Wednesday, 21 December 2011

hanging around

Day three of the Christmas holidays and our usual domestic inertia has set in.  I have seen J & E for precisely 20 minutes so far today.  They are both, resolutely, staying in their rooms in their pyjamas being very quiet and low maintenance.

I dreamt of these times on many occasions when my medium sized children were small.  Those years were spent out and about, strapping them in the car seat, unstrapping them, loading various bags and baggages with snacks.  Now they help themselves to the cupboards and make their own lunch.  There's something very liberating for all of us about it but it's also a little bit sad.  We seem to spend less time in each other's company.

Our household and our Christmases are definitely changing.  The clothes are getting bigger, the cupboards are barer more often and the demands are different but just as, well, demanding.  It's interesting to see and feel how we're all changing and reacting to the next phase of our family life.

It's all good but it's not the same.  We'll still be making reindeer cake on Friday though!

I went to a Zumba Christmas party on Monday.  Not that I've been to Zumba very regularly since September.  Monday classes clash with college, Friday I'm invariably catching up with the stuff I've neglected all week and I just can't face getting off the sofa in the evening to make an 8pm class.  It was beautifully organised and everyone had a good night from what I could tell.   Over a hundred Wiltshire ladies, dolled up and determined to have a good time.  We looked lovely and very fit, of course!

It was very entertaining despite the fact that it's the first time I've encountered incessant facebook photo taking.  I don't have a facebook account.  I don't want one but it now appears my photograph has found its way to facebookland thanks to my fellow party goers.  Does a little partying  warrant a download of a couple of hundred megabytes without actually asking if anyone might have an objection?  If I wanted to put myself on facebook, I would.  I don't want other people to do it for me.    I haven't seen the photographs but I imagine they're not ones I would choose to keep for myself, least of all circulate.

Is it me being ever-so 20th century or am I right to feel a little peeved? 

Saturday, 17 December 2011

how things change....

One of the few things I remember about my childhood Christmases was the advent calendar.  I shared one with my sister and it was the same one every year.  We were instructed not to rip the doors off and had to close them up at the end of the festive season so that the calendar could be stored carefully away in the sideboard.  It had a very traditional nativity scene with glowing halos, wise men and a starry starry night. 

This year we have three advent calendars in the house.  One (as pictured) with each little pocket stuffed with two identical chocolates from the Celebrations box bought by Grandma at the beginning of December.  They have to have identical chocolates because although my children are well in the age range of communication and discernible speech, there would be dreadful morning rows if one had a Snickers and one a Milky Way to munch on before breakfast.

We then have two others, kindly provided by Granny, magnetised to the fridge and much enjoyed (still).  This year these are of a more traditional ilk - one year we had a daily joke, no less.  The little windows are opened with as much enthusiasm, usually just after the chocolate wrapper has been put in the bin.  Once these calendars are finished with, I'll store them with the Christmas decorations, still not quite able to consign them to the recycling bin.

I heard on the radio a couple of days ago that Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year particularly between couples as they try to impose their own family traditions on the other.  When chatting about this to The Worker, neither of us could remember a great deal of our early Christmases but both agreed that many of our traditions come from the above mentioned Granny.  We have stockings every year for all of us (not just the kids) and there are table presents.  We drink to absent friends at eleven (not one of Granny's), we have to have ham, egg and chips on Christmas Eve (J's tradition) and we still leave a 'cake' for Rudolph and a little sherry for Santa.  Hardly ground-breaking stuff but I wonder whether our kids will insist that their partners adopt these rituals when they have homes of their own?

There are other traditions in our house, of course:

- I always forget to send several Christmas cards, usually the ones to people far, far away

- The Worker asks for wrapping paper at 10pm on Christmas Eve

- I lose several stocking presents throughout December, only to find them in January

- I forget to make a Christmas cake until 15th

- the bins are always full because I miss the last collection which is usually when The Worker is away

What are your traditions?

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

wild? it's livid!

This is one of our favourite family sayings and very apt it is for today's inclement weather.  So far we've had wind, rain, hail, snow, thunder and a smattering of sunshine in between the dark, scary clouds.

I have a rotten cold - forgive me if you already know this.  I had to get my haircut this morning so drove across the county boundary in my little Punto dreaming of a big 4 x 4 with heated seats and windows that don't fug up quite so much as mine do.  My 4 x 4 dreams were quashed when I had problems parking - never my strong point.  I was trying to save 60p.  Pointless.  I blame my cold.  I've been blaming it for the last fortnight and this is why I'm in my usual Christmas pickle.  I've written and posted almost all the Christmas cards.  I've bought and wrapped and posted almost all the Christmas presents.  I've cleaned almost a whole bathroom. I've thought about making some mince pies and almost bought some mincemeat.  It's almost Christmas!

Never mind.  I've had a lovely haircut.  I have finally grown out my layers and am back to my bobbed curlyish, greyish at the roots mop - something will have to be done about that.  What possessed me to give my hair such a severe chop a couple of years ago I still have to fathom.  I won't be doing that again in a hurry.  I don't have the right sort of cheekbones for short hair - I don't really have cheekbones.

I'm waiting for The Worker to return home.  I'm always a little twitchy in the winter as he does thousands of miles in the car each year.  I love the dark nights until I start thinking about the roads and traffic.  With today's howling gales, I'll be even more pleased to see him than I usually am.  Also, there was a clunk in the chimney yesterday.  He needs to get a torch out and get that sorted before he lights the fire!

Monday, 12 December 2011

school's out....

I'm done.  The first assessment has been submitted.  I managed to get everything finished on time despite the efforts of various online file converters and have left my work suitable labelled and organised in my 'space' at college.

I've never had a 'space' before.  It seems to me that a lot of art speak refers to 'space'.  Go into any gallery and someone with trendy looking glasses will be talking about the 'great space' - a usually big room, usually painted white.  My space is basically a corner created by two tall boards about a metre and a half wide each with a desk and a chair and a drawer unit that I appropriated at the beginning of term.  I like it.  It's like sitting in a big book and filling the pages.

I'm lucky to have a room of my own at home.  I use the term 'of my own' lightly.  This is not the same thing as a 'space'.  My room is where everything that doesn't quite belong to someone else ends up.  It's the room which always needs a tidy up, a sort out.  It's the room where everything gets slung.  It's the room where I hoard my stash of materials - craft and otherwise.  It's the room where I try to work and think and make in between making the dinner and contemplating the necessity of yet another load of laundry.  I love my room at home and I appreciate the space I have.  If I was being very greedy, I'd have a sofa in it but I've got too much stuff in it so the sofa will have to wait.  I'd only fall asleep on it anyway so I suppose not having a sofa in there is a very good thing.  I only have to go next door to the living room if I need one.

On to other matters....

I posted a picture of my red satchel because I got it two Christmases ago.  It gets overlooked on a daily basis as I reach for smaller, less red bags.  I often use it when I go to galleries and exhibitions because it's big enough to take a sketchbook but not too bulky.

I think it needs to be brought off its hook and used for the festive season.  What do you think?  I posted it also because I'm quite interested in bags:  how we use them, what we put in them, what gets left at the bottom.  I think of them as our own little portable rooms, a space which we carry around with us.  We all know that you can tell a lot about the person about their bag - what's in it, whether they even carry one, whether they let friends/children/husbands through the fastenings for a rummage. 

Do you have a special bag?  Have you used the same one forever?  Do you eschew the lure and convenience of the day bag?  Are you a bag floozie?

Sunday, 11 December 2011

I really should be....

...finishing off my project for this term's assessment

...wrapping some presents

...ordering a few I've forgotten(whoops!)

...writing the next chapter

...popping a little colour on my greying roots

...taking some more benylin for my two week old cough

...exfoliating and moisturising my winter-parched skim

...crocheting a few more snowflakes

...making next week's list

I'm going to, I just need someone or something to separate my backside from the sofa...

Have a lovely week.


Friday, 9 December 2011

too late for this...

....but it does look great...a kind of postal secret santa.

It's called The Curiosity Project. Has anyone ever participated in online swaps?

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

a good yarn

This is what I'm looking forward to after Friday.  A little gentle knitting with colourful yarn.  I've written the Christmas cards.  The presents are in the house (unwrapped) and my lovely sister is cooking Christmas lunch.  There is very little for me to do after Friday apart from wrap the presents and arrange the house and its contents in a suitably festive manner - i.e. tidy it up and clean the bits that haven't been touched for, well, a while.

I don't have plans to knit anything specific.  I'm simply going to finish a couple of projects I finished a while ago and probably start another couple of things.  I plan to spend at least a couple of afternoons by the fire with my needles and yarn on my lap, probably asleep. 

My assignment will be finished, my workshops will be finished for 2011.  It will be time to sit, reflect and look forward to 2012.

Friday, 2 December 2011

smile, we're British

Radio 2 has spent a good portion of its broadcasting time this week telling me that 70% of us are quite happy despite the global economic and political dramas that are unfurling about us.  This, apparently, means that we British have lost none of our stiff upper lip or stoicism since the Second World War engulfed us.


I think (you may think I'm wrong), that in fact we're just burying our dainty little anglo-saxon noggins deep in the soil (we don't have much sand in Wiltshire) and choosing to ignore the state of the planet because, frankly, we just can't cope.

This is why our TV schedules are filled with vacuous reality shows (which I watch) and patronising craft/cookery/DIY shows (which I watch and shout at) and Downton Abbey (which I watch and laugh at) - all of which turn our brains to soppy mush before the news comes on and terrifies us.  Sitting down to watch BBC of an evening is becoming a traumatic experience.

We start off quite calmly as long as we avoid the soaps, meandering our way through gentle baking competitions and perhaps a trip around Britain's B&Bs with a bit of bitching along the way and then we're off perhaps to a hospital drama where we know that, eventually, everyone will get seen and won't fall off a waiting list.  Then it's 9pm and we're taking a trip to the jungle and watching celebrities eating possum bottoms.  If we last till 10pm we have a choice - serious analysis of the day's events with a bit of Robert Peston shouting at us or half an hour of armageddon on ITV with that starey-eyed woman.

I go to bed.  It doesn't make me smile.

I don't think I'm happier or unhappier than anyone else.  I'm just keeping my niggling doubts and fears to myself.  I really don't need George Alagiyah to shake them up just before my head hits the pillow.

Have a good weekend.  Turn off the TV.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

let the countdown commence

Our first 'proper' assignment is due to be handed in at college at 10am on Monday 12th December.  Yes, two weeks and a bit away.  I'm aiming to have it all done and dusted by 9th - the Friday before so that I can kick back and relax for the Christmas break. 

I apologise in advance for stressy, student-type wails about deadlines and art-related dramas if I manage to post anything during the next fortnight.  Please forgive me.

I am coping with this deadline through the medium of lists.  Lists for everything.  I have always made lists but usually I lose or ignore them.  This time, I need the lists. 

I make a big one every Sunday of where everyone has to be on each day of the week.  I have a hand-drawn calendar on the fridge which takes us up to Christmas Day - just in case.  I have my paper diary.  I have alarms and notes on the computer and my phone.  I have shopping lists (daily) and shopping lists (Christmas).  I make a list every day based on my big Sunday list.   I have a list of all the things I'm not doing now that I'll be able to do after 12th December.

I haven't dared to look and check how much time I actually have to devote to my actual assignment.  I suppose, instead of blogging, I could do this and make myself panic slightly more.  I am expecting my recurrent college dream to re-surface.  The one where I've decided to fo back and get my degree but still *&$^ it up.  Oh no, that could be reality in a couple of weeks time. 

I am hoping that I will be able to do enough to allow myself not to dwell on the 'what-ifs' over the holidays.  We don't get our feedback until mid-January.  It's a long wait. 

Singalong everybody......"All I want for Christmas is my 2:1, my 2:1, my 2:1."

Saturday, 26 November 2011


Tonight I am to add another string to my bow - that of bingo caller.

How did this happen?

Well, a few months ago, the idea was mooted of a school bingo fundraiser.  One of the pupils' father is a butcher and makes award winning sausages - the evening became 'bingo and bangers' - you can see where we're going with this.

I spent a great many of my childhood holidays with my Nan in and around Blackpool.  The major form of entertainment was - you guessed it - bingo.  She would sneak me and my sister into the proper bingo halls and give us a card or two to mark but mostly we visited The Rainbow Rooms and the other amusement arcades in the vicinity.

The best one was up on the promenade where for every win you could choose a record token.  I remember buying all sorts of singles with my tokens from Cleveley's premier music shop.  Each bingo hall had a special booth crammed with all sorts of finery just waiting for some lucky winner to come with enough tokens to bag a gift box of Tweed (25 wins) or packets of Rowntree Fruit Gums (1/2 a win).

You can probably guess that I'm quite excited about being the actual caller with the balls and everything!

I've printed out a list of rhymes - two little ducks, 22 etc but I'm not sure I'll be calm enough to make much of a performance of it.  This throwaway idea has turned into a much bigger affair with almost 100 tickets spoken for.

I have a microphone, apparently, but what to wear? I have a Saturday sartorial dilemma on my hands.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

things to be thankful for...

(Apologies to any North American readers if I have the wrong day).

I am thankful for many things, not least and in no particular order:

the husband
the children
the rest of my family
friends, near and far
our health
enough wealth (see husband)
our home
our history
my sense of humour (although I appreciate no-one else may appreciate it)
willingness to try anything once (except any form of competitive sport - it's too late for that)
willingness to read the first 10 pages of any book and confidence to reject it
ability to fall asleep on a washing line
interest in learning new stuff

Not exactly a ground breaking list but a few reminders.   My Nan always used to tell me that she said a prayer for everyone every night.  I'm not very religious.  I don't pray but every so often, it's a good idea to make a list of things to be thankful for.  Just for the record.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

the rhythm of life

I know it's been a while.  Believe me, this blog is not the only thing that's languishing unattended at the moment.  Don't be alarmed, this isn't a post about being busy.  We're all busy.  You don't need to know how busy I am.  You're probably busy and you've popped off for a bit of blog-browsing for a bit of downtime, not to read a list of things other people need to be doing.  I imagine you've got your own list.


I've been thinking about how the years seem to develop their own kind of personal rhythm (now I type it, it looks like a typo), beyond the usual Christmas, Easter, summer holidays routine that's imposed upon us.  I started to think about this when I read a 'top tip for surviving Christmas' in one of those interminable lists that magazine editors foist upon us this time of year because all the writers, editors and magazine folk are working on their spring issues and started thinking about Christmas in July.

The 'top tip' was, and I quote 'have Christmas when you want to have Christmas'.  I think the list had been made up from readers' suggestions.  The blurb underneath the suggestion explained how you could, actually, have Christmas whenever you liked.  Now, is this a sign of sanity or complete madness?

In our house, we have 3 birthdays in October and November, with the last one, exactly a month and a week before Christmas day.  Every year this results in a great deal of entertainment, joviality, happiness and the accompanying festive panic directly afterwards.  I'm aware that others are planning Christmas and have been doing so since the school term started.  I think about it and then tell myself that it's OK, I can think about it after E's birthday. 

Today is the day after E's birthday.  I find myself ahead of the game.  I have bought 6 Christmas presents, including one for myself.  I feel organised.  The alternative would be to have our Christmas in March - I don't think it would be quite the same with a view of daffodils in the garden.

My year goes something like this....

January - make resolutions, don't keep them, sit on the sofa quite a lot

February - think about doing something useful in the garden

March - do something vaguely useful in the garden, look forward to the end of the football season

April - decide to start doing some exercise, wonder what the point of Easter eggs is and wouldn't we all like a proper chocolate bar instead

May - do a bit of exercise, give up after a couple of weeks

June - flop after finishing college for the year

July - wonder what to do with the kids in the summer holidays

August - enjoy not doing very much in the summer holidays (although 2012 will be a pain as I'll have to look as if I'm interested in the Olympics)

September - get excited about going back to college, think about new boots

October - wear new boots when it's still too warm and enjoy the birthday season

November - demand a fire every night, wish I'd done more exercise in the longer days

December - think about getting more organised for Christmas next year

On another matter,  I heard this great programme about Malmesbury, The Philosophy Town this morning. 

Thursday, 3 November 2011


I'm taking a trip back in time with this pie.  It was baked just over a month ago by J, not me.  My pies never look quite as magnificent.  J is taking home economics for GCSE.  I'm learning a lot.  I now get instructions on how to wash dishes, grease baking trays and chop onions.  All this is delivered in a deep voice which I haven't quite got used to yet.

I have to say I'm feeling a little unsettled at the moment.  This time of year is always tricky for me.  There are  celebrations and sadnesses - good memories and sad memories on almost every day from the beginning of October to the end of November. 

I think, also, the changing nature of our own, immediate family is bringing back memories for me and stirring my emotions from pride to panic, anxiety to joy as everyone is getting that little bit older.  We're definitely in the thick of family life.  We're in the middle between childhood, adulthood and independence.  As no-one really tells you the truth about childhbirth, no-one tells you the truth about how to handle the changing relationship with your children as you start to become the background to their own lives and the choices they want to make.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

let there by light

'Happy Diwali', The Promenade, Blackpool

Sunday, 30 October 2011

happy halloween

Additive laden, sugary snack anyone?

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

no-one told me there'd be glitter...

I was 'on-duty' at our local Guides meeting last night.  I couldn't say exactly how many girls are involved but I think they'd all packed their individual megaphones.

It was a lively evening.  After the various rituals of patrol line-ups, something called a horseshoe and then another thing to do with unfurling a flag, the girls were involved in working towards a 'go for it' badge.  This seems to have involved a great deal of discussion and decision making and a great many recyclable bags full of craft materials, sweets, egg boxes and the dreaded glitter.

I have never met a mother who loved glitter, who has welcomed glitter into her home, who has joined the glitter facebook fanpage, who willingly and without persuasion went to a shop and bought glitter of her own accord.  Glitter isn't great unless it's stuck very firmly to a pair of A/W2011 Miu Miu shoes.

Glitter is definitely, in my view, inappropriate for a slightly damp yet humid September Monday evening.  It is definitely a scary prospect when it is unaccompanied by layers of broadsheet newspaper.

I admit, I reacted badly.

I was a Guide for about a fortnight in the very late 70s, early 80s.  I never had the uniform.  All I can remember about it is making a mosaic of a boat from tiny pieces of magazine that I was told off for taking too long to cut out.  I was reading the magazine and not focusing on the very important task of magazine mosaic.

This is not to say I have a problem with Guides.  I think it's a fantastic organisation and one of the few that encourages girls and young women with positive role models and aspirations.  Neither am I immune to the lure of groups and gatherings, hence my new found interest in the WI.  I think it's more to do with the fact that I just didn't know what to do when I pitched up last night for my stint of press-ganged volunteering (I know - oxymoron alert).  Where is the etiquette manual that outlines the correct behaviour for parent helper at Guides?  Please can someone send me the link?

I was asked to supervise.  Mmmmmm.  Tricky one that when you're not in your own home and supervising your own children or those of very, very close friends.  Was I to supervise the task?  The behaviour?  The clearing up afterwards?  Was there some kind of understanding from my temporary charges that I was supposed to be supervising or, as I suspect, was I seen as some kind of random mother who has to be there because she's on the rota.  Tricky.  

I had to have a nice cup of tea and a couple of slices of toast when I got home alongside the Housewives of New York 'best-ofs' and 'never-seens'.   I take my hat off to our Guide leader.  We parents are asked to contribute two hours of our lives every 12 weeks or so.  That's not a great deal to help our girls have a chance to catch up with friends they don't necessarily see at school and maybe learn some new skills on the way.  They'll be off on a couple of trips over the next few weeks too, a chance for them to spread their wings a little and take a few more steps to independence.

Perhaps I should have persevered with the mosaic.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

new term

I've been looking forward to starting the second year of my degree, almost as soon as I drove out of the car park on the last day last term.  This, you might think, would have resulted in at least a weekly visit, just to keep my in touch and continue working or studying over the summer.

Oh no.

My recurrent college nightmare may have subsided after twenty years but I still tipped up on my first day back (yesterday) with palpitations over my efforts over the summer.

We were asked to develop a project and, as usual, demonstrate our efforts using sketchbooks.  Most of my efforts in this direction involved looking at other peoples' work, other peoples' sketchbooks, other peoples' creative endeavours.

I thought a lot.

I read a lot.

I visited some galleries and made some notes.  I read a lot more and I thought a lot more.

The actual episodes of drawing between March and September 2011 were less in evidence.

Going back to college yesterday felt like taking some kind of super-booster, vitamin tonic.  My brain is whirring.  My pencil is drawing.  I've already done my homework and I've discovered the glories of Youtube for research purposes.  I've listened to interviews, I've worked around the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  I've had a blast and I've organised my artist files.

I'm happy.

Monday, 12 September 2011

and did those feet.....

I went to my first WI meeting last week.  S & I have been talking about going for a long time.  Since 'Calendar Girls' this venerable organisation seems to pop up in the news quite regularly.  First there was booing Tony Blair, then there was that mini-series on the Aga lady in the Isle of Wight who seemed to upset a lot of people.  Now there are the Shoreditch Sisters, shaking up the WI in a trendy, Hoxton, London-centric kind of way.

I love the idea of the WI for several reasons:
- it's a social gathering with people you might not spend a lot of time with but can learn a lot from
- the talks because I always think you can learn something, even if it's that you never want to hear about woad ever again
- the tea and biscuits because it's always a good idea to throw caution to the wind and let someone else make the selection
- the campaigning nature of the organisation which is often reported on.  They're currently on the case with Love your Libraries

Our local WI is small - no more than 30 members, one of which has attended for 70 years, a fact which blew my mind.

The speaker was interesting - she spoke about her work with the container ship crews in Southampton and how there's a whole group of people who support these men who spend months at a time on board only to be tipped out for a few hours on Southampton dock before getting back on the boat and delivering the containers somewhere else.  Who knew?

I think I might go again but I have to admit, the actual meeting part of the meeting didn't mean much.  I'm interested to go again and see what else happens although, if I'm truly truthful, I felt that little bit more fun could be had.  I always expect to have a bit of fun when I leave the house, otherwise I might as well stay under my blanket and carry on watching Housewives of New York.

And on that matter, HONY is my newest TV addiction and, I admit, one of my worst.  It's shallow, boring, vacuous and awful but in the best, ever way.  I can't stop watching these women and their families.  How were they picked?  What made them do this?  We're only on Series 2 over at ITV2 but I just can't stop watching and I tape it every day on the grounds that if I don't watch it during the day but in the evening, I'm not really watching daytime TV.  I do worry, however, that if I'm taping HONY, it's only three small clicks from taping Daybreak or GMTV. 

I don't think LuAnn and Jill go to WI in NYC.  Now, that would make a good reality show.

Monday, 5 September 2011

that boat has sailed....

Well, there we are.  That was that.  The summer is now officially over.  No more late mornings.  No more pyjama lunches.  No more dressing gown trips to let the chickens out.  It's go, go, go from now on. 

Today is the first time everyone has tried to wash within the same hour period.  Needless to say I am still in my pyjamas waiting for the opportunity to have a quick splash before walking E to school.  I was hoping to kick start my exercise by taking that walk a little further but there are ominous looking clouds gathering outside and the early morning sunshine has evaporated.

To celebrate the end of the summer holiday, I'm off for a pedicure this morning at a new local salon, Perfection.I like to live in hope.  They offer a special Monday deal where if you spend £25 on a treatment you can have an eyebrow shape and lash dye for free.  Bargainaroso me thinks.

Tomorrow is haircut day.  I have neglected to pop a bottle on my lovely locks over the summer and I'm growing out my layers so am looking a little Wurzel-like and have had to resort to wearing E's hairband to keep said locks out of my face.  Very attractive - not. 

I've now realised that there are probably only 4 more summer holidays left when both J & E will be at home.  How sad is that?  Attention must be paid.

Friday, 2 September 2011


"Millie" by John Willats from the terrace at The Three Gables

Bradford-on-Avon had a distinctly continental air yesterday.  I was lucky enough to be invited to visit The Three Gables for lunch and took a trip with my dear friend, S.  The review will appear in next month's Wiltshire Magazine but I can say this: beautiful, delicious and welcoming.  What more could you want from a restaurant?

Out and about the sun was shining, the town centre was bustling, the market was heaving and the river sparkled.  I don't get there as often as I'd like to but Bradford-on-Avon is always worth a day out, full of history and great independent shops. I always find something new there.

As we drove through lovely Wiltshire in its late summer glory, I had an idea.  It occured to me that it might be interesting to bring together a gathering of Wiltshire bloggers.  I have no idea when, where or how but thought if I posted something here then those of you that read this might get in touch and know others who might be interested too.  What do you think?

On another matter - could it be possible that the sun may shine all weekend?

Thursday, 1 September 2011

I've found three years..

I posted about my continual addiction to telly-watching and its potential negative health implications.  I worked out (no-one has checked my mathematics by the way), that I've 'lost' in the region of 3 years due to my obsession with the flickering box in the corner.

Science, however, has come up with a solution.  It seems that I can add 3 years to my life by exercising 15 minutes per day which I'm sure I must do just walking from the living room to the kitchen to gather tea and sustenance for my next televisual delight.  The article is bewildering but the evidence is there in about the fourth paragraph down.  Find it here.

In the meantime, E has gone to visit her grown-up cousins and J has gone back to school.  G is working away and I'm just about to get ready and do some research before I go here to do a restaurant review. 


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Tracey Emin

I've been wanting to see TE's show at the Hayward since it opened and somehow the summer holidays got in the way.  Our Bank Holiday plans had involved visits from family and friends but these gradually evaporated for one reason and another and we found ourselves with an unoccupied Sunday.  Of course, there are thousands of things we could do on a Sunday.  Thousands of things that don't involve a 150 mile round trip in a car but I'd spotted my opportunity and The Worker agreed.  We would go to London.

We left home at 8am and were parked (for free) by Tate Britain just after 9.30am.  We walked up to Westminster Underground, past the Houses of Parliament and Oliver Cromwell and the protest tents.  I continued to the Southbank and the Worker, J & E headed to the Science Museum.

London looked lovely but then, to me, it always does.  A Sunday morning stroll along the Thames was just perfect.  I managed to get into the show early and avoided a lengthy wait beside the beach huts that had been erected as part of the Festival '51 celebrations. 

All her statement pieces were there - the quilts, the drawings, the films, the applique, the neons.  All constructed with a fierce honesty that I truly admire although I assume there must be some personal editing going on.  I can understand why some people declaim her work for the reasons they might not appreciate it - it can look unfinished, grubby, sometimes unpalatable but she's definitely got something to say and whatever we might think of it, we look and our reaction says more about ourselves.  Just as some critics seem slightly bored by her work, I am slightly bored by the stock reaction to it.  I became intrigued by her later works, her paintings, particularly as she'd burned the paintings she'd made during her studies at the Royal Academy in her twenties.

The worst thing about the show?  Some people's decision to bring their toddlers.  There is something very peculiar and unsettling about watching a screaming child parked in its buggy next to TE's gynaecologically expressive animation.  I found the presence of children unsettling, not just because of some of the content of the work but also because much of the exhibition referenced the artist's childlessness.

I was hoping to link to the Hayward's site but the exhibition is now finished and the link tells me 'I do not have access to this site'.  Charming.  There's an interesting article by Marina Warner here that you might find interesting.

Emotionally exhausted, I took myself across Waterloo Bridge and up to Trafalgar Square for a quick snoop around the National Portrait Gallery.

I've seen the BP Portrait Award a few times and this year was beyond expectation.  Every exhibit was breathtaking in its skill and craft.  It was almost intimidating, especially for a middle-aged art student like myself.  The short biographies revealed birthdates as late as the 1990s.  The care and particularity of some of these works were miraculous.

I haven't been able to rationalise the contrast between Tracey Emin, followed by the Portrait Awards yet.  In a bid to get my trip's worth out of my day out, I felt my brain cells creak between the extremes of work I saw that day.

A trip to Cass Art just a stonesthrow from the NPG was next where I bagged some 75% off sketchbooks ready for next term. I now realise I could have had an extra 15% off with my student card but having had 3 months off, I've forgotten that I'm such a thing.  Never mind.  Bargains were had.

It had started to rain so I trundled to Byron in Haymarket to meet the family where I had a salad (not as good as last time) and they had their usual cheeseburgers and enormous milkshakes.  When are they going to open a Byron in Bath I ask?

During our lunch I discovered that the Science Museum was empty and the Natural History Museum was packed with huge queues.  I couldn't tell you what delights were on offer at either beyond buttons and knobs and dinosaurs.  They hadn't seen a Paperchase, much to E's sorrow and they'd eaten their packed lunch by 11.30am.  They looked happy.

Having had a long discussion about the merits of seeing films we could see in Swindon for double the price in Leicester Square, we decided to walk back to the car.  Haymarket to Tate Britain.  I was about to complete a circular walk!  We saw the lions at Leicester Square, the horses at Horseguards parade, the policemen at Downing Street and the protest tents and Oliver Cromwell again.

Off we set, back to our rural idyll.  I fell asleep as we passed the cars in high-rises at the bottom of the M4 and woke up at Junction 15 as we passed Wootton Bassett.

We were home by 5.30pm.  Seven and a half hours, 2 galleries, 2 museums, 3 burgers, 3 milkshakes, 1 salad, 1 glass red wine, 5 sketchbooks, 6 badges, 3 1/2 miles.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

scary thoughts involving mathematics and the X factor

I heard a few weeks ago that a couple of researchers have discovered that if you watch an hour of television after the age of about twenty five, you lose twenty two minutes off your life.  The Guardian ran an article here that explains the whys and wherefores far more accurately and succinctly than I can.

I have, however, taken the opportunity to sit down with a post-it note and a calculator.  If you are of a mathematical disposition, please feel free to check my sums.  I have checked them myself, twice, but am so stunned by the figures that I wonder if I haven't made a mistake.

Here goes.

I am now 44.  That's 19 years of television watching since I was 25.

Before we start, please bear in mind, my variables.

- firstly, I am going to work out days wasted in relation to waking hours (each day as 16 hours of awake time, approximately)
- secondly, I am going to assume that I didn't watch television on holiday (each year is therefore 50 weeks long)
- thirdly, I am going to reduce the adult years I've been watching television by 1.5 as the Worker and I had a lovely trip just before we got married


It's 19 years less 1.5 travelling years of watching television  
TOTAL 17.5 years = 875 weeks (based on a 50 week year)  = 6,125 days (wow)

I would estimate, conservatively, that  I watch 2 hours of television per day (not including DVDs).  This would work out to be 13,250 hours (yikes)

Based on the assumption that every hour loses me 22 minutes, my calculation runs something like this.

13,250 (hours watched) x 22 (minutes lost) =  291,500 minutes (4,858 hours)  lost from my life

4,858 divided by 16 hours = 303 working days lost, gone, almost a year - how scary is that.

In addition to the 303 hours I've potentially lost, I've also wasted 828 entire working awake days watching the flickery box in the corner.  That's 1,133 days, over 3 years.  Gone.  And that's a conservative estimate.

I can't bring myself to write about the highs and lows of my televisual viewing.  However it's definitely time to  'switch off the television set and go and do something less boring instead'

Are you brave enough to do the telly maths?

Friday, 26 August 2011

things I don't understand....

global economics
the 'cloud'
why facebook matters
why green beans eaten in France taste so good
why thinking is much easier than doing
how microwaves work
what that funny green stripe down the left hand side of the TV is
why I can hear a funny electrical sounding noise when I go to bed
why dust collects so densely under every piece of furniture in the house
why biscuits taste nicer than bananas
the point of Lee Nelson (I know I'm middle-aged but is he funny?)
why fingernails grow faster than toenails

Thursday, 25 August 2011


school shoes x 2 pairs
school sweatshirts x 2
school polo shirts x 2
school trousers x 1
school skirt x 1
school tights x 3
dentist (this morning)

The holidays are nearly over.  J goes back a week today, E goes back on 5th and I go back on 19th although I'll be popping into college once the kids are back to school to the library and to catch up on the summer art magazines.  I might need a new pencil sharpener.

I've been feeling deeply guilty every morning as The Worker gets ready for an early start and a drive to sunny Essex or Milton Keynes and I flail about in bed somewhere between dreaming and dozing.  He got home at 10pm last night and left at 7am this morning.  He seems to be perfectly fine with it but I am finding it tricky to justify my existence when all I seem to achieve during the day is a cursory loo clean or a little perfunctory dusting.

Must. Try. Harder.

Monday, 22 August 2011

there's no place like home...

We've been home a week.  The holiday laundry is done (and ironed - mostly).  A courgette cake has been made.  School shoes have been bought.

Our days are shorter as E & J seem to have longer and longer lie-ins.  I always thought this would be a good thing but it's taking a little bit of getting used to.  I do, however, get a few hours each day to work on whatever takes my fancy whether that's writing, crafting or drawing for college.

I've had some disappointing news on the freelance front since we came home which has made me learn not to get too excited when articles are promised and projects are mooted.  But, never mind, I'm sure there will be other opportunities coming my way sometime soon.  It would be nice to make a little extra cash but I've realised that I do need to focus on getting my degree.  Our second year counts towards 25% of the overall marks so I need to prioritise my work there rather than paid work for a while.

Spain always felt a long way away but now it feels a long time ago too.  I dug out my winter boots one day last week.  There's a definite mist-thing going on in the mornings and the trees are laden with apples and plums.  I always love autumn and the shortening of the days but this year it has come a little too soon for my liking.  I need a bit more sunshine.

Monday, 15 August 2011


This is my 500th post and I'd love to be able to write something awe-inspiring and earth shattering but it's the Monday after a holiday and I'm too busy doing the laundry, fighting the weeds on the allotment and wondering whether I should go back to Slimming World on Wednesday when I know, for sure, that a couple of pounds have crept on over the last two weeks. 

I worked out, incidentally, that in 13 days away from home our wee family of four (2 adults, 2 children) consumed in the region of 28 baguettes, invariably stuffed with ham, cheese (and in my case, cornichons).  I haven't dared look up the Slimming World Syn value of 28g of baguette.  It's best I don't know. 

The kids have disappeared for the afternoon.  I think three days in the car has cured J of his holiday agrophobia issue.  I imagine he is on a Playstation and E is down by the river.  Neither are rioting nor looting, I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that.

It was alarming to pop to the campsite shop each morning to be confronted with headlines of horror and pictures of scary looking graphs and fires on assorted English streets.  It was a relief not to feel compelled to watch the hideousness unfold via the delights of BBC News 24.  I only hope that the government can find a way to deal with all the complex issues that seem to have converged in chaos and violence.  I'm not convinced they can with their current talk of gangs and evictions.  They somehow seem to be missing the point. 

There is something terrifying about watching people of your own country damage that country and their communities not necessarily out of political and social protest but out of mindless, pointless greed and some kind of misdirected bravado.  The saddest and most worrying part of the whole thing is the complete disconnection that there seems to be between the rioters/looters/participants and their own humanity.  I saw little concern or understanding from those interviewd about how their violence would affect other members of their communities and no realisation or apology that the burning and stealing would have an impact on the people whose homes and businesses and families were destroyed or damaged.    

As always, after a spot of global drama, I like to contemplate the relevance of blogging.  You won't be surprised to hear that I feel it might be time to ditch my domestic pontifications self-obsessed recording of trials and tribulations of a tea-obsessed, forty plus, village-dwelling mother of two.  Tapping away in my rural bubble seems trivial to say the least.  There are a couple of weeks left of the summer holidays and I'm back at college in a few weeks after that. There are a lot of things going on and this little blog may put itself in the bottom of the warming oven of the Rayburn for a while.  We shall see.

On a lighter note and in the meantime, here's what I could have bought when rambling down La Ramblas last Monday.


I didn't buy anything. 

Friday, 29 July 2011


I am a collector of random, unrelated, inconsequential stuff.  My badge collection has been increased five-fold by the lucky acquisition of a bag of 70s classics from the Oxfam shop recently.  I'll take another photo one day.

I have several burgeoning collections which include:

orange vases (5)

soup bowls with handles (various)

tea sets for the day I have a lovely shed or caravan in the garden

yarn (obvious)

5 perfect Nat West Wade pigs (thanks Nan)

fabric (see below)

I also have collections of items that belonged to other people but have found their way to me.  These include embroidery threads, sewing boxes, stamps, coins and photographs.

I saw Edmund de Waal talk about his fascinating book 'The Hare with Amber Eyes' last week.   I've just started the book and I can see that I have similar feelings about collections and objects although I recognise that the things I call mine spring from a different source, from ordinariness and day to dayness. He talks of how passing on collections and objects creates a story. 

Sometimes I dream of clutter-free living but I know that I would find it impossible.  I hear that we should simplify, rationalise and clear our surfaces and I see evidence of clean lines and white walls in almost every interiors magazine I come across.   I try sometimes to make a clean sweep and clear away unnecessary distractions but I like them and I like them in teetering, towering piles.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

things gone by...

suitcases without wheels
travellers' cheques
handwritten correspondence between friends
photo albums
video cassettes
fish and chips in newspaper
proper, printed tickets
50p cups of coffee
library tickets
school ties (almost)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

simply divine inspiration

I went to Port Eliot Literary Festival at the weekend.  It was my fourth time and third time with my friend K who's sister K lives in St. Germans.  It was my first time travelling on the train and first time in a B&B instead of a field.  We had a fantastic time and a fantastic time in so many ways - every moment was quite unlike the last. 

I saw Christopher Biggins (panto man), Tim Smit (Eden man), Dan Pearson (garden man), Louise Wilson (fashion MA woman), Nicky Haslam (dandy man), Emma Kennedy (hilarious woman), Patrick Barkham  (butterfly man) and Edmund de Waal (favourite ceramicist and writer man) speak about their work and their books.  There were more but I can't make any more links.

I saw Bellowhead, Louis Eliot and The Secret Sisters play.  I missed British Sea Power (again) but sat at breakfast with my favourite band's lead singer's little brother.  I didn't tell him I've been smitten by Starsailor for years.  Too embarassing over the fried eggs.

I made an attempt at raving along to Jeremy Healy's set and stood mesmerised while Annie Nightingale mixed hers.  Her set was fantastic but she did, I'm afraid, look as if she couldn't master the knobs on an electric hob.

I knitted a sock with dovegreyreader and her agreeable friends for hours on Sunday (two late nights had taken their toll).

I ate delicious food and drank (mostly) delicious wine.

I sat and stared and listened and thought and dreamt and plotted and schemed.

It's amazing how you can feel refreshed after less than 10 hours sleep in 72.

Monday, 18 July 2011

harry potter and the mother of all movie marathons

I hate to think how many hours my offspring will spend this week revisiting HP and chums.  They are not amongst the first of the first cinema-goers to see the last film and I hope that their enjoyment isn't spoiled by detailed, overheard discussions of plots and endings.  They are, however, watching every single film, in order, to prepare themselves for their visit to Shaw Ridge this weekend.

It really is the end of an era and we will look back on the years we have lived with the books and the films quite fondly.  The Worker read all of them to J and, I think, some of them to E who is a little younger and more intersested in Lemony Snicket and Jacqueline (ho, hum, life is only interesting if it's depressing) Wilson.  I read the first one and then no more - there are too many books for me to read about other characters. 

We have all seen most of the films at the cinema although I have seen fewer and less of them than the rest of my family as I tend to fall asleep after the first twenty minutes and then wake up when the celebration dinner is in full swing five minutes before the end.  No-one minds.  I hope.

I am happy that I have given my children the gift of an appreciation of film.  I think it's very important to be able to sit in a cinema or on the sofa for at least two hours and be immersed in a story to the exclusion of the outside world and I thoroughly enjoy any opportunity we have as a family to sit with a bar of Fruit & Nut, beverages hot and cold and something resembling a movie to watch.

We've discovered the joys of Lovefilm too, and recordable telly.  As they stay up later and later, I need an alternative to Top Gear and cookery shows.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

the tart, the brownie, the scone and the secret cheese nibbling

These are the things that have scuppered my weight loss attempts this week.  They didn't do it by themselves.  I helped them by deciding to consume them.  I hang my head in slimming group shame.  No loss this week.  Our group lost 53lbs between them over the last seven days and not one of those lbs belonged to me.  Hey ho.  I thought I was doing quite well but apparently not. 

I've had a lovely time though.  The tart (lemon) and the brownie (chocolate) were made by J and E, respectively.  I couldn't possibly refuse a piece of each (both on Sunday, the first with custard).  It would have been maternally cruel to say no.  How can anyone resist anything cooked by their offspring?

We'd also had a school-made sausage casserole during the week and very tasty it was too after I'd fished out the anaemic looking sausages and browned them under the grill before putting them back in the yummy sauce and underneath the cheesy scone-y topping (conveniently omitted from my food diary).  Would anyone else casserole sausages without grilling/browning them beforehand?  I'm sure they were cooked through, they just didn't look it.

Having been at this slimming group lark for a few weeks there are a few things that I understand more fully:

- writing a food diary can be a delight of fiction

- having a bath before a weigh-in can add pounds

- Tilda ping rice is one of the greatest inventions known to dieting women (although not this week for me)

- quark is not the strangulated call of a mallard duck

- you can still put on weight if you eat standing up

- peanuts are the creation of demons

- wine should only be consumed when food is far away, otherwise weight loss armageddon is unleashed

- some very small people want to lose weight

- I do feel much better having ditched my cheese on toast followed by kitkat lunch habit

No more weight loss posts for a while.  Rest assured.  Time for a cup of coffee and a Mullerlight yoghurt.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

when I'm not blogging....

I'm having far too much of a good time.  Since my last blog I have several entertainments to confess:

- a night of Simple Minds at Westonbirt Arboretum (slightly damp but very entertaining - the audience was a certain age - middle yet slightly infantile and prepared to dance with gay abandon)

- a visit to the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy (hot, airless but very entertaining - the gallery goers were a fascinatingly mixed bunch from the fedora-ed to the hoody-ed)

- a night in Hyde Park with Kings of Leon and Paul Weller (great gig - shame about the audience although that might just be my middle age talking.  When did grown women start taking their shirts off whilst sat on wobbly boyfriends' shoulders?  Did we always throw beer (or worse - yuck) and how much warm Jaegermeister does it take for men to start fighting - not a lot it seems).  Thank God for KoL

- did a bit of armchair Glasto with friends, had the annual discussion about buying a van and going next year (ha, ha, it's not on!), accompanied by my ever-growing projectforty reasons for NOT going EVER:

the sound is better via satellite
you can make a cup of tea whilst you're waiting for the headliners
there's no one throwing beer
you don't have to walk to the back of a crowd of people and watch a screen, you can just watch a screen  under a blanket with a nice glass of merlot
tent erecting is not required
the beer is cooler at home
you can watch it with people  you like
you don't have to engage in banter with fellow festival goers
you don't get welly-rub (or trench foot, or sunburn)
you can see the dancing better (I'm having a Beyonce moment)

I know this list makes me sound ever-so-slightly curmudgeonly but I don't care.  I think anyone over 40 should really think about whether they want to put themselves through the grief and trauma of potential long-term neck twisting.  I'd rather have a nice city-break to Morocco or a weekend at a spa.  I may have the odd timewarp moment and think I can trip off to this gig and that but the time has come - I know my limits.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

guilty secret... between buying wellies, discovering how many syns are in a Costa Coffee stem ginger biscuit (I'm still in denial) and promoting my upcoming craft workshops, I caught half an hour of 'The Holiday' on Channel 4.  I had a feeling I'd seen it before - Cary Grant, Kathryn Hepburn and another fine-boned lady starred.

The bit I saw featured Grant talking about taking a kind of retirement or sabbatical while he was young so he could understand what it was he was working for.  I liked that idea and, having thought about it for oooh, about an hour, I think I might be doing something similar.

I have worked on and off since I was thirteen - Saturday jobs, part-time jobs, full-time jobs but always (until recently) simply to pay the bills and enjoy what was left of my free time.  I've always liked most of the people I've worked with and enjoyed the environment or office that I found myself but it's safe to say I've never really had the experience of waking up and looking forward to going to work.

I hadn't really thought about it much before today but what I've finally arrived at is a point where I think I might, one day, have a career.  My degree (hopefully) will give me the credibility to have a grown up job (which will be nice when I'm pushing 50) and I think I'm going to need it with tuition fees, car insurance and teenager-dom rearing their expensive little heads at our family.

Let's hope I enjoy it.

PS:  Half a stone down.

Friday, 10 June 2011

fete accompli

Every year on the 2nd Friday evening in June, members of the parish and environs gather for our village fete.  It is always a wonderful occasion and I'm looking forward to seeing people I haven't caught up with during what's been a pretty busy year.

I've also been promoted from White Elephant to Trinkets which has made me very happy, not least because T, who usually runs trinkets, appears to have collected everything I need and all I have to do is set it up and hope the weather stays nice enough to make everything sparkly, sparklier.

I'm going to take my umbrella so then it won't rain but I think warm shoes and a folding chair will be needed.  Even if the rain stays away, the evening isn't promising to be balmy (or barmy, I should add!).

Updates (and maybe sunny photos) shortly.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

where'd you rather....

My view last week.  You may have gathered that I've become a bit of a 'conyurt' (ha ha!). I wish I'd taken more pictures.  Today I'm looking out on a damp, rainy lane, trying not to wish I was back at last Tuesday when we were all on holiday, looking forward to a few days of sunshine.

I've tried to be a good homebody today - I walked the walk this morning, lifted the weights that I hope will stave off wings of the bingo variety, I ate my very healthy lentil and sweet potato soup and dusted the living room - that took longer than I thought.  I wrote a few things, tore beautiful and interesting bits and pieces from my magazine stash (now recycling) and generally did pottery, domestic things.

Tomorrow I'm back to college to discuss a couple of books and I realise as I'm writing, I've misplaced the actual assignment.  It's also the degree show private view tomorrow night which I'm looking forward to.  The fine art students finishing this year are the ones I started my access course with all those years ago.  I'm interested to see how their work has developed and what they're working on now.  I imagine there's quite a lot of nervous energy both positive and not so positive flying around.  Somehow I wish I was part of it this year.

I've been listening to artists' Desert Island Discs recently.  Today was Rachel Whiteread and Sam Taylor-Wood.  Last week I downloaded Grayson Perry's collection.  You can search the archive by profession which I find very interesting.  RW and STW both chose Nick Cave.  They're also running a 'choose your own' DID project which I keep reminding myself to do.

My initial 'top of my head' list, looks like this:

In the Ghetto - Elvis Presley
Forever in Blue Jeans - Neil Diamond
Mad about the Boy - Ella Fitzgerald or is it Etta James?
Say a little Prayer - Aretha Franklin
Under Pressure - David Bowie
Something by Faithless
There's a track by Primal Scream on the Trainspotting album whose name I can't remember without looking up
Star Guitar - Chemical Brothers
Use it up and Wear it Out - Odyssey
Ain't no mountain high enough - Diana Ross
Miss Sarajevo - US/Pavarotti
Driving on 9 - The Breeders
Something by Nirvana

Apologies for the randomness.  I'm not nearly high-falutin-enough.  I need to work on it further.  Perhaps you'd like to do yours too?  That's what rainy days are made for, surely?

Monday, 6 June 2011

branching out

This tree reminds me of my head and the thoughts within it.  Two distinct themes sprout in opposite directions (i.e. chores v. enjoyment) with ever-numerous branches of ideas and activity sprouting in a variety of different directions but with a dense clod of tanglement at the top.  I am forever following a certain path or making a particular choice only to become either distracted or somehow prevented from following it through.  These inevitable barriers can be self-constructed or somehow just pop up out of nowhere.

I don't say this in a 'woe-is-me' kind of way, it's just the way I find things to be.  I often feel as if I'm circumnavigating icebergs or obstacles.  If I decide to do one thing, then something else pops up either to distract me or prevent it from being an uncomplicated issue.  I find myself, post-forty, being quite the dab-hand at compromise and flexibility.  I like to think that all these mini-challenges make for a more interesting day to day life.  I try not to resent the diversions, I like to think of ways to either embrace them or manoeuvre around them.

You can probably tell that I've now got too much time on my hands.  Pontification seems to be the order of the day.  College has finished.  I'm working but not as much as I'd like/need to and all the jobs that I should be doing aren't nearly as interesting as having a bit of a ponder.  I should, of course, be houseworking, gardening, allotmenting, cleaning bits of the house that aren't normally investigated.  I'd rather, of course, be writing and drawing and visiting wonderful places of inspiration.

Decisions, decisions.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

what's occuring?

I've got a touch of blogitis.  I think it might be a seasonal thing.  Like hayfever.

Nevertheless, here I am, keystrokes at the ready, not really knowing what to write about beyond listing what I/we have been up to in the last fortnight.

I finished my assessments and find myself quite pleased.  I'm now confident that I've chosen the right degree (unlike the first time) which reassures me that I'll be able to complete my course (unlike the first time).  I'm a little bit worried that the summer break will make me feel as if I'm starting again in September but I've decided to enter a couple of competitions and draw something every day (as recommended by all our tutors last September).

Despite my (mis-placed) horror of slimming clubs, I've signed up here.  I'm on my second week and about 4lbs down.  I decided that finishing college would leave me some free time that I could use to focus on getting a little healthier and a little lighter.  If I'm being really honest, I just want to look better - pure vanity.  There is still a little part of me though that rails against the pressure to be thinner - why should we conform, why should we be judged and judge each other that way?  I suppose there always has been a part of me that thinks that and that's why I've always got slightly bigger!  So, we'll see.  I'm going to go along until the summer holidays and see how I do. 

I did a little of this to help with the above and, as always, enjoyed it thoroughly.  I've never been part of a global fitness phenomenon before and it amazes me that Zumba has reached our tiny village halls.  I don't know why but there's something very enjoyable about doing a little mambo at 9.30am in deepest Wiltshire.

We went here and stayed in this:

It was fantastic.  We were given a great welcome by Thea, Laurie and their lovely children, with a basket of produce and a tour of the facilities.  With only five yurts on the site, we felt the to-dos and lists of home, work and school just disappear.  Solar power, composting loos (much better than you'd think) and running water were all we needed.  We were also provided with an intriguing outdoor fridge which worked amazingly without electricity.  I think it uses some kind of evaporation science and was originally developed in hot countries to keep food cold.  The nearest description I could find online was this.  Ours was encased in a crate with a wooden door and mint planted on the top - very lovely!

While we were there we visited New Quay and saw some of these:

I was amazed to see dolphins off the UK coast.  Thankfully, the worker ran back to the car park to get the camera.  We had fish and chips afterwards and a sunny afternoon back at the yurt.

We left quite early on Friday to get to the beach at Penbryn which was beautiful.  We made our way home via here.  I had a lovely time!

Monday, 16 May 2011

ups and downs

The up is - I've been awarded a blog award by Amanda at eight by six.

I think it's called a Liebster and, obviously, I would copy the logo but Blogger doesn't seem to be very helpful these days.  It's an award for blogs with less than 100 followers.  After nearly 500 posts, I'm up to 42 followers!  I'm not built for speed - on so many levels.

So, thank you Amanda.  I shall pass this award to:

Lou at The Archers at the Larches who is at 96 whole followers
Sue at The G-Spot on 28
Hausfra at Hausfrau who has amassed 12 followers in the short time she has been blogging

Like Amanda, these bloggers are interested in all or some of the same things I'm interested in.  It's blog awards for the girls here, no manly nonsense in this corner of the blogosphere.

So, what's been happening?

I went to Paris.  A week ago today.  I had a fantastic time between 8pm on Monday and about 2pm on Thursday.  Then I discovered my camera had gone missing/been pinched (the down).  Not a great end to the trip, particularly as I had to make a mad dash with my suitcase and extra purchase bag back to where the incident occured and then up to Gare du Nord, arriving the colour of Kapoor's Leviathan at the Grand Palais - deep red/purple.

I was hoping for a more sophisticated journey home, a little light sketchbooking and some proper coffee from Pret a Manger on the coach home.  Not to worry.  At least it wasn't my purse or my phone that found themselves adrift in Paris.  That would have been much, much worse.

I walked miles - 22,546 steps on Tuesday according to K's ipod nano.  It was great to be in Paris in Spring.  I've been once before in high summer and then the other times have been in the autumn/winter.  I still want to live there someday.  Not forever.  Perhaps for a year.  How this little plan might be achieved I have no idea.  It might have to wait on the backburner for a very long time.

This is the view from upstairs at Chartieres - a very traditional Parisian restaurant, touristy but authentic and with much-improved steak from the piece I had last time I came with college.  I treated K&I to snails - I had to - I couldn't resist.  It was fascinating to be in a city I love so much with someone who's the same age as I was when I first visited.  They were pretty delicious too.

So, in total, I have about 15 photographs and 2 movie clips on my phone.  The sum total of my collection.  Fortunately, I picked up reference material and made some notes along the way.  I'm now busy collating sketchbooks and projects for our final assessments this week. 

If you happen to be going to Paris before 23 June, see Leviathan, Anish Kapoor's Monumenta installation at the Grand Palais.  I promise you won't be disappointed.  Here's my first blog video clip:


This takes an awfully long time.  Should it?  Perhaps I should do something clever with Youtube instead?  One of the things on my summer list is to explore a few of my technology blackspots - video being one, photoshop being another.  This is definitely taking a long time.  I can't leave though.  Blogger is instructing me to wait.  I must listen.

Well, on another matter....I saw a Chagall exhibition here which was stunning.  One of the most beautifully put together shows I've seen....ever.  It contains a set of illustrations for the Bible, for which Chagall was commissioned.  I've seen Chagall paintings before but the prints were breathtaking in their consistency and simplicity.  S brought me an article about an auction of Chagall drawings made after the death of his wife.  If I had £600K knocking about, perhaps I'd make a bid.

Ah....the clip seems to have found its way to the post.  Good luck with viewing it.  I hope it works!

Have a good week.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

as Toyah Wilcox sang...'s a mystery, it's a mystery, etc, etc....

I thought I'd have a little look at my stats before I go away for a couple of days. I do this every so often, just to marvel at how the internet works things out. I find, however, that since organising my recent car insurance quote, I'm now being visited by some weird insurance website and some other web-based wotnot I don't recognise.

Is this some kind of spam? I wish I knew. In fact, I wish I hadn't looked so I don't have to have thoughts about it in my head.

On another, infinitely more exciting, matter. I'm off to Paris for a few days with college. I've probably told you already as I've told everyone who crosses my path and forgets to keep moving. I love Paris. I love Paris more than London. I love the Eurostar and I love a trip.

On another, quite exciting and more agricultural matter, the allotment had a bit of attention today. I amused myself by listening to Kanye's 'Golddigga' whilst digging - I know it's very inappropriate music for a lady of my age and location but I couldn't help myself and it made me laugh for a very long time. Some of us have got to get our fun where we can find it you know....

Have a good week - au revoir pour maintenant!

Monday, 2 May 2011

that was the weekend that was.....

I'm struggling to know where to begin.

Here are the aunt-related happenings I shall cherish from our fun-packed Royal Wedding weekend:

- my aunts arriving just in time to finalise their entry into the great cake competition at my daughter's primary school

- running across the allotment with decorated cakes and a mini-bride and groom and arriving just before the judging

- one aunt having to stay behind to be interviewed on South African radio about her visit to England and the mood of the country

- aunts winning said cake competition and wearing their fascinators whilst accepting the prize

- the ladies of the house drawing their prediction of the wedding dress the night before (congratulations, J)

- one aunt sporting a replica of THE engagement ring

- aunts wearing wedding attire for the duration of the wedding on the telly

- our matching sparkly-crown t-shirts (a triumph!)

- one aunt taking photographs of the telly to 'prove' she was there

- same aunt throwing confetti when the newly weds emerged from the church

- visiting our local pub and the only street party in the village and having a bottle of babycham between us

- taking in a Saturday morning tour of Wiltshire taking photographs of cow parsley, gates, fields, hedges, the bollards outside Highgrove, flags, lilac, bluebells, horse chestnuts, laburnum, viburnum, window displays, Tetbury, hedgerows, postboxes, fingerpost signs

- making a new draught excluder from my new Royal Wedding fabric (thank you, S)

- making cupcakes today with E as it's obviously genetic

I miss them already and I'm quite sure it would have passed us all by almost un-noticed otherwise. Come back soon!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

what's that about global warming?

Hasn't it been marvellous!  Sun every day in the Easter holidays.  I can't remember one like it.  It usuallly pours and I look out of my kitchen window on the sorry looking allotment wondering about doing some weeding.  This year, there are onions and gladiolis and parsnips and potatoes and weeds (of course) but no rain sodden nettles or puddles on the path.  It looks like July but with a slight nip in the air.

Here are two of my favourite people on Charmouth beach.  We were there for just a couple of hours (apologies to Mrs P - I'm pretty sure you were away, now I know I can get there, we'll be coming again!)  When we arrived there were six cars in the car park, when we left, there was a queue to get in.  I wouldn't say it was the most beautiful beach but it was the nearest and two hours by the sea left me wide awake and fulll of summer spirit.

I want to live by the sea sometime soon.  Not necessarily all the time.  I can't be doing with the upheaval but I would really like a little place by a beach, even a town beach.  What I would like most of all is a month by a beach.  The Worker and I went travelling a long time ago and one of my favourite bits was the month by the beach that I'd exchanged for two weeks of trekking in Nepal - lots of lying down in exchange for too much yomping about.  Bliss.  I think it might have to be a sandy beach although pebbles appeal as they're quite clean and I can convince myself I'm having a hot stone massage at the same time.  I'm easily pleased.

However, as funds are limited being a student and all that, I think my seaside retreat will have to wait, at least in reality.  There may be a little online time wasting around the north Devon coast a little later today when I should be on the laptop making some cash not spending it in in an imaginary manner.


Well, from all accounts Catherine the Slim has done a lot better on the wedding diet front than myself.  I have lost precisely 1lb since I challenged myself to get in to my wedding suitt.  I am delighted to announce however, that I can get the jacket and shoes on.  I can also get the skirt on, I just can't do it up.  This means that I have a 66% success rate, which in many examinations rates as an 'A' - as you can imagine, I'm thrilled.

I have also been inspired by an article in the Sunday Times Style magazine announcing that curves are cool.  Hurrah!  I suspect, unfortunately, that this article is in the same vein as those that suggest military fashion is cool - every year, around March.  Never mind - I take some comfort in my temporary coolness.  Finally - I'm in fashion.


Did you make bunting this weekend?  I had a lovely time and have strung some festively across the front of the house.  We are now a three string bunting house - two from Poundland (new favourite shopping - great doilies) and one from my very own sewing machine.  Roll on Friday....

Monday, 18 April 2011

third time lucky....

...this is the third time I've tried to post today.  Hurrah - I finally made it!

What have we been doing?  It's the Easter holidays you know - too cold for sunbathing, too warm for knitting (already!), too chilly for picnics.  This is the not quite right school holidays.  Easter is inbetweeny, not quite long enough holidays. not quite sunny enough holidays.

This holiday, I have stuck to my guns about one day in, one day out.  The day out might not be very exciting and there have been complaints but J has spent a lot less time in his pyjamas which can only be a GOOD thing.  February half term was a fug of hot tea, toast and slippers.  I can't live like that for a fortnight.  There are things to be done and places to go.  There are days out to be had and by gum, we're going to enjoy them.

Last week we had some firsts:
- we had a snack in Greggs (you should have seen the size of the buns), now entitled 'E's favourite new shop'
- we visited Marlborough's Rabley Drawing Centre to see this which was great and required the wearing of white cotton gloves
- we took a trip to Avebury and bought a crystal each for a £1

Cake, culture and crystals.  Not a combination you experience every week.  We like to find entertainment in the simplest of things - obviously!

E & I had a weekend with 'the girls'.  Lots of shopping, a walk along the Thames, a most delicious burger from a place called Byron and a girls' night in watching Britain's Got Talent.  We took the train which was very relaxing and easy peasy.  A proper weekend away.  The boys played football, watched football, talked about football and ate curry and breakfast.

I am hoping to get to the Sculpture Trail here but time is already filtering through our fingers.  Tomorrow we're out and about on another first - we holidaymakers are having our eyes tested (again - simple pleasures).  The last time I had mine looked at was, I think, when I was pregnant and it was free.  The optician informed me that I could have glasses 'if I liked'.  I didn't. 

E has seen a nice purple pair she fancies and J doesn't understand why we need to go.  The reason, I'm afraid is guilt.  The last time I took J to the doctor's because of a persistent headache, the doctor informed me that I should have had J&E's eyes tested every year since starting school.  It hadn't even occurred to me and I'm very obedient on the health front - always in the queue for vaccines or whatnots.  So, whoops, we should have gone to Specsavers so we're going - I hope Greggs is shut.