Thursday, 31 December 2009

Hello Everyone

testWelcome! No you haven't entered some strange timewarp here. It's just a device I'm using so I can keep this post at the top of this page whilst I settle down and explain this blog to you...

Like shiny Christmas baubles emerging from their box after another year in the attic, this blog is my record of special times, occasions plus some of the temporary features from my other blog I would still like to keep. I won't be posting here on a regular basis, as this is a more personal journey. Here the Label facility will be much more useful to you as I want to collect various diaries, travels, experiences and projects into one place, but with each one as a separate entity. It's one way of showing I'm achieving my Life Goal of Making a Difference plus it's also a record of my beginning to be comfortable with being a 'Jill of All Trades' and grasping each and every opportunity that comes my way.

So here's my Box of Delight. If you open it, the ills of the world won't fly out at you - but like Pandora's Box, there is Hope to be found here.

The collection so far includes:

  • Personal musings and thoughts which don't really fit with my regular blog, Veg Plotting
  • Tracing my family history - an ongoing journey
  • Slideshows of images I like which haven't been posted over at Veg Plotting
  • My responses to the Your Messages project during November 2008. The Writing label will take you there and I may try out other writing projects on here from time to time
  • A summary of Veg Plotting's awards and tags - this really is to cheer me up on rainy days and Mondays, not for blowing my own trumpet!
  • The volunteer diary I kept whilst at the Special Olympics in Dublin in 2003. This was first published on the intranet at work, so I guess it's my first foray into the world of blogging in some ways. In time the Label Special Olympics will take you to more than just my diary as I have other materials to add. If you want to see just my diary, take this link to go to Day 1, you can then use the links at the foot of each day's post to go through in chrolological order instead of the usual reverse route that blogging gives you

I welcome your comments, but don't mind if you just come here to lurk - this blog is me in a more personal and reflective mood anyway. Veg Plotting always welcomes a more interactive experience :)

Monday, 13 April 2009

Good Friday: Coming Home From Poole

We made a flying visit to see NAH's aunt last Friday. This (click to enlarge if you want) was taken out of the car window on the Dorset/Wiltshire border on the way home. It had been dull and rainy most of the day, but sunset along the A350 in combination with the cloud just beginning to clear away, was spectacular.

Monday, 16 March 2009

St Pancras Station...

... I love it. The perfect venue to start a holiday, even if some of the public art there's controversial.

You can find out more about the station here or just enjoy the view from the slideshow!

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Temporary Post

A temporary post for my new public planting slideshow, still under construction and destined for Veg Plotting eventually. Seeing it's now got a comment, I'm keeping it here permanently ;)

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Late News Just In

Regular readers over at Veg Plotting are aware of my fondness for my local newspaper, the Gazette and Herald. Its quirky way of reporting and sometimes hilarious pieces about the minutiae of life here in Wiltshire keep me amused for hours. This week it's outdone itself.

Firstly, it has a couple of good headlines from reporting on last week's bad weather:

Snow must go on as freeze hits county (Mast head headline) and

Salt peters out as weather takes toll (it looked like the county was going to run out of salt to grit the roads at one point)

But it really outdid itself with this story:

Robbie is on the way

Excitement is mounting in Compton Bassett as superstar Robbie Williams prepares to move to the village.

The previous owners of 17th Century Compton Bassett House moved out last weekend and the former Take That star has been seen strolling in the grounds with his gardener and has been out and about on the bike he was seen buying in Old Town, Swindon.

But residents say the 34-year old has not yet moved into the £7 mansion.

It should of course be £7 million! I've sent it in to the News Quiz cuttings team. BTW, until this piece appeared the only thing I new about Compton Bassett is that's where our household refuse goes into landfill.

Update: I've just found this advertisement, which has also been sent to the News Quiz:

For the best food, service and comfort, visit

The Taste of Bengal
Indian Restaurant & Takeaway

We would like to Apologise for the Reduced level of Service in January due to Staff training.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Snow Casualties

There was even more snow overnight than I showed yesterday over at Veg Plotting. This was the scene at 8am this morning and it continued to snow up until lunchtime. For the first time ever I've had to go outside and knock the snow off the trees and shrubs. The conifer's looking a bit more upright, but I'm not sure if that lower branch is permanently bent. The willow tree on the right is more upright too, but the stake which held it seems to have disappeared. I'll have to wait until Spring to see if its little winter wandering means it needs to go. It's a favourite tree, but already I'm thinking there might be other possibilities for there, such as a more topiarised version.

I used a broom to knock off the snow. There was more and it was heavier than I was expecting, no wonder everything was feeling the strain a little. I must have looked quite a sight with my broom, knocking and shaking the trees and the snow slithering off, sometimes onto my head. Thankfully NAH couldn't find his camera, so it's not recorded for posterity!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Snowy Fleurs

A touch more snow yesterday and a sharp frost overnight made driving up the hill quite exciting this morning! I'm glad I didn't meet anything to make me stop - I doubt I would have got going again. I took these photos just after lunch today - already the sun is working its magic and pulling my flowers out of their sugary winter coating. More snow is forecast for tomorrow, so the pictures may get a little bit more dramatic after then :)

Monday, 2 February 2009

Today in Pictures

Click on the image to enlarge

Friday, 30 January 2009

A Heartwarming Week

It's the little things that matter: choir members rushing to offer a lift to a newcomer who'll be walking home in the dark through miles of country roads, even though it's not on their way; flowers left on the town bridge as a mark of respect and thanks to a man who simply used to pass the time of day with passers by for years; neighbours who ring our doorbell to see if we're OK, because the burglar alarm went off yesterday and we haven't been able to reset it. NAH and I remarked to each other on how lucky we are with our neighbours.

Just simple things really. Part of the thousands ordinary, everyday acts of kindness which far outweigh everything that's bad in the news. NAH and I are trying to say hello to people we pass in the street. It was one of the things that makes Tywyn a friendly place to be - we want to pass on that friendliness to Chippenham too.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Happy Feet

It's winter, so I can't show off what I had done to my feet yesterday that much, so I thought I'd show them off here instead! I've never had a pedicure before and never painted my toenails either, so yesterday held two firsts for me and I'm delighted with the results. As you can see, I went for the most vampish colour I could choose :)

I spent the weekend with my GNO buddies. We all used to work together (3 still do) and I organise a monthly meal/cinema trip for us. Sadly one has moved to Dorchester, so can't make many of our monthly gets together and another often has childcare issues, so it was especially nice for us all to be there for once. In December 2007, we had our first visit to a day spa at Center Parcs and swiftly followed this up with a spa weekend in January last year. As we've just had our second spa weekend, it looks like this is becoming a traditional annual event. S found a good deal at an hotel not too far away - good food, overnight accommodation, 4 treatments (Indian Head Massage, upper body massage, facial and eyebrow wax) plus use of gym, pool and sauna. Last year, all 4 treatments were firsts for me, but I didn't react that well to the facial, so I asked to change it to a pedicure for yesterday. That went much better and I loved the massage elements as well as the new nail painting experience!

The weekend finished yesterday lunchtime, so we decided to round things off with a quick walk round Lacock village. Here they all are just before we made it to the tearoom. Let's just say some people were very good and had sandwiches or soup whilst others (me included) had the full blown clotted cream tea. We also had plenty of time for gossip, laughter, champagne, nibbles and chocolates as well as being pampered, so here's to the next one. Thanks H for organising it for us this year - it's a great way to brighten up gloomy January :D

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Frosted Scenes

Well the thaw set in yesterday after weeks of frosts and days rarely going much above freezing point. The coldest start to winter for 30 years they say. Last Friday I went into town just to see what I could see. Threadspider had told me about the river being frozen when she was in town on Wednesday. Sadly I was to late for that, but there was still plenty to record. And little did I know I'd get to see frozen sea the next day...

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Poole Harbour on Ice

I know I've already blogged this picture today over at Veg Plotting, but it's my favourite image from yesterday and I feel a larger version also needs to be put in my Box here for later.

Ice on the beach is such a rarity, so I'm glad I was there to see it.

I love this whole area plus the county of Dorset - it always feels like I'm coming home. It holds so many happy memories from my favourite holiday in Weymouth at the age of seven, through various school field trips (geography and geology) based in Swanage, windsurfing holidays and other regular trips to see NAH's aunt in Poole. When we moved down south, we were aiming for Dorset, but fell short by about 35 miles ending up in Wiltshire instead.

At some point I'll put up other Dorset delights in here ready for a rainy day.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Putting Things Finally To Bed

A few weeks ago over at Veg Plotting, I wrote about the creative writing course I was attending at the time and whether writing was the right avenue for me. I had lots of lovely comments and advice as a result. I've continued to mull things over during the Christmas period and I've decided it's something I do want to pursue, but not down the particular route the course was going. I believe feature writing is something I'd like to do and I also have an idea for a book. It's all very exciting.

However, I do feel I need to put my course to bed by typing up the only piece which I feel is up to my usual blogging standard. It's ironic that I was completely uninspired by the course itself and was in danger of not completing my homework one week. We'd been doing a series on 'The night was...' and this was the result.

'Every night was quiet.' I'm stuck. A week's gone by and I still have no story to share. I've stared at the blank page, the wall and mid air willing the next words to come. I've parked them in the back of my mind for a while; I've tried different words; I've gone off and done other things. But there's rien, nada, nothing.

My first idea was to tell last week's tale from the man's point of view. There's so many questions from then with no answer. What's his name? Al, Bill, Chris... none fits the father of Jake. I can't name his wife either, though I can see her as plain as day. Why is she on her own? What-if? I have the start, but I can't see the end. Once more I set my tale to one side whilst we visit my husband's family up north. My niece loves writing, so wants to hear about the course. I tell her my problem and we start with names, going through all the boys in her class. Still no fit, still no what-if, still no end.

It's the 'facing the blank page' which called me to sign up for this course in the first place. I've had a year of tales tumbling out of my head each day. Months of fun and the pleasures of writing, but with a voice of doubt in my head which says 'Ah yes, but what happens when there's no tale there, what do you do then?' Well, each week here I've come very close to that and the one's the nearest yet. But at 3 o'clock this morning - the best time for ideas I find - the light bulb's finally gone on in my head. So whilst the night is quiet, I'm facing the blank page and I'm ready to begin.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

That Could Have Been Me

Over at Veg Plotting I've already spoken about how I love receiving everyone's news at Christmas time. However, sometimes that news catches you by surprise and gets you thinking a bit.

I've just had a long e-mail from E and M, the couple who are responsible for NAH (though of course he wasn't NAH at first!) and I meeting. I'd signed up for a photography evening class in Durham just after I moved there to take up my first permanent job, and I'd got to know them well. Over a pint one evening, we discovered a mutual liking for swimming, so I was invited to accompany them to a weekly social swim at Whitley Bay leisure pool. That's where I set eyes on NAH and liked what I saw immediately. However, it soon became clear he was already taken, so I had to put him out of my mind.

The months passed and I became friendly with some other guys from the swimming group. J invited me out, but that was a once-off. It turned out he'd decided that he was going to find a girl to marry and invited a succession of us out one week. I think I was Tuesday, K was later on in the week. That's who he married - I went to their wedding ceilidh. E and M had news of them, having kept in touch and I smiled at the memory I've just told you about.

A few more weeks passed and I was convinced either P or M from swimming would ask me out. In the meantime E and M arranged a pub lunch (at The Cock O' The North pub!) and walk around Durham one Sunday. That afternoon NAH and I talked to each other non-stop, even though his girlfriend was there. Somehow we contrived to exchange phone numbers and for the first time I contemplated taking the initiative and asking a boy out instead of the other way round. In fact I geared myself up to do so - 'if he hasn't rung up by the time this side of the record's finished, I'll do just that'. The record was City to City by Gerry Rafferty. He phoned during the last track. The rest is history.

What of the girlfriend? Well, just after NAH and I got together, she started going out with M (yes, one of the guys I thought would ask me out) and married him. Sadly this Christmas' news includes M dying from leukaemia this year. I'm not saying I would have ended up marrying him had we gone out together, but you never know. So I'm counting my blessings an extra time this Christmas. Strange how you think things will happen one way, then fate lends a hand to completely reshape them isn't it?

Sunday, 21 December 2008

What Timing

The wand of good fortune has waved over us this week, not once but twice. We've both had one of our Premium Bonds picked out for a prize. You can always tell when these arrive in the post, so the envelope gets oohed and ahhed over until the ceremonial slitting open by the winner takes place. It's almost always the minimum prize, but welcome nevertheless as the spoils get shared for us to spend on whatever takes our fancy.

I feel the need for a little light shopping over at Amazon coming on...