Friday, 31 March 2017

Understatement of The Year

A remark in the latest post by my mate Aril at Gnat Bottomed Towers reminded me that I'd thought about doing a post about Komodo dragons.   The idea came to me after I'd done the Google Doodle quiz which celebrated the 37th anniversary of Komodo National Park.  You can test yourself by following the link.

Frig!  Those creatures are scary.   That place has got to be down the bottom of the list of places in the world that I want to visit.  Lord knows how the person who took this photo got so up close and personal.  Maybe they had a death wish.

I know it's a bit of a spoiler but here's a sample question with its answer.

Q: True or False?  Komodo dragons are gentle and friendly creatures.
A: False:  They have been known to bite people.

Known to bite people!!!!  Given that they eat over half their body weight in one meal (oops another spoiler!) isn't this slightly underplaying their viciousness!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Doing A Reggie



I loved Leonard Rossiter.  Such a clever man.  Give me a rerun of 'Rising Damp' and I'm a happy bunny.  Or 'The Fall and Rise of Reggie Perrin', of course.  Here's the title sequence from that one where Reggie fakes his own death. Wasn't it mooted back in the '70s that we'd all escape the rat race that he was running from and would be working far fewer hours?  Sadly this prophecy hasn't yet come true.  The last few weeks at work have been hundingers. Lots of poorly people and I haven't been able to draw breath.  Sometimes I fantasise about 'doing a Reggie'!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Happy 14th

Wow!  Where has all that time gone?  It seems only yesterday that I was in a delivery suite where the birthing pool and scented candles had been redundant.  Louis had decided that following a birth plan was complete and utter bollocks.  He came into the world as he meant to go on, exerting his peculiar brand of authority.   So instead of floating around in a fluffy dressing  gown  presenting a picture of serenity I was lying immobile and catheterised after a C-section with black bags under my eye that could have held a week's worth of garbage. The  small pink baby that had resisted emergence to the world outside the womb for three whole days was lying on my tummy making weird snuffling noises. I didn't have one iota of a clue how to look after him but somehow I muddled along.   As I've been doing since.  Okay perhaps 2003 isn't really yesterday but it doesn't seem all that far back.

Fast forward fourteen years.  It occurred to me the other day that being the single mum of an only child was really rather special.  Happy birthday beautiful son.   As well as all the challenges that started on day one, you've brought incredible joy.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Fading Blooms

Photo:  Greenwich Peninsula
A day trip to London at Easter is planned and, after the success of our trip to the National Maritime Museum last year,  I think we'll head back to Greenwich.  It's now in easy reach of my parent's Southend home and there's so much to see and do there.

I'd love to take a peek at 'The Iris' an installation by artist, Rebecca Law.  It's running at the Now Gallery until 7 May consists of 10,000 flowers suspended with copper from the ceiling.  Doesn't it look amazing?

Now irises count among my favourite flowers.  But I know, from experience, that they don't fare well cut and stuck in a vase.  Their lifespan in this state only seems to be about 2-3 days.  I'm interested to see what state these flowers will be in over a month from the start of the exhibition.  Will they still look blooming?


Monday, 27 March 2017

Pulling

I dug around in the freezer yesterday and retrieved a yellow stickered shoulder of pork.   If I was a proper thrift blogger I'd be able to tell you how much it cost to the penny but dang!  I threw the label away without checking.  It was about £4.50.  I made pulled pork in my slow cooker with it.   Here's the result served with spring greens laced with anchovies and buttery mash.  There's an amazing amount left over that will keep us going for at least the next couple of days, if not more.  We're having some more with garlic bread and salad tonight.

I used this  easy-peasy recipe here.  Of course I went off piste.   I  am a culinary maverick, viewing cooking instructions as loose guidelines and not something to be followed to the letter. What the hell are garlic and onion powders anyway?  They sound like something that astronauts cook with.  I ditched them and just added three crushed cloves of garlic to the spice mix instead.  I can vouch for the fact that my adjustment didn't detract from deliciousness!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Happy BST!

Sod Hygge!  Even though I've written about it in a positive way in the past I'm really only making the best of a bad job.  Those longer days of light that I crave are here.  They've been creeping in for a few weeks now. So thank goodness. We can ditch all those silly notions that blankets and candles and cosiness will make everything alright. Hurrah! Losing an hour's sleep is a small price to pay.  A very happy British Summer Time peeps.  Make the very best of it!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Playing To Strengths

Louis is happy and doing well at his new school.   He has settled in, made friends and developed a surprisingly keen interest in 3D design.  His headmaster suggested to me at parents evening last week that he might have been a square peg in a round hole at the grammar school.

The same metaphor might apply to my recent experience of formal education.  I was struggling along with a masters degree until a few months back.  It was such a relief when I stopped and decided to pursue learning under  my own steam in a much more informal and flexible way.

I have a friend who is still studying at that advanced level and loves what she is doing. She's considering going on to do a doctorate in her spare time.  She's found her niche, gets distinctions for her assignments and presents her ideas at conferences.  In contrast I hated my studies, couldn't fathom out what was expected of me and had writer's block every time it came to producing an essay. I'd sit for hours and only manage to commit a few words to print.  Additional support from the university, as a neurology assessment for dyspraxia indicated, might have helped the penny to drop.  Yet I didn't have the time or motivation to make this happen.

I'm a skilled clinician and am good at teaching and supporting others professionally.  Outside work I'm a reasonable cook and homemaker.   There's a half decent head for business that could be explored.  I'm comfortable with writing in a more relaxed style.  I make things that please myself and others.  But I'm NOT an natural academic.  I'll leave that to those who have a bent for organising data and critical analysis.  Why struggle?  It's dawned on me it would be much better embracing and develop the talents that come naturally to me.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Smiley Music




Often the tunes that I share are on the doleful, navel gazing side.  So I thought I'd show you this, my warm up music in the car on the way to my 10K  '80s run last weekend.  I love the B52s for their joyous energy.  Their songs just make me want to dance And the subject matter of this one makes me laugh out loud. 

Thursday, 23 March 2017

New Phone

Aside from the naughty wardrobe updates from the charity shops I don't buy a lot for myself these days. Retail therapy doesn't really cut the mustard.    I pretty much have all that I need.  It's a good place to be,

But yesterday, after dropping my mobile phone and shattering the screen I decided to get a new one rather than opting for a rather expensive repair.  It's probably a purchase that's long overdue.  For yonks now people, especially those who are harder of hearing, have been complaining about the call quality on my existing phone.  I took it to a repair shop and the guy couldn't find a fault.  And let's justify myself further by saying that there was already an existing crack.   I've also been having camera envy for some time.  I ditched a proper SLR years ago and take all my pictures on my phone.   I love the convenience and the portability.  Many of my friends' shots lately have been of much higher quality than my own.

So my special treat to myself is a reconditioned Samsung S6 and saved at least £150 on the price it would have been new.  It has a camera that reviewers rave over.   I purchased it outright and didn't go for an upgrade.  My existing mobile package is just too good a deal so I'll transfer the existing SIM card.

My new shiny toy is arriving today.  To my surprise I'm really rather excited.  It supports my theory that occasional treats bring far more pleasure than if you're spoiling yourself all the time.   I've bought something else too.  Ms Butterfingers has decided that this time around a super protective case might be a rather good idea!


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Eating In The Street

I don't know if it was all that running that I did at the weekend but I'm really hungry at the moment.  So even though I'd had breakfast I found myself yesterday, during team meeting, tucking into my self assembled lunch, a grazing box of cheese cubes, cherry tomatoes, grapes and nuts,  before 10am.  It's a scenario that many office workers will find familiar I'm sure.

At around the time that could be officially classed as lunchtime I nipped into the local Coop and bought a  supplementary cheese and onion sandwich and a bag of crisps to pacify that rumbling tummy.   I was off to Exeter for a ward meeting and on the way to the car I started to tuck into to the bag of salt and vinegar sticks.  It brought back a memory.

When I was  a child in the seventies eating in the streets was a no-no, a social faux-pas.  I remember my Mama Lovelygrey buying a bakery snack when we were out shopping  once and we had to cower in an alleyway to eat. I thought that it was all a bit silly myself but my mum was insistent.  Etiquette had to be preserved.   Now that street food is an established part of British culture is it now completely acceptable to be seen snaffling a sausage roll in public?




Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Black Dog




Here's a very clever cartoon from the World Health Organisation.   It will resonate with many of us and contains metaphors that might help explain what depression really entails to those who haven't got a clue.  My own black dog walks to heel  now, to remind me of all the valuable lessons that he taught me, most importantly about being kind to myself and others.  Every so often he needs the Barbara Woodhouse treatment so he doesn't dominate my life again.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Just Like Flashdance - With Medals!

I've gone so super quiet on the running front lately that I bet some of you thought that I'd changed my  exercise regime from 'Couch to 5K' back to '5K to Couch Potato'!  But no.  Quietly in the background my fitness plan has been ticking away.  I'm normally out pounding the pavements for 45 minutes twice a week on weekdays.  Then at weekends I've been doing longer and longer runs.  After all I promised my sister that I'd run a half marathon in her memory and the Great Bristol Half Marathon beckons in September.

As an interim step Disco Queen Vikki and I signed up for the  Exerer Age UK's '80s run, a respectable 10K.  It was held yesterday.  'Can I come round and raid your wardrobe?'  I asked my lovely running companion.  'It's all in hand chick.'  she texted back.  And so it was.  Here we are doled up in custom made tutus, sparkly headbands, lurid baggy Ts, fishnet gloves and pink hairspray It was just like Flashdance!
How we did get on?  Well slowly and surely was our mantra. We are novice runners in our '50s after all.  The winner got round the course in an impressive 32 minutes.  Vikki jogged the whole route and came in with a time of 1:18-ish.  The insole in my trainer started to rub at about the 8th kilometre mark so I took it easy and walked a little bit at the end of the course.  After all I'm used to including my five minute warm up and warm down strolls in with my time.   I came in about five minutes after my sparkly friend. Something needs sorting out on the footwear front before I tackle another long run.

Again this is a measure of how far I've come in the three years since the operation on my knee to repair a snapped cruciate ligament.  It was great that, in spite of being disguised in a curly afro wig I recognised Mark, the physiotherapist who treated me at that time.  He  was doing the run as well.  I was happy that he could see that I was one of his success stories.

This is us just after we finished.  Are you surprised at just how perky we look?




We are super happy with our funky medals and the fact that we've raised money for Age UK's work in Exeter.  Some of the funds donated includes money from my sister's estate.  She overpaid her rent before she died so that the repayment is going in the kitty.  I hope that she was watching us from her cloud above yesterday and is pleased that yet another good thing has been done in her memory.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

A Big Zucchini and Other Freebies

Congratulations to my friend and fellow blogger  Meanqueen at Life After Money who's just published her 3,000th post!  As a tribute I'm taking inspiration from her today.  At the bottom of her blog roll she has a fascinating list of the free stuff that she's been given, found or asked for.   In homage I thought I'd do one myself. When I started I thought that my own tally would be tiny. But I've been thinking about it over the last few days and it has grown and grown. I've included gifts where these are things that friends and family are clearing out.   It turns out that I haven't done at all badly!

Super cool retro swivel seat named affectionately as the 'white pussy chair' by Mr Metrosexual, rocking chair with my name on it coming soon from Red Mel, aran and purple knitted cardies, foraged blackberries, crab apples, sloes, wild garlic and,elderflowers, Eye test lamp, pound coins left in lockers, teddy bear stuffing, an angel feather, a postcard of a Stanley Lench picture, Old Faithful optical illusion bookmarks from Yellowstone National Park, a rubber duck, a tennis ball for my dog friend Lola and a three legged table base I'm keeping for a Meanqueen recycling project all found during one beach clean up, shells and sea glass, my favourite little going out bag, an embroidered purse from a kind shopkeeper in Grenada, a replacement laptop just at the right time, my desk, a big courgette left on my doorstep (that's a zucchini to you American readers), entry to the Eden Project, a huge ugly Sports Direct mug that got broken really quickly, a bit of the old pier at Brighton, a dress , Yellowstone blankets, free stationery and tape measures from medical reps, a stove that burns twigs, four hats, a fake water drop tattoo, books again from Red Mel, a shelf unit for my hall.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Diesel 10

This is Diesel 10, one of the acquaintances of Thomas the Tank Engine. For some unknown reason Louis was REALLY scared of him when he was a nipper.

I love the fact that this blogging lark is a two way process.  When I mooted the idea of getting a Fiat 500 diesel a few weeks back a couple of you questioned my idea of the diesel option.  Sure the fuel economy is good but because of pollution the UK government is leaning on us heavily to consider petrol alternatives.  It seems nitrogen oxides  are the problem.  I needed to revisit this.

An engineer told me not to worry too much on the grounds that urban pollution is the issue and I rarely drive in big cities.  He also thought that the minuscule fuel consumption meant that my contribution to global warming, air quality and adverse collective karma  would be tiny.  I was nearly persuaded until I did a little research of my own.  I've discovered Equa Index, a brilliant website which provides car buyers with air quality data so that they can be better informed.  They also give real word figures for fuel consumption which come out way under those provided by the car companies who seem to employ naked super models in hot climates as testers.

What I've discovered it that the Fiat 500 Diesel comes out really badly in air quality terms scoring the worst possible rating.   The bottom line is, on the back of this data, I won't be considering it.  But even though the real fuel economy of the petrol versions doesn't seem entirely dissimilar to that of my current car,  I'll still considering one of those.  After all, style, nippiness and trim levels also have a part to play in my buying decisions too.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Lego: Childless vs. Parents



Here's one for all you animal lovers.  I know that there are a few.   This post will warm the cockles of the heart of even the nastiest bastards out there.

The childless out there view Lego with misty eyed nostalgia.  Parents who've just trodden on a piece can form the belief that it was just put on this earth to cause serious pain.  It's good to be reminded what a versatile toy those colourful building blocks can be.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Presence vs. Mindfulness

Years back now I completed an eight week mindfulness based stress reduction course.  I was doing a bit of work related research the other day and  found that a chap called Dave Potter was offering a free eight week course that is much the same as the one I did.  That's got to be useful for someone out there.

A mindful perspective has changed my life. It's got me through some of the difficult times.  Like the twenty four hours of uncertainty when doctors couldn't tell me if I was going to live or die and the three long nights that I spent with my sister at the hospice when she was wakeful and distressed.  It's powerful stuff.

But until I read  The Power of Now I didn't actually appreciate that I could do a lot more work on stilling my kooky little brain.  Eckhart Tolle prefers to use the word 'presence' rather than mindfulness as he thinks that the latter suggests a mind that is full.  In my old meditative moments I used to be quite accepting of losing focus and following a train of random thought for minutes at a time.  Now I'm far more aware of doing that and seem to be able to get back to focusing on 'The Now' a lot more quickly.  That's not just when I'm 'adopting the position' and formally meditate. It's rubbed off into the real world as well.

The effect this is having is quite astounding.  I'm busier than I ever have been at work and busy-ness used to equate to a frenzy of fretting.     Eckhart Tolle says that we have three choices in a situation.  We can walk away, accept or suffer.  I need to work to pay the bills and support the kid.  Peaceful acceptance seems a no brainer for the time-being.

 As I am a tightwad I park my car in a road a few minutes from the office rather than the adjacent car park.  It occurred to me yesterday that worrying about the day ahead had been a feature of this walk into town.  I'd go over the things  that I hadn't done and needed to do until I was in a right old state.  I barely noticed my surroundings as I walked.

This week has been different. The route takes me on a path by the banks of the River Erme.  Until this week I'd never been mesmerised before by the light bouncing off the water. But I've stopped with a sense of wonder for the last two days. Wow!  Yes, there's definitely been a change.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Complete and Utter Hippy




Work is busy and my home life is filled with conundrums to solve....I need  music in my life for its therapeutic qualities.   'Play something gentle.'  I request of Lou as we're travelling to catch the school bus.   He often puts on The Innocence Mission.

I'm going back thirty years to sixth form and university days when I revisit the music of Jon and Vangelis.   A boyfriend from those times was scathing.  It's so freakin' hippy and he was a fan of obscure indie artists who were heavy on angst.   But the love and peace vibes are restorative and soothing.  This video must be a clip from 'Top of the Pops' as evidenced by all that hand waving.

Jon Anderson, the singer, has a belief system that Wikipedia describes as syncretic, a blending of different faith traditions.  I like that word.  It seems to fit the bill for me too.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Carved

I'm featuring some workmanship today of the highest order.  It's a far cry from some of my bodges.  Charlotte Howarth, is a good friend of my brother. She is a master letter carver who was taught  to carve stone by her stepdad.  For years we'd heard stories about each other but had never met.  That was finally rectified at my brother's wedding.  We hope to meet up again when I next take a trip to Norfolk.


As a seaside dweller I love the wave bowl above but more typically Charlotte's work includes quirky lettering. This is gorgeous.  I wonder if it is pocket sized and can be carried around as a reminder of another's love.  I'll have to ask her.



I'm not sure why I was surprised that she can rustle up a mean linocut as well.  The process of making the printing plates does involve cutting after all.  I find the simplicity of this picture of sloes fabulous.  I love the definition of her lines.


I'm showing Stanley Kubrick's headstone, not because he's a famous person but because I love the idea of a memorial carved on a rock just like one that you'd find on Dartmoor.  It's not the sort of thing that you normally find in communal cemetries in Britain.  Their rules and regulations normally stipulate far more formal headstones have to be erected.  Stanley didn't have to abide by those rules.  His grave is on the estate where he lived under his favourite tree.  Fabulous!

Monday, 13 March 2017

Clumsiness

Both Louis and I are clumsy.  It's an expensive old business.  Stuff is always getting broken.  There's been two glasses this week alone.  Mine is caused by a combination of poor proprioception (awareness of where body parts are in space), impaired 3D vision and, since pregnancy, reduced sensation in my hands caused by carpal tunnel syndrome.  It's better than it was when I had a baby in my tum.  Then I couldn't even peel a satsuma as I had no idea of the pressure that I was exerting.  Paying attention helps but it isn't the entire picture.  Things often slip out of grasp.

I wouldn't admit easily to being a perfectionist but I am. For instance I'm mortified if I go over old blog posts and find clumsy languages, typos or punctuation errors. I'm working on another personal online project at the moment. All will be revealed when it's done. I've been attending to the minutiae.  Everything has to look right. Perhaps it's why Louis describes me as OCD.

My lack of dexterity makes it difficult for me to achieve perfection in the real world though.  Some of the things that I make or repairs I've attempted are rather a bodge. I pretend it doesn't bother me but it does enormously.   It occurred to me yesterday that perfectionism and cack-handedness are difficult crosses to bear in combination! 

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Travelling as a Lone Mum

Here's Louis with a friend that he made outside that excellent Science Park in Granada last month.   Our trip to Spain was one in a long line of holidays that just my son and I have had together.  When I'm away I hardly ever see other lone mums with their kids and I've only come across one other, a woman from Ireland, with a motorhome. The reasons that we're as rare as rocking horse droppings may be financial.  These single parent stuff isn't an economic walk in the park.  But I suspect it also may be because taking a kid abroad on your own just seems plain scary.  So here's my tips to encourage maybe just one person to take the plunge.


  • I used to read brilliantly intrepid books by an Irish woman called Dervla Murphy.  They come highly recommended. She used to take her child, from the age of five, to fantastically remote places in Africa and Asia.  I admire her nerve but I tend to stay on the beaten track and go to places where I feel safe as a single woman.  
  • I book accommodation where we can feel comfortable using hotel deals, AirBnB and of course my motorhome.  A very cheap hostel  aka  permanent home of dropouts close to the railway station in Vancouver on the last night of our North American trip in 2015 was an exception.  I was scared to use the communal bathroom and Louis whinged heavily to his dad that I'd made him stay somewhere very dodgy.
  • We make friends on our travels.  I keep in touch with quite a few women that I've met on French campsites when they're staying there with their husbands and families.  But I'm careful not to intrude much on their family lives and I don't hit on their husbands!  There's been more than one or two tipsy conversations where other mums admit their envy of my situation.   We won't go there.
  • I keep the pace quite slow.  We rise late and tend to just see one thing in a day.  I might have a siesta after lunch.
  • Now I would have loved to have visited the house of Federico Garcia Lorca whilst in Granada. Similarly some of the art museums in Seattle and Vancouver might have been on my 'must see list' if I was a grown up traveller.  I forego some sites to keep the peace and make room for stuff that a kid wants to see. Science parks and zoos come top of Lou's wishlist.
  • Two travelling is obviously more expensive than one.  There's lots of ways that I keep costs down - booking early, booking late, no new holiday wardrobes, cheap eating out, picnics, free attractions................There's many ways and means.
There's a start to my list.  This post may evolve as I think of more tips.  Happy holiday everyone whoever you choose to travel with!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Reasons To Stay Alive

Here's another picture of a picture  from the Stanley Lench exhibit that I took on my visit to the Museum of the Mind with Aril last week.  While I was there I spotted a copy of the Matt Haig's book  Reasons to Stay Alive.   It reminded me that I'd said that I'd read it.

Now money is tight at the moment so I'm being ultra careful. After all I don't want to forego trips away in the van just because I've splashed the cash recklessly.  That meant I wasn't going  to buy the book.  Instead I  went on my library's website and found that I could borrow it as an e-book for free.  Result! It even saved me the 75p fee for a reservation that I had been prepared to stump up.

I read the entire thing in less than a day.  It is thought provoking and funny with some cracking quotes.  Here's one.

“Wherever you are, at any moment, try and find something beautiful. A face, a line out of a poem, the clouds out of a window, some graffiti, a wind farm. Beauty cleans the mind.” 

My beauty at the moment?;  The birdsong coming in through my open window.

What the book emphasised was that those of us who've suffered depression experience it differently. Matt Haig, and some of the people that I work with tell of the longing that a day will be over.  I've never had that.  But his description of extreme anxiety is all too familiar.   Paranoia and the need to exert extreme control over the minutiae of everyday life are predominant features of my own illness.

“Three in the morning is never the time to try and sort out your life.” 

There!  Another quote.  And Matt Haig likes a list.  On his website there's one with fourteen things he loves on it.  Let me follow in his footsteps and do one of my own with the first things that pop into my head.

  • Arriving  in Brittany and thinking that I've come home
  • My boy giggling
  • A perfectly cooked fried egg (soft yolk, frilly bottom) on perfectly cooked buttered toast (multi-grain, no overdone, piping hot with salty butter)
  • Watching Beehive Geyser in Yellowstone National Park
  • The love I feel from the beautiful, kind, funny people in my life.  I'm lucky to have many.
  • Dancing in a festival field
  • Spotify
  • Being kind
  • Getting lost in the process of writing and making art
  • The sea in all its moods
  • My motorhome
  • Going downhill on a bike
  • Spas
  • Smells:  Line dried washing, almond soap  bacon (of course!), new car, Chanel perfumes - Coco Noir, 19 and Cristalle Eau Verte even though I don't allow myself to buy them anymore!

Friday, 10 March 2017

It's Different Here




I came to Devon from my  childhood home in 1983 and was astounded at the vast difference between regional and national TV.  Previously in Essex they seemed to merge into one. For they both told stories of serious crimes, murder, armed robberies and the like.  I knew I'd arrived in a gentler place when the weatherman announced details of jumble sales in village halls.  Misdemeanours that would have seemed petty in the South East were treated with a heightened sense of seriousness. There was also a crappy rabbit puppet that hopped about to announce children's birthdays.

More than thirty years has passed.  I'm pleased to see though that minor crime is still newsworthy in rural areas as Russell Howard demonstrated when he chose to comment on  this story from Wales. Perhaps there is still hope for humanity when a  melodramatic news reporter and a very earnest young policeman are still able to treat apple scrumping with the utmost gravity.   It could well have been from around these parts for cider orchards are bountiful here too.   Give this clip a go if you need mirth in your life. It raised more than a chuckle in our house.



Thursday, 9 March 2017

The Lurgy

It is wet and relatively warm here on the south western tip of Great Britain.  Just the environment for bugs to flourish! Louis' dad, Dad's girlfriend and her two children have been struck down by the Noro-virus, this little beastie here.   This sorry state of affairs was disclosed when Lou arrived back at my house on Monday having spent the weekend at Infection Central.  It was as if a germ warfare machine had landed in my mist.  After all teenage boys don't have the most fastidious hygiene habits.  I expected the worst.

Except the incubation for the illness, 48 hours, has passed and neither of us are hugging the toilet.  That adversion to personal cleanliness must have a protective effect.  Others haven't been so lucky.  On Tuesday Louis' school and the big neighbouring comprehensive took the unprecedented decision to close the buildings for three days so that they could deep clean them.  150 pupils had been struck down at that stage.  Lou was delighted at this news.  'But I thought you liked the new school?'  I said.  'I do' he replied. 'But holiday is always better than term time.'  Fair dues!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

What the......!!!

Photo: th1098
These were Louis' words when we came across one of these creatures at the very excellent Science Park in Grenada on our recent holiday.  'I know, I know!' I said excitedly. It was an axolotl, not the one we saw as my own photos were fuzzy. This is from Wikipedia. This type of salamander is also known as the Mexican walking fish and are an endangered species in the wild for a number of reasons. Most notably one of the only two lakes where they live in the world has been drained!  It beggars belief doesn't it?

So how was I able to identify this creature.  Well, we had a captive one in one of my school's biology labs.   He was called Aristotle the Axolotl.  A rather fine name don't you think?  I don't believe that I  ever saw him move in his tank.  He just stood there on dry land.  In fact  he was so lethargic I had a theory that he was stuffed.  So I was surprised to see that the ones in Spain were quite lively!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Love Me and Mend



I included a link to this Mumford and Son song before but I think it deserves a post of its very own. For this, the title track from their first album,  has become one of my favourite songs.  The lyrics, that lean heavily on Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing'  are strikingly beautiful and some of the most wisdom laden I've heard anywhere.   So there's no apology for reposting them either. They blow me away every time I play the track. Which is often for I am boosted by their power.

Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be
There is a design,
An alignment to cry,
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be


It occurred to me the other day that this is not just a blueprint of what we should be seeking.  Rather it a model of how we ourselves should behave in all our relationships.  Not just the romantic ones.

Monday, 6 March 2017

A Surprise For Mama Lovelygrey (If She Keeps Away From This Blog Post!)



It's normally Papa Lovelygrey that checks my blog out first at my childhood home so he needs to tell Mama Lovelygrey not to look today.  For I want to give her a surprise. Remember when her handbag was stolen she lost the little wire angel that Louis and I had bought her?  Well it was tipping down yesterday afternoon.  So I thought that I'd stay snuggled up inside  and do a  bit of crafting.  It's about time I extended my creative endeavours beyond writing and  that slowly progressing linocut. I  dug out my pliers and  jewellery making supplies and made Mum a new angel to carry around. Here's the result made from brass and silver  with semi precious beads.  The wings are a bit wonky as  the wire was in danger of being overworked and snapping.  Isn't it usual to describe something less than perfect as having rustic charm these days?

The angel is only part of the present that I have for Mum.  Louis and I visited Cockington Court last Sunday. We had a wonderful time wandering in the grounds and shared a rather marvellous cream tea.  We especially enjoyed looking in all the craft shops.  Seeing other people's work is always inspirational. Louis bought a little glass octopus.  It's rare that I'm tempted to spend much outside charity shops and food stores these days but I couldn't resist this.

It came from a little workshop called Driftmoods where the owner,  a lovely guy,  recycles old roofing tiles.  This slate tealight holds a glass frame which contains a real angel feather. Honest!  They're made so that people can light a candle for a departed loved one. I thought that it would be a beautiful way for Mum to remember my sister so that's gone in the gift box too.







And here it is, complete with worry people to replace those that also were nicked.  I'll be taking it to Mum when I visit her during the Easter break.  I hope she'll like it.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Days Out In London: The Museum of the Mind

Now I love a little lie on a Saturday and Sunday.  I'm not like the teenager who sleeps in the loft.  He'd probably stay in bed until mid afternoon if I let him on the weekends that he spends with me. Sitting about propped up by pillows, drinking from my vat of tea until about 9am is more my bag.  That's what I'm planning to do this morning.

But yesterday I was up at the crack of dawn. 5am to be precise.  I was on a mission to catch the  6:20am  Paddington bound train at Newton Abbot.   For it was about time that I caught up with my fellow blogger Aril from Gnat Bottomed Towers.  It looks like she's beaten me to it in blogging about our little trip.

Aril and I have formed a firm friendship that started out from our shared habit of writing about all things random.  Twice yearly visits to London with her to  museums that are off the beaten track have now become firmly entrenched in my social calendar.  Previous trips have led us to explore the Hunterian, Geffrye and the Horniman (snigger!)  museums.   This time we hauled up at the Museum of the Mind at the Bethlem Hospital, more familiarly known in the past as Bedlam, the oldest psychiatrist hospital in the world.  If I tempt you to follow in our footsteps please be aware that opening times are limited and weekend access is restricted to the first and last Saturday of the month.

The loveliest friendly volunteers greeted us when we arrived.  We started our visit with coffee and cake  sitting in wonderful surroundings that housed a gorgeously gleeful textile exhibition. In contrast the  statues by Caius Gabriel Cibber entitled 'Raving' and 'Madness' either side of the stairway nearly moved me to tears, especially the man in chains.  He is a reminder of a past where poorly people were ill treated in this country.  Sadly this type of treatment still goes on around the world today.

Using lots of art that has been produced by people that have needed to be there over the years, the museum explores the history of the hospital and themes around mental health and illness.  Much of the work is quite disturbing, like this but  it arises from dark places in the soul.  They give us a privileged insight into suffering.
You can buy a version of the Inkblot test in the shop and this wallpaper adorns one of the walls. Your interpretation of what the splodges represent are meant to give clues about your underlying personality.  Aril and I came out completely different and probably should be sworn enemies.   Let's include the Wikipedia link that tells more, mainly because its inventor Rorshach was a bit of a honey!

There's art with happier themes as well as the melancholy including lots of cats by Louis Wain who was a patient at the hospital in the 1920s and '30s.  Maybe he was inspired by feline visitors to the grounds of the hospital.  Today there are parakeets in the trees surrounding the building.  I was quite excited but Aril was non plussed.  Apparently they're quite common in the area now.

I only took a picture of these bottles to be a bit arty and it came out quite well!

Here's another exhibit from that textile exhibition.


Until June the museum houses a temporary exhibition of the work of Stanley Lench,  another patient at the hospital.  He went on to study at the Royal College of Art and gained an international reputation.  More evidence that, from adversity something quite wonderful can be spawned.  This was my favourite piece but I must include one of his more typical colourful paintings as well.

There!

I cannot recommend the Museum of the Mind more highly. It is such a though provoking place that is a feast for the sense and invokes emotion in all its forms. If you don't believe me, that darling Grayson Perry is a big fan too.

So where will Aril and I's trips to 'the middle of no-one' in the Big Smoke take us next.  During our debrief in the pub we've already identified somewhere wonderful.  Look out for another show and tell post from our shared travels in the autumn.


Saturday, 4 March 2017

A Write Old Muddle

Well here's a funny thing that I learnt in a Facebook article the other day.  Did you know that English speakers use a very specific order when there are several adjectives before a word? Us natives know how to do it almost instinctively but it drives those who are learning our language nuts.  The order goes:

Quantity or number
Quality or opinion.
Size.
Age.
Shape.
Colour
Proper adjective
Purpose or qualifier

And if you don't believe me, try mixing them up.  There are multi-coloured, little, wonderful, five kittens in the blog's picture today!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Spring is Springing

Everywhere I look where I go about my travels there are bulbs in flower. Massive great clumps of narcissi wave  from roadside kerbs as I drive by, little bunches of snowdrops peep out from lawns and the crocuses, my favourites are in abundance.

Here's a rather lovely sight from Cockington Court on Sunday.  No formal park planting here, just an untamed mixture of all things pretty. So joyful.  There's no doubt about it. Spring has sprung.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

I Just Bought A Paddy Field

It's a wee while since I wrote about my lendwithcare activities, my loans to people in the Third World.  They tick along nicely in the background, apparently changing lives.  It's such a wonderful idea that I thought I'd bring it to the attention of newer readers.  There's about £170 in the account, added in dribs and drabs over the years.  It gets recycled as instalments are repaid. I  view the money as a gift that I'll never drawn back.

So I've now lent nearly £600 to seventy three different people working on twenty eight different projects.  lendwithcare say I've helped 288 family members and created thirty one jobs.  I love the diversity of what these people do with my money.  There is a wedding photographers, a rickshaw owner, an internet cafe owner and a lady who is now able to recycle her pig poo.  What strikes me is the tiny needed to help people make significant improvements to their lives.  Some people are only asking for a couple of hundred quid and yet the income gains from their investments seem so significant.

And so now I've helped to buy a paddy field.  Conditions are right in Devon to have one here at the moment as it's so soggy but no.  This one's in a Cambodian  village and sixteen of us have helped this lovely smily lady, Yoeurn Yat to get  the funds together to increase rice production to meet extra local demand.   Let's hope my little loan is life changing for her and her family!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Not Swearing

Here's the boy at Cockington Court at the weekend.  He's a sucker for all things cute and furry and this little fellow fitted the bill perfectly.  One week in and all is going swimmingly at the new school.  It's early days but it seems that the decision to move Louis was a good one.

My boy is great as a teenage goes.  The Kevin ripcord hasn't yet been pulled.  He's got a bit sweary of late though.  That's got to stop before he gives one of his grannies a heart attack.

'But you do it too, Mum.' he said when I remonstrated at the weekend.  Yep, I've already 'fessed up here on my blog that I'm a bit of a fishwife at times.  Not every second word mind but the occasional expletive slips out.

And so we have a pact.  If either of us swears then we will give the other person a pound.  Except the first time around it happens and the penalty is £20.  It's done the trick.  Not a *-"*$& or a )"&%!  has passed my lips in front of my son since the deal was done.

Lou has been looking for alternative exclamations to Anglo Saxon profanities for when he needs them.  He found a webpage that details 50 words that sound rude but actually aren't.  I cautioned him against using the word 'bumfiddler'   I nearly crashed the car laughing when he came out with it.   Even though it sounds thoroughly filthy it  merely means someone who is a polluter or spoiler.