I’ve been coming here since I was a child. I was brought here by aunts and childminders to walk the dog and play in the park and swim in the lake (when it was allowed…sadly not any more); we came here with Sunday School and Youth Club for group barbecues – there are built in barabecues that can be hired out. I was briefly a memeber of an archaeological group and we visited; and again, with Youth Club, we would come and hang around the medieval village; once I recall even being dressed up as a medieval peasant and manning one of the buildings. I remember coming to fetes here and watching knights charging across the field in re-enactments.
This place is Cosmeston Country Park & Medieval Village, in between Penarth and Sully in the Vale of Glamorgan.
I still spend time here these days and it still amazes me that people come here and say they didn’t know it was here. Understandable maybe from people from outside of the area; but I have close acquaintances who grew up in Cardiff, just down the road; and have never been here.
Cosmeston Country Park is a large area set around a large lake; one end of which, separated by a bridge, is a dedicated nature reserve. Within the park there is a play area, boardwalks along the lake and across marshland and various paths for all levels of fitness. There are orienteering trails and school-holiday activities; in addition to school trips being catered for – the park rangers can take children pond-dipping or den building; and there are various volunteering opportunites throughout the park and the medieval village.
Over the years there have been changes in the medieval village, but essentially it’s a reconstruction, built on the original foundations dated to the 14th Century, discovered during excavations in the 1970s, when the land, a former quarry, was handed over to the council for use of the community. These days it’s furnished and decorated and managed, in keeping with the time period
Access to the museum adjacent to the village is free; and guided tours by costumed characters start from there into the village itself a set times during the day; or self guided tours using audio-wands at your own pace.
Tickets for the guided or self-guided tours can be purchased from the reception in the main car park of the park; which is also where bookings for water activities and use of the barbecues can be arranged; not only for Cosmeston but for their sister country park, Porthkerry, down the road in Barry.
The park is managed by The Vale of Glamorgan council. More information on the park & its facilities, such as updated times and prices for access and various activities, can be found on the Vale website Here and the Medieval Village Here
In the middle of Thursday night, during intermittent bouts of sleep in an unfamiliar room watching a blizzard through a large window overlooking an unfamiliar town, a hundred thoughts running through my head, one thought settled. A memory, reminding me of one of my favourite ‘Read it Yourself’ books from when I was about 6. It was “Heidi”. Heidi had a friend, called Clara. I had thought for some time after that, that one day, I’d have a daughter named Clara.
Through the mists of time, I forgot about this. (The name, in fact, was even discounted from the ‘maybe girls’ list when we were expecting F in 2013, purely because of disliking the character with that name on Doctor Who.)
As soon as I had recalled the memory from reading Heidi, I suddenly knew after the weeks of um-ing and ah-ing, that the baby in my womb was a girl.
To everyone else, Thursday morning was their first Snow day, where schools had been pre-emptively closed due to possible snow, and everyone was warned to stay home unless your journey was necessary. Richie had even been sent home from work.
When I noticed bleeding some time between 9am & 1130, and phoning the midwives, our journey to A&E became necessary.
During Triage, and waiting, and minor injuries, and even being taken up to Emergency Pregnancy Assessment Unit, everyone right up to the Consultant, were saying it was probably a UTI.
Until they tracked someone down who could effectively use the ancient ultrasound. She couldn’t find a heartbeat.
After a blur, I was given the first pill to begin a medically assisted miscarriage, but by all accounts, the bleeding and the pains meant by body had already begun the process of its own accord.
Usually, someone given this pill, would then be sent home for 48 hours and then brought back in for further treatment to encourage the process.
However, due to the weather and the distance home, they weren’t willing to let me go honme, in case I couldn’t get back after 48 hours. So I was admitted.
After an arduous first night of little sleep, crazy over-active brain waves; a lonely Friday of watching more blizzards and idiots trying to push each others cars down a side Street, and trying to distract my brain by reading a detective novel on my Kindle, Friday night came with stronger pains, and various forms of pain medication before I could get some rest. And I slept pretty soundly from 9.30pm through till about 3am, when pain returned and woke me. I went to the toilet, and by the time I got back to my bed the pains were getting worse. My moans woke hubby, who although grieving too, has been a rock, sleeping on the floor next to me, called the nurses, and I immediately got put back on a painkiller drip and various injections. The severe pain started to subside so I could feel slightly lucid again. It was then that I could feel movement without being distracted by pain, & knew she was coming.
At 3.30 Saturday morning, 3rd March 2018, we became parents to a tiny girl, who we named Clara Elizabeth. We got to spend some time with her. At 17 weeks she was pretty much fully formed. She was brought in in a small covered basket with tiny handmade blankets and a yellow handmade teddy. I could see the image of the boys in her tiny facial features.
I never needed the second treatment. I was kept in all day Saturday so they could monitor my bleeding, but after a chat with my lovely nurse about ‘arrangements’ for Clara, I was collected by hubby & our boys around 5pm. I had been very much looking forward to going home. Now I’m home, without my little girl.
It is painful to talk about. And think about. And live with in general. At the moment it’s very raw. This past 3 days has felt like a week. But I don’t want to pussyfoot around and not tell anyone.
Many of you knew I was pregnant so it’s only fair to update you that I’m no longer pregnant, and of course you’d then be curious as to the circumstances.
Those who already know and have sent messages, thank you. Each one has started us crying again, but it’s far more comforting to know that you care. ”
There was more. But I edited it for publication to friends on Facebook.
I had messages in the comments, and yet more messages in private. Most of the private messages were from people who’d been through the same thing, or it had affected them in some way (dads, grandparents).
What struck me was the number of people I knew who had had it happen to them. And I never knew.
Some of the lonliest moments in that hospital bed staring out at the snow was how lonely I felt. How was I ever going to be able to talk about this; when no one I knew had been through it?
And then I found out how many HAD and would have an idea of how I felt.
And despite still crying; and still feeling a twinge when I meet another baby or pregnant person – knowing full well it’s not their fault that I feel bad; I know that I’m not alone.
And that I had previously dismissed babyloss as something that would never happen to me; or most people I knew. I had miscarried some 13 years ago but at something like 4 weeks, very early, without even knowing I’d been pregnant anyway. I’d managed to dismiss that and had since felt that’s what it was like for everyone. Now I know it’s not and that once you are expecting, that baby is real; and any loss is as painful as losing any other child of yours x
We hadn’t been trying for a baby. We hadn’t been planning any more. I was 17 weeks gone when I lost Clara. She had been around long enough to condition us into expecting a baby. We had begun to plan and check what baby stuff we still had and what we needed to get. We began looking out for bargains. And yes, I had bought a few small things in sales.
When I had recovered a little more we decided to try again.
By August I was pregnant again. This time…I started bleeding again at 9 weeks. Brown, old blood. My GP referred me to gynae. They checked and said it was old blood from somewhere. It was ok. They did a scan, and although measuring a week or so less than I thought; my cervix was closed and the sac was there. I was sent home to rest.
The next morning I got up and large blood clots the size of golf balls were gushing out. I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes without soaking a pad. By the time I had to go and get the boys from school I couldn’t leave the bathroom; so called my mother in tears. She rushed to get the children and brought them home. As soon as she saw the blood, she called an ambulance.
They rushed me to hospital, straight to gynae again rather than a&e while I fainted in the back.
I was admitted and put on fluids. By 2am the consultant on duty decided she couldn’t leave me continuing to bleed as much as I was; so I was taken down for an emergency D&C.
And yet, no-one will investigate causes of miscarriages until I’ve had at least 3 in a row…
And that’s the story of most of my 2018.
HAVE YOU BEEN AFFECTED BY MISCARRIAGE OR BABY LOSS? GET HELP:
We hadn’t been trying for children. We have children. They’re fab and amazing. I was 30 when I gave birth to the first one. I’m almost 40. I never said never again, mind you; we had baby stuff from the younget gathering dust in the attic; I hadn’t quite decided whether to get rid of it yet.
Having said that, it was still a bit of a shock to discover just before Christmas that I was pregnant. It took me a couple of weeks of worry and consideration before I actually started getting excited about it. We wouldn’t have told anyone until much later except that my dad was visiting – he lives a long way away and we don’t see him often. We considered for a while but realised it might be nicer to tell him in person, rather than wait until the ‘safe’ 12 week mark – where the chances of miscarriage drop dramatically; and then tell him over the phone. And of course, telling him meant having to tell other people, so word got around.
Of course, I tried not to get *too* excited until the 12 week mark. But we got some of the stuff down from the aattic. Well, we were up there anyway putting the Christmas decorartions away. We had baby stuff ‘donated’ to us immediately by family as soon as they found out. The magic 12-week mark came and went and all was fine. And the smallest bedroom – too small even for a single bed – became ‘the baby room’. Not neccessarily a nursery; just where we were putting all the baby stuff for now, as I went through it; checking if it was usable; cleaning stuff; preparing, as much as was possible. It wasn’t neccessarily a room for *this* baby. It was just a room to keep the baby stuff in; that we intended to fashion into some kind of nursery; when the time came.
Well, the time isn’t coming. At 17 weeks, I suffered what’s known as a ‘late miscarriage’. This is because it happened in the second trimester. Had she made it to the third trimester it would have been counted as stillbirth.
Either way, She won’t be joining our family.
When I was in hospital, hubby asked if there was anything he should do, like sort out the baby stuff and clear the room away. I said no.
It didn’t upset me at the time. I had other stuff upsetting me enough than random baby stuff.
Because that’s all it is. It didn’t upset me when I came home. And even since, going in to that room and seeing baby stuff is still not a trigger for me. Not like the small teddy they brought in with her when they’d cleaned her up for me to spend time with; or the tiny urn that now contains her ashes; or the rose bush in her name that some friends very thoughfully sent us.
It’s just a room with baby items in it. Crib, Cot, pram, clothes, toys, nappies (no, I didn’t ”stock up”…I use cloth one. They’ve been passed down from the others.)
It wasn’t ever ‘HER’ room….until the miscarriage we didn’t even know if she was a boy or a girl; so that made it hard to marry up the posessions with the coming baby. She never spent a night in it, so that didn’t make it ‘HER’ room, either.
It hasn’t been left untouched. The airing cupboard is in there, so I am in and out regularly getting clean towels and putting some away.
I’ve not been avoiding it. Sometimes I’ve gone in just to sit quietly in the rocking chair. And it doesn’t upset me. For one thing, they’re all items that we’ve used before for the other three. So nothing in there was bought exclusively for this baby anyway.
So when I went in there to clear away some space to use as storage space for some of the camping gear that’s coming out to hand ready for the summer; it was just like tidying any other room.
Now, the baby stuff is still there; but instead of laid out carefully organised, the cot and crib have been folded away and clothes and baby blankets folded up and stored, and the new tent is in there waiting for the summer camping trip.
Now, of course it would make more sense to put the baby things away completely – to put them back up in the attic or start giving them away or taking to second-hand shops and so on; but her surprise existence, although a shock initially, has got us into the expectation that there might actually be another addition to the family. We’d got used to the idea, purely because of her existence; when we hadn’t even been planning her or trying for her. So for now, they’re staying in the baby room. And we may pay a little more attention to trying.
At first, I was scared to say anything about trying again. It seemed to me that people would think another one would be a replacement for the one we lost. It’s not. She wasn’t planned, nor was she expected. But a new baby now would be her legacy. A new baby now wouldn’t have existed if she hadn’t forced her existence upon us.
So today, I’ve sorted out the baby room. The smallest room. I’ve not cleared it. It’s a store room. Full of things ready for when they’re needed.
The BBC seem to have a habit these days of putting the best sites on in the middle of the day and then ditching them for low viewing figures!
They did it last year with The Coroner. If have loved to be on that myself, shooting around Dorset & Devon. Fab!
Then, they had Shakespeare &Hathaway. Lovely detective series about a private investigator and his new sidekick.
And now I find a retiree friend of mine asks me if “800 Words” is really like life is in New Zealand?
‘What’s “800 words”?’ I ask.
It’s a new (-ish… It’s been going for 2 series already!!) TV series from South Pacific Pictures co-produced with Australia’s Channel 7 Production company.
Now I’m already sold…SPP were responsible for a TV series I adored when I lived there, “Outrageous Fortune” (Incidentally starring among others Anthony Starr who went to the States and was in “Banshee”).
“800 Words” is a fish-out-of-water story about an Aussie journalist (he writes a regular column for a Sydney paper and anally sticks to exactly 800 words per column like some unquestioned OCD affliction… hence the title) seeks a new life in small-town New Zealand after the sudden death of his wife.
Not only do his children not like the idea much; he then has to deal with cultural differences between Australia & New Zealand, and the contrast of big city Sydney and small town ‘Weld’ – fictional, mind you.
Retiree friend asks if this made up town is typical of small-town NZ.
I say, it’s typical of small-town ANYWHERE. Transplant this story to a Londoner moving to West Wales, or a New Yorker moving to Iowa, and there will still be cultural and lifestyle differences these storylines could fit in to.
But watching 800 words brings back memories of living in NZ which is the other reason it appeals to me. I don’t know if I was happier there than anywhere else, but this nostalgia, this ‘hiraeth’ seems a little stronger; but then that’s the appeal to me, not to a general wider audience.
Watch it if you’re interested in New Zealand – the accents, attitudes, Maori integration into everyday culture, and the locations and the landscapes are typical. Watch it if you’re intrested in fish-out-of-water stories. Watch it.
The beach used as the surfing beach – is world famous – in New Zealand. It’s Piha, on the West coast, over the Waitakere ranges from Auckland. It’s in the guide books and tourist information. What isn’t though, as far as I know, found by accident on one trip over is a cafe en route called ‘Elevation’. It looks pretty regular from the front. And the food is ok – what you’d expect from a roadside cafe, if not a little better. After you enter, however, and choose a table at the back, preferably outside on the deck, which protrudes out from the side of the mountain range so it feels like you’re sitting on Tarzan’s tree-house; the view of Auckland city is spectacular.
But that’s besides the point. Why are these gems of television being hidden away at 2-3pm when most of us are working or else otherwise tied up with the demands of the day? My erratic schedule allowed me to watch some of Shakespeare&Hathaway on days where I was going to pick the children up from school; in which case, it saw me leaving 10 mintues before the end and having to catch the conclusion on BBC iPlayer later on. Or never.
By the time Shakespeare&Hathaway had finished I wasn’t even aware that 800 words had taken the slot until someone else told me about it and this week it’s become our must-binge-watch programme of the evenings after the children are in bed.
Now I know the way we (in general, as a worldwide industrialised-nations viewership) watch TV is changing. We watch mostly on-demand, when we want to. The BBC appear to be catching up….programmes tagged as ‘BBCThree’ productions don’t actually exist on the ‘real world of TV’ since BBCThree moved exclusively ‘online’ (i.e. BBCThree is basically a section of BBCiPlayer). Recently, BBCWales seems to be putting an awful lot of weight on how well ‘Keeping Faith’ went down with online audiences, given that it was only broadcast within the confines of the BBCWales region in English (and S4C in Welsh), so the only way viewers who couldn’t pck up BBCWales (numbers of whom must be dwindling these days as more and more set-top boxes and smart-TVs give everyone the myriad of freeview channels available wherever you are regardless of regionality).
But still, I wouldn’t have known to go looking for “800 Words” on BBC iPlayer had someone not told me about it.
I did. I mean it. Well, actually, I wrote it, like five years ago when I was a bored housewife in the Caribbean. Y’know, like all Fleming-esque, sitting on the verandah with my laptop (I wanted to inherit my grandma’s typewriter but it was not to be 😦 ) and a Bahama-mam… Nah, just kidding…
I was at the dining table with the air conditioning on while the children had afternoon naps. You know how hot it is in the Bahamas, right? Without air con I’d have done nothing for 2 years but sit on the beach.
And then…nothing. It sat gathering dust. Virtual dust on my laptop. Well, on a memory card inside my laptop. I had another baby. We moved back to the UK. Life got on top of me. Again. As has always been my excuse. As did a few more pounds. And…my 35+ year old dreams of being a writer were sat aging in the corner of my mind again.
Well, to be fair, I was making a little headway (by way of one step forward, twelve steps back, but still, headway…) with an acting career, of sorts.
And then, at the beginning of this month I suffered a personal trauma that pretty much made me burst in to tears every time I saw people, let alone had to talk to them.
The only thing that distracted me was reading a detective novel on my e-reader. And then I finished that one, and something drew me back in to getting back to my series again…so I did. And within 2 weeks I had it edited to within an inch of it’s life (Honestly, some parts were just crap, didn’t make sense or just didn’t fit) and made some sembelance of a contemporary romance novel, oh and with a hero I was totally in love with, so jealous of the heroine!
So, I finally bit the bullet, and forgoing the myriad of rejection letters from publishers I’d probably have to put up with, (there’s enough rejection in acting already) I signed up to Kindle Direct Publishing and have published it as an ebook and paperback and just telling the whole world (that I know personally) about it 🙂
So, go take a look, it’s a contemporary romance with a bit or action and adventure, and a bit of raunchiness. Well, if people will read 50 Shades..
I don’t really know what else to call it. It has no name. It’s basically a sensible eating plan. Which is what I shrugged and said to my midwife not long after I’d been given it.
OK, let’s rewind.
I’ve never been skinny. Well, maybe when I was little. although when I was little, I remember people (my grandparents and their friends, mainly, I think) telling me ‘She’s going to be a heartbreaker’. I think they meant I was pretty. But I really couldn’t understand why ANYONE would want to purposefully break other people’s hearts? So what possible incentive did that have for me to grow up beautiful? I could go off on one long tangent here but suffice to say, remaning slim for aesthetic purposes has never been something that remotely interested me. I’m not bashing those who do…it’s just not for me. I look the way I look, and I’m fine with that.
And the other reason that’s always banded about? ‘Health’? well, I’m quite proud to say that I have, pretty much, a clean bill of health. No chronic health issues. Very proud of it and prize it highly since I’ve had the opportunity to emigrate…twice…and anyone who understands the types of paperwork that entails will know that a health check and fitness certificate from a doctor. Just to be sure, the first time round, I did try one of those crappy milkshake diets before applying for my first visa, which lost me a few kilos but I hardly felt any different within myself to be honest.
When I fell pregnant with #1 in 2008, about half way through the pregnancy I was diagnosed with ‘Gestational Diabetes‘; which means I wasn’t producing enough insulin for both myself and the growing baby. They were quite scary. ‘They’ being the medical ‘professionals’ who told me I’d be taking pills and injecting myself with goodness knows what. There was no way, I told myself, that I’d be doing that. I am cautious and generally avoid taking any medications if I don’t have to. I mean, I’d rather suffer with headaches and period pain than take paracetamol. So when they followed up their threats with “…if you can’t control it with diet…” I thought, well, then, I’ll have to control it with diet then, won’t I? So I did.
Anyway, that’s enough rambling. All I was given in a brief meeting witht he ‘nutritionist’ at the hospital after that fateful day was the sheet you see pictured below. Well, the one you see pictured is actually a titdied up, revamped, clearer version I retyped as what I was handed was a sheet that seemed like it was a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of something someone had created on an ancient room-sized computer in 1988. It was blurred and skewiff and had black marks all over it.
What you see here is a result of me retyping the text and scanning in the plate diagram and repositioning it on the page I newly typed.
When I went on a fitness freak challenge when living in a very beach-orientated culture which meant spending a lot of time in a swimsuit, I almost had a fit when I couldn’t find the page I had printed; and then couldn’t find it anywhere on my laptop either…can you imagine?! I was then, very very surprised that a simple eating plan (OK, diet…) such as this was NOWHERE to be found on the internet. Not even after searching methodically in the way that helped me re-discover my Brownie Recipe that I had once lost. Anyway, I finally did find a copy I had sent someone in the annals of my neverending-storage Gmail account and to my relief, re-downloaded it, printed it, and laminated it. It is now permanently magnetised to my fridge door.
Seriously? This is a basic, healthy eating cheat-sheet, given to me by a nutritionist/dietitian in a major hospital, that has worked for me to both control diabetes (of the gestational kind, but I’m pretty sure that works the same way as other forms, Type 2 for example?) and, when I actually did want to be skinny on a whim, lose about 50lbs (OK, I was doing a 2 hours work out every single day in addition to running after toddlers and teaching them to swim…but hey, the eating habits didn’t harm the efforts…).
That doesn’t mean I’ve followed it permanently…I have for at least the past two years, smiled sadly at it while opening the door to retrieve various items that are NOT sanctioned on the list. (yes, those 50lbs have crept in somewhere….)
However, in the last fortnight, a personal tragedy has forced me into a rethink and so I have re-started following this plan with a vengeance. And in the first week of not starving myself but just checking this sheet before I decide whet to eat and what time, I’ve lost 2lbs and an inch and a half. Without the extreme excersising. And I know this because I’ve gone back to my trusty little note book in which I would once a week record my weight and waist size, along with any notes as to what might have been happening that week, how much excersize I did or didn’t do and so on…
And Viola…it’s like running a slimming world right from your own bedroom. Apparently. But I’ve never been to slimming world or weightwatchers because I’ve nver had the money to spare…
Please feel free to download the PDF of the Sample Meal Plan <– here. I have it laminated and stuck on the fridge door, with a felt pen in one of those magnet holders they use for shopping lists next to it (you know the kind I mean, right?) , so each meal/snack time I can tick off with the felt pen what I’ve had, to help keep track of the variety and, on some days, that I’ve actually bothered to have something at that time! (I’ve found it handy, in my advancing years and my filling schedule, to set a reminder on my phone. I have had funny looks when my phone goes off telling me it’s ‘Lunch Time’…)
Basically, all I do is tick off the ingredients as I get them out of the fridge/cupboard, then cook them however I like. I let myself a little leeway and have some raisins and a tiny drizzle of natural honey in my porridge, or some marmite as well on my toast; I cook veggies in a quick stir fry with some olive oil, worcester sauce, soy sauce and so on; or start a stew-pot in the morning with a variety of veggies, some split peas and some couscous or noodles; and that will see me through lunch and dinner. I make my own curry so sometimes that’s cheating as it has both chicken AND yoghurt in so I suppose that’s two from the protein section, but there’s veg and herbs and spices in it too and I always have hlf-veg and half-rice instead of all rice with it. (My hubby likes this one as he loves my curry. Although he doesn’t do veggies…)
What I’m saying is, I use it as a guide. Be creative using the ingredients suggested on the page. Every now and again I think outside the box and stretch the limits of what I’m supposed to have; but generally, after a few days on it, I tend to not crave biscuits, cakes, chocolates; and the smell when hubby brought lunch for him and the children in today (it’s Saturday and a rugby -international-on-the-telly day) actually didn’t appeal to me at all and I was very much preferring my salmon, savoy cabbage and broccoli stir-fry I had prepared for myself, followed by tinned peaches! (and black decaf coffee, because I’m weaning myself off caffeine too…)
Someone I spoke to about this once said it does remind them of the Slimming world plan; but I’ve never done it so I don’t know. I don’t generally ‘do’ a following-recipies type plan, it’s too much faff for me, I’d rather be given the basic ingredients and be creative. But, if it helps, my aunty who’s a district nurse runs This Blog about Slimming-World friendly recipies.
Also, here’s the Diet Record Sheet now that I’ve figured out how to upload PDFs for other people to use 😉 I keep my little note book in the same place, near a tape measure, so I know where to go every wednesday (also set as a reminder on my phone…) morning, to weight and measure and note it down.
There you go! A free, self-help diet without having to spend a fortune on a book!
So, here’s the disclaimer: I’m not a fitness or healthy eating guru (But come one, healthy eating is healthy eating, right? We all understand it, that’s not the problem…it’s the cravings and the willpower and the temptation!!) so this post, nor my posting of the diet sheet below, is not a substitute for professional advice. However…I’m not exactly advocating extreme starvation or anything here…
Good luck people, and you’re welcome 🙂
*Before you ask, no, I’ve never been able to find out the definition of ‘Free’ vegetables…I just presume they mean veggies that don’t count as Carbs, for example potatoes, kumara, etc… I’ve just always concentrated on leafy greens (– savoy cabbage has always been a favourite), salad leaves, carrots, onions, broccoli…
I won’t take credit for this recipe. It’s my go-to brownie recipe after accidentally stumbling upon it on a can of cocoa a few years ago in New Zealand.
I think it’s worth publishing here because I lost it once and it took me ages to track it down online, after the brand was a) no longer displaying the recipe and b) wasn’t available in the shops around where I was anyway.
It’s attributed to a Nestle Baking Cocoa can label, 25-09-08.
It’s not healthy, but they are lovely and chocolately and stodgy. And there are certain times when healthy eating and diets just need to go out of the window. These are highly recommended for those times x
1 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
¾ cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 packet White Choc Bits
Melt the butter and stir in the cocoa, then allow the mixture to cool slightly.
Beat in the eggs.
Stir in the sugar and vanilla essence.
Add the sifted flour and baking powder and stir until thoroughly mixed.
Stir the white chocolate bits through, then turn the mixture into a baking paper base-lined 27cm x 18cm.
Bake at160°Cfor45-50 minutes or until just firm when pressed in the centre.
Leave in the tin for 20 minutes, then turn out on to a rack.
When cold, cut into bars and dust with extra cocoa, if desired.
I’ve recently come across quite a few ‘Travel Bloggers’ – people who seem to be able to travel the world and blog about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a fair bit of traveling in my time.
My father is in the Merchant Navy. Thankfully, he worked for a company who saw benefit for their crew to be able to take their immediate family (Wives & children) with them on long voyages. Even more thankfully, this was back in the 70s, 80s and early 90s just before the world went H&S-Crazy. There are photos of us children sat on large pieces of machinery in the engine rooms of these large cargo vessels; sledging off the coast of Norway in winter, along the bow around giant anchors; and walking around huge open hatches waiting to be laden with coal or iron-ore or any other such material that the company shipped from place to place across the entire world.
Yes, the entire world. I had been round it a couple of times before I was 9. Again, back in the day before schools in the UK really cracked down on attendance and not allowing children to be taken out of school during term time. We still had to do school work, and get permission from the school, of course – my mother would be given permission and handed a block of workbooks for us to complete during our time away. We’d do 2 hours of lessons a day on the workbooks, and then I’d put together a project, each port we stopped at, I’d complete a 1-page presentation about that place/country; plus pages about the ship and being at sea; including things like a menu from the captain’s table, which depending on which port the casual galley crew had signed on from, contained all sorts of weird and wonderful international flavours.
(My mum is fond of a tale of one foregin cook who’d decided he was going to please the British crew by cooking good old British food. Using pictures he’d found in a book written in a language he didn’t read; he’d attemped to serve Boiled eggs and soldiers one morning. Meticulously laid out slices of toast and beautifully presented eggs in egg cups were served; and it looked very appetising. Until the diners cracked open the top of their eggs to find…they were uncooked! The poor man hadn’t realised he was supposed to actually boil the egg first…)
I return to school after a 4-6 month voyage and be hauled up in front of the assembly to show off my project and discuss my experiences. For a 7-8 year old who didn’t understand that not everyone got to do this stuff it was a bit overwhelming. But I suppose those were my first experiences of being shoved in front of an audience. No wonder I feel so comfortable on a stage!
Anyway, back to the traveling thing. So, I was doing that while I was young. Then my parents divorced and we
moved around still, but a little more locally to my home base of South Wales; as mum tried to settle, and had various beaus…the rest of my childhood and teen years is another story (a little foreign travel by way of a family package holiday to Corfu and a school exchange trip to Brittany – the region of france not an American teenager – and a sixth-form ‘Art’ trip to Paris…).
When I was 19 I branched out and signed up for Camp America and spent the summer in Camp Wyoming in Iowa. After the summer was over I spent 28 hours on a bus traveling to New York where I met up with the other ‘foreigner’ from Camp, Marek, from Poland, He’d left the day before me and flown to New York to meet up with his Dad, a contractor working in New York. I lost touch with Marek and have wondered for years if he ended up staying or ever made it back to Poland.
After a day exploring Manhattan with him, and a night sleeping rough outside JFK, I caught a flight to Vitoria via Sao Paulo in Brazil to visit Dad, who’d re-married and moved there some years earlier. I spent a week or so with them, meeting up with my brother who’d flown down from Heathrow. We left on the same day…he flew via Rio back to Heathrow directly (Meeting Pele the famous footballer at the airport..much to his delight as a massive football/Soccer fan). Because my Camp America ticket was return from JFK and couldn’t be rerouted, I flew from Vitoria via SP back up to JFK, arriving at something like 6am. Got pretty fleeced by customs on the way in…must’ve looked like a proper bedraggled backpacker with my huge …uh..backpack and flying in from South America. Did I look like I was that green to have been caught out as a mule? She made me unpack all my belongings that I’d been living off for the past 3 months in Iowa and then Vitoria. I felt guilty as I pulled out my travel socks and small woven friendship bracelets and other similar items I’d been gifted
by the children at camp; and my memory notebook in which all my fellow councellors had signed and written thank you messages. I was nearly in tears by the end of packing back up and she looked a little sheepish at having made me cry and yet not found anything. No apology however. In all the years of traveling to, from and through the USA since (there’ve been many occasions), I’ve come to learn her attitude was pretty much standard of Customs and Immigration staff at US airports – look at you with a guilty until proven innocent look; then offer a standard, trained “Have a nice day” ‘greeting’ while continuing to watch you suspiciously as you leave them, even after they’ve done everything short of taking DNA samples from you to prove you’re not a convicted serial killer.
My flight back to London wasn’t until the evening so I had a very long day lounging around the departure lounge at JFK. It was my 20th birthday.
I then worked in aviation for almost a decade…couldn’t keep away from planes. It was only supposed to be a part-time temporary Summer season job so I could pay bills until I could figure out how to get to Drama school. One thing led to another however and I stayed, eventually dispatching aircraft myself and training others. And fixing travel agent errors which really put me off having other people arrange my travel for me and enforcing my preference for more intrepid, DIY travel plans.
Then came A package holiday. In around 2003. To Nidri, on Lefkada, a lesser known Greek island; near Onassis’s private island (you know, the shipping magnate who married JFK’s widow, Jackie).
After I got married, my OH randomly got a call one night offering him a job in New Zealand. So…we went there. Mostly unplanned and quite intrepid (suddenly moving to a country you’ve never been to and don’t know too much about…hey, what could go wrong?!). And it was supposed to be permanent. We got a bit of exploring in during ‘normal life’ and settled in quite nicely. Until he got itchy feet again and decided to apply for a job in The Bahamas 5 years later. And was offered it. 2 years contract ‘with a view to extend after trial period’. All very well, and we did a 2-week road-trip across the USA (we had the dog with us – remember, NZ was supposed to be permanent, we got a dog, and had children… and to minimise her flying and connections, and to make the most of the travel experience, we decided to drive from LA to Houston and fly the shorter distance direct from Houston to Nassau)…
Unfortunately, during that first 2 years, there was a General Election and the opposition party was voted in. And the first thing they did was crack down on foreign nationals work visas “so there were more jobs for Bahamians”. Which is all fair enough, but the only reason hubby had been imported to work in the first place was because he was a specialist in something they needed a specialist for, and hadn’t been able to find someone for a couple of years.
The company were having trouble extending the work visa of the Canadian CEO; and they figured if they couldn’t manage to get a work visa for the CEO of the company, how would they manage it for a lowly engineer…and so they said they weren’t going to bother trying.
That was 3 years ago. To my knowledge, they still haven’t found someone to fill the vacant specialist role…And we’re back in Wales.
So what’s next? Nothing planned, at the moment. But when has any of this been actually planned? So…Who knows what’s around the corner.
I went a seminar last night at a popular local arts venue. An Exec producer of a really (Really, internationally) popular TV show, in conversation with the new Head of Drama at the studio within which she works.
It was a rather intimate affair; a small screening cinema, no more than about 50-60 seats maybe (which were all full). A lot of the conversation, and the questions from the audience afterwards, steered towards writing – what types of new material he wanted to see produced, where he might source writing from, how new writers would go about getting discovered or catching his attention. Since I had gone in the context of being and actor working in the region, I hadn’t even considered the implications of a new head and prospective expansion of production would have for writers.
Just the night before, I had put the finishing touches on the first draft of a screenplay I’d been working on; and during the conversation, he discussed his favourite genre…how he’d like to see more of these produced; along with content that was based here in this region, reflecting life in this region. It just so happens that the screenplay in question PERFECTLY MATCHED HIS DESCRIPTIONS! It’s set here, based here, using local talent; and is the very genre/genres he was talking about.
Of course, he didn’t go handing out his contact details to everyone in the room and certainly wouldn’t be pleased if every prospective writer in the room (of which, from the questions and discussion after the talk, there were many) suddenly showered him with unsolicited scripts; but the idea that he was open to the very thing I’d just been writing about was a boost.
I had, during the seminar, thought I recognised a couple of ladies a couple of rows in front of me. As everyone prepared to leave, I got closer and realised it was them – Another actress with whom I’ve crossed paths a few times, not spoken with much but we’ve worked with a few of the same people; and the producer of a feature I’ve been cast in (we’ve filmed a sizzle reel they’ve been using to help secure funding). They’d asked a couple of questions during the Q&A section, and the producer had been taking notes; so it was a great conversation opener. We decided to have a coffee in the bar together before we left. We had a lovely chat, comparing notes and what we thought of the conversation. We had a slight discussion of how the prep of the feature was going (rewrites and feedback so far and so on), and discussed writing, and filmmaking, and life in general experiences. The actress mentioned about a story she had been wanting to write, and then, as though it was a huge barrier, admitted ‘I’m not a writer’. The producer and I guffawed and immediately shot down her assessment.
We basically came to the same conclusions:
If you write, you’re a writer
If you want to be a writer, do some writing
go in to any bookstore – there’l be shelves of accomplished writers and poets and Nobel and Pulitzer prize winners; all published and selling; but selling more will be the reality TV ‘star’ who got paid to tell a ghostwriter what to write about how she ‘survived her first year of parenthood’ .. because HER experience is worth paying for, the millions of us ‘normal’ people’s experiences of parenthood don’t count…
There is always the ongoing debate of ‘training’ and where it stands in relation to talent and natural ability – kind of a ‘Nature vs Nurture’ argument. But since that pertains to both Acting and writing, I think I’ll leave that to another post…
I was watching the breakfast news yesterday. This doesn’t happen often. normally I am making breakfasts for 2 cats, a dog, 3 children (yes, usually in that order. The cats are louder…) and, of course, putting the all important, freshly ground, coffee perculator on. (By the time I actually get around to drinking some though it’s almost all gone because DH has already sat down and had two cups while scanning his phone.)
On the breakfast news (remember…?) they had a section on postcards. Remember them? Funny old things you’d buy when you went on holiday, and write in your hotel room, usually on the first night before you’d actually done anything to write home about; then frantically try to find (in your best pidgeon-French-or-Spanish) the nearest ‘Postale’, and try to explain you needed a stamp for this card and ask for the nearest post-box.
And it STILL wouldn’t arrive before you got home. Even if you were there for 6 months as a foreign student.
The breakfast news was, kind of, lamenting the loss of the postcard. They interviewed a ‘holiday historian’ I think. Or a ‘seaside resort historian’. Come on, it was yesterday. I don’t remember his exact speciality. He was a historian. His specialisation was relevant in part to postcards. So he was on the red sofa. He was the ‘we should save the postcard’ representative I suppose.
Next to him was a travel blogger. Of which there are many. Many many many. This one was young-ish and pretty so she was the poster-child of the ‘we no longer need postcards’ side of the debate.
There was a vox-pop. Of course. There’s always a vox-pop. In some regional accent near some regional seaside resort, you know, to make it relevant. In general, older people still sent postcards. The slightly younger people who remembered the days pre-internet wished postcards were still as popular; and still send them to older relatives; and the “how did you suvive before the internet” youngsters, well, no…they just instagram or snapchat themselves on a beach to their jealous friends back home.
I recently had the pleasure of re-organising my study. It’s the box-room-come-spare-bedroom. There’s barely room for the single bed in there and the door doesn’t open fully, because the bed is blocking it. But it makes us sound posh, having a spare bedroom. It’s also where the computer desk is. You know, with the ancient desktop computer that’s so slow because it’s from the dark ages. It’s at least 7 years old. That makes it from the dark ages in computer speak. It’s also where the sort-of filing is kept. I say sort-of; because it’s not filed, exactly. I still have to re-arrange a few years worth of paperwork in order to find what I’m looking for.
I have to do a tax-return. Soon. Sometime. When I can stop putting off. (mental note: Do the bloody tax-return!). So the other day I got around to digging out the relevant paperwork and invoices and payslips and receipts for the period for which I have to to the tax return. I got sidetracked while sorting the paperwork. Of course I did. Getting sidetracked is kind of one of my things. In fact, I’m doing it right now.
I got sidetracked because I found an old writing case I was given by one of my grandmothers. She gave it to me back in the days when having pen-pals was all teh rage in school. A friend of mine was an advocate for some pen-pal company she’d found in a magazine, that matched up school children in different countries with children in other countries of their choice around their own age. It’s lovely, the writing case. It’s black leather. The zip is old and almost seizes up from lack of use. I blew off the dust and opened it and found a lovely selection of writing paper, and…(and we’re finally back on point…) a selection of postcards. Amongst the writing paper were some pretty floral papers with matching envelopes; some official looking airmail paper and airmail envelopes (for the uninitiated, ‘airmail’ paper was always lighter and thinner, so the end result weighed less and so could be posted for less postage paid); some black writing paper – which I thought was funky and cool at the time of purchase because I would write on it with gel-pens. And then, the one that really got to me.
Some powder blue writing paper with matching envelopes adorned with cartoon kiwis. I bought it when I lived in New Zealand. It’s poignant because that’s the last time I really wrote letters and postcards. It wasn’t frivolous to buy letter-writing paper and envelopes then. When I moved abroad, the internet existed; but it was in it’s infancy. Facebook was relatively new. I had about 15 friends on there, and most of them were relatives. Facebook I wouldn’t have had an interest in except for the fact I had moved abroad. It was an easy tool for keeping in touch with relative and friends who used it.
My grandparents didn’t. Grampy had once signed up and bought a laptop but the interest soon fizzled out and it fell into disuse so the internet account was cancelled and the laptop rehomed.
It’s a funny thing, emigrating. Whatever your reason, whatever your future plans for relocating there forever; for visits home and people visiting you…whatever you leave behind seems sort of frozen in time. Places don’t change, civil engineering in your home town doesn’t happen, people don’t age.
I took to writing to Grandma & Grampy regularly. I’d write letters, include postcards and photos. I sent scan pictures and photos when I had children. I even hand-drew a plan of our house so they could imagine the layout. I imagined some day they would come and visit anyway so they would then be able to visualise it. Relatives may have already shown them on their phones or told them the news; but having the photos and the correspondence in their hands would have made more sense to them I think.
Except, while we lived away, people *did* get older. A few weeks ago, I attended the funeral of the last person I received a hand-written letter from. And even that was a few years ago.
Finding the writing case, containing a few postcards I’d saved from trips to the cinema, (where free ‘Boomerang’ postcards were available on a stand near the entrance, along with ‘Flix’ magazine; just in case they came in handy for those ‘answers on a postcard please’-type competitions on TV. Which I never entered anyway. But you never knew…) and then seeing a TV report on the decline of the postcard, did actually bring a tear to my eye. Not for the loss of a piece of card, or the designs and photos. I could take photos of places, some nicer than the postcards I could buy from there.
A postcard I saved of Sennen Cove…
…A photo I took of Sennen Cove
More postcards I’ve saved.
A photo of the sunset off Sennen Cove/Land’s End I took.
I don’t really feel bad that a major postcard-producing company is closing down or reducing production (which was what had prompted the TV discussion) -I’m all for saving paper and being environmental. I’m impressed that within an instant from the other side of the world we can make people ‘back home’ jealous (because that’s what it’s all about these days, isn’t it? none of your ‘Wish you were here…’ rubbish!). And entering competitions online seems more like the chance to win something with little to no effort; rather than having to pay for a stamp and post off your ‘answer on a postcard’ and then wait for weeks on end to find out if you won…if you ever did find out; and if you didn’t win, constantly wondering whether the reason your postcard wasn’t fished out of the bucket was because it got lost in the post and never made it into the bucket in the first place…
What I do miss is writing. With an ACTUAL pen. A Parker fountain pen, no less. I feel sad that my beautiful, well-loved, well-travelled and well-looked-after writing case, full of perfect stock, which it kept pristine and ready for me, now has no purpose. I feel a little bit done out of the opportunity to use all those postcards that I’d lovingly stored and saved just in case one day a competition I actually wanted to win came up, and the only way to enter was to send your answer, in the mail, on a postcard. Or, (in the voice of your favourite Blue Peter presenter,) ‘the back of a stuck-down envelope’. I feel sad that people only receive bills in the mail these days, that the excitement of receiving a colourful envelope that feels like it has something fun and interesting in it along with a letter explaining the photos or the newspaper clipping will never be understood be whole generations. I feel sad that the fact that a whole generation of people I used to write to is all but gone.
And it’s a sign of the times that, when I ‘Googled’ “Answers on a postcard please” in the hope of finding a fun image to accompany this post, over 2million returns were listed of pages EXPLAINING “What does the phrase ‘Answers on a postcard’ mean?”