Friday, 22 September 2017

Full Nest

Thought I was going to have an empty nest this Autumn but seems like I can't get rid of the boys just yet. Eldest will be moving out soon , I'm guessing, to live with his girlfriend and youngest is taking a Gap Year and will be off to Tanzania with Raleigh International soon. But until then, the fridge will have to remain filled to the brim and assorted clothes will be dropped and left on the bathroom floor.

In the meantime, youngest son's friends are all off to Uni. To remind them of the many happy Pizza and Chocolate Brownie evenings spent round at our house these last few years, I've made them all a box of brownies to take with them ( and a pizza cutter tucked inside the box ) . Loving the sweetest Mama Elephant cat stamps that I used to decorate the tags ... and I bought the self assembly boxes at Ally Pally last weekend. They fit  the 8" x 8" cake tine that baked the brownies perfectly . Love it when a plan comes together.






Thursday, 21 September 2017

Another 2.5 lbs off

I've now lost a grand total of one and a half stone in 8 weeks. It must have been the stress of last night ( see previous post ) and the miles of walking from gate to gate at the O2 arena ! Wished I'd been wearing my Fit Bit . I reckon I must have clocked up at least 10 000 steps !

Onward and downward.

FOO

I'm wondering if I love this band so much because their name spells FOOD without the D ? Nah , it's becuase they are super awesome beyond belief.

So, rewind to Tuesday 19th September. Eldest son and I emerge from the over-stuffed Jubilee line, blinking, into the September sunshine in Millenium Way , home to the O2. I get that thrill I always do when I'm about to hear live music. Not just any live music ... Foo Fighters Live. Does it get any better ?

The tickets have been pinned to my pinboard these last few months and the countdown to showtime has been agonising but here we are at last. This is the very first item on my bucket list and I can barely contain myself. Eldest son saw them live at Reading . Was I jealous ? Heck yes.

And then it all fell apart at the seams. Denied entry at the door because our tickets, bought through Viagogo ( one of the O2s recommnded partner agencies ) didn't match my ID. Naiively I didn't even realise there was a name on our tickets but there it was in tiny print at the bottom and it wasn't my name.

We weren't the only ones. Hundered of fans were similarly turned away . The whole place was a blubbery mess of sobbing fans incapable of believing that despite Viagogos claims that you will not be turned away if the name on your ticket doesn't match yours, this turned out to be a lie.

Those who know me will also know that "Don't ever take NO for an answer" is my motto ( incidentaally I'd like that on my tombstone ). I can't begin to articulate how indescribably disappointed we were. That word doesn't even come close.

The band were due on stage in 30 minutes. We had to walk the mile perimeter of the whole fecking venue to the Box Office to plead our case ... along with, by now , probably thousands of others in the same boat. The queue was a mile long - not a chance.

People who'd been bought tickets as gifts were also being turned away because they weren't the original purchaser. Groups of fans who'd arrived separately were being turned away because they'd planned to meet their friends ( and also original purchasers ) of their tickets inside the venue and they were already inside and had been told they wouldn't be given re-admission if  they came outside to meet their friends and prove their genuine identity . It was crazy.

The press turned up and took photos of the whole sorry mess. An angry mob had begun to gather and no-one was getting inside becasue of the backlog now of indignant fans who'd been fleeced . The fact that this stipulation had been implemenetd on the night with no prior notice ( despite what some claimed ) was appalling.

By 9pm half the seats inside were empty ... apart of course from all the record company execs and  hospitality freeloaders. At one point, a man in a wheelchair was denied entry because his partner ( whose name was on the tickets as original purchaser ) had used the disabled entrance separately to his partner who wasn't entitled to accompany him as she wasn't disabled , to access his wheelchair poition by the side if the stage. At this point I saw red.

I wasn't going to be bullied by the jobsworth at the gate in the high-viz jacket who was relishing the drama. I refused to move and wasn't going to be intimidated by his threat to have me evicted from the building. Fortunately I wasn't alone and we stood our ground ... a crowd of several hundered started chanting - " Get your manager here NOW ".

With a minute to go they finally relented. Stress levels on a scale of one to ten were about eleven.

So, what's the answer ? O2 management cannot not only endorse but actually operate in partnership with re-sale ticket agencies and then change the goalpost at the last minute. They are only too keen to offload blocks of tickets at a premium to agencies to do theitr selling for them when it suits them.

Get your act together O2 .


















Thursday, 7 September 2017

Another 2lbs.

... which brings my total to 16.5 lbs.

Thought I was going to put on (at least ) a pound this week given that we'd had husband's birthday on Friday along with a weekend away with relatives where the home baking , in the form of chocolate cake, flapjacks and plum and almond tart with custard, came thick and fast to the table. Managed to resist absolutely everything and felt very virtuous. Even managed to select a half decent salad at M&S at the motorway services en route.

This is proving to be surprisingly manageable.

Sizzix Bargains

Two things:


  1. I have become addicted to dies  
  2. I didn't know Sizzix offered such amazing bargains in their clearance section
In combination, these two facts proved fatal. I ordered a few items only yesterday and they arrived today.



The Tim Holtz sets of script words were only £3.75 each reduced from £15 and the Framelets set of polaroid frames were only £3 down from £12, That's a whopping saving of over £42.

The  3D Textured Impressions folder wasn't on offer but I'd been waiting for it to be released and it's gorgeous.  Incredibly sturdy and gives a lusciously deep impression.




So ... having saved that much ... what can I go spend it on !?

Thursday, 31 August 2017

First stone off ...

... and boy does it feel good. Haven't noticed many body size changes yet but I did find I kept having to hoik my jeans up the other day. It truly is enlightening to emabark on a weight loss programme , no pun intended. I get quite evangelical about it . I don't need any more encouragement after watching "Embarassing Fat Bodies " last night.

It takes a while to re-adjust but as I've always cooked from scratch, it's not as daunting for me as it must be for others. I never really used to buy many processed foods either so no great deprivation there. Cutting out alcohol is tough and I've been very strict about it because I don'y want to be tempted to lapse. Yes, I have had the ocassional glass of red wine but I've kept it to an absolute minimum. I spend all my 'syns' on good fats like olive oil and avocado . Feeling very virtuous. I just need to stop getting on the scales every five minutes as if I don't trust that the weight will come off. It will. I just need to be patient.

Went window shopping for new clothes yesterday . I have my eye on so many beuatiful things but I may not be squeezing into them just yet so I'm only looking and reminding myself what beutiful brands there are out there. Last time I lost weight I was stoney broke and barely bought a single thread unless it came from a charity shop. Looking forward to having a bit of a pre Christmas splurge in a couple of months time.



Sunday, 27 August 2017

Normal for Norfolk ?

The I Spy pocket book to Norfolk ( remember them ? ) would now have to include the following :

Chelsea Tractor
Oh-so designer crumpled linen shirt
Cath Kidston shopper
Any item of clothing from either Joules or Boden
An overpriced crab sandwich ( £12 and upwards - it's a flipping sandwich ! )
Designer Deli
Three times cooked chips ( what's the matter with just once cooked chips ? )
The word 'Gastro' at the top of any pub menu
A £4 carparking ticket even if you only want to stop for 10 minutes.


Taking a pop at Social Stereotypes is easy ( but fair ) game , but the Chelsea-on-Sea brigade take the biscuit , or rather the sea-salt organic shortbread finger no doubt. They hunt in packs and emerge pale-faced from their 4X4s in search of something painted in a neutral Farrow and Ball paint shade.

I realised that when we last took the boys to Norfolk, we were camping, didn't wear linen, had an old banger of a car and wouldn't have paid more than a tenner for a fish and chip supper for all four of us. My how times have changed. I liked the fact that you had to walk at least a mile to get even a glimpse of the sea at low tide - all that fresh sea air . No trip was complete without the purchase of a lurid plastic bucket and a crabbing line , spied hanging from a hook outside the local newsagents' and maybe a cream tea if we were lucky.

The shopping oppurtunities these days are on another level. Surely there are only so many driftwood hearts, sailcloth bags or cashmere throws you can look at without getting shopper's fatigue. I didn't buy a thing. It was all just ' stuff '.

And as for eating, everything had 'gastro' tagged onto it or at least 3 superlative adjectives. A tomato is a tomato isn't it ? The 'Gourmet Norfolk' magazine in the hotel lobby was an exhaustive list of michelin megastars and designer delis. I really only wanted a crab sandwich.

I mustn't complain but I couldn't help feeling a little sorry for Norfolk resdients who have to put up with this invasion of the designer tourists throughout the summer.


Sunday, 20 August 2017

Saturday Night

Good grief I hate it with a vengeance.

The teenage years were spent worrying that we didn't have an exciting enough plan and might get caught not going out at all - a heinous crime. The opening music to MOTD still strikes a chord of fear in my heart - that would mean we were either stood up ( or down ) for a night's raving and had to spend the evening in our bedroom listening to sad love songs on Radio Caroline assuming that the rest of our tribe were out furiously partying somewhere whilst Dad was downstairs watching the footy and Mum would be checking her pools coupon. For those of you under 50, none of the above will make sense.

Then there were the early married years where, being married to someone in the TV business, I'd usually end up on my own whilst new husband would be out filming or recording some show or other.

After that there were the early baby years when you'd be knackered and asleep on the sofa by 8pm. The promise of a night in with a bottle of red wine thwarted by the fact that you'd be legless after half a glass, and longing for an hour of sleep in the certain knowledge that you'd be up at 2am , 4am and 5am with a crying infant.

I'm not sure what came next, I think it was the skint years when if your mortgage hadn't emptied your bank account, then unpaid maternity leave would have created a sizeable hole in finances. The mere thought of squandering a small fortune on a night out was unthinkable when it was toss up between getting the car serviced or having the boiler fixed.

Next came the fat years when the thought of jostling alongside stick-thin size zeros at a night club in a pair of extra stretchy black leggings and an over sized T shirt ( the fat person's sorry uniform ) were filled with dread and desperation.

So here I am in the pre- retirement years with a grumpy husband and a pair of youngsters, for whom every night is potentially party night , still penniless and fat with no desire whatsoever to muster enough energy for an evening on the town, let alone the company of the 'happily -marrieds' , or the 'just back from a holiday of a lifetimes' or worse still the perenially skinnies with an appetite like a horse and the metabolsim of a gazelle, complaining that a size 8 is too baggy on them.

Our Saturday night bust-up last night revolved around my asking husband for some help with what seems like my never-ending mission to de-clutter the house. This ultimately involved my piling a lifetime's photographs and scrapbboks into a crate and dumping it by the back door ready for the binmen next week. If nobody in the house can ever be bothered to look at or even acknowledge them, then why shoudl I ? I've been carfeully recording and archiving our collective memories for the last decade in the beleagured hope that someone someday might actually show an interest. Fat chance.

Let's face it, scrapbooking is just an excuse to hang on to the past and indulge in obscene levels of expenditure in the hope that it might fill a void or render our memories meaningful. So it was that I found myself last night leaving the house - YES - on a Saturday night - and driving round aimlessly looking for some form of solace or refuge. It struck me that unless you want to sit in the corner of an anonymous pub nursing a warm pint with a bunch of sorry solitary drunks, there aren't a lot of options for the lonely.

I ended up at a 24 hour Tescos - the saddest place on earth on a Saturday night where sales of meals for one and hard liquor probably peak at around 9pm. The coffee shop was closed so I resorted to a saunter round the magazine aisle wondering who on earth buys Practical Sheep Rearing or worse - Esquire ( Get the lowdown on popular culture as well as great advice on women, sex and gadgets and more ! )  - yes that's what it actually says on the cover complete with exclamation mark.  I resisted a dozen Krispy Kremes and left with a clutch of 'back to school' stationery although I have 2 boys who've both finished their school eduaction. You never know when you might need a 10 pack of file dividers though.

Streets are empty by 9pm and car parks are no-go areas unless you want to be mistaken for looking for something else other than a quiet place to park up and reflect. Enough said. Restaurants are full of groups or couples and you never know what sort of a weirdo might come and sit next to you if you end up at the cinema.

And so it was that another Saturday came to a sorry end and I returned home, parked up and went to bed. My only victory was that I'd managed to survive it without resorting to food or booze. A victory in itself.


Friday, 18 August 2017

Smoasting Season has begun

Yes, the Social Media Boasting season, or SMoasting season as I like to call it, has flung open its doors as it always does after results day.

The most hilarious example I received was online from a 'friend' .

"How did you do at Slimming Wold last night ? " she asked innocently.

"3lbs" I replied knowing full well why she'd got in touch

"2lbs" she countered, adding , " Oh and [insert son's name here] got A* A* A and he was only 2 marks off a third A* - so we're having his paper re-marked "

I could have wet myself laughing.

Youngest son did so well but I'm not about to splash his grades across Facebook for the world to see. No gloating here. I'll let close friends and family know privately ... if they ask .... but I'm content to let him smile quietly to himself in the knowledge that he worked his socks off, acheived the kind of success of which he can be proud and let the rest of the helicopter Mums brag from the rooftops that their offspring are clearly child geniuses ... then wait for them to unravel when they get out into the big bad world and realise that one of the finest gifts your parents could have bestowed on you , is that of quiet modesty.  


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Week Three at Slimming World

All the threes - end of third week , third weigh-in - 3lbs lost for the week - Hurrah.

I was worried I might only scrape my target of 2.5lbs but I managed to exceed it thankfully. That included two sneaky but small glasses of wine during the week and a meal out so I'm particularly chuffed.

I'm saving my syns for tomorrow night when we'll either be celebrating or commiserating youngest son's A Level results. The champagne is on ice.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Careful what you wish for

At some stage in my life I must have mentioned that I liked Snoopy. For every birthday, Christmas and Valentine's Day thereafter , I amassed a sizable collection. Strangely I chose to keep them all and now can't bear to part with them. Most of them were from a boyfriend during my university days. He'd send them to me for no other reason than to say he missed me. How sweet. I think I appreciate them more today than I ever did back then. And here are just a few of them, and yes ... they're going in the trunk.





The BIG Trunk

I bought a BIG silver trunk and that's where all my letters and memorabilia will be going.





Today's the day. Having spent most of the summer holiday ( aka monsoon season ) sorting through and re-reading each and every letter, card and notelet, consigning every carefully penned message to its assigned folder, I am now going to attempt one last cull before those I that have survived the cut will be bundled into the trunk and who knows when or even if I may ever open it again.

The task has been overwhelming. I am a die-hard sentimentalist. The reading of sweet, kind words, notes of encouragement, congratulations and commiserations at every milestone of my life so far has left me an emotional wreck. I have learnt more about my younger self than I ever realised at the time.

So, one least day to get this done and then I can move on. But before I do, I want to document one bizarre co-incidence. One afternoon , I had settled into a chair to read another pile of letters, this time from my mother who died over 30 years ago. She wasn't one for lengthy letters but what she did write always made me laugh out loud. She seemed forever to be sending me £5 notes, urging me to buy 'nice food' and telling little anecdotes that would end with a phrase such as " well ... you know what your Dad's like " . I could almost see her eyes roll heavenwards as she wrote it . This particular letter asked me how I liked the chair she'd given me for my newly purchased house in Greenwich. She told me that it was 'wasted' in their hallway and that it was called a library chair. It was the very chair I was sitting in as I re-read that letter three decades later. How strange and unlikely was that ?





Edited to add ...



Job done - thank the Lord . Now I can get back to the here and now.

Friday, 11 August 2017

This will be me ...

... at the local swimming pool next week .


Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Cupboard Under the Stairs ... in Numbers

Will my life ever be done with de-cluttering ?

I should seriously NEVER EVER EVER go near another shop for the entire rest of my life.

Always good to start a new clearing out project at the end of a long day when you're tired and hungry and at your most irritable although that might extend to most of my waking hours at the moment. So I decided to tackle the cupboard under the stairs this evening. Here is its contents in numbers :


  • Thermos Flasks - 5
  • Insulated cool bags - 17
  • Those blue plastic bags from Ikea which you never remember to bring and so have to buy another - 9
  • Shopping Trolleys , I was old before my time - 2
  • Hideous laundry bags - 16
  • Not quite so hideous red vinyl polka dot bags which may or may not come in useful when moving house but in the meantime occupy about 50% of useful cupboard space where I could be storing things I actually use and need now - 23
  • Picnic sets - 5 , for goodness sake , what was wrong with me ?
  • Metres of bubble wrap - 20 but never any when I needed it or could find it
  • Tool kits - 2 but do either ever have the right tool, screw or nail ? No
  • Rafia style beach bags - 7
  • Canvas Shopping Bags - 14 A veritable archive of shopping through the years ranging from Golden Jubilee souvenir bags to long defunct department stores


The only real find were two delightful navy blue and cream stripey fleece car blankets which came in their own fleece bags embroidered with a bright red fleece star - one for each of the boys when they were little and accompanied us on every day trip and holiday. Those will be going in the boys' trunks which are in the loft and hold all their childhood mementoes - heaven help them.

Most of these are now bagged up ready for the charity shop. When they receive this lot , they'll probably think they all came from a closing down camping shop. We only ever went camping once. Once was enough in my book. It wasn't the outdoorsy bit I hated , it was the fact that every other camper seemed to bring all their indoorsy stuff with them to the campsite. I couldn't beleive that people would go to all the bother of erecting a tent then whip out a telly and watch East Enders of an evening . What on earth is the point of communing with fresh air if you're just going to bring all the misery of London with you ? That and having  to listen to every other camper snoring through the night . Never again.

So we now have a huge space to fill under the stairs and what will I be putting in there ? Everything I've just cleared out of the living room ... which in numbers amounts to :


  • Bags of 200 Ikea tea lights - 3 If I lit one every day from now on they'd still be going in 2 years time
  • Tea Light Holders - mercifully less than  the above
  • Dinner Candles ( such a quaint old fashioned term ) - 23
  • Packs on incense sticks - 6 and they all smell horrible
  • Incense stick holders - 4 the last vestiges of my hippy youth


... and here's the difficult one ....

Arts and crafts projects from the boys' primary school days - countless. Oh my , a whole new hornet's nest of indecision. What to keep and what to turf discretely in the bin bag ? There are only so many pottery owls, ping pong ball headed choirboys and balsa wood models you can make room for. I have left it to husband to decide but will wait until he's gone to bed to resue what he will inevitable throw out. They area a heartless bunch husbands.



Slimming World Week 2

I was stupidly anxious about weigh-in last night as I've been glued to the scales all week - an old habit which I'm finding hard to break. I needn't have worried though - 3lbs off which was exactly my target. Going for 2.5 lbs next week.

Treated myself to a cheeky glass of red wine when I got home which I realised afterwards was quite foolish. It's going to be hard also to break that old habit also of reward = food , which is where it all went wrong in the first place.

Today I've eaten 'experimental' food like a Minstrone Mugshot and a 0% fat yoghurt . I'm not in favour of anything low fat or recognised 'slimming' foods like the soup . They are the work of the devil . However they were surprisingly tasty and, when used in moderation, an acceptable part of the whole plan, providing I don't start relying on them.

Onward and downward. No scales this week - that's going to be tough.

Friday, 4 August 2017

The final word on ...

... the vexed issue of whether to throw away old letters.

You have been very patient, bearing with me over my dilemma of what to do about the piles of old letters I have hoarded over 40 years and deserve a break. But before I pen my final full stop on the matter , I found this on the internet last night , written by Jane Shilling in 2014, who now writes for The Telegraph but back then wrote for the Daily Mail Online ( well we've all gotta eat ) .

It is the most acutely and minutely well-observed piece of writing on this issue that I have read and trust me I have been reading everything I could lay my hands on, about this topic, in the last few weeks. It could have been me talking, but far better articulated. No co-incidence that we are exactly the same age.



Why I just can't bear to throw old letters away, even the ones that are far too painful to read...memories are too precious 

BY JANE SHILLING FOR MAILONLINE 14/08/2010

Jane says it is strange to think how she communicated by letter as a student 
From the fragments of writing, a long-buried image emerged of the person she was - and Jane says she 'didn't like her at all'
It's predicted such letters will soon cease to exist. But Jane is not convinced




Decluttering, we are often told, is good for you. Getting rid of your superfluous stuff doesn’t just leave you with empty cupboards, it’s a way of purifying your life. A fresh start.
Over the past couple of years, since my son went to university, I have been gradually clearing out the detritus of several decades.

At first it was easy but now I’m left with the tough stuff: baby clothes, childhood paintings and — hardest of all — old letters, which seem to demand a more dignified end than the recycling bin. 

A recent survey for the Royal Mail claims that the art of letter-writing is in terminal decline, replaced by email and social networking. So it is a sign of my age — I’m 54 — that having resolved to eradicate the bit of my past that my letters represent, I’m obliged to dispose of a physical archive.

My 20-year-old son, whose correspondence is vast, but entirely electronic, could delete the lot at the press of a couple of keys. It is strange to think that when I was a student, the only way my friends and I could make contact was by letter.

There were no mobile phones in the 1970s, no email, no Facebook. So we used to write constantly: an endless stream of notes, all of which I seem, inexplicably, to have hoarded.
When I decided to throw out my letters, I thought I had better look through them first. I hadn’t realised that reading old letters is like time travelling — a journey over terrain that seems deceptively familiar but turns out to be stranger than you remembered, and more hazardous.

Plaintive notes from would-be suitors — ‘Where ARE you?’ — were all muddled up with brave, funny letters from my grandma, postcards from my tutors enquiring after undelivered essays, long letters from friends suffering agonies of boredom during the interminable university vacations, and reams of juvenile poetry.

Sifting through this pile of soon-to-be waste paper, I began, fatally, to read. And from the fragments of writing, a long-buried image began to emerge of the person I used to be. And I didn’t like her at all.
This earlier me seemed selfish (all those missed appointments with friends who had made the long, dull journey to my distant college room), lazy (all those unwritten essays) and unkind.

The love letters made particularly painful reading. The youthful me didn’t strike me as someone who deserved the tenderness and affection that those letters expressed.

Looking back from a distance of 30-odd years, I know that my younger self was about to become very lonely and unhappy for quite a long time, and I’m afraid it served her right.
Between the painful letters of my early 20s and the next batch there is a gap, during which the serious business of living took over.

My friends and I survived the hectic period in our 30s while we were juggling work and children with our friendships intact. But for a while there was no time for letter-writing.
We were like fogbound ships, hoisting desperate signals, ‘I AM STILL HERE — ARE YOU?’, and hoping that we’d still be in contact when the cloud of busy-ness and exhaustion lifted. When it did, something had changed. I had become a writer, and I began to get letters from strangers in response to things I had written. When the letters were kind and interesting, it seemed only polite to reply. By degrees I accumulated half-a-dozen regular correspondents — people I’d never met but who felt like friends.

And then there was email: the perfect hybrid of conversation and letters. It has been predicted that personal letters will soon no longer exist — killed by email and texts as surely as horse-drawn carriages were superseded by the internal combustion engine. But I am not convinced. We may think ourselves more emotionally spontaneous than our letter-writing forebears, but human nature has changed surprisingly little across the centuries.

‘My dear Cassandra,’ wrote the novelist Jane Austen to her sister on Saturday March 5, 1814. ‘Do not be angry with me for beginning another Letter to you. I have read [Byron’s poem] the Corsair, mended my petticoat and have nothing else to do…’

To me, that line seems as fresh as though it were written two minutes ago, rather than two centuries. Like the correspondents of 200 years ago, we still crave scandal, reassurance, tenderness, news. Jane Austen’s letters, with their excited updates on the latest fashions and their savage comments about her neighbour’s killer bad breath, may be written in ink on paper, but they are the emails of their time.

What you don’t get from email is the satisfying physicality of a letter. Not many people of my son’s age, I imagine, will ever experience the clutch of the heart caused by the sight of an envelope addressed in a longed-for handwriting; nor find themselves unexpectedly reduced to tears when an ancient love letter falls out of a long-unread book that they have idly taken down from  the bookshelf. You can’t fall asleep holding an email. Or mark your place in a book with it. You could print it out, I suppose, but that isn’t quite the same.

Today’s 20-year-olds won’t miss what they never knew, but I notice that I still revert to pen and paper when it comes to serious stuff like love and death. When I look through my old letters, I have no idea what I wrote that produced those replies of exasperation, tenderness, amusement or despair — and I find it disturbing.
I can destroy my half of the correspondence, but I can’t make the whole thing vanish. If any of my correspondents has kept my letters, that version of me is out there on the loose, capering mockingly beyond my power to control her.

As for my electronic archive, I could wipe my hard disk and hurl my computer into the Thames (as once I planned to drown the letters of a faithless lover), but it wouldn’t make any difference. Each of my email correspondents has the full record of our exchanges, and I can’t take a word of them back. It is a thought that should make me resolve to give up correspondence. But somehow it does not.

When you write letters, whether by email or on paper, you write, without knowing it, your life story, and one rarely emerges well from the account. But it is the human condition to be ridiculous, and I may as well embrace it.

I confess, too, that I may even be having second thoughts about throwing out my correspondence. While re-reading my 30-year-old letters was upsetting, it made me think about friendship. Most of those notes are from people I still know and love (though who on earth was John, who wrote such fervent letters in the Trinity term of 1977?).

The two people I loved best — my grandmother and an old university friend — are dead, and now that I’ve seen their handwriting again, I’m not sure I can bear to throw their letters away. But if I save those, what about the beautiful letter I had from a military historian, saying that my first book made him cry? Or the generous note from a fellow writer, praising my second book? I was so proud to get those letters. Are they really going out with the rubbish? Cupboard space is precious in a house as small as mine. But so are memories. And just at the moment, I can’t decide which I need more.



Thursday, 3 August 2017

Advice Required

So .... I am stuck ... somewhere in the late seventies / early eighties. Having unearthed three huge boxes of cards, letters and items of memerobilia I ever received from the age of about seveneteen from the loft a few weeks ago, I now don't know what on earth to do with them all.

There are love letters from old flames, angry poetry from jilted boyfriends, programmes from concerts, brochures from tourist attractions, newsletters , newspaper cuttings,  notes from my Mum which read ' saw this card of a rabbit and thought of you' ( she never did write anything lengthy ... and it was usually in shorthand ! ) , sketches, school reports, diaries, ancient primary school drawings, swimming certificates ..... and one of my favourites - a small white certificate from the Surrey County Show for my rabbit Lucy who'd won third place in the 'Rabbit with the Cleanest Feet' category ( I think there were only 2 entries ) .

I have spent the last few weeks reading them all, trying to recall, events and names and faces. I have absolutely no idea what to do with them all. Do I really want to be reminded of the sympathy letters from my mother's and subsequently father's deaths ?  There are random photos of old boyfriends -  some of whom I didn't even like. Rather hilariously , there's a frame with a photo of the latest young man in my life and I noticed that behind it, there were a whole bunch of others - each one of a different boyfriend , a gallery of past loves each being replaced by the latest. Some have made me laugh out loud and some have made me cry. I am a mess. It's like a tidal wave of emotion  and decidely unsettling.

Rather weirdly , one letter was from my mother asking how the antique library chair she had passed on to me was fitting into our new home - I was actually sitting in it as I read that. That completely spooked me out.

The thing is, I am paralysed with indecision. I simply do not know whether to keep or bin them. There are a million choices to be made and I cannot make a single one without fearing that I may regret the decision. Half of them are sitting in a black bin bag under the bed awaiting disposal. I became more ruthless as I waded through the piles of correspondence and so the filling of that bin bag gathered apace after a couple of hours. But I didn't have the courage to actually throw it out and now I'm wondering should I go through them all again a second time ? I couldn't even begin to photogrpah them all for a digital archive unless I had a year to spare.

I've just been online and bought a metal trunk which should be big enough to slide under the bed and look relatively stylish. The idea is that I can fill that but once it's full - that's it - no more. I'm just delaying the decision-making and I know I won't be able to stop at just one trunk. What conceivable purpose could they possibly have in years to come ? I've even got one photograph of my sister and I looking suitable morose at the funeral parlour having just chosen a coffin for Dad - what were we thinking having that taken ?

In ten or twenty years time, will I really want to unearth them all over again and given that my memory will be even worse by then, will I be left puzzled by who these people were and what on earth had gone on to elicit such a response ?

So, assuming that this digital memory will survive , I'm recording a few passing thoughts about what I've learned from reading each and every single one.


  • Despite thinking that my parents barely gave me a bean during my student years - they were actually very generous and sent me fivers and tenners through the post with a short note attached saying 'pay off your overdraft' or 'buy fresh fruit'
  • I think I must have dumped every boyfriend by post ( today's equivalent would be by text I suppose )  judging by the painful replies I collected bemoaning my 'heartlessness' . I realise now that if a young man asked me out , I always felt obliged to say yes having not learnt the art of a polite refusal. I don't think I particularly wanted to go out with many of them and so usually ended up letting the relationship drag on beyond its shelf life and then chickening out by breaking it off by way of an apologetic letter.
  • I must have implied that I liked the cartoon dog Peanuts at some stage, judging by the hundreds of Snoopy cards I received over a decade. I didn't but was too polite to say.
  • My friend Jan ( the Pan ) had the funniest sense of humour.
  • I had a bit of a thing for RAF Pilots !
  • Looked like I sent a lot of cards and letters that cheered people up , judging by their grateful replies.
  • We all wore flares and had bad perms


I must have been either very sentimental or determined to unhinge my older self by keeping all these memories. Little did I know that years later I would be slumped on the edge of my bed wondering why on earth I didn't appreciate the amazing life that I was living and the wonderful oppurtunities and life-changing experiences that I had been granted. Maybe re-discovering them all these years later was the purpose behind keeping them ... just to remind me that you have to carpe that old diem and make every moment count. Time to stop wallowing and move on or maybe just get out my flares and have my hair permed.

First Weigh-in

I was BEYOND excited by the time I got to the scales and DELIRIOUS with joy when I heard them say " Six and half pounds  "

Oh boy , if I could just keep that up . I know I can't so I'm aiming for 3lbs next week.

Good grief this Slimming World thing really does work !

Monday, 31 July 2017

More bizarre random mail

So,  I'm about halfway through this mountain of mail from my youth and I found this which made me laugh out loud. Three crates of hand-written corresepndence came down from the attic a couple of weeks ago and I've been re-living my teens and early twenties ever since.






It simply reads ...

In absentia
All my love
The Beastmaster ....Grrrr


Dated 17th May 1983.


I have absolutely no idea who the Beastmaster is / was nor what they were absent from.

If you answer to this description , do get in touch !



Saturday, 29 July 2017

I am planning ....

.... on swapping these ......




.... for these .......









There can't be any better incentive.


More Minted or Skinted


I coveted this Ted Baker bag when it came out however it's sold out now. You can still buy it on the black ( cat ) market aka Ebay but at £150 a go that's pricey for a novelty bag.










Good old New Look had this little pouch for £3. I could buy 50 of them and hand them out to all me friends instead . 
Yeah , so it's not as stylish but hey, it will have gone out of fashion by next week anyway.






I can't live the life I want to looking like this

That must seem shallow - all about looks . OK call me shallow. I know I should be wanting to lose weight for health reasons but if truth be known it's all about how I look and of course that dictates how I feel so it is a kind of health - mental health.

Just going through my wardrobe and ditching saggy, baggy, shapeless clothes that make me look like the middle aged frump I've become. Last time I lost weight - all seven stone of it 5 years ago, I went through a tarty stage where I went and bought leather jackets and all kinds of nonsense. I was strapped for cash then, not that I'm unstrapped now, but all the same - OMG am I going to spend a wedgeful of cash on great clothes when I lose this weight.

I promised myself that I would never buy another item of shapeless clothing from Evans ever ever ever again. I broke that promise back then but I'm sure as hell not going to break it this time.

Poor old charity shops - they're just about to receive a bagful of hideous strtch freindly clothes that shouldn't ever be allowed to see the light of day. Some of them are unworn. I was so disgusted with myself at the size lables on some of them when I got them home ( can't try them on in shops - the utimate humiliation ) that I couldn't face taking them back for a refund - I was so ashamed. They just got consigned to the back of my wardrobe.

So here are a few of the outfits I'll be sizing up in a few months time. Better start saving.









Last time I lost 7 stone on Lighter Life I bought myself a pair of incentive knickers. I was losing weight so fast that by the time I hauled them out of my knicker drawer they were already too big. Might just go buy some more today and hope the same thing happens.





Friday, 28 July 2017

Ethereal Watercolours





Beautiful yet simple. I shall be trying this at the weekend. 





I took a photo of a painting I just saw in town and thought about trying to recreate it somehow. 






Kristina Werner has done all the hard work me and it won't be costing £995 which was the price tag on the painting . Thanks Kristina. 





Thursday, 27 July 2017

Plunge-Taking

I have taken it ... the plunge that is.

Started Slimming World last night. Mixed feelings. Initially excited but with certain mis-givings.

Positives first : Nice friendly group. Cheeful leader who looked an encouraging size 16. Nice church hall which took me back - it was eldest son's nursery. I had happy memories of watching him as a shepherd in his very first Nativity Play here back in 1997. The fact that he poked his toy stuffed lamb onto the end of a twig from the makeshift fire created by the teachers ( complete with red cellophane 'flames' ) and proceded to 'roast' it over the fire, as if it were a BBQ, did not deter me. At the time I was horrified but I can look back now and howl with laughter at his antics - a sign of things to come.

Not-So-Positives : Everyone looked quite skinny to me as if they had about 2 lbs to lose. The woman opposite me sat with a six box pile of something called Hi-Fi's - why do Slimming World then scoff on fake Bounty Bars ? Lots of Diet Coke drinking going on - a big NO NO in my life.

I've been here before - Weight Watchers ( same hall ), Lighter Life and everything in between. Our leader assures me this is different but I can't shrug off a feeling of cynicism that this is a business which relies on repeat offenders for an on-going income stream. There's no more calorie or point- counting, just different food groups which combine to make a suitably varied plateful and apparently I won't feel hungry.

Day one has started tentatively. Lessons learnt - Weetabix doesn't half suck up a load of milk and it looks like I may have to concede my cream in my coffee treat. No booze is going to be tricky but strangely, it's what I'm looking forward to most. I also have youngest son on board - he is a trouper - boy can he get fierce if he finds me with a bar of chocolate in my hand.

I'm not proud to admit that I'm weighing in at 18st 5lbs which is a total disgrace. Let's see what happens. I'm a sucker for a project though and once I get my teeth stuck in , I tend to go into evangelical overboard mode. Jo and Ruth - if you're reading this I need your help !





Monday, 17 July 2017

Food

I'm not sure I understand Slimming World. I've just logged on to their Pinterest board and up came 1001 pictures of the most disgustingly unappetising food imaginable. Does spelling 'sin' slightly differnetly as 'syn' change the concept of guilt ? I don't think so.

If you're aiming to eat healthily , why make something look like a Big Mac ? What's with all the cheese ? And why list all the bags of crisps you can eat ? I don't get it .

Yet having said all of that , I'm going along this Wednesday and signing up for a trial run of 6 sessions. If nothing else it will get me on the scales. I'm hoping I can sort my head out on all this eating business. That's where the real problem lies.

It's ironic that the meetings are held at the nursery my eldest son attended which is where all the weight thing started.

My reasons should be for health but I'm so shallow , it's all about the clothes. Can't wait to go shopping again.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Minted ... or skinted

I'd been looking for a decent set of banners stamps for cards . Didn't want to shell out $15 ( about £12 excluding postage ) for these ...






... so I was delighted to find these at The Works for a mere £2.




Sometimes you get what you pay for but not in this case. They are excellent quality and I bet they're even made in the same factory.

Absolutely delighted and all the more to spend on other craft supplies.


Saturday, 15 July 2017

Holidays are just plain weird

I love and loathe them in equal measures. They morph over time. Just when you're used to the Isle of Wight bucket, spade and ice cream variety when your kids are young, you realise that sand between the toes is not going to cut the mustard when they reach thirteen. Having said that, my boys are generally happy with whatever we present them with although eldest finds a break from routine tricky to navigate.

And as for me, the planning, packing and covering of all potenial eventualities means I usualy arrive exhausted. The decision-making process that precedes every holiday - when , where and how - causes sleepless night before hand and at least a week to recover afterwards.

Then there are all those stupid things you have to do before you leave, from emptying the fridge (which is why we always find ourselves eating slightly dodgy, past the sell by dates items the night before we leave) , finding obliging cat-loving pet feeders , boil washing flip flops that have seen better days and locating that prohibitively expensive can of insect repellant that you took last year.
Painting toe nails would be a luxury and if I even dare attempt it, I usually end up smudging it everywhere as there's never enough time to leave it to dry properly.

Not only that but husband has usually arranged for some untimely and complicated buiding project on the house that entails leaving keys for builders, burglar-friendly ladders strewn across the front garden and the need to leave windows open for paint to dry. We might as well put up a sign that says " Help Yourself to Valuables in our Absence" . And talking of husband , he always considers holidays to be 'effortless' which is generaly because he hasn't spent months online reseraching, choosing and booking nor been involved in any way with currency, passports, re-chargers, bulging first-aid kits, packing, transport, feeding logistics or contingency plans. The first night usually finds him with a beer in hand declaring the whole process a success. A bit like Christmas really - the other halves only have to turn up.

Having said that what would we do without them ? Well, probably be a lot better off. But then they do give you that thinking time that you never get in the normal day to day humdrum of life and the odd laugh along the way. This year's came in the form of a 'scene' at the mini golf. Having engineered the entire week's entertainment, dining arrangements and general logistics of getting youngest son plus two friends, eldest plus girlfriend and other half to our destination, we found ourselves on the last day at a nearby adventure golf course ( a must have for any seaside holiday ) having played a round of 18 holes for youngest son's eighteenth birthday, which also involved my hiding behind a bush attempting to inflate  a giant surprise metallic '18' birthday balloon for the eighteenth hole . That day had already entailed birthday breakfast for eight , birthday presents, balloons, banners and birthday cake ( no small feat when you've had to pack and hide that lot ). The evening's entertainment had been planned too - a beautiful restaurant located in a stunning deer park - no detail left to chance as I'd had to book it weeks in advance due to its popularity. This just left one teensy detail unplanned - where to have lunch. Thought I'd leave that to husband. After dithering around for half an hour declaring my suggestion of afternoon tea unpopular and writing off the cafe at the Craft Barn next door , there followed much faffing at which I asked husband to just make a ( bloody ) decision. Youngest son came to the rescue with a phone app which offers suggestions on where to eat nearby. A five minute drive later we found ouselves on an industrial estate eating Thai Noodles from an unlikely looking shed in the car park. Could have been a disaster but  looking back, it was pretty hilarious.

And what did I learn from this whole experience ? Never leave anything to your husband, never forget that five hungry youngsters are an ugly sight to behold and thank god for mobile phones.



Thursday, 29 June 2017

Letter from the past


In a post-exam euphoric state , I managed to stub my left food BADLY against the leg of the bed and smashed up two of my toes.

As they say though, every cloud has a silver lining and that came in the form of a box of old letters rescued from the loft to keep me entertained whilst I hoisted my foot up onto the sofa and wrapped it in ice.

Talk about a Pandora's Box. Memories came flooding back. I must have kept every single card and letter ever written to me when I was a student. I'm so pleased I did now, as reading them has transported me back into a glowing reverie of happy hippy days at University. Maybe the tinted glasses are a little too rosy as I'm sure I must have had my fair share of teeneage angst and heartache. If you've ever wondered why most pop songs feature broken hearts and lost love you only have to go back in time to your 18 year old self and see what all the fuss was about.

Youngest son couldn't belive his eyes when he saw the mountain of carefully , and occassionslly not so carfelly, handwritten letters - often several pages long. Of course , sending letters is anathema to youngsters. Why get your fountain pen out when you can zip off a text in seconds, a 140 character tweet or worse still a snapchat which disapperas into the ether within 24hours. What are they going to remember ?

I haven't stopped laughing at my deathly dull diary entries ... " Oct24th - Got up, washed hair, ate a susage roll " as if I'd ever need to be reminded of the tedium of my everyday life. Of course now , although it makes me cringe , it also makes me smile.

There were boyfriends' names I'd forgotten - sorry , whoever you were, unidentifiable locations on faded photographs and a bizzare letter from someone callled Mike Jonhson which read ...





I have no idea who he is or what on earth he's talking about or why he's wishing me luck at the museum !


Haven't had this good a laugh in ages .



















Thursday, 22 June 2017

Skadis

... which is Ikea speak for brand new wall storage / organiser thingy.

Just bought one yesterday . Decided to beat the heat by driving across town to Ikea with the air conditioning at full pelt . It worked a treat for the trip there but after having being stood for a couple of hours on an acre of tarmac in 35 degrees of burning heat, the car felt like a furnace and the ride home was hell as the air con just couldn't cope. Ah well , at least I had Ikea almost to myself as I'd planned my visit to co-incide with the day before their sale and when the kid's care was closed - result !

I was determined not to fill my trolley with napkins, frames and useless kitchen storage jars which is what I normally come home with . Ok , so one frame and 2 packs of napkins did sneak their way in but I think I did well to manage my addiction to that extent.

I am beyond excited to get this up on the wall. For a mere £9 I'm looking forward to having an office that looks like this ...


... well maybe even nicer than this dependent on what I hang on it. Of course they get you with all the knicky knacky add-ons you have to buy but who cares when organisation comes as stylish as this and each accessory is only about £2-£3 although it does add up. Think I probably spent about £22 in total. 

Now all I have to do is interpret the oh-so-helpful instructions.


From this picture I'm getting  - strip naked, look glum, chop it all into pieces then smile at a naked man with a pencil behind his ear. Those Swedish have a knack at this assembly thing.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

When the going gets hot ...

... the hot go shopping ... but only if the store has air conditioning.

I never thought I'd hear myself say " Can't wait to get to Sainsburys" but yesterday I not only loitered around the chiller cabinets for un unacceptably long time but also cruised up and down each and every frozen food aisle, idling away a happy hour next to the frozen peas and chips.

I'm betting Iceland is popular too this week ... and Tescos... and Waitrose ... and any other supermarket come to mention it .

I managed to sling a few boxes of Magnums and Rowntrees Fruit Lollies into my trolley before paying at the till then draggied myself reluctantly, blinking in the sunshine, back over the boiling tarmac of the carpark to my furnace of a car.

I hate heat unless I'm by the sea,or lounging next to a swimming pool. What's to like about sweat drenched clothing, sleepless nights and flared tempers ? Yestreay it wa hotter in London overnight than the daytime temperature of Istanbul apparently. The ice maker broke on our freezer, the A/C on the car packed up and I probably could have baked a pizza on my desktop without the aid of an oven.

Not even Stevie Wonder's 'Hotter than July' album, to get me in the summer mood, could cheer me up. Pity those sat in exam rooms around the country sitting through hours of their maths A Level exam this afternoon ( my youngest son included ) . My pupils have been turning up in full length wool trousers and blazers to match ( not allowed to be seen in public withoum them on apparently ) having spent the afternoon being made to play football at school. As a nation are we bonkers ? - that was a rhetorical question btw.

My 'Keeping Cool' tactics so far have included sitting next to a bowl of ice as if looking at it might help, cowering in shady corners and taking hourly cold showers. I'm hopeless in the heat but I'll be damned if I'm going to fork out an arm and a leg for the only fan on the market that actually works ( Dyson as if you didn't know at over £300 a go ) for the 3 days of the year that I'll actually get to use it.

So, shopping is the way to go and it's costing me a small fortune. Today , I popped into Oliver Bonas ( Air Con 4* ) and bought this little cutie ...





... having promised myself that I would never buy another item that came under the heading of 'clutter' but who could resist ? I was so hot and flustered by the time I'd staggered into the first shop I could find with air con , that I forgot to ask how much it was and inevitably had come out without any glasses. Fortunately , I still got some change from a tenner.

Big up for WH Smith ( whose air con was 5* ) - I could have stayed there all day. Came home with a bagful of 3 for 2 stationery - that's not even shopping - I can get away with calling that office supplies.

Nul points for Paperchase which was like an oven. 

Last stop Itsu's for a healthy salad for youngest son as pre-exam lunch treat . I could climbed right in with the supremely chilled trays of Sushi and just lain there all day without breaking a bead of sweat.

John Lewis scored a measly 2* for their Air Con which meant a hasty exit.

So - shopkeepers of the world take note - the more you ratch up the chilled air, the more shoppers you're likely to lure through the summer months. I'll be back out tomorrow to loiter amongst the frozen foods in Tescos no doubt.

Monday, 19 June 2017

the end is near ...

... not of the world but of A Levels and I'm not even sitting them. I've never know such a turtuously drawn out process and I'm a teacher.

Youngest son is sitting in his revision 'cave'  ( think black out curtains and feeble fan wafting hot air around in 30 degree temperatures ) where's he's been holed up for the last 2 months. Motivation is at an all time low and yet he's ploughing through his revision notes studiously and I'm immensely proud of him.

The mood in the country is sombre following recent events and I can't help feeling a wave of nausea at what the future holds. To be a youngster in the current political climate must be  monumentally dis-spiriting and I think of myself as an optimist. Heaven help us.

I'm currently reading Jeremy Paxman's autobiography which is mildly amusing and surprisingly self deprecating thankfully. At least there's a wealth of decent vocabulary in it to keep me on my toes and remind me that the last time I looked in a dictionary was rather a long time ago.

Recommendations please on what to read next .


Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Traveler's Notebooks


A round-up of my favourites :

Midori - can't beat them for style, panache and all round beautiful quality and the cover really is made of leather which other companies bogusly imply. I brought one of these on holiday with me last year and religiously filled in all our holiday details on a daily basis. It's been a joy to read back and remind me of the wonderful time we had. Pricey though at around £40 - £45.

Then there are the new kids on the block , jumping on the recent planner frenzy that's hit the scrapbooking community. I just don't get the whole 'planner' thing.  Quite why you'd want to buy a whole raft of new stamps, stickers and accessories for what is basically a diary ( we used to called them by the brand name Filofax back in my day ) , I do not know. Having to go to the dentist is bad enough without making a decorative song and dance about it . But hey ... these scrapbooking companies have got to think up new ways to fleece us every year . These come, inevitably, in a whole range of designs and permutations ... as the man from Bluemoon Scrapbooking says " Gotta have 'em all " . Well not at £25 a pop you don't.

And then there's this one from my favourite bargain shop - Tiger - the place I go to when I can't fit into any clothes I've just tried on and so resort to stationery to cheer myself up. A delightful mint green and white striped afffair, perefect for Summer, with a snazzy red elastic to keep it all in place.




Inside the front flap there's a sweet little pocket and it comes with 2 notebooks - one lined and one squared with another insert at the back to accommdate a few extras.









I honestly don't know how Tiger do it ( I probably do, it's called China ) but just check out the price .



Yep, all of £2. I could even buy a replacement notebook for the other brands with much change from a fiver and yet I could have bought 2 of these for less ! Un-flipping -believable. No doubt they'll sell like hotcakes, so I'm going back to buy a few for my students before they all get snapped up. Nice one Tiger .

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