Summer Rain

Summer Rain
I like to photograph nature

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Six word Saturday

Off to see Eddie Izzard Live!

-- Posted from my iPhone

Monday, 12 October 2009

TUTBURY CRAFTS GRAND OPENING (or how to have your faith in human nature smashed and then renewed in one hour)

Well I have been promising this for a couple of days, so here it is. I have bored you all to tears with the build up to the opening of my Craft Shop and it finally happened on Saturday 10th October. Despite a few hiccups it was all I hoped for and we had a wonderful day. But first the hiccups.
As many of you will know, I had been on holiday for a week prior to the opening and was due back on the Wednesday night. I had a full list of jobs to be done in preparation for the opening and so Thursday and Friday were fully scheduled. What I hadn't planned for was our plane suffering technical problems for which engineers had to been flown out from the UK to fix and no other flights were available. To cut a long story short, which included getting on the plane, getting off again, getting bussed to an hotel, getting very little sleep before getting on the bus to go back to the airport, sitting around for another 3 hours before finally getting on the plane and taking off. Suffice to say, we suffered a full 24 hour delay and didn't get back until Thursday night. A great deal of panic texting was involved to my friend back in the UK, without whom we would never have been ready by Saturday morning.
So Friday was spent rushing around trying to squeeze 2 days work into one day and when I finally flopped into bed Friday night I was exhausted but excited.

Saturday morning came and at 8am I walked over the shop. On the way, I noticed that another shop in the Mews had 2 smashed windows, slightly worried I continued around the corner, only to find that all my beautiful terracotta flower pots had gone. But things were a little strange, there was clear evidence of the pots having been removed from the walls and thrown into the middle of the road, but all the plants had been gathered up and carefully stacked outside the shop doorway. The worst of the broken pottery had been gathered and placed carefully next to them. I immediately burst into tears! The planters had been up for 4 weeks, and to get vandalised during the night before opening seemed malicious. However, it was just bad luck, it transpired that a group of drunk youths coming back from a party had wreaked havoc throughout the village in the middle of the night smashing car and shop windows and throwing things around. So just losing the pots didn't seem so bad.

However, I refused to be beaten, so back to the house and raid the shed to see what I could find. I would have planters outside the shop, even if they didn't match and the plants looked a bit battered. By 9am, all the plants had been repotted into a strange assortment of old baskets and pots, ribbons attached and we were back on track.
Then the gentleman who lives in a flat (apartment) above the premises next door to my shop appeared and explained that he had heard a commotion in the street at about 3am, looked out of his window and had realised what had happend. Knowing it was my grand opening in the morning, he had then got out of bed, gone into the street and collected all the plants up, carefully placing them by the shop in the hope that we would be able to rescue the situation. The gentleman in question is Pez (see below pictured with a fellow trader from the Mews, showing off the Grand Opening banner). Our Hero. My faith in human nature was firmly back in place.

At 10am we were ready and I took great pleasure in putting up the 'OPEN' sign. A very small sip of Champagne and photographs followed, but before we could even say Cheers, our first customers arrived!

There follows a whole bunch of photos of the shop (I will admit that the interior ones were taken today as there were too many people in the shop for photos on Saturday). We had a wonderful day, were incredibly busy for most of it and sold loads of stuff.

The best point in the day was when I turned around and saw my eldest Sister, Sue, walking into the shop. She lives 150 miles away and I had no idea she was coming. I burst into tears for the second time that day. Quite a record for me as I am definitely not a cryer.

All in all a great day and well worth all the hard work. I must say here an now, that there is no way I could have achieved all this in such a short time without help, so here is the roll of honour:

My friend Pip who has worked so hard with me to achieve this, put in so many hours and put up with me.

My wonderful husband, who allowed me to take this risk and was prepared to put up the capital. He has also been a great help with decorating, fixing things, putting up with me and served drinks and chatted to customers all day long.

My lovely stepson, who worked so hard to get the shop decorated and ready and who also programmed the till for me (it had beaten me!).

And everybody else, the other traders in the mews, local people in the village, all of you out there who have been so supportive. Thanks!

Now I will stop rambling on and show you the pictures.....

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Six Word Saturday

6WS seems to be the only thing keeping me blogging at the moment (normal service will resume soon). I am on holiday in Fuertaventura, in the Canary Isles this week so am attempting to blog via Blogpress on my iPhone, so here it us for this week.

"By the pool on lounger sunbathing"


-- Posted from my iPhone

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Six Word Saturday

Me again - part time blogger, but just scraping in for a 6WS before Saturday runs out!

Midnight and I'm doing stock pricing!

Saturday, 12 September 2009


Hi - I've been off the radar a bit for the last 3 weeks. This is because setting up a new shop is REALLY hard work! Who knew?

I will be getting back to regular blogging and tweeting soon, but at the very least I didn't want to miss SWS again. So here's mine for today:-

A Shopkeeper's work is never done.

Saturday, 15 August 2009


Having spent the entire day with the band practising. I can easily do my six word saturday this evening:-

Seven Hours Singing - Result - Sore Throat

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Evolution vs Creationism - A personal view

My attention was drawn today to a video where a group of Atheists and Agnostics had visited the Museum of Creationism. On the whole, everyone was polite, opinions were exchanged and everybody went about their business. But it set me to thinking. What was the point of it?

Having an honours degree in Natural Sciences and having majored in Evolution and Geology, you might think you could guess which side of the fence I sit on, but you might also be wrong. Who knows - I certainly don't. And this really is my point. I believe the only thing I know for certain is that there is a great deal of stuff I don't know and I certainly wouldn't presume to try to impose my beliefs, opinions, faith or lack thereof upon anyone else. I get very perplexed by evangelism, on both sides of the debate. Consider Richard Dawkins, a true evolution evangelist, who I noted recently, takes great delight in any piece of evidence which, in his opinion, disproves the evidence of God. I find this just as distasteful as somebody knocking on my door and wanting to convince me to follow their particular brand of organised religion.

Why can't we have it both ways? Scientific types like myself like to be able to prove their hypotheses, find hard evidence that their suppositions are correct and it could be argued therefore that the lack of any hard evidence would disprove the existence of God. But the whole point of Faith is to not need evidence, just to believe. As Douglas Adams said (and I am paraphrasing heavily here because I can't be bothered to look up the quote) if God did something to prove he existed to all the doubters, he would disappear in a puff of logic, which would rather defeat the whole object of the exercise.

What I think I am trying to say here is why can't we have it both ways. At school when I was a child we were taught Religious Knowledge and we were taught Science. We were not given beliefs or opinions, we were given information, and it was up to us to decide what we believed.

My closest personal friend is an Anglican Priest. She jokes about converting me and I joke about turning her to the dark side. But they are jokes, because we have respect for each other and in particular, she respects that I don't really know what I think/believe and she doesn't presume to try to tell me what I should think or believe. She works as a Hospital Chaplain and has to deal with some really dreadful things. What she does and how she lives her life is an example to us all, but it doesn't mean we have to agree with her beliefs, just respect them.

So there, I think I found my conclusion. Let's all just respect each others opinions.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


I've not had a lot of luck with tomatoes this year. I have three plants in the mini-greenhouse and they have produced about 20 tomatoes between them! So I was quite pleased when I saw that my cherry tomato Tumbling Tom, which is in a basket stand (about 4 feet high) starting producing masses of little cherry tomatoes.

Fast forward to a few days ago, when I kept finding my little Cairn Terrier, Maisie, playing with little green cherry tomatoes. 'Oh No' I thought 'the cherry tomatoes are dropping, they must be sickly for some reason'. I checked and watered and fed and hoped.

Then I looked out of the window yesterday and saw.... Maisie standing on her hind legs picking the damn tomatoes right off the plant.


Monday, 10 August 2009

My Monday Wordle won't work!

Apologies but some issues with code. Will try again another day!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Six Word Saturday

Don't know if this will work from phone (2nd attempt) but here goes.

Having lovely time on our narrowboat

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Micro Blog - Update

It's been a busy week and not much time for blogging.  So far this week I have put together a 2 year cash flow forecast and P&L statement, visited loads of craft shops in a 40 mile radius of home, purchased a cash register, two tables, 8 chairs and 4 wicker baskets.  Oh and 24 perspex 12 x 12 trays to display scrapbooking papers.   Today I spent an hour and a half with the new commercial business guy at the bank and now have my business banking set up and took out my retail premises and public liability insurance.

So not a bad effort for 4 days.

To celebrate lovely husband and I are taking a few days break on our narrowboat, so will only be able to mobile blog (don't know how successful that will be but I'll give it a shot).   If it doesn't work, I'll have to make do with twittering.

Have a good weekend all.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Guest Blogging - My first time!

Hi, I am really proud to announce that I was chosen as one of the guest bloggers for C.Beth's blog whilst she is on vacation. C.Beth has a really great blog and is also responsible for The One Minute Writer blog that so many of us are fond of. You can read my guest blog here and if you can also visit The One Minute Writer here.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Big News - Dreams on the verge of reality

I will now stop teasing and tell you my big news. As some of you will already know, I gave up my job in June after having been a career person for more years than I care to mention. I had been getting more and more disillusioned and fed up with the daily grind and the extensive travelling I had to do was getting very tiring. I decided to take some time to myself and decide what I really wanted to do next. After a few abortive forays into looking at other, possibly more satisfying jobs, I decided to stop looking at the Situations Vacant columns and the job sites on line and actually really think about what I wanted to do.

I have long held a dream that one day I would run my own business, in particular a Craft Shop. The kind of craft shop we crafters love to potter around in, looking at the lovely card stock, feeling the new yarns, sorting through the latest delivery of stamping blocks and tools. Those of you into handicrafts will know what I mean. There used to be a very successful and lovely craft shop in our village, but the owner moved away to be nearer family and now has a successful business about 50 miles away. We have all missed it terribly and hoped someone would come in and fill the gap.

Well just as I had reached the conclusion that I really didn't want to work for anybody else and I really did want to take a risk a branch out on my own, the perfect little shop premises became available in our village, about 100 yards from my house and in my price range!

To cut a long story short, after viewing the premises, talking with the Landlord, picking the brains of other shopkeepers in the village and several heart to heart discussions with my husband. We decided to go for it and here it is!

Yesterday afternoon, I took possession of the keys and took great delight in taking down the 'To Let' signs. I have put up a 'Coming Soon' Poster in the windows (see below) and now have a great deal of work to do to put together my business plan, redecorate and do the shopfitting, find suppliers and buy in stock and of course, do a lot of marketing in the area to let people know we have a craft shop again.

I have to admit to being absolutely terrified, but also very excited and can't wait to get started.

So here it is, Tutbury Crafts, coming soon. I plan to open in early October, which sounds a long way off but in fact is only 10 weeks away!!!!!!!!!!!

I have had lots of great feedback from people in the village already and hope that is a good omen. I have a lot to live up to as the previous craft shop was really good. It was also in bigger premises, so could keep more quantity and variety of stock than I will be able to, but you know what they say, mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow (hopefully).

I will keep you posted on progress over the next few weeks.

Wish me luck!

Six Word Saturday

Here is today's six word submission to describe life at the moment:-

Getting close to realising my dream

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Customer Service Lives!

I mentioned yesterday that my new Wii didn't work and I had to do battle with Amazon about it.  However, directly after posting I found the customer support line number, got all the details together, girded my loins and picked up the phone.   'Hello' I said 'I have a problem' and explained that I had purchased the unit in April, but it had only just been unpacked and despite following all the trouble shooting advice, all I got was a blank screen.   I expected then to go into a lengthy debate about how long ago it was ordered, whether it would have to go back to the manufacturers, how much it would cost etc.,   But no! 

'What is the order number please' the nice young gentleman said.  I told him.  

'Would you like a replacement or a refund' the very nice young man said (he was growing on me now).  

'A replacement please' I responded.

A brief pause and sounds of keyboard tippy tapping in the background.   

'I have ordered your replacement and it should be with you in 3-5 working days.  You will receive an email in approximately 30 minutes which will provide you with a secure bar code returns authorisation and a prepaid returns label which you can print off.  When you have them, just follow the link through the DHL and book the returns pick up for a time convenient to you'

A brief stunned silence from me.

'Thanks!' I say, still a bit too gobsmacked to make proper conversation.

'My pleasure' the very very nice young man that I am now considering adopting says.   'Is there anything else I can help you with today?' he asks me.    'No, no, thank you, really thanks a million, that's great, thanks thanks'  I gush to the extremely nice young man that I am now wondering if he possibly likes older women.

'Well goodbye then Frances'   (swoon - lovely lovely customer services boy said my name)

It was all so easy and lovely and customer servicey.   

I won't tell you about trying to pack all the bits back in the original packing - I don't want to spoil the mood.

Customer Service Postscript.   24 hours after this phone call, my replacement Wii has arrived by courier!!!!!!!!  They're not even collecting faulty one until tomorrow!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Monday Musings

Monday morning and I am feeling a bit out of sorts.  Too much red wine and good food last night methinks.  So I enter my fourth week of voluntary unemployment.   One third of the kitchen cupboards have been sorted out.  The bureau in the dining room is sorted out.  The Wii is out of its box, but doesn't work...  Aaaaarrggghh.   Most of the contents of the study are on the floor.  The washing is up to date, but the ironing isn't.   I haven't started my keep fit regime yet.  I have accumulated yarn, material, patterns for at least 4 projects I plan to start.   I have not yet done my music theory homework.  I have however, spent an inordinate amount of time on line, twittering, blogging, general surfing.

This is all telling me that I need to get me a routine!  I am used to spending a great deal of time in front of a PC at work, so I have fallen into the habit of opening up the macbook with my morning coffee and before I know it I have lost a couple of hours!

This all has to stop.  Today I will work out a routine to make best use of my days.

But first I must talk to Amazon about my Wii.   Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggghhhh!!!

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Six Word Saturday

So it's time for six word saturday again.

Today I have been doing my piano practice and have a lesson in 45 minutes and am feeling very frustrated so here it is for this week:

Wishing I was better at Piano

Oh well...

If you want to play along click on the button below.

Friday, 24 July 2009

One Minute Writer Winner

Very happy this morning to discover I was selected as the winner for Tuesday's One Minute Writer submission. The prompt was "Today, what is inspiring you?"

My winning submission was:

My feelings of inspiration are like the many tendrils of a jelly fish, wafting this way and that in the eddies created by the current. I see so much that inspires me, a beautiful garden, a well written blog, a superbly hand crafted dress, a wonderfully crocheted scarf, a well played piano piece, a tidy house. Each prompts me to attempt something similar and I end up inert, not knowing what to do first.

Oh come on Frances - tidy up the study - you know you should

The One Minute Writer is a great blog and great fun to take part. If you want to know more, follow the link on my winner button!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

Today I had lunch with my friend and neighbour. We took advantage of a rare sunny day to eat out on the patio and chat. Very nice it was too. We were chatting about learning to craft as a child and I was saying that I was trying to improve my crochet and would really love to do a baby blanket, but nobody I knew was having or had recently had a baby.

I got home to find an email from my friend telling me that she is pregnant and due in November!!!!

So I have done a little search and will be attempting this:-

Wish me luck!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Open Gardens 2009

Every year, I help my friend to open her garden to the public for our village "Open Gardens Day". We not only open the garden, but sell tea and home made cakes and also do a craft stall. I make cards and such for the craft stall, the large majority of which feature my photography of the garden, whilst my friend is a watercolour artist, selling originals and prints of her paintings. Here are a few of this years pictures...

This is Vernon the Vole, some children visiting the garden came running to me saying "Bring the camera quick - we've found a vole". I followed them up the path to find this little vole sitting next to the path, surrounded by visitors, quite nonchalantly eating his afternoon snack. Even when I lay on the path about a foot away from him (now with me surrounded by onlookers) he still didn't pause.

Once I had the photographs, the children asked if I would make a photo card to sell on the craft stall the following day. I said I would, but only if they came up with a name for him. They went off to have a think about it and five minutes later came running back down the path shouting 'We've got a name - it's Vernon the Vole". So Vernon it was.

True to my promise, that evening I made 3 photo greeting cards featuring Vernon and they all sold in the first couple of hours. So in future I will be taking my design advice from the under 10 year old sector of the market!

The lavender smelled gorgeous this year and every time someone brushed past, a beautiful waft of lavender was released. The weather stayed fair for us the entire weekend and we hundreds of visitors each day. The kitchen staff (Lovely husband, stepson and stepson's girlfriend) were kept busy making teas, coffees, squash and serving Pip's famous chocolate cake. The craft stall and the kitchen were in competition for who would make the most money. Crafts won on the Saturday, but Tea and Cakes won on the Sunday. Over the whole weekend the craft stall made about £120 with Tea and Cakes pipping us at the post with about £130 (all going to our village church fund).
Overall with ticket sales and the efforts of the other gardens that opened, we made over £2000 for St.Marys!

And finally some views of the garden and a look at our craft stall, both of which took a lot of hard work to achieve, so well done us!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Six word Saturday (on Sunday!)

Unemployed and STILL 24 hours late!

Guilt and Guilty Pleasures

Well I am now entering my third week of voluntary unemployment. I seemed to have spent the first two weeks doing laundry, making a half hearted attempt at cleaning out the kitchen cupboards and preparing for interviews. I have come to the decision that I will not be applying for any more jobs for a little while to give me time to sort myself out and really think about what I want to do next. Trouble is I am constantly feeling guilty! I feel guilty because I am not working, unemployment is something I haven't experienced before, I have worked ever since I left school. Also, because I have always worked long hours and often had to travel away from home a lot, we employ a small amount of help. I have a lovely lady who comes in one day a week to clean, another pair of lovely ladies who come in once a week to tidy the garden (leaving me free to just to the interesting gardening at the weekend) and finally a great dog walker who comes in every afternoon to feed and walk our dogs to ensure they are not left alone for too long.

When we made the decision for me to give up my job, we also decided to keep everybody on, as if I go back to full time employment, it would be impossible to find such good helpers again. Trouble is, it is one thing coming home and finding the house has been vacuumed, or the garden swept, quite another thing actually being there while someone is doing your work for you! I have started hiding up in the office, or going out shopping to avoid having to feel so guilty.

On the other hand, not working definitely has its benefits. I have been able to do my piano practice regularly, I have got my guitar out and started hardening off my fingers again, started sorting out my paper crafting stuff and found my crochet hooks. I treated myself to two new crochet books and some lovely new yarn that I can't wait to get started on. I have time to blog. Have lunch with a friend on a weekday. See what my garden looks like in daylight. Guilty pleasures indeed, but I shall make the most of them while I can.

Friday, 17 July 2009

The National Forest Folk Festival

I have added some new featured artists links today, all from the National Forest Folk Festival. Lovely Husband and I went to the 2009 festival and these were our two favourite acts.   We had never seen the 100 Man Orchestra (all 3 of them) before and they were really talented, so I have included a link from a previous year too.   The Eliza Carthy Band were great as usual and I can't wait to see them again.   Embarrassingly, I discovered on a second viewing of the Eliza Carthy Band YouTube clip that I am seen very briefly walking straight past the camera - Oops!   Blue patterned top and a pony tail - see if you can spot me.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Turning over a new leaf

I really have been rubbish at blogging recently, but from today, I am turning over a new leaf.  I have got over the initial shock of unemployment and am starting to re-establish a more sensible sleeping pattern, which helps the old grey cells to function more efficiently.

I will attempt to 'Blog with Discipline' as do my blogging heroes, CBeth and Showmyface, and will try to be more creative, like my other twitter hero Lambsios.   I will be giving the blog a bit of an update and will re-launch Fit not Fat now that I have eaten all the chocolate my workmates gave me.   

I hope you will come along for the ride and encourage me to do more.


Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Long time no blog

The last few weeks have been very busy and no time for tweeting and blogging. However I shall be joining the ranks of the unemployed on Friday (by choice) and I am looking forward to some time off to catch up with my life in general. This blog post comes to you courtesy of my new mobile blogging app on my iPhone. This is my first attempt so I hope it works!

As I write this I am on a train speeding towards London where I will then catch another train, on which I will then immediately speed away from London again. I have to spend a couple of days in Southend partly for business and partly to have the opportunity to say goodbye to my colleagues at the Southend offices.

I shall send thus post now(while I have a signal) and keep my fingers crossed. Yay for mobile blogging!

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Return to Blighty

Well I am back from my travels.  We had a lovely relaxing break, lots of rest, good food and wine.  I will be blogging at more length soon. But first I have to catch up with my favourites!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Time to Blog

A rare commodity just recently has been having the time to sit and blog, but today, when I should have been working, my work laptop just refused to play ball and I find myself with time to put some extra washing in the machine, play on Twitter and update my blogs.   I have just posted a progress report on my subsidiary blog and realised just how tardy I have been in setting some of my goals in my motion.  I, for instance, have still not unpacked my new Wii Fit.   It is sitting in the bedroom glaring at me accusingly.   So perhaps today will be the day.

I must admit to being a little stressed of late.  I have found the most ridiculous little setbacks have made me mad, sad or bad out of all proportion to problem at hand.   I am looking forward to a holiday and some chill out time.   I have just deleted a whole paragraph of me whining about my backlog of chores, must do's, want to do's etc.,  when I realised that I am choosing to sit here and post a blog instead of getting on with some of them!

So I will keep this post short and go and actually get on with something.  Ta ta for now.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009


I have today officially launched my subsidiary blog 'Fit not Fat' which is my personal journey towards a fitter and less substantial me.  Do please follow the link in the sidebar and have a look.  
I welcome all support, encouragement and ideas.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Blogging with Discipline - Regular Writing Occasional Brilliance

Discovered Blogging With Discipline via CBeth's blog (brilliant, as is her flagship site, The One Minute Writer). Both sites can be found by following the relevant links on my sidebar.

I will from now on be attempting to live up to CBeth's fine example. I will, henceforth, blog with discipline and hope for the promised occasional flash of brilliance.

Watch this space!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

I'm still waiting

Well I have my dogs and cats around me again and the house doesn't feel so empty, but lovely husband still stuck in Devon.  His train is delayed and looks like he won't get back till much later tonight.  So lonely dinner tonight.

Two Weeks of Travel

So I haven't posted for a bit, a did try to keep everybody (Ha - who am I kidding - everybody!) up to date via Twitter, but no time for blogging.   I have been on my travels, first to Rome and then a few days break much closer to home.   I will put together a proper post with more detail about the Rome trip.  Perhaps later today.  But first I must organise myself and get my dogs and cats home from the kennels.  The house is soooo empty, just me, no husband and no pets.   Well, I can remedy the pet situation shortly and hubby will return from Devon later tonight, so all will be as it should be again.   Need to to some catching up jobs today as I am back at work tomorrow.  Also want to find some time to sit and finish my book (The Book Thief as recommended by Lucy).

Will check back in later.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Lighten Up!

Why is there so much bile and negativity in the world?

Over the past few days I have been really depressed by some of the things I have heard and read.   Let's take Earth Hour for a start.   A truly harmless initiative that at best gives global warming and our wasteful lifestyles a higher profile and at worst gets people to switch off a few gadgets for an hour and save a little energy.   Yet, I have been shocked, nay flabbergasted, at the level of bile spewed out on the subject on Digg/Twitter/etc.  Some comments were undoubtedly written with tongue firmly in cheek, but others were poisonous, hateful and thoroughly depressing.   What in our society can possibly breed that kind of individual?   

Similarly, the subject of Twitter and blogging (micro or otherwise), has been much in the news of late.   The reaction has been generally one of extremes, either a mass media jumping onto the bandwagon (See Sunday Observer where they have published their challenge to a number of celeb chefs to tweet a favourite recipe in 140 character or less), or, at the other extreme an editorial in the self same newspaper of such patronising twaddle it quite put me off one of my favourite Sunday morning journos.     I quote from Barbara Ellen's sunday opinion (to which obviously she is entitled) on bloggers/tweeters  "Every generation throws them up - painful, self-promoting bores, uber-narcissists to the nth degree, so fascinated by their every dreary, pointless move they can't believe we're not".   Now to be fair, she was mostly complaining about Celebrity bloggers, in particular Ashten Kutcher and Demi Moore, but nevertheless, by association, she means us.

I pause here to wonder whether she has for a moment considered herself as a pot, going into print to call the kettle black, as before she got her more prestigious main section of the Sunday Observer Opinion Column, she made her living doing the intro section of the free colour supplement.  Her column, in the main, consisted of either celebrity gossip/condemnation/envy, or more generally, writing about what kind of a day, week, holiday she was having.  

If this kind of columnist thinks it is OK to be paid to write and believe that we are interested enough to read - how is that different? 

And while I'm in rant mode, some of the stuff I have seen on line about Jade Goody has been unbelievable.  Now for those who don't know, Jade was a young woman, ill educated and from the wrong side of the tracks, who was famous for... well...just being famous.   She appeared on reality shows and was constantly in the media for no reason whatsoever.  I will honestly say, I considered her to be a vile, loud-mouthed, attention seeker.  However, last year she was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer and last week she died.  No matter what my opinion of a person, I would not wish that on anyone.   Some of the hate mail, conspiracy theories and general nastiness I have encountered over the past few weeks regarding Ms Goody has been beyond comprehension.   Rest in peace Jade and well done for making enough money to ensure your children's future.

So people if you only do one thing today - BE NICE!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Fit not Fat

I am going to try out setting up a subsidiary blog to track my new Fit not Fat initiative. Without boring you with the details, I am carrying a few pounds extra at the moment (Ha! A FEW). Partly due to a period of immobility when I put my back out and partly due to being a bit of a piggy-wig in the food department.

I have set myself the target of being down to my fighting weight by the time we go on our 10th Wedding Anniversary trip to the British Virgin Islands next January, an entirely achievable target if I stick to it. But I don't just want to lose some weight, I especially want to improve my fitness, so I think instead of just logging progress in a notebook or on the chalk board in the kitchen, I will blog myself fit!

Hopefully, people will support me and maybe provide some tips too!

New link to Fit not Fat coming to a blog near you soon.

A day at home - So why am I stressed?

I have the day off today, mainly because I am supposed to be preparing for my piano exam, but so far I have read the papers, logged in on my work laptop and done a few things I didn't get done last night. Had a chat with Marion who comes every wednesday and keeps the level of mess in the house to a minimum, checked my emails, Twittered a bit, eaten a bowl of Cheerios and drunk too much coffee (Decaf for the rest of the day).

Why am I avoiding starting my preparations, why haven't I revised my scales, or even stayed in the same room as the piano for more than a minute all morning? Because I don't really want to do the exam, that's why. I am learning piano for my own pleasure and and it is a divine pleasure I love every minute of my lessons and my practice sessions, but I hate the performance exams. I even enjoy doing the theory exams and next week I will be taking my Grade 4 music theory and am quite looking forward to it. The problem is, I have got myself into the position of not wanting to let my music teacher down instead of doing it for myself. I am going to have to tell her.

I have lots of things rattling around in my head today that are diverting my attention and writing them down may help me get them into some order. So I will post again in a bit and chew over something else to help sort my thoughts out. In a the meantime, I think a quick look at today's OMW and then raid the fridge for lunch.

(Ta Ta for Now)

Monday, 23 March 2009

Brief Encounter

This will indeed be a brief encounter.  I haven't posted for a week, have been battling with a tooth abscess, rattling with pills and working working working.  Also doing lots of piano practice as my Grade 3 exam is on wednesday (Aaargh!!).  But I will update properly soon - promise.  Just managed to find a few minutes to get on my macbook and figure out what the flip is wrong with Twitpic.  The email service is down/flakey and nothing I have uploaded from my phone has worked all week, so have just had a manic update session downloading the pics from phone to laptop and then posting them all on Twitpic from there.

Normal service will resume soon. 


Monday, 16 March 2009

I look like this today...

Tooth Torment

No I didn't drop off the edge of the world for two days, what I did was broke a tooth and developed an abscess.  I now look like lopsided hamster as one side of my face is very swollen (and no I will not post a picture!).   At home this morning waiting to go to the dentist.  "Come at 11.55 and 'bear with us' someone will see you".  So lord knows how long I will have to wait.   I got about 2 hours sleep last night and so am extremely grumpy this morning.   So this is why there have been no posts, no twitpiccing, and no tweeting.  I have just been too grumpy to play.

Now I have to wait two hours to before I can go to the dentist and I can't get on with any work as I was not expecting to be home today and therefore left my work laptop at the office.  

To be honest, I feel like life is beating me over the head with a rolled up newspaper at the moment.  In november, whilst on holiday, I hurt my back - big style.   A bi-laterally prolapsed disc no less.  Agony - particularly on the plane home.   This left me pretty immobile and miserable until well after Christmas, but just as I was perking up again, I went down with a particularly aggressive chest infection and spent most of February at home ill.  (That's when I had the time to discover Twitter, start my blog, etc).   Then spring and March arrive and I finally seem to be getting back to normal and POW I break a damn tooth and end up looking like a deranged chipmunk.  Oh don't I feel sorry for myself.

Stop it!  There are far more people in the world far worse off.  

Friday the 13th was Comic Relief Day.  For those who don't know it is a fund raising day held every two years, originally started by a bunch of british comedians and writers.   The build up goes on for months and culminates in a day of comedy antics, special shows, documentary information about the causes they support and fundraising.   This year they were particularly hoping to be able to buy a million mosquito nets to protect children in Africa, thousands of whom die every year from Malaria, mostly under the age of 5.  They were also supporting providing medical care and malaria medication.  They also support charities in the UK working to prevent child abuse, supporting child carers, providing respite care facilities, youth training activities and more and more.  It really is a fantastic charity with every penny going to causes and not to administration costs.   Fundraising includes everything from celebrities climbing Kilimanjaro to ordinary folk being sponsored to shave their heads or jump out of planes at 40,000 feet.

In this year of global economic crisis, most expected that the total raised would not be as high as previous events.   But no, not so.  God Bless the British Public and British commercial world.   By Sunday the total was at £59 million and money is still pouring in.  It restores my faith in mankind, it really does.

If you want to know more or even, would like to add to the funds, you can find more information HERE   

BTW Comic Relief is also known as Red Nose Day (follow the link to understand why) so for those Tweeters out there wondering why so many peoples pictures had red noses on them - now you know.

Wish me luck at the Dentist.

Friday, 13 March 2009

The Challenge - Day 5

Today's One Minute Writer Challenge is a fictional piece of a pivotal moment in a child's life, from the child's point of view. Here is my angle on it....

I lay on the grass, watching sunshine through closed eyes. I could feel the breeze moving my hair and parkland birds were singing. The sunshine, birds, distant sounds of other children having fun and the taste of ice cream merge into a single haze of memory - Summer. My hand reaches out without opening my eyes to check it is still there. My fingers tangle with the spokes of my beautiful new bike and I am filled with the joy of my first taste of independence.

I really enjoyed this one and was surprised how quickly an image I wanted to explore came to me. This is becoming less of a challenge and more of an addiction!

My ATC today is a little different, a more abstract approach using stamping ink and water to get a sort of 1970's lava lamp effect.

More tomorrow!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Today's One Minute Writer submission

No time to post properly today, but I did manage half the challenge today so here is my response to today's poser - Pendulum:

Food Miles versus Fair Trade
Do I limit my food miles and support local farmers, or do I buy Fair Trade goods and support third world producers. If I go with food miles, Fair Trade farmers suffer. If I support Fair Trade producers, local business lose out and my carbon footprint goes up. Oh - what to do, what to do.....

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Technology Subdued

Techie problems sorted! Have now successfully posted my ATC pics in with my earlier posts.
Hope you like them.

Punishment Challenge Day 3

What happened to day 2 I hear you cry (or is it just the voices again). Well, work work work is all I will say. I will have a good catch up at the weekend and do some proper posting, but in the meantime. The challenge is to submit to the One Minute Writer every day and to create a new ATC every day for a week. Failed at the second fence yesterday, but plan to double up at the weekend (hope that's allowed).

My OMW submission on protecting children from on line predators:
"This is a difficult one, if you are over protective children can feel stifled, but there are some basic precautions. The key one is don't let them surf in private. The sheer fact of having them in a shared family space will limit how much freedom their curiosity gets. But mostly, talk to them, love them and regularly check their browsing history."

Today's ATC was created by stamping an image onto textured card and then creating a gloss with clear embossing powder. I am having trouble uploading at the moment, but will upload to Twitpic in the meantime.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Punishment week challenge

Tonight's post is in response to Creative Machine's challenge to join her in attempting a daily task, this week being to produce an ATC (see earlier posts for info) and to submit our thoughts to the One Minute Writer every day. Well, as she is in Australia and I am in England, I will always be 10 hours behind and playing catch up, but I have determined to try.

The One Minute Writer topic today was "I think the world would be a better place if students learned more ___________ in school". Here is my response...

Freedom of Thought - in every subject, being given the opportunity to use imagination and think out of the box would be of benefit. In English allow children to create poetry, not learn the rules of iambic pentameter. In mathematics, being given the opportunity to use maths to create a structure or solve a problem. In science - being allowed to imagine a better future or a fascinating past, not just making sure chemical equations balance. It is not enough to just know, children must be allowed to think, understand and imagine.

The second challenge of the day is to produce an Artist Trading Card (had a technical problem so you will have to see it on twitpic until I sort it out - it's a bit rubbish). Time is short so I have gone easy and geometric, but hope to be more impressive tomorrow.

If anybody reads this and wants to join in - feel free!

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Roses and Castles

It feels like time to explain why my blog is called Roses and Castles.   I am a Narrowboat enthusiast and have been since my late teens.   My lifelong ambition was to have my own Narrowboat and that ambition was fulfilled 3 years ago.  She is only a little one, but she's ours and we love her.   She is called Bramble.   I will show you some photographs in a bit, but those who don't know, here is a some background about Narrowboats courtesy of Wikipedia.

Narrowboats can be up to 70 feet long but a maximum of 7 feet wide.   Unlike traditional barges which can be 14 feet or more wide.  These boats were originally working boats built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries primarily as a means of carrying goods such as coal around the country. In the UK the width of the boats is limited to 7 feet and around much of the canal transport system that was the size of the bridge holes, tunnels and locks.   There are still some working boats on the waterways, carrying coal and other goods, but the majority of boats are these days for leisure use or as permanent homes.

The traditional folk art decorations found not only on the boats themselves, but on their tools, horses harnesses and pretty much anything on the boat that stands still long enough to be painted is based on primitive themes of roses and castles, but could include anything that took the painters fancy to create a decorative theme or a romantic fantasy landscape.   The painting was done using left over paint used to maintain the boats and with workman's brushes rather than fancy artist equipment.  The Roses and Castles movement took root and flourished at a time when other traditional crafts and trading were fading the light of the industrial revolution and is still going strong today.

This extract from "Roses and Castles - A History" courtesy of

"No-one knows exactly where the Roses and Castles movement originated from.  There are obvious links with gypsy culture and their elaborately painted caravans, but historians have also identified similarities with folk art from Germany, Holland and Asia.   Wherever it came from, the reason for its popularity and growth is certainly tied to the limited size of the boat cabin, the pride of the boat people and the competition between the canals and the railways.  Money was short for the boatmen - especially once the railways starting springing up - and it made sense for them to bring their wives and families on board to work the boat in the place of a crew.  At the same time, the advent of the railways limited any new investment in the canals and consequently neither the canals nor the working narrowboats were able to benefit from further development.  The cabins, the living quarters of the boats, were tiny and looked set to stay that way.  

The wives and other women folk of the boatmen brought domestic pride and accomplishment onto the boats with them.  Their space was limited, and this made them even more determined to make every item bright and attractive.  Added to this was a desire to appear as cultivated and refined as possible in front of the Victorian Land-dwellers who had a tendency to look down their noses at the itinerant bargees with their dirty cargos and often illiterate children (being continuously on the move made consistent school attendance difficult).  With brightly painted romantic landscapes adorning every available surface, crocheted lace hanging in the cabin and everything scrubbed and polished, the boat men and women displayed their pride in their trade and created solidarity with their fellow boaters."

So now you know the origin of my blog name and my secret passion.   As the Water Rat said in Wind in Willows, there is nothing quite like messing about in boats.

Friday, 6 March 2009

 A taste of summer

Friday Night Musings

So it's Friday night.  The working week is over and the weekend sprawls before me full of opportunities and chores.   I am in the sitting room on the sofa, feet up in front of a roaring fire.  I have a glass of chilled fino sherry on the side table and I can hear my husband pottering in the kitchen preparing dinner (did I mention before about being spoilt?).   Friday night is couch potato night, always a treat after a busy week.   But what of tomorrow.   As usual, I have a list of things I mean to do this weekend that, if I actually attempted them all would take at least a month to actually achieve.

This is my major fault, I over-commit.   There are so many things I want to do and then there are all the things I have to do.   But this weekend will be different I tell myself.   I will set realistic goals, I will prioritise must do over want to do.   I will not convince myself it is possible to learn Italian in a weekend whilst carrying out a new keep fit/lose weight program and at the same time tidy the garden, do the washing/ironing, hang the new photographs, make some cards, sort and scan all my old photographs, figure out how to put a play list on my blog, do my piano practice and write the lyrics for the band's new song that I have been struggling with for three weeks.  (More about the band another day).

This weekend I will ....  not make a list of things I will do this weekend.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

A convert!

No time to post properly today, but go here  to see Lucy's first ATC! 

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Art in your Pocket

Today I am feeling creative, but today like most days, I don't really have time. (In fact I shouldn't even be blogging, I am supposed to be working). Do you ever get that urge to make/create something but daily life intrudes and there is no time to work on that project that has been down the side of the sofa for 6 months? Well I do and one of the ways I satisfy that need is by paper crafting, I dabble in card making (often featuring my photography - so I get a double creative hit), scrapbooking (but not as often as I would like) along with various other handicrafts. But there is one papercrafting activity that can really give you a creativity hit without making a big mess or taking much time. ATCs or Artists Trading Cards are little miniature works of art that you can make out of pretty much anything. This link will take you to the original ATC site in Switzerland, set up when the form was first established in 1997. Above you will see one of my efforts (in fact the first I ever made). The key thing to know about ATCs is that they must not be any bigger than a playing card and they must be exchanged not sold. Other than that there are no rules.
This link will tell you the more about the history of how this art form developed and has a gallery of contributors from all over the world.
So next time you get the urge, but only have 10 minutes to spare, give it a try.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Everything deserves a closer look.

Freezer Lottery

To be clear from the start - yes I am spoilt.  I have a wonderful husband who loves to cook, the only time I have to cook is at Christmas (his day off) and when he is away on business.   So tonight is one of those nights.  Having berated him over the phone for the lack of food in the house, I was directed by him to the freezer, where, I was assured there was some bolognese or chilli, but probably both, which he had frozen when he made a big batch.   

Did you know that they both look exactly the same when frozen?   So mystery dinner it is.  I take the red frozen lump from the freezer and place in the microwave to defrost.   Magically, when defrosted, the red kidney beans become obvious and you wonder why you couldn't see them when frozen.   Chilli it is then, bubbling away in the pan and smelling wonderful.  Just have to read the instructions on the 2 minute rice and 'Dinner is Served'.  

But I have discovered, Chilli doesn't smell as good when you smell it alone.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Is there anybody out there?

Well - no matter if there isn't.   So here is my official inaugural  blog and I hope whoever is out there will think well of it.   Why have I started a blog I hear you ask, does the world need another blog?  Well probably not, but what the heck, I'm enjoying myself.  

This all started about a month ago, when I had to spend some time at home with the lurgy (official scientific term for chest infection).  This gave me the opportunity to finally figure out the finer intricacies of my new macbook and to discover the joys of tweeting.   Within 24 hours I was hooked and after the initial rush of searching for famous folk just because I could, I then started to look for interesting folk instead.   At some point I came across a young lady in Brisbane and was immediately engaged by her easy and amusing style and by her fairly prodigious output, not only on Twitter, but also on You Tube and Daily Booth.   (If you want to get to know her too, follow the CreativeMachine link in the sidebar).

Then, a couple of nights ago, Lucy, for that is she, published a list of 40 things she wants to achieve and I was transfixed.   Excluding the technology references (for I am ancient and we did not have macbooks when I was 19) this could have been my list 30+ years ago.   I realised that I was looking into my past and her future.

So, Lucy, with the benefit of hindsight I can tell you that you will never tick off everything on your list because your list will always get longer, it is in your nature, as it is in mine.   I can still make a list of 40 things I want to do (and that may be the subject of another post) and I am sure on my deathbed I will be cursing the chap in the black hoodie carrying a scythe because I still have a bunch of stuff I need to do!   But never stop making the lists and never stop striving for the next thing and the next...  

But you can put a tick against number 38 on the list, because you are already doing that.

Until next time...

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Still under construction - part duex

Well it may well be a little while yet before I actually write an official first post, but in the meantime, please do check out the Zoe Keating video link above.   I came across her courtesy of Will Wheaton's site and was blown away, I have since downloaded the album from iTunes and it is outstanding.  This lady is talented and really creative, she records herself on the her Mac and then plays along with the tracks she has created.  Highly recommended.

Still Under Construction!

But getting there!  Favourite links, twitter feed, other stuff added and site starting to take shape.  

Under Construction