Thursday 31 December 2009

What Drives Me to Write

Over at My Quality Day, Sharkbytes has written about why she writes. It’s quite a lengthy post, but I very much enjoyed reading it.

And it got me thinking about why I write. I thought back down the years a very long time. When I was & years old I wrote a poem that was hailed as brilliant – for a seven year old. I can only remember the first verse now. It went like this.

Like a mist of darkness
Night falls fast.
But you need not be afraid,
It will not last.

Anyway, as I was too shy, my teacher read it out to the whole school and my head nearly burst with pride. (It was fluke of course, as far as poetry goes anyway.)

At eleven, I went on to a grammar school. A couple of years later, again I had a piece of creative work read out, but only in class this time. It was a monologue by a young boy, based on a play about a strike. We’d been told to write from the point of view of one of the minor characters.

Many years later, as a mature student on a media studies degree course, my adaptation of The Monkey’s Paw for radio was again read out as an example of good use of the medium. I was so much older then, but I felt exactly the same as I had when I was seven and 14.

There were other times too, like when we produced some plays for TV that I’d written, also at college. And I’ll never forget the letter from a features editor who accepted my first article and said how much she loved it.

So I think that’s why I write. I love stringing the words together, and striving for that proud feeling again. There’s just nothing in the world like it.

Wednesday 30 December 2009

Bacon and Herb Ratatouille

Once every month or so, I cook up a healthy ratatouille and divide the leftovers into individual servings to freeze. Recently I decided to experiment with some extra ingredients that needed to be used up. It was so good I thought I’d share this tasty version of the healthy dish, cooked quickly and easily in a microwave


1 aubergine, washed and cut into chunks
50ml olive oil
1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
2 courgettes, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 large can chopped tomatoes
125 gms smoked lardons, dry-fried for 3 minutes and drained on kitchen paper
small handful basil leaves
large handful rocket
seasoning to taste

Put the aubergine and oil into a deep microwavable dish. Add the pepper, onion and garlic and mix well. Cover and cook on high for five minutes. Stir, add the courgettes and cook on high for ten minutes. Stir and add the tomatoes and bacon. Cook on high for another five minutes. Stir in the basil and rocket. Before serving, season to taste and reheat for a few minutes in the microwave.

Serve with noodles, pasta or rice. For vegetarians, omit the bacon, of course. A standard ratatouille is good topped with lashings of grated cheese.

Tuesday 29 December 2009

A Wintry Mood

We drive through the wood
where the trees stand naked.
Stark leafless branches
twist and snake towards the grey
sunless sky.

We drive past the fields
bare of crops and sludgey.
Rain falling dankly.
Thin hedge revealing brown
sullen earth.

We slide on wet roads.
Flashes light the puddles
dull green and greasy.
Matching our hopeless mood
this winter.

Monday 28 December 2009

Christmas Memories

I do hope you all had a great Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of the year. Hope it was better than mine anyway. It was a bit of a disaster for several reasons. The main one was that both my son and I were sick. On Christmas Day, we both managed to eat some of the celebration roast turkey and all that goes with it. After that I threw up and he went to bed and slept till the next day.

I had been wondering why I’d been feeling so exhausted trying to get everything ready for a family Christmas. It was hard work but I’d done it so many times before without getting so tired. On the 23rd, when my daughter and granddaughter were due to arrive, my last chore was to vacuum the bedrooms after which I literally collapsed.

I’d had a cough for a week or so as well, and this got worse, plus I felt like I was aching all over – you know what fluey cold is like. Anyway, now I had help from my daughter and she ended up shouldering most of the catering, although I battled on as much as possible. And I left her on her own during the evenings as I just had to get myself to bed and try to relax.

On Christmas morning hubby fetched my son and his girlfriend who live nearly an hour’s drive away, near where my last house is. Then we discovered that he wasn’t well either. But at least we were all together for a while. They stayed the night and went home the next day.

The other two left today, a day earlier than planned, and I’m feeling a bit low, so I decided I must try to find some good things to remember about it all. So here we go:

• My children and I got together for the first time for quite a while
• Everyone seemed to get presents they were happy with.
• Eryn was thrilled with her Wii, to which lots of family members had contributed
• On Boxing Day, we found a park with two witches’ hats where we could sit in a café drinking hot coffee and watch young Eryn having the time of her life, then go and walk on the sandy beach before we had to run back to the car to escape a shower. It was exhilarating and good to be out of the house, even if I did crash out afterwards.
• Yesterday we enjoyed the children watching Jack and the Beanstalk as much as watching the pantomime itself.
• Finally, since I had no appetite for the Christmas treats, I can take my belt in a notch instead of having to let it out and go on a crash diet just to get back to normal.

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Help a Charity at this New Auction Site

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Bidazzled. All opinions are 100% mine.

If you live in the US, here’s a chance to get some bargains while you support a cancer charity. Bidazzled has been set up to support The Ruch Foundation, a support site for people with lung cancer and their families and friends. They say they pass on 70% of their profits.

Most of us have been touched by cancer in some way. I had a father-in-law who died from lung cancer, so this sort of thing is quite dear to my heart. is an auction site with a difference. First you purchase a pack of bids, priced from $25. Then you can apply your bids to items offered, which can be name brand merchandise. Bidding starts at under $1 and the price goes up slightly with each bid and everyone else is given a few more seconds to bid. When there are no more bids, the auction closes. Looks like it’s good fun.

Winners get their items shipped for free, and typically save about 80% of retail prices; or they can often choose to keep the item in circulation for the charity by selling it back to Bidazzled for cash or more bids Everyone who doesn’t win gets 50 bonus bids just for taking part, so there are no losers.

There are other benefits too. There’s a complicated referral programme where you earn a number of bids depending where you are in the referral hierarchy. Everyone who registers gets 5 free bids, and 2 people have already each won a Nintendo Wii. But until January 15th, you’ll get a total of 15 free bids by entering this code on the registration page.

There’s no obligation to buy more bids, so you might as well. And then see what fun you can have while you are supporting The Ruch Foundation.

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Tuesday 22 December 2009

Summer Winds

The weather is so cold and frosty, snowy for some, in the UK. I’m hoping my daughter will not have any problems driving down from London tomorrow, when she brings my granddaughter for their Christmas visit.

In the meantime, I thought I’d look for something different about the weather, and something uplifting to look forward to. I found these two verses in my haiku diary from last year, and the photo is of Tintinhull garden in June.

In May

lacy tree tops dance
partnered by amorous winds
and flying blossom.

In June

tree branches roll, like
wave tops in stormy weather.
Flowers gaily prance.

Monday 21 December 2009

A Special Visitor

Our bare garden is particularly good for viewing all the birds that visit the neighbourhood. The mature garden next door with lots of hanging feeders attracts blackbirds, tits, sparrows and I have counted six goldfinches at one time. They all scatter when the magpie flies in.

The last couple of days has seen two new visitors. One was a magnificent mistlethrush. The other had us puzzled. It looked like a robin without a red breast but as it fluttered around the flowering palm over the fence at the end, we could see flashes of red. Then as it hopped around on the ground in our area, I thought the red part was under its tail.

I went on the RSPB site today and was delighted to discover that it is a black redstart, which is on the amber list of Birds of Conservation Concern. Apparently there are fewer than 100 breeding pairs left in the UK.

The photo is by Lhgergo at Wikimedia.

Friday 18 December 2009

Walking Spurs the Muse

This is something I wrote early this year. I have to tell you that because if you know anything about the UK, you'll know it's not snowdrop time yet.

"I have been reading books about the writing life by Julia Cameron and Dorothea Brande. Both these authors are in tune with each other and have similarities. For instance, they both recommend early morning free writing. And they both recommend walking to get some inspiration. Ms Brande suggests trying to look at what you pass with the eyes of a stranger, and making up descriptions as you walk.

This works well with my current practice of trying to get out for a short brisk walk every day, and today I tried it out. Stupidly, I didn’t take a notebook and pen, but here are some snippets I can remember.

Tall, lean silver birch, feathery fronds bending earthwards.

Sentinel trees, standing to attention.

Fields bounded by straight-clipped, gnarled hedgerows, bare of green except where rampant ivy climbs.

Snowdrops clump on the river bank, their bright white contrasting sludgy earth and grey, running water.

Now they are written down, perhaps I’ll get to use them somehow."

Unfortunately, not yet. But perhaps I will now I've come across this again.

Thursday 17 December 2009

What to Do with Stale Doughnuts

(This mouthwatering pic is by Kronn at Wikimedia Commons.)

Last week hubby came home with a packet of mini jam doughnuts. He just saw them in the shop and fancied one. We are great believers in ‘a little of what you fancy does you good.’ And these were MINI doughnuts.

There were four in the packet. We had no family or friends visiting, so when we’d had our quota of one each, there were two left. And of course you know doughnuts have to be eaten fresh. They don’t last overnight.

I can’t bear to waste food and the next day I didn’t want to throw away those doughnuts. After research and improvisation, I came up with the following recipe. It made pudding for two days. On the first day we had it with warm stewed apple, and the second day I heated it in the microwave and poured hot custard over it. We loved it.

Preheat oven to 180º
Grease a tin or ovenproof dish
Cut the doughnuts into small pieces
Dot them with butter, bertolli spread or your choice of butter substitute
Arrange them in the greased dish
Sprinkle them with currants or raisins
Beat two eggs in a measuring jug
Make it up to half a pint with milk
Stir in a dessertspoon of sugar
Pour over the doughnuts
Bake for about 25 minutes until just firm and browned on top.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Cabby Story - as Told to Me

Pic by David Iliff is of a black cab in London.

Scene: Taxi rank at the railway station. Elderly woman approaches the first taxi in line and speaks to the driver. She is followed by a man who stands and waits behind her.

Woman: Could you pick me up at a quarter to eight tomorrow morning.

Cabby: Where do you want to go?

Woman (haughtily): That’s my business.

Cabby: If that’s the case then, Madam. I can’t help you.

Woman (taken aback): What do you mean; you can't help me?

Cabby: Well the thing is, I have to be at Mesley (village 10 minutes drive away) by ten past eight to take a regular customer to work.

Woman: Oh. Right. Well I just need to get to the National Express stop.

Cabby: Would that be the one opposite the newsagents in Station Road?

Woman: That’s right.

Cabby: In that case, I can take you. Where do want picking up?

Woman: Mayflower House.

Cabby: And where’s that, then?

Woman: You mean you’re a taxi driver and you don’t know. It’s been there for over 400 years.

Cabby (who’s been driving the area for just 12 years): Sorry, I don’t think I have picked up from a Mayflower House.

Woman: It’s next to the MOT garage.

Cabby: Which one? Exmarsh? (There are about 4 MOT garages in this small town.)

Woman: (exasperated) No. No. Queen Street. By the old post office.

Cabby: Ah. I know that old post office. (It was the second one in the town to close.)

Woman: That’s Mayflower House.

Cabby: Well I never.

Woman: You will be there at quarter to eight?

Cabby: Yes I’ll pick you up there at 7.45 tomorrow morning.

Woman walks off.

Cabby (to male passenger standing and patiently waiting): Sorry about that sir. It’s quite painful sometimes trying to get the information I need. If she’d said the old post office in Queen Street, I’d have known right away. Now, where did you want to go sir?

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Adgitize Affiliates

Today I learnt how to earn by becoming an adgitize affiliate. That just means putting an ad on my side bar that takes you to the adgitize sign up page. Every time someone signs up when they have clicked my ad, I will earn, and then I'll earn a bit more commission from them each month.

You could do it too. All you have to do is click my add, sign up and put the ad on your sidebar. What a doddle.

I was already enamoured of Adgitize which has me earning through clicks as I do my EC dropping. I wish I'd taken a bit more time to check out the rest of the Adgitize opportunities a bit sooner.

Monday 14 December 2009

Christmas Exhaustion Has Got Me

Boy do I feel tired. Too tired to drop or adgitize much tonight. It'll have to be bed for me soon. Sorry folks.

After breakfast and when the off to work traffic had settled down, we went out to find an electric fire. With more space here there's more to keep warm and even with the central heating it's not as cosy as our last house. The previous owners left a black hole which had obviously been for a fire although there is no chimney, and it's not an outside wall, so it has to be electric. Anyway, we ordered one and it should be ready for collection tomorrow and we can get it set up. Not that I'll have any time to sit in front of it. But I wanted it here well before my family comes for Christmas.

Then we had something else to sort out. Five months into our move and we still haven't sorted out our TV reception. The previous people here used a Sky cable service, but I am loath to have a monthly payment as I only watch for about an hour a day, being too busy in front of my computer screen the rest of the time. Hubby watches even less. There is also a TV aerial (not up to date) which currently gives us very limited access to programmes. And there is a satellite dish on the roof of the extension.

So this morning we bought a freesat box, followed all the directions to set it up - and got nothing. Hunted through the directories for someone who might help, phoned and he is coming tomorrow morning. I expect (hope) we'll find we've connected it to the wrong cable. If the dish is no good I guess I'll be forking out even more money to keep my family happy this Christmas, and have nothing left from my earnings for the last couple of months.

I've been inundated with writing work from one old and one new client, so spent the rest of the day on all that before breaking off to cook an eat with hubby. Now he's doing the washing up, bless him. I've now thought of two more Christmas cards that need sending. The ironing is piling up; loads of presents need wrapping; more have to be bought; there is paper to be sorted everywhere; we haven't even thought about decorations or food yet.

But darn it. I'm just too tired. Good night.

Friday 11 December 2009

A Doggie Tipple Story

Christmas approaching reminds me of Bramble, a tan and white springer spaniel who is our delightful charge when we dogsit for Rob, her owner. We had her for the day on Boxing Day last year.

But we had seen her on Christmas Eve at our local pub. Because it was Christmas, she had been given a special treat of a bowl of Guinness, and during the hour we were there I saw her come back to it about three times. Miraculously the bowl always seemed to be full.

In between she did her usual trick of poncing for the biscuits that are kept behind the bar for her. She knows just what a soft touch I am and usually focuses her attention on me when I’m there, sitting close to me and fixing me with her great soulful eyes, head cocked to one side. Every so often she will rise up and gently tap my lap with a front paw. Eventually I give in and get her a biscuit, which she is allowed to eat when she has given me each front paw in succession.

When Rob brought her to our house on Boxing Day morning, he told us how the Guinness had affected her. Walking home they always stop at the kerb before crossing the roads. That night, each time when sitting she gradually leaned further over before subsiding in a heap in the gutter, fortunately not in the path of any oncoming vehicles. At home, she just managed to reach her basket before slumping into it and falling asleep.

On Boxing Day morning she was her usual rumbustious self, but I wonder if she had a hangover on Christmas day morning.

We’ll miss her this Christmas now that we’ve moved house and she isn’t close by.

The photo isn't Bramble, but a dog that looks quite like her. It's from Wikimedia Commons by The Boy that time forgot.

Thursday 10 December 2009

Adgitize and Entrecard

You may have noticed that I am stepping up my blogging schedule at the moment. That’s because I’ve now joined the adgitize brigade and I get points each time I post, so it gets me closer to payout. No sure how long I can keep it up because I’m cheating a bit and using old posts from my Writelink blog which were lost to my readers on the changeover to a new site. But I still have them on my PC.

I’m also dropping more entrecards because I have a new way of bloghopping so that I can do adgitize clicks as well. I used to just go through my EC inbox. Now I start there and click when I find an adgitize ad. The beauty of it is that, like me, most adgitizers are entrecarders as well, so we can kill two birds with one stone. Once I’ve done my 100 clicks, which I never thought I’d get round to, I go back to my EC inbox and there are just a few left. So my EC dropping has gone up from around 60 a day to around 140.

I still try to read the ones that really grab me. But the downside is that I don’t have as much time to comment as I used to do, especially as it’s a busy time of year. I’ve also picked up some more writing work, which of course has to get priority. No doubt there will come days when I can concentrate more on commenting again.

Anyway, I really love the blogosphere, and can’t imagine what I did with my time before I found it.

PS. The pic above is an old one of Lyme Regis harbour at the cob, where I went to meet my sister today to exchange Christmas presents.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

What You Find When You Move House

When I was packing to move house earlier this year I found a box of papers in the top cupboard in my bedroom. Sitting on the top was an exam paper for Option 1, Arts for the CNAA Certificate in June 1978. I’d had three hours to answer four questions, and I’d put crosses against the ones I attempted.

These were the questions I apparently answered:

1. (Marlowe) “His own worst enemy”: does this homely phrase account for Faustus’ damnation or is it at all possible to see him as a victim of circumstances?
2. (Shakespeare): Trace the degradation in Macbeth’s character from the murder of Duncan to his own death.
3. (Milton): To what extent can “Samson Agonistes" be seen as an attempt to reconcile Biblical themes of purification through suffering with the Classical dramatic form?
4. (Dickens): Mr Jaggers announced that PIP, in consequence of his great expectations, was “to be brought up as a gentleman.” What do you think Dickens meant us to understand by “gentleman”, and which of Pip’s male acquaintances, then and thereafter, could help him to acquire real gentility?

I have no idea what I put in my answers, but I did pass. I don’t think for a minute that I could do it today.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

A Fishy Story

Salmon pic is from Wikimedia Commons by Joe Mabel

One day I was browsing a secondhand bookstall and my eye was caught by that extraordinary book that everyone was talking about last year. (Or was it the year before? Quick check to find publication date was 2007.)

Anyway that’s how I came to be reading Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday.

This must be the funniest, yet most deadly serious book I’ve ever read. It’s about: politics and civil servants, international relations, spin, power at the top, power of the media, love and marriage, money and high finance, science, war, terrorism, assassination and accidental death. Oh yes, and salmon. And it’s absolutely HILARIOUS.

I'm not going to spoil the story by telling you any more about it. If you’ve read it already, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, go out and find it as quickly as you can.

If you read quickly enough, you could always pass it on to someone else as a present for Christmas or whatever you celebrate.

Monday 7 December 2009

Catching Up Again

I'm just back from a great long weekend with my daughter and granddaughter. Have caught up with some friends over lunch, taken in the show Blood Brothers in the Phoenix Theatre in London's Charing Cross Road, and done quite a bit of Xmas shopping. Took the train home and now I have so much catching up to do.

In the meantime, here are some more Nile pics as I promised to Anna who commented on my last post.

Monday 30 November 2009

Those Wonderful Droppers

Thanks again to all my fantastic droppers. Here are the top 10 for November according to the EC stats page. They have all dropped EVERY DAY. It's the first time that has happened to my blog.

You are all just wonderful and well worth visiting. I hope you get lots of clicks from here and make some new friends.

The Way I See It
Secret forest
Laane on the World
Rambling Stuff
As The Crackerhead Crumbles
The Cooling Stream
Serian Man
Shalampax Speaks
Poetic Shutterbug
Laane Loves

Friday 27 November 2009


Adgitize your web site.

I recently joined adgitize as a rather slow starter. It’s a bit different earning one or two cents a day for clicking rather than writing something more than these blog posts. Yesterday I racheted up my number of clicks but couldn’t make the maximum of 100 because my broadband got painfully slow.

Since I moved home I’ve been having these problems a lot. I should probably consider changing to another provider, but that seems like just another hassle. Anyway, I do believe I made it to 100 today.

I found some side benefits too. First, I’ve seen many more terrific blogs. Second, many of the new ones have entrecard widgets to drop on as well. My drop rate has gone way up in the last two days. Of course it’s time consuming, and I don’t suppose I’ll manage it every day.

I don’t know how many people are clicking my adgitize ads either. Please leave me a comment if you know of a way to get these stats. And please don’t hesitate to click if the ads are of the slightest interest to you.You’ll be doing me a big favour.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Sunny Interlude

This morning we had a break from the rain. All of a sudden the sun burst through. I grabbed my camera and opened the French doors at the back of the house to capture this unprecedented event. This is the picture I got.

You can see how wet and shiny the paving slabs are in front of our shed. Note also the heavy slab placed against its doors. That's because a few days ago the strong wind got in there and forced the doors open from the inside. The double doors had been locked from on the outside but the wind took out the bolt at the top on the inside and the lock didn't hold. It's even more amazing because it looks to be in such a sheltered spot.

Monday 23 November 2009

Compton Acres to Cheer Me Up

We are having such terrible weather here in the UK. Towns in the north have been flooded out and I just saw on the news that some people are being allowed to go back and look at how the floods have affected their homes and businesses, which they were forced to vacate days ago. There was also news of a police officer losing his life when a bridge collapsed.

Here we are much luckier. While we've had the wind and driving rain, our homes and businesses haven't been affected by flooding. One of my husband's acquaintances told him there has been such a run on fencing that he found it hard to source what he needed for his normal business, but having your fence blown down doesn't equate to people having to leave their homes to the mercy of the floodwater.

Of course, it's all relative. I know people in other countries have even worse disasters and even less help to get over it.

Anyway I thought I'd try to cheer myself up with some photos of happier times. These pictures, taken a few summers ago, are of Compton Acres, a beautiful garden not far from my new home that's open to the public .

Friday 20 November 2009

Dirt Devil and Holiday Shopping

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Dirt Devil. All opinions are 100% mine.


My little Dirt Devil Junior vac is donkey’s years old. It used to belong to my mum and I inherited it when she moved into care from her home, which my sister and I were forced to clear and sell. Anyway the Dirt Devil has proved a boon and been taken everywhere with me, including to self catering holidays with a European adapter when needed. And it is still going strong. So I am well disposed to Dirt Devil.

Now I find the Dirt Devil company has issued a 2009 guide to shopping online for the holiday season, The Dirt Devil Holiday Buying Guide. It includes various Dirt Devil special offers that start on November 25th, which include ideas for Gifts for Him, Gifts for Her and Family Favorites. So it’s worth taking a look just for that, but it also gives you lots of hints and tips for saving money at other online shopping sites as well.

There’s a long list of sites offering coupons and discount codes that will get you money off, and pages that discuss various different ways of shopping on the cheap. In fact, they give you over 300 different ways to save on what you have to buy for the holiday.

Something I wasn’t aware of was that December 17th is Free Shipping Day, when loads of participating stores give you a free delivery guaranteed to arrive before Christmas. And there is a list of sites that tell you where you can get free shipping at other times too. I noticed that some of the Dirt Devil products advertised have a free shipping tag too. While shopping online is often cheaper and can save you time and hassle, as well as the feet and arm aches that trekking around the shops results in, free delivery can give you quite a bit of extra dosh to spend on treats for the holiday.

I found the last page of the guide really useful too. It’s a jargon buster for online shopping and I learnt what quite a few of those diminutives mean. For example, it’s handy to know that GWP means Gift with Purchase, and PPHF means PayPal Handling Fee, while YMMV is Your Merchandise May Vary.

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Wednesday 18 November 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Another Corner of Menorca

This post has to become worded so the next one can be sponsored. Strange rules, but I am learning. And I will comply. All the pennies help.

We found this corner of Menorca on one of our trips out from our resort. It was in Es Grau, one of my favourite places on the whole island.

Monday 16 November 2009

A Free Tag

Can you fill this out without lying? I did after I received it from a friend at Facebook.

1. What was the last thing you put in your mouth?
A toothbrush

2. Where was your profile picture taken?
The one in my blogspot profile was taken in My eldest granddaughter’s home.

3. Can you play Guitar Hero?

4. Name someone who made you laugh today?
it’s too early for today, but yesterday it was my pal Malcolm who came for a visit, and my hubby with whom I laugh every day.

5.How late did you stay up last night and why?
11:15 once I’d finished watching Mansfield House on ITV3 which is almost the only digital programme I can get at the moment.

6. If you could move somewhere else, would you?
No way.
I’ve just moved to the seaside and it’s my dream location (see the pic above). While it would be nice to live in warmer climes than here, I could not move away from the country where my children live.

7. Ever been kissed under fireworks?
Yes but long ago.

9. Do you believe ex's can be friends?
I have a great friend who is an ex.

10. What do you feel about Dr Pepper?

11. When was the last time you cried really hard?
After visiting my mother in the chapel of rest

12. Who took your profile picture?
My son

13. Who was the last person you took a picture of?
Vsiting friends from

14. Was yesterday better than today?
Yesterday was great so it could be, but I don’t know yet.

15. Can you live a day without TV?
Yes, of course.

16. Are you upset about anything?
It’s always upsetting to get rejections, but you just have to accept them and move on.

17. Do you think relationships are ever really worth it?
Always, provided you accept the ones that go wrong as learning experiences.

18. Are you a bad influence?
Who, me?

19. Night out or night in?
Out, provided it’s in good company.

20. What items could you not go without during the day?
Something to read.

21. Who was the last person you visited in the hospital?
It’s been a very long time.
My youngest granddaughter is now 6 and I was my daughter’s birth partner, which was such a momentous experience, and I visited the day after.

22. What does the last text message in your inbox say?
Meet in the bread section at Tescos.

23. How do you feel about your life right now?

24. Do you hate anyone?

25. If we were to look in your facebook inbox, what would we find?
Very little.
A few invitations to play games, which I ignore.

26. Say you were given a drug test right now, would you pass?

27. Has anyone ever called you perfect before?
I have no idea.

28. What song is stuck in your head?
Moon River

29. Name something you have to do tomorrow.
Go to a WEA Open Evening.

30. Do you smile a lot?

This tag is freely offered. Let me know if you accept it so I can read your responses.

Friday 13 November 2009

Some Facts about Friday 13th

Pic is of a tree that fell in a snowstorm on a street in Buffalo, New York, on Friday 13th October 2006. It is by DragonFire1024 at Wikimedia.

Every year our calendar has at least one Friday 13th. This year we've had three, in February, March, as well as today.

If you are among the many folk particularly wary of Friday 13th, you are suffering from paraskevidekatriaphobia, or the slightly easier to pronounce friggatriskaidekaphobia – two names for the same phenomenon. Triskaidekapohobia on its own just means fear of the number 13.

There are plenty of theories about the origins of these phobias.

§ There are 13 witches in a coven.

§ Christian ideas relate it to the crucifixion happening on a Friday, also the last supper attended by Christ and the 12 apostles, the 13th being Judas Iscariot, the traitor.

§ Some believe it had an earlier origin when the Norse god Odin was entertaining 11 of his friends at Valhalla and his crafty brother, Loki, turned up uninvited, changing the party total to 13. It was at this party that Loki managed the tragic demise of Baldur, son of Odin and Frigga.

§ It was on Friday 13th October, 1307 that the Knights Templar across France were arrested en masse, to suffer torture and death at the whim of the Pope who had been jealous of their power.

Some famously nasty happenings have been linked to Friday and/or the number 13, but sometimes these links do seem rather contrived.

§ The crew members of the Apollo 13 mission failed to land on the moon, and were lucky to get home following an oxygen tank explosion on board. They were launched from Pad 39 (3 x 13) at 13:13 hours (not local time, but Houston mission control time) on 11th April, 1970 (11 + 4 + 70 = 85, and 8 + 5 = 13).

§ Composer Arnold Schoenberg was afflicted with triskaidekaphobia. Born on the 13th day of September in 1874, he died on Friday 13th July 1951 at 13 minutes to midnight. He is said to have predicted his death on this day as it was the first Friday 13th in his 76th year (7 + 6 = 13).

§ An amazing number of serial killers’ names have 13 letters – Charles Manson, Wayne Williams, Pee Wee Gaskins, Thierry Paulin, Fritz Haarmann, John Wayne Gacy, Michael Swango, Theodore Bundy, Herbert Mullin, Jack the Ripper, Harold Shipman, Frederick West, and Peter Sutcliffe, are just 13 of them.

This comes from an article I first wrote a couple of years ago. A version of it was published in Ireland's Own in June last year. Another version is for sale at .

Monday 9 November 2009

Another Stourhead Visit

We went back to Stourhead yesterday. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is a magnificent UK National Trust estate with a grand house and a beautiful landscaped garden surrounding a large lake. While the house is closed for the winter, the gardens are open all year round.

It’s about an hour’s drive from our new house, but my son and his girlfriend still live in the locality and we went to see them and ended up there. We didn’t actually go in because we didn’t have a lot of time, certainly not enough to justify the £7.40 each they would have to pay as non-members. Hubby and I have membership cards that entitle us to free entry. We used them there a lot when we lived close by.

You can still get a good view of Stourhead garden from the road at the bottom of the hill from the car park, and we got plenty of exercise trekking back up again. Then we popped into the restaurant for coffee and a snack, so they did get some of our cash. We also visited the farm shop for some of their delicious steak, cheese and c ream so all in all, they did quite well out of us. And we had a great evening meal when we got home again.

Anyway, I thought it was time to post some more Stourhead photos.

Thursday 5 November 2009

Dona Nobis Pacem

I'm posting out of my normal schedule this week, on Thursday instead of Friday. It's just because I just had to join in this BlogBlast for Peace day.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could achieve peace in our time? And then we could spend all the money that goes into war on feeding the hungry and giving everyone a place to call home and keep warm and safe.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

A Great Little Widget

I love this little widget. Move your cursor around the cat and see what it does.

You can get yours here, just like I did from The Way It Is. Many thanks to that blogger.

Monday 2 November 2009

October Top Droppers

Once again it's time to thank my top droppers - this time for October. How those months do fly. And just as it's great to see familiar blogs on the list, it's also very nice to find I have some new followers. I'm just so grateful to all of my viewers and I hope you can reward them with clicks. They are all fantastic and unique and well worth reading.

Lots of EC droppers return visits. This is always how I start my own dropping. But sometimes I can't complete my drops every day and don't get a return drop from some people. If I don't manage to catch up with all the ones I've missed, they could be missed for ever.

But one of the great things about blog hopping with EC is that every so often I notice a card that is familiar. Then I find myself wondering how I could have forgotten to visit that super blog, and can easily put things right with a click.

Every so often I check through my favourites list as well, but I haven't been punctilious about keeping that up to date. If I did, it would probably take me far too long to check through anyway, since I'm finding new EC bloggers most days.

Also, I've never managed to get beyond 100 drops a day, usually it's more like 60 - just a few more than I receive - because I do like to read the new posts and make the occasional comment.

How do you keep up with your favourite blogs?

Friday 30 October 2009

Children's Books That Stand the Test of Time

I've been writing about writing for children, and had to think of some memorable children's authors. Of course I came up with all the popular ones from my own childhood, like Enid Blyton, who is not considered politically correct nowadays.

But I also thought of the writers of some children's books that are still popular today and were written a century or so ago. Did you know that Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was first published in 1865?

And Beatrix Potter self published The Story of Peter Rabbit in 1901. After it was then picked up by a publisher it became the first of a series that has been reprinted over and over again, complete with her wonderful illustrations.

I imagine J K Rowling's Harry Potter series is going to stand the test of time too.

What a wonderful legacy these authors leave to the world.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Stop Press - Three Day Super Sale of Hotel Room Nights

This is not a sponsored post, although it would have been if I had managed to meet the SocialSpark deadline. So I just missed out on $20 by about 5 minutes. Such is life. I also just found that the link I copied didn't work, so I've redone that. Hopefully someone will find this useful.

I once lived in Singapore for a couple of years, and I’d really love to revisit that part of the world.

Now I discover there is a Super Sale of hotel rooms in the Asia Pacific region. The Accor Hospitality 3 Day Super Sale, offering huge reductions in room prices for bookings taken in their hotels began yesterday (Oct 27th) and runs until until Thursday (Oct 29th). If you’re thinking of going to the area between 9th December and 10th April next year, it’s worth pulling out the stops to get your hotel rooms booked now. Over one million room nights will be on sale, with rates starting as low as US$30 per night.

Accor’s superior hotel groups taking part are Sofitel, Pullman, Grand Mercure, Novotel, Mercure, All Seasons and Ibis hotels. I can just imagine myself in the luxury of the hotel pictured here. I’d love to be able to take advantage of this offer and only hope it will be repeated in future years so that I might be able to do so.

Apparently this coincides with record-low air fares across the Asia Pacific region, so if I could manage to book now I’d get all-round bargain rates.

And now that I am changing this post I can refer you to Jenaisle's post about a place worth visiting in the Philippines. If I was touring the Asia Pacific, I would definitely visit those islands, and that particular location if it was at all possible.

Monday 26 October 2009

My Love Affair with Carved Wood

A new dropper in my EC inbox is Essence of Woodwork. This blogger has posted some wonderful pictures of woodcraft. I recommend a visit just for those pics if you share my enthusiasm for carved wood.

It reminded me so much of when I was at college and studying the history of art. I came across the work of Grinling Gibbons, wood carver extraordinaire working in the 17th and 18th centuries. That was the beginning of my love affair with carved wood.

The picture is of some Grinling Gibbons carving at Hampton Court Palace near Kingston upon Thames where I used to live. It was taken by Camster2 at Wikimedia Commons

Friday 23 October 2009

The Changeling - Flash Fiction

This is something I dashed off for a competition. It didn't win, but I quite like it.

“Mam, the fairies are in the garden.” Polly felt more resigned than cross.

“Are you telling porkies again, Tasha.”

“No Mam, honest. Come and see.”

“Not right now, lass.” But Polly’s mind stayed on her daughter and the strange feyness of her. Even as a baby, she’d smiled at everyone and won all hearts with her winsome ways.

Now she was five years old, and everyone loved Natasha, everyone except other children, that is. She didn’t have any friends of her own age. Did that explain her fascination with the fairies – her imaginary friends? She didn’t want baby dolls. They all had to be dainty and have wings so she could swoop around and pretend to fly with them. She was a dainty child herself, with dark fly-away hair and big, dark eyes.

“I wonder where she gets it from. Brian and I have mousy colouring and we’re certainly not dainty, more like clumpy, if you ask me.”


In the garden, Tasha smiled as she saw the two fairies hovering over the hedge at the far end. They were beckoning to her and she ran lightly towards them. As she ran she felt a sprouting in her back, then a fluttering and her steps turned into jumps that lifted her higher and higher.


Polly screamed as looked through the window and saw Tasha’s feet just disappearing over the six foot hedge. Faintly she heard a tinkling laugh.

“Bye, Mam. I have to go home now.”

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Monday 19 October 2009

A Walk with the Wind

A few posts ago I wrote a prose poem about walking along the shore on a very calm day. Today I did the same walk, making a detour on the way to the library.

And boy, was it different. There was a high wind. It was all about sound.

The waves didn't whisper. They rushed and wooshed, and they slapped against the beach groins. I heard creaking and clicking as the brave windsurfers manoeuvred their craft this way and that, but I heard nothing as they caught the wind and zipped past and up the harbour. One noisy boat chugged up the channel, while the yachts at mooring were jangling rather than tinkling.

It was so exhilarating.

I didn't have my camera so I thought I'd post this shot of some wild sea water by Mila Zinkova that I found at Wikimedia Commons.

Friday 16 October 2009


Whenever I read Denford Magora’s Zimbabwe Blog, it reminds me of when I was doing my BA in London. I was 34 and there were several other mature students on our Media Studies degree course. We tended to stick together, and one I became specially friendly with was Mabel, a black girl from Zimbabwe. Like me, she had two young children, and they were of similar ages to mine.

She introduced me to many of her friends and we spent time at the BBC World Service and at the Africa Centre in the city. I well remember the celebrations at the time of Robert Mugabe’s first election as President of Zimbabwe.

Mabel’s family was known to him and she had worked with him briefly in the past. She firmly believed he was to be the salvation of her country.

The photo is of Robert Mugabe at the 12th African Union Summit Feb. 2, 2009 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

After we graduated, she went home to Zimbabwe, but we kept in touch for a while. A couple of years later she came back to the UK for a visit and turned up on my doorstep. It was a lovely surprise. I really envied Mabel as she told me she had soon managed to get her own radio show and eventually a TV show as well. (I had not been able to fulfil my own ambitions to go into radio, apart from selling a few freelance features. I was too old to join a BBC training programme at that time, although I had worked with some of their producers.)

It’s many years since I last heard from Mabel. I often wonder what became of her, indeed whether she is still alive, and if so, how she feels about the Mugabe regime now. All the reports from Zimbabwe are pretty horrendous. And there is much more detail on Denford Magora’s blog than we get in our media.

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