Sunday, 31 December 2017

On Dogs


I've trained my mind so that it doesn't spend the majority of its time in the heightened state of anxiety that I once viewed as normal.  So now there's plenty of space between the old ears to ponder the important philosophical questions of life.  And one came to me to me the other day as I was driving through Windy Corner, the gateway into Brixham.  'How do I know that a dog is a dog?'

This picture illustrates the point nicely.  If a affable alien invader came to Earth and during a chat I told them that these creatures were of the same species he'd say that I was having a laugh.   I can't figure it out.  They're all so blooming different.  I had an idea that it might be to do with the eyes but then have a look at huskies.

This lead onto another question.  So how does a dog recognise another dog of a different breed?  I thought that it must be down to that keen sense of smell that our canine friends are supposed to have. But a little research around the subject suggests otherwise. Follow the link to read this Scientific American article reporting   on a pertinent experiment.  It seems that dogs can pick out each other from photos.  No distinctive doggy odour involved!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Villow Replaced

Isn't it funny how things of comparatively little value can take on significance in our lives.  Louis' mangled old muslin squares from childhood are a case in point.  'I need you to know to know how precious clothie is to me.' he told me earnestly at a very young age. 

My V-shaped pillow  is another example.  I even gave it a name, 'Villow'.  It was bought  cheaply years ago and has  been with me through thick and thin.  I take it away when I'm in the motorhome so that I can prop myself up to read and write.

But lately it's been looking tatty.  Holes developed in its case.  More important than aesthetics, I tend to doze off  and it's not really that comfortable as a sleeping aid.  The filling is all lumpy and hard.  So  I've been thinking about a replacement for a while.

Have you seen the  all engulfing 9ft and  12ft U-shaped pillows that you can get now, mainly marketed towards pregnant and nursing women?     They're so  enormous that I'm sure that they're designed to keep amorous partners away.  'He doesn't get much loving these days.'  said a friend who has one year old twins.  'I'm too bloody scared it will happen again!'  Anyway I hankered after one for a while as a Villow replacement.  After all there's no-one sharing my bed to consider. But then sense took hold.  It would be a storage nightmare.  I did a little more research, well actually rather a lot.  Replacing an 'old friend' should not be considered lightly.

This arrived yesterday.  It's the boomerang shaped pillow by Sanggol.  The ties means that it can be transformed into a sort of V shaped.  But when I get dozy it's unfurled.  I slept with my head on one end and the other between my knees last night.    Even though I'm still snuffly with cold it was the best night's kip that I've had in a long time.  And what's to become of Villow?  Well he's been passed onto Louis.  He doesn't care about a few holes!

Friday, 29 December 2017

Rusty Recycling



Apparently when this little video came out on YouTube a number of months ago it went to number one in the viewing figures.   I only saw it yesterday which just goes to prove how on right on trend I am.  The fact that a video about a young guy restoring a three dollar thrift shop find was so popular has got to restore a little faith in humankind.  For everyone who's also had their head in the sand since the summer and haven't seen it before, watch and be amazed!

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Commandment Number Four

“A life built upon Sabbath is contented because in rhythms of rest we discover our time is full of the holiness of God.”   Shelly Turner

I took this picture in the Heart of Gozo Museum in Victoria when I was there earlier in the month.  It's a fascinating collection that's free to access which includes a large number of religious artifacts that are housed in an amazing building.

This week marks a turning point in my life.  I'm back at work after the Christmas break.  But it's only for three days.  What's different now is that there will only be rare occasions that I'll be working a five day week in the NHS.  In January I'll be condensing my working week into four longer days.  I've done this to assign a proper chunk of time to working on developing my own business with the eventual aim of being fully self employed.

Even though I have a 'day off' I'll be beavering away  harder than ever to begin with. That means that I need to look after myself even more carefully.  When I was in the States in 2015 my lovely friend Julie, who's a practising Christian, reminded me of the Sabbath,  the concept of a rest day that's so important to the Judaic tradition that it's written in the Ten Commandments.      And so my goal for the next year is to assign myself a dedicated day of rest.  Where it is falls in the week will be fluid.  What matters is that it's there and I'm going to mark it in my diary each week.  I'll use it for leisurely lie ins, making things, seeing friends and trips out and put my work to one side for that day.   It's a New Year's resolution of sorts but much gentler and kinder to myself than imposing a tough regime of doing or abstinence.  Will anyone else in this frazzled old world stop and join me?


Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Skyscanner Eat Your Heart Out!


Louis and I have been invited to stay with The Second Martha Stewart and her husband in New York state in August.  The lure of easy access to the Big Apple and a nostalgic visit to the Appalachian Trail that's only ten miles from where we're staying means that I've decided to forego our usual amble around Brittany and go for it.  So I've spent the best part of Boxing Day trying to get the cheapest possible flight deal that doesn't cause us untold suffering.  I don't want excessive journey times or long periods sleeping on the floor at airports.  It's supposed to be a holiday after all. 

The Second Martha Stewart's journey over to the United Kingdom inspired me to approach the challenge a bit differently from other occasions when I've flown to North America.  I've always headed out of one of the London airport with all the rigmarole that entails.  My friend flew into Bristol via Dublin this time.  I wondered if following her example could be advantageous.

So I popped some details into Skyscanner.   The cheapest return flight from local airports on the dates that I wanted was £531 each.  It involved an incredibly convoluted  twenty two hour outward trip from Bristol.  It involved a  transfer in  Brussels then a trip back to Blighty to catch a transatlantic flight from Heathrow.  Ye gods!    What could possibly go wrong?  The cheapest London flight was a shade over £400 per person.  Quite a saving and a direct flight to boot.  But it went  from Stansted, a right royal pain in the arse to get to from deepest darkest Devon.  Immense bargains would have to be had to persuade me to fly from there.  Sensibly timed flights from more accessible London airports weren't any cheaper than the lowest local fares.

What if I just booked a flight from Dublin to New York and then arranged the flight to Ireland separately?  Now I was getting somewhere.  I sourced flights to a little known airport called Stewart International at just £560 total return.   It's north of where my friends live and will save them the hassle of getting to one of the main New York  hubs to pick us up.  Ideal!   I've added on  separately booked flights to Dublin from Exeter airport making the total cost just under £700 for both of us.  We're using a bit of the money we've saved to have a one night stay in Dublin.  Neither of us have been to Ireland so we're excited to have the opportunity to get a taster of the land.  And yes there is a long wait between flights on the  way back.  But some of our savings will go towards booking a room at day rates so we can have some shut eye in comfort.

I'd always thought that the  flight comparison sights would give me the best deal but it seems otherwise.  A little bit of creative thinking and I've beaten their prices by a considerable sum that will go towards enhancing our special holiday.  And if I take into account the cost of the ferry, motorhome fuel and a campsite or two I don't think that our Stateside trip will cost a whole lot more than our usual European jaunt.


Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Christmas Day: Exmouth Beach


Here's me yesterday morning on Exmouth Beach.  'Let's go and watch the Christmas Day swim.' suggested The Second Martha Stewart.  I'd have joined in of course but I'm at the tail end of a cold so that wouldn't have been sensible.  It wasn't too nippy.  My trusted Nordic cardie was enough.


The local boats including the local pleasure craft and the RNLI came in.  I thought that I'd just be encouraging a straggly gaggle of a few brave souls.....


...like this lovely lady.


But no,  it seems that half the town are game for a dip.


In they go!


'It's not that cold.' I heard one person say.  Even so most of them were out in about two seconds flat.


I lost The Second Martha Stewart in the crowd.  I think that she must have been mesmerised by this guy!

Now that was a lovely start to the day.  I'm sorely tempted to brave the waves myself next year if I do not have the sorry excuse of a cold then!

Monday, 25 December 2017

A Little Gift of Hope



The heartiest of seasons greetings.  Here's another one of those random images from Pixabay that seemed to cause confusion the other day.  I'm just bowled over by the cuteness of this one and wondering whether there might be two Santa or if the reindeer running across the moon have gone AWOL.

I hope that this day finds you all in fine fettle!  Thank you for all your lovely wishes yesterday.  They were much appreciated.   It seems that someone up there decided to give me the Christmas present of a lie in. I didn't wake until just before eight this morning.  Unprecedented!

Today I thought I'd share the gift of a  idea.  I heard it the other day and it resonated  Sometimes the world seems a pretty hard place to contemplate.  On a personal level there's mental and physical strife and as we expand outwards so much seems to be going wrong:  adverse political goings on, natural and man made disasters, cruelty to humans and animals....I won't go on too long as you'll be getting the gist.    It's very easy to focus on this when we're going through the doldrums of life and think that the world is an very hopeless place indeed. What  I was reminded of is that the good in our universe far outweighs all the bad staff.  Let's give some examples of how this manifests.

  • The beauty and magnificence of the sun, moon and stars.
  • The love so many demonstrate for each other through all stages of life.    Innumerable acts of kindness are performed every minute.
  • Our magical encounters with the animal world.
  • The glory of nature even on a humdrum level.  Daisies popping out on lawns sprung to mind.
  • The enormous potential for creativity in all its forms.
May you all feel enormous blessings.  Merry Christmas and much love to everyone. xx

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Want, Need, Wear, Read...and a Surprise


I'm home alone this morning and it's grand.  I'm snuggled up in bed in a house that's peaceful except for the calls of the gulls outside.  They no longer annoy me like they did when I first moved to the seaside but are just part and parcel of life here.  I'm so happy to have the contrast of being perfectly content with my own company and a sociable bunny as well.  It's a good combination.

I 'borrowed' Louis from his dad on Friday as the Second Martha Stewart wanted to treat us both to a lovely restaurant meal. We trooped on over to Exmouth where she's staying and. Louis then came home with me.  Yesterday morning he got up at nine, ludicrously early for a teenager.   At the age of five he told me that Santa didn't exist because of the impossibility of delivering all those present s worldwide overnight   But perhaps the lure of 'Father Christmas' making an early delivery got him up.  After opening his presents we breakfasted at Wetherspoons and I packed him off on the bus to Newton Abbot to meet  his dad.

So again in 2017 I pretty much stuck to the Want, Need, Wear, Read  Christmas present buying regime for my son.  It stops excessive spending and over consumption.  This year's 'Want' was a little more expensive than last year's playing cards.  Lou asked for  a Kindle Fire to replace this ancient one that gave up the ghost earlier in the year.

To keep costs low the 'Need' was the case.  Keeping expensive electronic gadgetry safe is essential. 'Read'  is an Amazon voucher for a  downloadable book to go on the new device.  And the 'Wear'?  Well I bought  a very snuggly dressing gown in Aldi  for a tenner but gave it to Lou early because it was chilly in his bedroom.   He loves it and goes around the house looking like a fluffy Noel Coward.  I bought him a duplicate to take to his other home and he's delighted.  Just one extra present,  a Toroidz that I bought months ago at a festival.  It's like a slinkey but runs up and down your arm.  Kids like novelty stuff that they can show off to their mates.

So my plans?  Well I'm heading off back to Exmouth this afternoon to spend Christmas with the Second Martha Stewart and her family.    Apparently I'm on roast potato and sprout duty!

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Feast for the Eyes

Perhaps because I've got a long weekend off, my mind has gone into meltdown.  It wants a well earned rest after a day of duty visits and calls yesterday.  So minimal chat from me today.  I've been meaning to do this one for a while. 

Lots of the time when I'm preparing posts I use Pixabay as a source of free images.  Often when I'm looking for something topic I'll be distracted by a photo that I can't use but catches my attention anyway.   I've been saving them.  So today I thought I'd show them off.  Enjoy this eclectic feast that maybe gives a glimpse into the Lovelygrey psyche!










Friday, 22 December 2017

Really Powerful Animal Magic!



My chum Aril from Gnat Bottomed Towers shared this video on her personal Facebook page.  She might have planned to use it on her own blog and may now be cursing me, 'Blooming Lovelygrey, stealing my ideas!'  Actually I jest.   I don't think she'd really mind even if she is going to do her own post.   For it's a heart warming and powerful tale that deserves to be shared.

It's a homeless man telling the story of the  difference that his beautiful dog has made to his life.   I dropped off my reverse advent gifts earlier in the week, Our local Sainsburys has a box for the food bank of the local charity for the homeless so it was easy.  My gifting included toiletries, baby wipes and tampons as well as Christmassy treats.  I'm planning to continue gifting there into the New Year. Maybe my presents will now include dog food.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

My Tree


I snapped this shot yesterday evening.  This won't win any photographic rewards and what's  my decorating prowess isn't up to much either.  But then again I don't think Christmas trees should be designer statement pieces.

Our tree is artificial.  I purchased it from Asda five years ago.  It was the year of my separation and the first Christmas I was spending as a singleton.  Over the years of my marriage we'd amassed a collection of tree decorations that I left behind in my former home.  I was surprised that I was a bit sad about that but I dusted myself off and started all over again. 

 Blue lights and tinsel wouldn't have been my first choice but they're what Louis wanted.  Remember it's substance rather than style that I was aiming for.  I bought a pack of wooden hanging figures, the plastic candy canes and some chocolate decorations and started my own eclectic collection of tree decorations which I dig out from the loft space each year.

And over the last few years the collection has grown.  I pick up one or two extra things from craft stalls, supermarkets and charity shops.  Cheap, cheerful and charming is my mantra.  Then there are things that I've been given.    The fused glass mistletoe from Sugar Plumb is back there.  I bought her a felted owl at Saltram last week for her own tree.    There's a fair few things Louis has made over the years too, weird pipe cleaner sculptures and a snowman made from a lolly stick.  If you look closely you might spot him at the bottom of the picture.   Yes, there's definitely no designer here but a whole lot of memories.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

A-Tishoo!


After successfully completing  my glorious hike on Gozo just over a week ago I thought that my fitness levels were at long last sufficient  to kickstart my running regime.  A return to the beginning of the Couch to 5K plan was envisaged building up to a full blown run around the block at the pace I could manage.  But I felt inexplicably tired over the weekend.  By Sunday night the reason for this had become clear.  As is traditional for the festive period I have a stinking cold.

Now the common cold is a funny beastie.   At night I am coughing and spluttering.  Currently I have someone on my caseload who can't sleep and feels need to phone me on a daily basis to share their nightly experiences.  The sleep pattern they describe parallels my own.  The difference is that they are retired and I continue with my day to day regime!

At times, this is an illness that makes you feel as rough as rats.  It's so unpleasant it seems serious.  When I get up in the morning it's like that but as I move about I feel a bit better, certainly not ill enough to stay in bed.   So I  burst through the office door with the sexiest deep husky voice known to mankind but feeling sort of okay.  As the day goes on the lurgy seems to take it toll and I feel rougher and rougher.  I've been crawling back between the sheets soon after I get home. 

Fingers crossed that I'm improved by the weekend.  I've lots planned from Friday onwards.  And today's illustration?  Well it's a hankerchief tree.  I thought it was prettier than a box of tissues!


Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Magic: '70s Style'


Sometimes things to write about just pop into my head.  And so it was the other day I was transported back to the technically simpler times of my childhood and thought about a game that we used to have in my childhood home.  I'm not sure who owned it.  I'd like to think it was mine but at times like this I normally get into verbal wars with my brother over possession.  That's not right for this 'Peace on Earth' time of year so I'll sit on the fence and maintain a neutral stance.


The Magic Robot was inserted into the 'Questions' side of his board.  There were overlays on the board for different subjects.  A pointer  was used to select a question .  You then moved the little green plastic bot over to the other side of the board.  By magnetic trickery he came up with the correct answer every time.  Even when I'd worked out the mechanics of what was happening the game still fascinated me.   I'm not so sure it would hold my attention for long in these faster times.  What I do still lovel are the amazing graphics.

Monday, 18 December 2017

So Ugly I Could Crack It


The other day I succumbed to  a naughty impulse purchase that wasn't on the singular list of items I want/need to  buy.  All sorts of things are mixed up on there; chopped tomatoes, some mounts for pictures I want to frame, washing powder, new leggings,  a cabbage, a nine foot long pregnancy cushion (yes really!).   My personal rule is that if it's not on the list it's no go as far as spending. Except for in the charity shops  it usually works to curb impulsiveness

But let me explain the reason that this particle article wasn't there.  When we were in the flat in Granada in February there was  a tiny rectangular concave mirror stuck to the bathroom cabinet.  Go back to the days of GCE physics if you will.  The shape of the lens magnifies the image.  It meant that my skin, that normally is complimented for its relatively youthful appearance, looked like a disaster zone with the closer scrutiny:  red patches, blocked pores, flakiness.  Chin hairs looked like loofah brushes and my brows?  Well they were thickets with not one but two straggly lines under each eye.

But over the week, with the aid of that cruel reflector I groomed myself to within an inch of perfection.  When I came home I tried to find a similar mirror but no joy on Ebay or Amazon.  So I gave up hope without listing it as one of my wants and went back to being a slattern, at least at microscopic level.

Had I searched for make up mirror I might have been more successful.  Duh!  For on the way through the duty free shop at Malta Airport last Sunday  I found just what I'd ceased looking for.  A 10x magnification handbag mirror by Tweezerman.  To make me look even more ugly wugly there's a light as well that enhances all my blemishes further.  Excellent!   I was so excited that I threw my usual savviness to the wind and snapped it up.  Later I discovered that if I'd waited I could have saved myself a fiver or so by waiting to buy it online when I got home.  But who needs money when they have perfect brows?!!

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Why I Love Star Wars


I've been working on letting go and not forcing issues to make things happen.   It seems that I'm 'manifesting' myself a very nice festive season indeed in the process!    Even though I'm working between the bank holdiay and haven't got Louis with me on Christmas Day and Boxing Day  lots of lovely things are planned.  Indeed on a day to day basis it seems that something else unfolds.

When I was young going to the cinema was a very special treat at this time of the year.  I've seen not one but two films in the last couple of days.  None of the arty farty obscure stuff that I usually favour  but  proper blockbusters.  Yes,  Paddington 2 is as good as the first one.  I love the scenes where the characters weave their way around a pop up book.  And to my surprise Hugh Grant is an astonishingly good actor.

Yesterday we went to see 'The Last Jedi' for as I've mentioned before Lou and I are both avid Star Wars fans.  Armed with our 3D glasses and a sneaky Asda bought bag of Cadbury's Heroes (for we are cinema pirates) we set off excitedly to Vue.   Here's ten reasons why I love these films.

  • I love the diversity of the characters.  When there's a scene on a planet a right old mixture of humans, droids and diverse aliens appear.
  • Not all the main characters are conventionally beautiful.
  • There's lots of cute things running around.  The dinky birds in this latest episode are adorable.
  • The clothes are divine even when the characters are not glammed up.  I'm wondering whether I can get away with bandages on my arm like Rey wears as her everyday adornment.  Today's picture comes from the costume exhibition that we were lucky enough to see on our visit to Seattle in 2015.
  • Even though I don't usually like a battle scene because I'm not big on violence I enjoy all the whizzing and darting and weaving and tucking when those spaceships are in combats.
  • Yoda with his hairy ears is one of my biggest heroes ever.  I've even immortalised him in cake form.
  • I love as the anticipation of waiting two years for the next installment builds up.
  • Good versus evil and all that.  I'm a sucker for that as a theme.
  • I secretly covet light sabres and having the skill to wield one to fend off baddies.
  • I share them with my boy.  We both love them equally, probably for different reasons.


Saturday, 16 December 2017

Days Out In Devon: Enchanted House: Illuminated Garden


It's been a busier week than usual.  I've been running backwards and forwards to Plymouth because Louis was on work experience there.  It went well, yes really well.  I had an excited teacher on the phone yesterday telling me about her visit to the placement and how she'd found him designing lighting systems.  She was also thrilled with great feedback that she'd received from the structural engineer firm that kindly looked after Louis for the week.  He's welcome back at any time.  It's a good start to his working life.

As an end of week treat we'd planned a visit to Saltram House with Sugar Plumb and her son.  They've lit up the grounds  for Christmas and there's a fairy tale theme in the rooms of the house.  Here's the bed of the princess.......

.and the pea!


The boys wondering whether the Hansel and Gretel house was made out of real cake.  We asked and it wasn't.


A 'son and lumiere' style projection on the house.



And to follow a few of the shots from the grounds. I'm a sucker for a lit up tree or two!


I'm really pleased with the colour intensity in images from my new phone's camera.  It's such a lovely treat to be able to produce such nice pictures. Oh and also to have a phone where the battery lasts all day and doesn't fade alarmingly after a couple of houses.


I loved the stroll around the grounds.  Many of the trees changed colour which made the visit all the more magical.

 More lit up trees!


And more.  Are you getting the idea now?


It was a lovely evening finished off with fish and chips back at Sugar Plumb's house.    To get you in the festive mood and raise much need funds to maintain the restoration project on this beautiful house this visit comes highly recommended. 

Friday, 15 December 2017

Prescribed Silliness




When people become depressed or anxious they can become very inactive through fear or loss of motivation.  It gives them lots of time  fill their minds with  unhelpful thoughts.   The devil makes work for idle brains as well as hands I tell them.  When we're productive and sociable,  we have other things to think about rather than our worries, our perceived inadequacies and going over what we or other people should have done in the past.  It is protective.  The potential of activity to be healthful and life affirming is the reason that I became an occupational therapist.

When someone isn't mentally well they can't just flick a switch, get busy and get back to normal.  There are parallels to physical illness here.   Recent experience with a persistent chest infection has reminded me that a time of recovery is essential where normal activity is gradually restored.  Hitting the ground running is an option that can lead to relapse.

One of the things that I suggest to gently kindle an interest in the world  again is selective TV watching.  The telly has got such a bad reputation because  of its potential to induce mindlessness.  Yet it can be such a rich resource for education, entertainment and engaging people.  And it's relatively cheap as well.  So I'll often 'prescribe'  the goggle box as part of an initial activity plan.

Especially I advocate comedy as laughter is so effective is inducing a changed mind state.  Even if it only does this for a few seconds it's a start on the road to recovery.  What you find funny may be different from my own preference.  Monty Python, for example,  baffles me and doesn't raise as much as a tittle.  Father Ted, however floats my boat.  I thought today I'd share one of its silliest clips.  It lifts my spirits and hope that it might be 'medicine' for others out there who watch it.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Flighty Thoughts


Here's a rather wonderful shot that I took on the way home from Malta on Sunday.   Two thirds the way up the picture there's a pointy white thing.  It's not a cloud but a view of Mount Etna as we flew over Sicily!  I got quite excited.

My Ryanair flight back was absolutely fine considering I paid just over twenty five pounds for it.  Actually that went up to thirty four after I opted to move my random seat allocation from the middle to a window seat.  I wanted an unfettered kip without having someone rousing me to climb out and go to the loo.  I decided that £9 was a small price to pay for three and a half hours of peace.  The flight was full and my cabin bag was whipped away from me at the gate.  However to get to the exit of the airport everyone had to pass the carousels when they had luggage in the hold or not.  My bag was just passing by after I'd cleared passport control.  I'd been saved the bother of carrying it!

Writing this post I'm reminded that I like to pay to offset the carbon dioxide generated by my flights this year.  I forgot to do it when Lou and I went to Granada in February.  I've just been to  the calculator at the ClimateCare website.  If you put in the departure and destination airports it does the job for you.  Fifteen pound should do it for both of our holidays.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Better Than Socks


I like posting about Lendwithcare.  Every time I've done so it seems that I've persuaded someone else to join in and make a difference in the developing world by loaning small amounts of money to business.  These are the Micah Group,  women in Zimbabwe who recycle scrap metal.  The loan will pay for them to restock brass and aluminum and the haulage needed to sell it. 

I'm choosing to write about the scheme around Christmas time because they have great ideas for very meaningful gifts.   First there is now a fledging shop  on the website with some lovely handcrafted bags from Malawi.  The other potential present from Lendwithcare are gift vouchers.  The recipient can choose a business to invest in and then withdraw the money at the end of the loan period, or as I do, reinvest over and over again.  I've now made thirty four loans which has help 332 family members and created thirty five jobs.   Being able to make a difference would certainly be better than a tacky Christmas socks wouldn't it?

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Beat instead of Breath




Every so often personally and professionally  I'll come across someone who's tried meditation but says it's not for them.  If I probe, which I do because I am a nosey bugger, it often turns out to be because they either can't tolerate silence or else find that they are too distractable.   I have to admit to being prone to the latter state.  Many a shopping list or holiday plan has been hatched during a forty five minute sitting session where I'm supposed to be focusing on my breath.  Outwardly I may have the serene appearance of the Buddha.  Inwardly my mind is trying to make sense of random stuff like those old code machines did at Bletchley Park.

I've found sound helpful to rein in that wandering mind and it could be useful for those  who find silence too deafening as well.  Wayne Dyer's morning meditation remains a firm favourite.   His evening one still sends me to sleep before it's ever completed so has been largely shelved although I've retained the idea of giving thanks for the day that's just passed. 

I've just discovered this offering from The Honest Guys that I'm now using nightly instead.   I thought that maybe one or two who stumble upon this in Blogland may love the rhythmic beat as much as I do so hence the share.   It claims to be helpful in entering a trance on the Shamanic journey.  I don't know about that.  I'll report back if that happens.    What I have found so far is that it provides a focus for stilling all that thinking nonsense for a while.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Off to Work He Goes


'I really love my school,' Louis announced the other day.  Phew!  The gamble in February to move him from his large single sex grammar school where he'd been troubled has paid off.  The mixed sex comprehensive studio school that he now attends is tiny in comparison, about 120 pupils. Maybe that, the moderating influence of girls and the fact that Louis does most of his homework in his classroom is why he is far less chaotic there.  Within a term he was on target to get really good GCSE grades and I hardly hear a murmur from any of his teachers.  There's been  just one occasion when the deputy head phoned.  Lou had a bad day but the tone was concern rather than adversarial.  'Is anything happening at home?' I was asked.  'He's been like Tigger today.  It's just so out of character!'   I scratched my head and could not think of anything that had unsettled him.  Calm was restoring, of course after a hefty bollocking, the next day!

Studio schools have been set up to get  kids ready for the workplace.  Louis' school specialises in the built environment and aims to turn out young people equipped for jobs in the building trade:  architects, engineers, interior designers, builders and tradespeople.  It's an ideal vocational education for someone that loves maths and science.  As part of the preparation Louis will have work placements each term.  From the age of fourteen!  How excellent is that! 

After a pretty alarming trip back from Malta yesterday which involved turbulence, snow and torrential way on the M5 in Somerset I picked Louis up from his Dad's house.  He was carrying a hard hat.  It's part of the safety kit he'd been given for his first placement which starts this week.  He's got the opportunity to work with a Plymouth structural engineering firm so for ease he's staying with Auntie Salty Dog.  He'll be taking the bus into work and the school agree with me that getting to the office is all part of the experience. 

I had a day's spare leave and thought I'd spend it in the city in the unlikely event of hiccups.   But don't let anyone believe I'm allowed to be over involved.  'Would you like me to come with you on the bus for the first day?' I asked.  After all he is just fourteen.  He looked at me disparagingly and wielded Google Maps.  'Don't worry Mum.  I'll be okay.'    Somehow I think that a hefty desire to be independent seems to have been passed on to the next generation.


Sunday, 10 December 2017

Solo Travel: The Verdict



I went really touristy yesterday and took a trip around the harbours from Sliema ferry boat.  It was a wonderful day and the views, from a different perspective, were marvellous.  I believe that this funky building such a wonderful mix of new and old is the Science Museum.  I don't go to those sort of places normally unless I have a boy in tow.

So I've come to the end of my solitary holiday.  Later I'm reunited with my son.  We're not going straight home but I'll tell you about that tomorrow.  Today, though  I'll give a little round up of what it's been like on my first holiday on my own, aside from the one where I moved my home.

And the verdict is?  It's great.  Others have commented on my bravery.  One friend who I believed was pretty independent 'fessed up and said that she hadn't even been to the cinema on her own.  But the key has been that I'm happy with my own company anyway.  I dream and scheme all by myself.  My only sense of reluctance was linked to eating out  but a view, a good book and my smartphone (in that order) sorts that out that sense of being Billy No Mates.  I'm also fairly chatty so haven't been completely without human contact.  I've met some interesting folk on my travels.

So do I prefer this to being away with someone?  Yes and no.  The total freedom to follow my own agenda and change it when I wish has been great.  But I miss having someone around to share the experiences and especially laugh with.  And  like being alone in general it would have been nice sometimes to have had a second head to take the hard work out of decision making and problem solving.     Anyway now I know that there's no big deal to being out in the big wide world as a solo traveller it's good to have that choice if I decide to do it again.  

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Giving Gozo Another Go


I went to Gozo on Wednesday and came back on the ferry to the mainland after just a couple of hours.  I'm not quite sure of the exact reason.  'I was overwhelmed'  I tried to explain to Mr Metrosexual when I phoned him.  He's a big fan of the island and was incredulous.  'How could Gozo do that?!'  he uttered.  'It's tiny.'


Anyway I decided to give it another go yesterday.   I'm a small town girl and where I've been hanging out during the last week is cosmopolitan with knobs on.    Gozo did seem to have the potential of offering the rural respite that I needed.   What may have happened on my aborted visit was I didn't really plan what I was going to do when I got  there.  That wasn't going to happen this time.  I armed myself with one of the walking guides from the Tourist Office and set off from outside the ferry port for a solitary adventure where I could gather my thoughts.  Except it nearly didn't pan out.


A very enthusiastic local gentleman working in a field at the start of the walk decided that he'd come along and show me the path.    He was very persistent so I lied my hairy arse off and made up a boyfriend back at home.  I hadn't got any particular idea of what my love interest was like, perhaps an amalgamation of everyone that I'd ever had a relationship mixed up with some of my gay male friends.   I was prepared to make it up as I was going along if I had to.  Luckily the guy backed off without me needing to give him a  half baked description of a tall but short bloke with different coloured eyes.  Before he left me alone made a last half hearted attempt to see if I'd meet him today but I said that I'd already be on the flight home.  My nose must have been like Pinocchio's by this time!


My solitary hike was gorgeous after that with glorious scenery seawards and inland.  Gozo is indeed a very tiny island and it seemed that I was pretty near the outskirts of the capital during some parts of the walk.    My final stop was the little port of Xlendi where I washed octopus and chips down with beer and then had a large lemon and ginger icecream while I was waiting for the bus out of town.  Lots of calories but I deserved them.  I think that this was the first piece of serious exercise that I've done in months.  Finally I seem to have seen off that nasty chest infection for good.  And I'm coming back to Gozo for a walking holiday when I can get another of those cheap flights.   It's fantastic!

Friday, 8 December 2017

Pearl's Gowns

The Maltese Islands are a great place for a holiday.  The people are lovely, there is loads to see and do, it's as safe as houses here and the food is lush in a comfort eating side of way.  But boy oh boy has the place been overdeveloped.  There's so much construction work going on here, on what is really quite a tiny island that the other day The Lorax by Dr Seuss popped into my mind.  It is such a different country to the one that I visited about a quarter century ago.  I fear for it environmentally.


So it is lovely when I find something that harps back to gentler days when I imagine life was at a slower pace..  I'm including this picture of a facade of a building where I spied the remains of something that warms the cockles of my retro loving heart.  You'll have to enlarge the picture a lot to see it.  Just under the lowest window second in from the left there's a sign that intrigues me.  It says 'Pearls Gowns' .  There's no clever design by a marketing company.  Just no-nonsense red capitals on a white background.


And here's another in an arcade around the corner.  In blue this time.  Gowns more than dresses conjure up elegance.  The sign made me think of garments like the ones in the first illustration of this post.  So who was Pearl?  I was dying to find out a bit more about her.

An Internet trawl hasn't revealed much.  All I've gleaned is from an obituary.  The shop was owned by Pearl Caruana,  a Jewish woman who died in 2008 at the age of ninety five.  She was known as Madame Pearl.   I like that.  It exudes glamorous credentials.  But that's all I've found out and nothing more.   Did Pearl design or make the 'gowns' that she sold?   Where did she source them from if this was not the case?  I'm intrigued.  And are their Maltese women still alive who wore dresses that they bought from Pearl that made them feel fabulous on an everyday basis on a special occasion?

Thursday, 7 December 2017

A Theme is Emerging


This guy is keeping me company this week.  He's on the wall of my tiny room in the hostel where I'm staying in Sliema.  Isn't  his embellishment lush?  I feel that he might be the inspiration of some arty project down the line.

This small space living harps back to the time that Klaus the Knaus, my motorhome was my home.  I'm living with far fewer of my possessions than I had in my house on wheels.  Just what I can carry in an wheelie cabin suitcase and my handbag.    A freedom comes with being devoid of material  belongings that it helps to be reminded of from time to time.  And everything that I've chosen to bring assumes greater value because of the scarcity of possessions.  I like that.

Perhaps it's because my own little space here has the air of a retreat house that I'm having a quiet week......punctuated by youngsters, my fellow guests,  playing the occasional bit of music.  It's a good job that I like Nirvana!  Hard partying could have been on the cards but perhaps it's a blessing that's it's not.  After all that chest infection nonsense recharging the batteries is the order of the day.  I'm spending  daylight hours wandering and sightseeing at a gentle pace.  There's so much to see here yet I'll only touch the very tip of the iceberg.  And my relative solitude means that interactions with others are isolated and distinct rather than being near constant at home.  As such they seem more significant even though words are with strangers that I'm probably never going to meet again.  Quality not quantity.  It seems to be the theme of the week.