klaus the Knaus, my motorhome has lots of nooks and crannies and little things tend to get mislaid for a while.  And maybe there is joy when the whole process of losing stuff is taken as a whole.  Finding lost treasure brings much glee.

The other day when I was digging the fondue set out of its compartment under one of the seats by the dining table I came across many coins down there too.  A mixture of sterling and Euros as befits a well travelled van. It was just like digging about down the back of a settee.
I was also reunited with this stone that we found on Brighton beach over two years ago now.  I was wondering where it had gone just the other day. When I picked it up I marvelled about how wonderful nature was to produce such a wonderful likeness to a duck. Duh!  Then I realised that it had been tampered with.  It's a great idea though.  Perhaps if I pick up some permanent markers at the supermarket today Lou and I can be copycats and leave our own pebble trail  on the beaches that we visit.

It looks like I'm going to need to work out how to use Instagram.  I've been meaning to have a look for a while so this is just the kick up the bum that I need.  Then I can ask #Reco whether duckie was left on Brighton beach.  Or was he washed by the tides from somewhere else in the world? 

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

My Second Favourite Aire

This holiday had to be a cheap one. Doing up a house for the last year has taken its toll on my finances.  A period of extreme belt tightening is required.  Or a windfall.  Now wouldn't that be lovely?

I contemplated a holiday in the UK . Cornwall or Dorset seemed to be beckoning.  However,  after doing one of my useful back of the envelope calculations I worked out that pitch fees would be no less than the Plymouth-Roscoff ferry cost.  It was more even for two weeks at the type of swanky campsite that would find favour with Lou. 'Sod it' I thought. 'We're off to France.

And so how are we doing this on the cheap? Well it's not rocket science. There were no new holiday wardrobes, we're limiting eating out and cafe visits,  doing free or cheap stuff like walks, cycles,playing on beaches,  freebie exhibitions and local swimming pools and not driving too far.  This last one is quite a biggie as Klaus the Knaus is a bit of a drinker. In spite of the economies we're still eating like lords.  Yesterday we plucked up the courage to get out our 'very Margot and Jerry' fondue for the first time in ages.  Readers who've been with me a while might remember the last time I used it. 

This idyllic woodland is just behind our van.  And the beach and rocky headland are just metres away.  There's other beaches too,  a running track and a swimming pool to die for.  But this is no fancy campsite.  It's an aire, another of my money saving ploys.  I've written about them before.  In towns across continental Europe there are designated overnight spots for motorhomes which are free or cost very little. There's also facilities to top up water and empty the grey tank and toilet.

 Now thsee shots have been taken at my second favourite aire, about a mile along the coast fron the walled city of Concarneau.  It was nothing to park here when I was last here.  Now it costs six Euros a night.  For such a beautiful spot it seems a very small price to pay.  I might be showing off my favourite aire of all time in a few days if there's a space available there.  

Monday, 22 August 2016


My lovely friend Corn Pipe,  who has studied linguistics, recently introduced me to a word which I'm particularly taken with. Idiolect is a term that acknowledges that every person's use of language is different.  We all  have our own particular nuances when it comes to the use of vocabulary, pronunciation and grammatical form.

Now I think  the word 'widgy' is especially unique to me as I think I made it up. My Google search has yielded no evidence that suggests someone else invented it before me. It describes the extreme discomfort and sense of restlessness caused by a seemingly minor irritant.

Yesterday I was driving in sandals that are probably on their last legs.  The leather underneath the sole of my foot was coming away from the shoe's cork bed and rubbed against my heel when it rested on the accelerator pedal. Aaaargh!  My whole nervous system seemed to  be on edge even though just a small part of my body was being aggravated.  Now that is the feeling that I describe as widgy! 

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Stones, Stones and More Stones

We came across these on the coast at Cameret-sur-Mer a couple of days ago. Cairn building gone mad!  Of course somewhere there is our own contribution to this natural art installation.

And there were more high on the cliff above our campsite.  Here's Louis adding his own little stone tower.  He had definitely come of age as a teenager.  Apparently I'm not allowed to tag him on Facebook as he does not want his friends to know that he spends time having fun with his mum.  Good job none of them read my blog then isn't it?

There! A 'boring walk' turned into a bit of an adventure.   Louis conquered four peaks at a secluded bay near Morgat.  It dawned on me the other day that what I love about the Breton coast is that it is like a combo of my two favourite places in Devon, Dartmoor and it's shoreline.  Perhaps that is why we're drawn back again and again.

It appears to that we're not the first people to mess about with rocks in these parts.  Here's the work of distant ancestors.  I was blessed to have this as the view from my motorhome bedroom window for a couple of nights.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Starring Cro

It's always great to meet fellow bloggers in the flesh.  So I got quite excited when I saw that, seemingly, Cro from Magnon's Meanderings was going to be one of the stars of the show at the spectacle held at Fort de Bertheaume, a stone's throw from our campground the other night.  I'm rather partial to the sound and light shows that are a favourite with the French. They're always a bit of a treat for those of us who are fans of the bizarre.

And here's the man himself in his natural habitat.  I have to say that I was a little surprised to see how unkempt he was. Perhaps it was because  Lady Magnon wasn't in Brittany with him  that personal hygiene standards were slipping.  You know what these blokes are like when left on their own for too long.

As I tried to get a close up shot Cro turned nasty and made some incoherent grunting noises.  It was not the meet up I'd expected.  After the initial shock of being attacked by a prehistoric man mirth set in. I don't think I've laughed quite so much in ages!  As is usual with these tableaux we moved swiftly on through the ages. I'm still trying to scrub off the glitter sprinkled by Old  Father Time two days later!

Friday, 19 August 2016

The Human Fly Paper

I was woken this morning at about 5am by a combination of torrential rain pounding on the motorhome roof and excruciating itching at various points down one side of my body.  Yep, there's a mozzie sharing the motorhome with us and they're especially partial to a nibble of me.   I probably emit some odour that's delectable to insect life and my ability to attract little flying friends  earned me the nickname that is today's title.  Surely there is a design fault with these bloodsuckers. I wouldn't mind if they could take their tiny drop of blood and go away without causing damage but no.  They have to leave an unsightly cluster of red welts and extreme irritation.

I see that there's also a spider crawling around on the ceiling of the van. I'd normally shoo him gently outside but maybe I'll leave him be. Perhaps he can trap and eat that blood sucking little bastard!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

This Grief Thing

In a beautuful Breton church Louis lit a candle for his aunt, my younger sister who died three weeks ago now. Her suffering has ended.  May she rest in peace.

Sure I've experienced  grief before but this is different.  After all the person who I used to share a bedroom with has gone.  There's little of the denial, bargaining and anger that Kubler Ross described in her five stage model.  I always suspected that grief was more individualistic than this.  Yes, occasionally it feels as if depression, the third stage, looms large again.  I'm tearful at the drop of a hat,  intermittently I sleep poorly and lack focus. But I know it's not the real thing because of the immense pleasure that I can take from the little things in life. A beautiful painting, a friendly dog, a corny joke from my son, the still warm buttered baguette from the bread van that I am nibbling on while I write this post: All these things fail to hit home when I've been properly depressed but I'm  appreciating them greatly at the moment.

At times it seems incongruent to be enjoying myself on holiday when we've not yet had the funeral.  But I wouldn't like my friends and family to put their lives on hold if I died.  I know Esther wouldn't have wanted that either.  From up on her special cloud that Ibza Queen Vikki  assures me that she lives on, I expect that she had a good laugh at a grown woman pretending to be a shark in a pool the other day.  

 Yes, sometimes there are twinges of guilt.  Why should I experience joy and be silly at such a sombre time?  But I cast these thoughts away.  I'm accepting emotions as they  come to me.  The surprise is that they're not all tainted with inevitable sadness.  There's an immense sense that life's for the living and maybe this is the way that we can best honour the loved ones who are no longer with us.  

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Breakfast Bruschetta

As I write this morning the French are queueing up to buy bread from the back of a van that's arrived at our camping spot.  Some of them seem to be buying enough to feed an army.  Me? Well I've got left over baguette from yesterday.  'Waste not, want not.' is a mantra I aspire to but sadly don't manage at times.  I have to say that, with its limited storage space, it's easier to see what needs using up in the motorhome.

So breakfast today will be bruschetta.  There's no grill here so I fry the bread in my saute pan.  Then it's just a question of rubbing it with garlic, drizzling it with olive oil and then adding a chopped tomato and tarragon topping.  Now there's a herb that's hard to come by in England. Nothing else needed but a sprinkle of salt crystals.

The teenager told his dad about this culinary moment in his nightly phone call to him. I think that  means it went down well.   I have to say that Louis can be a fussy eater at times. Maybe one to add to our regular repetoire then. It's just a question now of sourcing good bread at home.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The British Brew

Something disastrous happened on my last French holiday.  I ran out of tea bags. Sacre Bleu!   Only a fellow Brit would understand the enormity of the situation.

Now I love you guys in Continental Europe and the America.  But I'm going to make a sweeping generalisation because I haven't disproved otherwise.  You don't really get it when it comes to making a cuppa. Sod delicacy and an elegant nose. What we're after is robustness of flavour and I haven't been able to find tea that delivers that hearty kick outside Blighty.

I thought E Leclerc,  my favourite supermarket chain had come up trumps as I discovered that they stocked Twinning English Breakfast Tea.  'Just the job!' I thought, even though it came in those individually wrapped sachets and cost an arm and a leg.  But was it my imagination?  It didn't have the punch of the stuff sold in the UK.  Perhaps continental types like to be roused more gently.

Procuring tea bags before we sailed this time became a priority.  I'd taken a picture of the no-nonsense box of Co-op 99 tea that crossed the Channel with us to illustrate today's post.  But what luck!   As part of the excellent. Chagall exhibition that drew me to Landerneau there was this painting, 'Man with a cup of tea'.  How wonderfully apt!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Lust For Life

And what do you know? Day one of going with the flow has worked out rather spiffingly.  When I woke up yesterday morning I had no idea that, by the time my head had hit the pillow I would have danced to Iggy Pop in the flesh singing 'Passenger', 'Wild One' and yes, 'Lust For Life'.  Maybe that last title can guide the mission for this holiday, to live life with passion.

Initial plans had been to head off to the coast but a poster in the supermarket alerted me to a Chagall exhibition in the picturesque town of Landerneau. 'Let's go there!'  I thought. Little did I know that our camping spot would be over the river from the site of the 'Fete du Bruit', an all singing and dancing festie.  Yay!  This is supposed to be a cheap holiday.  Luckily for me there was a free view of the stage from the opposite river bank.  More highbrow cultural pursuits can wait.

For a bloke in his sixties Mr Pop is very nimble indeed.  In a move that would have had me in agony for days he swung his leg to shoulder height.   Maybe I'm making it up but I thought I read once that a woman specified in a dating column that she wanted someone with the voice of Leonard Cohen and the body of Iggy.  Little did she know that these two veteran songstress would see the ad and contact her!

Draft plans today involves looking at some painting.  Unless something else takes our fancy.  Let's see what happens!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Two Fanny Sea

Ten minutes after clearing customs yesterday we pulled into our supermarket car park overnight stop. There was no milk so my usual cup of builder strength tea was replaced by a black coffee.  As I was supping it I pored over 'All the Aires', my guide to those free French motorhome spots and a road atlas.  I'm planning a couple of nights later  on the gorgeous Quiberon peninsula so turned to the relevant page.

 Yikes! It seems that the Atlantic has been renamed.  Laughing my little socks off I turned to the culprit who was having a good old giggle too. 'They came off some bananas'explained Louis.  'I stuck them there before I knew what that word meant!'

Saturday, 13 August 2016

What Adventure Awaits?

Later on today my Lou and I will catch the Plymouth-Roscoff ferry. After a late evening disembarkation  we plan to hole up in a very familiar hypermarket car park just  a couple of miles along the Breton Coast.    It's become a bit of a traditional to head there first.   Not the most scenic spot in the world but a view is a bit wasted when you arrive there in darkness.  So we'll wake up in our beloved Klaus the Knaus just as the revolving doors of the store start to operate.  We'll then scuttle out and push a 'chariot', the wonderful French word for supermarket trolley around the aisles seeking out foodie treasure to stock up our cupboards and fridge.  Our feast will be heavier on patisserie and cheese than is usual at home.

And then what?    Well we have no firm agenda. We'll go as far as our fancy takes us.  There's a bit of an idea going on that we'll hug the Atlantic Coast, maybe taking in some prehistoric sights but who knows?    I, for one, am ready to be pulled in  different directions if the mood takes me or stop still somewhere magical  for longer if that's what floats our boat.  Lou wants to sleep in a lot.  He's reached those teenage years where long lie ins are the norm.  After all the recent happenings that sounds like bliss to me.  But from past experience I know there's s likely to be high adventure as well as rest and relaxation. New people to meet.  Wonderfully unexpected sights to see. I love this kind of holiday where we are pulled on in directions where planning really isn't necessary.  I really can't wait! `

Friday, 12 August 2016

A Sunny One

I'm going to blog quickly today because I've got so much to do before I go away.  Eek!  Here's a piece of music to put me in a holiday mood, a wonderfully happy piece of funk from the '70s.  Perhaps it should  be listened to in the garden  with a  celebratory glass of something bubbly when I've got everything done..  It's a real departure from the usual indie, folkie stuff that I normally listen to.  But there you go.  I can be full of surprises.  Right let's crack on!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Two Wheeled Towing

In three days time we will wake up in France  at the start of three whole weeks of chillin'.   Boy do I need a bit of Rn'R with the boy.  It's been a bit of a year so far.  The original plan was to motor on down to the coast near Bordeaux but plans in my flitty little butterfly head have changed.  I think we'll stick to Brittany so there'll be much less driving and more time for  relaxing. It'll save money on fuel too.  My van is hardly eco when it comes to MPG.

To get me in the holiday mood I've found this. As a motorhome owner those that tow are usually considered to be sworn enemies!  But even I couldn't fail to be impressed by this offering from Wide Path Camper.  A caravan that can be pulled along by a bicycle is a very neat thing indeed.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

One to Aspire To

Buying a new book is a rare occurrence these days.  My literary diet is met from the library, offerings from friends and the little stand in the reception downstairs at work that raises money for bits of hospital equipment. Oh,  and there's the odd occasional charity shop find.   As I don't often read novels twice these are always passed on.   The contents of my rainbow bookcase are a dynamic entity.

But in a rare flurry of consumer activity I've bought four new books over the last couple of weeks. The boring one is an updated edition of an assessment tools that I use for work.  And then, as you do,  I've decided that I absolutely 'needed' a copy of Martin Luther King's sermons. I'll tell you about that another time.  I decided that I'd also like a couple more reference works on printmaking.  Yes, I know you can get all the information that you need online these days but there's still something rather special about having information in hard copy form.  I think it's the reason that I still have rather a wonderful collection of recipe books.

I've treated myself to Block Print by Andrea Lauren and Linocut for Artists and Designers by Nick Morley.  They're a pleasure to pore over with a cuppa so I'm delighted I've splashed out. They're giving me all sorts of ideas for printmaking action when I return from my hols.  After all I have bare walls to fill!  There's plenty of inspiration from other artists contained within.  This print by Sonia Romero that's featured in the second book is the one that stopped me in my tracks.  I love the composition, subject matter and the use of colour.  Maybe, with a lot of practice I'll be able  produce a linocut that's quite this wonderful one day.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

A Half Marathon In Sight?

My sister's funeral has been postponed until the beginning of September after I get back from my summer holiday. It's something to do with the popularity of the woodland site where she's being buried. The delay is psychologically tricky.  Our family have had to come to terms with the fact that she is resting even though she hasn't been laid to rest yet.  No more suffering, no more pain.

In one of my last lucid conversations with Esther I promised that, if at all possible, I'd run a half marathon in 2017 for IIHUK.  It's a small charity that provides information and support for people who've been diagnosed with idiopathic intracranial hypertension which causes increased pressure around the brain. This is the condition that caused my sister to lose her sight.

So was I being rash in declaring my intent to try and get around a 13 mile course?  After all, the last time that I updated you with my progress through the NHS's Couch to 5K running programme  I was jogging for just three minute  bursts.  Ha!  Ye of little faith.  With the help of my virtual coach, Laura, I've made steady progress over the last few weeks and now, after a five minute warm up, I can run for twenty five minutes, a veritable racing snake albeit a stubby, rotund one!

What I've noticed over is that increasing the duration of my little trots around the block has been getting easier and easier.  The step up from sixty to ninety seconds bursts of running between weeks 1 and 2 seemed like pure torture. 'When is this going to end?' my brain agonised at around the 61 second mark.  The difference now is that often I don't give what I'm doing a second thought. I can enjoy the scenery or ponder on something other than worrying about the integrity of my ACL repair.   Running for over two hours in one go is still a way off.  But with a firm charitable aim in mind crossing that half marathon finish line seems a whole lot more achievable.  I've been doing a bit of research and Bristol's nice flat circuit might be the one of aim for.  And who knows.  I might sneak a cheeky 10K race into my schedule in the meantime.

Monday, 8 August 2016


At times of stress my self-diagnosed dyspraxia, which is still awaiting formal assessment,  kicks in nicely and more accidents happen.  It's an expensive old business being clumsier than most.  

Back in September last year I was feeling particularly frazzled as we'd just moved into the house.  Isn't that known to be one of the biggest stressors going?  Whilst decorating that room in the attic that is full of meerkats, I knocked over a tub of paint on the landing outside.  Not just one of those standard cylindrical pots but a great big industrial sized rectangular container.  You could have swum in the stuff.

There followed a saga that went on and on.  A man came to quote for the job of replacing the carpet.  I had some remnants in my loft space but they were no good.  It had something to do with the direction of the weave of the matting, a bit like nap in fabric.  Now being someone with sewing experience I understood that good and proper.  So I went online, sourced the carpet that was a match for the rest of the stuff upstairs and it arrived within two days.  It was placed on my stairs ready for that bloke to fit.  Somehow it didn't happen.  He buggered off to live in Spain in January.  

I advertised on  It seemed that squillions of tradespeople looked at my job and decided it wasn't for them.  I phoned a few other carpet fitters.  Another one couldn't do it because he was heading for Spain as well.   Three arranged quotes and didn't turn up.  I was at a loss.  'Is that carpet still on your stairs?'  asked the Prof.  She wasn't surprised at my answer.  She'd been having the same problem getting someone to fit a front door.  It's probably because most of the handymen in the South West are chilled dudes who prefer surfing to earning money. Or maybe I'd somehow collectively upset all the carpet fitters in Devon.   Paranoia was setting in.

Now teenage rooms are traditionally untidy but  Lou's room was also chocker block with stuff that was to be stored on the landing.  It wasn't helping the situation up there and mess does my head in.  I needed a cunning plan.

It dawned on me that carpet fitting might not be any more tricky than following a dressmaking pattern. Could YouTube have the answer? After all it's done wonders for my meditation practice.  And it did! Some helpful chappies gave me a crash course in carpet fitting and B&Q supplied the pusher, cutter and stretcher.  Here's the result, not completely perfect but it's passed muster with the fussy Mr Metrosexual.   Had I have known sooner how straightforward this was I could have saved some stress as well as those pennies!  I'll show off the completed landing makeover in a little while.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

'What's That Rhino Doing There!'

This was my utterance as I drove around the corner near my house and caught a glimpse of the green that I share with my neighbours and consider my second garden. And why ever not?  It's got a picnic table and benches, a sea view to die for and someone else does all the donkey work.

Anyway back to the rhino.  He's part of the Great Big Rhino Project and you can get all the details and register online by following the link.  Yep, it's one of those trails where you go around spotting sculptures.  Just like the one with all those blooming Shaun the Sheeps in Bristol and London last year that rendered me particularly faint of heart by the end.  This one, which raises money for endangered rhinos ,is  a bit more manageable.  There's forty two of them scattered around Torbay and Exeter including a wandering one called Louis who doesn't stay still. Now isn't that apt?  The trail remains in place until October which gives my son of seeing all of them.  Given that I was all sheeped out last year I've come up with a cunning plan to buy my own Louis a day pass for the bus and send him off to search for some of  them without adult supervision.  After all he's 13 now and there are details of how to get around the trail by bus in the information leaflet that I picked up at the library yesterday.  After all, didn't I roam free like a big African animal by that age?

I have to say that I'm rather partial to the piece of public art that's turned up in my community's special space.  It called  'Why the Caged Bird Sings', which is the title of Maya Angelou's biography. A bit of inspiration for my holiday reading perhaps?

Saturday, 6 August 2016

This Rocks

Oh goodie!  It looks like it's going to be sunny today across the country. No doubt many people will grab the rare chance to catch some weekend rays and head for the coast. So  I thought I'd give my post a traditional seaside slant.  For after all, little changes over the years.  If it ain't broken don't fix it! Like the generations before us, we  hire stripy deckchairs, paddle in the sea,  collect pebbles and shells, promenade on piers, build sandcastles and eat sugary crap.

Here, those boys from Pathe, show how the quintessential sweetie, that can be found on sale at any traditional English  resort, was made in the post war years.  I wonder if the manufacturing process is the same today.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Ethical Scent

Lordy can't life be complicated these days?  Any purchasing decision, for example,  is a potential ethical nightmare.  What are the values of the manufacturing company and the retailers?  Are ingredients sourced sustainably?  Are the employees producing and selling goods paid a reasonable wage and have decent working conditions?  The list goes on and on.

I'm not perfect in any sense when it comes to my shopping habits but I try to improve by degrees.  One of the things that I've been thinking about lately is my penchant for Chanel perfumes.  No.19, Cristalle Vert and Coco Mademoiselle are all rather wonderful.  So complex and clever.  Then there's my favourite, the sublime Coco Noir.  I've been wearing that on a daily basis for a number of years.

Back in 2012 there was an EU ban on the sale of any new cosmetics tested on animals.  That was great news but the ban doesn't extend worldwide,  I became uncomfortable with the fact that many of the big perfume companies weren't being entirely transparent when it came to describing international practice.  Better safe than sorry I thought.  I decided to source a fragrance that a vegan, with their stringent regard for animal rights, would be happy with.  After all we all know that being beautiful isn't just about outward appearance.

I found Brighton based Eden Perfumes online.  They mix organic and vegan ingredients to create perfumes for men, women and yikes pets! Mind you I've known some stinky dogs in my time so it's possibly a good idea.  Through chemical analysis the company, a family business, claim that their products are similar to more well known fragrances - like my beloved Coco Noir!  The prices are much cheaper, £18 for a 30ml bottle (£60 for 100ml).  The least I've ever paid for a 100ml bottle of the real stuff was £77 in a duty free shop and I skipped away from the till as it was such a bargain. Trialing a cheaper alternative had to be worth a go from a penny saving alternative as well as an ethical stance.

So did my bottle of number 406 match up?  Well it's lovely and, as you'd expect from an eau de parfum, the fragrance hangs around all day.  Sadly though I'm able to make a distinction between the scents.  And if I'm very honest I'll admit to  preferring the Chanel version. Sob!

I'm not going to give up with Eden Perfumes though.   One of the reviewers on the website says that their homage to Coco Mademoiselle is pretty true to the original.  So I'll give that a go next.  And my lovely niece lives in Brighton and Hove where the company have two shops. It may be an excuse for a trip one day so that I can pick out one of their fragrances which can become my new favourite.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Lou's Ribs

It's team day with a shared lunch.   So I was up with the larks this morning cooking the luscious lemon drizzle cake from the Flora website .  With butter substituted for the well known spread, this has become the Lovelygrey household's signature cake. I told Mr Anonymous from Guyana my baking plans and his eyes lit up.  Work has been pretty stressful lately and it will be good to cheer him up with a bit of homemade confection.

I've directed you all to the recipe for the cake before but let's make this a cookery post shall we?  Look away now those of you who like precisely weighed out ingredients and meticulous instructions.  This isn't going to be one of those.

The other day I defrosted a pack of yellow sticker ribs from the freezer and asked Louis make us tea.  I gave him ketchup, soy sauce, mustard and smoked chilli powders, Worcester sauce, honey, rapeseed oil and balsamic vinegar.   Then I told him to experiment. Ye gods!  What kind of a mother am I?  I did ask him to taste test his sauce as he went along which he judiciously did.  The covered ribs went into an 180 degree C oven for about forty minutes.  I supplied hash browns and microwaved peas.  The meal was a triumph and will never quite be repeated.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Mad Wrist

My wrist decoration started to get a bit eclectic during May's holiday.  The band allowing me admission to the French campsite swimming pool has been augmented with others from the two weekend festivals where I've partied this year. Oh and a wacky macrame band that Lou fashioned from a kit that he bought.  He says that my arm is beginning to look like one of those mad walls that have popped up in my lounge and spare room.  Now I do believe he may have a point.  The hippy adornment will have to go at sometime but maybe it'll stay whilst the summer's still here.

Now you could search the surface of my skin for indelible art and you wouldn't find any.  Perhaps it's because  I'm not sure if any symbol or words would retain special significance over a lifetime.  There's also the fact that tats all seem to go blue over time.  Or maybe I'm not au fait with modern ink technlogy. Anyway I won't be agonising over a design to take to a tattooist parlour anytime.

Glitter tattoos could be the way to go though!  This one, applied by the kind folks on the Wateraid stall at Chagstock, has survived daily baths or showers for over a week and a half now. I'm rather partial to the idea of bits of me being a changing canvas as mood suits.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The Blousiest of Flowers

I returned to Devon yesterday. There's another trip out East next week for my sister's funeral but in the interim I'll relish being in the sanctuary of my own space.

The garden needs some attention so I'll spend some time out there sprucing it up. The stump of the eucalyptus tree that was felled last year is sprouting copiously. Apparently if I bang in a load of copper nails it will kill it without the need for dodgy poisons. So I'll give that a go.  And the bamboo that masks an ugly  back fence has run amok so needs a bit of a clip.

I've done no planting of my own since I moved here. Putting my own mark on my outside space will have to wait until I'm less busy.  I have vague ideas of growing herbs and stuff in containers and making a few wacky bits of artwork.  My gardening chores consist of tidying up what is already out there.  It's a bit dull at the moment.  However I was thrilled to discover, when I got home that one of the random bushes around the plot's edge has turned out to be an agapanthus.  It produces one of my favourite flowers and has livened it up outside a treat!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Crossed Caravan

I had a break from blogging because it seemed so flippant to be writing about the little things in life at a time when my family was going through tremendous pain. However during the fortnight that we knew that my sister's death was imminent there were still tasters of joy to be had. Surprising moments of delight and pleasure  lessened the heartache. And so the seemingly trivial assumed an important role in lightening a heavy load.

This picture hung in the lounge of the wonderful hospice where Esther spent the last of her days. Maybe it brought a smile every time I looked at it because it reminds me of the wonderful times spent in my cosy motorhome.  A boiling kettle and cakes feature heavily there too.  I didn't think that I was a particular fan of cross stitch. My preference is for the dense blocks of colour that come with completing needlepoint. But this little sewn scene's charm gave me moments of respite.  For those of you who might be tempted to thread a needle I've discovered that a kit  can be bought here.