Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Grace and Antoinette

Being a bit of a hippie I've got a few sets of angel cards which I use to tap into my psyche. This leads  to a bit of piss taking from Mr Metrosexual and Ruff Stu.    The 'Mermaid and Dolphin' ones seems to induce the most mirth.   I'm thick skinned and let it wash all over my head.

This card, from a pack called Messages From Your Angels, is one of my favourites.  It follows on nicely from that video that I shared the other week about looking inside the hearts of others.  My work exposes me, more than most, to unimaginable suffering, and often it cannot be seen by a superficial glance at a person.  Be kind peeps.  Treat everyone as if they might have their own demons to contend with.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Stuff and Self

Oh blooming heck!   I just know what some of you must be thinking.  She's posted another hulking great long navel gazing video that I'm never going to get time to watch!    Even so there may be one or two out there who might be touched by this  offering from my favourite tank top wearing German. So by posting I could make a tiny difference and that will suffice.   It's twenty minutes of wisdom packed words about  our relationship with material objects and our physical bodies.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

The Little Italian Job

My relationship with Leif  my little green  Citigo will come to an end this year.  It's been bittersweet. I was once Skoda's no 1 fan but not so now.  The fault with my cruise control that caused an accident went unexplained.  And I'm just about to speak to Skoda head office about whether it is acceptable that the tyre company alerted me to the fact that my brakes were dangerous just a month after a service.  When I had the pads replaced the old ones were 95% worn.

So I'm in the market for a new car.  Because I spend a lot of time in it, I prefer something that's a bit beyond basic, comfy with a good sound system.   Tiny is good because of the country lanes that I have to navigate on a day to day basis. Superlative fuel economy is also a must have.  After all I'm a single mum with a healthy holidaying habit to support so savings have to made somewhere.

So here's my first thoughts on the matter.  A  Fiat 500 lounge with a diesel engine that's supposed to give fuel economy of 83.1 mpg combined.  There's plenty of bells and whistles inside and out, sunroof, air conditioning, parking sensors and a nifty little sound system that would mean my singing days of the road aren't done.  We borrowed a version of this car on holiday and I was super impressed by its stylishness and the way it tackled those hair pin bends up to the Sierra Nevada's ski slopes.   Yes, I think my mind's made up.   I've just got to think about the colour choice and the cheapest way of parking one on my driveway now.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Out of Africa

I'm not a birder by any stretch of the imagination but I do take a lot of pleasure in watching our flying friends. This week I treated myself to a stop on that beautiful tidal road to see what I could spot.  Just ducks and gulls on this occasion but previously I got up close and personal with a curlew.  Those murmurations of starlings never fail to delight.  I've seen flamingos in the Camargue, bald eagles, trumpeter swans and a great big black and white kingfisher in Yellowstone and humming birds and cardinals on the Appalachian trail.  Closer to home there was a spoonbill on the Exe Estuary. And once when I was walking on Crete, a lammergeier, a bearded vulture flew right over head to assess whether I was small enough to carry off for tea.  That goodness I was too hefty for him!

The walk from our holiday apartment into the centre of Granada last week took us along the bank of the river Genil.  Louis sniggered at this as he thought it sounded like 'genital'.  That's teenage boys for you.  Smutty to the last.  On the first day I was thrilled to see hundreds of birds from the swallow family following the course of the river, swooping low to catch insects on their way.  After that there were none.  It occured to me that I'd probably been watching them flying up from Africa on their migration northwards.   Perhaps they were the same ones that share the swimming pool with me at my favourite Breton campsite.

Friday, 24 February 2017

My Favourite Charity Shop.......

...is this one!  It's in the little town of Modbury, that I've already identified as the plastic bag free capital of the world.  So why is this one Top of the Pops you may ask?  Well, for a start, the stuff in there is top notch. It's in a very affluent area of the country where seemingly posh ladies get bored with their wardrobes quite quickly.  So it's brimming with quality clothes and also bric-a-brac that is lovingly displayed.  The interior is gorgeous. The other thing is that the staff are so cheery and lovely. It's as if they're having a party in there!

I stopped yesterday afternoon between visits to patients. Because of the vagaries of our appointment booking system it meant the people I saw lived miles apart.  Consequently there'd been no time for a lunch break and a breather was well earned. Here's what I spotted.   It's a two layer dress with chiffon over a stretchy base layer that bears a label stating it was made in Italy. Sorry I can't do it more justice.  I was on my own last night and this was my best selfie effort.   I'm very pleased with my purchase but wasn't sure when I tried it on. Still those ladies in the shop seemed the type who'd give me an honest opinion.   I stepped out of the changing room for some advice.

'Ooh' said one.  ' The colour is lovely on you.'   I decided to come right out and voice what was bothering me.   'But doesn't it make me look a bit...errr.... titty?' I asked.  For I am blessed up top, of the torso that is.  Sometimes what's in that noggin of mine is sadly lacking,  My new confidante pooh-poohed my concerns.  'No,' she said. 'If I had what you've got, I'd be buying it. 'And' she added not too enigmatically, 'You'll do alright in that!' 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Soup Nazi

There's a Chinese restaurant in London's Chinatown that's famous for the rudeness of the staff as well as the superb quality of the food.  I can vouch for both as I ate there a couple of times back in the nineties. Perhaps things might have changed now and service staff are smiley and sanitised.

Because a good day starts with laughter I bring to you a favourite clip from Seinfeld that's are in a similar vein!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Ye Grub Of Olden Days

This is interesting. It refers to the rather simpler eating habits of our nation in the decade before my birth. When I was growing up in the late sixties and early seventies things had come on a bit. Spaghetti bolognaise was fairly common place in our household and a fish finger or four was often on the menu at teatime.   At the end of the 1970s McDonald's opened up in the high street in Southend.  It was such a trendy place to go that I didn't even mind spending my pocket money on a Big Mac and milkshake.

But even though there was a bit more choice in the late sixties and seventies when I was growing up there was a lot of food stuff that is freely available today that was considered pretty fancy back then.  Look back to a blog post where I featured my trusty Stork Cookbook from the seventies to see how far on we've moved in terms of what we call an 'exotic vegetable'!  I also remember going on a shopping trip to Wood Green in North London with Mum when I was a teenager.  We had lunch in a department store and chose from the salad bar.  We puzzled over a tasty ingredient that was a constituent part of one of the dishes.   It was necessary to do some research afterwards to find out what we'd actually eaten.  It was chickpeas!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Ants in Pants: Literally!

Our AirBnB apartment last week was faultless: thoughtfully decorated and beautifully kitted out.  It's the third time we've used the website to book accommodation and all the properties where we've stayed in Vancouver, Hove and Granada have been delightful and amazing value. I cannot recommend this website highly enough.  When we arrived  this time, Elias, the owner and his two children were there to meet and greet and presented us with a homemade cake made by Mrs Elias. They popped it in the bread bin.   I washed a slice down with a cup of green tea. It was extraordinarily good.

The next morning I awoke peckish.  More green tea and cake as there was no other food in the house.  The supermarket had not been open on our Sunday arrival date.  But this time round it tasted funny.  There was a sour flavour that I couldn't identify. I looked closely.  It was covered in ants who'd marched all the way from a crack in the door of my ensuite bathroom to the kitchen.  The little beasties had found a feast.  I couldn't help but admire their cleverness even though I was rather repulsed.

Now insects are supposed to be a sustainable food source and this was my first  foray into adding them into my diet.  I can't say I'd recommend it.   I wondered briefly if I could die of formic acid poisoning before taking charge and eliminating the little buggers from the kitchen.  This involved wiping down all surfaces with a clean cloth and alas, throwing away that lovely cake.  The ants did their best to fight back.  They crawled over me.  I may have imagined it but I'm sure I felt some in my knickers!  I frantically showered but four hours later when we visited the cathedral Lou picked off a couple from my neck.  Thankfully Elias came to the rescue, sealed up the ant's home and nuked the little buggers with toxic white powder.   He seemed to know what he's doing so I reckon it's a common problem in Spain.  Probably not very green or Buddhist but it had to be done.

The next day at the Science Museum we spotted these giants climbing the observation tower.  Models thankfully but I couldn't help feeling that they must have been put there overnight in memory of their murdered relatives!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Musically: Still in Spain

I have brought the music of Spain home with me in my head and will be drivng around Devon listening to these guys. One thing though. The Gipsy Kings, despite their note to flamenco, are French!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Apartment Artefacts I

Back to Blighty today with batteries recharged.  What happens when I go away is that ideas for things to write about flow freely.  I was struggling with subject matter for posts before the holiday but bam!  I've added nearly twenty items to my blogging list. They are not all about out Spanish trip by any means.

I've said before that the apartment we've been staying in is full of beautiful objects.  So inspirational! There's more than one post's worth on that list.  As a goodbye to the place I'm just going to share one thing today.  On a shelf in the living room there's this handmade book.  As you can see it's not made of paper but is ceramic in a wooden frame. And now I will let the story that is tells unfold. Thanks Google Translate

Your ability is infinite, said the bird to the girl.

Let's go, said the angel to the girl, taking her by the hand, to cross the river.

Sleep Mona with a field of blue apples. From one of these trees, a bird of colorful colors said. Your dreams, your thoughts, your life, do not forget that they are yours.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Little Luxury: Kid in Tow

Now I'm not a swanky kind of gal.  Some of this attitude is borne out of necessity.  My clinical job in the NHS means I don't do badly financially but there's still penny counting to be done.  There's also the fact that often I prefer the simpler things in life.  Said she who's just spent two days skiing.  Feel that irony!   But some of my favourite pleasures don't cost the earth: a good book,  a pint in a olde worlde pub, a charity shop find, staring out to sea or swimming in it, a meal cooked by a thoughtful friend, making stuff -  you get the picture.  Aside from plenty of travelling I wonder what would change if I were wealthy.

I might visit more spas as I love 'em.  Remember the nudie one in the US which changed my concept of body image for the better ?  Here's my latest find, the Hammam Al Andalus in Grenada where swimwear is compulsory.  A blessed thing I suppose as  I booked a package there for me and Louis.   Unless he chooses to walk in on me in a state of undress because he has an pressing need for a phone charger or something,  parental nakedness is a no no these days.

Before we went to the Hamman,  I explained, oh three times, that this was a grown up tranquil place.  I made Louis swear, on pain of death, that he wouldn't play sharks.  We had a glorious time here in a place that has been built on the site of ancient Arabic baths.  It's exquisite with kind professional staff.  I think that these guys copied their Roman predecessors because there are pools of varying temperatures.  We had a couple of quick dips in the cold pool to be brave but mainly confined ourselves to the beautifully tiled hot and medium ones.  And a fifteen minute massage with red amber oil was included in the price.  

In the main my pre-visit  threats were effective. Louis  behaved like a grown up.  All except for one moment where my navel gazing floatation was interrupted by an 'attack' from below.  For teenage year are an odd mix of the childish and little adults.   'I told you not to play sharks!'  I whispered.  'I' m not.  I'm a submarine' said the boy!

Friday, 17 February 2017

On Piste

Five years ago, give or take a day or two,  I snapped my cruciate ligament in an Andorran ski slope.  A year later I managed a brief return to the slopes after strengthening the surrounding muscles so the knee didn't need a ligament to support it.  I then lost fitness at a time when fatigue scuppered exercise.

So three years ago I went under the knife.  The surgeon said that I would never be able to do breast stroke leg again as it could compromise the joint. That's why I now swim like an injured frog.  But he said that I'd be able to ski again.  And yesterday that's what I did for the first time since my op.

Not many pictures got taken because I was too busy hurtling down those runs!  But here's one I took of my trusty ski companion.  I must have done alright for Louis has upgraded his evaluation of my performance from 'rubbish' to 'alright'. I've never been a competent skier but just love being active in a snow scape.  Yesterday the Sierra Nevada was a glorious place to be. I was so thrilled to be back on piste.  May there be many more beautiful blue runs to tackle in years to come!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

First Film

When some people travel they like to micro-manage their itinerary.  Me?  I leave room for the unplanned.  It pays such dividends. Remember Iggy Pop and Chagall in Landerneau last year? Here on our trip to Granada a visit to the Alhambra and skiing in the Sierra Nevada are as dead cert as it can be in an uncertain world.  But yesterday I went off piste in terms of tourist plans.  There's a travelling exhibit about Georges Méliès in the centre of town.  I was intrigued.

Who?  Ah, I'd never heard of him either. But I did recognise his work.   He was a French film director who, at the turn of the century, produced the first feature length film, a full fifteen minutes long!  The promoters  thought that an audience wouldn't be able to sit for that length of time but they were mistaken. With its litany of special effects,  'Le Voyage Dans La Lune'  was a triumph.  A man's face peeping out from a black and white moon made me realise that I was familiar with Méliès' work after all.

I got to watch the whole film which is stunning in its ingenuity.   Méliès was an illusionist as well as a filmmaker.  The imagery is all the more remarkable considering it was conceived in 1902.  It's available on YouTube here for those who are interested.

The exhibit told the tale of such a fascinating life.  After huge success Méliès became destitute only to be rescued by a former star of his movies with whom he set up a toy stall on a Paris railway station. It just goes to show.  You never know what life is going to throw at you!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The Most Bling Cathedral In The World....Probably

A picture post today for a change.  I took these on our trip on Monday to Granada's Cathedral.  Blimey!  The bloke that designed it didn't have his minimalist hat on I can tell you.  His favourite colour was definitely gold.   And some of the ceremonial stuff is bizarre in the least.  Lou and I thought the intricate model of the head of John the Baptist was a particularly nice touch!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

My Valentine's Card To You

Valentine's day blessings. I hope that you can feel the lurve emanating from Granada. Here's the view towards the Sierra Nevada mountains from the balcony at the back of our apartment. Aside from the parked cars by the river Genil it's rather romantic isn't it?

Leonard Cohen's favourite poet, Federico Garcia Lorca was born here. I'd like to visit his house but the teenager would protest mightily. So I'll leave it for another visit when I don't have a kid in tow.  To mark the feast day of the saint of  love I thought I'd be topical and share one of Lorca's poems but they're all rather angst ridden and that does not set a suitable tone.

Instead I've dipped into some of the reading material I have with me.   I re-read the books of Don Miguel Ruiz on a regular basis for each time I glean more teaching from them, changing the way I think and act.   This time 'The Mastery of Love' gets another airing, a practical guide to the art of relationship.  I've written about it before.   Maybe the words that I've chosen can't be found inside any of the greetings cards that have been sent today.  They speak a beautiful truth nonetheless which applies to all relationships, not just romantic ones.

 Love is based on respect. . . . Love respects.  I love you; I know you can make it.  I know you are strong enough, intelligent enough, good enough that you can make your own choices.  If you fall I can give you my hand, I can help you to stand up.  I can say, “you can do it, go ahead."

Monday, 13 February 2017

A Top of the World Type of Post

Good morning from a top floor apartment high in the sky in Granada, Spain!  I had hoped to be able to blog from my borrowed balcony that has pomegranate trees but it's raining outside.  I come to you then from the sofa in the cosiest of living rooms drinking poncy green tea. For I  absent mindedly left the tea bags to make a decent British brew in the back of the car.  I'll show you some of the stuff here in another post.  There are treasures!

I came for a day trip to this city a year ago and longed to return and share it with my boy, who is the most amenable of travelling companions even though he's a teenager.   I nearly laughed until my sides split yesterday.   It's proper Spanish here in the Andalusian vein. There are tapa bars aplenty, people spontaneously singing and playing guitar in the streets and orange and lemon trees abound. I love the vibe and don't seem out of place.  After all, I look the part,  gesticulate and talk rapidly, don't hold back on emotion and love to dance.   Maybe my vote to remain in Europe was spiritual rather than logical.

We decided to take a half term holiday which combined a city break with a couple of days of skiing in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  I only booked it about two weeks ago so I bet you're thinking it cost an arm and a leg   But a last mintue deal on a charter flight combined with good old AirBnB throws my previous advice about booking early for this February break right up in the air. Our flights and accommodation didn't break the £500 barrier.

No decent pictures yet.  I tried to  capture the ambience of this wonderful city on the way from supper last night.  Tapas of course. But a very excitable Louis decided he was going to 'photobomb' at every opportunity. Here's what I mean!   So I'll share the first holiday photo that I took from the plane at take off as it's a nice one.

Our departure was delayed.  The captain gave a very detailed explanation of the reason which involved slots.  It meant that we left at Cardiff  at sunrise rather than in semi-darkness.  Not a bad thing in the end for there was a wonderful vista of the whole of the bay.  We then passed through a bank of the fluffiest clouds imaginable and I was treated to the  sun coming up over the horizon. The light was incredible.    It is such a wonderful privilege to sit by a plane window and get a different perspective on the world.  I will always remembe the sight of four volcanos, including the terribly damaged Mount St Helens,  peeking out above clouds on our descent into Seattle once,   Whilst not quite matching that one, the view yesterday invoked awe. It was really rather special.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Worry Peeps

During a recent visit to the supermarket Mama Lovelygrey went to spend a penny.  Maybe an explanation is required for my non British readers.  This is a euphemism that means going to the toilet/WC/restroom.  It's a long time since one pence would literally buy you anything in a shop or indeed, let you have a wee in a public loo at one of the London Railway stations.  That was about 20p when I last looked  at Liverpool Street.  Being a bit of a tight wad I crossed my legs all the way to Southend Victoria.

Where was I?   Do I have the propensity to go off on a tangent or what!  Ah, yes.  Mama Lovelygrey left her handbag in the toilet and when she returned it wasn't there.  She went to see the customer services folk but no-one had handed it in either.  Some people have a very skewed sense of entitlement.  All her bank cards had to be replaced and she lost about a tenner.  But what really upset her was that the disappearance of a couple of little gifts that had been from me and Lou.

At my brother's wedding, three days after my sister's death, we gave her a little bead and wire angel that we'd bought from a stall at Chagstock a week earlier.   Then at Christmas, we thought some little worry people  would be a good idea for she frets greatly.  The idea is that you pop  them under your pillow and they'll carry away your fears overnight.    I hope the person who took them needs them more than my mum and maybe they do. For I believe that wrongdoing is the product of a troubled soul. They need to know that karma might bite them in the bum though.    As I promised  Mum that we'd source replacements we headed to Totnes yesterday where you can buy all things hippy.   We were in a rush so didn't find an angel.  Perhaps I'll have to make a special new one instead. After all there's lots of jewellery supplies at home.  I'm sure I could rustle up something celestial.

The worry people were still in Oxfam.  They're reduced by 70% so hurry on down if you think you need some.  I bought two lots.  These  guys will be winging their way to Mum soon. The other bagful has already gone to a good home where a bit of protection against anxiety may be needed.  Do your job well litle peeps for it's a worthy vocation that you have in this strife ridden world.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Rude Word Warning

I apologise to the sensitive among you for the inner fishwife refuses to edit out the expletive here.  Accordingly to the lovable but batty Reiki Ray she lives in me because I've had many past lives and quite a few of them have been where I live now, the fishing port of Brixham.  Well, well! Apparently loads of the people that I know now were there alongside me. So if you'd been down to the harbour in the olden days you might have seen a shouty sweary maid selling her fishy wares that probably would have been me!

This made me laugh  when I came across it the other day.  It gave me a very appropriate telling off.  For I'd gone online to write a rather pressing reply to an email and somehow ended up on Facebook!  And it's got me wondering.  Has anyone found themself at this post because they were doing the exact same thing?

Friday, 10 February 2017

Art Out of Darkness

In my job I share both joy and sadness probably in equal measure.  Tears came to my eyes the other day when one person told me that their artistic endeavours came to nothing as they all originated from states of mania. From the perspective of their current depressed mindset nothing could persuade them otherwise.   I found this heart wrenching as their work pleases me very much.

How I want to change their view once they're better so that they can embrace the creativity that comes from mental states that are less than ideal!  I'd also like them to discover that their talents don't desert them once they get better.  Best get my occupational therapy thinking cap on.

Here's a painting, inspired by the Japanese artist Hiroshige by Van Gogh, a man almost as famous for his suffering as his artworks.  It's beautiful regardless of the artist's state of mind when he created it.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

No Homework

Here's my funny clever and kind son with a roast dinner that he rustled up himself.  Okay I had to prompt with some of the timings but that's about it.  He loves to cook and is developing his skills as part of his Duke of Edinburgh award.

Louis was a 'surprise' when he came along.  In my childless days I was a very keen hiker and it was the foremost way that I defined myself.   I prided myself in my self-sufficiency on trips to the wilderness where I  survived from a backpack that was kitted out to be as light as possible.  Yet in 2013, as  I was walking in the Corsican mountains, I thought to myself, 'I need a different challenge.' The gods must have heard for they sent along the boy.

I was just a few months pregnant when I popped out to a local garage for some milk.  There was a Spanish lady in the queue in front of me.  She was the first person who made me realise that your belly becomes public property when there's a foetus in it.  She put her hand on my tummy.  'There is a baby in there?' she asked.  It was a good job that  I could answer in the affirmative and wasn't just a bit fat.  I understand that many have made that mistake and you shouldn't really ask a woman if they're pregnant until you can see a head sticking out from under her skirt!  She continued with Latino gusto.  'Ah, that is so wonderful!  You will never know how much you can love until you have a child.  So much love!'

What a prophecy for that's how it is.  I couldn't have imagined how wonderful my parenting experience would be.   And Lou's made me a better person too.  More patient,  less selfish and appreciative of my own parents. I couldn't have asked for a more fulfilling mother-child relationship. We are so close but I love seeing him grow and fostering his independence too.  He's always been advanced at standing on his own two feet.

Yet his specific learning difficulties have been a challenge especially when viewed alongside my own idiosyncracies. We are so alike in lots of way and that's probably what's made for such an intimate partnership.  There is such an understanding and enormous amounts of fun.  Yet we both struggle with attention, organisation and clumsy limbs that don't always play ball.  With challenging full-time work and single mum-dom the usefulness of the self management strategies that I've adopted-to rein in my dippiness are stretched to their limits anyway.   It's hard enough managing myself let alone another little soul who struggles with routine and still sees some of the simplest tasks, e.g. twice daily teeth cleaning as a bit of a relevation.

The formal grammar school education that his dad and I thought would be the right thing for a super bright boy with mild, but ill  defined special needs hasn't worked out.  I came to dread the regular emails arrived that catalogued his omissions.  Believe me I tried but how can you supervise homework, for example, when it hasn't been recorded in a planner in the first place?  Or somehow gets lost between my house and the classroom.

So after half term Louis has a fresh start.  The final decision was made yesterday and was the cause of my angst.  Louis and his dad nearly had a last minute change of heart and the thought of more pings from my mobile announcing that the 'Head of Discipline' would still be on my case seemed a stressor too far.  But no more.   Louis will be transferring to  this school where there's no homework!  Instead the kids stay until 5:30 and are supported with their self learning by their teachers who hang around as well.   It's one of a new breed of studio schools that prepare kids for employment with work experience built in.  Lou's new place of learning specialises in the built environment and draws on his maths and science strengths.    It won't be a walk in a park but our challenges will be different.  Let's hope it's a place where Lou can flourish.  In the meantime we need a half term jaunt to celebrate and recharge our batteries. Come back in a few days to see where our travels take us this time!

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Good Anxiety?

It seems a long time now since I felt persistently anxious, as if I were being stalked by a tiger, most of my waking hours.  How did I ever think that was a normal state of affairs? Duh! Okay, I can't say I'm now Zen-like all the time.  Sometimes I can have a bit of a stressy head on. But thank goodness cheeriness, wonder, calm and contentment seem to be the predominant features of my emotional landscape these days.

I'm current involved in making a major decision which I'll probably share here in the next few days.   All seemed to be done and dusted but yesterday new information suddenly threw things up into the air.  To my surprise it brought on a rush of anxiety, not a full blown panic attack but pretty close. There was a beating heart, nausea and that feeling of other worldliness that dissociation fromr reality brings.  It all passed after a few minutes but left me thinking hard.

I already acknowledge that anger is sometimes a very appropriate emotion. Think Jesus turning temple tables.  So why do I assign a blanket bad label to anxiety?  Maybe when it is fleeting, and not being experienced as a chronic maladaptive mental state, it can act as a useful gauge?  In the old days I had no idea why I was so mentally aroused but now it's different. I can unpick the thought processes associated with feelings.   It turns out that, on this occasion, my reaction seems justifiable.  Maybe anxiety can be  linked to intuition if 'used' properly.

What finally happens at this time is now in the balance.  It isn't just for me to decide.  But my analysis of why I experienced a period of intense alarm has been thrown into the mix and is having some influence on what will eventually happen. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

A Double Dose of Minimalism

I like to think that I'm not a hoarder or accumulator of material things.  Yet I cleared out the cupboard in the kitchen that's under my stairs the other day and I've now got a bootload  to take to the furniture reclaim store and charity shops.  That's just from one place in the house!   It's not just Louis' shoes and boots that don't fit anymore where there's a reasonable excuse for redundancy. Among other stuff there's a  'spare' vacuum cleaner, an electric clothes drier that I inherited from my sister and two massive lampshades that I removed from the living room eighteen months ago.

So it seemed timely that I came across this audio clip from The Minimalists on BBC Radio 6.  But be blowed if I can get the dammed thing to embed so you'll have to follow the link instead.  I particularly liked their idea of a 30 day decluttering challenge.  Now I might just do that and show you my booty in about a month's time.

To add a bit of colour and meaning to this post here's a little extra,  a TED talk by these inspirational guys.  I've shared one before.   I'll repeat their mantra again for there's reasons that it seems particularly relevant at the current time.

 'Love people, use things.  The opposite never works'.

Monday, 6 February 2017

I Can't Believe I Forgot It

Photo: The Guardian
Please follow this link to the funniest food article that I've read for a very long time. Well done Felicity Cloake for making me realise that there was  a really significant  omission  to my  own list of hated food stuffs, Weetabix! It's so vile, more building material than nutrient.  Have you seen the way that leftovers cling to the bowl if left for more than a millisecond?  As Ms Cloake and her poor dog demonstrate those horrible little wheatcakes are really not the platform for a posh eggy breakfast.  Stick to muffins or sourdough!

Sunday, 5 February 2017


'Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together.  I've got some real estate here in my bag.  So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs Wagner's pies.'

So lovely even though there's nicotine involved!  Words about sharing when there's just a little to go around.   Here, in a zone where I'll pretend that  no greedy bastard US president exists to spoil that notion,  I bring you a gentle song from old favourites whose voices have changed with age.  It speaks of journeying through the beautiful land over the pond which still remains close to my heart for some of the dearest of friends live there. 

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Just To The Left of Green

This is interesting.  There I was thinking that my political beliefs were just moderately pinko leftie.  After all I rub along nicely with many friends who voted differently  in elections and the EU referendum because they're  kind, tolerant people.   We're not always shouting each other down because we're a respectful bunch. Anyway lots of our views seem fairly similar.   My stance as a public sector worker is tempered by the nine years of working as a tax accountant.  I have a bit of a commercial head on me and some practices in the NHS beggar belief in terms of economic soundness.  I also have a really strong work ethic and believe that all who can should pay their way for their own personal good and that of society as a whole.

Yet this test that shows my political compass  indicates that I'm more left wing and a shade more libertarian than the Green Party...and Gandhi!  Perhaps a pinch of salt is needed here but it's certainly given me food for thought in terms of where my political allegiance might lie.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Matchbox Memories

On the council estate in Southend-on-Sea in the 1970s money was tight.  Consequently there was none over to set me and my siblings up with trust funds. The princess mentality therefore passed me by and I've worked from an early age.

My first job was, yes a paper round at the age of 15.  Perhaps that's where I got my early bird habits from.  For six days a week I rose at 5am, literally got my hands very dirty from all the  newsprint, and was paid the princely sum of £3. I replaced that with a much cushier number whilst I was in sixth form.  I worked in the accounts office of a furniture shop where the white suited owner looked like a member of Showaddywaddy.  Many of my hard earned pennies were spent in the Golden Disc,  a record shop where Morrisey filmed one of his videos.  A lovely old chap in the second hand department befriended me and bought me a bottle of Charlie for my 18th birthday, the perfume much coveted by teenage girls of the time.  I always preferred the furniture up in his loft area to the new stuff in the showroom below.

At university I worked in student union bars during term time.  With hindsight I wished I'd gone travelling in my summer breaks but I wasn't as bold as now.  Instead I worked for two years at Matchbox.  Yes, in those days toys were made in places other than China.  Company buses collected workers from all over South East Essex and took us to the factory in Rochford where men in the foundry hung out of the window and leered at the lady workers as they arrived.   Sometimes there was a fight on the factory floor when romantic boundaries were crossed.  My first job was on a line of other students where we packed cars into boxes and listened to 'Young at Heart' by the Bluebells five times a day on Essex Radio.   My Walter Softy hands from a life of academia weren't up to the job and were cut to shreds.  We were the least productive workers in the factory and were split up by the end of the second week.

I was taken under the wing of the print department where I spent the first hour or so dispelling the myth that all students were snobs.  I've never been snotty. So  I rubbed along nicely with the full timers and earned decent productivity bonuses under their wings.  In my second year I returned to the fold by the supervisor with a big hug.  'We'll have this one back' she said.  On my last ever day I was taken to the pub and persuaded to down a bottle of wine in my half hour lunch break.  My final bonus suffered as a consequence.

In between chatting for England  which I'm good at to this day, I printed the sides of about a quarter of a million of these toffee vans. 'They'll be worth something in the future'.  one of my colleagues say. My doubts were well founded.  This one is selling for £2.95 on Ebay!

Thursday, 2 February 2017


As menopause has set in the frequency with which I find hairs on my chin has gone up alarmingly.   Yet going down the route of the iconic Frida Kahlo and leaving my face as nature intended isn't going to happen.  I'm not sure that I'd be limiting myself to a neat little moustache like the boldly unconventional but very gorgeous Mexican artist.  Rather it seems that I'd be in danger of looking like a full blown hipster or an understudy for ZZ Top if I left growth unfettered.

Barely a day goes by when I don't find a stubbly invader growing from my chinny chin chin. So  I surreptitiously deal with the little bastards whilst I sit at traffic lights. The tools for the job are kept in the storage area in front of my handbrake.  After all personal grooming whilst stationary with the engine running isn't illegal like using a mobile phone.  I dare a copper to book me for illicit plucking!

Now my twenty year old self would be horrified that I'm owning up to this. I think that I was quite sterotypically beautiful in those days.  From what I can see as I go about my travels most young women are.   Being desirable whilst reproductively active probably plays a role in perpetuation of the human species after all.   Yet I probably could have found fault with every body part, knees too knobbly, nose and feet too big, hair too unruly, arms, legs and yes, face too hairy......  Even in those days one or two blighters dared to pop from their follicles in 'the wrong place'.  Shame in my appearance wasn't an alien emotion.

Fast forward thirty years to the present. I'm a bit overweight, have scars on my abdomen from life saving surgery and childbirth, wrinkles around my eyes and everything is topped off with silver rather than dark brown curls. In my younger days I would have thrown a wobbly and hid in a cupboard. But I'm comfortable in my own skin now, more  than at any other point in my life.

I'm primarily writing this post as reassurance for those who need to hear a certain penny drop.  The beauty industry would like you to think you're a freak if  you deflect from airbrushed norms.  In their book, if you're sprouting hair from anywhere other than the top of your head, God help you.  I've done a little survey of my friends of a similar age.  For most of them tweezers are an absolute essential, not just for use in the eyebrow department.  Phew!  It turns out that I'm entirely normal.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Inner Fog, Outer Fog

All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry - all forms of fear - are caused by too much future, and  not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”   Eckhart Tolle.

So have I sussed it yet?  Am I focusing on the present to such a degree I've eliminated all suffering?  Have I heck!  Little demons and bigger beasties remain.  Sticks, stones and yes the words and actions of others still hurt at times.   But there's more of an awareness of when those unhelpful emotions take hold and how they are sustained by what I say and do.   I've noticed, for instance, how speaking unkindly causes deep hurt in myself.  I think I'm watching my words more closely as a consequence.

Little by little more and more presence unveils itself. I'm aware of the heightened energy that seems to course through my body after I've been for a run.  I was surprised at how I hadn't noticed before what the water from a shower feels like when it hits the top of my skull.  What has also struck me is how much of the outside world is overlooked because I'm preoccupied with what's going on inside my head. The Devon countryside is lovely yet it goes by unappreciated as I'm focusing on unproductive inner chatter instead.

Louis goes skiing on a Monday night at an outdoor activity centre.   Instead of mulling over the minutiae of a busy day when I went to pick him up,  I achieved presence and with that became  mesmerised with the lights and strange shadows in the outer rather than the inner fog.