Sunday, July 26, 2009


Dartmoor is a landscape that makes sense in grey, windy conditions.

Dartmoor with a mother in a wheelchair in grey, windy conditions makes less sense.

Ah well the hotel was fabulous as ever and the staff are so friendly and accommodating that despite the vagaries of the British summer we manage to have a good time and hopefully it gave the folks a bit of a break, which is after all the main point of the exercise.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Shoe-shaped and Bristol Fashion

Spending a weekend in Bristol with the lovely C, en route to Dartmoor has become an annual event.

It may have started as a break in the long drive south of a Friday night, but just because this year I’m adopting the more environmentally responsible option of train travel, is no reason to mess with tradition.

Obviously something in the universal planning scheme of things screwed up somewhere as clearly we’re supposed to live in the same city. Snatched weekends like this are a small step in righting that wrong.

Other traditions have crept in over the years: sitting up far too late gossiping, eating out at fab restaurants and, well, shopping.

This year we find Cribbs in excellent sales mode and snag numerous bargains.

C buys the most gorgeous pair of shoes I’ve seen in a long time (pink with a flash of grey on the heel - total loveliness) and I snag a seriously reduced pair of grey heels that will be fab for wearing with shift dress at work and best of all...a pair of my favouritest shoes in the world ever, in another colour, half-price.

But all this is by-the-by (or even buy-the-buy), the main highlight of the weekend is spending time together.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hair today

Eldest adopted niece will shortly be turning 18. Where does the time go? I can date the time when I first properly got to know her as it was her last year before starting high school.

The reason I know this is because of the following (by now apocryphal) tale:

Over that year or so I’d become increasingly good friends with her parents (and now count my blessings regularly to consider them some of the best sorts of friends one could ever hope for). At some point in this year they decided it would be hilarious to get their three girls to start referring to me as “Aunty 1iz who we love lots and lots”, in the mistaken belief that my lack of desire to have my own children, combined with my vocal dislike of kids squawking in public, signified a general dislike of children and therefore the opportunity on their part, for good sport.

In reality, the former condition is a dislike of the 24/7 thing – I quite like other people’s kids as long as I can give them back after a few hours, and the latter is I believe a crime that should be levelled at the parents not the brats, sorry I mean children, in question.

Sure I may from time to time ponder about whether "Children Farms" are the way forward...but I'm only partly serious.

Being “Aunty 1iz”, who they love lots and lots, let’s not forget) is actually good fun and my three adopted nieces each delight me in their own uniquely different ways.

Come the summer of that fateful year, the eldest, K, was allowed to come to Greenbelt and in the course of the week spent a degree of time with her Aunty 1iz (WSLLaL). We got on great – she’s ace to spend time with.

On the final day I get her enraged father on the phone, demanding to know “what have you done?”.

I, entirely genuinely, explain that I know not of what he speaks.

His response: “K has dyed her hair red to be like Aunty 1iz. It won’t wash out and she starts high school this week!”.

I can only reaffirm my innocence in the matter and suggest that this might be what is called “having the last laugh”.

So that dates it I guess. Seven years down the line and K is turning 18.

Aunty 1iz (who has come to love all three of them lots and lots) is now at a loss as to what to buy K for a birthday present.

In passing conversation, her mother relates that K wants to “go blonde” for her 18th party. I suck my teeth and observe that given she’s been dying it darker of late she needs to be careful and to make sure she doesn’t go for a cheap salon.

Her mother replies that what K would ideally like would be to use Aunty 1iz’s colourist, but this of course comes with a decidedly “working adult” price tag.

An idea was born and two birds were slain with one stone this afternoon as K joined me in enjoying the artistic mastery of my colourist S.

It feels like an appropriate present, a coming full circle, a coming of age ritual. Grown up hair care for a young woman who has grown up so beautifully.

Still we’re both also still young at heart…as can be witnessed by our giggling as we go for a few post-hair cocktails in Zinc (well her ID says she’s 26 after all ;-) ).

Shopping, hair, K texts to her boy - living the dream.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Sometimes it's easy to forget about the hidden treasures that exist on your doorstep; or in this case, my office doorstep.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout

I suppose it took me a while to get used to the fact that the title of this book is a bit misleading. Olive is little more than a bit-player in many of the stories that make up the chapters of this book.

Whether it’s a film or a book or whatever, our expectations going in often play a large part in determining how we receive a piece of art.

Go to see a film with high expectations and you’re often disappointed; whereas go with little or no preconceptions and films can surprise you and seem to extend far beyond their expected levels of achievement.

At first, the novel’s failure to match the expectations raised in me by the title, were a frustration, but by the end it had beguiled me.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wallabee Crop Circles

This rather wonderful story on the BBC, recounts how Tasmanian Wallabies are eating opium poppies and creating crop circles as they hop around "as high as a kite".

The story is made all the more fabulous by the assortment of comments people have left.

My favourite is probably "I have seen a stoned wallaby but I don't know about them making crop circles. The one I saw was slurring his words and asking me for a dollar as he was trying to get the boat to see his brother in New Zealand - he looked in no mood to be formulating a series of complex agricultural design patterns. I could be wrong - they might have masterminded the twin tower attacks, who really knows?".


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

Last week was Refugee Week and having been approached by the Red Cross, this week's Book Group is a little out of the ordinary.

Firstly we've selected a book from the list of novels by or about refugees (you leave the guys unattended for a second and they chose a graphic novel...) and secondly two representatives from the Red Cross join us for the evening.

I have to confess that graphic novels speak to me of geekdom, but I endeavour to keep an open mind.

I am utterly rewarded. It comes as a blessed relief that there are no superheroes; instead it's the charming and insightful autobiographical tale of the author as she grew up and eventually left Iran.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I may need to reframe my prejudices about graphic novels. Which is perhaps not quite the point of the evening from the Red Cross' point of view, but then I guess I was pretty refugee friendly anyway.

Friday, June 19, 2009


J recently turned 40. Not for her the big party or formal bash; instead seven of us headed to a small villa in Brittany for a week of sunshine and relaxation.

Wine, BBQs, swimming pool, beer, sightseeing, farmhouse, wine, langoustine, hypermarkets, fly infestations, sunshine, wine, fresh salad, baguettes, tarte citron, wine, girlie chats, aftersun squealing, local dogs, novels, games, siestas, sat navs, William the horse.......memories.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

CS Lewis - A Grief Observed

I didn't expect to like this week's Book Group selection, but I'm won over.

The relative honesty and the analysis of his grief is deeply moving. His questioning of God and faith more nuanced than I had expected.

I may need to reasses my thoughts on the man a little.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I'm starting to think I really like G's lifestyle.

Captain Pugwash is into yachts. He has his own racing yacht and has taken full advantage of the Cardiff Bay Barrage's maritime revolution.

When the barrage was being constructed, my then employers (who shall not be named, because it's entirely possible that if you say their name 3 times they come back and take over your company again...) were involved in the construction management and I did a site visit of the part constructed earthworks.

It being another fabulously sunny day, Captain P and Aunty G suggest we head up to the barrage and take a walk. A chance for me to see the finished article close to .

No sooner have we parked and walked up to the locks to see the yachts coming in, then the Cap'n spots his friends bringing in their yacht after a night over in Bristol.

They call up that they're going for a drink on the other side of the bay and would we like to join them. Dismissing our plans to drive round they direct us to a hidden pontoon and the next thing I know we're sailing across the bay.

A couple of drinks on the balcony of a cafe bar and they taxi us back.

Now that's what I call a Sunday morning.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Saturday, G treats me to a day out at Barry Island (and buys me a Gavin and Stacey inspired fridge magnet to remember it by). Barry is...well...Barry. Often with seaside towns, phrasing like "faded former glory" spring to mind, but that doesn't quite work here..."faded former tackiness" is perhaps a little unkind but closer to the truth.

What remains of the pleasure park is possibly in want of condemnation by the relevant authorities. It feels like everyone has just given up. Rides stand abandoned, those still open are run down and tatty, with rubbish and mess characterising the spaces inbetween. It's like it woke up one morning, looked in the mirror and just decided to give up making any effort and has ever since kicked around the house, unwashed, in a dated, dirty velour leisure suit, eating left over food from discarded take-away containers.

Of course none of this prevents G and I from acting like teenagers and going on the log-flume and the dodgems.

The beach itself is actually rather fine and if (inlike the masses) you can be bothered to walk even a couple of minutes along it, you can enjoy plenty of space even on this a Bank Holiday weekend. Getting into the spirit we do of course go for a paddle. It's the law you know.

Back in Penarth we decide to take advantage of the continuing fine weather and have a BBQ. G's new man Captain Pugwash joins us and very lovely he is too.

One of those days that make you just smile at the memory.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cardiff Weekend

After a last minute cancellation of plans, I find myself with a free weekend.

Originally my plans for the weekend involved an Ops Social (in Alsager - don't ask!) organised by myself S and N. It was very eleventh hour, but we hadn't really expected that none of the 13 "yes we'll probably come" respondees would actually follow through.

The instruction to those wanting to come was to make their booking and let us know. In the week leading up to the weekend we hadn't heard from anyone, so we cut our losses and cancelled our own bookings. Maybe next year.

So, with a last minute cancellation of weekend plans and a training course that found me in Cardiff on a Friday afternoon it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss and I phoned the lovely G in Penarth.


We kick things off in fine style with a night out at Cardiff Bay with the lovely S (who G and I continue to try and tempt to the dark side). Chinese banquet, drinks in an old port building bar and exploring around the Welsh Assembly Building and the Millenium Centre (no sign of the Torchwood crowd though). S's husband M even comes and picks us up at the end of the night, rescuing us from the very amusing rantings of a drunken Kiwi lass...let's just say that the phrase going at it like Billy-O took on a whole new dimension...

A text did land early in the evening from wonderful R.

"We're in the bar".

Hmmmm, now why would R be sending me such a text? Oh bugger...

I respond "Please tell me you're not in Alsager?"

The rest of the tail can be found here. Whoops!

Cardiff Training

I've been delaying posting blogs because of being behind with downloading photos from my camera. Given I'm clearly not finding time to get that sorted, I figure I'll just go ahead and post the drafted entries regardless. Sorry.

So, Cardiff:

Things you don't want to hear from your training department regading training courses they want you to run:

a) the trainers and half the delegates are having to travel some considerable distance and they've schedules the course for Thursday and Friday; and
b) last minute confirmation that several of the original delegates won't now be attending as they have just been made redundant.

I mention my concerns re the latter to my co-trainer. The remaining delegates worked in the same offices as those made redundant - it could make for some fairly low morale.

His view is somewhat contrary - perhaps the recent events will focus those remaining on training and development. Hmmm and I thought I was cynical.

As it turns out they are a fantastic bunch and I think we ran one of our best ever courses. It felt really positive and productive and the feedback sheets bear this out - we rocked ;-)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Eurovision 2009

Annual Eurovision party time. I think it went better than last year...well being in the correct country was a good start (always helps when throwing a party at your house).

Little bit of a blip when the impressive efforts of a friend to get the BBQ really blasting courtesy of a hairdryer, proved to be a bit more than the extension lead with all the outside lights on,had left to give. Still we managed to restore power just as Mr Norton kicked off proceedings, so all was well.

Food was consumed, cocktails were downed, flags were waved, bonkers entries were enjoyed and sweepstakes were won.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Manchester Man

This week for Book Group we read The Manchester Man by Mrs G Linnaeus Banks.

Is it wrong that the main reason for accepting the suggestion was that it promised to provide the answers regarding the source of the name of two well-known Manchester pubs: Jabez Clegg and Joshua Brookes?

It's not the best written novel of its time, but it's not bad. Its at times preachy, morallistic tone can be forgiven for the absolute gold-mine of social history contained between its covers. I found myself constantly referring to the maps and navigating around the Manchester of the time (just pre-industrial revolution) and comparing to the modern day metropolis I know and love.

This is what's best about a Book Group - I'd never have come across this book on my own.