Every Tiny Stitch


Creating the canvas with silken thread
Each day with different colours weaving
On whitest linen in smallest stitches
The complexity of life I’m living

Red jelly and custard birthday parties
a childhood spent in lonely play
Crepe paper hats and satin costumes
Kite flying on a windy day

Sunshine yellow of early teen years
Pop idol screaming in the park
Hot pants, boas, and minis and maxis
Cow bells, music, moon walks in the dark

Shocking pink in early womanhood
living dangerously on last tube home
first job jitters, first date delights
while family snaps to monochrome

Rich dark purple of dreams destroyed
Bleeding wounds traced in crimson thread
Tear tracks, pills, and Empty purses
Disillusioned, discarded, life filled with dread

But then the scarlet of surrender
The blush of finding first true love
Warmth of babes, new lives beginning
The tangerine joy of motherhood

Now the lavender skein is needed
As the empty phase begins
How my coloured garden sows those
Wild brown wrinkles on the skin

The final years with wizened fingers
forging murals bittersweet
‘til only the blackest thread remains
the tapestry will be complete

What is that stuff?

Every now and then my husband and I (ooh hark at me sounding like the Queen) take ourselves off for a ‘date lunch’.  We like food, and it is good to spend a bit of quality time together now and then, so we find ourselves somewhere nice to go and pig out (it may be a date lunch, but we don’t stand on ceremony… well, we’ve been together for over thirty years now so we should just about be used to each other’s sloppy eating habits).   Yesterday we ended up in a really cosy pub, the log fires being just what we needed after being out in the gale force winds and unseasonal blizzard that suddenly appeared from nowhere.

All the food was yummy, as was the real Ale that we washed it down with, but what stood out for me was the chips.

Now, I’m not usually a big fan of chips.  They can be a bit soggy, or in French fry form, a bit burnt and over crispy.  I don’t have them often, but when I do, I drown them in salt and vinegar to give them some flavour, or if I’m feeling fancy, a bit of mayo a la Francais way.  I’m not a big fan of tommy k (tomato ketchup to you), so never that big red blob on my plate thanks.  Yesterday’s chips didn’t need anything though, they came ready seasoned and really crispy on the outside and soft in the middle (like an Armadillo as we say in our house…don’t ask… there was an advert once I think), 10 out of 10 for the chips then!

Of course, we ended up discussing what constitutes a ‘proper’ chip.  Do french fries count??

Anyhoo, what with the chips/French fry debate an’ all, it got me thinking about foods that aren’t like what their supposed to be, and how sometimes they are really yummy despite being completely weird and unrecognisable.  Like these goodies:

  • Tinned strawberries – now I don’t know what they were in a past life, but they look and taste nothing like the real thing. They are pink, sploshy and sweet.  Sometimes, I confess, I think they might be better than a freshly picked one that makes your mouth purse like a cat’s bottom because it’s a bit hard and tart or worse still, completely tasteless.
  • Pot noodles – does anyone know what that stuff is made from? Oh, I know what it says on the label – dried veggies and meat, but really? Nevertheless, who doesn’t love a naughty pot noodle from time to time? They are slurpily scrummy.
  • Vesta Chow Mein – I guess this is along the same lines as a Pot Noodle, being some sort of dried stuff with noodley thingys. But this is more of a meal. It’s crispy noodles a delight of crunchy oiliness, and it’s soft noodles, covered with the other…well, stuff, is again, a slurpers heaven.  Love it!
  • Crab Sticks – They are very pink. They are sticks.  They are not made of crab. I could eat ten of them in one sitting.  What more do you need to know?
  • Spam – Another pink food! Jellified meat that comes in a tin.  Sounds delicious doesn’t it? Spam is apparently ‘pressed pork and ham’, it tastes neither like pork nor ham, it tastes like Spam. It is amazingly versatile, in our house we have spam hash, spam kebabs, grilled spam, spam fritters, spam sandwiches…  I am a Spam fan. Many are not.
  • McDonalds fruit pies – Peculiar sort of sugary pastry stuff containing killer goo that will take the skin off your mouth and tongue unless you leave it for at least two hours to cool down. I think they are related to pop tarts. Yep, still good!
  • Cadbury’s Crème Eggs – Yes, it’s the time of year when all our thoughts turn to how many of these little devils we can stuff in our gobs before Easter. Hooray!! Chocolate ‘eggs’ filled with errmm…what is that stuff…?

These are just a few examples, off the top of my head, of weird yet wonderful foodstuffs that are filled with e-numbers and calories to start you salivating. I’m quite sure there are many more (I bet I think of them as soon as I press the post button!). I’d love to hear your favourites!

Tell Father Christmas not to bother

October, and already the shops are filling with Christmas ‘cheer’.  For the first time this year though, for us, Christmas is cancelled.

Now, I’ve often thought about cancelling it before. For a start, there’s the hassle of Christmas shopping.  Fighting through hoards of harassed people to find gifts that you know will be gratefully received, but will probably be stuck at the back of the recipients cupboard for all eternity. The queuing to pay, only to eventually be served by thoroughly cheesed off staff who have had their brains fried by the constant loop of ‘Jingle Bells’, and ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’. Frankly, you’ve only been in the shop for ten minutes and you would willing smash the damn tannoy yourself.

Then there’s the long heated discussions about who is going where, and when.  Which mum is coming to us this year? When are we going to see brothers/ sisters/nieces/nephews… ?? Are they coming to us or should we go to them?  Who’s staying over? Will they want lunch the next day as well??

Once decided, there is the happy task of food/drink shopping.  You park in the one spot left in the supermarket car park. The little one.  Next to the bollard that you scrape as you pull in.

You get a trolley with wonky wheels that insist on going in the opposite direction that you want to, which makes you swear loudly, turning heads and forcing mothers to cover their children’s ears. The supermarket is packed with people all standing chatting in front of the aisles that you want to go down. The shop has run out of just about everything you’d planned to buy, and you know you’ll have to repeat the visit again before the big day. Yet still you end up paying over a hundred quid and having a trolley load big enough to feed an army, and somehow you’re going to have to find room for it all in the cupboards when you get home.

You’ll guess I’ve never been a big fan of the run-up, but I do love Christmas eve, when the wrapping is finished, the turkey is ready for popping in the oven the next day, and we sit down to watch ‘Carols from Kings’ with a glass of sherry.

I love the morning itself often dragging everyone else out of bed early.  Even when my daughters were young, they were never ones for getting up at the crack of dawn it was always me waking them

‘lets go and see if Father Christmas has been!’

He always had.

The smell of Christmas dinner cooking while we ate mince pies and drank Bucks Fizz. Playing with the daft games.  Eating chocolates.  Lighting the Christmas pudding with Brandy.  Falling asleep in the afternoon.  Eating some more.  Drinking some more. Playing raucous board games ‘til two in the morning.

Yes, overall, I pretty much enjoy the actual event.

But as I said, this year, for the very first time, Christmas is cancelled.

Our doctor daughters have so far been lucky with their shifts and have always managed to come home for Christmas.  This year though, it’s their turn to work, one has to do a long shift on Christmas day and the other on Boxing day (though they live and work at opposite ends of the country – just an unfortunate coincidence!).  So me and my husband will be on our own.  For one reason or another, we won’t be seeing any other family either.  It will be very weird.

Of course, we’ll try and get together at some time, either before or after the ‘big day’, and I’m determined that ‘our christmas’ will be exactly the same as everyone else’s whether it fall on the  1st December or the 1st January.   I’ll still have to do the shopping and the wrapping. We’ll still have the tree, and the presents and the turkey, and it will still be brilliant.  And I keep telling myself it won’t matter when we do it, as long as we’re all together at some point.

But secretly, whilst being really, really proud of my hardworking daughters, I’m still very sad that I’m having to write to Father Christmas and tell him not to bother to come on the 24th!

Written as part of the Writing 101 challenge – ‘think about an event you have attended and loved and you’re told it will be cancelled – your voice will find you’.

Home but not a house

I never thought much about it when I was growing up, it was just where we lived, but when I told my husband that we lived over a motorbike showroom that was squashed between an off licence and a salvation army hall, with a bus stop right in front of our front door, he swore there must be a story in there somewhere.

Now I come to think of it, there probably is, but I’m not going to explore that now.  I’ll just tell you the facts. It was an old building in Tooting, South London, probably a warehouse at one time. Certainly, our first floor living room was of warehouse proportions, and a devil to keep warm, especially with the three tall drafty sash windows that lined the front wall.  We used to stuff newspapers in the gaps between the panes to stop them rattling in the wind. We had no central heating, and relied heavily on a two bar electric fire at the end where the sofa and tiny TV stood, and a terrifyingly temperamental paraffin heater at the other end beside the slightly out of tune piano that my sister used to endlessly practice ‘The Elizabethan Serenade’ on.

Next to the living room was the kitchen/diner, always steamy, with a kettle on the boil, and the oven alight to warm the room.  The old radio would be humming ‘sing something simple’ or ‘The Goon show’ while we sat at the table for our tea.

The bedrooms were on the second floor.  My sister and I shared a long narrow room with another newspaper-stuffed sash window at the far end.  The room was decorated with willow pattern wallpaper, and we used to entertain each other making up stories about the little Japanese people that were crossing the ornate blue bridges.  When she got married and left home I was allowed to choose the décor and went for a vivid plain orange paper, which I loved, but it had no stories to tell.

When I was very young we didn’t have a bathroom, and on Friday nights mum took as into town to the public baths where my sister and I shared a soak. Eventually though, my dad did a bit of home bodging and put in a bathroom and indoor toilet – luxury!  Like most of his projects, I don’t think it was ever quite finished off, but he did paint the walls using a feather duster dipped in different coloured paints to give a rainbow effect. This was long before fancy paint techniques were discussed on the TV.  In fact, it was long before any DIY shows were on the TV!

Our home was dusty and drafty. There were lots of stairs and a spider filled basement, which had been used as an air-raid shelter during the war, and which I didn’t dare go in, not only because of the spiders, but also because of the scary stories my sister used to tell me about witches and bogey men that lived down there.  I was so frightened of it that I always sidled quickly past its wooden door to get out into the small walled garden.  I seem to have a vague memory of a corrugated iron Anderson shelter out there at one time, but I guess that must have been taken down when I was very young.

Sometimes, but not always, our garden had flowers, once I had a much beloved guinea pig who lived out there, but over-ridingly, there was the huge white pigeon loft which took up pretty much half of the space. When Dad got into pigeon racing, everything else went.  The apple tree in the middle of the grass.  The flower beds.  The guinea pig.  My swing-in-the-door.  Instead, the pigeons became his, and by default, our focus. Trying not to knock the jelly off the window sill where it had been left to set, while we leant precariously out of the kitchen window to see if they were on their way back after a race, or standing outside rattling tins of food to entice them to come down to have their racing rings removed and be ‘clocked back’ became our standard occupations on Saturday afternoons.

Dad’s craze’s and eccentricities were a central part of my growing up, and many of them formed the memories I have of my childhood home. Often when I think back to those times I think of the many Christmas’s when he insisted on decorating the front room with an elaborate spider’s web of crepe paper strips. I have no idea where he got his ideas from, but I have never seen the like since.  I remember being mortified at the time and really just wanting tinsel and paper chains like all the other kids had.  Now, the memory of the ‘ta da!’ moment when we all stood round with our fingers crossed while he cut the strings that temporarily held the strips of paper up, to reveal that they were in fact self-supporting, is a warm memory of home I will never forget.

Written as part of the writing 101 challenge – write about your childhood home with sentence length in mind.

Stormy Weather

There’s a big storm howling around outside at the moment. Torrential rain filling up the pond and flattening the flowers.  Yes, it’s British summer again folks.

My mum has never liked storms.  Always been terrified.  Hiding in cupboards if necessary. I can’t remember if it’s the lightening or thunder that she’s particularly afraid of, I don’t think she’s sure, but at 91 she’s still a bit of a wuss over them. Don’t expect she’ll change now.

I’m privileged to live in house that is surrounded by open spaces and can see storms approaching from some distance. We are also fortunate to have a ‘double aspect’ bedroom, so can watch the dark clouds and flashes closing in, passing overhead, and then sailing off into the distance.  I have many a happy memory of standing with my daughters, noses pressed against the windows, all of us mesmorized by the spectacle of a fierce storm lighting up the sky and clearing the air.  We’ve even danced outside, feeling the fresh rain tingle on our skins, while the clouds smash together overhead a few times.

However, I’m not quite as brave as I used to be.

A couple of years ago, I was alone in the house when a really extreme storm hit.  I have never seen rain like it. The road was a river and you could barely see outside for the rain on the windows. The thunder and lightning were incessant and the dog was a wreck – she’s as scared of ’em as my mum!  I was doing my best to calm her down, whilst wondering if it really was the end of the world, when there was the biggest, loudest, reverberating crack of thunder I’ve ever heard. It was as overhead as it could possibly get and shook the house to it’s foundations. Instinctively I ducked, convinced the house would be a pile of rubble around me at any moment.  It wasn’t.

Instead the alarm went off.

You may know that I am hideously neurotic when it comes to security.  It comes from being burgled three times.  Consequently our house is fitted with the finest alarm system money can buy.  It wasn’t set because I was at home, instead, it was shrilling it’s displeasure at being hit by the lightning.

As if the dog wasn’t traumatised enough.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve been in a house while the alarm is going off, but I can tell you, it’s not pleasant. It’s painfully earsplitting. You just want it to stop. Trouble is, mine wouldn’t.  It was stuck on. No amount of coaxing, putting in codes, hitting, or swearing would stop it.  The thunder was still thundering, the dog was barking like a lunatic, and the alarm was shrieking it’s high pitched war-cry non-stop, while I had to dig out the phone number for the alarm company, ring them, and try to have a sensible conversation.  The blokey at the other end of the phone, while being courteous, couldn’t quite grasp that the darn thing just wouldn’t turn off, and asked daft things like ‘have I entered the right code?’, I wouldn’t say I was rude, but….

Eventually, he said he’d send an engineer out.  This was at about four o’clock in the afternoon.  It wasn’t until nine in the evening that he turned up.  The alarm was still going, the dog was still barking, I was at the end of my tether, but at least the storm had passed.  It took him about three quarters of an hour before he managed to silence the darn thing. It had been fried.  We needed a new unit. It would cost. Cost a lot.

Since then, I’ve not been so keen on storms. Neither has the dog.



I need support – or – feeling discomboobulated

Love ‘em or loath ‘em, on the whole, we ladies have to wear bras.  They strap us in, bolster us up, and, not putting too fine a point on it, stop things, well, bobbing about.

I was in Marks and Sparks the other day when there was an announcement over the tannoy reminding us that there was a ‘Bra Fitting Service’ available in the lingerie department.   Well, since I was there to buy some underwear (well, why else would I be there…can’t afford the food..), and I was feeling pleased with myself for losing some flab since last time I bought such items (ok, that was some time ago as the tired old once-white scaffolding I was wearing at the time would testify), so I thought I’d take advantage of their most kind offer to reassess my size.

I picked the chosen confections from the rack in the size I thought I probably was, and stood and waited at the door of the fitting rooms.

‘Have you made an appointment’ ‘Linda’ asked.  I knew she was Linda, because she was sporting a fetching name badge telling me that she was the ‘fitting assistant’.

Well to be honest, I had no idea that you had to make an appointment.  They didn’t mention that on the tannoy, and crikey, I only wanted a quick measure up.  Anyway, Linda said they could fit me in if I would care to wait a few minutes.

Eventually, she showed me into the changing room, and told me to whip my blouse off.  The measuring took place under unforgiving lights which made my flesh look like risen dough. Fortunately I didn’t have to remove my underwear so some dignity was retained.  Just.

She gave me the verdict.

‘Ah, you’re in between sizes’

Well, fancy that.  Who’d a thought.  I’m not average…

Having immediately discounted my original choices, she went off in search of the perfect item.  She brought back half the shop.  All different sizes and shapes.  Good grief, did you know that you can be a different size according to what shape the ‘cup’ is? Or that it’s ‘dangerous’ if the wires sit too far round the side and your boob isn’t fully wedged in there?  What the hell does that mean? Dangerous!  Thanks to Linda I now have instilled in me a morbid fear of ill-fitting bras.

I must have tried on dozens.  Some were too squishy, some made me look like a ship in full sail, some were too baggy (Linda took her life in her hands when she told me that ‘older people lose their muscle tone up there’. She was darn lucky I didn’t show her exactly what muscle tone I’ve got in my right hook, I can tell you) some made me flob out over the top, some moved about when I swung my arms over my head.  Who knew I was such an odd shape?

I was feeling quite discombobulated (boobulated?? I was going to say deflated but that wasn’t the case at all), when she eventually bought one in that vaguely fitted.

‘Ooh I like that one, that’ll do’ I said, a little bit too overenthusiastically.

She stood there, hand on chin, sucked her teeth like a mechanic inspecting your tyres

‘No, it’s too tight. I’ll get you the next size’ and before I could object she disappeared through the curtain.  Needless to say the next size up replacement was way too big.  Ho hum.

It took another few abortive attempts before she bought me that same bra again.

‘I’d picked up the wrong size before’ she admitted.  ‘This one should be better’.

By then, I could only just about manage a tight-lipped smile. I’d been trying on bloomin’ bras for the last three-quarters of an hour, I was having this darn thing whether it fitted or not.

It was, of course, about three times the cost of the one’s I originally picked up and, miraculously, it was the same size as those.  Who needs a fitter?

After I’d paid for my mega fitting bra, I went to another shop.  Their underwear was on special offer.  I bought two bras without trying them on.  They fit perfectly.

For the love of IT

A long time ago in a land far far away, well a couple of hundred miles, I discovered a great love – passion even, that was to change my life completely forever.

As the seventies drew to a close I was fortunate enough to get a job in a major publishing house, and even more fortunate to become part of a team working on the Electrical and Electronics stream of publications.  These included all sorts of weird and wonderful titles, the like of which you might see at the end of  ‘Have I got News for You’.  Of course, at that time, our systems were not computerised.  As a Production Executive I had to log everything in handwriting in huge, difficult to manage log books, and design the layout of each issue of each publication using paper and glue (Cow Gum – could get us all high pretty quickly if we gave it a chance!).

Anyhow, it was during that time that I was given charge of the publication that was to plant that seed of love in me – Computer Weekly.  Computer’s were pretty new fangled and of course it was pre-windows, so I imagined such things were out of my reach, but because of the nature of the magazine I was able to get my hands on a machine in the editorial department every now and then, and use some spurious reason to get one of the team to show me how to do something or other.  All very basic MS DOS stuff, but I really looked forward to those short sessions where I could use a keyboard and something on a screen happened.

But before long, I became a mum, and that job fell by the wayside, and although I continued in magazine production I was no longer involved with the computer industry in any way.

We moved ‘up North’, the kids grew, I needed a job, but by the time of the mid-nineties it was clear that employers were increasingly looking for some IT skills in their new recruits.  So I signed up for a scheme that had been set up locally and set about gaining an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) in Information Technology.  Oh, how I loved it!  It made sense. It clicked. It was an epiphany for me.  Had computers been around at school when I was a kid I would have actually been good at something, instead of bad to so-so at everything.  I progressed easily and quickly.

Despite being very strapped for cash, we invested in a shiny new computer as a ‘family’ Christmas present one year, and I was able to find my way around it and teach my daughters a bit too.  I landed a job, initially working from home, running a small membership organisation.  And the rest, as they say is history.  The organisation grew and grew, I became, through necessity, and to my delight, involved in everything from building databases, designing and managing websites, finance programmes, document production and everything in between.  And as it was a committee-led national organisation, everything was done ‘virtually’ so there was no IT support to rely on.  I quickly learned how to solve problems and keep clunky machines moving.  The more challenging the problem the more I loved it.  I found I have a very natural, gut response to computer’s that give me grief – you shall not defeat me!!  And generally they don’t.  Tsk…that’s probably the kiss of death, I’m waiting for my screen to freeze now..

Anyhoo, now I’m retired, my love affair with my laptop, ipad and phone is still as strong as ever. I am an addict. !  I thought that nothing would delight me more than finding new ways of using them be it a fantastic website or a useful programme.  Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in love ’em all!

But I’ve found a new outlet for my passion.

Recently I noticed an advert in a local magazine for volunteers to help out as Tutors teaching older people IT skills.  And for the past month I’ve been going along to the classes and sharing some of my excitement and enthusiasm.  It’s hard work.  Some have very little in the way of keyboard skills.  Some are a bit better, but find it all very confusing, and some are downright scared.

Yesterday, one lady was sitting staring at her screen looking very glum indeed.  I asked her if she needed some help.

‘I hate it’ was all she said.

‘What do you need it for’ I asked.

‘I’m on a church committee and they keep sending stuff to each other, and they want me to write newsletters and things and I can’t. I feel like a twerp’ she said, almost in tears.

I was able to give her a pep talk and show her where we were up to in the class and she was so much happier at the end.   I told her I was the complete opposite of her.  How I loved how I could do practically anything on here – heck, I can even do sums.  Me!  Doing maths!  Well, of course it’s not me, its my spreadsheety friend.  I hope I can pass on some of the love to at least some of the group and that they learn, like I did, that IT is there to help. It’s a whole world of wonderfulness – not just the internet, but just being able to look at photos easily, keep a christmas card list, write a journal, keep track of your money, keep notes (love Evernote!) oh, and of course, do sums……

I realise, that, in my age group at least, I seem to be in the minority.  Lots of people find the whole concept frustrating and unfathomable.  I feel privileged that it makes sense to me.  Its not that I’m clever, its just how my brain works.  I’m a lucky one.


Me, the poser

Downward facing dog

Downward facing dog. Not me. If you think I’m going to put a picture up of my efforts you are much mistook!!

Sooooo, since Christmas, in addition to my weekly 90 minute class, I have religiously been doing at least half an hour’s yoga practice every day.  My husband leaves home at about 7:20 in the morning and by half past, I’ve started.  Usually I use one of the standard classes in the Yoga Studio app on my ipad – either intermediate or if I’m feeling ambitious, advanced level.   Its a good, though sometimes challenging, way to start the day.

karnapidasana ear pressure pose

Karnapidasana – Ear Pressure Pose. This is not me, this woman has no tummy….

With all that stretching and bending you would think that by now I would be ready, flexibility wise, to join Cirque Du Soliel, but sadly not.  Ok, I’m probably much more bendy than some others of my age, but my left knee still lets me know quite clearly when it’s over flexed in Fire Log or Head of the Cow, my badly feet make Warrior a lot more challenging than it should be (have I mentioned I’ve got Plantar Fasciitis – it’s a right pain!), and my tummy, though somewhat diminished through over a year’s worth of 5:2 diet, still gets in the way in Ear Pressure Pose (lie down, lift into shoulder stand, drop into plough with your feet behind your head, and then bend your knees and push them against your ears – it’s not pretty, at least not when I do it) and I admit my composure isn’t all it should be when I attempt it – I’m not sure you’re supposed to giggle so much!

Crane Pose - Bakasana

Bakasana – Crane Pose. Also not me…! I doubt I look this good, just as well I can’t see myself!

I guess an hour every day might produce more results, but nonetheless I have felt a massive improvement one way or the other.  Yes, I am a lot more flexible, and my balances have improved in leaps and bounds (can one balance in a leap or a bound…no didn’t think so, but you get the gist).  The real mega improvement though, has been strength wise.  I can hold the plank position for, well, what seems like ages, but is probably no more than a minute or so – much better than the 10 seconds I used to  manage though.  Even better, I’ve been practicing hard and can now, to my delight, get into Crane and hold it for a bit.  Ok, still only seconds rather than minutes, but I’m impressed with myself anyway. Carry on this way, and I may end up like Madonna who’s arms were once described as ‘like dog chews’!!

I’ve probably said it before, but yoga is the one exercise regime that feels like its doing me good rather than killing me off.  I feel like I can achieve anything, and because it is progressive can find some improvement with practically every session.  When I finish I can feel every muscle and sinew, so I know I’ve still got ’em and have not turned to putty just yet.  And without wishing to sound all new age, and arty farty, it’s good for the soul too, a bit of inwardlooking meditation or mindfulness really does give your mind a rest from problems and hum-drummery (no, I don’t think that’s a real word either, but hey, I like it).

Pigeon pose

Pigeon with forward fold – nope, still not me. Though I love this pose even though its a bit hurty!

Oh, and the other thing, all those Downward Dogs and Pigeons with Forward Folds are really good at stretching me ol’ feet, and the faciitis is slowly getting better.  Win win I’d say.

Savasana - corpse pose

Savasana – Corpse Pose. Ok, not me, but I’m really, really, proficient at this one, and a picture of me in this pose would look very similar I promise you!

Well I’m off to practice my favourite pose – Savasana (corpse pose) for a bit. After all, it is the bit at the end that we all like best, don’t we?

Where do flies go in Winter?

Happy New Year everybody!  Hope you had a happy and cosy Christmas.

Sorry, I’ve been away for a while, not literally, just, you know, away from my blog.  Not making any excuses, sometimes there are more important things in life than writing on here ya’know.  I’ve been busy having a good time with my lovely family – eating, drinking and being merry.  Piling on the pounds.  But now I’m back on the 5:2 wagon to try and lose said pounds, and am going to get down to my blog again to focus my jellified mind…

This last couple of weeks have been somewhat dominated by errmmm… small critters. I was going to say insects, but that’s not technically correct (Ha! I’m not giving any smartiepantsies the opportunity to lecture me if I can help it!).  Doesn’t seem right at this time of year though does it? One would think they’d all be hibernating somewhere out of sight in January.  Where do fly’s go in Winter? I’ll tell you later, but first the Cave debacle.

Creswell CragsWe are lucky to have a wonderful prehistoric site quite local to us called Creswell Crags its a pretty limestone gorge dotted with caves where archeologists have found artefacts dating back 80,000 years.  It is also the home of some Ice Age wall art – the oldest in Britain.  There is proof that Bears, Lions, Tigers, Hyenas and Mammoths have all walked through the gorge at some time in the past.  Its fascinating.  We thought we’d do a tour of the caves.

We were provided with hard hats with lamps on the front (very fetching) and followed a very nice chap into the cave where he was telling us about all the exciting finds, and letting us hold flint arrowheads and stone tools etc.  We were in a very low part of the cave, and had had to keep our knees bent to stand up (all eleven in the group, including me, banged their heads on the ceiling at some point) when the nice chap grinned, looked at the group, and said ‘and how are you all with spiders?’

Well, those of you who know me know that I suffer from quite extreme arachnophobia and despite my best efforts I started to panic at even the mention of the darn things.  It got worse as he shone his torch to the ceiling to show us the large shiny brown Boris’s (and Boris’esses it turns out…. he told us how to tell the difference…ewww…who cares…) that were dangling from webs that were attached to said low ceiling.  Yes, that one. The one where my head had been.  Where probably the hood of my coat had been, which was probably now full of ’em.  I was sure my back was covered in them, Indiana Jones style. (incidentally, somewhat pleasingly one of the children, an eight year old boy, who was busy pointing and saying ‘oohh..there’s another one, and there…’ was called Harrison. It didn’t make me feel any better at the time though.)

‘Are you alright’  asked nice blokey, shining his torch into my pink sweaty face.  He’d heard my rapid breathing. ‘Er no…’

‘Its’ all right they’re slow moving’ Bless, he was trying to cheer me up. Ewww…

He took my arm. ‘I’ll show you something really wonderful, you’ll really like it. It is spider related, but really lovely, you’ll like it’ he coaxed.

I was practically curled up in a ball trying not to touch any surface, I was struggling with tears (it was really enclosed and dark, and I am a wuss) so with great, really really great, reluctance I let him lead me to a dark corner. He shone the torch up in to a gap in the rocks

‘get your head up here’ he said yanking me forward (‘noooooooo’ I thought) ‘Isn’t it beautiful, like a christmas decoration?’

‘Noooooooooo’ I thought again. It was a bloody nest. A bloody Spider’s nest.

‘There’s thousands of little one’s in one of them’ He said, grinning. Not sure if he wasn’t just being mean now.

Frankly, I couldn’t get out quickly enough. Palpitations and sweaty palms, brushing myself down and ewwwwwwing went on for about half an hour after we’d got out into the fresh air. The trauma of it is still affecting me. It’s why I had to write it down.

It’s silly. Phobia’s are silly. Irrational. Daft.  A grown woman should be able to get over herself.

I can’t. It’s both a mental and physical revulsion/fear and I’ve been trying since childhood to control it.  I’m a bit better these days, and can catch small blighters in my catcher contraption.  I would never kill them, and I hate it when someone squishes them on my behalf.  I just wish they would be as fearful of me as I was of them, as people keep telling me they are.  (they are not. They would not come into my house if they were.  And those ones in the cave didn’t run away and hide when they saw us coming, they just stared haughtily at us.)

Anyhoo, I promised to tell you where flies go in Winter.  In my loft it seems.

We have suffered an infestation of Cluster Flies.  Never heard of ’em? No, neither had we until a couple of weeks ago.  Apparently, they like to sunbathe on white, southfacing walls like ours, and when the sun goes in they crawl up under the eaves and snuggle down for winter.  If it’s nice and cosy, they invite all their friends round.  Gazillions of their friends.  I gather that if you leave them they will go away in the Spring.  We chose to use special smoke bombs on them.  They’re all gone now.  Sorry flies.


The routine trap

It seems that, despite my best efforts, I have fallen into the routine trap. Monday is writing and catching up on correspondence, bill paying etc day, Tuesday ironing and housework, Wednesday swimming and long walk day, Thursday shopping and yoga, Friday winemaking and gardening.

Hmmph…that wasn’t supposed to happen.  I naively believed that when I left work, I would leave all routine behind.  But no, the alarm still goes off and I still get up at the crack of dawn so that we can breakfast together before my husband goes off to work for the day.  The dog still needs walking first thing in the morning else she gets tetchy. There is still washing up to do, the bed still needs making.  But hey ho… that’s fine.  Actually come to think of it, a good routine can be a very fine thing.

When my twin girls were born they were a bit on the small side, at least one was, so they spent two days in in the special care baby unit.  I wasn’t able to visit them, let alone feed them, so through necessity the nursing staff fed them like clockwork every four hours. Consequently when they were returned to their excited mummy they were absolutely and resolutely in a four hourly routine. It was great.  None of that feeding on demand, which frankly, would have been a nightmare, for me.  Nope, they woke up at the same time, got fed at the same time, and slept at the same time, giving me some much needed rest in between.

It also meant, that as they grew up they instinctively knew what ‘mealtimes’ meant. They weren’t snacking because they ate regularly, at the right times.  Now, I know that ‘feeding on demand’ is the big thing these days.  Babies cry, you feed ’em. But I have a theory…

I believe that maintaining a feeding routine right from the word go, could be the answer to the twin (though diverse) pandemics of fussy eaters and obesity.

I have heard children (and adults) described as ‘grazers’. They just spend all day popping bits of food into their mouths, but seem unwilling to sit down to a ‘proper’ meal. ‘Course not. They’re not hungry.  It seems to me, that if they have been fed every time they’ve felt a bit, well, peckish, since they were born, then they really wouldn’t know what an empty stomach feels like.  I’ve seen kids crying that they’re starving, and being given a packet of crisps to keep them quiet, even though lunchtime is nigh.  Wouldn’t it be better to push them to go without a little bit longer? If they were really ‘starving’ surely they would be more likely to appreciate a plate of healthy food?

As adults we all feel ‘peckish’ or what my nan used to call ‘fanciful’ sometimes (I frequently fancy a bar of chocolate, and no, I’m not necessarily hungry), but hopefully we recognise that that is all it is and don’t necessarily indulge those cravings.  We mostly are fortunate enough not to be starving, but if we don’t eat between meals, we are more likely to properly recognise hunger.

As you know, I’m following the 5:2 diet, and whilst sometimes it does test my willpower to go without lunch, the lightness of an unusually empty stomach is energising and pleasing in its own way.  I feel ‘cleansed’ by giving my tummy a bit of a rest, albeit only for 12 hours or so. And the light meal I have in the evening after my fast is the best meal of the week. My tastebuds, starved of stimulation for a day, are exceptionally receptive to the nuances of the herbs, spices and flavours of any and all foods (‘cept jelly and coffee obvs!!)

Anyhoo… I fear I’m straying off subject. What I’m trying to say though, is that allowing myself to fall into a routine, in both daily life, and eating, I’m giving myself the pleasure of anticipation, be it knowing that the ironing will be done and dusted for the week once Tuesday morning is over, or that I will enjoy a delicious meal at the end of my fast.  In the words of John Lennon ‘life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’ so teaching ourselves, and our children, to appreciate a daily routine of mealtimes and work, together with down time (not to mention a bedtime routine for kids), should ultimately make us more content surely?