Posted in History, Holiday, Life, Travel

A hidden gem in South Wales

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.

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This place is Cosmeston Country Park & Medieval Village, in between Penarth and Sully in the Vale of Glamorgan.

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Here it is on #GoogleMaps

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.

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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.

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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

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Posted in Family, Healthy, Home, Life, Medical, Miscarriage, Women's Issues

The Baby Room.

Today, I cleared out the baby room.

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.

Posted in Creative, Home, Life, Travel, writing

Is this summer read guaranteed to leave you wanting more?

So, I wrote this book…

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..

Buy “Dreamboat” on Amazon

Dreamboat cover

Posted in Cooking, Healthy, Life, Medical, Women's Issues

FINALLY! A diet that REALLY works!

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.

Sample Meal Plan
(Don’t worry, you can download this as a PDF at the bottom of the page x )

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.  dietegAnd 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…

 

Posted in Bloggers, Holiday, Life, Ship, Travel

A Travel Blog…

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.

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Nassau Pride, formerly M.V.Gaig Ffion.  One of the cargo ships I traveled/lived on in the 1980’s

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!

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Corfu, circa 1993 – one of the very few ‘package’ holidays I’ve been on.
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Mont San Michel

Anyway, back to the traveling thing.  So, I was doing that while I was young.  Then my parents divorced and we

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The Sacre Coeur, Paris

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.

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Marek, buying street-vendor Hot Dogs in NY

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

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Vitoria, Brazil

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.

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That’s me, attached to a plane by a cable, talking to the captain and walking around the apron during a pushback.

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)…

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International pup…dog walking around Tombstone, Arizona.

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.

 

 

Posted in Life, TV, writing

Answers on a postcard…

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.

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A postcard I have lying around

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.

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“But I tried, didn’t I? God-Damn it at least I did that!” – Postcards used to be given away free at the cinema – free marketing?

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.

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My old writing case.

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.

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.

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One final thought. On a postcard.

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?”

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Acting, Creative, Home, Life, writing

21600 minutes

21600 minutes.

That’s how many minutes are in 15 days.  15 days since my last blog entry…I’m slipping again.

And the silly thing is….it’s not because I’ve not been doing anything exciting.  I have. 21600 minutes of doing stuff. Good, fun, exciting non-houseworky non-parenty stuff.

It’s just all secret.  I can’t tell you about it.  Although…technically..since this is my secret little blog that I don’t tell anyone about I’m not sure it would count as publicising.

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I was doing housework one day, last week, and I got a message asking “Can you be at *** for 3pm and be free for the next 3 days?” {dun-dun-duuuuuuun how covert is that?}. So that took up most of last week (it was Good Friday on…er…Friday so no-one would have been working that day anyway otherwise I’m sure I’d have been working that day too.) Yes, it was work…of sorts. Filming.  Some people know already (one of those ‘worst kept secrets’ things).  I should be able to talk about it in…er…September.  Statute of limitations on certain types of filming work where one is employed in a certain type of role… 😉

And then…I got specially selected to join an exclusive Film Club.  And since the First Rule of (said) film Club is that you don’t talk about film club…well…there ya go.

Ooooh, I guess it’s not-so-secret that I’m going to be a Doctor Who tour guide.  I haven’t signed the tour-guides-official-secrets-act for that one; however I’m playing with ideas in my head that *I* want to keep secret so that anyone wishing to join my tour will have a couple of nice moments they didn’t know about before…

AND it’s been the Easter holidays from school…although I didn’t get to do much with the children last week due to the top-secret last-minute filming booking (which was *REALLY* fun to do, by the way.)  But, we did get to go and see Dewi & Dwynwen the dragons and their new…er…born (?) eggs at Caerphilly Castle … they’re SO fab.  Someimes I wish they were real…

And we had a BBQ.  Oh, and we went to the rugby!  Judgement Day V .. what a day out that was.  Apart from *some* unruly junior players sat around us, who I suspect lack both the discipline and the self-control to ever really make it to the top of their sport… Luckily, I like to think that my little player, despite being the smallest in the team (he has the speed to make up for it though…) has the the dedication and the passion to do just a little bit well (seriously…he gets REALLY upset when he has to miss even one training session or game…and he’s only in the Under-7’s!) ….and I’m looking forward to my free tickets to the hospitality box when he does… #ProudRugbyMum 

Posted in Creative, Harry Potter, Life, Movies, Social Media, TV

Fandom taking over…

A while ago I wrote about my own personal earlier experiences with fandom, before and after the invention of the internet.

Years ago, geeks and nerds and cosplayers (which wasn’t even a word then…adults who play dressing up); were derided. Even conventions, VERY big business today, were covert trips.  They were the uncool kids.  The spotty bespectacled kid in the corner who was at best, ignored, and worst, had mashed potato slingshotted towards them from the back of a spoon (well, according to American TV shows and movies I saw…I don’t think I ever noticed any of these individuals in the UK…or wherever in the world I happened to be at the time).

It’s funny how the internet has changed this one particular walk of life.  Like I said above, Conventions are now huge (and there are so many more of them…everywhere…no longer do you have to save up a lifetime to go to San Diego for Comic-Con…) as is cosplay.  It’s now uber-cool to post pictures of yourself in your costume when heading off to {insert your city here}-Con; it’s perfectly acceptable to spend your social time discussing in-depth the comparisons of the latest Doctor Who series compared with the Peter Davidson or Patrick Troughton years over your Caramel-Macchiato (coz…y’know, no-one goes for a pint at the pub anymore….it’s always a coffee at that cool coffee-house on the corner…).

Because we’re no longer simply at the mercy of what we read in a handful of papers or what our neighbours and friends tell us in some kind of chinese-whispers type of way; or based solely on what we see on 3-4 TV channels that some TV boss somewhere has decided we should see or think is cool.  Now, we can search for anything, compare our thoughts and feelings and find the people, all over the world, who think like us about subjects we feel passionate about.  Now, the nerds and the geeks from every high-school in the world can unite, and show that they are many, and then the closet geeks and nerds who wished they were them feel brave enough to come out, dressed as a Klingon.

When I was in University I house-shared with a girl who was in the Medieval Society, she met her boyfriend/fiance in said society; we lost touch but I always wonder when I see reports of ‘themed’ weddings whether they did that, all those years ago before it was fashionable?

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It’s no longer ‘a bit odd’ to come out and announce your affiliation to whichever-genre-you-choose or the fact that you have Hogwarts robes in your wardrobe.

Mind you, the quality is so good these days, because *they* {Manufacturers, marketers, licensing people I suppose…} know that big fans will spend the money on them, I might even have purchased a ‘proper’ robe myself while I was at Universal, even as a not-so-huge HP fan {Loved the books…because I love books anyway…kind of went off the whole franchise with the movies etc…} but was put off by the price.  Which is kind of a sticking point I’ve noticed.  Across the internet, there are online-quizzes and games asking “Are you ***** biggest fan?”; articles and blogs about ‘Blah-Blah-Blah’s biggest fan”.  I found this video on Youtube (there are many, for all different ‘fandoms’) of a girl in America who “believes she’s the wizard’s biggest fan thanks to her vast collection of memorabilia worth a staggering £40,000.” and the comments range from basic “wow” to “I’m a big fan too” to “Does the fact she’s rich and can afford to buy the expensive memorabilia make her the biggest fan?”.  To be fair, not everyone has the money to spend, but she does address that in the video saying she’s worked hard for it all.

As with Victoria Maclean, who I had the pleasure of meeting last year and working on set with; co-incidentally after I’d read her autobiography online…completely by chance after coming across it from a different source (Mutual friends on Facebook I think).  Now Victoria’s similar…she has a vast collection of merchandise.  But again, she bought it all with her own money; she was gifted some and sent some (…and similarly is careful that it doesn’t completely take over the house in a hoarder fashion!).  But reading her book brought to mind my point.  Years ago, someone might have thought twice about building their life-story around their fandom.  In an autobiography, it might have been one chapter, or a sideline, if it was mentioned at all…incase it made the story ‘uncool’ or put people off reading it.

Nowadays, the fandom is a selling-point, a marketing tool.  Harry Potter fans, of which there are millions of all levels (myself included to a small extent) would flock to read the story purely because it references Harry Potter and the effect it had on Victoria’s life.  One event that occurs in one of J.K.Rowling’s  Harry Potter stories is the Yule Ball.  Thanks to her using that term in the book for the annual festive celebration at Hogwarts, to anyone familiar with Potter-dom, it no longer conjours up visions of some Victorian Christmas Party; it’s now intrinsically linked forever to the world of Harry Potter.  And that’s why Victoria is throwing her own.  Far from just collecting memorabilia and hanging her robes in her closet until the next Comic-Con, she’s made it her life.  She’s organised book nights and quizzes and runs online groups and Twitter accounts for other Harry Potter fans.  And, like two of my best friends are throwbacks to my Due South days…beause we will always have that in common; Victoria’s closest circle are also dedicated Potter fans.  And that circle is probably going to grow at Christmas time as other fans flock from all over to her *almost-sold-out event.

At the end of the day, no matter what you’re a fan of or how you celebrate it, it’s probably more about community.  30 years ago, if you were the loner in school, who never had the hot boy/girlfriend, because you wanted to read comic books about Thor and that’s just not what the other kids did, you just kept it to yourself and went to find a quiet place to enjoy it.  Nowadays, you don’t have to be sidelined…you go On-line; and find your best friends.

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The internet can be, and is, blamed for a heck of a lot of bad things these days.  But this is one to be celebrated.

That, and 24-hour shopping for just about anything you want, of course 😉 **

*at the time of writing, there were 3 tickets left
** that’s a joke.  The Internet is actually Good for you

x

Posted in Family, History, Home, Life

27 Addresses

I was in the supermarket the other night on my way home, picking up some last minute stuff.  It was quiet.  Almost closing time.  Two men behind me at the only open check-out knew each other, and began chatting as acquaintances do who haven’t seen each other for a little while. One told the other they’d just moved house and bemoaned some of the things that go along with it.  The other responded with “I moved house, once. Never again”

Once???? I’ve recently moved for the 27th time.

Just for clarity, I’m counting any address where I lived, made my own beds, bought my own food, (unless too young and my mum was doing said things for me) received mail – so that it doesn’t count as a ‘holiday’ (or vacation if you want to be mutli-national about it).

There’s no one set reason. I wasn’t an ‘army brat’ whose parent or parents were in the military and so we moved bases regularly.  I wasn’t born into a tribe of Romany travellers or some nomadic tribe in Timbuctu.  There were (are?) all sorts of reasons.

The first was that my mum & dad grew up in different parts of the country.  They bought their first married home in *his* region; but when his job took him away a lot and mum found herself alone for long periods with a baby, it made more sense for the family home to be near to *her* family; so when I was 2 we moved house back to her home town.

I count being at sea as being “somewhere I lived”, so that’s one of the 27 places.  Even though we went back and forth a LOT of times, and on different ships; I can’t really separate the memories of different voyages, but they all lasted for months.  Besides, any mail we received (and this is why I’ve counted it…I remember a helicopter landing on board out at sea once, near Christmas, and “Santa” getting off and handing a sack to the crew member who’d gone out to meet him) would have been addressed to the same shipping office address and then forwarded on.

We moved house again, after my little sister was born, so I would have been 7; and as a family of 5, with a nanny, we were outgrowing our 3-bed terrace; besides, Dad had ‘made Captain’ so I’m assuming the income was better.

After that…well, it’s difficult to track the amount of time spent in each place.  My parents divorced and we left the bigger house.  We moved in with mum’s boyfriend.  Then we moved in with her next boyfriend….and so it went for a while.  Rentals, with or without boyfriends. Then after a few years she remarried and I thought, finally…a bit of stability…

Alas, that was not to be. They decided to go into business as a pub-management couple and so we lived above various pubs, moving around a few as the tenancies ended or whatever other reasons we were moved. Then it was convenience stores…we lived above/behind two of those.

Then I went to university; and so I moved…this time into a house share with 3 other students.  And eventually my dog – but dog-tales is probably another post…

My next ‘move’ was Camp America.  My first time abroad on my own and first visit to the USA. OK so it wasn’t *technically* a move, since I was on a student/temp work visa to work in the USA for the summer; but I did receive mail there during the few months I spent in Iowa. (Mum, and a friend, both sent ‘care packages’ – a collection of sweets/foods from home!  remember, these were days before everything was global; there were far more brands that remained local and hadn’t yet breached human borders. Although one bag of jelly sweets mum sent had congealed – the package must have been left in a warm place, maybe out in the sun at the cargo depot in between flights, but they’d then gelled back together into one big lump of multicoloured jelly sweet.  it was quite amusing.  And difficult to eat!!).  and if it counts, I then traveled down to Brazil to stay with Dad for a few weeks, although I’ve included that in this whole summer experience as 1 move.

After that, mum left husband#2 and we moved to a small rented terrace; which was quite sweet, really.  And a nice location.  It was close to where I ended up working for the next 10+ years and I cycled to work regularly.  Also accessible to nightlife and shopping and public transport. And my grandparents – they were in walking/cycling distance so I could pop round when I felt like it.   Mum eventually moved back with husband#2 and I took over the rental of the little terrace.  And I was so happy to finally have a place of my own, I was there for a good few years.  I hadn’t learned to drive up until that point and didn’t see the need to living there either.  I was dispatching airplanes for a living, and completing loadsheets, and even had a couple of flying lessons but couldn’t drive a car!

Then I met my husband-to-be.  Once it seemed we were to ‘settle down’ together he brought up the idea of buying our own place.  We searched around and even though my preference was to stay in my home town, we found a new build (His preference…I’ve always prefered older houses), up in the valleys, that was still to be built but the plot looked amazing and the showhome was a similar style…we bought it off plan the same day and it transpired that I would need to drive in order to get to work, so the driving lessons began in earnest.

And I kept saying, over and over, I was only moving again because this would be the last time I moved.  We would put our stamp on this new home and stay there. It was sizeable, bigger than we would have been able to afford down in my home town (houses in the valleys invariably are at the lower end of the house-price range), and there was a playpark, and a school nearby…we figured, not that we had set plans, but if children of our own came along, we would grow into the house and the area.

And then…one strange evening, he got a phone call in the middle of the night from a company in New Zealand asking if he’d like to come and work for them…

It wasn’t a decision we took lightly.  I mean, who gets a call like that out of  the blue from a country you’ve never been let alone ever considered living in?  It took us a while, but we thought, hey why not?  And once again…I promised my self: last-time

Of course, then there were a few address changes when we first got there. He went out first as he had to start work; I followed after I had worked my notice and packed up the house to be shipped over (since the new company had given him a relocation allowance…otherwise it’s a very expensive undertaking!  Even then, it pretty much ate up anything we had – which wasn’t much.).  They had put him up in a city waterfront apartment to begin with for his first 4 weeks, to get a foothold while he started work and had a chance to look around.  Then he found a small bedsit in the city for when I arrived.  To be honest, it was a nice little place.  Very basic, and all our own stuff was in storage.  But it was nice, kind of freeing, to be living with very few belongings for a while. But we had a container of stuff arriving, so we needed to think about renting an actual house.  So we found one.  And moved in.  And the stuff arrived. And then he heard from someone in work about other ex-pats on the same visa as us (work-to-residency) who had managed to get mortgages.  So, we found a nice place and bought again.  So we moved.  Luckily before having unpacked the boxes of stuff!

And we got a dog.  And I found out I was pregnant. And I looked out at the view from our balcony regularly and told myself, again, that this was the last time, that I would stay here and settle down…

After I had the second child, Other half was getting itchy feet again and was browsing jobs…and was really taken by an ad he’d seen for his role…but in The Bahamas.  I rolled my eyes.  Thinking it was a long shot I just nodded and said ‘go for it’ when he asked if he should apply. Not such a long shot as it turned out; he was offered the job…and after that there was very little chance of him being persuaded to turn it down. It was a 2-year contract ‘with a view to extend’.

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There had been a suggestion discussed that I would stay in NZ with the children and he could send money back, at least to begin with.  But I didn’t really have that much fight left in me by this point, and couldn’t see myself being here alone with children. And I asked for reassurance that there was little chance of this actually only being a 2-year contract and a high possibility that it WOULD be extended? Yes, of course!  Why would they let him go after spending all that on relocation and so on and so forth…

So, just short of 5 years after arriving in New Zealand, we all went.  We packed up…again….with another relocation allowance.  We flew to LA.  Stayed there a couple of nights to wait for the dog (She wasn’t allowed to fly Air NZ so we had to collect her off a Qantas flight at LAX). Then we used a little of the relocation allowance to take a 2-week road trip across the States from LA to Huston, from where we could get a short hopper-flight to The Bahamas with the dog in the cabin.  I’d investigated different routes and options and this seemed the best option to lessen the stress of shipping and flight-changes and different cargo handlers the dog would have to endure in order to get straight to Nassau.  Plus it gave us a bit of a holiday. And it was pretty long and involved a lot of sleeping.  And we did normal regular life things like visiting vets (The dog had 2 separate import events – NZ to USA then exported US to Bahamas as there was no direct route; so we had to get vet checks and certificates from a US vet to OK her travel to the Bahamas for them to issue an import certificate and registration…)

And then…Again, the company had secured us accommodation to begin with so we could settle in while we looked around.  Then Hubby got talking to a guy…who struck me as dodgy immediately, but he assured hubby all was above board, and we rented a rather stylish penthouse apartment from him.  At about 30% the price he’d originally been advertising it for…

…a few months later after we’d moved to an actual house in a gated community, hubby got talking to someone who had been a neighbour in the swish apartment block…turned out the building was stolen and the guy had no business renting out apartments to anyone!!

Taught me to trust my gut instincts again…

I became pregnant again.  Now, considering we’d gone 5-6 years of, well, not necessarily ‘trying’ but then, not really taking any preventative measures, before moving to NZ, and nothing happened, (well, there was that one miscarriage but let’s not get into that), before no1 came along we’d kind of resigned to the fact that they never were.  And now, here was the third… Maybe it was the environments we were living in? The local foods?  And so, no3 was born in The Bahamas.

And then…his contract wasn’t extended.  There had been a general election while we were there.  The opposition got in, and immediately started making changes, as new governments are wont to do.  One of their policies was to strengthen the ‘jobs for Bahamians’ policies.  So, although it was nigh-on impossible for a foreigner to get a work-permit for Bahamas (I was allowed to live there as a spouse of a worker but only on a non-working resident visa), in cases where technical specialists, or highly skilled workers were required, then exceptions were made.  Now, it was even harder for those exceptions to get passed.  The company CEO was a Canadian.  His 2-year visa was up 6 months before hubby’s.  The company were having so much trouble trying to get a visa for their C.E.O that they took one look at hubby and thought they couldn’t even be bothered trying to apply for his…and so, we were off again.  Except, not sure where to…

Hubby had been chatting to an engineer on the other end of his cable network…in Miami, Florida.  He was invited to interview, and was given reason to believe a job was being offered to him.  He was emailed advice on which US visa to apply for and so on and so forth (they were very careful about the wordings of their emails and contacts…) and we started looking for homes and schools and details on living in Florida… and two weeks before we were due to go over; the company in Miami turned around and said, in basic terms: ‘actually, we’re not offering you a job…’.

So, we ditched the US visa application.  (We were going to get it anyway having already paid the non-refundable application fee; y’know, just in case it came in handy coz one of us was going to need a job before long and it couldn’t hurt to have it; but when we went in for our appointment, the snooty, self-important embassy staff were so rude and condescending – our photos were the wrong colour or the wording of something was wrong – I just took one look at hubby, and having had far too much stress and experiences of international visa applications and jumping through other people’s hoops over the years, I said, “let’s go, I can’t be bothered with this, we don’t need it.” and walked out, leaving a stunned desk clerk.  As though she’d not witnessed anyone turning down a US visa before?! Come to think of it, she probably hadn’t…coz everyone’s desperate to be American, right?)

We couldn’t go back the NZ because we’d left just shy of being able to convert our ‘returning resident’ visas into ‘permanent resident’ visas.  (The children were born as UK citizens as we weren’t ‘returning or permanent residents’ when they were born so didn’t qualify to be Kiwi…more money we didn’t have being poured away trying to get NZ birth certificates to get UK passports to get NZ visas put in them…Oh, and they charge you more for a UK passport if you’re not in the UK applying for them.)

There was nothing for it than to return to the UK.  Although with nowhere to live (having sold up and emigrated…remember?!) we were at the mercy of family and friends.  Hubby cashed in some pension fund he had to see us through for the first few weeks.  We lived in his mum’s 1 bedroom flat with her for a short while. We moved in with my mum for a short while but needed to get out.  By this time no1 was nearing 5 years of age and I’d already searched info and found that legally in the UK children must be enrolled in full-time education at age 5 (even though they *can* start younger in a lot of areas, it’s not compulsory until age 5.  just thought I’d clarify because a friend was adamant that because her daughter had started school age 3 that it was compulsory.  It’s not.)

So, we rented a house from a friend of a friend, and I found the nearest Welsh-medium primary school and no1 & no2 started there.  Mainly because, despite moving school countless times myself, growing up, I went through school in Welsh and this is what I know.  So I was more comfortable with them having that education, knowing I could help as much as I could.  (Plus it’s giving me a LOT of practice speaking Welsh!).  In fact, had we stayed in NZ and they’re grown up there, that would have been my one regret, that they couldn’t have a Welsh educational background.

Speaking of moving schools; now that they’re there (no3 started there in January too) I am ADAMANT that they will not change schools.  Of all the memories of my childhood, good and bad, one of the experiences I hate the most is being made to change schools. Multiple times.  I refuse to subject my own children to that.  So for now, at least, while they’re in school, we will stay in the same area. Having said that….we’re now on our 3rd rented property in the same area since we were moved on from mum’s.

Although we’d eventually like to buy this one, and stay for ever (so much so that I’ve started tending the garden with a vigour for gardening I’ve not had since that first new-build we bought over in the other valley…purely because I haven’t felt like investing the time and hard work in the other places thinking I wouldn’t be around long enough to reap the benefits) … we (as in hubby & I) have said that before…and for various reasons we’ve had to move on.  And I’m losing more of my resolve to put up a fight each and every time.

What would be REALLY nice, though, is if the universe & its powers-that-be, can agree with me, and realise that 27 really is a good number to finish on.  So, Stop now.  Let me be settled.

x

Posted in Creative, Family, Home, Life

Seeking The Good Life

 (…or, how would we continue to live after a zombie apocalypse?)

In accordance with the parenthood-induced-paranoia of my last post, and constantly worrying about what goes into our food, I’m increasingly interested in all things related to natural, sustainable living.  My guiding principle in this endeavour being, what if the unthinkable happened (Zombie apocalypse, world-order collapse etc.) and there were NO MORE SHOPS??? (Or cars, or farms…well..ok, there might be some quite healthy farmers laughing at the rest of us but they might live too far away from home to be able to pop over – without a car – for an egg and a side of beef…and how would we pay them?)

There was a TV show on when I was little.  Well, it was being repeated when I was little – it was produced originally before I was born.  It was called “The Good Life“.  Many readers will remember it.  For those that don’t, modern couple in Surbiton ditch their city-jobs and ‘modern life’ and decide to become self-sufficent, living off their garden and things they can make and grow and produce themselves. (My sister lives there, in Surbiton, now…can’t see her living like that though…)

Today, I planted a cherry tree and an apple tree in my front garden.  I also did a bit more weeding and planting in the flower bed just outside the back door.  It’s tough going – it’s been left wild for seemingly years to what used to be a flower bed was solid grass and dandelions before I began.

I planted some strawberries in tubs.  Time will tell but last time I tried strawberries they were rescued from B&Q for 50p per plant at the end of the season before being dumped by them.  By the following year I had a bumper crop.  It may have had something to do with the copious amounts of Miracle-Gro I was using.  Still, it gave me the confidence that I could actually produce something.  Then we moved.  And moved again…and again… (Again, another post…) and so the effort I had put in to that garden has never really come back to me.  Until recently when we moved again and this house, well, this one seems right…

I’d prefer to be doing this chemical free.  Of course.  I do not use weed-killers. of any kind.  I believe the safest and most effective way of removing weeds is..well..to remove them.  Dig up the roots and all and get rid of the whole thing completely,  And no poisons left behind to seep to your other plants.  I’m not much of a scientific gardeer; following rules and testing soil samples and paying attention to acidity levels and all that.  So far I’ve just been a fair-weather plant-it-and-see kind of gardener.  learning by trial and error and giving a bit of care and attention. Because I haven’t had to rely on the results…

Where did it start?:
It’s not a new interest of mine.  I grew up, as I’m sure many of us millennials did, with a grampy & great-grampy whose gardens were mostly given over to cultivating their own foodstuffs for the family.  Vines of beans and peas, greenhouses full of weird and wonderful scents and sights; and the weekly bribe of “ah, but they’re from grampy’s garden” over Sunday lunch to guilt us in to eating our veg.  (It always worked and I’ve been a keep veg&fruit eater since). It’s always been obvious to me that it’s perfectly natural that part of your garden is used for growing food.  In fact, I watch some of the more recent crop of ‘reality’ shows on TV, teaching people how to save money on their groceries, or eat a healthier diet, or a combination of the two, healthier cheaper supermarket shopping, and am at a loss to understand the pre-made roast potatoes and Yorkshire  puddings and the pre-grated cheese; the sauces-from-jars-or-packets and every other over-processed convenience food; the throwing away of the ridiculous over-stocks of fresh foods when it was clear they’d bought too much for them to consume within the time-frame of freshness…and I wonder whether these people are real…was there no hint during their childhood of what was in their food?  Did their mothers and grandmothers not involve them in the cooking & baking (and the washing up)?  Didn’t they pick their own peas from great-grampy’s garden and eat them fresh straight from the pod before even going inside?  Did they honestly think the only way to get lasagne was to buy it ready-prepared in the freezer section?

To me, having the space, even a small patch, in a garden, at your home, to grow at least something edible, is a normal part of life.

The Duck Collection:
We have a duck collection. (Rubber ducks, I might add). I think it would take a whole other post to explain the background to it; but suffice to say, it’s now the theme of our bathroom.

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( just *some* of the duck collection & theme, in our old bathroom)

Since that began, it’s always been at the back of my mind that I’d like to own ducks. Real ones, I mean.  As pets/domestic animals, partly, and partly to provide a fresh supply of eggs (and general amusement).  Actually, I say since then, I actually mean, since there was a 4-legged duck born in the UK, randomly, who became famous and made the news.  I looked him up on the internet (in it’s early days back then I suppose) and discovered that the farm where he was born also supplied ducks.  And they weren’t overly expensive either. And the seed was sewn…if they were that easy to get hold of, how difficult is it to look after them…? So I’ve been researching and procrastinating ever since.  About 10-12 years now.  I’m pretty sure it might happen one day.  I have an aunt who has chickens.  And I’ve learned that ducks not only produce nicer/more nutritious eggs than chickens but they’re also calmer and quieter in general.  I’m sure the neighbours would prefer ducks.   Various moves and living situations and so on have thus far prevented the very thought; but in keeping with the spirit of this post, Ducks for eggs (and eventually meat, maybe?) would be another addition to my Good Life garden.

stumpy bby
Stumpy the 4 legged duck as a chick…
grownstumpy
Stumpy grown up, with 3 legs after an amputation.

And another thing…
It’s always bugged me…well, since I’ve been trying to research stuff on the internet, it’s bugged me…that when you look up an instructional for something; say, how to make a home-made hair-conditioning or face-mask from scratch using household ingredients; invariably, it involves getting some exotic essential oil from your nearest branch of *insert name of US niche chain store here*.  Another example – I recently began working as a costumed medieval tour guide and so researching history has become more than a hobby, and actually sort of work-related.  So looking up ways to make certain things the old-fashioned way came in to play – cheese, butter (I play a dairy maid 😉 ); bread, wine, herbal medicines and so on. We have an apothecary nun who grows all kinds of things so learning what certain native British plants used to be used for is interesting. It annoyed me that everything online, suggesting how to ‘make this yourself at home without buying shop-bought stuff with preservatives and additives in’ STILL included having to ‘go and get something from the bakery aisle of your local supermarket ‘ …
Take Yeast for example. I looked up how to make simple, basic, home made bread.  Invariably “get some dried yeast from the supermarket” was always one of the steps.  With a little more digging I found that with a little starter yeast it’s easy to produce more; a bit like when I make home-made yoghurt with my Easiyo yoghurt maker, without the use of their pre-packed sachets, using UHT or pre-heated milk and some starter yoghurt.

But in a bit like ‘the chicken and the egg’ – where did the FIRST sample of starter yeast and starter yoghurt come from?  What happens if you run out inadvertantly?  Does the medieval village baker close down and wait for the next trader from the holy-lands to wander through the village and hope he’s carrying a sample of yeast?  How do you explain that to his Lordship and hope his lack of Pain-de-Main doesn’t cause him to close down your oven and chop your hands off? How do I get some starter yoghurt if I’ve run out (alright I had an unplanned house party, made a mint-yoghurt dip and a lamb curry with my yoghurt and forgot to save some for the next batch…). Now, the fermentation of milk into yoghurt & cheese was discovered by accident in the middle-east thousands of years before (or holy-lands I suppose as they were better known at the time). Fresh milk for drinking would be stored in a drinks container made from a sheep or camel stomach or intestines, for example, and after a few days riding across the hot desert, they’d find the milk, well, not quite as it should be.  It wasn’t just soured and gone off; but had been preserved in some kind of slightly solid and quite tasty substance.  Rennet has been used in cheese & yoghurt making ever since. There are alternatives such as certain vegetables that produce a coagulating substance

Now, with a little more digging I’ve discovered that it’s possible to recreate the yoghurting (is that a word or did I just invent it?) process without a starter, or the rennet, believe it or not.  There’s a few web posts dedicated to it.  I haven’t tried it yet but am anxious to try…y’know, so I know I can make yoghurt & cheese after the apocalypse…

Apart from some sources I’ve found mentioning that a bread starter can be made using just water and flour, I have discovered that yeast is a natural substance that grows on the outside of various fruits.  Raisins are good apparently.  It (basically – look up more in depth instructions if you want to try this...) involves soaking the fruit (I used raisins and orange peel) in water and leaving it to ferment.  Eventually, a film of solid…well…mush, separates from the fruit and sinks to the bottom. After a few days, remove the fruit and save the yeast and the water it’s contained in.   Now, I *have* tried this….I think it was successful (it certainly *smelled* a bit yeasty…well, like a brewery so I think that was close enough 😉 ) but I’ve yet to test it in the making of bread.  Well, I tried, but it was after moving house meaning the jar had not been refrigerated constantly (it was kept at room temp during the move while the fridge was unplugged, moved, settled and then plugged back in) and also, I think I may have stored it too long…and I dind’t exactly follow instructions to the letter, so it didn’t seem to have much of a reaction to warmth and the ‘bread’ was a bit, well, like a brick!  I am determined to try again, properly. Y’know, so I know I can still  make bread (if I figure out how to grow a good yield of grains in my garden) after the apocalypse.

So, once I’ve got the gardens cultivated and growing (also, without relying on buying Miracle-Gro from the shops that may not exist after the mentioned apocalypse!) settled the ducks in (and maybe a pygmy goat or two) and have figured out the yoghurt and yeast thing, we might be pretty well off!Oh, and I’ve even looked into which plants make a good soap-like substance 😉

Anything else I’ve forgotten?

*Disclaimer* Nothing in this post is meant as an instructional of any kind.  If you decide to have a go at the things I’ve described, please look elsewhere for full instructions and don’t hold me responsible 😉 !!