Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Legend About Losing It

Our campsite is really close to the pretty port of Ploumanac'h.  In fact I jogged there the other day. I've only included this picture because I'm showing off my photography skills.  I think that this has turned out blooming lovely.

Standing in the sea a few metres from the beach is the granite Oratoire of St Guirec.  It houses a statue of the saint.   I heard last year that if a virgin sticks a straw up his nose they're guaranteed a sexual encounter - pronto!

Being a bad mother I relayed the story to Lou. In 2016 when we visited the tide was in.  'Why not give it a go?' I said to my son.  He surprised me with his response.  There must have been some fledging adolescent hormones around  a year ago.  'Okay' he said plucking a blade of grass from over the sea wall.  He rolled up his jeans and set off resolutely - only to return pretty darned quickly.  'It's cold' he explained.  'Ah, you're probably not ready yet.'  I laughed.  He agreed.

I told the kids that, barring the conception of Louis I was near enough a virgin and should have a go myself.  After all I need all the help that I can get. They responded by downloading a lie detector test to Louis' phone.  I failed all three sections.  So, armed with various bits of foliage,  the kids climbed up alone.  The tide was out this year so their mission was easy-peasy.  There was already a flower stuck up the poor geezer's nostril and quite an arrangement after these two had finished.

Given that Bossy Beth's mum reads my blog on a daily basis I think that I need to give some reassurance.  All activity around here is pretty innocent.  The teens are riding around on their bikes, playing manhunt and hanging out by the pool and playground.   The only alarming behaviour seems to be that a daunting amount of sugar is being consumed.  No-one is losing their cherry on my watch!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017


Here's a snap of Klaus the Knaus'  interior that I took yesterday.  At first glance you would not guess he's an old boy in vehicular terms -  22 years old.  He's just passed his MOT after a bit of welding under the bonnet.  The breakdown people had to be called out when I got to the place where he's stored.   I knew that I'd have to use the trusty jump leads.  What alarmed me was that instead of helping the engine to tick over they generated smoke.  'You didn't put them on the wrong way round?' asked the  RAC man as he scrutinised me.  I was looking more girlie than usual that day.  I like the contrast of extreme femininity and driving a large motorhome so I big it up a bit.  I was indignant and rustled up my very ancient A-level physics as proof that I would do anything so stupid.  He shut up after that.  It turned out the casing holding the battery has rusted away and after the bloke started the van after bypassing the earth wire we got going.  I reckon Klaus has got another ten years in him at least.

And so we're reunited and over the last few days I've been spring cleaning.  That tidying book that I mentioned the other day had been read and has hit home.  I've also been reading, setting up  the new business,  cooking for the kids, swimming running, taking in the sea air, getting my bike ready for a few runs out,.........  What I love about my van is the reminder I get when I'm here that I can live very well with much less than in my conventional tow. There's a lightness to existence.  Reassurance indeed in an uncertain world.   Hell, without anyone else in my life I'd probably be back in here tomorrow!

Monday, 29 May 2017

Sausage Stew Staple

I'm certain I'm a half decent cook.  Why?  Because a fair few people tell me.  My style is rustic, mainly Mediterranean with hearty flavours.   I like to keep it simple.  Normally there's only one pot or baking dish involved unless it's a roast.   There no nobbing around with sous vides and fancy foams for me.

I reckon pretty much everyone that camps rustles up a sausage and tomato stew at some time.  Klaus the Knaus has seen a fair few cooked on his stove over time, like the inaugural meal when I embarked on motorhome living in 2014.  Here's yesterday's version that the kids pronounced delicious.

Sweat a couple of chopped onions and a  big diced carrot in a glug of rapeseed oil.  I also added a crushed clove of garlic that we got from the supermarket.  It was a big as an elephant's arse so if you follow this recipe with normal  sized stuff you might need two or three.

Pop three luscious long chipolatas in with the chopped veggies.  They can cook through at the same time. I kept the lid of the pan on and the sausages didn't go brown.  They looked a bit anaemic but no matter.  A hearty sauce covers a multitude of sins.

Chop up the sausages into bite sized pieces. Add a crushed tin of chopped tomatoes, a squirt of Muscadet from a wine box, dried rosemary, a teaspoon of smoked paprika and a good grinding of salt and pepper.  I also popped in a bit of the rouille that we add to our Breton fish soup.   Add a tomato can of water and let it simmer away without the lid on until it's all reduced down to a thick gloopy consistency.  More of the Muscadet and a good book comes in handy while you wait.  I'm onto 'Driving Over Lemons' now guys!

And that's it.  Add the juice of half a lemon and serve in bowls with a crusty baguette.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Our Own Tor

To use a thoroughly British term things went a bit 'Tits up' yesterday.  But then they turned alright in the end.  I recalled that I had always been billed for the campsite in advance.  I wasn't this year so thought that perhaps my memory had failed me and that  I'd always paid on arrival. Yikes!  When we arrived we didn't have a reservation.  It seems that I'd been emailed for payment but the message had disappeared to goodness knows where.  It would have been okay - except that it's Bank Holiday here and my gorgeous home from home on the Breton coast was full.  ''I have one pitch that will become available later on' said the lovely lady in reception.  'Go and take a look.  You can move to the main camping area if you want to tomorrow when all the French people have gone home.'

And so I did.  I was thrilled with what she'd come up with and so was Bossy Beth.  The pitch is off on its own at the back of the site and is a haven of peace and tranquility.   The downside is that it's a long way from the toilet and shower block.  Louis whinged so I've relaxed my normal stringent rules about the use of the motorhome loo as a compromise.

So we're staying put.  I'm so delighted I might even book this specific pitch in the future.   It's like our own little bit of Dartmoor - in Brittany!  We had pizza and strawberries on our 'tor' last night. There's room for Klaus the Knaus and the teens have their own home pictured here.  The Quechua 4:2 came out of the loft.  There's a bedroom apiece and it's full of seats, throws and enough sweets to sink a battleship.   As it's a holiday I'm overlooking that one.  They've found friends and, as I suspected, I might rarely see them apart from when they need feeding and financing. That's okay because for someone who loves people and socialising I'm surprisingly good at solitary. I'm working on being thankful for what I've got rather than what is lacking.  So I'm taking advantage of the space that being on my own gives me.  Maybe turns of event were meant to be. It seems that I've ended up  with the retreat space that I was hoping for!

Saturday, 27 May 2017

In Loco Parentis

Meet our stowaway on this trip to France. Lou's friend Bossy Beth has joined us.  I will just scupper any ideas that you might have that romance is involved.  Both of them threaten death if it's even suggested.  These guys have been mates since they met at Beaver Cubs at the age of six.  Beth calls Lou her 'brother from another mother'.  They now are classmates. The mother-son travel combo had been thwarted. It's lovely to have somebody girlie to gang up with me!

Friday, 26 May 2017

A Pile of Books

Half term starts at 3:30 today but, aside from catching up on a few notes, I'm already off work.  We're setting out on our travels this evening.   Now who's we?  Well there's me,  Louis and Klaus the Knaus, my trusty motorhome of course. And this time another person is coming with us.  You'll find out more tomorrow .  So where are we heading?  Well,  if you saunter back and look at my posts from this time of year since 2013 it won't be a surprise where we're going.  'If it ain't broke, don't fix it!' is my Whitsun getaway mantra.

I'm going to use the time away in three ways.  I'm really looking forward to working on working on getting new business more intensively than I ever can in a working week,  This doesn't feel onerous. It's exciting and fascinating.  Of course I want to spend time with Lou and our mystery guest.  And there will be some relaxing and taking care of myself.  Lots of swimming walking, cycling, meditation.  I'm hoping to treat the holiday, in part, like a personal retreat.

Here's my book pile, some already half read so there's a good chance I'll get through the lot.   It's an interesting one as my reading material has come from all sorts of sources and is with me for all sorts of reasons.  We have:

The Girl Before: Red Mel hurried through this so that she could give it to me to read.  She says it's gives food for thought on how someone's environment affects their psyche. Interesting!

A Christmas Carol:  Why this highly unseasonable reading?  Well Lou's studying it for his GCSE English and his teacher suggested that I might like to read along so that I can participate in his learning.

A New Earth: I can't go away without reading from one of my online guru's in tow could I?

Driving Over Lemons: Here was a lovely surprise from the other morning.  M, my friend in the Midlands sent me some holiday reading about Andalusia, another of my favourite getaway destinations.  What a great surprise!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: And my library book comes highly recommended by another Devonian blogger, Gina Caro.  I've been carrying it about in my handbag and reading snippets on my travels.  Will tidying change my life?  I'll have to find out and start in Klaus the Knaus, my small-space second home.

Happy half term everyone!  

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Ponderings on Coldplay

Because of Louis I'm revisiting the songs of Coldplay.  Sometimes when it comes to his musical taste I'm reminded of the reaction of my Dad in my own teenage years.  'Turn  that bloody row down!!!!' I want to bawl out.  But with Chris Martin and the boys it's different.  We are on common ground. Thoughtful words sung by a beautiful voice.

So 'Hymn for the Weekend'  is now a special favourite when I'm driving - especially on the way home.  It's incredibly joyous.   I have a little dance in the car.  Lord knows what the other commuters think but I'm not into caring about that anymore.  And I went out running accompanied by a batch of Coldplay singles the other morning.  I  was particularly touched by the  lyrics  from 'Fix You' .   Those about the   dissatisfaction felt by 'getting what you want and not what you need' hit home.  Our desires are not always what are best for us.  And what about these lines?

'If you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth'.

These words provoked a little pondering and some internal rhetoric.

'When you love someone and it goes to waste
Could it be worse?'

'Yes it could be way worse'  I told Chris. 'For love never goes to waste.'  On that note I'll get on with my day.  Have a wonderful one good people! xx


Wednesday, 24 May 2017


A cheeky visitor has been popping into my house.  Either he nips through the front door as I'm entering or has been making an appearance through my previously redundant cat flap.  He is incredibly affectionate and always up for a dish of milk.  Louis is delighted. He's a sucker for anything cute and cuddly;

He's been around more often lately and I've pondered about where he comes from.  Could he be a friendly stray who's adopted us?   Now I know I've said that I'll never have pets but what if we are chosen?  I thought about investing in a cat collar from Poundland and popping a note on it to find out if anyone owned him.  Then Barbie Nurse cautioned me against that.  She said that kitties can suffocate by getting caught on branches wearing them.

At the weekend Red Mel even gave him a name  He's called  Corbyn  because he's not a fat cat!  I decided to make a few enquiries before investing in a few pouches of Felix and a pet plan.   My detective work didn't take long.  He belongs to my next door neighbour and is a bit on the scrawny side  because he's reached the ripe old age of 17 years old.   Maybe he comes around to my house for a bit of peace and quiet.  There's a toddler in his own home that is definitely going through the tantrum stage.   And his real name?  It's Scooby.  I think though I prefer his new one!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Titty Squishing

I give thanks at the end of the day for the good things. Yesterday's list included:

  • The very beautiful smile and the sneaky kiss that Lou gave me when I dropped him off to catch the school bus yesterday.  Teenagers rarely go for public displays of affection.
  • That I have the things in my life that I need, clothes to wear, enough food, clean water, a reliable car to get me to work.  Better to focus on them that the things that are missing.
  • The swallows that flew low overhead whilst  I was seeing one of the people on my caseload in her lovely garden.
  • My Twitter following for my business website is increasing in leaps and bounds.  It's become a bit addictive.  Little things pleasing little minds and all that.
  • That I could do my favourite drive.  The ferry from Kingswear and then the glorious views from the coast road between Dartmouth and Kingsbridge.
  • The wonderful weather.  Maybe my boots have finally been banished permanently to the wardrobe until the autumn.
  • The leftovers in the fridge that meant that I didn't have to cook when I got home
  • One about Lou again:  We went out collecting elderflowers to make cordial on Sunday.  We bottled our produce yesterday.  Unprompted, my son popped out of the house and gave away two bottles - to be neighbourly. 
Following on from a recent cervical smear  I also had my biennial titty squashing session  in the car park of the local DFS.  For that's the glamorous location where  the local breast screening van is sited. Luckily I only have two 'boys' to my name, unlike this lady  here who'd give the staff  there  a run for their money!  The radiographer confirmed that breasts were male entities.  'They give us so much trouble you see!'  she said in justification.   Remembering my recent bra buying shenanigans I concurred.  But yesterday I expressed special gratefulness too for those preventative procedures that I'm entitled to free of charge on the NHS.  In spite of its troubles,  our wonderful health service is still rather special.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Crafting in My Kitchen

As I promised I've managed to rustle up a crafting post today. I was so inspired by an article on the Royal Academy of Arts website that I decided to it try out with my friends.  'Buy pizza!'  I told Red Mel and Spiky Kay '  But make sure that it's on a polystyrene base'. We used packaging that would normally have gone to landfill to create a printing block.  So much cheaper than my usual lino and you don't need any special tools to make the marks.  We just used what we found in my kitchen. Here's Spiky Kay inking up her design.  She'll kill me for posting a picture of her with her tongue out in concentration but I thought that it was rather sweet!

Red Mel  is using the brilliant Slamma that my sister in law distributes in the United Kingdom.  It's much more space saving than a printing press and way more effortless than using the back of a spoon to make relief prints.  Right,  I think that it's time to put you out of suspense and reveal the results of our creative endeavours.

Here's Spiky Kay's collection of fossils and shells.  She's got a bit of a thing about ammonites.

Red Mel decided on a  very hippy dippy butterfly.

And this is mine.   The ink doesn't roll smoothly over the polystyrene and block is squishier.  These two variables mean my design changed with each imprint.  You don't achieve the same consistency as you do with lino.   At first I was disappointed.  But then my fuzzy octopus grew on me. He has an ethereal quality, as if he's being viewed from under the water.   My boys came round this afternoon and agreed.  They've bagsied a print for their wall.   That's one of the things I love about printmaking. It's a craft that lends itself to being very easily shared and gifted.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Harira for a Houseful

Red  Mel and Spiky Kay, my chums from the 'Year 2000 Class of St Loye's School of Occupational Therapy'  are with me this weekend.  Our old college upped sticks and merged with Plymouth University years ago and the buildings were knocked down to make room for a swanky retirement village.  But our friendship has survived the test of time.  We lunched on the harbour, perused the shops and came home to crafting.  I'll show you what we've made tomorrow.   Supper was three home cooked courses.  The starter was tiropites, tasty cheesy parcels.  I've shared the recipe before.  Louis made a pink iced victoria sponge for dessert.  The kitchen still hasn't quite recovered.  Adolescent cooking is messy!  The main course was harira, a stew that is eaten by Muslims to break their fasting during Ramadam.  It'd be worth waiting for all day as it's delish.  Here's my version of the recipe.

Soak 200g chickpeas overnight and then boil them whilst writing a blog post.  Wait until you can smell burning because they've boiled dry.  Sh*t!!!!!!!  Rescue them just in time!

Fry 450g cubed lamb  in a bit of oil until it colours.  Soften a chopped onion in the pan as well to save on washing up.

Pop the lamb, chickpeas and onion in a slow cooker along with a tin of chopped tomatoes, a chopped red pepper, 2oz Basmati rice, 2oz red lentils, a teaspoon of ginger and salt and pepper.  Top with water and cook on high all day.  That's it.  The recipe called for saffron but I didn't bother with that.  It's expensive and I think that it makes food taste like TCP.

I should have added a bit of chopped parsley and squeezed a lemon over it at the end of cooking time. It would have made it more photogenic.  But I forgot.  It was lovely anyway!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

A Monochrome Mindset

At the top of my blog page I profess to live between black and white, not dogmatic but trying to  act and think in  ways that promote acceptance and tolerance.  When observing my thoughts the other day I surprised myself with just how rigid and, yes, loveless my thinking can be.

I tend to rub along very nicely indeed with most people.  But there's a few that I really don't like. What's more I feel justified in my feelings towards them.  After all they're individuals who I see as particularly selfish, self seeking and cruel to others.

So I was really shocked today to hear someone on my 'blacklist' described as  wonderfully warm and empathetic.  What  seemed to make it even worse was that the person describing them in such glowing terms is so gorgeous themselves.  They're up there on my opposing list of those I most admire for their compassion and selflessness.  I wanted to speak out and put them straight about that bastard!  Thankfully I managed to bite my tongue but it was a hard thing to do.   After all I'm right aren't I?  The wool must be very firmly covering their eyes if they can't see the person for what they are,  i.e. from my own perspective.

And so I came to the realisation that  I  label people in very black and white terms. So  I'm not really living on the greyscale at all!  Even those I see as  inherently evil, for that is what my judgement has assumed them to be, have the capacity for good.  I've  actually seen 'the bad guy who is the subject of my post today demonstrate incredible generosity.  Yet I ignore that sight of them which demostrates their humanity because it doesn't suit me.

Yes, my thinking can be starkly monochrome. I'm glad this has come to my attention for it's a mindset that needs changing.    I'm not sure how but noticing that I have a propensity to do this seems like a pretty good start.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Little Things Matter

I'm feeling lazy today.  Well, maybe that's just from the perspective of blog writing.  After all, I'm planning a little trot round the block in running shoes in a few minutes.  So I'm going to let someone else do the talking.   Wise words that demonstrate the value of acts of kindness, even little ones! 

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Not A Load Of Rubbish

Although this could be a picture taken around here it's from Pixabay where I get my royalty-free photos.  Those gulls around Brixham are little buggers but I do admire their majesty and intelligence.

It's bin day today and Torbay council have devised what seems to be the world's most complicated rubbish collection scheme.  I have an assortment of containers.  Let's get the naughty Joo stuff out of the way first of all.  I've generated a bit of food waste this week: some past their best cooking apples, half a cabbage and herbs that turned to liquid in the veg compartment of the fridge.  I'm not proud for  I hate waste and the money that is thrown away that it represents. But I'm not going to beat myself up either.  I'm a full-time working single mum and sometimes my planning goes awry because I'm just so busy.  In the scheme of things it's not too bad at all.

On the plus side I think I'm supposed to be putting out the big black bin this morning but I haven't done so for nearly three months now.  That's because it's still only half full.  At this rate I'll only be sending stuff to landfill three or four times a year.  Everything else gets recycled.  Instead of going to the tip eight big bags went to charity a couple of weeks ago for instance.   I think that cutting down on non recyclables to this degree is quite an achievement.  What's more I've got plans to get even better at this by being more mindful about what comes into my house in the first place!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Viva Darkness

Light pollution came onto my personal radar on 17 July 2008.  How can I be so specific about the date?  That was when I went to see Leonard Cohen at the O2 and he recorded the live album that you can hear me whooping on.  As I walked out of the arena after the show I was surprised to see that, unlike rural Devon, London no longer gets dark at night.  Instead it's bathed in a murky orange glow.   Okay it's not pitch black around here but you can still see stars.  It occurred to me that millions of people in the world not longer have the pleasure of perusing the Milky Way.  For them, my dear friends  Orion and the Great Bear are strangers.  That's pretty sad.

I'm a lover of the light but extreme darkness also has a lure.  My most vivid memories of being in pitch black come from wilderness hiking in the US and a stay at Lluc Monastery on Majorca.  There's something very comforting, like being cocooned.

Research for the post today has lead me to the website of the  International Dark-Sky Organisation. It's a fascinating source of information. Not only have I learnt about the adverse effects of bad lighting on eco-systems and human health, I now know of places where I can escape the glow, nearby Exmoor being one of them.  And there's useful stuff about doing our bit  and not becoming polluters ourselves.  As barbecue season looms the section on acceptable and unacceptable outdoor lighting seems particularly pertinent.  Food for thought peeps.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Show and Tell Two

Day two of showing you something new that has arrived in my house.  Even though I've always hankered after a rocking chair the cynics among you will be relieved to hear that God didn't tell me to go and buy one!  No this was generously gifted from Red Mel,    It was the twenty first birthday present from her ex-husband.   It didn't really fit in her bijou Bristol flat and maybe, with its history, it was good for her to part with it.  She's thrilled that it's found a place in the little alcove in my bedroom where I love to sit and chill.    The Lloyd Loom chair with the Yellowstone throw has moved to the living room.  I've been thinking I could do with extra seating down there. Now when there's a crowd one less person will have to perch on a pouffe.

My  friends and family are the best.  I am so fortunate to have  such kind, wonderful people in my life.  They are my rocks.  I know with 100% certainty that they would be there for me in a crisis and even if I lost everything  I would be well cared for.   They would feed me, keep a roof over my head and console me with prosecco until I was back on my feet again.   But  it's a symbiosis.  They know that I would do the same for them too.  I've voiced it sometimes for those who need to hear that my love for them is not just word froth.  It seems that our ongoing expressions of generosity towards each other affirm this.

Monday, 15 May 2017

'Fessing Up Time

Show and tell for the next couple of days.  Let's get confession time out the way first shall we?  It's extraordinarily rare that I buy 'new' new clothes apart from underwear, sportswear, leggings and shoes.  I think my last purchase was a little wrap around skirt in Quiberon when I was on holiday last summer. It cost the princely sum of fifteen Euros  Before that it was the gorgeous cerise dress I bought when my brother got married.  Monsoon's finest but from Ebay at a knockdown price of about thirty five quid.  I've never shown that off on the blog but it's going to get an outing at another wedding in July so you might see it then.  Everyone who wants to be a bridesmaid has to wear pink.  There's going to be a few dozen of us.

And there we were in Dartmouth on Saturday scouring the shops for a pink dress for Mel to wear, Nothing in proper clothes shops normally tempts me these days.  'How much!!!!' I exclaim inwardly when I look at the price tags - even in Primark and the like.  It's hard to adjust when you're a charity shopaholic and used to everything being well under a tenner.

I was surprised then when I was drawn to this dress in Seasalt that wasn't even in the sale area.  It's so me.  The right shape and funky retro.  It's thick cotton that feels like old '50s curtains!   I knew that I'd succumb if I tried it on and it fitted.  So I attempted to stay well away whilst Red Mel was in the changing rooms.  But I kept being drawn back.

To cut a long story short the dress is now hung in my wardrobe.  I'm over the moon with it.   I did a modelling session in the garden earlier as you can see.  Another recent purchase has been a tripod so that I can take photos and make videos for the business.  I need to experiment with it and here was a chance.

So what happened?  Well I explained it to the assistant at the shop counter while Melanie rolled her eyes. Sugar Plumb nearly wet herself laughing when I told her the story as did a random old lady standing nearby who overheard.  And Salty Dog was disparaging so I  gave her a little telling off.  For she did well under similar circumstances the other day when she was the recipient of my picture.  Just as I felt I'd been told to give away some of my most treasured possessions it seemed that I was reminded about abundance and given permission to splash out and treat myself.  This 'God stuff'  seems that it might be working both ways! 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Dancing in Dartmouth

I've woken totally whacked out this morning from dancing my little socks off. Red Mel and I headed over to Dartmouth for the Dart Music Festival and met up with Salty Dog and a whole bunch of friends who'd hired a cottage and were having a house party.   This  amazing event, with over one hundred acts, is funded by donations.  It's become part of my annual calendar.  I'm keen to buy a wristband to contribute but others put what they can into collection buckets.

So for a mere tenner I saw so much.  Acoustic acts, a duo with a take on flamenco, jazz in a pub, a man I was acquainted with from when he performed at Chagstock who plays two guitars at once....The list goes on and on.  And the absolutely unforgettable OMG! It's the Church.  Check them out at their website  You don't see a combo of gospel music and comedy or a man with a crucifix emblazoned on his Y-fronts every day.

To keep our energy up we ate French patisserie and fish and chips and drank hot chocolate and ale. We browsed in clothes shops for we have a wedding to go to.  I have a naughty purchase to 'fess up to in another post.  In between rain showers there was sunshine.  I played with the camera on my phone. My photos of the musical acts are no great shakes but I'm pleased with the pictures that I took in the park.  You'd never guess it was Dartmouth.  It looks absolutely tropical.

Saturday, 13 May 2017


Let's nourish my inner geek today.  This'll do it.   3-D is something I find tricky to conceptualise. I had a squint when I was younger and though it was corrected when I was four an optician told me that my eyes hadn't adjusted properly.   They got quite excited by my oddness when testing me. Even though my left eye has normal vision I rarely use it.  For the most part, it's as if I'm blind in one eye. That means I see the world in 2-D.  My IQ is pretty peachy is some areas but in the visuo-spatial domain I'm near the bottom of the class.

So I'm in awe of Robert Lang, origami artist and physicist.  Don't you just admire people who have more than one talent in what seem to be unrelated fields?   I love the way this man thinks outside the box and has transformed paper designs into engineering solutions.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Not Themselves

During my years in a mental health team working alongside some of those most seriously ill in society I've taken it as a given that psychiatric illness can transform a person. Someone who would be normally described in positive terms acts totally out of character. The kind, sensitive, dignified, patient, funny and hardworking among us become abusive, aggressive, unreliable, disinhibited, intolerable, neglectful and needy when they're ill.  My role means that I often meet them for the first time when they're like this. One of the best rewards of my job is discovering the person that they really are when they're well.  I'm thinking about someone in particular  who has transformed into such a beautiful human being now they've recovered. Their family told me they were there.  It's making me smile as I write.

Although I've readily made allowances for people when I'm dealing with them professionally I hadn't always done that in my personal life.  Bad behaviour directed towards me  has been viewed in terms of vindictiveness.  Even though it's because someone was poorly it seemed  hard to rationalise, tolerate and to forgive when what they've done felt so dammed hurtful.

But something's clicked in recent times.  And so I have a message to those at the receiving end of this kind of treatment.   Ditch the ego.  This isn't about you.  The person is acting this way as a response to their own suffering.  If they're lovely normally it's the illness that's the cause.. It's not something that should be held against them forever and destroy a relationship.  Bide your time, do what's needed and send healing.  Don't take it personally.   And when they're well again, it would be stupid to keep bringing up what's happened.  Move on.  You have to believe it's more than likely that they didn't mean it!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Puppy Love

Was anyone else out there going to marry this boy?  At the tender age of seven I would have fought you if you had any designs on him.  David Cassidy didn't get a look in.  I would have run off to America and converted to Mormon, whatever that entailed at the drop of a hat!

I had a poster of Donny on my bedroom door. the centrefold from 'Jackie' of course. If my failing memory serves me well I think he was wearing a purple cap like this one.   I used to snog him,  Not with tongues you understand.  I didn't know about the French version of kissing then.  It was
still a wonder though that the paper didn't go soggy.  At the school disco I affirmed my love, with a crowd of other little girls, by shrieking near the speakers on the stage.  Of course, I knew that they were only pretenders.  I was THE ONE.

Over time my love waned.  I'm trying to recall which superstar I moved onto.  It's a good job I'm fickle.  I don't think me and the Church of the Latter Day Saints would be a good match.  Tea is a no-no.  So is beer.  Donny or a nice cuppa or a pint of proper ale?  There's no contest!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

George and Louisa

Here's the ground floor of my home complete with its 'Mad Wall'.  I know its provenance because it was built by George Lovell, the grandfather of a neighbour.  He lived here with his wife Louisa who gave the house its name.  It's a three bedroomed thirties semi and quite typical of its genre in terms of layout. It has fewer of the adornments though that many of the houses of its type have, no deco twists or fancy stained glass. I wonder if it was because George and Louise were Methodists that they kept things plain.

Jackie, my neighbour describes this place as being full of love.   At Christmas trellis tables loaded with food were set up in the room that is now my lounge. Those who could not afford a lavish feast themselves were invited.  It was a hive of activity for the neighbourhood during regatta week too. George was a fisherman who taught most of the other trawlermen in town how to ply their trade. When he passed on the local paper's headline honoured him as  'Father To Us All'.

'Wow!' said my friend Lil' Chris. 'It's one of the lightest places that I've ever been in'.   And it has a wonderful feel, a joyful place.  Maybe it is impregnated with all that goodwill that George and Louisa bestowed here.  I try to continue the tradition and see it as a place to share.  Although I have a whacking great mortgage I have the sense that the house was gifted to me.  I am privileged to live here.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Proper Westcountry

Because of my London and Essex upbringing I have an estuarine twang.  It's not as marked as when I came to Devon in the early '80s but it's still there.  It re-emerges when I go back to stay with my family. A few days in Southend-on-Sea and there's glottal stops aplenty!

My boy is proud to be Devonian but there's not a trace of Westcountry when he speaks, although once when asking the way somewhere  a 'where's that to?' slipped out.  To my ear he sounds  like a generic posh kid.    But I love an accent and have a special fondness for the rich Westcountry ones. When I arrived in Exeter in the '80s people who spoke 'proper Devon' were two a penny.  I got used very quickly to being called 'me lover'  as a term of endearment.    Now it's rarer to hear people who speak like April and June here.  We live in a much more homogenous society.  It's sad that different dialects are dying out.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Are You Certain?

Today I'm sharing a poem that the wonderful Wayne Dyer recited in one episode of his six part series  'Manifesting Your Destiny'.  I'm working my way through the talks for a second time round as there's rather a lot to take in.  The link will direct you to part 1 if you're interested.   For the rest of you,  just read the verse.  Sometimes we think that we are 100% certain of something but......  I defy your toes not to curl up with embarrassment by the end of today's post!

The Cookie Thief by Valerie Cox
A woman was waiting at an airport one night, with several long hours before her flight. She hunted for a book in the airport shops, bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.
She was engrossed in her book but happened to see, that the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be. . .grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between, which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.
So she munched the cookies and watched the clock, as the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock. She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by, thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”
With each cookie she took, he took one too, when only one was left, she wondered what he would do. With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh, he took the last cookie and broke it in half.
He offered her half, as he ate the other, she snatched it from him and thought… oooh, brother. This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude, why he didn’t even show any gratitude!
She had never known when she had been so galled, and sighed with relief when her flight was called. She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate, refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate.
She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat, then she sought her book, which was almost complete. As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise, there was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes.

If mine are here, she moaned in despair, the others were his, and he tried to share. Too late to apologize, she realized with grief, that she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Coffee and Me

The normal modus operandi when blogging is to prop myself up  in bed with a million pillows.  Oh okay  I exaggerate.  There are six regular rectangular jobbies and a V-shaped one.  To help the creative process I sup tea from my big stripy Cornishware mug.  The tea drinking continues during throughout the day.   But it's quite rare that I partake of coffee.  Sometimes I'll go for a few weeks without any passing my  lips.

That's not to say that I don't love the stuff. when it's made properly of course.  It's lush in all its various guises.   I adore a double shot espresso,  cappuccino with chocolate dust,  a flat white and an americano with a dash of  cold milk.  Even good instant, cuts the mustard,  although there's probably afficionados who doubt that this exists.  So why aren't I treating myself more often?  It's a question that I asked myself the other day.

When I was a teenager I was a coffee addict.  I used to drink about twelve cups a day.  No wonder I was a bit anxious!  My consumption has dwindled to occasional over the years.  I see coffee as a treat, a bit naughty.  It gives me much more exaggerrated caffeine hit  that gentle tea.  I particularly remember a trip on a ferry to Bainbridge Island off Seattle where I imbibed from what seemed like a bucket of Starbucks.  My head was as buzzy as can be!

When I was living in the motorhome I bought myself one of proper stove top coffee pots. Now it sits by my cooker now but has been redundant.    It's what the Italians use so if it's good enough for those geezers it must make a decent brew.  Perhaps I need to dust it off and bring out my inner barista more often. It's good to ring the changes.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

My Own Picnic In The Park

Here's a lovely video which, I hope, shows why I held this man in such great self esteem.  He was such a humble compassionate human being.   This bench scene reminded of a time in my early twenties when I first started working in an accountancy firm.   It was a tough time. The other girls there weren't easily accepting of the newbie.  My face didn't fit and I was shy-er in those days.  Home wasn't great either.  I was in a relationship but it wasn't a particularly happy one. Better to be lonely alone than with someone is a lesson that I've learnt over time.

I went to the park at lunchtimes on my own. There I sat, one day,  eating my  sandwiches and watching the world go by.  A  middle aged homeless man with a bottle in a bag came and parked himself next to me..  I'm just wondering now,  if perhaps, I'd reminded him of young adult children of his own that he'd walked out on.  He remarked on how sad I looked.  I hadn't even  realised that it showed..  He offered words of comfort  and then, in an act of kindness, he poured me a little tot of whiskey into the lid of his bottle.  'Go on' he said.  'It's clean'.   It was before my NHS days where alcohol during working hours is a no-no.   Boozy business lunches were the norm then.  I accepted.

I'll always remember that moment.  It taught me how not to judge books by covers.  

Friday, 5 May 2017

In Memory of Emily

It was the pirate festival in Brixham last weekend.  Most of the folk down at the harbourside had come to take in the buccaneering atmosphere.  There were eye patches and cutlasses aplenty and even the occasional parrot.  However while I was there I met a visiting couple  who weren't in town  to join the revellers.  They had a more serious mission in mind.   For they'd come to make sure that a child, who'd died in a tragic accident,  didn't lose her life in vain.  I said that I'd help preserve her legacy by sharing her story.

These were the grandparents of Emily Gardner.   They told me that she was fourteen, the same age as my Louis is now when she came on a visit here with a schoolfriend.  She drowned when the speedboat that she was on, which was being driven at high speed by her friend's father, capsized.  The driver was not attached to a killcord that stops the boat in an emergency.  In spite of reassuring her parents that the safety equipment was 'topnotch'  Emily was provided with an adult sized lifejacket that snagged onto one of the cleats at the front of the boat. and she became trapped under it.  When finally released   she was taken to Torbay Hospital but staff there failed to revive her.  Her grandparents said that she hadn't lost consciousness immediately when the boat had overturned.

It was before I moved here but the friend that I was with remembered the day well.  It was one where the sea conditions were awful.  It beggars believe some of the risks that people take offshore.  It's all the more galling when they endanger the lives of others because of their incompetence.    Regulations that govern pleasure boats in the UK are inadequate.  There's nothing to stop people buying powerboats, yachts and the like and taking them out without any training whatsoever.   In this case it's reported that the driver of the boat had all the necessary qualifications and many years experience yet he'd not heeded basic safety precautions.  Britain is accused of being a nanny state but here it's legislation is severely lacking.

This accident happened off the coast of a town that has been a fishing port for hundreds of years.   The sea has sustained the people here but stories abound about how it has also taken the lives of many.  Maybe our community is more aware than most of the respect that it should command.  

Emily's family do not want anyone else to go through what they have.  So, along with the RYA, they've come up with  Emily's Code to promote safety at sea.  If you or your loved ones are heading out on the water please don't go out without making sure that these entirely sensible rules are followed to the letter.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Opaque Couche

My post's title today is the name of this colour here. I'm expecting you all to flinch with disgust for   apparently it's the ugliest in the world.  It's so repulsive that it's been chosen as the uniform colour of cigarette packets.  There: That should be enough to put people off smoking good and proper!

It got me thinking.  Can a colour really be classed as ugly?  Surely all hues are beautiful in the right context.  In fact I've got an ingenious little bag made out of one big long zip that's not far off this shade.  It was bought for me by Red Mel and I'm rather fond of it.  And as for the name 'Opaque Couche',  I'm finding those words in combination  rather lovely and comfort inducing.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Annual Gamble

A visit to see Zoltar, the creepy fortune teller, seems to have become a tradition for me and Lou when we go to Southend-on-Sea.    He lives outside an amusement arcade on a seafront.  You can see him in action if you follow this link.  For a pound he struts his stuff and your fortune is pops out from a slot at the front of his booth.

And here's the card he dispensed for me the other we.  Hmm!  Well it seems he's got my love of dancing sussed but I'm not sure anyone would describe me a having a graceful walk.  In fact I know quite a few people who'd wet themselves laughing at that suggestion.  I'm more often described as a fairy heffalump!  I'm quite partial to the idea of unending happiness following this period of hardship though. Bring it on!

Last year Louis reminded me that we bought lottery tickets and used Zoltar's lucky numbers.  So it looks like we've acquired an annual ritual then.  It hardly amounts to a gambling habit.  The draw is tonight so if I don't post tomorrow you know that we'll be off spending some of our 11.1 million pounds on fulfilling all those elaborate travel fantasies.  Fingers crossed for us!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

The Tale of Maud and Everett

I came across a video about the Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis but can't find it in post-able form to share.   Never mind.  This one from the Daily Motion is just as lovely.  Before last week I'd never heard of this little lady who lived with her husband in a teeny house, not much bigger than my motorhome, which she made very beautiful with her art.  Her story moves me greatly. Seems like, one day,  I'll  need to take  a trip to Nova Scotia to see that little living space.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Bye Bye Fisherman et al.

I've ummed and ahhed about whether to write this post or not.  There's lots about my life that I don't publicise to the whole world.  I might be exaggerating about the reach of my writing but I know that at least a few hundred strangers will be party to this highly personal reflection.  In weighing up whether or not to publish, I've decided that sharing may be helpful to here goes.

The need to explore the meaning of life has been increasing over past years.  The premature passing of my sister and a close friend, my own brushes with death and mental illness and the breakdown of my marriage have all been possible catalysts.  I work on different things at different times.  One of the things that I've been mulling over lately is my relationship to the material world.  Thich Nhat Hanh has said

'What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.'

I mentioned my Appalachian Trail exploits a couple of days ago.  That was a time when I was incredibly content. I carried very little aside from the book: A couple of changes of clothing, basic toiletries, a pen and notepad, my bedding and my half share of a selection of very lightweight camping equipment.  Devoid of possessions I found a freedom that I'd never felt before. Not many people in the developed world are privileged enough to have that experience.  Since then the responsibility of ownership has weighed quite heavily.

So these days I give away more than I acquire.  There's a carload of stuff to go to the charity shop at the moment.  I freecycled the exercise bike the other day.  Now I run regularly I don't need it.  It went to a lady who was trying to regain fitness after a hip replacement.  I was happy about that.   But a Wayne Dyer talk that I was listening to got me thinking.  He put forward the idea that, in order to make room for what we truly desire, we should give away things that we are really attached as well as the things that we  no longer have a use for. As I was meditating the other day the specifics of what I needed to do were made known.  It felt like I was being asked to give certain prized possessions away.

I gifted the lovely David Deakin picture of cutesy houses to Salty Dog.  She knows that it was special to me.  'Why are you doing this?'  I got embarrassed for I'm having difficulty myself with what's going on.  'I think God told me too.'  I said.   We laughed our socks off.  Even though Salty Dog doesn't go with the 'hippy shit' herself she's delighted and accepted the gift nonetheless!  Rather than being sad about this I felt strangely liberating.  I'll still see the painting but not in my own home.

Other people that I've told have been rather shocked at what I'm doing too.  'Aren't you worried that you'll be left with nothing?' asked one.  That's the last thing I'm anxious about.  I knew someone once who lost everything.  They woke up in hospital after being unconscious for several weeks.  By then their landlord had disposed of all that they owned because he thought they'd done a runner. They survived and went on to rebuild a life.  I am loved and know with 100% certainty that folks would rally round if something similar happened to me.

My boys are incredulous but opportunists.  'Can we have your Splash dish?' one of them asked hopefully.  I declined, not because I'm clinging onto it.  I was given specific instructions on who that should go to.  Someone is going to have a wonderful surprise when I see them.  But as a mark of my love for them, I've decided to hand over my Bernard Moss fisherman to Mr Metrosexual and Ruff Stu.  God didn't tell me to do this.  It's a decision that I made all by myself!