Some bits and some pieces

I’m just not in the mood for book-writing this afternoon. I’m working on the epilogue which I hadn’t planned to write but there are a few loose ends and I need to think about some possible scenarios. I find that ideas are more likely to come whilst I’m doing other things (or when I’m dropping off to sleep) than if I try to consciously work it out so having worked for quite a while on it yesterday, I’m taking today off.

Today’s post is again about my long weekend. I met my daughter-in-law and the two youngest grandsons at a garden and aquatics centre on Thursday afternoon. As usual, I didn’t think to take photographs. I must get into the habit of doing so. The fish and turtles held the boys’ attention for ages and then we went to the coffee shop. Garden centres do seem to have nice coffee shops nowadays. I’ve always liked to look at tropical fish (some are so incredibly pretty) but wouldn’t have the patience to look after them myself. The pot of hyacinth bulbs gifted to me by d.i.l is more to my liking! They smell divine.

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On Friday morning following the usual visit to the gym, I met up with a friend for lunch at the Victoria Plum cafe which opened close to my grandchildren’s schools a few months ago.  I’d always thought what a good idea it would be to open a cafe exactly where it’s opened! There are more than 1300 children on site at the two schools – that’s a lot of parents collecting them so something of a captive audience at certain times of the day. Victoria who runs the cafe has made it really inviting with comfy sofas and coffee table (complete with books about the town and surrounding villages) as well as traditional tables and chairs. She offers children’s tea parties and afternoon teas as well as breakfasts and light lunches. My friend and I chose the feta salad and it was very good indeed.

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Yesterday I received the sad news that a friend’s husband had died suddenly and unexpectedly the day before so I called to see her this morning bearing flowers and a card. It’s always hard to know whether to visit or keep ones distance and not ‘intrude’. I think that there is no right answer as people deal with such situations individually and want different things. It seemed that this time a short visit was the right thing to have done.

Elder son, d.i.l and all three grandsons then arrived (with beautiful tulips) for brunch – bacon & mushroom rolls with a few cocktail sausages for the small boys. I don’t cook a roast lunch every Sunday. The eldest grandson (11) has just returned from a school skiing trip. The middle one (2.5) informed me that his big brother had ‘gone skating’ and the baby (16m) has just started saying nanny. I’ll be seeing the granddaughters tomorrow when I go to take the eldest one’s birthday present. She’s 13 going on 18.

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I’m looking forward to watching Call the midwife this evening.  Earlier in the week we watched the three part Trauma with John Simm. I can guarantee that I’ll enjoy whatever he’s in. I first saw him in the series The Lake which was set in the beautiful Lake District, then later in Life on Mars.  In the drama Exile he co-starred with the wonderful Jim Broadbent (another favourite actor) and Olivia Coleman. Last night we watched him in the first part of Collateral , also very enjoyable. The second part will be on tomorrow so looking forward to that too.

Tomorrow morning will see me at the gym again and then off to work for a few hours. In case you’re wondering where my poor neglected husband fits into all this, don’t worry – he got a bacon roll too!  Actually he hasn’t been too well for a few days. Not exactly ill but ‘out of sorts’. I wonder if that is an expression that readers in other countries are familiar with.  He has no energy,  an on/off sore throat and swollen glands in his neck. I have diagnosed a virus! He’s probably glad that I’ve been out of the way.

More daffodils to keep me remembering that spring is on the way. I’m keeping this jug permanently filled with them.

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A day out in Kirkby Lonsdale

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The small town of Kirkby Lonsdale lies at the southern end of Cumbria between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales.  Quite by chance a few years ago we discovered that the stunning view of the River Lune that we encountered after walking through the pretty churchyard of St Mary’s Church church, was in fact a rather famous one. The panoramic view, described by John Ruskin (1819-1900), social reformer, artist and poet, as “one of the loveliest views in England, therefore in the world”, was captured in a JMW Turner painting (Ruskin’s View) which sold for more than £200,000 in 2012.

A grade 1 listed building, the predominantly Norman church sits in a pretty churchyard that was once a wildflower meadow which attracts butterflies in their dozens. . The remnants of this can be seen in over seventy species of flowers. I can’t claim to have seen them all but have identified among many others ,harebells, ox-eye dasies and cranesbill. The grounds provide a haven for wildlife and are known to play host to many small creatures like voles and shrews. On our visits we’ve seen kesterels, redwings and dunnocks as well as the more common robins, goldfinch and wrens.

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Mentioned in The Doomsday Book, Kirkby Lonsdale is the prettiest of towns, boasting many buildings which date back to the 17th and 18th centuries and there is evidence of ancient settlements of Romans, Anglo Saxons, Normans and Danes.

 

 

The town was chosen in 2014 by the BBC to film their serial Jamaica Inn. The decision  attracted a lot of criticism; many considered it wrong to use a location so far away, but Kirkby Lonsdale’s market square was thought to more accurately portray Cornwall’s 1820s Launceston than the modern day Launceston does.

This is a place we return to from time to time, not because there is anything new to see (though there are some wonderful independent shops selling beautiful clothes and some very nice chocolate), or because there are ‘things to do’, but simply because its narrow streets and sense of history offers such calm and peace to blow away the cobwebs.

Weekend arrangements

It’s been an unremarkable weekend but filled with family, friends and food it’s been a good one. The photograph below has nothing to do with this post but I love the delicate snowdrops and wanted to post a picture before they are over. There are several clumps scattered over the rockery.

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Friday morning – 9.30am: the gym. I love going to the gym, but hasten to add that this is because I meet up with friends rather than because of the exercise!  The circuit takes 30 minutes and then it’s off to the coffee room for an hour and a half. As you can see, we have our priorities right!

Later husband and I met up with our friends K & M who we see about once a month for lunch. Our usual haunt is a local pub that does a great range of food and is hugely popular so I’d booked a table. The menu changes a couple of times a year and since the latest change I have chosen the same dish every time…Posh fish & chips. It’s actually lemon sole and it tastes absolutely wonderful.  As we pass our friends’ house on the way to the pub we always pick them up and then return to theirs for coffee after our meal. It’s an arrangement that works well and the word ‘arrangement’ has become a euphemism for the chocolates that always accompany coffee. It came about when I texted K one day whilst he was in town. He replied that he was just sorting out the arrangements for that afternoon. It’s one of those silly little exchanges that mean nothing to anyone other than those involved. But isn’t that exactly how it is with good friends?

Later in the afternoon husband and I popped to Iceland as I wanted some ice cream for Sunday (granddaughters coming for lunch). Its located on a small retail park (about half a dozen shops) not far from home and it’s so much quicker to nip in there than go to the supermarket. I rarely went in there for years but have done a few times since our local branch was revamped late last year. It’s an altogether nicer experience now.

Saturday had been designated a writing day but I’d fallen badly behind with the ironing. My rule of ‘just five things’ (an attempt to fool myself into thinking that it’s barely an onerous task) had fallen so far from the wayside that it was over an hour before I sat at the computer. Even then, it wasn’t a very productive day. The last few thousand words of the novel are proving the most difficult by far.  I felt very frustrated as I typed and deleted over and over but the day brightened when my daughter popped in. She was over from Shropshire to take my eldest granddaughter shopping for a birthday treat. At thirteen she has very definite ideas about what she likes!

Younger son and family, including the soon-to-be-birthday girl, came for lunch today.    Don’t you find it unusual for a child  to say that one of their favourite vegetables is the sprout! We had a Christmas gift left-over of Harrod’s  Christmas pudding and brandy butter so that was used to provide one of the desserts. Since Husband and Daughter-in-Law are the only two who like either item, they were well catered for.  It was pronounced ‘very good’.

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I’d made a fruit and nut cake (walnuts, hazelnuts,almonds, dates, sultanas and raisins) and some chocolate cookies. The latter were not terribly successful as they were slightly overdone and became a touch bitter, but husband doesn’t seem to mind them. Younger granddaughter, yet to learn the art of diplomacy, had a bite and said, “Yuck. It’s horrible.”

After lunch D.I.L. asked if she could look at some photos of when I was a young mum. I couldn’t believe that she’d never seen any, after all she’s been with my son for over fifteen years, but she was adamant. We spent a happy hour looking through the old albums. Funny that I only wrote about this very subject a couple of posts ago.

On Sunday evening I received a very heartening email.  A fellow blogger and friend who is a professional writer had offered to take a look at my book (ie manuscript yet to have a final edit) and to critique it. I had posted parts 1 & 2 (the third and final part will follow shortly) to her and was very touched that this lovely lady had taken the time to consider it in such detail. It was a detailed email with lots of fabulously constructive criticism that I can now consider. I lay awake last night re-working certain events in my head. Here are a few of the positive comments. You can imagine how very much I appreciate them:

To say I’ve enjoyed it is an understatement. I don’t wish to over-egg my praise, but I think what you have written is extremely good, and the more you wrote, the better your writing became.  

This is a very good story, and I just hope that some agent will see the quality of your writing.

It’s not often I stay awake at night reading something, but I did with this, and again this morning, I just had to finish it.  Surely that says it all?   

Comments like this from someone whose opinion I truly value makes the hard work worthwhile.

Eating for two

I use the phrase not in the usually accepted sense, but to remind myself that I no longer cook for a family. Too often I shop and cook as though we are more than two. A great achievement yesterday – I went to the shop for carrots and I bought ONLY carrots! I am the typical ‘go in for one thing and come out with half a dozen’ kind of shopper but I am really trying to rein this in.

January began with a lot of Christmas leftovers which can occasionally make for an odd dish, though not quite as odd as the one my friend J concocted when she was about to go off on holiday for five weeks… …Yorkshire pudding with prawns! She says it was surprisingly tasty but I won’t be trying it.

A few of the things we’ve been eating this month – lots of non-meat dishes included.

A baked frittata made from mushrooms, bacon and Stilton cheese. Simply put the ingredients in a dish, cover with three beaten eggs and bake until firm. We ate it with salad and it was  very good. Another frittata was made with potato, tomato, celery, ham and feta cheese. Again, very flavoursome.

A spinach and potato curry. Although this was made up from a combination of recipes, I'[ve been inspired by a great recipe website Potatoes – more than a bit on the side:   https://www.lovepotatoes.co.uk/

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It’s hard to make this kind of dish look really good. Why do my efforts (which taste absolutely fine) never look good in photographs? Here’s a similar one ready to cook. I added lots of onion this time and left out the peas.

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Potato & white onion soup with crispy bacon and basil. This was so delicious that I made it again a few days later.

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This stir fry topped with feta was lovely. red onion, red pepper, asparagus and courgette – lots of my favourite vegetables were used along with beansprouts and a few ripe tomatoes that needed using up.I used ginger and garlic with a few chilli flakes to give it a kick.

Bubble and squeak – it’s years since we ate it but served with some vegi sausages,  wholegrain mustard mash and some of the final batch of leeks from the garden, it was much enjoyed!

January cakes included coffee & walnut, apple & cherry and a lemon drizzle.  I also made a polenta and orange cake, trying to emulate one we ate in Madeira a couple of years ago. Mine was good but not as good as the Madeiran one. I think it’s to do with the oranges.

 

Precious memories

January ~ a month in review

The Blog: The bra post was the most popular I’ve written and attracted many more responses that usual. I decided to use it as the basis of a letter to the Daily Mail and the day after I sent it I received an email from them asking for a photograph of me wearing the dress I’d bought for my daughter’s wedding. Two days after that, and much to my poor daughter’s mortification, there we were, heading up the letters section. Whilst I’m glad they took the issue seriously enough to print, I was less happy at the many changes they made to my text.  There may be more to say on this subject soon. Watch this space! 

The book: Getting there. My self imposed deadline of being ready to submit by 30th April is looming. 76,000 words written with around 5,000 to go.

The gym: Although in theory I attend three times a week, the reality is that it’s more often twice. I’m trying to improve. January = 9 visits. I’ve also attended two Mobility sessions (for core strengthening) but it’s not enough. Note to self –Must do better.

Slimming World: Having lost 4lb in the first weigh-in after New year’s Day, I aimed to lose a further pound a week in January.   Actual losses by weigh-in on 29th January totalled six pounds. Now aiming for a further 9lb by the last weigh-in in March (8 weeks).

Weather: Cold and damp, cold and rainy or cold and snowy. Apart from a few sunny interludes January, as is so often the case, has been pretty horrible.  I keep buying daffodils to remind me that spring is on the way.

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Cramp update: When it’s bad, it’s very bad but fortunately hasn’t happened too often. Continuing with the four pronged attack – magnesium supplement, magnesium rich foods (e.g.bananas), Epsom salts baths (for the magnesium) and hot water bottles. There’s a heavy reliance here on magnesium so I really hope that is doing the trick!

New experience: Meeting the lovely Luca, my daughter’s rescue dog.  I’ll visit again soon. 

What I’ve been reading: Very little in fact. I’ve been concentrating on my writing, but I have just finished Robert Galbraith’s (JK Rowling) Career of Evil featuring private detective Cormoran Stike. Did you see the TV series Strike? I thought it excellent (as was the book). This book is the third in the series and she is promising at least six more. 

What I’ve been cooking: Decided to save this for  another day as there’s quite a lot to tell. 

What have been your January highlights? 

 

Time waits for no woman (2)

This is a re-posted post. It was written in the earliest days of my blog when I had very few readers (barely a dozen).  It’s something I feel very strongly about so I thought that now more of you are reading it would be nice to get a bit of feedback and hear what you think. 

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I looked in the mirror this morning, thought ‘oh dear’, took out my make-up bag and once again began the process necessary to face the day.  But why do I feel this necessity? There are cultures which celebrate ageing, that place value on the experience that an older face presents, but not this one. Faces  age –it’s a fact of life over which we have no control; it happens to us all and no matter how much we try to hold back the ravages, time will eventually win.  Nevertheless, in their advertising, skincare manufacturers persistently reinforce the western ideology that the process of skin ageing is socially unacceptable. They insidiously try to manipulate us, by using deceptive language and subliminal persuasion, into believing that the physical signs of getting older are shameful – somehow our own fault, and can be reversed by using their overpriced offerings.

Research has shown that despite being aware that media images of women are invariably air-brushed, we still considered those images as something to which we should aspire.  Celebrity endorsement is routinely applied to beauty product advertising and unrealistic images of older celebrities further embed the cultural notion that ageing is a deficiency rather than a natural occurrence.   Yesterday I picked up a selection of  women’s magazines at the gym. A quick look through them demonstrates all too clearly  just what big business this is. Skincare advertisements are designed to appeal to women’s emotions with the underlying message that allowing the signs of ageing to go unchecked equates to a lack of self-worth.

Take  Origins Plantscription; the advert goes so far as to state that skin ageing is ‘nasty’, and bestows upon those who recognise this, a specific term, anti-agers, implying that users are part of an elite camaraderie against the ‘enemy’. The name also suggests a powerful combination of science and nature in the misleadingly named product which has health improving connotations sounding similar to ‘prescription’ . The chosen image of a medicine dropper is presumably intended to lend weight to this.

Clinique attaches blame for ageing skin to women themselves by referring to her late nights and assorted indiscretions. Vichy takes a similar line citing the woman’s Busy lifestyle as the cause of her deteriorating appearance but promises that by using their product, ‘Your skin will forgive you.’   Several advertisers describe the benefits of their products as ‘clinically proven’ which is intended to promote confidence. However, none offer enlightenment as to by what process anything has been proven. ‘Scientists’ at No. 7 are mentioned, but only in a comment by an unidentified ‘Stylist’ and the company disassociates itself from the comment by including it in a testimony, rather than making it their own assertion, thus apparently absolving it of responsibility for the claim.

Organic ingredients and nature feature in the form of plants and plant oils – no less than twenty in Clarins Double Serum, though the company fails to mention which plants. Other products cite specific plants: harungana extract  and Montpellier rock-rose. Implicit in the mention of uncommon ingredients is the suggestion that their unusualness makes them somehow ‘special’.  Few people surely know to what LR2412 (Vichy Liftactive) refers, or the origin of the ‘hydric and lipidic system’ (Clarins).  In fact, a Google search provides little enlightenment of either, other than in relation to those products.

One might imagine from my rant that I refuse to buy into this dogma, but I’m up there fighting nature along with most other women. Whether this is because I have been brainwashed into believing that it is my responsibility to look the best I can by allowing myself to be seduced by false promise, I have no idea. The question is this: Is it women’s fear of ageing which demands the products or does advertising spawn the fear in the first place?