Monday, 30 November 2015

#BEDN - The Last Day

So it's here, the final day of #BEDN. I missed a couple of days when the prompt didn't spark anything and I didn't come up with an alternative but I think I'll accentuate the positive and call that a win!

It's also St Andrew's Day. I often wonder what the point of patron saints' days is. We don't really celebrate them in England and I'm sure that some people don't know, or care, who their patron saint is or when their particular day is. I know that the Irish make more of St Patrick's Day - any excuse for a party! - and St David's Day gets some mentions in Wales but poor old St George only matters if there's a football match and we need to drape ourselves in his flag! I have no idea how important St Andrew is in Scotland but if any Scots are reading - Happy St Andrew's Day!

So farewell #BEDN! It was fun while it lasted, see you next year.

Oh, and just so you know, it's officially winter tomorrow!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

#BEDN - The C Word (not that one!)

As November draws to a close I have to admit that the C Word is approaching.

I know lots of folk are really organised and on top of stuff already - I have read about fully decorated trees, completed present buying and addressed and stamped cards! Some lovely posts are up about trips to visit Santa and mince pie making.

Then there's me. So far I've procrastinated about making a pudding - it will be done this weekend! - and ignored all things festive. I guess as November is coming to an end I'll have no excuse not to get moving.

I have no idea what to get anyone as a gift nor do I know what I'd like. Well, that's not strictly true. I have several ideas but nothing that I've vocalised. No lists to Father Christmas from me this year!

I don't know how many, if any, cards I need to get. I haven't even looked at the selection on offer yet. Sometimes I think sending cards is a nonsense but I do love getting them and it's a chance to catch up on news from those I don't see too often anymore.

I've ordered the turkey and planned the meal for the 25th and the first gin has been purchased. So maybe I'm not as disorganised as I thought! If there's gin in the house I can cope with most things!    

So I think I'll try to start feeling festive - but not until December arrives.

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Prompt - Gratitude


I may not always say it
But I'm grateful for your love.
You make me feel so good,
And drive the demons away.

I may not always show it
But I'm grateful for your time.
You listen to my madness
And make everything seem fine.

I may not always say it
But I'm grateful for your care.
You make me feel so cosy
When we hold hands as we stroll.

I may not always show it
But I'm grateful you're my friend.
You make me laugh and chuckle
However bad I feel.

I may not always tell you
But I'm grateful you're in my life.
You make my life much richer
I'm so grateful I'm your wife.

Sorry if this is a bit soppy, once I'd started I couldn't stop!

#WotW - Baking

This week has been a baking week.

I've made scones, choc chip fairy cakes, a banana cake and a Victoria sandwich. It's been clouds of flour and wall to wall cake tins in my kitchen!

I've been trying to calm my mind down this week and baking is a perfect thing to help me with that. When I bake I don't think about anything much, I just concentrate on the process. So no negative or nasty thoughts get a look in. Plus there's the pay off of a yummy cake to enjoy later!

I treated myself to Richard Burr's baking book Bake It Yourself and can't wait to try some of the recipes in there - a pineapple upside down cake is calling! Plus his bread recipes seem simple enough for a bread baking duffer - even the birds reject my efforts!

Today I'm planning on making Christmas puddings - I know it's a bit late but I'm sure it won't be too much of a disaster! I'm using Mary Berry's recipe which seems simpler than ones I've used in the past, less ingredients too. I can usually tell by the smell of the mixture if it's going to be a good pudding; Waitrose has some nice ones if it all goes Pete Tong!

So here's to baking and raising of the spirits with cake! 

#BEDN - Buy Nothing Day

I know I'll come across as a grumpy old woman but for a long time I've hated the influx of American culture on this side of the pond. Last month I had a rant about Halloween; about how it seems to have supplanted Bonfire Night as the autumn celebration of choice; about how it all seems to be about getting more stuff out of people. So we can park that rant here, can we?

Today is Black Friday, a day when some people seem to go potting for 'bargains' real or imagined. Last year saw less than edifying scenes of people fighting in stores to get their hands on things. Again it seemed that we'd imported an idea from America and it bought the worst out in some people. On an average Friday people aren't fighting in the aisles of Asda but because it's Black Friday ... well seemingly anything goes.

Black Friday started in America in the early 2000s, a day when Americans began shopping for Christmas and there were promotional discounts on some goods. Stores opened early and people, still in a holiday and celebratory mood after Thanksgiving, started to buy Christmas gifts.  Thanksgiving is a holiday in America and the shops are shut so the following Friday became the first day of the Christmas season for shopping.

For some reason when Black Friday arrived in the UK, thanks to Amazon and Asda (now part of American retail giant Wallmart) the British public went a bit dotty. And if there's one thing that the British public is good at it's overreacting. Hence the fights over TVs, coffee makers and microwaves.

Buy Nothing Day is a global reaction to the rampant consumerism of Black Friday. People across the world pledge to buy nothing on Black Friday, to spend a whole day refraining from joining in the madness of buying things they probably don't really want or need just because it's been 'discounted' or because it's what everyone else is doing.

This year I've decided to join them. I'm not buying anything today, I'm not spending a single penny on anything. Now I know that my tiny, sporadic spending won't make any difference to the global madness but it's important to me to do this. It's a small protest against consumerism, against Black Friday and against the Americanisation of the whole world.

Happy Buy Nothing Day! 

Thursday, 26 November 2015

#BEDN - Nostalgia

Let's get the old joke out of the way right now - nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

I've always loved a good wallow in the past, a good blast of nostalgia. When I want to pop back in time all I have to do is put the tunes from my teenage years on and I'm back there; back at school trying to catch a glimpse of the lad I fancied, hanging out with my girlfriends, trying the latest fashions, spending too much time reading Jackie and wishing David Cassidy would sweep me off my feet. I remember how it felt to be pining away with unrequited love for what's-his-name, how I knew I'd fade away if he didn't notice me, how even a distant glimpse of him would fill my heart with joy. Funny how I can't remember all their names now! But I do remember how bitter sweet teenage love was.

I also get nostalgic for the way life was way back when or at least how I remember it being. I miss being able to buy broken biscuits in the Food Hall of Lewis's; I miss watching Nula and Jane backcombing their hair; I miss mascara you spat into and the brush you scrubbed into it; I miss being able to wear brightly coloured tights, clogs and cheesecloth. In essence I miss being a teenager in the 70s. I even miss the winter of discontent and the power cuts - great excuse for not having done my maths homework!

Most of all I miss the freedom and friendship of my teenage school and college years. I have so many happy memories from those days and life seemed so simple back then - no responsibilities and no worries, well not serious, grown up ones anyway!

So let's wallow in a bit of nostalgia, pop Tiger Feet on and bop around the lounge pretending I'm 16 again...

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

#BEDN - Travel Dreams

As I get older the places I want to visit are changing. I used to want to go to India, Japan and China to experience cultures that are totally different to the Western European one I've always lived in. However now I can't face the thought of long haul flights and all those hours trapped on a plane. So now I have other destinations that I want to go to and they're all much closer to home. I now want to visit the great cities of Europe.

First on the list is Copenhagen. I'm a massive fan of Borgen, The Killing and The Bridge so I've had my appetite for Denmark well and truly whetted. I'm sure it's not always grey and raining in Copenhagen and it looks like a fascinating city, full of beautiful old buildings and it looks like a manageable size to stroll around.

While I'm in Scandinavia I'd like to drive over the Oresund Bridge and spend some time in Malmo and Stockholm. A trip to Skane would be good too so I could pretend I'm on a case with Wallender. I'd love to try Swedish cinnamon buns for breakfast and again Stockholm looks like a manageable city to stroll round. I find very big cities rather traumatic these days and smaller ones are better for me.

Then I'd like a repeat trip to Reykjavik. We went there for New Year several years ago and it was lovely. I have a bit of an Icelandic passion - I love the music and the literature - so I'd like a longer visit to see a little more of this fascinating country.

Back to mainland Europe and a trip to Berlin would be nice. I've never been to Germany and Berlin is so packed with history that I'm sure a trip would be really interesting. It would also be a chance to order a drink in a bierkeller using my very old, O level German!

I've visited Paris so I'd like to go to other parts of France, maybe Chatres or Rhiems. I love the idea of visiting some of the places that I have read about when studying English History. Anywhere with a nice cathedral to wander round would be OK with me.

There are many other cities that I'd like to visit - Prague, Istanbul, Athens (again), Rome, Madrid, Santiago de Compostela - I'm not sure there is enough time to go to all these places but it's never a bad thing to dream ...    

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

#BEDN - Collections

There are many things that get collected. My father collected stamps. He had several albums in which he kept his collection, all carefully mounted. My sister and I had our own small collections but we never really got into stamp collecting. We were like magpies, collecting any stamp that caught our eye rather than having a definite area of collecting like Dad. We gave up the stamp collecting as we got older but Dad collected on and off all his life.

My Mum collected Lilliput Lane cottages. I could never understand what she liked about them; I always thought they were a bit twee. She always talked about how much work and detail went into each little model and I could see that. She liked to remember some of the cottages in her home village and talk about the people who lived there and these little models helped her to reminisce.

I never really got the collecting bug. I never found anything that I really loved, or loved enough to want to collect. I've got loads of notebooks but that's more because I can't resist a pretty notebook than I collect them. So when this prompt came up I was at a loss what I was going to write about.

Then I remembered that I do have one collection. Now please don't judge me too harshly, I know I'm a grown woman and I should know better but I can't help it. Sometimes I'm not as 'mature' as I ought to be and this collection proves that if nothing else. So I confess, I have an extensive collection of Pokémon cards. Yes, that's right, Pokémon cards. My son collected them for a while when he was younger but eventually lost interest. By this time we had acquired a couple of albums to store them in and most of the cards were waiting to be put in them. I started to sort the cards and put them in the albums. I enjoyed arranging them exactly as I wanted and liked looking at the pictures, remembering playing the games and collecting the Pokémon to beat the game. I confess that I did buy some packs of cards for myself (I might have said they were for my son...) and I got more involved in the collecting of the cards. There are some gaps in the collection and they released some for the newer games which I haven't played yet so there is scope for more collecting. In fact I may go and have a flick through the albums, check what cards I need to complete my collection... But what do you do when your collection is complete? Will I need to find something else to not-collect?

Saturday, 21 November 2015

The Prompt - View

The view from my window is of a hazel tree blowing in the wind, its leaves turning yellow as the autumn chill kicks in. Through the branches I can catch a glimpse of the apple tree which I pruned nearly to death last summer; it's rallying well for an old tree and there may be apples again next year. There is a rosemary bush with the last few purple flowers stubbornly clinging on as the wind rocks it from side to side. in the corner of my vision I can see washing blowing on the line in my neighbours garden, flashes of red and moss green. The sun is shining and there are white fluffy clouds scudding across the sky.

I remember other views. The view from my teenage bedroom down the garden. The horse chestnut tree in the corner of the garden, privet hedge on one side, wall on the other. A washing line snaking down the garden with an old wooden prop holding it erect, rose bushes in the neglected flower beds.

The view from my college bedroom. The road from Weymouth to Dorchester running past, buses and cars passing by all day. The walk up to college and the Halls of Residence I would move into later in the course, often watching my friends walking to and from college. A tiny balcony over the door which we climbed onto when the weather was sunny, drinking tea and smoking, waving to our friends.

The view along the lane when I visited my grandmother. We walked through the village and visited my mother's childhood home on a peaceful, gravelled lane. I still have a scar on my knee from falling on the gravel! Tumbledown cottages and workshops along one side of the lane, cottages and houses along the other side. My mother's old house, thatched roof and hollyhocks, still my ideal of a country cottage.

The view across to Portland. Calm sea, golden sand, sunshine in summer; grey sea, pounding waves, mist and rain in winter.

Many views, many memories, many different versions of me.

Friday, 20 November 2015

#WotW - Determination

Well, what a diverse week that was. Along with everyone I was horrified by the events in Paris last Friday and have followed the news in the aftermath. I worry that the world is getting increasingly dangerous. I don't live in a high risk area but it's still something else to worry about and believe me, I don't need an excuse! Along with everyone else I'm determined that it won't stop me doing what I want to and going where I want to, even if I have to fight a feeling of anxiety when I head into a large city from now on.

I also had an unfortunate time on the blog this week when someone tried to leave a nasty comment about one of my posts. It upset me a lot but I have been buoyed up by the lovely and kind comments I have received since I blogged about it. I am determined not to let one spiteful person spoil my blogging experience so I am moving on up (there's a song in there somewhere...) and rising above the petty, nasty comment. So raspberries to them and yay to lovely blogging mates!

I have been thinking for a long time that I'm not getting enough done each day. I partly blame the fact that I have been feeling low lately, mostly due to rubbish menopausal symptoms. However some of it is due to my inherent laziness. I have a real talent for faffing about and wasting time doing nothing, not even the semi-productive daydreaming doing nothing, just the waste of time doing nothing! So I am determined to be more productive from now on. I've got plenty of baking planned using Richard Burr's lovely baking book BIY; I've sorted out some writing prompts to get the writing juices flowing again after the NaNoWriMo drought that I've been stuck in.

As regular readers of this blog will know I often vow to get myself sorted out and fail. But this time I'm, you guessed it, determined to make some positive changes so I can boost my self esteem and feel better about life in general. 

Watch this space!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

#BEDN - Beauty

I don't often blog about things beauty related. There are lots of really good beauty bloggers out there who are far more knowledgeable than me. But in the spirit of #BEDN I'm going to share a few things that I've noticed recently about having rubbish old menopausal skin!

When I was a teenager I had oily skin. Luckily I learned early on that I needed to be scrupulous about cleansing my skin to keep spots away so I didn't get too many breakouts. I used products containing astringent ingredients including cucumber and witch hazel. These stripped the excess oil from my skin and left it feeling clean if a little tight at times. I discovered Oil of Ulay early on too and loved the scent of the lotion as I rubbed it into my skin each night. That was as far as I went with skin care - a cleanse and a moisturise each night. I used Pond's Cold Cream to remove make up and was also enchanted by the smell of it. Smell has always mattered to me. I like my skin care products to smell lovely.

As I got older my skin changed, becoming less oily and more combination - dry cheeks and oily T-zone. I changed the products I used and discovered Clinique's 3 step system of cleansing, toning and moisturising. I liked the yellow bar or 'soap' which cleaned my skin with lots of lovely bubbles; I liked the toner which made my skin feel really clean; and I enjoyed the moisturiser which went on smoothly and made my skin feel soft.

Once the menopause began my skin rebelled. It became dry and flaky. It was like a snake shedding its skin at times, most unattractive. Nothing seemed to help and I resorted to using moisturiser to 'stick' the skin flakes back onto my face! Unless my skin was slick with moisturiser it was flaking in a most unattractive way. There was no way I could wear makeup - everything seemed to dry my skin out in seconds and any product turned to powder making me look like a Regency dandy. Luckily I found a foundation that is water based which I can use on the rare occasions I need foundation - it's by L'Oreal and it's called Nude Magique. It's extremely light and doesn't feel heavy on my skin.

Finally, after much experimentation, I found a skin care regime that suits my skin as it is at the moment. I now use Liz Earle's Cleanse and Polish system. The best thing about it (other than not drying and irritating my skin) is the smell. It smells divine, lavender is the dominant smell and it's so soothing and calming after a long day. I've yet to try the moisturiser that goes with it as I'm using up some Waitrose Pure moisturiser that I have but I'm sure that Liz Earle won't let me down.

I don't tend to wear make up these days. I wore it everyday when I was younger but once I had my son I found that time asleep was more valuable than putting on make up! I always wore mascara and kohl with a slick of lip gloss during the day and a nude or plum lipstick at night. These days putting my face on consists of foundation, mascara and lippie (wish I were brave enough to go red). I wish I could master eyeliner but it always drags and looks like smudged mascara. I must be using the wrong type for my crepey eyes!

My real weakness is nail polish. I love wearing nail polish and have worn most colours over the years. The worst colour I ever wore was white - it looked as if I'd dipped my nails in Tippex! I love wearing bold colours and have a soft spot for a killer red nail polish. Catching sight of my beautifully painted nails always brings a smile to my face.

So there we are, the history of my face and a few make up confessions. What do you think? Should I persist in my pursuit of the perfect eyeliner or admit defeat?             

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

#BEDN - Why do I care so much what people think?

This is a hard post for me to write, so please forgive me if I ramble and stop making sense at any time.

Yesterday I wrote a throw-away post about Home Sweet Home; this was the prompt for #BEDN and I had nothing much to say. As a post it wasn't my best and I just used it to fulfil the requirement to Blog Every Day in November.

Last night I received a comment on the post. It was a single word comment. In essence it said my post was sh*t. It was posted by Anonymous.

I was shocked at how much this upset me. The breath literally left my body and I felt tears prickle in my eyes. It was as if the person who left that comment was in the room and had spat the word at me. My reaction was strong, visceral and totally shocking.

Then followed the anger. Why leave a mean comment? If you don't like a post then leave the blog and move on; why would someone feel the need to leave a mean comment? I just can't understand why someone would do that. In my short blogging career I've always found people to be supportive and kind, leaving positive or supportive comments. This sudden and unexpected nastiness was so shocking that I've thought of little else since I first read it. Naturally I'm not publishing it on my blog!

This morning I decided to address this turn of events on my blog. I understand that blogging is a public medium and people are free to write what they like both as blog posts and as comments. I have read blog posts that have moved me to leave a comment and posts that haven't spoken to me at all and I've left the blog without commenting. That is the nature of blogging - sometimes you engage and sometimes you don't. But I've never left a spiteful comment. I suppose I'm of the school that if you have nothing nice to say then say nothing. The world seems to have moved on and I feel increasingly that I've been left behind. Earlier I wrote a post about kindness and that's what hurt me about the mean comment - it seemed designed to be deliberately unkind.

I doubt that Anonymous gave much thought to how I would feel and react when I read their comment; I doubt they thought much about me at all. If they come back to my blog and read this then it may give them pause for thought ; they may realise that a simple, throw-away comment can have quite a profound effect on someone; they may realise that there is a real person behind each blog who has real feelings. If I'm really lucky they may stop leaving mean comments on blogs!

I know this is coming across as self indulgent navel gazing on my part and I do apologise for that. I needed to get this all off my chest; it's not made me feel better yet but it will, I hope. The main point of this post is to try and work out why I let what people think affect me so much.

I've always been hyper-sensitive to the comments of others. Words have a real power to hurt and upset me. Maybe I'm too sensitive but that's just the way I am and I'm far too old to change now. This sensitivity has left me vulnerable to bullies and at certain times in my life they have made things very difficult for me. I still haven't worked out how to deal with bullies - I tend to run away from them rather than confront them and I'm aware that this isn't a very 'adult' solution. I wish I could stand up to the bullies but I'm not strong enough to do that. So, despite not knowing any of this, Anonymous hit upon the one sure fire way to affect and upset me, using words, or more accurately one word.

I really wish I didn't get so upset about the silly comment. I wish I could stick two blogger's fingers up at them, blow a raspberry and move on. But I can't. I'm struggling to move past the spiteful, nasty comment and I'm feeling really bruised. It's making me question my ability to write, my commitment to writing a blog and whether I want to engage with the online community if someone can affect me so profoundly with a simple comment. I want to keep blogging, I want to keep writing but I'm not sure my heart and soul are strong enough. Do I need or want to invite hurt into my life? I have to think about my mental well being and whether carrying on blogging is the way to go. I know this sounds like an extreme reaction but the comment gave me an extreme reaction and not in a pleasant way.

Thank you to everyone who got to the end of this rambling post. I promise not to be quite so self indulgent when I next blog.            

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

#BEDN - Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home - a bit of a cliché isn't it?  So what does it make me think of?

I think of those twee little signs that you see hanging on the walls of certain styles of kitchen. Not my style of thing, I prefer my kitchen signs a bit more feisty - beware of the cook or hand over the chocolate and no-one gets hurt - but I guess some folk like the sentiment. Sweet is rather appropriate in the kitchen with all the baking that goes on I suppose.

What is a 'sweet' home? Is it the residents that are sweet? Or the atmosphere? Or the building itself? I've never been quite sure about that. My home isn't particularly sweet most of the time (unless I have been baking of course) - we're more savoury in my family! By that I mean that we don't do sweet and soppy (ok I do sometimes ...) we're more likely to watch an action film or some sci-fi rather than a chick flick. Maybe that's because I'm outnumbered by the lads! I have a romantic streak in me and can be rather girly at times but the boys don't share this with me. So we tend more towards practical and the romance stays strictly with me.

But that's not to say that my home isn't important to me. In fact it's the most important thing to me. I'm a real home body, never happier than when I'm in my own environment with my boys around me. In a perfect world I'd never leave. That's not to say that I'm unsociable. I love a good outing as much as the next girl but as any social opportunity approaches I start to wish that I'd said 'no' and I could stay at home. I think part of that is anxiety about what might happen when I'm away from home. Of course nothing bad ever does happen but that doesn't stop me worrying about it in the week before going anywhere.

So home is very important to me but it's not really sweet, it's more Marmite!

Monday, 16 November 2015

#BEDN - Monday!

Well hello Monday, pregnant with possibilities!

Monday is the day that I always say I'll start any new venture. You know the sort of thing - 'I'll start the diet on Monday'; 'I'll go to the gym on Monday'; 'I'll get organised on Monday'; 'I'll start that new project on Monday'. It's all a bit much for poor old Monday to live up to.

Naturally when Monday comes around I don't do any of these things. I put it all off until another day and nine times out of ten that means it gets scrapped altogether. It's like New Year resolutions - fun to make but not really taken seriously!

Why do we hang such heavy things on one day? Monday has enough to cope with without being the day when we embark on new things and New Year's Day isn't that conducive to new plans - hangover, anyone? I don't recall anyone ever saying 'I'll start my new project on Thursday' yet it's as good a day as any to start something new.

So I'm giving Monday the day off. I've not planned any new ventures for today so Monday and I can relax and enjoy ourselves. All I'm planning to do is read my new baking book and sip Turkish apple tea. Time to pop the kettle on methinks ...  

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Prompt - I dwell in possibility. Emily Dickinson


There's a word, brimming with, well, possibilities!

If anything were possible, what would I want?

More time; as I get older I worry about time passing and me not doing he things I'd like to. Being a lazy mare means that I could utilise the time I have now better but I'm acutely aware of the passing of time. So maybe I should stop wasting so much of my time daydreaming (not giving it up entirely of course!), watching trashy TV and faffing about. Then I could use the time productively and in a way that made me feel more happy.

Less aches and pains; again my age is to blame. Being a fifty something woman means the joy of the menopause and I wouldn't wish it on my worse enemy. Some days is good day and some days, well I just want to disappear under the duvet and forget all about them. So feeling more like myself more of the time would be good, if at all possible, Universe!

More cats; I love cats and would fill my house with them if it were possible. My husband is far too sensible to let that happen so I'll have to be content with what I've got at the moment.

Let's go off into fantasy land for a moment. If it were possible to swap lives with someone, who would I pick? I think if I were being frivolous I'd pick someone like Victoria Beckham. To be stylish, wealthy and married to a hunk like David Beckham! I'd also like to experience what it was like to be that skinny - even at primary school I was never that skinny! If I were to be sensible I'd like to swap lives with a successful writer like Megan Beech or Erin Morgenstern, both of whom I admire greatly.

I know that if I could have anything that's possible I should be less selfish and wish for world peace and a cure for cancer but that always seems too pie in the sky and a little bit Miss World.

I guess I live a pretty good life as it is but sometimes it's fun to ponder the possibilities, the if onlys, the what ifs.  

Friday, 13 November 2015

Word of the Week - Clueless

This week was a tricky one to sum up. Mostly it was a normal week for me. You know the sort of thing, washing, ironing, cooking, baking, nothing out of the ordinary.

However I did go to the Ashmolean Museum to see an exhibition 'From Titian to Canaletto'. I really enjoyed seeing the drawings from the Venetian school and as always I wished I could draw. The ability to convey a figure or movement with a few lines and some shading is like magic or alchemy to me - I struggle to draw a straight line with a ruler!

But anyway, back to #WOTW! Thursday night rolled around and I started to think about what word would sum up the week. As ever nothing sprung to mind and I was worried I'd either have to miss #WOTW this time round or force a word to fit.

Then a quick look at the calendar shocked me - Friday the Thirteenth! How did that creep up on me without me noticing? I'm not at all superstitious about that particular day but it's one that I usually take note of. It was something of an obsession with certain girls when I was at school and we all joined in with the silliness - crossing fingers, not standing on cracks in the pavement, no walking under ladders. For some reason all things superstitious were magnified on Friday the Thirteenth!

So I've decided that this week I must have been clueless! I blame the menopausal brain - it doesn't work so well some days!       

#BEDN - World Kindness Day

In general I think kindness is a good thing and there should be more of it. But do we need a day to remind us to be kind to each other and ourselves?

Well, judging by the way some people treat each other that's a really good idea. Day after day there are stories in the media about road rage incidents, old and vulnerable people being abused, children being neglected. It all points to a lack of kindness towards each other.

When did this happen? I remember when I was younger people were generally kind to each other. They said 'Please' and 'Thank You', held doors open for each other, let old people and pregnant ladies have a seat on the bus, helped people when they were in distress. Now I know what you're thinking, 'She's got her rose tinted glasses on again.' Well maybe I have but I'm sure that the nastiness and indifference to other people's feelings and well being is a recent phenomenon.

I always try to be kind to people, to consider their feelings and empathise with their situation. I would never do or say anything that might hurt someone's feelings and I would be mortified if I caused pain by thoughtlessness. Being kind to myself isn't always as easy as I can be hard on myself. I will have to try harder with that!

So over the next few days I hope everyone can be kinder to each other and I can learn to be kinder to myself. Any tips on how to do that gratefully received!  

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

#BEDN - Lists

I love a good list. There's nothing better than reading a list of things to do or see. Lists of recommendations - films, music, food etc - are always a joy and it's good to have an internal argument about whether you agree or disagree with the list.

So I thought I'd put a list together. Feel free to argue with me about this but here goes ...

10 films I've never seen.

1. Citizen Kane. Now I know that this regularly wins polls for the best film ever made but it's never appealed to me. I'm not a massive fan of Orson Wells so I've managed to avoid this one. I'm not consciously ignoring it or refusing to watch it but there always seems to be another film I'd rather watch than Citizen Kane.

2. Dirty Dancing. Another one that just doesn't appeal to me. I'm not a fan of Patrick Swayze or dance movies so again this had little appeal. The music isn't to my taste either so another one that I've avoided so far.

3. The Godfather. I've also never seen Goodfellas or any of the other gangster clone films. Just not my genre so I've little incentive to watch them.

4. Four Weddings and a Funeral. Nor Love Actually. Or Notting Hill. Again not my genre and I'm not a Huge Grant fan either.

5. ET. Well why would I at my age?

6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I'm sure this is a film that would worry and bother me so I'm going to keep my sanity by not watching it!

7. Legally Blonde or any other chick flick. Do I need to say why?

8. Enter the Dragon. Not a fan of kung fu movies, although I do love Carl Douglas singing Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting!

9. Batman. Or Batman Returns. Or Batman part 2. You get the picture. Batman, for me, is Adam West and when he punches someone you get a 'Kapow!' on the screen.

10. Wuthering Heights. This is my all time favourite book and the characters are alive and vivid in my imagination so why would I ruin that by watching someone else's vision of Cathy and Heathcliffe?

So there we are, a list of films that people always go 'Really?!?' when I say that I've never seen them.
What are the surprising films you've never seen?

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

#BEDN - Family

When I think of family I remember my Grandmothers. I always felt closer to my maternal Grandmother. She was a warm and lovely woman, always welcoming when we visited from Birmingham. I enjoyed having tea at her house - honey sandwiches and home-made cake, which we had to take into the garden so we didn't get crumbs on the carpet! My paternal Grandmother was a strict woman and I never felt totally at ease when visiting her as a young child. She ate Spanish onions like apples and loved a curry, a legacy of her time living in India when she was a child. She always seemed very old to me, having been born in the 19th Century when Queen Victoria was still alive!

I also remember my parents, who are both still missed by me and my little sister, who gave us the best childhood I could ever imagine. We weren't well off but we were always fed, clothed and looked after and there was never a doubt that we were loved. Mum was a terrible singer but went at it with great gusto until we were all crying with laughter; she always wore a pinny and always had a hanky in her pocket to cover any eventuality; she made and decorated the best birthday cakes and when we were small made matching dresses for my sister and me, which we didn't always enjoy wearing. Dad was a lovely singer and had a wide repertoire of songs, snatches of which still make me smile when I hear them; he hated having the same sandwich filling two days running; he liked a beer and had an infectious laugh when telling tall stories after a pint or two.

I also think of my sister. When we were young we didn't get on most of the time, squabbling about anything and everything. We shared a playroom and in order to avoid one another as much as possible we drew a line in crayon down the middle of the room! I bet Mum was thrilled when she saw that! By the time I went off to college we were getting on better and by the time she went to study abroad we were quite close. Now we don't see each other as often as we should or I'd like but when we get chatting on the phone time just flies. She has the nicest husband and I'm very fond of him. Sometimes he can be a bit infuriating - too much teasing - but he's a lovely chap and she deserves the happiness she has with him. Their son is a good egg too, even if he does drive them dotty at times. What do you expect, he's a bloke!

My immediate family I have spoken of  here before. My husband is a constant source of support to me and I shudder to think where I'd be without him. My son is my pride and joy. He's clever, witty, thoughtful  - enough embarrassment yet?

Thinking back over my life I guess that all the various members of my family have helped to make me the person I am today - some of the bits I could have done without guys! So a big round of applause to all my family, I think I turned out mostly ok...       

Monday, 9 November 2015

#BEDN - Style

I confess to being a bit of a celebrity junkie. I pay far too much attention to what they are doing, who they are dating and what they are wearing.

Some celeb styles I admire. They dress the way I wish I could - if I had the money, the body and the know how to put it all together that is!

I like the way Amal Clooney dresses. She always looks elegant and co-ordinated. It doesn't hurt that she's stick thin and beautiful!

I also like Victoria Beckham's style. She knows what suits her and wears her own designs well. She also always looks polished, even on her way out of a Soul Cycle class!

I like the way Katherine Jenkins dresses as well. Although her look is a little too formal for my lifestyle, she always looks immaculate and perfectly groomed.

How I'd love to have nailed my style at my advanced age, to know what suits me and be able to put together my 'look' effortlessly. But so far that's not happened. My look veers between confused bag lady to scruffy lazy leggings wearer! And don't even start on the hair and make-up, I'm equally clueless about those! Part of me would love to sort it out but part of me thinks it's a bit late to bother and I should just forget about having a style or 'look'.

So, should I try to nail my style? Or shall I stay a beige non-entity, which is how I feel most of the time!    

Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Prompt - Fire


Gather round the fire on a chilly winters day.
Warm you hands, your face, your derriere.
Rub your hands together, hold them near the flames.

Toasting forks at the ready, crumpets are impaled.
Keep them moving, keep them turning.
Slowly warming, slowly toasting, ready to be buttered.

Early morning ritual, Dad on his knees at the hearth.
Scraping, brushing out the ashes, pop them in a bucket.
Sooty, messy ashes, dumped in the back yard.

Scratchy strike of match on box, sulphury smell.
Deep inhale, slight cough, best cigarette of the day.
Cupping the precious cargo, safe from wind and rain.

Towering pile of timber, cardboard , pallets, paper.
Excitement building, children jumping about, anticipation growing.
A blueish flash, a crackle in the air, the bonfire starts to glow.

Driftwood gathered on the beach, piled between a circle of stones.
Bottles clinking, laughter and singing, a warm summers night.
Fire building, faces glowing, capturing a moment of teenage madness.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

#BEDN - Unusual Hobbies

I've always thought of hobbies as something primary school children have. Things like stamp collecting, building Airfix models, colouring in. Not the sort of thing that a grown woman would do . By the time you get to my age you have interests rather than hobbies.

I guess my interests are things like reading, knitting, loafing about but they don't really count as unusual.

I've always thought of myself as relatively conventional. I don't do exciting, daring or unusual things - mostly because I'm too lazy or too chicken for anything like that!

So I have nothing unusual to add to this post!  

Friday, 6 November 2015

Word of the Week - Nothing

So this week I've decided that the only word that comes close to summing up this week is a big, fat nothing.

I've had a real meh week. I feel as if I've accomplished nothing at all. This week was the start of NaNoWriMo but I'm so far behind I'm feeling like jacking it in already. I've been feeling tired all week and have struggled to find the energy to do anything much.

So the whole week feels like nothing - nothing accomplished, nothing done, nothing at all. Really a big down and lots of boos for a rubbish week!

So let's pretend it didn't happen and shake off the ennui I'm feeling; let's hit next week running and give it a good shake up.

Or I could put the kettle on, put my feet up and do nothing ...

Thursday, 5 November 2015

#BEDN - Bonfire Night

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

As a child my family celebrated Bonfire Night rather than Halloween.
Halloween was just the day before Mum's birthday and there were no skeletons, pumpkins or trick and treating back then.

We had a bonfire in our back garden, under the horse chestnut tree. That poor tree got singed every November! How we didn't start a tree fire I'll never know but all of us and the tree survived many bonfires together. We'd start building the bonfire about a week before the fifth, gathering sticks and twigs from around the neighbourhood and adding anything from the house that was burnable rubbish. My sister and I always wanted to do jacket potatoes in the fire but they were never successful. Luckily Mum always had some in the oven which we wolfed down with lashings of butter and cheese.

Dad was in charge of the fireworks. They were kept in an old tin box which only came out for Bonfire Night - I have no idea where it was the rest of the year, possibly in the cellar. There was a half buried milk bottle to launch the rockets, a hammer and tacks to nail the Catherine Wheels to the fence, a carefully cleared patch of ground to pop the Roman Candles in.

Mum and me were a bit scared (OK I was a lot scared!) of the fireworks so we'd stay in the house with the pets while Dad and my sister set the fireworks off in the garden. I remember hearing her squeal as the bangers fizzed across the yard; I probably squealed as well from the safety of the sitting room.     

We'd enjoy jacket potatoes, cake and hot chocolate as the evening wore on, everyone standing round the bonfire. I can still smell the woodsmoke that clung to out clothes and hair until we were scrubbed clean in the bath before bed.

Later when I had my son we would go to organised displays as I was far too nervous to have fireworks in the garden. We went to the display at the church hall with lots of friends from toddlers group and church. There were lots of fireworks, far more than we would have had at home; we had jacket potatoes again, they must be a staple food of Bonfire Night! I remember there being wine and beer for the adults and soft drinks for the children, lots of laugher and fun with good friends. I also remember thinking how odd it was to be at a church event 'celebrating' the capture and execution of Gut Fawkes, not very Christian in my opinion!

I'm a firm believer in people knowing about the history and culture of our country and Bonfire Night is a part of that. It saddens me that some children don't know what Bonfire Night is all about, thinking it's just about having some fireworks and a party, almost an extension of Halloween.

So today I hope everyone has a great, fun time with their families, enjoys some yummy Bonfire Night treats and stays safe.      

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

#BEDN - Failing

Today's prompt is Photography but as I take hardly any pictures and those are pretty rubbish I've decided to go 'off-piste' with my post.

Whenever I sign up for things like #BEDN or NaNoWriMo I have the very best of intentions. I will be disciplined and organised and sail through the challenge with all the aplomb I know others have and I aspire to.

As usual I rush into it, fail to think it through, fail to plan and therefore plan to fail. The whole thing seemed like such an adventure when I signed up. I was going to enjoy the discipline of blogging each day; of writing 50,000 words in a month. This was going to be the time that I got myself into a routine that I could stick to and my writing would come on in leaps and bounds.

Yet here I am on Day 4 of the challenge and I'm behind with my word count for NaNoWriMo and I'm struggling to think of something interesting to put on the blog.

What does this say about me? That I always bite off more than I can chew? That once again I'm over-reaching myself? That I lack the discipline to do any serious writing?

Hopefully it just says that I'm human and fallible. 

I'll try to do better but I may fail again/fall short. I'm rather good at failing these days.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

##BEDN - Food Glorious Food

So today's prompt is all about food so I thought I'd share my favourite foods.

Cheese. How much do I love cheese? I'm not a huge fan of blue cheeses but I'm coming round to them as I get older. But I just love cheese. My favourite cheeses are Red Leicester, Halloumi and Mozzarella. However don't get the idea that I only like mild cheeses - a hunk of strong cheddar is a thing of beauty.

Mushrooms. These are good raw or cooked but I love them on a pizza dripping with melted cheese. I'm also a fan of mushrooms on toast and bread crumbed mushrooms with garlic butter. A big field mushroom with Halloumi in a bun makes a great veggie burger.

Pasta. I love a good pasta dish but as they're 'bad carbs' I only have them occasionally. I'm a sucker for a pasta and creamy sauce dish. But a nice spicy tomato sauce is just as good and better for the calorie content too!

Chocolate. How can anyone not love chocolate? I've yet to meet a chocolate dish that I didn't love. In fact in my youth I was challenged to eat a dog biscuit dipped in chocolate and I did - tasted OK too! I love a good chocolate mousse but a favourite from school dinner days was chocolate sponge with chocolate custard - mmm!

Potatoes. I love all things potato - chips, mash, roasties but above all crisps! I adore crisps, all flavours, all types. I've been banned from eating crisps recently as they are 'bad carbs' too but I still crave them occasionally. I've not given in to the temptation as yet but I hope one day to have enough self control that I can have a few crisps again, without scoffing the whole family size packet by myself.

So there we go, my favourite foods. You can tell that I don't get to go to Michelin starred restaurants very often (only once actually!) but I do have my favourites and they bring me joy and I never tire of eating them. 

Monday, 2 November 2015

#BEDN - Love Mondays

Dear Johanne,

I know you don't like getting up early after two days of sleeping in late. 6.30am is a rubbish time to get up, especially in the long, dark winter mornings but the cats need breakfast and a packed lunch won't make itself.

I know that the weekly shop can be a slog, especially on those mornings when you forget to take the shopping list with you. I know that the temptation of the crisp aisle is strong but you're doing so well avoiding buying them.

I know that sometimes it seems that the week stretches out forever and the weekend will never come - bring on the footie!

By the time the evening quizzes are on TV your brain can be frazzled but thankfully your genius son can supply some much needed intelligence to help your poor old brain.

I understand that sometimes it's tempting to make the start of the week a chance to start over, to begin again but it can be too much for one day to handle, setting you up for failure. Failing is something that you fear so I'm sorry I can't make things go more smoothly.

So slap on a smile and we'll make this week the best it can be. It's a new beginning, after all - no pressure!



Sunday, 1 November 2015

#BEDN - Something New About You

So here we go again, attempting to post every day for a whole month.  Extra madness thrown in as I'm taking part in NaNoWriMo so I need to write 1600 words each day to stay on track with that. Could I possibly pile a bit more pressure on myself?

So today I'm supposed to share something new about myself, something that the blogging community don't know about me. That's a tricky one. I'm a bit wary of sharing too much on t'Internet; after all there are odd bods out there aren't there? So what can I share? My favourite colour? Only if I'm channelling my inner 8 year old.

I'm really a very ordinary person. I don't have any special talents or skills. I can bake a bit (nothing fancy mind), I can knit a bit (just the basics really), I can write a bit (nothing brilliant so far). I've never met a celebrity (although I do get a bit excited if they respond to me on Twitter), I've never been present at a momentous or historic event (unless you count being at Highbury on the day Villa won the Division One title).

So what can I share?  What new thing can I share today?

Nope. I've got nothing.

So maybe the new thing is that I'm so boring and ordinary that there's nothing interesting to share. Gosh, that's a bit depressing when you think about it.

And, in case you were wondering, my favourite colour is purple.