Friday, 26 November 2010


Yesterday was an odd day. I heard some brilliant news that I'll pass on when the plans have come to fruition as I'm very superstitious and I don't want to jinx anything; I once told everyone about a fab new job that fell through at the last minute. And then I spoke to my parents and found that the tumour on my Dad's bowel has responded well to treatment but that he now has metastatic liver cancer. That means that the cancer has spread and, whilst the lesions are very small and he says his oncologist is very positive, I cannot find much to be hopeful about on any of the reputable websites.

Unlike my mother, my dad has never suffered from ill-health before and it's like seeing something strong and enduring like Nelson's Column melt in the rain like sugar cubes. I don't quite know how to cope and there seems to be absolutely nothing I can do to help.

I can't do nothing though so I'm thinking of having a a sponsored stitch-in at my local coffee shop. I thought I'd ask them if they'd mind me sitting with my crochet and embroidery one Saturday. I wouldn't bother their customers, I'd just have a bucket in front of me and I'd collect for Macmillan. Maybe some of my friends could drop by and say hello now and again but it would be a solo effort. I'm busy coming up to Christmas but I'm free on Saturday 18th December. Do you think this is too close to Christmas or do you think that people will be in a giving mood? I was in there last weekend and reckoned there were fifty people in their at a time so even if only a proportion of people donated I could collect a fair amount over a full day.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

O.O.M.A. Part 2

Subtitled: How I finally stopped stalking and talked to him...

It's amazing how many things you can think of to buy at The Range when you put your mind to it. I'm thinking of lining my bedroom walls with lolly sticks, or maybe not.

Oh my god he just walked past when I was writing about him.

Sorry, stream of consciousness there! I should explain that I'm sitting at a window seat in a coffee shop using their t'interwebs and making myself available should he choose to come in, which he clearly hasn't. Bah!!

Anyhooo, so I decided that getting totally over-excited whenever our eyes met over a cut-price crafting display and hyper-ventilating in the coffee shop was stupid, immature and more suited to an eleven-year-old than a forty-one-year-old who's like, you know, even like kissed a boy before. So I called in the troops, in this case my friend Dee who used to work with him and who was enthusiastic and prepared to give up her Saturday to going to a shop with me so that I could be casually introduced. Her partner offered to look after their twin boys and drive us there and we went on Operation Git Me Ah Man.

It was his day off.

We had a lovely time though. We looked at all the Christmas Decorations, had a coffee, did a bit of shopping and I was even able to buy cat food and cat litter without worrying about looking like a mad cat lady. Dee asked one of his colleagues when he was working next and even asked to be remembered to him and I was so crap I had to turn away because I started to blush.

On returning home I went out to get the papers and to have a coffee. He was in the coffee shop. Did I speak to him? No, of course not. I made sure I sat in his line of vision though. And read my papers in an attempt to look clever and cultured, and used my phone in an attempt to look popular and cool.

Of course the fact that he hadn't been at work meant I didn't have to wait my customary two weeks before returning to The Range and last week I went back to buy some crap or other(to those of you worrying about my bank balance I should say that I tend to buy things I genuinely need for school and can claim back from the tax man but that I wouldn't normally walk two miles to shop for). This time he was working and what's more he was on Customer Services so saw me arriving. When I queued up he offered to serve me and made a comment about how I'd be busy (it's those lolly sticks). I told him I was a teacher and we talked about what age I taught, how cold it was and how I was planning to have a coffee on my way home to ward off the cold. So imagine my delight when I was sitting in the coffee shop later and saw him there. He passed me when he left and did a double-take. And now here comes the embarrassing admission. I followed him.

He went to the greengrocers which was handy as I needed vegetables and as we finished our shopping and went to leave at the same time I smiled up at him and said,

"I hope you're going in a different direction now because I'd hate you to think I'm following you!"

To which he replied,

"Oh, I wouldn't think that."

That was last week and I haven't managed to speak to him again but I feel that a channel has been opened and I'd be able to start a proper conversation. And I'm delighted that he's noticed me without realising quite how ridiculous I am.

I see stupid people.

I watched an item on Breakfast News earlier this month about a little American boy who went to school on Hallowe'en dressed as Daphne from Scooby Doo. Apparently other mothers from the school had something to say about that and there's been a backlash against his parents for letting him "cross dress".

How utterly ridiculous. And how deeply sad that there are people so scared of anything different that they won't let children play normally. I was working in the Nursery Class today and we had a circle time about our favourite dressing-up clothes. One little boy said he wanted to dress as a princess and later put on some purple gauzy number. Will that cause him to grow up as a transvestite or make him gay?

Of course not. Just like I never became a hairdresser despite that being my favourite game at four (though I do remember my funky 70's hairdryer with fondness). Just like my friend's son who played with a toy vacuum aged 3 and ten years later can barely raise himself from the sofa long enough to turn the TV off. The child in our classroom will grow up normal, whatever his own particular normal is. Whether the child in America will be as lucky, given the bigots who surround him, remains to be seen.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Intelligent Design

Sometimes I think I’m ridiculously naive. I presume that most people in the world believe the same things I do; that they value honesty, hard work, kindness and intelligence. I think that everyone wants a fair society where the vulnerable are cared for and everyone believes they have a responsibility to their families, their community and the world. All too often I realise that I’m making ridiculous assumptions and though the majority of my friends have the same values I have (after all, I've chosen them to be my friends) these things are far from universal.
A lot of what I believe stems from my faith. I think the basic ideas that Christ taught (or people say he taught if you prefer) are good ones to live your life by. Where I start to disagree with my fellow Christians is when they start to believe every word in the Old Testament is the absolute literal truth. It feels like their world view and mine collides and I get annoyed at what I see as the hijacking of Christ’s name to support ignorance and intolerance. No doubt they would think I was subverting the message but you know what? They’re wrong and I’m right!
I’m used to having to defend my liberal stance on contraception, divorce, gay rights and other social issues but yesterday I was totally dumbfounded when I met two creationists.
As you know, I’m tutoring in a local school. One of the other tutors is a new father and yesterday we were discussing his new baby with a parent. He mentioned how strong his week-old baby’s grip was and I mentioned the theory that back in the days when we were tree-dwellers babies needed to be able to hang on to their mothers. At this point the mother said
“I don’t believe in evolution, I’m a Christian.”
I managed to reply,
“I am too, but I do believe in it.”
before the other tutor said,
“I don’t believe in it either.
I was dumfounded. I literally did not know what to say. Fortunately she then said,
“If we’re descended from monkeys how come we can’t use their blood for transfusions?”
So I was able to reply with a bit of common sense and say,
“We’re not actually descended from present day primates. It’s more that we’re distant cousins descended from a common ancestor. Our DNAs have changed so much over the millennia that we’re not compatible with each other.”
At this point another teacher raised the issue of the fossil record and the mother said it was too early for a debate and we moved on but I was left amazed. I’m also a little horrified that a man who believes that the world was created exactly as it is now and that fossils are a trick by God to test our faith is teaching science to primary school children.
I’m in favour of being open-minded about people’s beliefs but I’m clearly not a relativist and I’m also very confident that the scientific proof is there. It might be called The Theory of Evolution but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have huge amounts of evidence supporting it. I don’t understand why people’s faith isn’t strong enough to survive scientific ideas that counter the literal interpretation of the Old Testament.
I realise I’ve ranged over a few different ideas here but I want to end with a little scene from this morning. Imagine me and (yet) another tutor being presented with a child who refused to believe in the existence of wolves...
Photos, video, internet articles, eye-witness accounts and books; none of them were enough to convince him. I think there’s a message in there somewhere!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Half Term

It's been difficult to blog recently. I seem to have been visited by at least one of the plagues of Egypt and my lymph nodes have swollen up to cope with it, the result is an unhappy, uncomfortable me!
The by-product of this is that I find it difficult to get enthusiastic about anything and though I'm physically able to blog there's nothing much I want to say.
It's half term and all over the country teachers and support staff are enjoying some well-earned rest. Many are away (we once went to Venice in half term and the place was lousy with teachers. We spent a lot of time guessing their subjects, the particularly up-tight and annoying woman in our hotel was without a doubt a Domestic Science teacher...).
As a supply teacher I get horribly stressed by the holidays and become obsessed by the fact that I'm not earning anything, not because I'm a materialistic madam but because I like to pay the bills and would like to heat the house this winter. This always seems horribly ungrateful as The Girl and other people in "normal" jobs don't have the weeks off that I do. Mind you, they probably wouldn't want a quite as much unpaid leave as I have.
There is a myth that Supply Teachers get paid loads but in fact even if I worked every day that schools are open (which I would) I'd still earn at least a third less that I would if I was a classroom teacher on a proper contract and I'm not even very high up the salary scale. I haven’t helped the situation as I've recently agreed to work at a school for £15 less a day than my actual rate because I decided it was worth it for the better quality of life this particular placement affords. I am aware that this is going to put more pressure on the old finances so I was delighted when the agency offered me one-to-one tuition at a (very) local school. The pay isn't wonderful (once the agency takes their substantial cut) but it beats sitting on the sofa watching repeats of The Gilmore Girls.

I'm teaching two Year 6 girls. W is Polish and an absolute delight. Imaginative and enthusiastic she needs help with vocabulary and with verb tenses but has wonderful English given that she’s only been in the country three years and hears no English at home. She thinks I’m amazing, which is gratifying, and keeps telling everyone how funny I am, though sometimes I’m not actually trying to be funny. T is from the Traveller Community though she lives in a house now. She is very bright but lacks confidence. She was telling me yesterday about her love of Mozart and “Beet”hoven.
The school has organised it really cleverly. There are five tutors and ten children. We meet from 8.15 to have breakfast together and work for two two-hour sessions. Whilst one of your children is with you the other is baking, or drawing or having some kind of game in the hall. Mostly what I am loving about this is the chance to talk and listen. We have so many pressures on our time during term time and so much we try to fit in the curriculum. We have so many children and not enough time to have pleasant, non-work conversations. It’s so nice to be able to sit down at the table and have breakfast or a mid-morning snack and with a group of children. To have time to laugh at their jokes, listen to what they did the evening before or talk about things that interest them. It’s what I imagined teaching would be like and what it so rarely is like.
I’m having a happy week.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

John Barrowman

I've always been a bit of a lover of all things kitsch and camp. I loved The Eurovision Song Contest long before it was fashionable and 22 years ago I made all my University friends crowd into my room for my first Eurovision Party (they thought I was mad). I collect kitsch religious souvenirs (though they do need to be real, I'm not interested in contrived gift-shop gubbins) and just wait for Christmas...

I'm also a massive Doctor Who fan. And I mean massive. Honestly, I'm obsessed. Ask anyone, ask the children I teach. I love it. Go on, test me, ask me anything...

So, it was a foregone conclusion that I would be spending Monday night in Hull City Hall watching John Barrowman sing a selection af songs from the shoes and other favourites. I was almost put off by the £30 price tag (seriously, how much?) but after the very first song (Get this Party Started- natch) as he moved round the stage with his dancers in his sequin-trimmed suit and the adoring audience of menopausal women shouted and cheered, I turned to my friend and said,
"This is worth the money alone!"

The band was great, he was note-perfect and, my god, what a showman. He told stories, camped it up for the crowd and showed us photos from his life. At one point during a song in tribute to his parents we all realised that they'd joined him on stage and were waltzing together. NOT A DRY EYE IN THE HOUSE!
By the time he reached a finale with "I Am What I Am" I was on my feet (despite the vertiginous heights of the upper gallery) cheering and stamping and singing along and proclaiming it the best night ever.

I'm so glad I went. It wasn't cool, it wasn't intellectual. It was total, unmitigated fun. And obviously I'll get him to sing at my wedding when I marry David Tennant. Oh, did I say that out loud...?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Which stands for Object of my Affection...
He's a man I see around my local area who is so much my type that even new friends picked him out for me. He's tall and has slightly floppy hair and a good sized nose (I love a good Roman nose)and looks enough like my ex-husband to have been nicknamed after him. In fact it's not so much that he looks like my ex as that they both look like my first love the gorgeous Italian, Vittorio.
I've never got up the courage to say more than a few words to him but when I see him I turn into a bit of a teenage idiot getting all excited and texting my friends.

I saw him today. I was in one of our local coffee shops messing about on t'interwebs and eating a slice of Dime Bar Cake (yum) when I looked up and realised he was sitting across the room with an espresso and a friend (good combination if you ask me). I carefully removed my scarf in order to display a little more cleavage (O.K. a lot more...)and tried my best to look busy and interesting rather than stupid and self-important. I felt like we kept making eye-contact but I'm really not sure if that was just because I was so self-conscious. After a while I had to leave so I gathered my things together and headed for the door only to get there a the same time he did. We ended up walking down the street almost side by side. All without saying a word to each other.

So my question is...
Did he get up at the same time as me on purpose?
Is it all in my mind, or was he making eye-contact with me?
Will I ever manage to get the courage together to give him my phone number?

Monday, 11 October 2010

Random Thoughts About Allergies.

I have four different types of allergies. There's the type like the wrong kind of washing-up liquid or moisturiser that brings on bumpy hands or eczema. There's the type like hairspray or paint fumes that makes me wheeze. There's the type like cats or dogs that does both. And finally, there's the type like pine sap or tea tree oil that causes hives, unpleasant digestive responses and full-on-call-the-ambulance asthma.

The first three are inconvenient and at times distressing, I have a small (and often expensive) choice of household products, toiletries and cosmetics to chose from, I've never been able to have the much-longed for dog and I've had to ban the cats from my bedroom. The steroid creams and ointments prescribed for allergic eczema are all based on white paraffin or petroleum based carriers which...I'm allergic to.
Walking past someone who's wearing too much aftershave can leave me gasping (seriously, Lynx works more as chemical warfare and less as personal grooming in my world) and I once passed a hideous train-journey behind a woman who thought doing her hair and spraying Ellnett all over her head in a crowded carriage was a good idea.
On good days I take three different asthma and allergy drugs but any number of illnesses can result in hospital trips (last year's pleurisy caused months of issues). My eczema makes me feel self-conscious and ugly and my asthma restricts my life, I hate it.

However, I can live with all that. Slightly, no strike that, a lot more dramatic is my reaction to latex, pine sap and tea tree oil. After noticing these things were all tree based I was a little worried but yesterday's experiment with Maple Syrup was totally satisfactory and I enjoyed my pancakes very much.

I've had three very serious allergic reactions in my life.
The first was one night when I'd eaten a prawn sandwich that may have been a bit too old (hot day, insufficient chilling in a sandwich shop), I came out in hives and my lips, and fingers swelled-up. However, in the light of subsequent events I'm beginning to wonder if the latex gloves I wore for my housework that evening may have been more to blame (though I'm still being wary of prawns).

The second was a couple of years' ago on a family day out. I'd gone to Bekenscot Model Village with my Dad, my sister and my niece. We'd been meaning to go for years and it was lovely. I adore model villages (there's a post in there somewhere) and was having a lovely time when suddenly my sister said,
"What's that on your face?"
That, was a hive.
They'd been trimming all the miniature trees in the village and an avenue of full-sized conifers and the sap was on the air. I became very ill, very quickly and had to be taken home. Fortunately my anti-histamines and asthma drugs worked and I recovered quickly.

I was not so lucky last week.

I've had an abscess on my head (golly, I'm making myself sound attractive aren't I!) and have been bathing it with very hot water into which I'd put a few drops of tea tree oil. Stupidly, I hadn't made the connection to my other allergies and although I was fine for a couple of days, when I got too much of the water and oil on my body I cam out in hives all over my body. By Friday night they'd joined up into great red patches and my breathing had gone crazy. I called an ambulance.

The Paramedics, and the lovely staff at Hull Royal Infirmary were wonderful. They sorted my breathing, pumped me full of anti-histamines and put me to bed. They cared for me and listened to me and never once patronised me.

They saved my life.

And now? I have an appointment with my GP later, I'm going to sort out my medication, I'm going to take my allergies seriously, I'm going to carry a warning card and I'm going to go and see the Consultant. Oh, and I'm going to have an artificial Christmas Tree this year...

Don't Panic, It's Organic.

I used to hang out with a load of dope smokers, they were nice enough people though if they put as much energy into jobs or causes that they put into scoring they could change the world but many of them did have a somewhat naive attitude to their drug of choice. In their defensive stance they would insist that weed was totally safe and actually quite benign because it was natural. Now I should say that I think marijuana is no more or less harmful than alcohol. Some people have the occasional joint in the same way others will have a glass of wine with a good dinner. Some people spark up at breakfast just as some crack a can of strong lager as soon as waking.
However, it's very clear to me that this blind trust in a drug because it's natural is ridiculous. Belladonna is natural but the clue's in the name- Deadly Nightshade. Hemlock is natural but it still did for Socrates. And Tea Tree Oil is natural but it still nearly killed me this weekend...

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Apologies #1

I'm sorry I haven't been blogging. There are several reasons.

1. I've been getting into the swing of the new term and have felt a bit busy.
2. My computer just kept getting slower and slower.
3. My internet connection (via Dongle) went bonkers and it was taking me four or five attempts to get online.
4. I got out of the habit and couldn't think what to say.

Errrm, that's it. Then of course I just started to feel guilty for not blogging and it got more and more difficult, like with your thank you letters after Christmas as a child.

So I'm back with a new netbook and will be blogging again. If the internet still kicks me off it's not so much of a problem as my new speedy pooter reconnects so fast (the old one took at least ten minutes) and I can use this little HP Minibook in coffee shops for full posing value.

More tomorrow...

Friday, 17 September 2010

New Term, New Shoes!

One of the disadvantages of being a supply teacher is sitting waiting for someone to give you some work whilst you watch your bank account empty and worry about paying the bills. September tends to be a horribly lean month as teachers return refreshed from the holiday and less likely to go off sick and they don't go on many courses as they want to stay in school and get to know their new classes.

So, I was delighted to be asked to work on the very first teaching day of the new term and in fact have worked all but the two Fridays. In addition to this I've had a bit of a tax rebate, enough to pay some bills and have a couple of treats. This all makes me very happy! And what did I want to buy as a treat? Why shoes of course! Now, as I have previously mentioned I am quite a practical person. Much as I love the killer heels you see on the catwalk, I realise I wouldn't be able to walk to the bus stop in them or spend a day in the classroom. So when I look for beautiful shoes, I look for beautiful, comfortable shoes. And I found them.

Now, I'm not sure that this picture does justice to their plummy beauty so I'll take some pictures of my feet when they arrive (my local shoe shop didn't have an eight in stock so I've ordered them). I am ready to fall in love with them.

I also got a pair of trainers to wear to the gym but that's a whole other story...

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Reading Lists

I don't tend to do book reviews as I think there's a limit to how many detective novels you want to hear about and because, despite my love of reading, I'm not going to impress anyone with my reading list. Unlike this young man...

A dictionary, an encyclopedia, The Bible and Batman! Wow!

Back to Work!

I love my job, most of the time, and hate the holidays, partly because I love teaching and partly because I don't get paid. Today was the first time ever that I've had a supply day on the fist day of term and it was wonderful to be back in the classroom. Even better I'm booked for three days a week at the school closest to my house right up until half term. Now if I can just fill the other days, get my tax rebate and get my ex-husband to cough up the money he owes me I might manage to be able to afford a new winter coat this year (last year's coat was cancelled when the cat got ill and I needed the money for vets' bills).

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Lost in Translation.

It was my nephew's nineteenth birthday last week and he's soon to join me in God's Own Country when he starts University in York next month. I've promised him the birthday present of a trip to the shops for mugs, bowl, signs that say "Keep Off!" and anything else he finds he needs in Halls. I'm looking forward to going over for the day and taking him out to lunch; I may even attempt to be a cool aunt, a role I've never really managed as I've always been practical aunt.

Oh, who am I kidding? I'm incapable of being cool aunt, I was born sensible! In any case, my youngest sister is his cool aunt (she wanted to get him a games console) and my brother is undoubtedly cool uncle and gave him a bottle of good aftershave and a fantastic card his beautiful Spanish partner had made. It's this card I want to show you. Some of the subtleties of the English language have been lost to her since their return to Andalusia a few years ago!

My Favourite Shop

Ok, so maybe not the shop I most like to buy things from (step forward John Lewis, Waitrose, Monsoon, Paperchase, VV Rouleaux, Cath Kidston, Emma Bridgewater, The Conran Shop, Ikea, Carluccio's, Mana Tree, etc, etc.) but I love this shop we found in Venice, especially as they have a plastic Fox Terrier dressed as a Gondelier in the window.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

My Twin

My family used to be seen as a bit odd. My adoptive father was a widower with three small children when he met my single-mother mother and they married and had a baby. I grew up with adoptive brother and sisters and a half sister in a town where there was only one child of a "broken home" in my entire school. It didn't make me feel bad; I valued our unusual set-up.

There were some disadvantages. I don't look like my siblings and that can be surprisingly difficult when trying to work out where you belong. The journey back to Ireland in the summers was always wonderful as the ferry from Holyhead was always filled with people who had the same dark hair, blue eyes and milky skin as I have and I'd spend weeks in a country full of people who think the same way I do.

A few years ago, just south of Dublin, I had the interesting experience of being in a pub waiting for a funeral to start next door (in a church, not a pub, don't be thinking this is some tale of Paddywhackery) and seeing a group of women walk in who looked so like me it was uncanny. I heaved a sigh of relief and homecoming and turned to my Mammy to comment on it when I realised my cousin Paddy was with them and these were his sisters who I've never really known very well as they were always away when we visited. After years of looking nothing like my family (except the aforementioned Mammy, talk about "Send in the Clones")this was an amazing feeling and despite the sad occasion it was a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by my "kin".

"This is all very well," I hear you say, "but where is the promised twin?" Hold your horses, I'm getting there...

During those trips to Ireland we would often stop and visit my Mammy's cousin and family and I would be expected to pal around with my second cousin J and her younger brother B- who is tragically no longer with us. CousinJ is a year older than me and I was hopelessly intimidated by her and her big city glamour but we met as adults after nearly twenty years and there was an instant recognition. After we'd admitted our mutual intimidation (she thought I was the sophisticated English girl) we realised we looked alike and thought alike, and forged a relationship much closer than you'd expect from girls with a relationship no closer than a shared great-grandparent.

She lives in England now though we don't see each other as often as we'd like thanks to my precarious financial situation. I can talk to her about things I can't share with my sisters and she understands me instantly. She makes me laugh and provided my favourite quote for the Overheard Exhibition. She understands my issues with food and I was delighted to be able to steer her away from Lighter Life and toward Beyond Chocolate. She and her husband are a dreadful influence on me at family parties and it's their fault that I've now made two speeches whilst a little drunk. Take away the difference in our accents and you'd have difficulty telling us apart when we speak, save she says "Grand" and I say "Fantastic". I have no hesitation in saying that I love her dearly and plan to retire to her spare room from whence I will emerge to join her in a double-act that leaves her husband breathless and laughing that,
"You two are so alike".

We are, and I love it!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Beyond Chocolate- After

Things I have realised since "doing" Beyond Chocolate.

1. Food is not a substitute for sleep, an extra jumper, asthma drugs, company, approval, love or anything else. If I tune in to what I really need I sometimes find it is food but just as often I need a nap, or a blanket or to just get myself out of the house for a while, not to distract myself from hunger (that's diet talk my friend) but because that's what I really need.

2. When I can't stop thinking about a food there's no point in eating other things as substitutes; a low-fat chocolate drink is not a substitute for a piece of chocolate melting in your mouth and will not satisfy me. And I won't stop at the drink, I'll keep eating and drinking because I'm not satisfied. I want the chocolate, or cheese, or pasta, or mango, or big plate of vegetables. Oh, and the diet club leader who advised me to have a chocolate bubble-bath when I fancied chocolate was deluded.

Which brings me to...

3. Diet Club leaders do not know my body. The leader who told me that "steroids do not make you put weight on, eating makes you put weight on" has obviously never coped with prednisolone side-effects; the leader who told me to "feed a cold" hadn't understood the proverbs; the leader who boasted she'd lost weight whilst on an all-inclusive holiday but failed to mention the dysentery, who asked if we'd rather have "sod-it" night or another pound off a month was, quite frankly, dealing with an eating disorder. I will not apologise for using butter instead of low-cal spread and for eating a Mars Bar after a massive asthma attack.

4. My ex's issues with sex are nothing to do with me. When he told me I was,
"Too fat to fancy" (or worse) he was trying to hide any number of problems that he has and behaviours of which he is ashamed. Nothing, certainly not my weight, excuses the way he treated me. I will not allow him to blame me.

5. I do not have to finish every bit of food on my plate. Finishing every bite will not benefit the starving of China; it will not shorten the years of rationing this country went through; it will not make my dad love me more.

6. I did not fail at diets, diets failed me. The entire diet industry is not designed to benefit womankind; it's designed to make money. I am no longer prepared to be part of it.

7. Comparing myself to my sisters or other slim women is ridiculous. I am an attractive, sexy woman. Yes, I would like to be slimmer but I do not need to wait until I am slimmer to have nice clothes and to value my looks.

8. I need to value myself more.
I need to look after my body; I need to feed it wholesome, tasty, satisfying food (and some fun junk!), rest it, move it and tend to it with the right asthma and eczema drugs.
I need to remember that there are people who love me and value me for my many qualities and that the ways I was treated by the ex, his friends and his family should not, and will not, overwhelm that.

9. Sorting out my relationship with food has been far more valuable and lasting than all those times I lost all that weight.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Beyond Chocolate

Some of you will already know about Beyond Chocolate and Intuitive Eating whilst some of you will be wondering what I'm going on about. Beyond Chocolate is not a diet, though many women do lose weight when they follow the principles. I do not believe in dieting. I know that it does work for some people, OriginalBestFriend lost weight with Weightwatchers and never put it back on and I really hope The Girl's sojourn with them will continue to be successful. If you must diet WW seems the most supportive, sensible and sustainable, but for the majority of women dieting does not work because it doesn't address the underlying issues that cause the overeating in the first place, because the moment we come off the diet we pile the weight back on, and because restricting what we eat just leads us to obsess about food.

In January 2008 I went on a Beyond Chocolate one day workshop in London and my life changed.

I started to examine my reasons for eating; I started to look at my behaviour when dieting and when eating "normally", I started to mend my broken relationship with food. I don't claim to have all the answers and BC is an ongoing process but it has stopped me turning to food for comfort and helped me to cope during the stresses of the last few years. I'll write more about life "After" on another occasion and will let Sophie and Audrey Boss speak for themselves.

Beyond Chocolate Website

Tune in

The starting point for a healthy relationship with food. Learn to listen to your body – it will tell you plenty about what it needs right now, both physically and emotionally. Tune in to find out how hungry you are, tune in to know how much is enough. The more we tune in, the easier it becomes to identify situations that trigger us to overeat and tempt us into the dieting mentality.

Eat when you’re hungry

The best way to avoid gaining weight is to eat when you are physically hungry. But how do you know when you are hungry? We have become so out of touch with our bodies that many of no longer know how to read the cues. Learning how to do this and finding out how to overcome the practical obstacles that stand in the way of eating when we are hungry is a fundamental part of Beyond Chocolate.

Eat whatever you want

The diet mentality has taught us that some foods are good and some are bad, often depending on how ‘fattening’ they are. But what is truly fattening is to deprive yourself of the food you really want. Repeated studies show us that deprivation leads to craving and craving leads to bingeing. Beyond Chocolate will show you how to bring banished foods back into your life. Worried about a healthy diet? Think about it this way – yo-yoing between deprivation and overindulgence has been proven to be more harmful than being overweight! By knowing that EVERYTHING is allowed, you offer yourself a real chance to choose healthy foods if you want to, without feeling deprived!

Put it on a plate, sit down and focus

Ever sat in front of the TV and munched through a packet (or two!) of crisps without even noticing? Grabbed lunch and barely registered what you’ve eaten? It’s so easy to eat and eat and eat with repeated trips to the fridge or sitting at the computer in the office. If you eat on the go or while doing a thousand other things, you miss the experience and the signals that let you know when you’ve had enough – making you more likely to eat more! When you sit down, put food on a plate and focus, you acknowledge to yourself that you are eating and if eating is THE activity, you are much less likely to binge, graze, nibble, pick… We all deserve time to satisfy our hunger and Beyond Chocolate will help you explore how to make it work for you.


Food can be a delicious, nurturing, sensual experience. Why deprive ourselves of this pleasure? Make each meal a feast and bring back the pleasure of eating!

Stop when you're satisfied

If you are hungry to start with, your body will let you know just how much is enough and knowing when to stop is a central piece of the puzzle in learning how to stop overeating and losing excess weight. Unlike the dieting world, notice we say satisfied, not full - Beyond Chocolate will give you strategies to understand the vital difference between these two.

Own your body

If we truly want a healthy relationship with food, then we also need to develop a healthy relationship with our bodies. Motivation for change does not come from daily reminders that we are unattractive and unlovable. By criticizing and judging our bodies we crush our self esteem, which often leads to more eating. We can learn to feel good about ourselves and our bodies even when we think they are far from perfect. Discover how to start connecting with the body you have NOW - the best way to ensure that you get the body you want in the future.


With its reminders of plans, regimes and dieting schemes, the word ‘exercise’ has become far too loaded! Instead we think of it as movement – essential for health and well being, rather than a means to weight loss and toning. This disassociation is key – if we can see beyond the aim of losing weight and toning muscle, we can find ways of looking after our health and maintaining an appropriate level of fitness that is not only good for us but also satisfying. Beyond Chocolate will help you get a flush on your cheeks and a smile on your face!

Support yourself

As women, we often become so good at supporting everyone around us that we forget that we too need support. Under pressure, overwhelmed and over-stimulated at home and at work, we expect ourselves to be superwomen and everyone else does too! For many women, this translates into an unhealthy relationship with food - the only way we know to give ourselves a break or a pat on the back is to eat something nice. Support works in different ways for different people and Beyond Chocolate will show you how to find the ways that work for you. As a community, Beyond Chocolate offers you support yourself with a thriving members’ Forum, local support groups, personalised email contact, telephone seminars and much more…

Be your own Guru

For so long the dieticians, nutritionists, diet books, celebrities and doctors have proclaimed themselves our ‘experts’ and ‘gurus’. They’ve told us what, when and how much we should eat and, in turn, we tell ourselves that others must have all the answers. In fact the truth is that we know best - we are the only ones who have the answers to these questions. Beyond Chocolate will help you to ask the right questions so that you come up with answers that are tailored to you.

Whether you come to a Beyond Chocolate Experience, BiteSize sessions or follow the course online, our Chocolate Fairies will show you, step by step, how to put these principles into action and transform your relationship with food and your body without ever having to diet again!

Start now! Fit them into your life in any way that works for you. Apply any one of them and start making positive changes to your approach to weight loss.

You can read the reviews and buy their book on Amazon here

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Beyond Chocolate- Before.

I spent 23 years dieting or being ashamed that I wasn't on a diet. I tried Weightwatchers, The Cambridge, SlimFast, The Hays Diet, Slimming World, Paul McKenna and any number of strange ideas of my own creation(eat a melon before every meal so I'd already be full, make a giant saucepan of low-calorie soup and eat it for days).

I lost loads of weight over the years and put it back on the moment I stopped dieting. My brush with anorexia in my early twenties left me two stone lighter and resulted in compliments from most people and the comment from a family member that I couldn't have been anorexic as,
"Thin people have anorexia"
the clear implication being that I was too much of a bloater!

I paid massive amounts of money on meal substitutes and diet club fees and ended up fatter than I'd ever been and full of self-loathing. Any social occasion could be ruined by the realisation that I was the fattest person in the room. My relationship with my naturally slim sisters was strained as they couldn't understand why I had a problem.

Not even the idea of being a plus-sized bride could encourage me to lose weight (see the fat-bottomed bride above!). I failed at every diet going. I had no will-power. I would buy a packet of five "Yumyums" (a delicious straight, doughnut-style pastry) and eat them all without really noticing; I would eat everything on my plate even if it meant I felt stuffed and ill and wishing I hadn't eaten at all; I would make enough of a pasta dish to last me a few days and then eat it all over one evening; I would go for breakfast with a friend and order the largest meal on the menu, then spend the rest of the day moaning in discomfort.

I thought I was greedy; I thought I loved to eat; I thought bigger was better; I thought I had an enormous appetite. I thought about food from the moment I woke til the moment I slept. I spent all my time planning what I'd eat next; wondering when it could next be acceptable for me to eat. I would eat a lunch before meeting a friend for lunch. I started to be called jolly to have conversations with much slimmer people where they moaned about their weight and when I pointed out how much fatter I was they would say,
"Yes, but you don't mind"

I started to hate myself. When my fiance stopped wanting to have sex with me I decided I didn't blame him, and ate more.

And then it all changed.
MrsB saw an item online about Beyond Chocolate. She was intrigued and decided to go on a one day workshop in London, she also decided I should go with her and advanced me the money to pay for it.

I will never stop thanking her for that.

Country versus City

I grew up in a small town in The Oxfordshire Cotswolds and would love to live in a market town again some day. Friends who've lived in cities all their lives can't understand why I would want to live in the country again. Would I miss the facilities, the bustle, the nightlife? How little they understand...
This is "The Noticeboard", my hometown's information hub.

How could anyone be bored?


I had all sorts of plans yesterday. I was going to get an off-cut of carpet to use as a rug to cover the coffee stains in the living room (the ex was known to pour his coffee on the floor if I hadn't put enough sugar in it); I was going to get an ironing board from the local charity shop so I can do my patchwork; I was going to buy bones from the butcher to make stock for soup, I was going to go brambling with MrsB and get blackberries for pies and sloes for sloe gin and vodka for Christmas presents

The reality of my day was somewhat different.

I got off the bus opposite MrsB's house and saw enough of a break in the traffic that I could cross provided I was quick. On step from the far side I felt what can only be described as a Twang as if my calf muscle was a giant rubber band that had broken. I made the pavement but, oh lord, the pain was excrutiating and my language was appalling. I made it the ten yards to her house thinking I was going to throw-up and lay on the floor hoping it would ease. It didn't.

After an hour or so I gave in and the lovely BermudaGirl came to collect me in her car. I spent the afternoon on the sofa with a pack of frozen spinach on my leg.

I'm a lot better today, especially since I've discovered that I feel much better wearing high heels as the muscle is held in a different position. I can walk and stand but I have to be very careful not to jar it or twist it as that results in searing pain and very bad language! The spinach didn't go to waste as once it defrosted I used it to make a pasta sauce.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Getting Organised.

In my professional life I can be extremely well organised. When I had my own class and classroom I used to set up all the resources for all the groups in all the lessons in individual baskets so that I could just hand over a basket and the children would have everything (right down to pencils)that they needed. At home things have never been the same. I dream of organisation; I dream of a Martha Stewart style life where I have everything I need and know just where to find it.

My friend MrsB shares my dreams for her own life and has recently invested in a lot of Really Useful Boxes. This is only a fraction of them.

I couldn't do this as I don't have a garage to keep them in but, inspired by life with The Girl I am trying to organise my life more effectively.

At present I am trying two main techniques:

1. Put like things together.
All makeup in the drawer by the mirror, all light bulbs and batteries and candles in the sideboard, all scarves hanging from the mirror, all spare bedding (in sets) in vacuum bags in the wardrobe.

2. Get rid of duplicates.
I noticed my parents have three knife sharpeners; a (very) old one that must have been my grandmother's, one from the 80's and a new swanky one. Now I'm not suggesting the get rid of the old one- it has too many memories attached to it- but why have they kept one that is inefficient, ugly and of no emotional value? Get rid of it!

I'm off now to sort a few more things in my bedroom but will return to this subject. In the meantime I will leave you with a cautionary tale...

There was once a woman who could never remember where she'd put her tweezers as she didn't have a proper place to put them. Often she would have to take her pennies to the shop and buy a new set. One day a good fairy came to live with her and helped her to get organised so she started to collect them all into one place.

She probably hasn't finished yet...

Friday, 27 August 2010


One of my lovely Stitchettes is teaching me how to do Machine-Sewed Patchwork and I'm using some Madras cotton we used as napkins when we were children.
When I've mastered the technique I'd like to make a bedspread and I've been looking for suitable fabrics.
Ikea have some lovely retro-style designs that I'd love to get so I'm more than a little frustrated at not being able to drive!

They're from the Fredirika range and are 3.99 each. You can see them here.

Christmas Comes Early!

That title is accurate in more than one sense...
I noticed yesterday that my local Oxfam already has the Christmas cards on sale. That's the earliest I've ever seen as most places usually wait til the schools go back at the very least. In this case though, Christmas has come early because I've had my first present.

My lovely HullBestFriend manages a charity shop, not your normal charity shop though, it's a furniture shop the size of a small warehouse that makes a massive amount of money for the incredible local charity it supports. I've always volunteered for her though I'm down from the days when I used to do six days a week to just the occasional shift when she's short-staffed. Inevitably I find something I want to buy and have furnished my home twice over. I used to love 1930's furniture and loved shabby chic but subsequently developed a taste for cleaner lines and now I have a house filled with mid-century modern and 1960's/1970's pieces. I have a beautiful Ercol dining table and chairs that are my pride and joy and she knows to ring me the moment an Ercol suite or Studio Day Bed comes in (I pay the going rate, though my volunteer status does allow me free delivery).

On Wednesday I got a call asking me if I'd be at home for a delivery this morning; she had something she was sending to me as an early Christmas present (late August not being a time of plenty for Supply Teachers...). I was very excited but for once in my life resisted the temptation to spoil the surprise (I still search my parents house for my presents)and decided to wait and see. I knew it was unlikely she'd be sending me a sofa without a warning me to clear the space so was imagining a coffee table or a work box. I GOT BOTH!!

Look, look! Perfect 60's style! Perfect as a blogging table- my lap-top is on it as I write! Perfect for tidying my stitching away at the end of the evening so I don't give The Girl a nervous breakdown with my messiness! Perfect! Perfect! Perfect! I'm so lucky.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Ruby Wedding

So, as you know, it was my parents' Ruby Wedding Anniversary and they had a party. As my Mum kept telling everyone the flowers for the evening cost more than the entire wedding forty years ago. It was held at the village hall at a neighbouring village where we held the receptions for two of my sisters' weddings. We had the same caterers as we'd had at my wedding which was great as I got to eat the canapes without anyone wanting to photograph me. The dinner was ham, potatoes (absolutely delicious Jersey Royals), coleslaw and other salads which made my cousin and I laugh as there hasn't been an Irish celebration since the dawn of time that hasn't involved a ham.

I drank far too much red wine and had a great time talking to the aforementioned cousin (of whom, more later) I also had to have the same conversation with all the family friends who haven't seen me since my wedding. It goes something like this...

Friend- "How are you?" with head cocked to one side and a concerned tone, emphasis on the word "you" and a squeeze of the arm.
Me- "I'm really well." Bright smile, slowly nodding head.

After dinner there were speeches, a friend who'd been at the wedding, then my dad, then my younger sister who was the only one of my siblings not at the original wedding. Unfortunately Younger Sister broke down and it all got a bit mawkish so I said a few quick words. All I can say is Thank God for Supply Teaching as I had nothing prepared and had to make it up as I went along. We finished by my brother (the family entertainer and clown) singing us a Spanish Gypsy song (he lives in Andalusia) and making everyone laugh.

Then a fabulous jazz trio played songs like Pennies From Heaven and we danced and drank and laughed. It was lovely. My hangover was not...

The Walnut Tree.

One of my early memories is the day the man came to chop down our walnut tree. I was three or four and I remember standing on the back doorstep with my fingers in my ears to block out the sound of the chain saw and watching it fall.

In the following weeks we played in the felled branches, climbing on them (trying to avoid the rotten ones that had necessitated its removal) and throwing sheets over them to make tents and dens. The branches were removed and burned on the sitting room fire that winter and we were left with a tree stump in the middle of the lawn like something from a fairy story.

And then a funny thing happened. The stump started to sprout new branches and a mini tree appeared. They were so near the ground that they provided living green caves to hide in and play in. By the time I was a teenager there was one that was such a perfect hideaway that I spent most of a summer under there reading and listening to Radio 1.

When my nephews came along the branches were big enough to climb and they gave the different perches names. The Armchair, The Motorbike. Now they're teaching their younger sister where to find the footholds and my youngest niece is waiting for the day she'll be big enough to climb up.

On Sunday night I hung jam jars full of votive candles from the branches and we ate beneath it. When the heavens opened the broad leaves protected us from the rain for a long time though I will admit that after the first inch of rain (seriously there were two inches that night) we were wet through to the skin and decided to retreat to the kitchen.

This year we seem to have a bumper crop of walnuts but it will probably be the last one for some time as the tree has now got so big that it's blocking light from a large part of the garden and it's time for some of the larger branches to come down. It feels like we're embarking on another episode, part of the cycle of growth, of birth and death.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Savoury Pancakes

Sometimes you want to eat something delicious and comforting and quick. That's where this recipe comes in. It's not the best diet food but it's all good wholesome ingredients.

1. 200g self raising flour
2. 2 free-range eggs
3. 1/2 pint of milk (I used semi-skimmed)
4. 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
5. 70g rocket or watercress (or however much is in the bunch or bag that you buy)
6. 75g of grated strong cheese (more if you are looking for a cheesy hit, up to 100g will work)
Salt and Pepper to taste.

Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the baking powder. Add the milk and eggs and beat until smooth with no lumps at all. Add the cheese, the chopped leaves, a generous few twists of freshly-ground pepper and a pinch of sea salt and mix. Put a ladleful at a time onto a griddle or greased frying pan and cook on a moderate to high heat for until golden brown on each side and cooked through. Eat as they are or spread with a little tomato relish or home-made chutney.

Serves two if you are ravenous or three or four as a light lunch or snack.

If you're making it just for yourself, as I was, you can put the leftover mixture into the fridge in a covered bowl and cook it the next day. It will be just as good the second day (maybe even better).

This recipe can be made with any vegetables you have in the house. It's good with grated courgette, grated carrots, finely chopped spring onions or cooked spinach. I'd like to try it with beetroot too!

Ruby Wedding Present.

I wanted to stitch something special for my parents' Ruby Wedding but didn't want anything sloppy or cute; they're not the kind of people who'd appreciate Me to You Bears or the like. They've lived in the same small Cotswold town for their entire married life and the whole family is obsessed by maps so I've created an embroidered map for them. I completely forgot to take a picture of the finished product but don't worry I've got someone on to it and will post it when it arrives.

I gave them the present on Saturday and it went down really well. Everyone was interested and complimentary and one friend has asked me to create one for her. She wants a map of Amalfi to give to her husband as they honeymooned there ten years ago.

I'm back!

I've been away, did you miss me?
I missed you. I thought of loads of things I wanted to tell you but I've forgotten most of them. However I will be blogging today and catching you all up with the week I spent in the beautiful Oxfordshire Cotswolds. Now if I could only get this stupid computer to work a bit more efficiently...

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Dresses again...

I usually ignore Facebook ads (no I don't want to whiten my teeth thankyouverymuch and I'm not interested in a miracle weight -loss tea or berry)but their funny little computer elves pointed me in the direction of American plus-size fashion brand Igigi. Not only are the dresses actually designed especially fot bigger women but they're modelled by big, beautiful women so you can actually see what the dresses would look like on you if you are a larger lady.
I wish I'd discovered this site a few weeks ago as my wardrobe dilemmas would have been reduced massively. I'd look brilliant in this dress!

It's $142, which is a little more than I usually spend but good value for a dress that fits and some of the dresses are in the sale with fantastic reductions.

This one is only $63.50 which is just over £40 and there's another 30% off at the checkout. Shipping to the UK is $35 and you may well have to pay a customs charge on top of that but you could substantially reduce this if you have friends or family in The States who would send this on to you. I'll be suggesting to my California-based sister that she might like to find me a Christmas present on this site!

Friday, 13 August 2010

High on a Hull Lived a Lonely Goatherd...

Whilst searching the t'intenet for dresses (will I never learn?) I happened upon this...
Now I love "The Sound of Music" as much as the next girl, or indeed as much as the next gay husband, but I draw the line at dressing like Maria. Should you need an outfit for "Singalonga Sound of Music" you can buy it at Tesco here but I'd honestly rather make clothes from my curtains.

My Babies

I suspect it is too late for me and I am a full-on mad cat lady.

Spot the difference...

Look at that dress...
Look at the way the skirt flares out from the waist. It's the ideal shape for me. I have a proper waist but a big stomach so a flared skirt works well on me.
Look at the proportions. It's long enough for the hem to brush the calves. Classic late 40s retro style. I'm five foot nine so that's perfect for me.

Look at this dress, see how the skirt flares out from a nipped-in waist? See how the length is totally in proportion to the rest of it? No? That's because they've sized up the bodice without increasing the length of the skirt. They've widened the waist without widening the hem. It hasn't occurred to them that big girls can be tall too. THIS IS NOT THE DRESS I WANT. I AM NOT HAPPY.

Brambling- or not.

Mrs B and I were meant to be brambling yesterday but just before we went there was a downpour. We didn't fancy getting drenched by water coming off branches and bramble cables every time we went to pick a berry so we went into Cottingham instead. We went to a new shop, which I'll post about when I can remember its name, and for an iced coffee at Blondes.
I will be going brambling today but I'm going to stick closer to home. The path that leads from my garden to the gate in the middle of the terrace has blackberries growing alongside it and I am the only one of my neighbours showing any interest. I picked some at the weekend and made a pie. Now, I haven't made pastry for about twenty years, ever since I discovered Jus-roll ready rolled. I don't mind making pasty but I'm not so good at rolling it out so I stopped making my own. However, my local mini-market only had puff-pastry and you have to make a fruit pie with shortcrust. If you're interested I used 3 oz of butter, 6 oz plain flour and a tablespoon of sugar. I was a big success. Beautifully short, crisp pasty and a juicy, sweet yet tart filling. I may have started a myself on a whole new craze for baking!

I was inspired by July's issue of Martha Stewart to decorate with stars. She used them to celebrate July 4th, I just think they're pretty.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Total Wardrobe Freakout!

So parents are having a big Ruby Wedding Party next week. They're basically having the wedding reception they didn't have back in 1970 as they already had four children under ten between them when they met and the whole wedding industry was in its infancy back then. Dad was a widower and Mammy an "unwed mother" (gasp!) and they found each other and lived happily ever after or at least as much as you can in the real world. All five of their children (they had one together 18 months after the wedding) will be there including the brother who is flying in from Andulusia and the sister who is flying in from California. I'm hugely excited not least by the fact that they're having the same caterers we had for my wedding and I'll get to really enjoy the canapes without having to pose for photos the whole time.

I don't know what to wear. I have body image issues at the best of times (English size 18-22) and find formal wear stressful but when in the company of my sisters the situation reaches crisis point. My sisters are slim. And beautiful. My youngest sister was briefly a model. She's six-foot, a size 8 and has that enviable ability to look effortlessly elegant, poised and gorgeous. Next to her I look, dumpy and scruffy and slightly chaotic.

I went into Monsoon yesterday and tried on some dresses. Oh my good lord...sack of potatoes anyone?

Then my lovely friend BermudaGirl lent me her party dress

It's beautiful and I got myself a shrug in the Monsoon sale so I won't have to show my hated upper-arms (and the tattoo my dad still doesn't know about,and a BARGAIN pair of bronze shoes from ebay (£3.98 including postage) and then I tried it on. I can't get the flippin' zip to do up. I'm hope, hope, hoping it's just I'm at the wrong angle and someone else will be able to do it for me and will be taking it to MrsB's with me later.

But, just in case, I've also ordered a dress from ebay...

It's plain but will look great with some retro accessories(polka-dot shoes, a red-velvet rose in my hair, scarlet lipstick) and I love the full skirt.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

A Letter to my Enemy

Dear Cancer,
Well that seems wrong doesn’t it? Saying “dear” to a group of cells, a group of cells that are growing uncontrollably and attacking the person who carries them, a person I love, but how else do you start a letter? I was raised to be polite and well-mannered, to treat all with respect and consideration; the person you’re attacking taught me that. So, even though I want to scream at you to leave him; even though I want to wail and pull at my hair with anguish; even though I want to cry to the gods to spare him I am acting in a way that he would understand and of which he would approve. I am being civilised, I am keeping calm and carrying on.

I’m not saying I haven’t cried; when I first took the phone call that broke the illusion of parental immortality and invulnerability I cried stormily (if quietly) for a few minutes whilst a friend looked on helplessly but then I wiped my eyes, blew my nose and got on with life. This is meant to be the time that you tell your loved-ones all they mean to you; relationships are meant to be thrown into relief and the unsaid is meant to be expressed but that is not who we are. We are a very English family.

Now, it may seem strange to say we are very English when you know that my mother and I are Irish but we are outnumbered and our Celtic passion and stormy emotions have always been strange to the rest of my blended family. They do not do emotion. They laugh a lot but they do not cry in public. They share jokes, meals, stories, bottles of wine but they do not share feelings. So, when I consider telling my dad how much he means to me, how grateful and proud I am he adopted me, how his love and care has shaped me, how I want to make him proud of me, I hesitate. I know that I would only embarrass him if I tried to express my love.

And so cancer, I ask you to go; respond to the chemotherapy and the radiation and leave him. Let him live for more years and let me go on showing my love in ways he finds comfortable. Let me buy him another pint or two in our local; let me share a train journey with him; let me listen to Bob Dylan with him (even though that nasal drone grates on me); most of all let me make him proud by making a success of my life.

Yours Sincerely,

Sunday, 8 August 2010

I love gardening!

Some of our neighbours have an allotment and have started to put out an honesty box with surplus produce. So far we've had two large courgettes/small marrows and a bag of french beans. I love going past and seeing what they've put out and I'm really looking forward to tomato season. However, lovely as it is to have someone's produce to eat, eating your own is far more rewarding.
Last night we ate potatoes I'd grown myself! I planted a few left over, sprouting potatoes from my veg rack into a a council recycling box (the box scheme was replaced by a bin scheme and we were encouraged to recycle the boxes so I've turned mine into a container garden) and they've done well. As a full-blooded Irish girl I was inordinately proud of my ability to grow spuds and I turned them into a salad with my neighbours' beans. I'll definitely try growing them again next year as they were delicious and the plants looked lovely growing in the garden, especially compared to the bloody salad...

I hate gardening!

I don't really, I love it but it's so frustrating. I've just been outside with a squeezy bottle of soapy water washing my cabbages. Washing my cabbages you ask? Yes, washing the eggs, caterpillars, flies and mites off the poor, holey leaves. As you know the salad project was a disaster so much so that The Girl labelled the above photos "Salad Apocalypse" and looking at the bed is one of those "if I don't laugh, I'll cry" situations. Not only have I ended up with nothing to eat but it looks so damn ugly. I remember once complaining of my battles garden beasties to my dad who spent so many hours in the garden growing most of the fruit and vegetables we ate as children. He told me that gardening was a constant battle with nature and of course he was right. Our gardens are not natural, we strive to create an artificial environment that is what we consider to be useful or beautiful. The trick is to do it in as natural way as possible, hence the soapy water rather than a chemical pesticide.