Monday, 31 July 2017

Temporarily Childless:

I'll not see Louis for a fortnight now.  My metaphorical nest is empty.  He's with his dad and 'stepfamily' and  off to Amsterdam tomorrow.   Of course because I co-parent I'm used to being without him, though not for such a long time.

There's not a lot planned socially in his absence and I'll probably keep it that way, although I could be tempted down the pub if anyone's passing.  Of course if I was offered real adventure I'd probably jump at the chance.  I'm not the type that stays in and washes their hair!   It will be satisfying enough though to get on top of the boring stuff.  I'll  finish the decluttering without having someone around who immediately messes things up.  That's teenagers for you! There's a garden too to tidy that has to be done in small stages.  It's a difficult job for a hayfever sufferer who gets contact dermatitis and blows up like a big itchy balloon when exposed to most plants..

I could also  do with spending more time developing my little business rather than just blogging and building awareness on social media.   It would be wonderful to engineer it so there's extra pennies coming in.   But I also need to build up my running distance.  My bike needs to be taken for a service. And then there's preparation  for my own summer travels with Lou.  Brittany bound of course in Klaus the Knaus.  No surprises there! Picasso, coasteering and a water park is planned.   I'm getting together all my stuff and feasting on leftovers to leave my fridge empty when I go away. That's an easier task without a kid with a fussy palate.   Partly due to enthusiastic contributions of food from friends who came  to Chagstock with me, there's seventeen eggs to use up before I go. I forsee an omelette....or three or four.

Did I say it would be quiet?  Maybe not.  Life without Louis is just as busy, but different.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Boris Bikes and More

A picture post today!  I had the most wonderful day out yesterday.  After Louis' successful end to his lone trip to his grandparents' Essex home I decided to break his return journey by meeting him in London.  My day started at sunrise after catching the 06:20 train.  It denies me one of my little weekend lie ins but means that I can have a good long day in the Big Smoke.  I never tire of the amazing coastal views from the train between Newton Abbot and Exeter.

I think I've just discovered my favourite thing to do in London.  Louis and I met at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and hired 'Boris Bikes'.  Brilliant fun and amazing value.   The initial two quid hire charge gives you as many free journeys around London as you can muster  in twenty four hours so long as they're under 30 minutes each.  You just park up in another cycle terminal between time.  After that it's an extra £2 per half hour.  See the website for details. I think we may have exceeded the time once when we circumvented the Olympic Stadium.  So bike hire for two cost £8.    Our first port of call was the Velodrome.  Now Louis is a teenager he refuses photocalls but I just managed to catch him in the arena's selfie zone.

We ate cupcakes while we watched men with much more ergonomic bikes than own go for a spin. There aren't many other pictures from Olympic park.  We were too busy pedalling ourselves around this open space that's a great outdoor resource for Londoners and visitors alike.

Then what?  Well Louis' been going on about seeing the whale in the Natural History Museum for a few weeks now so we headed on over to the over side of the big smoke.  Just in passing, I'd say that hauling up at one of London's most popular indoor attractions on a rainy Saturday afternoon in the school holiday may not have been the greatest idea.  The queue to get in was enormous.  This sight greeted us as we came through the door of the modern wing of the building.

Ha!  Another sneaky shot of Lou.  It's blurry because we were in the simulator that mimics what is was like in 1995 Kobe earthquake.  The exhibit was recommended by some of our queueing companions.

We then walked through the part of the museum that houses amazing fossils.  Some of Mary Anning's finds are there.  There was also this ichthyosaur found in Street in Somerset.  No sign of dinosaurs there now.  On my last visit I only found bargain ski gear for Lou at the shopping village!

'What's your favourite animal, Mum?'  asked Lou.  I'm not sure that there's one.  Bears, meerkats, dolphins and sea otters are all up there.  And hares.  Here's a beautiful stone carving that I spied on the stone staircase in the main hall.

And here's the massive  skeleton that's replaced the usual dinosaur.  I don't know if the star of the show is the whale or the architecture.

Back to Paddington.  I always try to get there early.  The Mad Bishop and Bear is a gem of a station pub.

I can be a bit of a real ale bore.  So here's the perfect excuse for ending up here!

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Two Years On

It's just dawned on me that we've lived in our Brixham home for two years today. There's the tiniest peep of our rooftop in this picture but you'd be hard pressed to spot it.  It's a seven minute walk down to the harbour but I still huff and puff to get back up the hill even though I'm fitter then I've been for years.

This is a wonderful place to live, idyllic but friendly with the best feeling of community that I've ever experienced.   As a newcomer I've been welcomed with open arms.  Countryside meets breathtaking maritime vistas at a town which balances shabbiness with chicness. I've met a right old mix of good people without really trying.   There's a stark contrast between the quietness of the winter months and the hustle and bustle of the summer season when the tourists flock here.  I like both.  And it's just far enough away from where I work so that I'm not bumping into people that I see professionally.  That separation is quite important.

I accumulated everything I need and home is so homely.  But there's still quite a bit to do in tarting the place up.  A lot of the indoor paintwork is well ropey.  The plan over the next year is to crack on with decorating and make my dinky decked garden into an outdoor living spaces that's as zany as indoors.  Maybe though there's no real need to rush.  Let's enjoy our third year here as much as the first two.

Friday, 28 July 2017

The Parking Angel and The Powerbank

I can't believe I haven't written about the parking angel before.  But no, I've looked back in time over my blog posts but there's no mention.   Each time I need to find a spot in a place where it's tricky to park I ask them to find me a space.  Invariably one appears,  'Just like that!' as Tommy Cooper would have said.    That's pretty impressive in the holiday hotspots that I live and work I assure you!

And so,  my personal path has  lead me to begin reading 'A Course in Miracles'.   I found out that you can access it free after I'd paid to download a copy but no matter.   Online teachers that I'd been listening to kept on mentioning this text about how to effect spiritual transformation so I thought I'd give it a go.   Maybe it was about time  I needed to find out how to manifest some 'bigger miracles' in my life.   'The first thing to remember about miracles is that there is no order of difficulty among them.  One is not harder or bigger than the other  They are all the same.'  So, states the book early on. That told me!

I believe the miraculous has started to happen.  Now I know that there will be sceptics out there who will think I'm a bit ga-ga but I'll take that chance.  Firstly the speaker in my car started to make horrendous noises.  'It's been blown by you playing your music too loud and needs replacing.' said the men from Skoda when Leif went in for his MOT.  Instead of stumping up I prayed for a divine repair. It's been working perfectly ever since.

The Captain America Powerbank is a little present I bought Lou on the spur of the moment.  He's labelled 'kawaii', which I now know is the Japanese word for cute.  'I could do with something similar to charge my phone in an emergency.'  was a passing thought.  The next day a powerbank arrived in the post, a free gift thanking me for my loyalty to Brittany Ferries.  White, rectangular and not kawaii in any shape or form but it'll do the job nicely.  I was delighted.   A coincidence?  Probably, but maybe a few more of those might happen in my life from now on!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Just Giving: Fundraising for Esther

It's a year ago today that my sister passed over to the other side at the age of just 46.  I shared the eulogy, which tells the story of her extraordinary life in an earlier post.   Before she died I spent three nights in the hospice to get her used to accepting care from the staff.   I talked about how I'd started running and she suggested that I completed a marathon.  I refused but said that I'd work up to running half that distance in her memory.  Eek!  What possessed me?   When I went away I looked for the flattest course possible.

It turns out that the Great Bristol Half Marathon 2017 is pretty level.  It's on 17th September so cheer on the woman who runs like a crab if you're in the area. Coincidentally it would have  been Esther's 48th birthday on that day.  I'm going to be raising money, at her request, for IIH UK who support those with Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension, the neurological condition that caused my sister to go blind.

So I've set up a 'Just Giving' account to collect sponsorship.  To mark the anniversary of Esther's death I'm starting my fundraising campaign on my social media accounts today.  If you enjoy reading my blog please consider making a donation towards my target of £1,175.   You can do so by following the link here...or the one above.  I thought I'd put in two for good measure!  My family and I will be ever so chuffed if you do give money.   We are trying to keep my sister's memory alive by doing as much good for others as possible in her name.

I went to one of the inpatient wards for a meeting.  While I was there I told some of  the staff about what I was doing.  One of the nurses who I didn't know very well pulled out a tenner from her pocket. Thanks so much Becki.  That first donation really touched me.   Only £1,165 to go!

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

'Helicopter Parenting': Not My Style

Louis, my fourteen year old son,  goes off to  Essex today...on his own.   Gulp!  I'm popping him on the train and after two changes which includes crossing London on the Tube, he'll arrive at the home of his grandparents.  It's a somewhat scary prospect, but only for me.  He's as happy as Larry that he's allowed to do something so grown up.

No-one can describe me as a helicopter parent, overprotective with a tendency to swoop down and protect my child at the first sign of trouble.  In fact, I'm  quite the reverse.  Because Louis has achieved markers of independence early on for a child living in the UK in the 21st century I think I've been seen s a bit reckless.   At five he started to play out in the village where he still lives half the time with his father.  It's the norm there but I have to admit to feelings of terror the first time I agreed this.  At eight he walked to school on his own down a  country lane.  I was too ill to take him.  But given that hundreds of families took the same route day in day out I reckoned that he'd be safe and could call on help when he needed.  He sacked himself from after school club and was a latch key kid for an hour a day at the age of ten.  I'd find him happily curled up on the sofa eating crisps.  Yet another person I know did a trial of leaving her child of the same age at home while she popped to Tesco Extra for a pint of milk.  She came home to find them brandishing four big kitchen knives out of fear that there would be an intruder.  Clearly they weren't ready to be left.

What people don't always appreciate is that my actions are not borne out of recklessness.  Each time I allow Louis further and further off the leash I risk assess the situation.  Each time  I have a feeling of trepidation.  Lots could go wrong but in reality the chance of a major disaster is low.   I'm not reckless.  Everyone knows the plan.  And the benefits of preparing my son, bit by bit, for independence as he approaches adulthood are pretty enormous.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

A New House: Pronto!

I've put the label 'Homemaking' on this post because it's literally what it describes.  I remember someone saying that a 3D printer would  become essential kit for all of us.  I'm sceptical.  Hell, I don't even use a 2D printer much anymore.  Paper free is almost a reality these day.   But I'm loving this nerdy video showing a low cost house being printed and completed in extreme temperature  in just twenty four hours.  What a wonderfully versatile small space!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Cool With It

Photos:  The Poke

I think I may have been hit upon by a lady at Chagstock.  She was all over me like a rash and then expressed a desire to take me home.  Even though she appeared to  be a sweetie I declined.  Although 'Never Say Never' is one of my mantras it seems that sexually,  my preference so far is for the male of the species however unfathomable they are.

I have plenty of gay friends though.  They bring a rainbow of colour into my life.  Today's post is for them.  Cheeky Jesus making a stand gave me a good giggle.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Chaggers 2017

I set out on Friday to our eighth Chagstock in a row with trepidation. The weather forecast was awful and there were monsoon conditons as I drove down the A38. When we arrived at the field poor Klaus the Knaus couldn’t muster up the momentum to get himself over to where most of the other motorhomes and camper vans were parked. ‘We stopping here.’ he seemed to say as he ground to a halt about ten metres from the gate. Not to worry. There are worse places to be stuck than the beautiful Dartmoor countryside.

On this little island of our the weather is changeable. It gives those blokes at the swanky Met Office in Exeter a run for their money. Yes, Friday was a bit of a day. For Saturday we were scheduled thunderstorms and hail. Eeek! Instead the gods smiled benevolently and aside from a couple of light showers it was dry with rather more sunshine than we ever could have hoped for. Instead of being one of those events where we avidly watched bands it was an eating, drinking, chatting kind of day with music as the backdrop. And not too many ‘Plastic Free July’ demeanours either. My festival beer mug is now three years old and serving me well. And here’s Lou who chose one of the many sin-free options from the food vans.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

In The Drink

'Bring spare clothes,' said Salty Dog when she suggested a paddleboard evening, 'for if you fall in.'  Shouldn't that 'if' have been a 'when'? And of course it was inevitable. Unbeknown to me the others had been betting on how soon it was going to happen. With hindsight demonstrating 'The Tree' yoga pose just as I'd got my balance and stood up for my first time was a little rash

Ah here's me in a much more natural habitat.  I can wild swim until I'm bored. Aren't we so fortunate to have beautiful places like this to picnic and play after work?

Friday, 21 July 2017

Without Trying

'When at night I go to sleep
Fourteen angels watch do keep'

I'm still sleeping through the night.  For the first time in years I consistently pop off to the Land of Nod and stay there until the morning.  No special tips about temperature of the room, blocking out all light, barring caffeine....... I even had a bit of wine yesterday.  That used to be a complete no-no in terms of shut-eye but not any more. As sleep experts have noticed, those who are not insomniacs don't have any special tips to share.

What has changed is that, in spite of a busy life where I am subjected to trauma in my working life on a daily basis, I no longer fret and worry.  I haven't eliminated stress altogether but it's very much on the back burner.  I attribute this to the meditation, running and taking on board some of the spiritual musing I've been doing over the last  few months.  Friends are continuing to comment on how calm I am.  Now serenity isn't something I've ever been accused of in the past!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Stoney Faced

My efforts to cut down waste during 'Plastic Free July' are still going strong. There's been some cheats and a few downright failures.  I'll tell you about those another day.  But there's also been some permanent lifestyle changes too, like the milk and juice delivery.   That's got to be a good thing.

Here's a lovely idea for recycling food waste that I won't be trying anytime soon, just because  I barely have enough time in the day change my pants let alone carve avocado stones .  I've grown one before, pretty successfully too I have to say.  Until it got marauded by tiny flies and had to go.

Jan Campbell's work is wonderfully whimsical. She has her own website, Avocado Stone Faces. I especially love the calm little faces, the tiny hands and the mushrooms.  This is a woman with the perfect excuse to eat lots of avocados.  Mashed on toast with a sprinkling of salt and a dash of tabasco and lemon juice they're my favourite snack at the moment.  Yum!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Thief Averted!

I'm always surprised by how little Louis remembers of his younger years.  He's off to stay in Bath today as part of his school's enrichment week.  It's his first visit since he went there at the age of five. We met up with friends and it was one of the first jaunts away in Klaus the Knaus our motorhome.  I recounted something that happened on that trip last night.   To my surprise Louis recalls it vividly. It seems that I put the fear of God up him.

We were back in the van after a day of sightseeing.  I noticed that Louis was playing with some tacky keyrings that weren't entirely unfamiliar.  'What are they?'  I asked.  'They're mine!' he pronounced.  It turned out that were nothing of the sort.   I'd refused to buy them earlier in the day so they'd been shoplifted from the gift shop at the Roman Baths.

Determined not to see my son begin life as a career criminal I took a hard stance.  'You're taking them back and 'fessing up.' I told him.  'What will happen to me?' he asked.  I shook my head.  'I don't know.' I replied with a faux woeful look.  'We'll have to find out tomorrow.'  I was on a roll so I added,  'Maybe they'll send you to prison.'  'But I'm just a child!' Louis remonstrated. 'We'll see if they take that into account but I really don't know.'

The next morning we walked hand in hand to the shop. We heard a police car siren in the distance on the way.    I was still up for keeping the pretence going.  'Maybe they're out looking for you' I told him.  We finally arrived back at the baths.   Louis returned his booty to the man behind the cash desk. 'I'm very sorry.' he said.  'These accidentally fell into my pocket.'  The guy gave him a stern look and sent him packing.  'Thanks for doing that.' he said as  my relieved son sidled out of earshot.

I'm not sure what a parenting expert would think.  All I know is that it seems that scaring the pants out of a small child seems to have had a lasting effect. There's been no further brushes with law breaking ever since.  Maybe my approach worked.  Lou's turned out not to be a bad egg after all.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Roland Gift: Still Gorgeous

At one time Roland Gift, the lead singer of the Fine Young Cannibals was voted in the top 50 'Most Beautiful People in the World'.  What bollocks: for we are all gorgeous  in our own ways darlings! Back to Roland though.  I, along with a group of my forty and fifty something friends can all vouch for the fact that he's still pretty darned hot.  And his voice still packs a punch.  We loved the lady backing singers, the same certain age as us,  in their Corbyn T-shirts too.  You go girls!

I'm still aching from Sunday.  Along with a 9km run and rather a lot of walking, I danced for hours at the 'Sounds of the Summer' event at Newton Abbot racecourse.   It was ace.   UB40, All Saints and China Crisis played too.  The Fine Young Cannibals were definite my favourite.  The '80s album 'The Raw and the Cooked' is downloaded to my Spotify account and features in my in-car entertainment selection.

I took the boy to educate him about the music from my youth.  Surprisingly China Crisis turned out to be his favourite act.  I'd forgotten this haunting song that I loved when it was a chart hit.

Monday, 17 July 2017

In The Box

I'm still working with that Japanese tidying book even though I'm being a naughty little sausage and not keeping to the letter of the law. In her comment on my original post, Sol said that she'd lost interest when the author, Marie Kondo, recommended emptying your handbag nightly.  I'll admit to thinking it was  a bit of a daft idea as well.  But  hey ho, I thought that there'd be no harm in giving it a go.

A by-product of this tidying lark is that I now have loads of empty storage containers.  I re-purposed one, a rather gorgeous felt number from IKEA, as my 'handbag tippy out box' that I keep near the front door.  One advantage of the exercise is that any crap that's accumulated during the day, till receipts, sweet wrappers and the like get thrown away immediately rather than building up into  a mini model of Torbay tip at the bottom of the bag.  The other thing is that I only take out what's needed.  See that tape measure for example.  It's standard kit for an occupational therapist as one of the glamorous bits of our job for many of us is measuring toilets.  But I don't need it every day so it now stays at home more often than not.  As does my umbrella when I'm pretty sure that it's not going to rain.   My load is lighter as a consequence, literally and metaphorically.

I also use the box for things that need to leave the house.   Books I've borrowed  and read or ones of my one that I want to pass on, paperwork such as those return slips for school, things that need to go to the motorhome.  That two pin plug socket is going to be put in the van and the sticker that admits me to the quiet field at next weeks Chagstock is somewhere in there too.   Yes,  much to my surprise I'm sold on the idea.  It's a habit that's going to continue.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

The Merging of Stories

If you remember a few months ago I was moved by higher powers to give away some of my most valuable possessions from a monetary perspective.  Off my own back I felt that I'd like to give something precious to Red Mel. For she has been a wonderful friend for the twenty years since we met in the common room of the now demolished St Loye's School of Occupational Therapy on our first day as students there.  She's kind, funny, a bit dippy  and assertive in the most gentle of ways. I love her dearly.  'What would you like of mine?' I asked her.  She remonstrated and then she said that if I was getting rid of beads she would be very happy to give them a home.

So as part of my mammoth tidying project I had a sort out of my crafting materials.  I kept just a few of the beads I'd accumulated but gifted a huge bagful to Red Mel.  'Here's a present from God'.  I told her because I knew that as, an atheist it would piss her off a bit!  The picture above is some of the selection.  She'll use lots of them to make jewellery to sell to raise funds for St Mungos, the homeless charity in Bristol where she lives.

All that tidying that's going on here seems to have cleared psychic space.  I'm making stuff here on a more regular basis that I've done for yonks.  I cobbled together this bracelet yesterday to add to the mad wrist.  There's stories behind the materials used.

I put the beautiful glass beads in a homemade Christmas cracker.  I wasn't going to leave myself out when I chose personalised gifts for the family festivities.  Most of the sterling  silver findings come from a bracelet that I'd rarely worn.  When Louis was born my mum and dad gave me some money to buy some jewellery to celebrate.  I bought four pieces in a favourite silver shop in Exeter.  Two bracelets and a necklace get a lot of wear but the last piece was redundant.  It was too chunky to be comfortable.

So I've took it apart. There's silver beads that I kept and  yet to be recycled. Other semi precious ones went into Mel's stash.  The conjoined jump rings and the fasteners that I salvaged have been used here.    A homage to the old piece of jewellery but much more wearable.

In fact it's already on that mad wrist and complements the semi precious bracelet bought in the Animals in Distress shop for a quid rather nicely.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Little Blue

'Yes I think my mind's made up.'  That's what I said back in February when I started to think about a replacement car for Leif, my little green Skoda Citigo.  I'd hit upon the idea of having a Fiat 500.  You'll remember I toyed with a diesel one and then got hit by eco angst.  In the end I thought I'd decided on the 0.9 dual air version in a natty shade of salmon pink  called 'Glam Coral'.

But then I had a change of heart.   Those little Italian jobs are everywhere and have become a bit too ubiquitous.  I like to be different.    And did I really want a two door car and a step down in overall space?   Leif has been jolly handy for lugging around camping equipment and taking stuff to the dump.  A bike rack fits easily on his back too.   Perhaps the real clincher was the lack of heated seats in the Fiat 500 even as a extra.  Louis and I have got rather partial to having our bums warmed on chilly days!

So back to Skoda it was.  Another Citigo will be perfectly fine.  I played around with the car configurator on the company's website and found that I could add better air conditioning and a sun roof.  On warmer winter days we might have wind in our hair as well as heat around our nether regions.  This is the car I ordered yesterday.  Skoda have a special offer event on this weekend and I thought it was a good time to do it.  'Little Blue' will arrive in September.  He's on lease for three and a half years.  Then there's the option to buy.  If I'm feeling really flush at the time he'll make a brilliant present for Louis' 18th birthday.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Plastic Free July: My Own Ernie!

This Plastic Free July is more restrictive than being a vegan!  I've wandered around supermarkets gloomily,  a rare state of affairs; for I'm normally a happy soul.  But there's so little that I can buy.  At the suggestion of some of my lovely blog readers I've found a solution to reducing plastic waste in one  little area of life.   I've signed up with Milk and More.  If you live in the UK you can enter your postcode on the website to check whether they deliver in your area.  My own personal Ernie, who actually happens to be called Tony, gets up even earlier than me and delivers pints to my door.  Here's the result.  You can tell that this isn't one of those perfectly composed stock shots.  My mug needs a jolly good scrub!

Of course I knew about doorstep delivery but pooh-poohed the idea because it hadn't worked for me in the past. I'd either be swamped with milk or run out.  I'd have to remember to cancel orders before I went away.  And then there was paying the milkman at the weekend. I never seemed to be in at the time he called and I'd owe weeks and weeks worth of payments. The good old internet has ironed out those problems.  Tony calls three days a week.     I order online at 9pm before the day of delivery if I need anything and will then be invoiced monthly.  Payment is taken automatically.    Empties are popped back on the doorstep ready to be cleaned and refilled at the dairy.  That bit is just like the old days when a reduce, reuse and recycle ethos was ingrained into society.  With my first delivery came a complimentary bottle of orange juice, again packaged in glass. That's solved another problem as all the tetrapaks seem to have plastic lids these days.  I've added more to my second order.

Sure this is a little more expensive than shop milk and OJ.  In fact this plastic free lark isn't working out to be cheap and couldn't be sustained in its entirety for ever.   But I'm happy to make some lasting moves to change my way of consumption.   I also want to support a business which has benefits for the community.  Milkmen these days don't just deliver dairy products  but groceries too, very handy for people who can't easily shop themselves.


I've been given this code by Milk and More.  If it works and you use it with your introductory order you'll get £10 off your first monthly invoice and I get a tenner too.  How's that for win-win?

Finally I couldn't resist posting a Youtube video of Ernie for a bit of silliness never hurt anyone.  It still makes me giggle after all these years.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Lunchtime Ramblings: What I Saw

Maybe I should do a series of posts about what I spot during my lunch breaks.  For I am getting better at going off duty towards the middle of the day.  A little breather to break the intense mental mayhem that comes with working with people with poorly headspace. What I do varies according to where I find myself.  Earlier in the week I popped up to the motorhome to do a few jobs as I'd just finished a meeting only a couple of miles away.

Yesterday I had a little wander up the main drag in Totnes.  Fore Street, a common name in Devon towns, leads into High Street.  There's some  chain stores:  Bastins,  Peacocks, Supadrug, Mountain Hardwear, WH Smith but they're far outweighed by the independent retailers.  And it's not just arty farty places either.  There's a tourist place that I know in Somerset that you'd be hard pressed to buy a loaf of bread.  But not so here.  There are food shops, a cobblers,  stationers and yes, a smattering of charity shops.   Kingsbridge, where I often work is pretty much the same too.  Maybe it's a model for how high streets should be.

This caught my eye in the Bowie Gallery at the top of town.  I'm showing it as I saw it, complete with reflections.  It's a wonderfully inspirational piece of mosaic by artist Susan Elliott.  The prize tag was a bit daunting so unless I win the lottery some time soon, it won't be adorning my walls.  But I might be inspired to add a bit of 3D to my own arty designs.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Sweary Video Alert

Brilliantly funny and very touching video that captures the humour of a fourteen year old boy perfectly.  Look away now if you're a sensitive soul and don't do swearing and rudeness.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Pasta Brixham-nese

The other week my littl'un, who  will always be my baby but now is a shade taller than me and has a big deep voice, had a poorly tummy. He was off school for a whole week.  He said that while he was sick he thought fondly about all the food that he wasn't able to eat.  'Can you make me a bolognese on Monday?' he asked when he phoned from his Dad's house the other day.  It was one of the things that he'd craved.  How could I refuse?

I had a problem though with not much time to gather together ingredients that don't fall foul of 'Plastic Free July'.  My usual meaty pasta sauce contains minced beef and bits of bacon to boost the flavour.  I've run out of those and I didn't have time to source ethically wrapped meat for the butcher.    One of my rules to get me through this month is that I'm allowed to use up stuff in plastic packaging that I've already got in the house.  So I rummaged about and came up with some lamb mince and half a stick of chorizo sausage.  I also found some mushrooms lurking in the back of the fridge that had been there for a while.  Instead of going off they'd freeze dried themselves.  Waste not, want not I thought. They could be used too.

So here's a rustled up ragu recipe, Brixham not Bologna style!

Chop an onion, grate a carrot, crush garlic to taste and fry in a pan until softened.  Don't wash the grater yet but use it to shave off a big pile of chorizo.  Add that to the pan with the mince to brown and the chopped up dried mushrooms.  They smell wonderful but I'm not sure how you'll replicate my happy accident.  Once that's done add a tin of tomatoes, half a pint of water, ketchup, worcestershire sauce, smoked paprika and pepper.  Leave to simmer until thickened.  Stir into pasta and serve topped with parmesan.  It was pronounced delicious by my very fussy fourteen year old food critic.  And there's enough over to make a shepherds pie for later in the week. He's pleased about that.

Monday, 10 July 2017


Here's a  rather wonderful little quote that bowled me over yesterday when I read it.    To celebrate its emergence into my life  I made it into a Canva image and used a picture of one of those wacky flowers that look like they've originated from outer space.   Well said Mr Foster and true on many counts. Take heed my darlings. Accept the unacceptable nature of lukewarm and approach every aspect of your life with passion!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The Nightmare That Is Plastic Free July

Oh my golly gosh!  When I embarked on the Plastic Free July challenge I thought that it was going to be a bit of a laugh,  a breeze in fact.  The enormity of  what I've agreed to do has now set in. Keeping to the pledge of refusing single use plastic is nigh on impossible.

On day three of the challenge I popped into Sainsburys Exeter and experienced what I can only describe as an enlightenment.  My eyes were opened.  Everywhere I looked, in every section,  plastic packaging abounded.  I'd forgotten my lunch but there was virtually nothing that wasn't off limits.  Finally I clapped eyes on a Dickinson and Morris Melton Mowbray Pork Pie in the chill cabinets.  Yay!  It was wrapped in paper.  A lovely treat but a girl cannot live on pastry products alone for a month.

And yes I've failed, and cheated, and wished that I had the foresight to cheat a bit more by stocking up on illicitly wrapped stuff on 30th June or before.   I accepted a plastic knife to cut the cheese from Rosie and Spiky Kay's wedding cake on day1!  That's spurred me on to buy a portable cutlery set that I can keep in my bag so the same thing won't happen again.  And I bought some savoury rosemary infused biscuits.  Last time I bought something similar the inner packaging was foil.  On this occasion it was plastic, which I might have found out if I'd read the box first.  As you can see it's a minefield.

I'd worked out that sourcing  pasteurised milk in sustainable containers was going to be a problem early on.  Don't even go there with suggesting that the UHT stuff could be an alternative.  I can't abide the taste.  I thought I recalled that Riverford used cardboard packaging and made a special detour to Ben's Farm Shop  who are stockists.  Eek!  As you can see from my photo of the chiller Riverford milk is now packaged in plastic.  I left empty handed.  The solution I've come up with is highly questionable.  My six pint bottle ran out on Friday, just before a camping trip to Cornwall. I've sneakily got the friends who I've been spending time with to buy the milk and then, whilst drinking my tea, have taunted them for their lack of eco morality.    I don't know what I'm going to do when I get home and run out again.  I could do soya but even most of the tetrapaks have plastic lids.  Finding an obliging cow seems the only possibility.

I'll bring you another update further down the line.  It's only going to get harder.  I've been relying on store cupboard ingredients  so far but they're dwindling and I'm going to have to stock up soon.   More ingenuity (and cheating!) will be  required as the month goes by.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Proven to Be Pinocchio

Okay, it may be a little inappropriate to tell this story but when has that ever stopped me?  Anyway Lou's been dining out on it for a couple of months so it's no secret in my circle.  I'm not sure what came over me when I attempted to try and convince my fourteen year old that I was, as near as damn it, a virgin.   After all it seems that way at times.   Not quite on a par with Mary, Mother of God,  I told him.  There'd been one slip off the path of purity and he, of course, was the result.

Lou told me very directly that he wasn't at all convinced and I thought that was the end of the matter. Little bit of nonsense done and dusted.   But no!   He returned to the subject a couple of hours later because he'd downloaded three lie detector apps to his phone.  I was subjected to the barrage of tests which included one that scanned my finger and one that supposedly analysed my tone of voice.  I can't recall what I had to do for the third.  However I remember well that the results were unanimous. Apparently I'll be growing a nose like Pinocchio sometime soon!

Friday, 7 July 2017

Happenings at Extremities

My mad wrist has evolved.  It's all silver and semi precious stones these days which is my preferred material for jewels.  Of course if anybody wanted to buy me diamonds and  white gold or platinum I'm willing to give it a go!  The dangly fish bracelet is the first ever piece of silver jewellery I made myself.  No bad for a beginner eh!  I rediscovered in my jewellery box and I'm having a renewed love affair with it.  I might even make some more and see if there's a market for them if I ever have a moment.

There's  a new addition near ground level.  Salty Dog bought me an anklet for my birthday.  I've never had  one before.  It may be because my mum put the idea in my very young brain that only floozies wore them.  As I'm getting old and no longer care what people think I'm wearing it now the summer months are here and my lower half is not swather in calf length boots and leggings.

I'm loving the weight around the ankle.  It's strangely comforting.  Again I'm wondering if it's helping proprioception and allowing me more feedback about where body parts are in space.  I mentioned my theory to  Ibiza Queen Vikki.  She's in agreement that I seem far less accident prone than in the past.  Far less spillage and breakages.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

On Trend With Trader Joe

Louis and I headed on over to Exmouth on Tuesday evening to meet up with The Second Martha Stewart and her husband, Nigel.  They're over from the US.  Martha headed off to her office in London today so I came away with goodies!   It's traditional that she sends me home with a very full tummy and  all the leftovers from her fridge and food cupboards.  Each time she gives me my loot in a Trader Joe bag.

Trader Joe is a grocery store in the States.  Apparently they are quite like a Lidl, which incidentally Martha told me arrives in the US soon.  The bags, which depict the location of the shops have wonderful quirky designs.  Martha, bless her, knows that I love them and tries to give me a different one each time.   One serves as a colourful holdall for my washing powder.  So much nicer than a box with a picture of a washing machine door on it.   I found out that Ibiza Queen Vikki is a fan too.  She wandered into work the other day with lunch in a Trader Joe bag that isn't in my own collection.

Here's the back of the Boston bag which isn't out of keeping in Brixham at all.   If you look in the background you might be able to spot that our Breton map colouring project is coming on nicely. Anyone who sets foot in my house is nabbed and handed a handful of felt tip pens so they can do their bit.

In amongst my food loot was a gorgeous chicken salad with grapes, pineapple and grated carrot and celery.  Just the thing for a hot summer's day.  As I didn't have to prepare supper yesterday there was time for an after work swim down at the local cove.  It's a hard life being a stone's throw from a glorious beach but someone's got to live here.   The Trader Joe bag is just right repurposed as a beach bag and containing my towel!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Something's Working

I'm still sleeping through after a couple of weeks of kicking insomnia in the nuts. Wow!   This is something that I wouldn't have believed possible a few months back.   I run further, meditate daily, fret less...Thanks to that lovely Japanese lady my house is tidier and creativity is more free flowing.  I have created space. both physical and metaphysical, to spend time with the people that I love and by myself. Both good for I am as solitary as I am sociable.  Slowly but surely I'm still working on that natty little business with the aim of making life even more flexible.   Even though my work is just as demanding and potentially stressful I find that I can leave it behind at the end of the day.  In fact I often do that literally.  My laptop and paperwork stays in the office a lot more.  It only comes home when it suits me.

 Are other people noticing a difference?  I thought I'd ask Salty Dog the other day for an evaluation. I repeated the question to Louis yesterday in the car after school.  There was no hesitation.  He came up with pretty much the same answer. 'You're happier!'

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Horticultural Inheritance

I must 'do' my garden but alas I'm not naturally green fingered.  I'm like my friend Salty Dog.  She put in an offer on a house in Cornwall with a massive garden the other day. Then her parents dissuaded her from buying it and she withdrew from the sale.  'I don't know what I was thinking!' she told me.  'I struggle looking after a chilli plant.'  And so it is with me.  I never got the gardening bug.

But I thought I'd show you these guys that adorned the garden of my late sister Esther.  Now she was horticulturally attuned.  They need a home that is less of a wilderness so perhaps they'll spur me into action.  I didn't have oodles in common with my sister.  We were quite different but both had a keen interest in Easter Island.  A past life connection perhaps?  Anyway I hope to go there one day and lay flowers in front of one of those big Moai in her memory.  She never went herself so maybe it's my responsibility to go for both of us.

I thought that I might replant them with some wild whacky hair.   Grasses perhaps? But maybe I'll keep what's in there. The close cropped succulents seem to suit them.

Monday, 3 July 2017

A Metaphor For Life

The wallpaper on my laptop depicts a tiny person scaling a cliff that looks like it would be up there in terms of a grade for difficulty.  I don't know what a climber would call it.  'Bloody difficult' would be my own assessment.

So it serves as an illustration of my life.  It has not been the easiest of courses.  Two things have occurred to me.  I choose the intensity of my challenge. It builds resilience and makes me stronger.  And if you look carefully the climber isn't on their own.  There's another person watching over them and holding the ropes.  In real life and on a spiritual plain I'm reminded that I've got plenty of helpers too!

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Wedding in Weymouth

I woke up this morning a bit hoarse.  Yesterday I'd was singing, dancing, eating, drinking and talking my little heart out.  For I went to a wedding.  I popped out on Friday lunchtime to buy a card in Totnes and then I'd realised I'd made a faux pas.   The bride in the papercut was wearing a dress. And neither of my friends who were getting married had worn a skirt in living memory.  I did some doctoring with a pair of scissors.  A bit of tippex was also caused into play to lose a ponytail.

Here are the brides signing the register.  Spiky Kay and her new wife Rosie.  Their wedding was held in the grounds of a beautiful pub near Weymouth.  The setting couldn't have been more glorious.

In the morning before  the wedding I lost my retailing virginity when Red Mel and I popped into Claire's Accessories to complete our AbFab look.   Nine year olds were fought  for those flowery ears! We trained as occupational therapists with Spiky Kay and voweled that we'd do 'over the top pink' if she ever got married.  I think that we pulled it off.

Another one of the brides, this time with their very gorgeous sons.  They've got one apiece.

Red Mel blowing bubbles at the reception tea party.  We had posh little sandwiches, tarts, a cream tea and cake.

Another look at those 'ears'.  There's something of a mythical beast about me.  They been recycled and are going to the dressing up  box of Red Mel's two year old granddaughter.

One of those cheesy cakes that are all the rage these days!

And here's Spiky Kay borrowing my ears!

And don't forget this was a Westcountry wedding.  I need lots of energy for dancing.  Sustenance at the evening do came in the form of a regional specialty.  One of the best pasties that I'd ever tasted!