Summer Rain

Summer Rain
I like to photograph nature

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...