I would give anything to be bored. Instead, I am a very busy housewife, mother, veteran, writer, business owner and employee. So with so much going on in my head, I thought I would share it with the world – you lucky ducks. I am the eternal administrator in all walks of my life, so this blog is, unashamedly and unapologetically, all about me. My hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes, thoughts and projects. I hope to wow you, entertain you, make you think, amuse you, and perhaps let you see what the inside of my head looks like. But mostly, I want to write about the things that interest me. It may be about the domesticated world of being a mum, the pleasure and pain of owning a customer facing business, my recently acquired Pinterest addiction, or my thoughts on general niff-naf and trivia. It’s all new to me, so please join me on this learning curve of mine. I have no idea which directon we are going in, but isn’t that half the fun?
I have never written a book review before, but this blogging lark is all about new experiences, so here goes.
I picked up ‘The Travelling Cat Chronicles’ from the Central Library in Liverpool a couple of weeks ago, and with moving house and general busyness I have only just managed to finish it. Why did I pick it up? Well as with most books I choose, I liked the cover. I know, I know – but it was soooo pretty. Blue covers seem to do it every time, but this one also had an oriental style painting of a cat on the front. It was a winner from the off.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles is the story of Satoru who rescues a stray cat and then takes him around Japan in his van to visit his friends, but we don’t why know until later in the book. I tried to finish it on the bus tonight but I knew I was about to cry, so I had to wait until I got home and then blubbed away to my hearts content.
It’s a gentle, warm story that you just can’t put down (unless you are about to embarrass yourself on the Number 82) and tells of friendship and companionship between Satoru and his cat Nana, but also between him and his childhood and university friends as well. Satoru has had a hard time, but he is never seen to complain or bemoan his lot in life, and the writer doesn’t dwell on it either. He is a truly gentle, kind soul and the story depicts that perfectly. The humour comes mostly from Nana’s side of the story, looking into the strange human world that he has chosen to live in. Anyone who loves cats will know that you do begin to wonder who adopted who. Did Satoru adopt a cat, or did Nana adopt a lonely young man?
It is also a great introduction to a country I know very little about. From the changing seasons, to the diverse landscapes and the understated customs, it is an interesting and evocative read.
The author Hiro Arikawa lives in Tokyo and her book is a massive hit in Japan. It was translated from the original Japanese by Philip Gabriel and has since become an international hit too – and rightly so. In Japan the story has now been made into a film.
I was half way through the book before it occurred to me that the cover I love so much shows a picture of a black cat, but Nana is a white cat with a black tail. When I reached the end of the story I found out why. The painting is a work entitled ‘Man and the World’ painted by Shuai Liu, a Chinese painter with cerebral palsy. They simply fell in love with the picture, so used it for the cover. It obviously worked on me. The internal artwork was created by Yoco Nagamiya.
If you’re a cat lover, you will love this book. If you’re not a cat lover, you will also love this book. At just 247 pages long it is a truly lovely short novel that will find it’s way into your soul. Buy it, borrow it, gift it, but absolutely, definitely read it.
In the December 1904 issue of Green Bag, Vol. 16,there is an amusing account through poetry chronicling the aftermath of a court case. When the Court of Clams passed a judgment in the case of Harvey Steel Company v. United States, by a majority of four out of five judges, the majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Nott while Justice Wright wrote a dissenting opinion. Lincoln B. Smith wrote the following poem as a dedication to Justice Wright:
View original post 157 more words
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens.
In the immortal words of Julie Andrews, when she’s feeling sad she simply remembers her favourite things and then she doesn’t feel so bad.
For me it is always music and in particular the video of the the American Marine’s parody of Carly Rae Jepson’s video ‘Call Me Maybe’. Those guys are just so cute and some are clearly not as comfortable with it as others, but they always bring a smile. So cool.
The Brits in Iraq parodying ‘Is This The Way to Amarillo’ is next This one crashed the Army’s website because it had so many views when it was released. I particularly like the toilet humour – it is the British Military after all, I would expect nothing less.
Another good one is Bobby McFerrin’s video for ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ with Robin Williams and Bill Irwin. I can’t believe it’s from 1988 – that’s 30 years ago! And of course, more recently is ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams, that one is a little younger than Bobby’s.
Not seen them? Google them – right now – they’re a must. I’ve saved them in my bookmarks.
It’s a well known fact that music can shape your moods so I also have a Spotify playlist called ‘My Happy Place’ filled with over 300 merry tunes to turn up nice and loud and sing along to.
As well as music there was a lovely train guard one day that brightened my day and when I see this in my notebook it always makes me smile. He was a very jolly and flamboyant young man with a big beard. I ordered coffee from him from the cart and as he passed me my cup he said in a grand booming voice “And of course don’t forget the stick of destiny. All powerful … until … it … get’s … wet. Oh well, maybe next time.” He was referring to the wooden stirrer that he dropped into my coffee as he said it. I know – you had to be there – but he didn’t have to say anything and it really cheered me up on a long and boring journey where I hadn’t spoken to anyone for over 5 hours.
And finally, this sign outside a tiny church hall warmed the cockles.
“Feeling down in the mouth? You need a little faith lift.”
Add to this list my husband’s hugs, sunflowers, sunshine and the seaside, Kitty curled up on my lap, good friends and my kids banter around a dinner table and I think that’s me pretty much sorted for life.
So what is it that turns your frown upside down?
Red poppies worn proudly and tears left unshed
The white poppy scornful of those who have bled.
The last post they played and two minutes stood still,
Reveille revives them from November’s chill.
A wife and her son watch the vanishing crowd,
Together in sadness in their mist made shroud.
Their soldier returned from a conflict so raw
He just couldn’t cope and began to withdraw.
His day of endurance his fight to survive
One more like all others, his ghosts to deprive.
Another night darkens and street lights turn on
Awaiting the morning, bad dreams to be gone.
She wonders ‘Where is he?’ and checks the doorways,
Her son he looks at her with his father’s gaze.
She squeezes his hand, he has grown up so tall.
Now home to the medals and to the Albert Hall.
Whores, thieves and wretches they all step around,
His eyes, they all know, still see a battleground.
A hand on his shoulder revives and consoles
The hot soup designed to save many lost souls.
The big empty bed and a breakfast for two
An empty place setting – if only he knew.
When he was on tour at least bluies they’d write
But now there was nothing, the day gave no light.
Fitfully sleeping to block out the day
His beds behind stations are then moved away.
Out of the rain but not out of the cold
If only he’d known this when he’d first enrolled.
The school run and home, they can both feel the chill.
She takes down his photo from a windowsill,
Puts it in a bag with the rest of the gear
Then leaves once again to find one they hold dear.
He misses the structure of his army life
And can’t bear to think about his child and wife.
The pain and the guilt drive their faces away
His head choked with thoughts of that one awful day.
Hostels and soup kitchens, picture in hand,
They’re searching the desert for one grain of sand.
The city is packed with the homeless and lost
But they’ll keep on searching, whatever the cost.
A churchyard tonight, his bed lies in a lee
The bright shining poppies a welcome red sea.
His friends may be missed, maimed or dead, many gone
But here with the poppies their memories live on.
“I’m sorry my darling we’ll try tomorrow.”
“I’ll be here again mum, as always, you know.”
Footsore and dejected they turn to go home
The world a dark place of a grey monochrome.
A white poppy shines in the midst of the red
If he could just find some peace inside his head.
His heart scarce believes it, his mind it protests
As two friendly faces look down where he rests.
His son clasps his shoulder, his wife turns to say
“Would you like a drink to keep the cold at bay?”
Their eyes shine with love as they pass him some tea
And his tears fall unguarded on the white poppy.
He’s obliged to so many, his war has ended
His gratitude’s boundless for all that they did.
Two years have now passed and things have moved apace.
His family are comforted in his embrace.
Red poppies worn proudly for what went before,
The white for his family, the peace that they bore.
The Last Post they played and two minutes stood still.
Reveille revives them from November’s chill.
Please bear with me this week as I share with you two of my poems. I am not, in any way shape or form, a poet, but I was forced (kicking and often screaming) to write poetry for my MA in Creative Writing by the amazing and sadly missed Mr Nigel Jenkins from The Gower. A lovely man and an inspirational teacher.
I produced two poems over that time which I am rather proud of and so I have decided to share my favourite, a few days before Remembrance Day and the second will be posted at the weekend.
This one is called ‘Hourglass‘ and records the moment we lined the route for one of our comrades whose coffin was being taken into a Chinook to fly him home from the Gulf. This is, therefore, in Remembrance of several people.
- Sergeant John Nightingale for whom the poem is written.
- Lance Corporal Pete Mahoney who sadly took his own life soon after returning from Iraq.
- Flight Sergeant Anna Irwin, a truly inspirational person and the light of everyone’s life taken far too soon by cancer, and who was standing next to me during this parade.
- And also of course, to Mr Nigel Jenkins who made me write the poem in the first place.
Shoulder to shoulder
Dread, pain, sorrow and fear.
A thought, a sigh, the closeness of friends.
The bright flash of flag draped over
someone we hold dear.
The Chinook’s maw
Dusty desert boots
Six shoulder the load.
A stifled sob, gritted teeth, a silent tear.
The padre, the bible, the bugler, a sandstorm.
Two rows of uniforms
Left in silence
Autumn is by far my favourite season. Crisp cold days, beautiful sunshine and the gorgeous colours of the leaves falling from the trees. The last weekend in October was cold but filled with glorious sunshine, so I decided to take a walk around Sefton Park.
When the wind blew, sycamore shaped gold-leaf danced around my favourite part – the Eros Fountain. The fish squirted water in the faces of the little cherubs, and Eros himself, glistened in the sunshine. It was real brass-monkey weather, but beautiful all the same.
I love, love, love my new knobs. I found these gorgeous ceramic knobs in a vintage warehouse off Lark Lane, Liverpool at the weekend, and they are perfect for my upcoming upcycling project. A bargain at £2.50 each.
The chest of drawers I found in a charity shop and they cost me £4 – yes, you heard right – £4! They are a good quality, solid set of pine drawers that have been half-heartedly painted with what looks like emulsion. All they need is a sand, a lick of paint and new knobs.
So I have spent a total of £11.50 up to now.
I am just missing a couple of bits. A drill for one. The knobs are too large to fit in the existing holes, so I need to drill them a little bigger. Paint – have you seen the price of chalk paint, not to mention the wax and specialist brushes? It’s no wonder upcycled furniture costs as much as it does. So, being the scrooge that I am, I’m waiting for that eureka moment when I find a bargain tin of paint in exactly the right shade for my set of bedside drawers. I’m thinking of painting the whole thing in the same shade of blue as the birds wings on the knobs, and maybe the drawer panels in the green.
They’re for my own use, and not to sell on as I’ve never done any upcycling before, so this is my first project to try it out. Plus I need somewhere to put all my books, pens, notepads etc.
I’ll keep you posted.
Haunting sounds drift over from the next truck, enveloping us in the spiritual embrace of another world. The Gurkhas are softly singing.
We are lying inside our cotton liners on the back of our DROPS, looking up at the sky and thinking how surreal it all is. Two weeks ago we were in Wales, dodging summer showers and speeding traffic. Now we’re in the desert looking up at the cloudless Iraqi sky listening to strangers chanting. We’re all so far from home.
This tiny patch of desert is destined to become a bustling army encampment, but for now, only one tent keeps our four wagons company. The full moon softly caresses ripples of dusty sand below us, casting blue-grey shadows into the hollows. Above, millions of stars sprinkled across the heavens are more vivid with the absence of man-made lighting. The smell of hot sand finally cooling after another scorching day, mingles with the scent of sweating bodies and diesel engines ‘pinking’ as they cool.
There is no breeze, no rustling vegetation, no scurrying animals or rumbling machinery. It would be silent in this endless, empty space if it were not for the singing. For tonight though, the warm scents, the heat of the night, the gentle moonlight and the lullaby, cocoon us in a comfort blanket, softly soothing us into restful sleep.
Tomorrow’s worries will wait.
Over the last few years, there has been a push towards teaching Bushcraft, partly as a way to get back to learning about the natural world around us, but also for stag and hen do’s, birthday parties and team building events. Bushcraft is a great escape from the mad, mad, world most of us live in, and a few years back I trained as a Bushcraft Instructor. But before I did, I had to first learn it for myself.
If you don’t know, bushcraft is basically learning to survive and live in the wilds without the everyday trappings of life. This could be in a jungle, on a mountain top or on the coast. In the UK it usually means setting up camp near a water source, building a shelter and providing your own food and clean drinking water. It is different to survival training, where you are taught to use whatever you can find in order to survive. Bushcraft is where you use only the natural landscape around you. I went to my first class with my teenage boys.
After finishing work on a Friday night, packing the car and ferrying younger kids about, we had a 5 minute turn-around before we had to leave the house again. Finally, after almost throwing the satnav and the phones onto the M4, we managed to find the place. We were half an hour late.
Bushcraft courses are often held in ‘out-of-the-way’ places, on private land and away from main roads if possible, so you can really get back to nature. Therefore, they don’t necessarily have an address and can be difficult to find with an outdated sat-nav and a 3-year-old atlas of Great Britain. Good directions, plenty of time and extreme amounts of patience are therefore a must.
We had none of those things.
As we’re late, the instructors had already taken the rest of the group down to the camp site. We arrived in the dark to find an old farmer with a massive torch who showed us where to park and guided us down the hill through the mud. He chatted away genially as we lugged rucksacks through the quagmire, over stones and through pony guarded gates until we reached the first of our instructors.
He took our names, gave us the obligatory health questionnaires and briefed us on health and safety. Then he showed us to our camp site. Everyone is sitting under a massive tarpaulin next to a camp fire with a kettle on it. That’s a good sign. We were warmly welcomed by the other instructors and students alike. They seemed a friendly bunch, and after a brew and a chat we were asked to collect firewood.
Keep the home fires burning.
It’s useful to forage for firewood constantly. The welcoming heat and light from a fire is a godsend and keeping a pot / kettle of water on it for a brew is a must, especially on a cold and wet evening. The fire will provide you with food and drinking water as well as warmth and it’s also an amazing boost to morale if all else goes wrong.
After being introduced to the tools of our new trade, i.e. a knife and a saw, one of the first lessons we are given is designed to tune us in to what is going on around us. We were taken, in the dark, away from the camp and told to sit in the hedges at various points. Weird right? We sat there, in silence, for about 20 minutes watching, listening, smelling, feeling, tasting and becoming generally aware of our surroundings.
This was by far my most favourite part of the weekend and we practised it each evening at dusk. It is the most simple of things to try. You can’t move a muscle, you can’t make a sound and you can’t have any light. You need to become invisible. So you sit and you ‘hone-in’. It takes a few minutes for the wildlife around you to forget that you’re there, but gradually they start to re-emerge.
Afterwards you gather together and discuss what you noticed. The smell of the crushed bracken you were sitting on; the yip of a fox in the distance; a bug crawling across your hand; traffic on a road somewhere off over the hill; owl’s hooting in the woods behind; tiny sounds of scurrying in the undergrowth; the guy next to you breathing; and, best of all, the bat landing a foot in front of you, oblivious to your presence. Beautiful.
Then it was back to camp for a cuppa and, for one night only, we all sleep under the tarpaulin next to the fire. Tomorrow we’ll be building and sleeping in shelters of our own.
It’s the Stackpole Quay car park in Pembrokeshire on a Wednesday in April. There are no other cars in sight, there are no car parking charges, and no other people with dogs. It’s cold and it’s wet but it’s peaceful and beautiful.
Compare that to Bank Holiday Monday at the end of May. The car park is full. Parking attendants are waiting to take your cash, and other attendants are directing traffic into the smallest of spaces, with calls from colleagues to “squash them in, any space they’ll fit”. This is after dodging traffic on the ‘quiet’ country lanes that had been deserted only a week before.
Holidaymakers come to beautiful Pembrokeshire from all over the country, all over the world. The scenery is nothing less than spectacular. It’s warm and sunny and the sea is flat calm. The water is a gorgeous blue-green and crystal clear. The car park leads off to Stackpole Quay itself, and to the coast path in both directions. Barafundle Beach – voted the best in Britain – is just a ten-minute walk away. The Quay itself has benches for sitting and admiring the view – and what a view. So can someone explain this to me please? Why do dozens of people unpack and eat their picnic’s, squashed between parked cars, with other cars for a view, and the sweet smell of exhaust fumes for their fresh air?
They’re not just grabbing a quick sandwich before heading for the beach though. Oh no. These are serious picnickers. Blankets are spread out on the ground, baskets in the centre and deckchairs placed around them. Some are reading books and newspapers, obviously aiming to be there for some time. But why? What’s the point of braving traffic jam’s, dodging car’s on single track lanes, paying exorbitant charges to park, in the best countryside and on a beautiful Bank Holiday Monday, to sit in a hot, dusty, smelly car park to eat your lunch? Are they just too lazy to walk to the nearest picnic table?
What a waste of a glorious day and the most beautiful scenery.