Thursday, 30 November 2017

Wellcome Collection: The Clean Post

I've just been back to have a look at the post that my darling friend Aril wrote after our visit to the Wellcome Collection on Saturday.  It's terribly informative.although I've spotted an error.  I might have dragged her to one pub and not two!  Anyway here's the first of my two part series showing some of the photos that I took. I've mixed interesting artifacts with the aesthetically pleasing.  This one fits the bill on both counts. Its a peppermint leaf.  The spherical balls are droplets of its oil.

I'm not sure what this exhibit was about but I liked the contrast enough to put up with the reflection on the glass that affected the image.

Here's a set of beads  that they used to use in the US to make duplicate bracelets, one for the mother and one for the baby at birth.  Much nicer than those matching plastic wristband jobbies that Lou and I had.

A doll showing all the acupuncture sites on the body...

..and a brooch made out of human hair.  Normally things like this give me the wooblies but I quite liked this one.

 I thought this mask looked quite serene but Aril felt that it was evil.  She must have been more tuned in than me.  It was worn by an executioner.

The curly wurly staircase of the Wellcome Collection building.

And this looks like an x-ray but in fact is ink on white slate worked with a eraser and stiff brush to make it seem translucent.

An intricate little model of a human dissection.

First aid supplies from exciting exhibitions.

And finally a picture of the black virgin from Guadeloupe.  Isn't she splendid?  I've got rather a soft spot for her.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Martin Luther at Bath-Time

Aril from Gnat Bottomed Towers is already ahead of me with posting about our trip to the Wellcome Collection on Saturday.  I'll get there later with my contribution later in the week.  I have not one but two posts planned for your viewing delight.  We had a brilliant day out and also popped into the British Library to look at their collection of preciousness.  It's a fascinating place, another freebie unless you have a burning desire to see the temporary Harry Potter exhibition.

 In amongst priceless manuscripts dating back to medieval times and scraps of parchment of the Gospels from the 3rd century there's these two.  I'm not sure photography is allowed.  I realised after I'd taken this that people weren't snapping away with their smartphones.  But I couldn't resist taking a picture of these guys.  I marvelled at the minds that decided that  decided that a Martin Luther themed Playmobil figure and rubber duck were excellent ideas!

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Fluffy and the Furry Watching Over Me!

I do an angel card reading most mornings to give me a little bit of guidance for the day ahead.  It popped into my mind that I should share whatever one came up.  It puzzles me a bit whenever I draw this one like I did today.  Where do I start with it?

In my entire adult life I haven't owned an animal and, in all honesty, I doubt that I ever will.  During my childhood we had pets, a couple of budgies, a hamster, a rabbit, a guinea pig and my brother's gerbil. Horace.   When he got old he lost his teeth and Mum had to wash encrusted seeds off his paws on a daily basis.   There was even a  puppy when I was a very wee one.  But I was inexplicably terrified so it was quickly  re-homed.  Shortly after I lost my fear of canines and went on to become the best mate of Rip, my neighbour's German Shepherd.  Maybe he watches over me alongside Joey the budgie  that got over excited whenever it heard that I was putting my bike away after I'd done my paper round.  That little green bird has a very fond place in my heart.

Lacking a desire to share my home  with a feathered or furry friend does not mean that I don't seem to have an affinity with animals. The beautiful Mayhem, my neighbour's cat was almost a constant feature in my Exeter home until Louis' arrival put my nose out of joint.  And Baxter the dog of  'My Boys' greets me with so much enthusiasm that I have to brace myself as he's one big strong ball of muscle.  When I sit down for a cup of coffee he backs into me so that I can scratch the base of his tail!   On my visits  I go to a home where there is a little dog.  It  jumps up and down with excitement at the front door.  Yesterday, after bizarrely licking my leggings it settled down, lying across my feet whilst I talked to its owner.  Maybe that special bond is there after all but without the responsibility of pet ownership.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Probably The Best Railway Journey In The World...But Not This Time

London is a good two hundred miles from Brixham.  When I go I take the train to Paddington from nearby Newton Abbot.  I try to book my tickets well in advance so that they don't cost the equivalent of air fares  to  far off European cities.  I'm not kidding.  I've flown to Malaga for way less than it's cost me on an impulsive visit to my own capital city.    It's one of the rare times that I pay for parking. I use the station car park so I can just hop in my little car at the end of a long day.  £3.90 for the day at a weekend seems like a bargain for the convenience.

I don't mind the train journey.  In fact that's an understatement. I love it as it's such a feast for the eyes.  The line beyond Newton Abbot and Exeter is particularly gorgeous and I took these pictures in August.   I didn't see it this time as it was pitch black on both legs of the journey but the sunrise over Somerset was pretty as was the morning light in the countryside through Wiltshire and Berkshire.  However   It wasn't entirely incident free in either direction.  Thank goodness I prefer to see the funny side these days rather than getting a stress head on.

My seat reservation was for D29.  I knew that we were off to a good start when the announcer at the platform advised us that coach D was no more.   Those little reservation cards in the top of the seats were thick on the ground.  Still I managed to find a airline style one at the end of a  different carriage.  A young guy secured a similarly unmarked spot in the aisle opposite.

Just outside Taunton a bloke on the train finally announced that they'd replace carriage D with K and my seat was in there.  'Sod it.' I thought.  I'm not moving.  A few minutes later the guard came up to the guy opposite with a lady in crutches following him. 'You're going to have to get out of that seat mate.  It's reserved.'  The guy pointed that that he hadn't known because there was no little card and was met with a surly. 'Well it is!' He came and sat next to me.  For the rest of the journey I was expecting my own marching orders.

After Taunton, just under an hour into a three hour journey there another announcer came on air.   He sounded slightly panicky. The buffet had run out of hot drinks and all its food because there was too many passengers.  But fear not.  There were beer,wines and spirits!  Some of the other passengers might have felt that they needed them by then.  On my return journey there was a bit of a scrum. The reservations system had gone to pot because of a printer fault and had affected all of the trains out of the West Country!

I settled down in a freezing cold carriage with my book and supplies from the station supermarket.  All was peaceful albeit chilly until Pewsey when there was a police presence on the platform herding hundreds of  singing Plymouth Argyle supporters.  I audibly groaned.  A woman getting off took pity.  'Good luck' she told me.  Actually they  all settled once they were on the train.  The one trying to pick a fight with a copper on Exeter St Davids station provided a much needed bit of entertainment.

Has it put me off this method of travel.  Well, no but I may well come with flask, blankets and ear plugs next time!

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Not What It Seems

I met my chum Aril from Gnat Bottomed Towers in London yesterday for one of our forays to discover the weird and wonderful.  I caught the 06:20 train from Newton Abbot and arrived home at 22:40.  So I am absolutely shattered and will not be rushing around today. There's going to be much more of a chilled vibe.

We visited the Wellcome Collection near Euston Station that displays just a few of the one million objects that the late Henry Wellcome amassed during this life.  Minimalist he wasn't.  It also features exhibits exploring the themes of science, health, life and art.  It's a lovely place and there's no excuse not to visit when in London given that it's free to enter.

I need to curate the photos that I took yesterday and I'm not in an alert enough frame of mind that allows me to do that.  But I'll share this one.

A persistent theme that arises in my current studies around the theme of miracles is that things are not what they seem.  One man used a great example of arriving by plane in an isolated spot in the world where a tribe hadn't had contact with other humans.  The propellor of the plane is spinning.  'Sir,' says one of the visitors to the indigenous population, who because of some major miracle seem to understand English, 'Do not touch that shiny disc on the front of the plane.  It is not as it appears.'  Sometimes too there is hidden beauty  beyond what we can imagine in what seems mundane or even darn right ugly.

This picture is from a sequence of images taken under an electron microscope.    Isn't it gorgeous? Unless you worked in some kind of weird specialism you'd never guess what it is so I'll put you out of your suspense.  It's comes from an agricultural sludge sample that's been burnt in an oxygen atmosphere. 

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Black Friday/Buy Nothing Day: The Analysis

To be honest I failed  big time at observing 'Buy Nothing Day' this year.  Why?  Because I totally forgot about it until yesterday morning and I needed to get some shopping in for the weekend.  So I went to Lidl and I bought a drill alongside my groceries as well.   I have a list of  carefully considered things that I want/need on Google Keep.  Aside from being tempted by pretty dresses in the charity shop I rarely detract from it.   The drill had been on there for a while so it wasn't an impulse buy.  In my defence I'll also say in most weeks there's at least a day where I don't spend anything at all.   'Buy Nothing Day' is a feature of everyday existence and not just an annual event.  Shopping as a leisure pursuit really doesn't float my boat anymore.

I was thinking today that being rich is a subjective state of mind.  I meet some pretty wealthy people who still feel they are wanting or are unconsciously weighed down by the responsibility of ownership.  I commonly treat them for the mental health problems associated with this. Many others with far less materially seem richer because of the belief that they have everything that they need and aren't striving for more stuff all the time.  I usually count myself among this group.

Anyway enough of that navel gazing.   Let's expose myself as a great big hypocrite!   I'll 'fess up and say that I've made use of the Black Friday deals this year although got in quick and made purchases earlier in the week.  I'm adhering to the Want, Need, Wear and Read principles for present buying for Christmas Present buying for Louis.  His 'Want' this year is less modest than the funky gold plated playing cards in 2016.  He's been asking for a replacement Kindle Fire since his last one gave up the ghost in the summer.   It was on offer  so I snapped it up.  I've also sorted out the 'Need' and the 'Read' presents at the same time.  A protective case is definitely a necessity in a household full of clumsy clots.  I also added an Amazon voucher to the order so that he could choose an e-book. He'll be under strict instructions that it mustn't be spent on a game instead!

Watch this space as plans for the tiny new business have been buzzing along in the background. I'm expecting it to go live early in 2018.  My old phone is dying and  as I need to take high quality pictures for promotional material I waited for the Black Friday offers for a deal on a new one with a  top notch camera.    My very old and now unavailable Three contract is too good to be true.  Unlimited calls, texts and data including tethering for £27 per month.  There's no way I wanted to lose that and would have to settle for a more expensive less comprehensive package  if I'd opted for an upgrade.  So I went direct to the manufacturer and bought a bargain Samsung S7 Edge that's £200 cheaper than its normal price.  Even though Buy Nothing Day was a washout I hope I'm at least absolved in part.  Using Black Friday as an excuse to save on planned spending seems entirely sensible.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Ultimate Upcycling

I met a delightful little girl yesterday when I went to see her nana.  She was off school because she was poorly.  In my view she looked decidedly perky.  Anyway at one stage during the visit she started crafting, making a giraffe from some of those furry balls and pipe cleaners.    'We've got a houseful of boxes.' her mum told me.  Apparently she obsessively collects them for her crafting.   How wonderful that the creative urge is  strong in someone so young. I've got to go back and promised I'd take some cardboard cartons with me on my next visit.  I wonder what she'll do with them.

I returned to my printmaking class last night and was encouraged to have a rethink on my collagraph crab.  Things need to be really well stuck down and it wasn't panning out.  I'm starting again from scratch and will work on a new flatter plate.    Suddenly I've become a bit of a magnet for textured scrap so I'm amassing a bag full of bits  Even a string bag that was past its best and burst rather spectacularly in Aldi the other day has been considered treasure.  Going against the tide of interior design fashion I've also  developed a strange liking for anaglypta wallpaper.  My recycled polystyrene pizza plate was admired.  I've embellished it a little more but didn't get around to printing.  I might clear the kitchen and get the inks out over the weekend so I can show off what can be achieved with the technique at my final class next week.

I came across someone else who's keen on recycling  the other day.  Kate Kato has named her website 'Kasasagi' using the Japanese work for magpie to describe her kleptomaniac tendencies.   She gathers together found objects and incorporates them beautifully into designs that are inspired by nature.    There's so much gorgeousness that I was hard pressed to choose what I liked best.  So pop over to the website and be inspired yourselves.  I'm particularly taken by the pieces that incorporate those old Observer identification guides.  They brought back such strong memories of childhood  forays.

Thursday, 23 November 2017


A bloke fiddled around in my downstairs cupboards the other day and then planted this smart meter on my worktop which monitors both my gas and electricity supply.  My inner geek is as thrilled with this as when it keeps track of the fuel consumption of the car.   But it's also awakened my obsessive compulsive self very nicely indeed.  I was pleasantly surprised that cooking my tea wasn't too onerous in cost terms but something is niggling.  What the hell am I spending 50p on overnight?  Investigation is required.  And how much electricity does the meter itself use I'd like to know.  One thing is certain.  I might possibly never pluck up the courage to fire up that toaster ever again!

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Bubble, Bubble

When I was poorly my friend Helen came to see me briefly.  Even though I'd given directions she'd literally spent hours wandering the streets trying to find my house.  People often have trouble getting here the first time.  Why it's so tricky to I can't really fathom.  Anyway by the time arrived Helen couldn't stay long as  nightfall was nearly upon us and she doesn't like driving in the dark. 

She's very perky at the moment and, in her short visit, she put her healthiness down to 'golden paste', a concoction devised by an Australian vet that's apparently good for humans too.  It's made out of turmeric, coconut oil and a shedload of freshly ground black pepper.   The recipe is here on the Turmeric Life website.  All sorts of health  benefits are attributed to curcumin, one of the active ingredients of turmeric.  Here's another link with some of the claims. I haven't got time to trawl through all the evidence to see if it's up to much.  Take it with a good pinch of salt....or pepper!

I thought I'd give it a go as I like conjuring up a witchy brew.  After all I need a bit of a boost after being laid low for the best part of a fortnight and the anti-inflammatory claims for golden paste were grabbing my attention.   So I cooked up a batch of the stuff last night.  It's ever so easy to do but wear old clothes and have cleaning cloths handy.  Even though the gas set really low the pan bubbled away like the mud pots at Yellowstone and golden gloop spewed upwards all over the cooker and surrounding surfaces.  I've just noticed that the Turmeric Life  has a handy page on stain removal.

What does it taste like?; I asked Helen. 'Disgusting!' was her response.   I took my first spoonful expecting the worst.  Actually it wasn't at all bad.   Like Helen, I've become a member of the TUG, the Turmeric Users Group on Facebook.   I'm hoping  though that my sheets don't turn yellow like hers.  Apparently it's not a common effect so fingers crossed.

My big batch will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks and there's plenty more turmeric when that's run out.  It was on a multi-buy offer at Holland and Barratt.  As the stuff would stain my normal Lakeland containers I looked for  alternative storage.   My former mother in law bought me this casserole dish made by Michael Gaitskell at the Old Mill Pottery in the village where she used to live.  It's lovely but is rarely used.   I'm so pleased it's found a new lease of life as my golden paste pot!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

In Its Entirety

When we're driving around Louis and I take it in turns to choose tracks to play. He lines them up to autoplay on Spotify.  I have to grin and bear it through some stuff that isn't to my taste.  On other occasions I'm pleasantly surprised by what my boy chooses.  My fandom of Imagine Dragons is a result of what I've been exposed to on these musical forays.

The other day Louis complained that my favourite Gary Numan track, at six minutes or so, was too long.  He cheekily cut it short and then  continued to ask me for my playlist for the day.  Casually  I threw  'Supper's Ready' into the mix. I thought I'd got away with it as it started.  Then it dawned on Louis.  'It's twenty three minutes!' he exclaimed and moved on to his next choice.

Anyway, for any of you who fancy a classic of prog rock I thought I'd treat you to the track in its entirety, complete with a rather flaky home recorded video from the '70s.  It's worth it just to Peter Gabriel's famous flower impression and Phil Collins playing the drums with some kind of kitchen spatulas!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Advent in Reverse

Sorry to mention the C-word a  bit in advance but I promise you I've got good reason.  As an intro, here's Louis' advent calendar which he made with his auntie. I've just dug it out of the loft when I was putting some camping equipment away.   It's in use for the third or fourth year running and I fill it with Ferrero Rocher.

Now my teenager would be extremely peeved if I denied him his pre-Christmas confectionery fest but I've just heard about a scheme that's much better than any of those novelty adult calendars that are around now.  Like twenty four days of pork scratchings,  I ask you!   I for one don't need any mini bottles of prosecco,  chocolate or piggy bits.  As my son reminds me I'm a bit fat and the lack of ability to exercise recently hasn't helped the situation.  So I welcome the  chance to gift to others instead of stuffing my face.

No, I  much prefer the idea of reverse calendars.  During the run up to Christmas  you put aside an item to donate to a local foodbank or homeless charity on a daily basis.  As I've started early enough  they'll be time to hand in my own two dozen goodies well in time for  them to provide  much needed festive cheer.    But it really doesn't matter when you begin.   People will be needing food, toiletries and household goods to make daily life just a little easier well into the New Year.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Autumn Reframed

My trips outside the home over the last two weeks have  been restricted to running Louis around.  The new car's role as Mum's taxi is unerring even now I'm on the route to recovery.  It's  a full on weekend of teenage chaffeuring.  As part of the curriculum of his studio school Lou will be doing regular work experience from now on.  I think it's once a term.  He's off to spend a week with a structural engineering firm in Plymouth in December and will stay  with Auntie Salty Dog to make it logistically easier.  We headed off down to 'The Ocean City' as it's dubbed on the approach signs of the A38 to check out the offices and work out the public transport route he'll need to take on his commute.  A pub lunch and a scout around the charity shops on Mutley Plain with Salty Dog was thrown into the equation.

For the most part in the last fortnight my drives have been limited to getting Lou to the bus stop in Totnes where he connects with school transport.  There's a beautiful vista as we drive along the main road from Torbay and cross the border into the South Hams.  Soft rolling hills are backed by views of Dartmoor.  I'd love to stop and take a picture but it's not feasible on such a busy route.

So today's picture is a random one off the Internet but bear with me.  In the past I've been so busy  digging out my SAD lamp and  fretting about the shortening  daylight hours that I've never noticed before the quality of the light at this time of year.  This image captures its crispness.  The intensity particularly hits me when we take in that view.  Stunning!

 I'm viewing this as a marker of how much my outlook on life has changed over the last year or so.  No seasonal dip in mood so far.   All that 'hippy nonsense' might be having an effect.  For the first time it  seems that I'm literally seeing autumn in a glorious new light.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Two Places In the Sun

I am at last feeling much better.   So I'm finally emerging from the boudoir and getting out and about.  Even so I'll be taking it easy over the next few weeks.  I don't want a re-emergence of this baby.  Two chest infections in the space of two months is enough for anyone.

One of the things that I've been doing whilst laid up is dreaming and scheming about my next two trips away.  It's occurred to me that I haven't done a show and tell of where I'll be staying in Malta and Portugal.  So let's fix that right now shall me?

This is my hostel room in Malta.   There's two reasons why I chose it.  The first is that this getaway has to be super cheap, one my friend Meanqueen might be proud of.   Sure I'd like to go swanky and upmarket but the pennies don't allow it at the moment.    But the other is that I thought that a little room  hostel would give me a bit of sanctuary yet allow me to mingle with like minded travelling types.  I'm quite pleased with this accommodation. It's reminiscent of retreat rooms that I've stayed in.  Perhaps it sets the tone for a contemplative holiday?

And this is where we're staying in Lisbon in February.  I gave Louis a budget to spend on AirBnB and set him the task of choosing our accommodation.   This is what he came up with.  Wow!  I'm glad to see that he's inherited his mother's distaste for neutrally decorated living space!  I stipulated that a central location,  two bedrooms and a balcony were absolutely essential.  He met my remit.  What do you think?  I reckon he's come up top trumps.

Friday, 17 November 2017

BT: I'm Off!

I try not to moan these days.  Positivity serves me better.  But somethings a good old venting is just what's needed. A debacle out of the blue that wasted the whole evening yesterday caused me to change my phone provider.  The Internet went down  so  I tried BT's self fix process three times before agreeing reluctantly to an engineer.  There is a stern warning that if you call them out needlessly there is a charge of something like £129 which is off putting.  Still  I hadn't done anything to muck up my broadband.  It had just gone off suddenly without warning when I wasn't even in the same room as the box.  There was no choice but to take the chance.  The appointment was arranged for next week.

Some time later my broadband restored itself like magic!   I went onto the BT website  to cancel the engineer's appointment but  entering the job number brought up an error message.  As it is almost impossible to find a number to speak to a human being  I went to chat to someone online.  By then I was exacerbated.  I think I ticked a box saying that I wanted to go through the complaints system to try and rectify the problem.  Eventually the job got cancelled and I settled down to sleep.  I turned my mobile to silent so as not to be disturbed.
BT then proceeded to barrage me with calls on the downstairs landline which I didn't answer.  I was already in bed.   It felt like harassment.   I looked at my mobile.  They'd tried there too and messaged me asking me to text them to say that the complaint had been dealt with satisfactorily.  When I attempted to do this I got a notification that I would be charged a premium rate for the pleasure of replying.  Sod that!   For some reason my BT online account developed a fault so that I was unable to tell them to sling their hook by that means.   In the end I answered a mobile call and told the chap to cancel the complaint.  I couldn't be bothered to vent further frustration.  Nuisance calls from my own phone provider had been the final straw.

During the waiting process I'd been on U-Switch.  I discovered that I could have a package from Talk Talk for about £200 a year less.  Now that will pay for a trip away!  What's more the terms are better than my existing one. There's faster broadband, features like call divert that BT charge for, no set up costs and free calls to mobile phones.  I found survey information too saying Talk Tak receive less complaints than BT and the other companies that they own.   There was just one thing that I needed.  I had to check that BT wouldn't be finding some excuse to charge me for cancellation.  They did that when I left my rented property and refused to carry over the contract until I moved into my next home nine months later.

So I went back online giving the exact same personal details that I'd been asked for the night before to pre-empt some questioning.  But it wasn't enough.  The person needed extra information to elicit a response to a simple enquiry.  It took an age to find on my online account because the website is such a muddle.  Their script also repeated the request for the information that I'd already given!  Somehow I'd already anticipated it would not be as simple as I wanted.   I wonder why?

Finally through there's good news. There's no penalties.  I'm off in spite of not giving a thought to changing phone providers before last night.  If a person from BT reads this you need to know that you got it so wrong on all sorts of different levels!   

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The Body of Christ

I don't think that I've laughed so much at an advert in a long time.  How someone at Greggs had the idea of replacing baby Jesus in the manger with a sausage roll is too much, even for my slightly zany mind to imagine. This stretches the bounds of surrealism like nothing else I've ever seen.  It's upset some Christians but I like to think that God is having a good old chortle too.

What also amused me was one of the comments posted when the story was reported on the website of one of the newspapers.  I forget which one and am not going off on a hunt as my brain is only working on  half steam at the current time.  I'm paraphrasing here but it went along the lines of 'It would be great if the body of Christ was a sausage roll rather than those dry flaky wafers that they give us at holy communion!'.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Bedroom Activism

Yes I'm still spending the majority of my time in bed but I think thing are slowly on the mend.  The coughing is a little less startling so maybe that's a good sign.  Just because this has gone on so long I had a little mental wobble yesterday.  But  I told myself off.  'Pull yourself together Joo!!!!'   There's so much to be positive about so I'm focusing on the good stuff to help my virtual pecker to ride high.

So what have I been up to aside from crafting?  Well sleeping rather a lot.  And when I'm not resting up I'm doing my bit to save the world.  I've been meaning to buy my loo rolls from Who Gives A Crap for a while now.  Some of it's a hangover from Plastic Free July.   Of course this is  more expensive than my usual bargain stuff that I pick up from the supermarket but some of this is about doing my bit because I can afford to.  As well as being made from recycled paper the company donate 50% of their profits to providing toilets for some of the  40% of world population that don't have access to proper hygiene facilities.  A double whammy for the environment and international development I think!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Abundant Shoe Harvest

Teenagers are soooo expensive, even ones who are not throwing a tantrum and demanding designer clothes and electronic goods all the time.   One of the reasons is that they grow so fast.   Shoe buying for Louis has become a bit of a nightmare.  I think he's jumped three sizes in less than a year.   He's now a size 9.  It's a wonder he doesn't trip over those big things hanging off the bottom of his legs.  When I've bought replacement footwear we're not going down the mega designer root.  I can't afford that but just trainers on the right side of acceptable so that he doesn't get the piss taken by more style conscious kids have been upwards of forty quid.

So, when I popped my sick note around to Barbie Nurse's house the other day I was thrilled when she asked me if I'd like her grown up son's cast off trainers and boots.  They're size 10.  Yay!  I was expecting one pair but she brought around five!  Nike, Adidas x 2, Hugo Boss and a pair of labelless but funky black boots with camo soles.  I shoved them in the washing machine and hey presto they're like new.

I put them on the radiator to dry in the hall.  The observant of you might notice that decorating is in progress.  At this rate I'll get to show off my swanky makeover in about 2020.  But at least it's on its way.  Back to the shoes.  Louis is delighted.  There's enough pairs for some to keep at his dad's house as well. Hopefully they might see us through in footwear until a couple of months after Christmas at least!

Monday, 13 November 2017

Bedroom Antics

I devised today's title in the hope that I could improve the visitor statistics of my blog through luring in those who are hoping for saucy revelations.  Alas, there's none of that and even if there were I wouldn't be telling any of you lot!  Even though I'm from Essex I'm not the kiss and tell type.  Mind you,  any bloke, however fit he was, trying any of that malarkey at the moment would get a firm punch on the nose for his troubles. I've barely got the energy to get up and make a cup of tea let alone any of that nonsense.

Yes, I'm still poorly and have been signed off  for another week.  My mish-mash of symptoms are puzzling.   So I've now had a blood test, chest x-ray.....  and  a referral to cardiology.  Yikes!  Happily the odds are that this is a persistent viral infection rather than a damaged ticker. So aside from medical appointments I've not been out since I dropped Louis off to catch the school bus and popped into Aldi for a few bits and bobs.  That was last Wednesday.  Copious rest remains the predominant feature of my life.   A few lovely people  have visited to provide laughter, which accordingly to the Reader's Digest is the best medicine.  They also take the piss of the hacking cough that rears its head if I move two paces.

As long as I'm warm and don't move though I'm pretty comfortable.  So bed's the place then propped up by a unfeasibly high pile of pillows!  Sadly I wasn't up to my printmaking class on Thursday so have been contenting myself with inspiring books on techniques.  And over the weekend I took to some boudoir crafting.  That nifty lap table from the Futon Workshop that I bought years ago but have hardly ever used has finally seen the light of day just before it was about to undergo the decluttering treatment

.My thoughts are back on crabs!  I'm mustering up the courage to do some cutting out  and sticking for my crustacean themed collagraph print later in the week.  Using a big tub of glue in bed will not be without its hazards.   But in the meantime I've been sticking to what I know and carving into a polystyrene pizza plate with nothing more than a biro and a metal drinking straw.  So cheap, so simple.  I don't even have to buy the pizzas.  Friends save their bases for me and it's not unknown to come home from work and find some posted through my door.  Recycling at its best I say.

Here's the half finished result which I'll admit to finding pretty pleasing.  I'll make some pictures from it when my strength has returned. What I like about this technique is that the print doesn't come out as expected.  Be prepared to be surprised like me when I can finally venture downstairs and get the inks out.   Printing in bed is an ambition to far.  I'm looking forward to being better soon and showing off the finished article.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

The B&W Seven

I was set a task on Facebook by one of 'My Other Boys' to share seven black and white photographs over a week.   They weren't allowed to have people in them.  So I got busy with the online editing tool and picked some still life and landscape images. It was really enjoyable and I was pleased with the results of playing around.  So I thought I'd share my artwork here. You might recognise some of the photos for I've used them in previous posts, although then in all their technicolor glory.  In the Facebook I wasn't allowed to comment on what was depicted but here, it's my blog and my rules! 

Let's set off with Day 1 and a shot of all that rigging on the copy of the Golden Hind at Brixham Harbour,  just an optimistic stone's throw from my home.

Day 2:  Alan Measles on a pot.  One of the pictures you've already seen from the Grayson Perry exhibition in Bristol. 

Day 3:   The Inuit sculpture from Oceanopolis at Brest.  Looking rather dapper in monochrome don't you think?

Day 4:  Our tickets from the spooky Zoltar on Southend seafront.

Day 5: Stunning swirly sand art seen on Tregastel beach at Perros-Guirec during our May trip.  A slight cheat here as there are people in shot.  But they are so far away that surely it doesn't count?

Day 6:  France features heavily.  Here's a mossy effigy found in a damp church near Dinan this summer on one of our little jaunts on our bikes

Day 7:  Back to my childhood town of Southend.  After the pier the Kursaal has to be its most iconic architectural structure.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Stone with Zips

Photo:  Bored Panda
Here's a little something unusual for you today.  The Bored Panda website posts wonderful source in a similiar vein to my other favourite source for a lazy post,  Colossal.  They're both run by people who seek out arty wow-ness and are right up my street.

Photo:  Bored Panda
So here's pictures from a Bored Panda post that I came across the other day that delighted me  in their quirkiness.  These unusual multimedia sculptures are the work of Hirotoshi Ito, made from stones that he picks up from a riverbed near his home.  I'm wondering if the stones have a crack in them in the first place or whether the artist painstakingly gouges them out.

On reflection I think that the artist probably has to carve out the holes exactingly himself.  How else would these rather disturbing false teeth be such a good fit?

Friday, 10 November 2017

REM: Keeping Me Shiny and Happy

You'd think spending all this time in bed would give me time to catch up with work and stuff but my mind really isn't quite in gear either.  It's as  if it's gone into meltdown in sympathy with my poor respiratory system. So in a bid to stay perky I'm looking for light entertainment which won't tax an addled brain too much.  Things to amuse rather than stretch me, like music of course.

My friend John, whose childhood home is near Atlanta Georgia says that he knows Michael Stipe and the rest of REM.  Not in having a weekly beer down the pub kind of way.  He's not that chummy.  But John says that they're familiar with each other is and that they'd exchange greetings if they saw each other.  There!  My rather tenuous claim to having links to superstars.  It doesn't look like I'll be getting a VIP bus on any tour bus anytime soon.

REM have been on my radar for years.  I nearly went to see them once in London but I think the concert was cancelled because of a terrorist attack.  Here's an old favourite of mine that I played over and over again when 'The Great Reveal' came out.  This is a Youtube version that I discovered in my ramblings last night.    I think its even better, less musical layering than the album version and allows Michael Stipe's incredible voice to stand out. 

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The £1.55 A Minute Prophesy

Somewhere along the line someone has decided that I'm gullible enough to pay £1.55. a minute to hear how I can turn around the fortunes of my non existent love life.  I get emails once a week from all sorts of people who claim to be my personal psychic:  Jodie, Megan, Sally who all say that they are in touch with 'the one' and will reveal all if I hand over the dosh.  I read them all.  They amuse me.  The most recent from Ava made me laugh my little socks off.

Apparently she told me that I'm going to meet a man with green eyes, dark hair and full lips in a local pub.  He'll be wearing a red shirt, jeans and get this, my favourite perfume!  It immediately brought to mind some kind of sweet smelling cowboy.   I thought the combination of eye and hair colour could come across a bit spooky but who am I to argue if this bloke is definitely my soulmate.   Ava will tell me when to go to the pub to meet him if I call her.

I showed the message to Louis.  'Perfume!!!' he exclaimed.  Then he shared further thoughts.  'No, I don't think he'd be right.  He'd probably turn out to be gay and in five years time run off with Mr Metrosexual.'  I think Ruff Stu would have something to say about that.  So I'll turn down the offer of a tip off  then and just head off down the pub when the boys next invite me.  Hopefully the coast will be clear!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Poorly Bored

A bit of a random picture today.  I was looking for one of grapes, as they're traditionally gifted to poorly people, and came across this one.  It made me laugh.

I'm still not well.  If I stay in bed I don't feel too bad but just low levels of activity result in coughing fits and overwhelming feelings of knackeredness.  I have to get up in a minute, herd Louis out of the house and take him to the school bus.  I'll pop into Aldi for a couple of bits and bobs to tide me over. That pretty much finishes me for the day.   Aside from my parenting duties I haven't been out since last Friday.  The boys tried to lure me to the quiz on Sunday.  After all the pub is only a hop, skip and half a jump down the road and I normally don't need much persuasion to pop in for a pint.  It was beyond me.  They named the team 'Missing Julie' and sent me a picture of the score card as  my consolation prize.

So, as far as possible I'm doing what I've been told by the practice nurse and resting, mentally as well as physically.  In between long bouts of sleeping  I'm been doing non stressful stuff, meditating and planning lovely things to do on my next couple of trips away to Malta and Portugal.  Dolphins may be involved, real ones and not silly mock ups made out of bananas.  I'm hoping normal service will be resumed soon after I've  given nature a proper chance of  getting bit of this darned chest infection once and for all!

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Living Well With Down's

I had the Down's Syndrome screening test at about 13 weeks into my pregnancy.  By then I was so struck with the idea of being a mum that I'm absolutely convinced that I wouldn't have considered an abortion if the test had been positive.  There was already so much love for the little person who was causing me to throw up at the drop of a hat whose growth I was gauging in terms of sizes of different fruits.    Knowing would just have prepared me for the extra preparations that I needed to take to bring up a child with special needs.

I found this speech by Frank Stephens very profound.  He uses the richness of his own life as an incredibly valid argument against termination when  Down's Syndrome is found to be present.   He also describes the benefits that his extra chromosome can bring to Alzheimer's research.   I would be very proud to have a son like him.

Monday, 6 November 2017

In the Company of Alan Measles

I was delighted, nay super excited, to see that there was a Grayson Perry exhibition coinciding with my last visit to see Red Mel.  For those who who want to follow in my footsteps it's on until 24th December.   And it's free.  I was expecting to pay up to a tenner for admission so I was very chuffed with the genorosity of the sponsors.  To collect some pennies towards the costs of putting on the exhibition the artist  himself made this special two headed piggy bank for the occasion.

Now I love Grayson Perry, both the man and his work for a number of reasons.   Firstly he is from Essex but like myself and my lovely friend Aril from Gnat BottomedTowers, he has escaped picking up some of the traits that define the residents portrayed on TOWIE.   The fact that he has a much loved bear called Alan Measles counts in his favour.  It makes my own choice of name, Nicholas, for my childhood trusty companion look highly sensible.  Then there is the fact that he is a stylish cross dresser and has collaborated in designing a house in Essex called Julie's House.  Obviously he had me in mind and built it just in case I need to return to the county to live and look after my aged parents.

But then there is his art.  And here I'm really in awe at the wit, depth and variety of media that he works with.  Paint, pottery, print, metalwork, textiles and language.  He's a comprehensive dabbler like me but a hundred times more skilled.  'I bet he's an Aries.' I just thought.  I had a look on Wikipedia and blow me down I was right.

Anyway the pink motorbike is an antithesis of the masculinity that traditionally goes with being a biker.   It's bedecked with words that go against male sterotypes.  And here's one of the tapestries.  The detail is incredible.  I was especially thrilled to see that he had captured a murmuration of starlings, one of my favourite natural phenomena.

I'm sharing this photo even though the reflection from the glass cabinet spoils it a bit.  I think 'Our Mother' is one of my favourite pieces in the exhibition.  Unless the wry humour I can see in much of Perry's work I found this heart wrenching.  Her burden seem incalculable.

What is always good about a Grayson Perry exhibition is that it holds incredible potential to play the 'Spot the Willy' game that I've used to keep my kid entertained whilst I look at art.  I wish Louis had been with me.  There were loads!