Monday, 22 December 2014

Nearly there

The papers and the internet are awash at the moment with words of wisdom on why Christmas is so awful: the queues, the excess, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and new kid on the block Panic Saturday. Just as much has been written about why Christmas is brilliant: the giving and receiving of gifts, the socialising and the spiritual aspects.

I have sympathy with elements of both camps. I hate cooking, for instance, but I love a well-heeled mince pie, and I don’t enjoy shopping but love wrapping presents. Then, of course, there is ample opportunity for one of my favourite pastimes: writing lists.

But one of the best things about the festive season is that we have implicit permission to do things that we don’t do at any other time of the year – and I don’t only mean kissing secret crushes under the mistletoe. For me, it means ignoring the clock, sleeping until I wake and going to bed when I’m tired; and eating when I’m hungry, whether or not it is an official mealtime. It means watching cheesy films and TV specials without feeling guilty; playing boardgames and cards with my children, even though they’re both in their twenties, just because it’s fun and no one has to worry about being cool at Christmas; and putting our heads together over a jumbo crossword or 1,000-piece jigsaw. I’m talking about reading and listening to the radio, adding to a scrapbook or rediscovering the joys of a colouring book.

Most of all, though, I love being able to sit and do nothing, even if just for an hour or so. At this time of year, instead of rushing around in the bright lights of retail, we should be turning inwards and if not exactly hibernating at least slowing down and making time for reflection and contemplation.

Oh, and for Quality Street.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The joy of shared space

I think I've told you before that on a Tuesday afternoon, when I'm teaching yoga in an upstairs room in the Methodist Church, downstairs the Ladies' Group meets for tea and chat, and quite often a guest speaker. At this time of year, our bending and stretching is often accompanied by carols and such like provided by a visiting choir.

This afternoon was our last session of the year, so I'd planned to include a meditation on winter - reflection and contemplation on seasonal stillness and silence: you get the idea. OK, maybe silence was unlikely, but I felt sure we'd have nothing more disruptive than choral accompaniment.

The lesson went well. As the end approached, we eased ourselves into a comfortable position, put our socks back on and wrapped up for the final quiet moments.

Of all the music I thought we might be treated to, I never for one moment anticipated boisterous Songs From The Shows. As we guided ourselves towards stillness, from the floor below came the unmistakable sound of 'June Is Bustin' Out All Over!' I silently sent the musicians peace and blessings, while encouraging my students to 'turn your focus inwards'. Hey ho.

Luckily, I had a bag of chocolate Santas on hand, so everyone went home smiling.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Working from home

Not for the first time, my principal celebration this week is that I work from home. Yes, I go out and about with my yoga teaching, but my writing and editorial work is done from the comfort of a room overlooking my garden. Yesterday, however, I ventured out to teach some office-workers a few meditation techniques and restorative yoga stretches. They were a lovely bunch of people and I enjoyed my time with them, but it meant I was driving across town as all the businesses were chucking out their workforces. Nightmare!

I went to see The Who on Sunday. Yes, they're still going (well, two of 'em). They had Zack Starkey on drums, aka Ringo's boy, and he was amazing. It was a great evening. The venue was the former NIA in Birmingham, what we must now call the Barclaycard Arena. It's been done up and is very swish and shiny. Still took us 40 minutes to get out of the car park though. Mustn't grumble.

Have a great weekend, folks.
'Celebrate the small things' is a bloghop instigated by VikLit on her blog Scribblings of an Aspiring Author and co-hosted by Diana Wilder, LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge, Cyborg Mom (Katie) and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse. Details are here.  

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Feeling philosophical

A conversation with friends recently found us discussing the horrors of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Did you see the cartoon that mirrored the hordes waiting to claim their TV from Tesco with those folk lining up for the Food Bank? It makes you ashamed to be human. You don't have to be a committed Christian to wonder, as one of us did: 'So where's the Prince of Peace?' Maybe, we mused, we need a Minister of Peace in the Cabinet.

Well, it turns out that there is an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues, with the stated aim: 'To encourage dialogue, on the basis of expert information and opinion from across the political spectrum, on issues relating to conflict; especially on the practical means to prevent, transform and resolve violent conflict.' There is also a Foundation For Peace, which works nationally and internationally to promote peace and non-violent conflict resolution.

No doubt there are other organisations working hard to find ways for us all to get along. I can't help thinking, though, that we should start small: you know, by not smacking a stranger in the face with a cut-price Xbox. My Minister of Peace would be a gentle soul who would sort out local disputes over a cup of a tea and a biscuit

Om shanti.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Catch the pigeon

Just a quick thought for you on a chilly Wednesday evening: are you the cat or the pigeon?

Are you, like this cat, poised for action? She lives next door, but often hops over the wall to see what tasty morsels are on offer in my garden. She held this posture for a full five minutes (obviously a yin yoga cat), perfectly still but tense and ready to pounce, with her eyes on the prize.

Or are you like the relaxed pigeon, who sat in the tree a few feet from this would-be assassin, chowing down on sunflower seeds? He was seemingly oblivious to the danger - until the cat made her move, at which point the pigeon took off, very much of the flight not fight school of survival.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Is that the time?

I shouldn't really by taking time out to post today because I'm very busy. The much anticipated proofreading job has arrived and needs attending to NOW, if not sooner. However, I'm going a bit cross-eyed, so I thought I'd have a short break from wielding my red pen.

I've had an unusually high number of visitors to my blog today, which I suspect might be because I have an article in the new issue of Freelance Market News. If you're one of my new callers, welcome! I had three new ladies turn up at yoga yesterday, too. I'm always very impressed when someone takes on something new at this time of year, when most of us are winding down - or wishing we could. January and September are usually my busiest months, when people are either putting New Year resolutions into action or are filling their free time when the school term starts.

It's very useful having two strands to my working life, because when one is a bit slow I can put more energy into the other. I was going to say 'two strings to my bow', but that's a cliche (forgive the lack of accent). I once worked with a man who liked to say he had to bows to his arrow. Mind you, he was also fond of pushing the green light.

Finally, for no other reason than that it's is so gloomy outside, here is a photo of a blue sky on a summer's day.

Sunny Cromer

Friday, 21 November 2014

TGI Friday

It's been a long week, so my first celebration is that I've made it to Friday. I was all geared up to receive two chunky proofreading jobs on Monday. One has arrived in dribs and drabs; the other was rescheduled to arrive today. Now I've been told it will be with me on Monday, or possibly Tuesday, or probably Wednesday. This is OK in itself, but it makes it difficult to know what to do in the meantime: shall I start something else or do a little gentle dusting instead?

Second celebration is that I did manage to knuckle down and get a story written and submitted to a competition. Thanks to my writing buddy Elaine for her gentle advice.

Third, on Sunday I'm off with a couple of yoga friends to an afternoon of kundalini and kirtan (that's yoga and chanting). Really looking forward to it, not least because the woman leading the session likes to begin by passing round chocolate!

Have a good weekend, folks.

'Celebrate the small things' is a bloghop instigated by VikLit on her blog Scribblings of an Aspiring Author and co-hosted by Diana Wilder, LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge, Cyborg Mom (Katie) and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse. Details are here

Friday, 14 November 2014

Where did the week go?

Can it really be time to Celebrate the Small Things again? I had such plans for this week and haven't achieved as much as I was hoping to. I blame the weather; I don't like this dreary stuff.

To business:
Went to the Royal Theatre in Northampton on Monday to see The Woman in Black. I've seen the film, but this was quite different. I've had to put the book on my Christmas list, so that I can compare and contrast.

I've managed to write and submit an article in which an editor had expressed an interest. It was one of those jobs where I spent far too much time researching because it was just so damn fascinating. Don't you just love the internet?

I'm playing with my ukulele group tonight at a fundraiser in a village nearby. We're promised refreshments!

Product DetailsFollowing on from Stuart Maconie last weekend (another signed book for the collection), I'm sticking with the radio presenter theme tomorrow as I'm going to see Mitch Benn, which I'm really looking forward to. I've just read his novel Terra, which is lovely.

Have a great weekend, folks.

'Celebrate the small things' is a bloghop instigated by VikLit on her blog Scribblings of an Aspiring Author and co-hosted by Diana Wilder, LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge, Cyborg Mom (Katie) and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse. Details are here

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

I've been certified

The pink card commemorates success at floral art!
I've been reliving some former glories from my childhood. I have a cardboard box full of certificates for various achievements, some of which date back to my primary school days: such marvels as the two-widths splash race, and then later 'proper' swimming and life-saving skills; school sports day; Cycling Proficiency Test (I have two of these!); St Johns Ambulance Brigade awards for first aid, hygienic food handling and, unbelievably, home nursing; there's dancing, gymnastics and athletics; Save The Children fundraising; and piano playing. There are some useful ones, too, such as my degree and other professional and academic qualifications.

Why did I keep them? I suppose I was proud of myself at the time. Why do I continue to keep them? No idea - but I can't bring myself to throw them away.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Let's celebrate the small things

Today, as we have the first properly cold day of the season, I'm celebrating the wonders of central heating. I know that come the day when we run out of fossil fuels, those of you with wood-burning stoves will be laughing, but for now I love being able to press a button and have instant heat.

I'm also celebrating the receipt of a gift voucher from Amateur Gardening, which has published my letter in the latest issue. It relates to a wintry topic, but I submitted it back in May with a photo. Seems that planning ahead has paid off.

As if that wasn't enough, I've had an Amazon voucher from Creative Frontiers for my winning entry in stage three of its accumulator story. If you want to have a go at writing the concluding episode of the adventure, you have until 31st December and you don't have to have entered any of the previous stages to be eligible. More details here.

I'm meeting up with some friends tomorrow for a Come & Sing event. We're doing Captain Noah and his Floating Boat. Seems appropriate, given the weather.

Have a good weekend, folks.

'Celebrate the small things' is a bloghop instigated by VikLit on her blog Scribblings of an Aspiring Author and co-hosted by Diana Wilder, LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge, Cyborg Mom (Katie) and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse. Details are here

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Guy Fawkes: an apologia

The transition of King James VI of Scotland to James I of England was not a happy one. He was unpopular with many English Catholics who felt that his laws were designed to control their rights. He needed some publicity that would show him in a better light or at least win him some sympathy. Step forward Guy Fawkes and his fellow Gunpowder Plot conspirators.
Fawkes was born in York in 1570. He was raised as a Protestant, but when he was 10 years old his stepfather persuaded him to convert and he became a zealous Catholic. In 1593, he joined the Catholic Spanish army to fight against the Protestant Dutch republic, and served until 1604. Then, at the invitation of Catholic gent Robert Catesby, he was smuggled back to England to unite in a conspiracy, with Ambrose Rookwood, Everard Digby and Francis Tresham. Fawkes joined the plotters because he considered the king to be a heretic. As he put it: ‘Desperate diseases require desperate remedies.’
The plan was to destroy the king and his parliament by setting explosives under the Palace of Westminster during the opening of parliament on 5th November 1606. Fawkes was very skilful with explosives, so his role was to acquire and set the gunpowder and then detonate the blast.
Yet as it turned out, the king was never in any danger. Tresham and others, uneasy at the prospect of their friends being killed, betrayed their fellow plotters. It seems that the authorities decided to let the plan go ahead to catch them in the act of treason. Twelve hours before the king was due in parliament, soldiers, forewarned, searched the cellars and came across 36 barrels of gunpowder, with Fawkes in the act of laying the explosive. They arrested him.
Fawkes was unaware that he had been betrayed. Despite horrific torture on the rack, it was two days before he revealed his name and several more days before he gave up details of the plot and the names of the others involved, not knowing that they had already been identified and arrested or killed.
Fawkes was sentenced to the traditional traitor’s death, namely to be hanged, drawn and quartered. However, when he stood on the gallows he jumped, thus breaking his neck and saving him from the agonies of being cut down and eviscerated while still alive. Even so, his body was cut up and sent to the four corners of the kingdom as a warning to others.
Far from removing a troublesome Protestant king, Fawkes was unwittingly part of a scheme that saw James I’s position strengthened, while fear and hatred of the Catholics increased. Some sources even say the king respected Fawkes as a man of ‘Roman resolution’.
Fawkes was neither the instigator nor the leader of the Gunpowder Plot, but his story caught the public imagination and his name remains synonymous with the event. It hardly seems fair. Catesby, the actual leader, was killed while trying to evade capture.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

One for the girls?

When I was at primary school, every so often we had the opportunity to choose a book to order from a leaflet that we took home and studied carefully, comparing ideas with friends to make sure that what we chose was not too 'out there'. Slim chance of anything too radical back in those days, as demonstrated by my choice of The Zebra Book of Facts for Girls. (I rediscovered this book during last month's sort-out.)
Actually, much of its content is non-gender-specific: statistics about the Commonwealth; geographical and political details about the UK; world history and geography; science and maths; and sporting records - though it is here the cracks start to show, as only female events are listed, and expressed formally, as in 'Mrs L W King' (that's Billy-Jean King).

From the chapter 'In The Home', we get these gems:

What would you do if your mother were taken ill and had to spend a few days in bed or had to go into hospital for treatment? Would you be able to look after the rest of the family?


Why not try some of the recipes on the following pages next time your mother is not too busy in the kitchen?

There was an equivalent Zebra Book of Facts for Boys. Of course, I have no idea what it contained - too strong for my delicate female sensibilities, I expect - but I'm imagining advice on how to fix a puncture, gut a fish and become an engineer.
Happy days!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Happy Friday

'Celebrate the small things' is a bloghop instigated by VikLit on her blog Scribblings of an Aspiring Author and co-hosted by Diana Wilder, LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge, Cyborg Mom (Katie) and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse. Details are here

This week, I'm celebrating having had a couple of days off. On Wednesday I had lunch with my 'boys' at a cafe in town that didn't look that promising from the start, but actually served up one of the best panini I've ever had - and believe me, I've eaten A LOT.

Don't shoot me down, but I've never understood the whole Halloween thing (though I have friends who mark Samhain, which seems slightly more sensible). I was the spoilsport mother who didn't let her children go trick-or-treating, but if you and yours are traipsing the streets tonight pestering folk, I hope you stay safe.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Litte bird in a big sky

My neighbour must have forgotten to put his clocks back, because this morning he was clattering around outside before eight o'clock. Through my sleep-fog I could hear a ladder being shifted and a couple of gruff voices making plans for the job in hand.

Quite determined to have some sort of a lie-in, I made tea and then went back to bed with poet Simon Armitage for company. I'm reading his book Walking Home, which is about him following the Pennine Way in the 'wrong' direction, from north to south. This is one of the books that was revealed in last weekend's reorganisation and I seem to remember I bought it on impulse in Waterstones as a BOGOF or some such. It's a cracking read, as you might expect.

However, it's made me want to strap on my own walking boots and set off into the wilderness. Such terrain is in short supply in Northamptonshire, so I settled for a seven-mile figure of eight across the fields yesterday. I'm a townie, but even I can spot a red kite - they're very common round here, but not keen on posing for photos.
I also managed to snap some sort of falcon perched atop a tree. I once interviewed Bill Oddie, but none of his bird knowledge rubbed off, so I can't be more precise than that. Again, apologies for the quality of the photo, but it was taken point-and-shoot style with the zoom on max. The route also took us past a field of alpacas.

My neighbour has just set to with some sort of graunching machine. Time for some loud rock music, I think.

Friday, 24 October 2014

You can't have too many bookcases

This week's principal celebration is the purchase of yet another bookcase, which we have installed in an alcove in our front room in a space that has appeared since Joe and his drumkit moved out. We bought it from the British Heart Foundation furniture shop in town, which is always our first port of call for household stuff. It's amazing what bargains there are to be had, although you can tell some of the stuff is house-clearance, which probably means someone died, which is sad.

We've moved some reference books and non-fiction titles into this new bookcase, which has created room elsewhere for a bit of a sort-out. We spent a happy afternoon rearranging, moving books to a new shelf and then back again, creating a pile of books for the charity shop and then reclaiming them, and deciding what goes where. His Lordshop is as avid a reader as I am, but does not have an editor's brain. For instance, if you have a book that has been signed by the author, do you put it with other books by the same person or with other signed copies? If you have an anthology of Doctor Who short stories, do you put it with other short story collections, with TV books or somewhere else? Discussions were held.

Eventually everything was stored, but during the process we discovered several books we'd forgotten we'd bought and hadn't yet read. This means we have both added to the teetering heaps on our bedside table.

Next job: sort out the CDs.

Have a good weekend, folks.

'Celebrate the small things' is a bloghop instigated by VikLit on her blog Scribblings of an Aspiring Author and co-hosted by Diana Wilder, LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge, Cyborg Mom (Katie) and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse. Details are here

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Pictures at an exhibition

Elaine Medcalf is a writer and poet, but is also a photographer. Her first exhibition at the Alfred East Gallery in Kettering, jointly with Val Sibley and Sue Feetham, is called ‘TriAngles: Catching the Moment’. She kindly agreed to share her experiences of this venture.

  • How did you choose which photos to include? Did you liaise with Val and Sue?  Your three styles complement each other very well.
Thank you for saying that the styles complement each other. We’ve been out as a threesome with our cameras several times, with much drinking of tea included. We realised that we like photographing the same things so when we decided to do the exhibition we already felt comfortable about showing our pictures alongside each other. Once we’d decided on the pictures we wanted as individuals, it was easy to choose the prints we thought went together.

  • Once you’ve taken the pictures and they are on your computer, do you change them in any way?
I have very simple picture handling software on my computer – nothing like Photoshop or Lightroom, but I’m happy to take out the odd fly on an otherwise perfect rose, or a speck that has suddenly appeared across the lens.  There are some very magical things that Photoshop and Lightroom can do, such as  moving something over to the other side or putting in a water reflection when it was never there, that I wouldn’t do.

  • Who curated the exhibition?
The gallery offered to curate for us, so with a couple of suggestions from us about certain pictures that we thought would look good next to each other, we left it to them and we are really pleased with the display they’ve come up with.

  • You have had pictures in small exhibitions, I know, but how different was it to be the ‘star of the show’?
It was more nerve-wracking than I thought it would be.  I’ve small collections of prints in local coffee shops and had a print or two in amongst a whole load of others at the Open Exhibition at the Alfred East, but having an exhibition with my name on was something else. Once the preview day was underway and the positive comments from friends began to appear I was reassured, but it’s always a bit scary when you put something you really like up in view of the buying public. It’s like baring your soul.

  • How much support did you get from the gallery in terms of logistics, admin, publicity and hands-on help?
The staff at the Alfred East Art Gallery were brilliant and we soon learned that they knew the answer to every question. Katie Boyce was our main contact and she was amazing at getting us organised. They have the facilities to produce flyers, posters and a whole email community to which they send regular info about forthcoming exhibitions, as well as a magazine that finds its way all over the town to advertise what's showing. All this was all included in the hire price. Yes, you do have to pay them a fee to hire the gallery.

  • What lessons have you learned? What would you do differently next time?
First, not to worry too much because the gallery really will look after everything. The process coincided with me developing a new style of displaying my photos, which made it a bit complicated early on because I kept changing my mind. If you're thinking of doing it, just make sure you know how you want your pictures to look.  The only other bit of advice is 'just do it’, as the slogan has it.   

  • What’s next? Do you have any plans to combine your pictures with your writing - perhaps an illustrated poetry book?
I’ve always had an idea of combining my poetry with my photos, so maybe that’s on the cards.  Also, the positive comments and the sales I’ve had so far have spurred me on to consider other avenues for my pictures, such as agency work and further exhibitions.

TriAngles may be seen until 8 November. You can keep up with Elaine’s activities via her blog and read her stories on Kindle.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Happy new hair-do

Today I'm celebrating a new haircut. Well, perhaps celebrating is putting it rather strongly, because I'm not sure if I've gone a bit too short this time. I look like a squaddie. Hey ho, I expect it will grow - and we are in hat-wearing season if all else fails.

I'm at a funny age (aren't we all, I hear you cry) where hair is concerned. I'm not exactly ravaged by the march of time, but I'm clearly too old to be naturally dark all over any more. However, now that my hair is above my ears the grey is REALLY showing. What to do? Is it time to admit defeat and accept what nature has in store for me, or should I keep covering up? Maybe I should gradually go lighter and lighter and ease myself towards blonde. The trouble is that my eyebrows are dark and only certain people can get away with the two-tone look - see Billy Piper, for instance.

The stripling hairdresser who saw to me yesterday talked me through a bamboozling array of hi-lights, lo-lights (note the spelling), semi-permanent tints, quasi-tints, caps, foils, peroxide levels, bass notes, meshing, developers and finishers until I began to feel like Mel Smith in the 'gramophone' sketch from Not the Nine O'clock News. Anyhoo, I've got an appointment in five weeks' time to have something done - not quite sure what, but it will probably be fine.

Have a good weekend, folks.

'Celebrate the small things' is a bloghop instigated by VikLit on her blog Scribblings of an Aspiring Author and co-hosted by Diana Wilder, LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge, Cyborg Mom (Katie) and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse. Details are here

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Unaccustomed as I am...

The monthly spoken word open mic nights have resumed in town. I nearly went to the first one to see what it's all about, with a tiny thought at the back of my mind that I might take my courage in my hands and do a turn. In the end, I didn't make it, but I gather it was a great success: standing-room only! I'm probably not quite ready for that.

My mother has no such qualms about performing. She is quite a regular on the 'circuit' and can be seen reciting monologues and doing poetry readings at various gatherings in north Staffordshire. One such recent engagement was at a harvest supper, where she had been requested to read a little something to the assembled villagers.

She told me. 'It was a nice meal, pleasant company, and they seem pleased with what I'd selected - a mixture of the profound and the humorous. In fact, they were rapt! As well as polite applause between some of the poems, there was some good clapping at the end.'

She was brought back to earth, however, when no sooner had she sat down than a chap (the church warden or some such) leapt to his feet and announced: 'And now we come to the moment we've all been waiting for: we will now draw the raffl1e!'

Ah, fame is a fickle mistress.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Happy Friday, everyone

Well, another week has flown by, which can only be good for the bank balance. I've been very busy again, not only with teaching but also editorial work.

Last weekend's 21st birthday celebration went well, albeit rather low key. Boys just don't make the same fuss that girls do.

Saturday saw me at a private view at our local art gallery where my friend and fellow blogger Elaine was co-hosting (is the right verb?) an exhibition. (This is where I saw my GP - see Monday's post.) It was a lovely occasion - check out her talents here.

I'm off to a music thing tonight to see Mark Geary, then there's more folk on offer tomorrow in the charming form of Seth Lakeman.

Might have a lie in on Sunday.

'Celebrate the small things' is a bloghop instigated by VikLit on her blog Scribblings of an Aspiring Author and co-hosted by Diana Wilder, LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge, Cyborg Mom (Katie) and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse. Details are here

Monday, 6 October 2014

The doctor will see you now

'This won't hurt...'
I was at a lovely social occasion on Saturday, where the great and the good of the local art scene allowed me to join them for afternoon drinks and small talk. More on this story later, as they say.

I was on my own and I didn't know anyone other than my host, but was happy enough dropping in and out of conversations, and generally milling - that is, until I saw a face I recognised. He wasn't a friend, nor even an enemy. Worse, it was my GP. What to do? This is a man who has seen me through two pregnancies and various ailments over the last twenty-something years. I don't see much of him (not as much as he has seen of me!), but I'm fairly sure he would have recognised me, even if he couldn't bring my name to mind.

What would you have done?
  1. rushed over and renewed his acquaintance:
  2. nodded in recognition but nothing more; or, as I did,
  3. kept your head down and your gaze averted, bobbing and weaving your way round the room to avoid bumping into him?

Friday, 3 October 2014

This week's celebrations

I've missed a couple CTST Fridays, because I've been so busy, but I couldn't let this week's go by unmarked, because we have a proper celebration this weekend as number two son turns 21. Happy birthday, Joe. There will be beer and pizza tonight; never let it be said that we don't know how to party in the Thorley household.

Have a lovely weekend, folks.

'Celebrate the small things' is a bloghop instigated by VikLit on her blog Scribblings of an Aspiring Author and co-hosted by Diana Wilder, LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge, Cyborg Mom (Katie) and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse. Details are here


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

'Practically perfect'

I was under the impression that my family are the best, but it seems not - at least, not according to Mrs Perfect's posts on Facebook.

It turns out that not only is her husband the most attentive, handsome and considerate, but he can also cook! Her children are the world's most attentive offspring who never forget a birthday or anniversary and, indeed, will often produce something beautiful and hand-crafted to mark the occasion. Nieces and nephews are setting the world alight with their talent and ingenuity, while also finding time to raise thousands of pounds for charity. Older offspring excel at music and the arts, while holding down top-level jobs and managing happy teams.

And then there's the grandchildren, with their ditsy clothes and oh-so-appealing pet names. These are the best-behaved tots in the world, who sleep through the night, sail effortlessly through teething and chow down on organic cauliflower without a second thought.

Really, it's just too exhausting. Imagine having to keep up - and keep up with - all that.

Description: Real Girls Aren't Perfect Perfect Girls Aren't Real

Monday, 29 September 2014

I'm a fool to myself

Most Saturdays, I treat myself to the Daily Telegraph. I buy it for its prize general knowledge crossword, and my mum and I will exchange texts relating to African capitals and the moons of Saturn until we have both finished the puzzle. So far neither of us has secured the £200 prize - and between us we must have spent more than that on stamps, but that's not the point.

If I were able to keep my focus on the puzzle section, all would be well, but somehow I always end up reading the rest of the 'Weekend' section. It's not for folk like me. I choose my wine by price, not vineyard, I don't have the wherewithal to take a trip up the Amazon and find it hard to believe that a bronze sculpture of a 'scenting hound' is the perfect gift for anyone (a snip at £250!). Much of the content makes me cross, partly through envy, I'll confess, but mostly because it's all so - I don't know - pointless. I shouldn't read it, I know, but I do, even though it makes me grind my teeth.

This week, the paper surpassed itself, when it devoted 30 column inches plus pictures to the thorny topic of walking in stilettos. You can, apparently, attend a workshop on this crucial life skill for £20 - and if that's not enough, gents can pay £50 to learn how to escort women who wear such shoes. The article concludes: 'Once you can walk in high heels the world is your oyster.'

Good grief.
No stiletto heels in my wardrobe

Friday, 5 September 2014

Made it on time this week!

Made it on time this week. Let's Celebrate the Small Things. My key moments have been:
  • The return of hubby from his golfing trip
  • Lunch with my son on Wednesday - he treated me to an enormous piece of carrot cake
  • Continuing harvest from the allotment
  • Negotiating my way round the Ice Bucket Challenge - I've made my donation to MND, but haven't drenched myself in cold water
  • Lots of variety in my yoga teaching - one-to-one sessions, my regular ladies and getting to know some newbies; and preparing to cover a class for the next three weeks
  • Friday Night Dinner - both 'boys' are joining us tonight, but I do worry that we might be turning into a sitcom
Source: Channel 4 website
Have a good weekend, folks.

'Celebrate the small things' is a bloghop instigated by VikLit on her blog Scribblings of an Aspiring Author and co-hosted by Diana Wilder, LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge, Cyborg Mom (Katie) and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse. Details are here

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Oops. I'm a day late...

... but I still want to Celebrate The Small Things.
It's been an odd week, with a Bank Holiday on Monday and then hubby going away on Thursday. I don't know where I am. But I'm celebrating:
  • Solitude - not that I don't love my family, but I'm rather enjoying having the house to myself - not to mention that lovely bar of white chocolate that mysteriously fell into my shopping basket (ahem)
  • Getting together with Jeanette, with whom I did my yoga training, and catching up on news of  the rest of the gang
  • New ventures - I'm taking some yoga sessions at a Mudderella event today - that's like Tough Mudder but for women
How about you?

'Celebrate the small things' is a bloghop instigated by VikLit on her blog Scribblings of an Aspiring Author and co-hosted by Diana Wilder, LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge, Cyborg Mom (Katie) and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse. Details are here.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A letter to my younger self

In the light of recent of exam results days, Shelley Wilson posted a lovely addition to her Resolution Challenge blog regarding what she would say to her younger self. I urge you to read it here. It reminded me that I'd written something similar for a competition (that I didn't win). It is reproduced below.

Who Knows Street

 Dear You,

The good news is that you make it to your 50s. I’m hoping as much as you are that this is only half the story.

The bad news is that there are no spoilers in this letter. What would be the point? If I tell you what is about to happen and you don’t like the sound of it, knowing you as I do I’m in no doubt that you’d fix things to go your way. It’s no spoiler to say that you are/I am still a control freak.

So why write at all? I think perhaps it is more for my benefit than yours, so that I can reassure myself that the road I took to get here turned out to be the right one, even though there were times when it looked distinctly rocky! I’m also seeking reassurance from within that having navigated myself to this point I shall be able to negotiate the rest of the journey safely.

It’s OK for you, sitting there as a confident, know-it-all ‘teen spirit’ (a reference to a song you won’t hear until 1991, by which time you will be – oops, nearly gave something away then). You think you’re right about everything and that the world is yours for the taking. Well, you are and it is, up to a point. When you’re ready for your mid-life crisis, though, I hope you’ll take comfort in looking back on a life well lived and relish what is to come.

I’m not prepared to give you the winning numbers for the Lottery (you’ll see later in life what this is – but don’t hold your breath) or to tell you who wins the Grand National in 2009. You don’t need to know these things. You don’t actually need my advice about anything. What will be will be. But you might like to know that following the instinct you have now for weighing things up quickly and efficiently, then making a decision and sticking to it without a backwards glance will stand you in good stead.

I will just say this. You are passionate, so live it, love it and celebrate it. You already know that this passion means plumbing the depths as well as hitting the highs.

You are and will continue to be outraged, indignant and opinionated, but also loyal, tenacious and strong. You are going to love with breathtaking intensity, which will bring you joy and despair. You will break hearts and have yours broken. You will make good choices and bad, meet wonderful people and quite a few bastards. You will work hard and not always happily, and will experience times of plenty interspersed with some hardships.

Your weight will fluctuate and with it your self-esteem. Your moods will swing. Some of your experiences will be exhilarating and glorious. Sometimes you will behave in ways that, on reflection, you shouldn’t have. Some of your actions will make you embarrassed, perhaps even ashamed. People will cross you and some you will forgive; many you won’t. Some people will love you; others not so much.

In other words, you are normal. Whether you find this comforting or disappointing is something you will find out along the way.

Listen to the music, sing and dance, laugh and cry. Most important of all, simply be.

With love
From your older self

Monday, 25 August 2014

Everybody needs good neighbours

We chose to trust the BBC weather forecast and spent Saturday and Sunday up at the allotment harvesting yet more courgettes and beans, and digging up what seems a ridiculously large quantity of potatoes. I really don't know where we are going to store them all.

I was given the job of editing the empty beds: that is to say, restoring order by removing the weeds, digging the whole thing over and covering with carpet until needed again. By the end of the yesterday, the plot was looking quite impressive, although I say so myself.

The same cannot be said for our neighbour's plot. I mean: just look at it!

Any day now, those yellow weeds and thistles will be heavy with seed heads, ready to contaminate our allotment and probably several others. We never see the woman who has this plot. Nothing ever seems to move. Certainly, there is little sign that any veg are growing. It makes me SO mad!

On the other hand, her laziness has resulted in lots of brambles, which are laden with blackberries that we are all enjoying. It's an ill wind...

Friday, 22 August 2014

Namaste, Mr Iyengar

My yoga students and I celebrated the life of BKS Iyengar this afternoon by practising some of our familiar postures in the style of his teaching. (In case you missed it, he died on Wednesday - he was one of the principal teachers behind the popularity of yoga in the West, held in high regard throughout the yoga family.)

It's amazing how different even old standards like the Tree balance can be when you try a different approach. This is why it's so important that you find out what sort of yoga is on offer when you go to a new class and why you should never say, 'I tried yoga once. Didn't like it.' Try another teacher, because there's a style for everyone.

Other than that, it's been another workaday week. How about you?

'Celebrate the small things' is a bloghop instigated by VikLit on her blog Scribblings of an Aspiring Author and co-hosted by Diana Wilder, LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge, Cyborg Mom (Katie) and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse. Details are here

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Community spirit

Yesterday, there was an awful house fire not far from where I live. In fact, I have a friend who lives in the same close. Fortunately, the family got out unharmed, but the family dogs - who, I believe, raised the alarm - perished. Naturally, the family are  devastated. They have lost everything.

The community is rallying round, thanks to social media. The local gym has become a collection point for  donations of clothes and other goods, and a fundraising event is being organised at the pub down the road. Face Book is full of messages of support and offers of help. Isn't that wonderful?

Friday, 15 August 2014

Who's got that Friday feeling?

It's strange that even though I'm not tied to a Monday to Friday existence, what with being my own boss and having no one in the education system, I still get that Friday feeling.

I can't settle to anything today, because Joe is packing up around me ready for his house move tomorrow. Poor excuse, I know. Still, I've written my plan for this afternoon's yoga lesson (releasing the spine through rotations, since you ask), and I've done some proofreading.

Today, I'm celebrating:
  • Joe preparing to fly the nest - not because I want him to go, but because it's just so exciting for him
  • Fab exhibition at the local arts centre
More artistic talent: chain saw carving at Woodfest last weekend (apologies for the portaloo in the background!
Have a good weekend, folks.

'Celebrate the small things' is a bloghop instigated by VikLit on her blog Scribblings of an Aspiring Author and co-hosted by Diana Wilder, LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge, Cyborg Mom (Katie) and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse. Details are here

Wednesday, 13 August 2014


There seem to be as many festivals as there are towns at the moment, which is wonderful. I was at a local music festival last Saturday where a couple of my friends were playing. The weather was glorious and it was lovely to be able to drift between the four stages (via the beer tent and food outlets, of course) and soak up the atmosphere. One of the 'stages' was simply a clearing in the woodland (pictured), where the amp was powered from a solar panel and the singers were accompanied by birds, butterflies and dragonflies. Sadly, the Sunday was cancelled because of the atrocious weather, but some of the bands that were due to play relocated to a couple of pubs and played there instead. It was all very organic.
James Herring at Woodfest 2014, Northamptonshire
Elsewhere in the Shire, Boughton House, which is the seat of the Duke of Buccleuch, should have been hosting Alt-Fest this weekend, an extravaganza of heavy metal, industrial, alternative and the like. Sadly, this was cancelled for reasons that aren't clear, but seem to be connected to ego, greed, mismanagement and confusion. The ticket-holders will (I assume) get a refund - but what about all those hotel rooms, campsites and train tickets that have been booked? The Kettering spirit has come to the rescue with the wittily titled 'Ctrl Altfest Delete' which has been organised at incredible speed to salvage something from the fiasco. Two pubs in town will be venues for a great line-up of acts.

Meanwhile, Boughton House is gearing up for Greenbelt next weekend. Let's just hope that the Goths and the God-botherers don't get their dates mixed up.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Life gets teejus, don't it*

National Allotments Week did not get off to a good start. Something has taken all but seven of our 50-odd leek seedlings from our plot. Each was planted in a toilet-roll tube collar and the bed is encased by wooden boards and netting, so I suppose if some critter was tenacious enough to overcome all that it kind of deserves to succeed. Small consolation, though. I love leeks.

On the other hand, the onions, garlic, plums, beans and courgettes are going strong, the tubs at home have started to yield carrots, and if we could just get all those green tomatoes to turn red we'd be in business. Whistlestop Cafe, anyone?

In other news, the storm on Saturday has dislodged more of the hideous cladding from the boundary wall at the front of the house. We are definitely letting the side down now, but if any of the neighbours are offended by our shabby aspect they are welcome to pay for the renovation. Inside the house, the shower has started to make the most peculiar noise and the washing machine has given up the ghost.

Still, mustn't grumble.

* Check out this song on YouTube.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Barefoot delights

When the chap wearing the cut-off jeans and Native American headdress is the normal one in the group sitting on the opposite hay bale, you know you're not in Kettering any more.

Preparing for a gong bath
We're back from the Barefoot Festival, where I led some meditations - something I've not done at a festival before. Thanks to old and new friends who came along and accepted my offering, and who persevered with me despite the distractions from beyond the Chill Out Area. (Bass? What bass?!)

Big thumbs up, too, to hubby Clive, who embraced the strangeness with an open mind. He had never set foot on a yoga mat until this weekend, but to my (and his) astonishment, he threw himself into the gong baths*, the chanting, the African drumming, the Shamanic journeys and, especially, the Laughter Yoga with Heike. He encountered a Priestess of Avalon, tasted his first cup of chai ('Not as nice as "proper" tea') and connected with  his inner hippy; I never thought I'd hear him say to a total stranger; 'Greetings, glorious goddess.'

'Girls On Fire' Show
It was a wonderful weekend, surrounded by gentle, friendly folk and too many new experiences to list, but I must mention the awesome musicians, including my friend Kenneth J Nash, the circus performers who literally played with fire, the burlesque artistes and the ukulele workshop. We're already thinking about next year.

A few bullet points to finish with:
  • You can never have too many fairies in one place
  • Children don't die if you let them run around in the sun in their underwear; nor do they get abducted if you let them talk to a stranger
  • An airbed is a wonderful thing
  • No one deposits pixie dust in a Portaloo (good grief!)
  • There is no such thing as weird; it's just a matter of context

* Apologies to the wonderful gong bath leader, but I didn't get his name. If you know him (or if you are him), please let me know and I'll change the caption.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Chop chop: it's Friday again

Just time for a quick CTST post today as I'm already behind and it's not even nine o'clock yet.

Joe's gig with Ivory Yardsale went well last weekend. Now we're celebrating the release of their new EP called 'Enfield'. You can listen to it on Bandcamp here, and download it, too, should you so wish. They are headlining tomorrow night, but I shan't be able to go because...

At the Pomfret Arms all-dayer
...I'm off to the Barefoot Festival for the weekend. Yes, hubby and I have dusted off the sleeping bags and are steeling ourselves for three nights under canvas. It'll be fine (we keep saying). I'm leading some meditation session while we're there, so I get a 'Performer's Pass'!

Make the most of the fine weather, folks. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Soldier, Soldier

There was some pomp and circumstance in Kettering today, when the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment was welcomed home and granted Freedom of the Borough. The regiment is recently returned from Afghanistan. There was a (to me) surprisingly large turnout for the occasion and the route of the parade was lined with folk. The whole thing culminated in a bit of ceremonial wotnot in the Market Square, where various dignitaries made speeches we couldn't hear - but I'm sure they were very nice.

I don't know much about the armed forces. The nearest I've come to any involvement was a brief dalliance with a submariner who later was involved in the Falklands conflict and was on the Sheffield when it was sunk.

We are, of course, surrounded by First World War stuff at the moment and I'm glad, because we need reminding how awful it was. The Second World War, too, shouldn't be forgotten. However, I have a problem with treating regular soldiers as heroes.

As far as I'm aware, no one is forced to join the army these days. If you sign up, you do so in the full knowledge that, notwithstanding the fabulous opportunities for training, travel, camaraderie and personal growth, there is a chance you will get shot at at some point. Does this make you a hero? I wonder. This isn't to say that there aren't individual acts of heroism, where a member of the armed forces will take a huge risk to rescue a civilian or a colleague. That's different, though.

I've had a quick look on the MOD website, and the starting salary for a regular solider is in the region of £18,000. That's quite a lot; but if you don't think it's worth everything that being in the army involves, don't sign up. Compare this to the RNLI volunteers who risk their lives for strangers for no financial reward, and who have to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Which is the more heroic?

Friday, 18 July 2014

On with the show

  1. Celebrating age. I'm wondering whether to cycle to the care home for this morning's yoga class or to wimp out and take the car. Although the weather forecast says dry, the sky indicates serious rain. Either way, let's celebrate that there is a group of 80-somethings waiting for me to put them through their paces.
  2. Celebrating youth. Last night I went to one of our local senior schools to see its production of Our House, which is based on the songs of Madness. My ukulele teacher is the show's musical director. It was fabulous. I can only image how proud the parents of the cast must have felt.
  3. Celebrating wisdom. I'm off to see Antigone this evening at the Royal Theatre, Northampton, in which my friend Will is performing. Nothing like a bit of Greek tragedy to get the weekend off to a good start
  4. Celebrating talent. Son Joe and his band are playing at a local festival tomorrow and I'm allowed to watch, as long as I behave. Go, Ivory Yardsale!
Ivory Yardsale 
Have a good weekend, folks.

'Celebrate the small things' is a bloghop instigated by VikLit on her blog Scribblings of an Aspiring Author and co-hosted by Diana Wilder, LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge, Cyborg Mom (Katie) and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse. Details are here

Monday, 14 July 2014

Start the Week

Ants leaving my compost bin. Yuk!
Nature is a wonderful thing, but it's not all lovely. Take, for instance, the Ritual of the Flying Ants, which took place on Saturday. I know it's amazing that they all take off at the same time, but it gives me the creeps.
Yesterday afternoon I sat in the audience while the choir I belong to performed its summer concert. I wasn't in my usual seat in the alto ranks, because I've taken a term off. My only contribution was to arrange a bit of publicity and book a couple of folk singers to complement the programme. Vince Gorman and Dave Clemo did a splendid job. Check them out on YouTube.
Khenchen Lama Rinpoche
The week has had an unusual start. I'm not a Buddhist, but have been to the occasional meditation session and special event at the local centre (which meets at the Quaker Meeting House, making it a truly interfaith event). They have a special guest all day today: a Tibetan Meditation Master Khenchen Lama Rinpoche. I went to the first teaching and really wished I could have stayed for the whole event, not least because there was to be something on Dream Yoga and I have no idea what that is. I shall have to ask for feedback from friends who were there. We did some lovely work with mudra (hand positions) and mantra (repetition of words) with a view to helping us overcome the Five Poisons. Khenchen Lama Rinpoche had a very strong Tibetan accent (it took me a while to work out that what I thought was 'zumba', which seemed a little odd, given the context, was actually 'example'), so I can't tell you what the five are, but he definitely mentioned ego (ahem), anger and envy. In Indian yoga we talk of the five obstacles (klesha) of ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred and clinging to bodily life, and of course there's the Seven Deadly Sins. Many paths all leading the same way?