Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Gods of Thrifting were smiling today...

I had to take a parcel to the Post Office.
I parked at the block of shops and walked along, past the chip shop and the small convenience store and past the Hospice shop (they raise money for sick children) and in the window I saw a cute little dog, one I love and have a few of, but always look out for;

A Radley Bag? In the Claire House shop?

A Radley Bag???

How much? It's a good sized one, not massive, but middle-ish. Brown. It's probably called Tan or Rust or... HOW MUCH??? £20?? Is that all??

Do I need a bag (well, no, but does any woman need a bag who has a plastic carrier?) Do I want a bag? (well, duh, I'm female)
I have a few things this would go with; new brown boots, my green coat, my green tops, my chocolate coloured trousers. Yes, I could style myself up well.

If I had a brown Radley bag. A brown bag.

All these thought processes took a couple of seconds. I was in, with the bag off the window shelf where it had been placed and on my shoulder. I tested the strap, long enough.... but not too long. It fitted well under my arm. It felt good, not too heavy, not too flimsy. I opened it; plain lining but good lining, clean, sensible pockets, zips all working. Oh, God, what if it was owned by a smoker??? Quick, hold it up to the nose; what does it smell like? *Relief* no smell, no scent of any sort.

I made my way happily to the desk, clutched my hard earned cash and laughed quietly. I paid and escaped quickly, after all it might have been mis-priced. My new bag. My new bag. Bliss.

And I have trawled Ebay to find another one like my bag, here £35 buy now plus £5.95 postage. So I bagged a real bargain. Are 46 year old Mums allowed to dance? Here are the Ebay photos, the light here is too golden for a lovely photo now, I'll try to take one tomorrow.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

My best moment this summer...

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy - Dancing Groot:

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Just a quick pop by...

We've been busy sprucing up the front;

 power washing the block paving (apparently a power washer is really good for practising handwriting!)

grey undercoat on the front door and garage before two coats of a dark red satin Weathershield paint called Monarch.

The house is looking better, but like every time you do one small thing, now I'm looking at it thinking "I need to do the window sills. And the bell needs replacing. And don't the windows need a good wash...."

Not to mention, I will need a new wreath for Christmas. Mistletoe, 40cm. Don't tell Mr AJ.

Thursday, 14 August 2014


I write this staring out to see at the most amazing view. To the right is Yr Eifl, with a clear summit for once. To the left sits Port Dinllen, with the lights of the Ty Coch just beginning to show against a pale pink and baby blue sunset. The bright shades of red and purple may shine through later, as the sun wends its way slowly below the horizon but for now we have reached the gloaming. The colours of life have faded, the beach has emptied and the rabbits are growing braver, creeping further out across the field where, two years ago the cows chewed cud and stood, like live Damien Hirst exhibits, until the farmer fetched them in. The field is fallow at the moment, but signs that sheep were there earlier this summer can be seen. On the horizon I can see a faded violet outline, a mountain rising magically from the sea, a magical island like Avalon, but not mythical. This island is actual; a home for many people and a place of holiday rest and relaxation for others. In local terms it is Ynys Mon, but we call it Anglesey. In the past it has rather romantically been called the Dark Isle or the Isle of the Braves. I know all it will take is a shifting of mist or a deepening dusk to make it disappear again.

And tomorrow it will disappear, for us at least. Our week in the cottage is nearly over. Before we go home tomorrow we must clean and tidy our lives away, pack them up in our suitcases and head back to a real life that promises a few busy weeks. Saturday morning will signal the slide inexorably to school, to yokedom again and to the routines of daily living. And the changing of holiday self; late mornings spent with coffee cup in hand, early evening started with a wine or a cider or a bottle of beer, lunchtimes with a pasty or a pie or a packed sandwich and every day in a different spot. We have breathed easier here, stepped off the carousel and let the world speed by as we paused and stopped to smell the flowers on the hillside, to stroke the rabbit or the dog, to dig the channel that set the clear spring water free on the beach.

We have stopped to look at the pebbles, to pick them up and turn them over, choosing the ones that spoke to us of shape or colour or texture. We left the unwieldy or ugly on the beach, we brought the hearts and the smooth shaped solid rocks back with us.

 Will they make it into our daily life? Some, not all, in the same way that some, but not all of our holiday tan will survive and some, but not all of our holiday snapshots will make it onto our media of choice. We will edit our memory of a week spent together to highlight the happy, the tranquil, the smiling and leave the cross words, the frowns and the stamped feet behind.

I will take a little of this cottage with me; nothing physical; nothing actual; but a feeling of calm. A knowledge that this, like all other times, will pass: a comprehension that this is my Golden time, this moment now, wherever I am, because this moment now is all that I have; no past can hold me prisoner, no future threaten or reward me. This moment, as the sun finally sinks below the hill and the sky flares with vermillion, this is it.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Postcards from Wales...

No long stories yet (if ever; it depends if I remember what I've been up to next week!) but just a few postcards of our hols so far.
Criccieth; sunny but windy

Nefyn Beach, not sunny and also windy

Super Sarah; thank God for Pinterest!!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Six Degrees of Separation.... a MASSIVE complaint

If we truly are all separated by six degrees of separation, then somebody out there knows somebody out there who knows somebody out there who stands a chance of knowing this family.

They went to Shrewsbury Flower Show on Saturday 9th August this year. They came about 4pm and took the space in front of me that had previously been occupied by a nice family who had sat on their picnic blanket, watching the arena shoe and laughing delightedly at everything around them.
They had young children so they left for tea, I think. We were all prepared for another nice family, picnic blanket in hand to move in when.....

No!!! No, that's so not fair!!! We are seated on the ground, we are shorter by far than you with your picnic table, with your set of six chairs (only 4 were ever in use when we were there) and your own blanket on the ground where your children sat and stood and sat and stood all evening long.

Actually, I don't mind children moving or talking or having fun in front of me. That's natural, and quite cute. So the children weren't a big problem.
No, my issue is that you blocked the view for me, my children and the others sat on the ground behind you.

 That when the band started setting up for the concert, this was my view. There are pipers on this stage.
 Golly, yes, go talk to the next door person. After all, if you lean forward a little or sway then you can obscure even more of the pathetic little space you have left available to me.
 And, yes, touch your ear, stretch up tall, make yourself take up more space. There are Red Hot Chilli Pipers on this stage and people may want to watch them.

 What's that you say, readers? They didn't realise they had blocked the view? I wish! I could forgive them that. But when they arrived Mr Pink Shirt looked around and laughed at me and told me I wouldn't see past them. I would have to move, he said. Before they all settled down to an ENDLESS picnic ( much leaning forward as the show jumping happened) and much moving to find the best spot.
Actually, another few families did move out, but I am an ornery person. I don't see why I should have moved. I don't think it was my responsibility to make sure that IDIOTS didn't come in late and just plonk down their kit in an air of self deserving satisfaction at the idea that the floor bound Hoi Polloi were no longer able to see. And I'm a good complainer.
I am writing this post as a complaint to the family. I'm hoping six degrees of separation works and somebody recognises them. Pass on my complaint. Tell them that I wrote to the Horticultural society to say that this sort of thing very often happens, that it is NOT FAIR and demonstrates a lack of regard for other people and their enjoyment, that it shows that bad manners are not only evident in lower stratas of society but in affluent looking middle aged people. Just a degree of common sense and less obviously selfish behaviour by sitting BEHIND THE PEOPLE ON THE FLOOR would have made a big difference to ALL the families around there. This 2 metre space went empty because NO ONE ELSE COULD SIT THERE, 4 families moved because their view was obscured, even the little old man and little old lady who sat on their small chairs behind us couldn't see for the rude and selfish people in front.

Have you read this? Would you like to apologise? Apology accepted, but it is empty and meaningless without action. Please remember if you ever go to an event like this again, look and THINK. You didn't look thick, you didn't look like you were baby eaters or granny murderers, you looked like a family out for the evening. Just extend the courtesy of thinking of others before yourselves to the people around you. Just be kinder in future.

If you need to see more of Mrs Sway, the You Tube video of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers is here. They were really, really good, and a true live spectacle, but I could only see a small part of the stage, so they might have been really rubbish and I'd never know.

Monday, 11 August 2014

So much more than Flowers...

This weekend I took my three angelic children to Shrewsbury Flower Show. We've been before and it is really good, with a cracking range of entertainment and no need ever to go near the flowers. If you're a gardener you will  be so disappointed with my write up of the show. We passed through the flower tents, but the flowers are really not why we go.

 We go for the showjumping; this year the younger Whittakers were out in force, so we saw George, James, Louise and Ellen Whittaker (she doesn't half get cross with her horses!) as well as Geoff Billington and Tim Stockdale.

 We go for the atmosphere. This year's theme was 'The Show that Never Was', because the 1914 show got cancelled, naturally, and the organisers had gone to some trouble to make sure everything had a tinge of nostalgia. There was a fancy dress costume which this young girl and  her Nanny won. Seeing the people dressed up and wandering around was very interesting.
 We go for the arena show. There's always good stuff on there. This was the Whitchurch Dog Display Team with their dogs that are trained to run through fire.
 The Portsmouth Cadets and other teams ran the guns. Not quite as impressive as at the Royal Tournament or other places where they have the walls and chasms, but there's quite a few tons of metal in each of those guns and they hefted them left right and centre!
 Food came half the price of the showground!pretty regularly. Fish and chips from the town chippy worked out at
 Dingle Fingle. God bless him. He has done every show I've been to which stretches back 20 years. He was a young lad back then, him and his mate Slippery Sid are a lot more worn now. The show hasn't changed (at all) but it's still fun to see them ripping up the arena in a smoking motor car.
 We go for the sunsets. Friday's was beautiful.
 We go for the evening's entertainment. The first night was the Opera Boys, with a mix of opera and musical songs. I really enjoyed them, they had a lovely stage manner, and were quite funny about each other. One was from Lancaster and one from Leeds, so what can you expect.
The second night was a group called the Red Hot Chilli Pipers (get it?) who play something they call Bag Rock. They were really interesting to watch, a cracking spectacle (if you could see them) and I enjoyed the gig. Their version of Fix You has to be seen to be believed, but they were a good choice to get us foot tapping and hip jiggling.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Precious time, together.

I have always been blessed since having children with a set of grandparents who will have the children on a sleepover. My Mum and Dad are old hands, with 10 grandchildren in total and very kindly, at least twice a year, take our three for a night, or two, or three.
This week it was only two nights, long enough for a three day trip with my beloved. Here is the handsome man. I love him so much, but don't tell him that or he'll get big headed.

We visited Royal Leamington Spa, a town barely detached from Warwick that we have never actually been to before. What a revelation! A really good shopping experience, with Travelodge and Premier Inn both conveniently taking up two old Spa hotels on the high street. It still bears signs of its past as a Spa centre.

The water tap on the bridge pumps out salinated water from the spring, and the Pump Rooms nearby have colonnaded walks and space that now is used for functions but, in Regency times would have thrummed with the gossip of women not too different from any stately Ma'am in Jane Austen.. The whole place had a fallen Regency splendour, with classic Georgian buildings repurposed for various needs. The ubiquitous statue of Queen Victoria was echoed in the windows of the Travelodge; yes, the Travelodge had stained glass windows commemorating Queen Victoria and Bonaparte III.
There were good places to eat for lunch and tea, but my favourite was the Bandstand Tearooms. With a pretty view out across to the actual Bandstand the name wasn't that big a stretch, and every table was laid with quaint mis-match china, cutlery that really did look like it came from Granny's old collection and a choice of delectable teas, sandwiches and cakes. I had a chai latte and rather scrummy club sandwich.

We had a full Saturday. We visited Warwick, and specifically the Collegiate Church of St Mary's. It's the home church for Warwick Castle, with a serious leaning towards the Beauchamp and Neville families as the earls of Warwick. You cannot turn around without seeing bears, especially bears in chains, in the church; on choir ends, tombs, carved on the door ways. The Bear and Staff is everywhere;

I really enjoyed the church. For a place that is still a centre of worship, it was full of details that were close enough to see and appreciate. I have never seen a bread shelf before; several members of the congregation who died in the 19th century left their estates to pay for loaves to be baked and left on the shelf for the poor. This went on until the 1920's, so not an ancient tradition.
I think my favourite part of the whole church was the tomb that took centre stage just below the altar and forces today's congregation to have a new altar below the choir. These two hold hands, even in death. Love in perpetuity. The romantic inside me found it so touching; the realist inside him read out from the guide sheet that this gesture was to record the joining of two great families and titles.

Oh, heartless fool and desolate of mind! How could you think it wasn't true love?

Saturday afternoon threatened bad weather but, nothing ventured, we went to Blenheim.
As a gift from a grateful nation for services rendered it is a doozy! I wonder who would be worthy of such reward now? And here my cynical self does say that it probably was given to the newly created Duke of Marlborough just because Queen Anne and his wife were bosom buddies. Beats any amount of Bankers' bonus!

For the price of a day's admission you can upgrade at the moment to a Privilege card. This gives you free return within a year, and indeed having really enjoyed Leamington the chances that we will go back and this time take the children is really good. We often go on a reconnaissance mission as a couple before taking the tribe. The problem is we walk around going "S would like this.... Ooh! JW would find that fascinating... DP would love this bit of history!!"  Blenheim does a good job of linking its illustrious start with the Battle of Bloendhem with the Great War Leader who was born there. Its history is linked to the country and, although it still belongs officially to just one man, I think the people who visit find it has a story that they take away with them.
Sunday dawned and we went from the sublime to the ordinary. From Blenheim to the back to backs. These are a small National Trust area in Birmingham.
The whole courtyard would fit in the entrance hall of Blenheim, and the living conditions of the people here would have been much harsher, much more brutal and much more hand to mouth. These are not the houses of the absolute poor, though. These were the homes of artisans, silverworkers, a tailor, a bread shop. Families lived in half a house, not half a room, and the situation, though crowded, was free from the industrial smoke and smog that would affect the same houses in areas of greater industrialisation.
Although the tour we booked on was a special First World War tour, the guides were still very happy to give you a taste of life in the cottages, a life you could actually live because two of the cottages are available as holiday lets. The rooms were small and the stair cases narrow and steep enough to make my knee ache really badly yesterday, but the stories dragged you on. The stories are what makes history important. I dread the curriculum that forgets that it is people who make history and that includes both rich and poor, the mighty and the might not live long. Our weekend had a real tour through history. It was very enjoyable, and definitely to be repeated as soon as possible.