Thursday, 31 January 2008

Reading Fodder - help needed please

If the last Fun Monday revealed one thing it is that everyone who took part has books and reading as a common interest.

We all read for different reasons, perhaps to while away an hour or two, to help us get to sleep or to improve our knowledge on a particular subject. We may have hobbies that allow us to indulge our other hobby - reading - at the same time. Or, maybe, like me, you read for pure escapism.

My mum taught me to read before I started school and instilled in me a love of books and reading that grew and grew. My Grampa also encouraged my love of books: he travelled a lot with his job and always brought me a book or two as a present when he came home. It started with Enid Blyton and then moved on to Agatha Christie (I have the complete set!). My childhood, whilst not harsh by any stretch of the imagination, still had its ups and downs and I learnt to escape the downs by disappearing completely and utterly into my books.

Then I discovered science fantasy. The ultimate in escapism! Getting lost in a book set on different worlds was the best way I found of stepping out of my life for a short time when things were tough. Yes you could still relate to the characters but in a more wishful thinking sort of way rather than a "hey, you're describing my life, I know where you're coming from" sort of way. I read to get away from my life and I didn't want to be reading about other people's real life problems that might remind me of my own.

I do read other types of book - I love Kathy Reichs and James Rollins too (although some of his earlier books edge on being fantasy). One of my all time favourites is The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - which I see is being made into a film by the way. I also quite enjoy novels that weave a true story through them....many novels that have jumped on the Dan Brown bandwagon have made for a good read.

I still enjoy science fantasy immensely and I won't stop reading it but I think I need to broaden my horizons a little and this, dear reader, is where you come in......if you could suggest to me one fiction book that I should read in this lifetime, what would it be?

Amazon is going to love me!

Wednesday, 30 January 2008


I'm sure I'm probably the last person on the planet to discover this website but I have just spent the last 30 minutes laughing like a drain at these lolcat pictures!

A few to whet the appetite

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Funny Pictures
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Fun Monday follow-up

First of all, thank you to everyone for taking part in the first Fun Monday I have hosted. I was absolutely overwhelmed my the number of you that signed up and took part! The final number that signed up was 67! I know one or two weren't able to participate for various reasons and I hope everything is OK with all of you. I think I managed to get round to everyone but I will be doing the rounds again today just to be sure! I am completely blogged-out though, what a marathon blog session that was!


I've up-dated the link to Raising 3 Saints so that should now take you to the right place but I'm having a problem with Electric Firefly's link. It's telling me the page doesn't exist so if Electric Firefly is reading this or if anyone can help out I would be grateful.


A few people left me some questions in my comments box so I'm going to try and answer them here....after commenting on 60 plus blogs yesterday I struggled to respond to all those that commented on mine and my apologies for that. I don't mean to be rude but I simply ran out of hours yesterday!


Alison and Sayre - The "I Didn't Know that About Wales" book...I did a search on Amazon and it is available on their UK site but doesn't seem to be available on the US site. If anyone would like me to order a copy and send it out to you I'd be more than happy to oblige.

Faye - No, I didn't make the dream catcher - I'm not that clever!! I wish I could remember where I bought it but that is lost in the mists of time as well!

Southern Doll - Crystals - it's different for each one but having them generally in the vicinity will work fine but some you need to hold or have in contact with your body. I've been known to have some of the smaller crystals tucked in my bra before now!

The Headboard!

A few people commented on our headboard so I thought I'd show it in all it's glory!

This is another item in our house that we "acquired". Many years ago, Himself and I were helping a friend of a friend to renovate his boat. It was an old wooden Naval Pinnace and she was beautiful. As thanks for the work we did we were allowed to take her up the River Thames to the Henley Royal Regatta every year...Oh we had some fun with her! But I digress. At the same boatyard where Julianne was moored was a carpenter's workshop. He had this piece of wood that was literally just a slice of a tree - now, our bed is a super-king size which is just short of 6ft wide so that gives you some idea of the size of the thing! The carpenter had planned to turn it into a table but it had warped and he was just going to throw it away as junk! Himself and I grabbed it and Himself polished it up and we ummed and ahhed about using it as a table ourselves but it was just too big, which was when we came up with the idea of using it as a headboard. The flat we used to live in had huge rooms and it worked really well and we did have a minor panic when we moved to the cottage as we really didn't think it would fit in the bedroom, but it does, with a little room to spare!

Next week's Fun Monday is being hosted by Tiggerlane at The Neophyte Blogger and her assignment is up for you to read.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Fun Monday #6

Welcome to Fun Monday! 59 participants...anyone know what the record is!!?

For today's Fun Monday, continuing in the spirit of "being interested in people", I would like to know, or see, what's on, in or under your bedside table! So open those draws and bare your soul to us! Is there anything special there that has a story or a memory that you can tell us about? Books that you keep there to delve into from time to time? Trinkets that you don't know where else to put? Let's see!

Well, this is my bedside set of drawers.

The first thing you have to know is that there is very little furniture in our house that is new. We do like to recycle old furniture, although this is partially due to the fact that there was very little money about to buy new furniture when we first set up home together 13 years ago. But we both love old things and we still try to buy second-hand if we can. Himself found this cupboard in a skip! I loved it so he cleaned it up for me and it looks lovely. Inside the drawers are several scribbled four-digit numbers which I suspect are pin numbers for credit cards. If I ever found out who this belonged to I could have a field day with their credit cards, if I were so inclined.

So, moving in a bit closer, these three books are the series that I'm currently reading.

And these are the selection of books that I have either recently read and not put back on the bookshelves yet, or books that I dip into from time to time. We plan on giving a home to some ex-battery chickens in the next few months, hence the Living with Chickens book. You can probably also tell that I'm a big Terry Brooks fan!

Next to the books is some loose change, my alarm clock, an amethyst crystal bed and my crystal, a piece of Smoky Quartz. It is my grounding stone and the one that is never far away at times of stress. Smoky Quartz helps to set aside willfulness and headstrong behaviour and has the ability to transform negative energy, and is particularly effective in dealing with anger and resentment. It is a stone that helps you be here right now, in the moment.

In the top drawer lives a few more books that were stocking filler gifts for Christmas which I haven't read yet. Also in there is some hand cream, Hypercal skin cream - I swear by that stuff for spots and cuts. Its skin-healing properties are amazing. There's also a spare pair of glasses, some headphones and a few pieces of jewellery that haven't made it back into my jewellery box yet.

Next drawer down holds some Christmas editions of magazines that were supposed to help me me re-create a perfect Christmas. What a waste of money they were! You needed 36 hours in a day, lots of money and no hairy Lurchers to achieve what they suggested! Underneath those is my hot water bottle!

Bottom here is my crystal box. Himself gave me this box as a birthday present a few years ago. He found it in a junk shop and he spent ages making it look beautiful and inlaid all that mother of pearl himself.

He even made the insert tray to go inside. This is a selection of my crystal collection. I don't use them as much as I used to to but they are there when I need them.

Hanging just above is my dream-catcher. I went through a phase of having some horrific nightmares and I really do believe this helps take the nightmares away.

Last but not least is Charlie. Charlie was a present from my grandparents when I was eight. He has been with me everywhere since, much to Himself's amusement, and he has even survived Lurcher No.2's predilection for de-stuffing anything fluffy.

So there you have it! Please visit all the other paricipants in this week's Fun Monday. You can find links to all of them in the sidebar to the right of this post!

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Great excitement and Fun Monday update

Oh joy of joys...we are going on holiday this year! I know this because it's booked....and I booked it!

We don't get to go on holiday very often. Himself is self-employed so taking a holiday loses him money. Plus he's been so busy that he's just not had time to take a week off. Which is, of course, a good thing but it does mean we don't get away that often.

We've been threatening to have a holiday with our friends N & C and their dogs for years and, in the space of about 10 minutes on Friday evening, N and I raised the idea again, sorted out the best week that suited C and Himself, and got the holiday booked.

We're staying in West Wales, Carole and Trevor own several holiday cottages near Haverfordwest and are incredibly generous supporters of Greyhound Gap. They donate a weeks holiday at one of the cottages in every fundraising auction that Gap holds. They've recently started to take bookings for a more modern property owned by Trevor's sister. It has five bedrooms, two lounges and four acres of fenced garden so there should be ample room for the four of us and five lurchers.....or maybe six depending on if we're fostering at the time. It's not until October but I am getting giddy at the thought of it already!

Fun Monday Update

I can't believe so many people have signed up so thank you for supporting the first Fun Monday I've hosted! All those taking part are listed, with links, on the right-hand side of the page. Please do let me know if there are any problems with any of the links.

There are also quite a few Fun Monday virgins this week so please do stop by and welcome them to the fold!

A reminder of the topic for this week:

Continuing in the spirit of "being interested in people", I would like to know, or see, what's on, in or under your bedside table! So open those draws and bare your soul to us! Is there anything special there that has a story or a memory that you can tell us about? Books that you keep there to delve into from time to time? Trinkets that you don't know where else to put? Let's see!

Fun Monday Etiquette: It's courteous to visit as many of the bloggers who participate as possible. The larger the audience, the more difficult this becomes. Especially make an effort to visit or reply to those who visit you. Be sure to use a working e-mail address and check your links. ALWAYS link back to the current week's host. If YOU'D like to host a future Fun Monday, simply check with the current host to see if anyone has volunteered.

Hostess for Monday 4th February: Tiggerlane over at The Neophyte Blogger has kindly offered to host next week's Fun Monday!

Seven Unusual Facts about Me

I was tagged by wakeupandsmellthecoffee to produce 7 unusual facts about me. Wakeup tagged me ages long ago it's bordering on downright rude the amount of time that has elapsed. So my apologies for that.

It's never been far from my mind as I've been trying to think of some unusual facts....which is very difficult when you are not really an unusual person! However, what has finally spurred me on is that I've also been tagged by Barb to produce 6 Random Facts about myself and so I am going to cheat once and combine the two. I am also going to cheat twice and use five random facts that I blogged when I was last tagged for something similar about six weeks ago:-

Rules: Link to the tagger and post these rules on your blog. Share 5 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird. Tag 5 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

I am time-obsessive. I always have to know what the time is, even if I wake up in the middle of the night I have to check the clock. If I'm in danger of being late, I break out into a cold sweat and start to panic. About 10 years ago I stopped wearing a watch in an effort to break the habit - it helped a little, but not much!

I hold a valid Heavy Goods Vehicle licence and can drive anything up to, but not including, an articulated lorry (I think that's a semi to my American readers!)

I am a Reiki Master

I have a phobia of ladders. No problem with heights, just don't like getting to them via a ladder.

I'm allergic to aspirin. It gives me a migraine!

I have a terrible weakness for Turkish Delight and can devour a box in one sitting!

I can ride a horse. I'm not a very confident rider but it's something I wish I had more time to do.

As I've already tagged people for this one I shan't do so again but if you'd like to have go, please do!

Friday, 25 January 2008

Eclectic Tastes

I have a rather eclectic taste in music.

A browse through my CD collection will reveal music from a diverse range of genres: from rock - Led Zeppellin and early ZZ Top; through to stuff that's a bit more pop - Elton John, Kylie (hey, everyone needs a diva in their music collection somewhere!).

What I play really depends on what mood I'm in. The CD on my player at the moment is a collection that I put together myself and starts with Kylie, has Amy Winehouse, Elvis, Eva Cassidy, Steelers Wheel, Bonnie Tyler (OK, two divas then!) and also includes the overture to Chicago, amongst other tracks. The CD player in my car currently holds a "Best of Doris Day" collection! Driving along singing to "The Deadwood Stage" is quite uplifting!

My collection also includes artists that are relatively obscure, at least, they are obscure in the UK music market. They include Walter Trout, Jeff Black and Fred Eaglesmith.

Much of my collection falls under the broad title of "Americana". Wikipedia defines it as " is a loose subset of American folk music that is perhaps best defined as "classic American music" — ranging in style from roots-based bluegrass to alternative country, gospel, blues and other native forms." In there you'll find Kate Campbell, Lucinda Williams, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Katie Curtis and Steve Earle amongst others.

Last Friday though, we had a classic scenario. We were off to stay with friends and in my car's CD player at that point was a Neil Diamond greatest hits. I love Neil Diamond and have done for years and years. In fact, I had that album on tape before CDs were even a twinkle in anyone's eye. Himself was not hugely impressed and in order to preserve his sanity I turned the CD off and put Radio 4 on instead. He wasn't too impressed with that either but it beat Neil Diamond!

We duly arrived at friends. Now the male half of this couple, M, and Himself turn into "boys" when they get together. They drink lots of beer, fart and belch and giggle helplessly at the stupidest jokes whilst G and I sit back and shake our heads in resigned despair. I can't remember how the conversation came about but I mentioned that I wanted to get Neil Diamond's The Jazz Singer on CD. Himself sniggered expecting M to snigger right along with him except M jumped up and said "I've got that album, it's fantastic!" and promptly put the CD on!

Himself's face was a picture!

Thursday, 24 January 2008


The sun is shining and I am not on duty. It is the perfect day to get out with my new lens and put it through it's paces. Except.......

The camera battery is flat as a pancake.

I can't find the charger.


WHEN will I get myself organised? WHEN will there be the right place in my home for everything? WHEN will I find the magic "organisation" switch that must be somewhere in my brain? WHEN!!??

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Not Quite a Wordless Wednesday

Just to show that we do occasionally get snow here in the UK or rather, that we occasionally get snow here in the soft South East of the UK! This picture was taken in February last year and is of one of the ponds on Wimbledon Common.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Fun Monday Assignment for Monday 28th January!

Choosing an assignment for Fun Monday is incredibly difficult!

I'm relatively new to this, having only participated in five Fun Mondays, but my feeling is that Fun Monday satisfies the need in all of us to be incredibly nosy about other people without actually being rude about it! I once had a friend who constantly berated her mother for being nosy and staring out of the window and "spying" on her neighbours. She was unrepentant and said that she was not being nosy, she was just interested in people, and that line has stuck with me over the years!!

I came up wth some humdingers but I wanted to avoid anything that might dredge up unhappy memories for people or anything too serious that wasn't fun to write about. After all, it's not called Glum Monday is it! I also wanted it to be something that was easy to write about. I am incredibly lazy and if an assignment is going to require huge amounts of thought to put it into words, then I probably wouldn't even do it myself!

So if you haven't fallen asleep yet, here's your Fun Monday Assignment for Monday 28th January!

So continuing in the spirit of "being interested in people", I would like to know, or see, what's on, in or under your bedside table! So open those draws and bare your soul to us! Is there anything special there that has a story or a memory that you can tell us about? Books that you keep there to delve into from time to time? Trinkets that you don't know where else to put? Let's see!

Please post to this blog if you wish to participate and I will get a list up in my sidebar.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Most depressing day of the Year?

I don't think so!

Apparently, Monday, January 21, has been officially declared the gloomiest day of the year.

Psychologist Cliff Arnall, an expert in depression, has used a mathematical formula to pinpoint today as Blue Monday. He says it is the day when six factors come together to leave us at our most miserable. They are:

  1. the dank and gloomy weather;
  2. Christmas debt;
  3. a feeling of monotony after the Christmas cheer has faded;
  4. broken New Year's resolutions;
  5. low levels of motivation;
  6. and a desperate feeling that you need to take action to improve your drab existence.
So, as it's my birthday and that gives me the right to speak as I feel for 24 hours, here are my solutions to the above problems:

  1. the dank and gloomy weather; - Hey, it's January. the weather is always miserable in January - always has been and always will be. Get used to it! Buy a warm coat, boots and an umbrella and get out and enjoy it!
  2. Christmas debt; Well, there is an obvious answer to this...if you haven't got it, don't spend it. Stop letting yourself become trapped by pre-christmas advertising that says you must have this and must have that. You don't. And don't submit to blackmail by your children who will accuse you of being a bad mother or father for not providing them with the latest gadget or craze. Tell them instead to go start their own craze using string and an empty baked bean tin.
  3. a feeling of monotony after the Christmas cheer has faded; OK, I'm helped by having a birthday a few weeks after Christmas but it's easy enough to plan to do something so that you have something to look forward to..I don't know, a day out on a windswept beach or a splash in all those puddles!
  4. broken New Year's resolutions; That's easy. Don't make any then you won't be disappointed if you fail. Aim to make slow, longer-lasting changes instead.
  5. low levels of motivation; You know what? We all have those all through the year. It happens. Deal with it like the rest of us do.
  6. and a desperate feeling that you need to take action to improve your drab existence. Then take action! Don't wallow in your misery. Damn well do something to improve your drab existence and stop blaming everyone else for your sad life. No-one but you can improve it.
There endeth today's rant!

Fun Monday #5 - The View from my Front Door

Vicki over at Catching Light is hosting this weeks anniversary Fun's been a year since Vicki started the ball rolling!

It's also another anniversary Birthday!

The very first Fun Monday was the view from your front door and so Vicki is re-creating that one for this week and this is the assignment: For those of you who did NOT post a picture of your view from your front door (that'll be me as I'm a Newbie!), then your assignment is to post a view from your front door. To do this you stand in your doorway looking outside and take a picture. That simple. We (I) want to see what you see when you look out your front door.

The view from my front door is not that inspiring at the moment. We moved into the cottage just about a year ago and there was so much to be done inside that the outside has pretty much been left to fend for itself. We wanted to go through a whole year and see what came up so we could decide what to with it all - hence why it looks a bit of a mess at the moment!

My front door is to the side of my house so it's only just over a metre or so to the gate (please excuse my compost buckets!):

To the right - there used to be a bank of soil right up to the gate but OH dug it all back and built the brick wall. In the summer that bed is a riot of herbs and it looks lovely! It also gives us a small area where we sit and have breakfast in the summer, away from the prying eyes of our nosey neighbour!

To the left is where I keep my bike, which I use to get back and for to work, and our boiler. The area to the right will either be paved over or we may plant some shade-loving plants there.

Outside the gate though is lovely! We live in the middle of Wimbledon Common and so we open the gate onto 460 hectares of land that is left natural. We have woodlands, grassland, ponds and all sorts of wild flora and fauna in the summer. It is heaven for The Lurchers! It's been grey and miserable all day but the sun just came out through the clouds so I ran out with my camera!

Head over to Catching Light to see everyone else's Fun Monday posts!

I am hosting Fun Monday on 28th January so watch this space for details! I've narrowed it down to two topics so am trying to choose one!

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Why do I find this funny!?

I have completely overloaded on chocolate mousse that my friend made for dessert tonight and I'm having not so much a sugar rush as a sugar avalanche. Which is probably why I find this article on the BBC website hysterically funny!

A woman who ripped off her ex-boyfriend's testicle with her bare hands has been sent to prison.

Amanda Monti, 24, flew into a rage when Geoffrey Jones, 37, rejected her advances at the end of a house party, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

She pulled off his left testicle and tried to swallow it, before spitting it out. A friend handed it back to Mr Jones saying: "That's yours."

Monti admitted wounding and was jailed for two-and-a-half years.

'Pulled hard'

Sentencing Monti, Judge Charles James said it was "a very serious injury" and that Monti was not acting in self-defence.

The court heard that Mr Jones had ended his long-term but "open relationship" with Monti towards the end of May last year.

The pair remained on good terms and on 30 May she picked him up from a party in Crosby and went back for drinks with friends at Mr Jones's house.

An argument ensued and Mr Jones said there was a struggle between them.

In his statement, Mr Jones said she grabbed his genitals and "pulled hard".

He added: "That caused my underpants to come off and I found I was completely naked and in excruciating pain."

The court heard that a friend saw Monti put Mr Jones's testicle into her mouth and try to swallow it.

She choked and spat it back into her hand before the friend grabbed it and gave it back to Mr Jones. Doctors were unable to re-attach the organ.

I mean, just how hard must she have pulled? And to try and swallow it!? What was she thinking!!

The line highlighted in red has just finished me have to read between the lines and wonder what the heck was going on! Must have been one hell of a party!

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Five times when the F-word is acceptable.

I will confess to being a lazy blogger today. We are staying with friends, good friends who wouldn't really mind if I sat here writing a lengthy tome, but that would just be bad manners so instead you get these which I pinched from someone on the Greyhound Gap Forum and made me chuckle!

Five times when the F-word is acceptable:

Friday, 18 January 2008

Windows in your heart - songs of sadness

Straight Up and Slightly Dirty mentioned in her blog yesterday about a new meme started by Hedgewizard. I would like to say I avoid meme's like the plague but of course I don't. I love spilling beans about myself as much as the next person! This meme is a particularly good one though and perhaps opens up the soul a little more than the average meme and, as my birthday is approaching, I seem to be in the mood to let my heart have a say in my blog.

Hedgewizard's meme is this: Songs that make you cry...and why

If you like the idea, then please take it as a meme and post the button below into a blog entry of your own along with a story, or at least a mention of that one song that always makes you cry.


I play most of my music in the car and that's why this particular song is dangerous to listen to when I'm driving but if I'm in the right frame of mind, and in the right place, I'll pull over and just listen.

A few years after Himself and I got together, we were in a mess. Actually that's not true, Himself was fine, I was in a mess. I loved this man more than anything. I knew he was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But he was in his late 30s, had had plenty of relationships but nothing ever serious and he never settled down with anyone. He was fly by night, take it as it comes and move on just as easily. He was independent and the thought of "two becoming one" was an anaethema to him. Yet he had asked me to move in with him so maybe I was the one.

But I was insanely jealous of any woman from his past, imagined present and imagined future. Like most men, he wasn't averse to the flattery of female attention. He wasn't a flirt but if anyone started to flirt with him, he'd lap it up.

He'd told me several times that he didn't love me. Can you imagine what I went through? I was tearing myself apart at the seams. Friends who knew him well just said that was ridiculous and of course he did, it was blindingly obvious to them, he just wouldn't, or couldn't, admit it to himself.

Eventually I had to sort myself out because if I didn't I would end up having a nervous breakdown and destroying everything and I was not prepared to let that happen. Then I heard this song and I used to wish he'd just listen to the lyrics and understand that he just had to open up a chink. It really would be OK.

That song is called "Honest" by Kendall Payne.

The sad thing about this is that I did get myself under control but in order to do that I had to build a wall around me and stop feeling. Sometimes I want to look behind the wall and see if those feelings are still there. But I'm not brave enough yet so we muddle on, rubbing along just fine but with no real emotion or passion. I sometimes wonder if there should be more than that but I think it suits me this way for now.

Thursday, 17 January 2008


All my life I have been a bit of a tomboy.

When I was younger we had horses and dogs and my Dad lived on a small holding with goats and chickens. At the age of 14 my hobby was shooting (targets I hasten to add and not fluffy live things), which was very much a male-dominated sport at the time, and at 16 I went to agricultural college. The girls were seriously outnumbered there - just 8 of us out of a total of 70-odd students and we were all the same. We had to be rough and tough to survive. My early career was spent working on dairy farms milking cows, tending sheep, calves and other animals. Feminine attire was just not something I even thought of wearing.

Throughout my twenties and thirties I strove to maintain that tomboy demeanour. When my career progressed and I worked in offices I had no choice but to wear skirts or smart trousers and jackets but I was never entirely comfortable in them and would shuck them off as soon as I got home in favour of jeans or sweatpants. Even my current job doesn't require me to dress up and the uniform is very much jeans, company logo'd poloshirt or sweatshirt, and boots.

I rarely wear make-up because it irritates my skin and styling my hair bores me rigid so I always kept it in a short, wash-and-go, crop.

I always wanted to be just one of the boys and something in my psyche thought that being more feminine would diminish me in some way, that I'd be less of a person in the eyes of "the boys". I think I just didn't want to be labelled as "girlie", I wanted to be taken seriously and that's what I thought would work.

It's taken until now, in my early forties, for me to realise that, actually, it is OK to have long hair and dress up when the occasion calls for it. Wearing a skirt if we go out somewhere for dinner or to a social evening is not going to mean anyone thinks any less of me, in fact, it's just the opposite.

Funny what growing up can do to you isn't it?

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

New toy!

I shall apologise in advance for being a bit of a camera nerd in this post. If you have no interest in photography whatsoever, you might want to go somewhere more interesting!

Last year I bought myself a second-hand Nikon D70. I already had a Pentax dSLR with a 18-55mm lens and a 50-200mm zoom and it suited me fine. I was happy with the pictures it took and how it felt in my hands. But the Nikon was one of those too good to be missed offers and it was a case of "want" rather than "need"! It came with a Nikkor 18-70mm 1:3.5-4.5G ED lens which really is a stunning lens for general use and takes some cracking shots.

But the areas of photography that I most enjoy are candid and reportage, and for that you really need a zoom lens. I had tried out a friend's Canon 20D with a 70-300mm zoom.....and boy did I want the Nikon equivalent lens! I could have picked one up for about £70 but that was just a standard lens and I decided that, because of the weight of the lens, I needed to have VR on it - that's vibration reduction or image stabilisation - to help reduce any element of camera shake. Unfortunately that sent the price up to over £400, and I couldn't afford that.

Then two things happened. I got a Christmas bonus and I found the lens online at OneStop Digital at under £300. I'm cautious about buying expensive stuff online but quite a few people on the photography forum that I use, Pixalo, had used them and they came highly recommended. Dear reader, I crumbled and bought it. And it's arrived! I am now the proud owner of a Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G IF-ED VR Lens. I want to go and play, but unfortunately the British weather doesn't and it is chucking it down with rain and blowing gale here.

Which is just an incy wincy bit frustrating.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Fun Monday #4

Ann over at For The Long Run is hosting Fun Monday today and this is what she wants to hear.

I want to hear about a web site and not just about any old web site. I want to hear about a web site that's changed your life. A web site that you can't live without. A web site whose inventor you'd like to see win a McArthur Genius Grant. Maybe you want to sing the praises of a dating web site for helping you meet your spouse. Maybe the only thing getting you through the dark days of winter is an Internet comic. No story is too big, no story is too small - I want to hear it all on Monday.

There are two websites which have changed my life. Not in any ground-breaking, earth-shattering way, but quietly changed my life over the course of time, although the first did have something of a big bang effect not long after it entered my life.

The first, I am ashamed to admit, has been lost in the mists of my mind and I can't even remember what it was called. At the time I was riding a lot and so joined this equine website which had a forum. This was about 11 years ago and I was pretty new to the whole web thing then and didn't really have a clue about what I was doing. Alongside the forum was a chat room and quite a few people would meet up in there for a chat at lunch time. Four or five of us hit it off and friendships started to develop as we met online more regularly. We didn't know each other from Adam but we all had one thing in common, our love of horses.

I ventured into the chat room one day, hoping some of the girls would be around for a chat. Instead, there was only one person in there, a woman I'd never met before, and she was in a desperate state. He beloved horse had just died suddenly and she was completely bereft. So bereft that I was seriously concerned for her well-being. I kept her chatting whilst quickly e-mailing my friends to get online fast because I needed them in the chat room asap. We spent the next couple of hours helping Stardust deal with her grief and out of those few hours, fast friendships were formed.

A few of us lived reasonably close to each other and we started to meet up. First me and Ali, then Niki, then Sara and Caroline and Em. We met Lynn a couple of times as she lived further away and Caroline and Yvonne we have yet to meet as they live in Scotland. Although Stardust came over from her home in South Africa for a visit....what a heady few days they were!

For reasons I cannot remember, we were christened The Crazy Gang and the Gang still exists today although we don't see each other as often as we'd like we still have our own message board to keep in touch with each other. Niki and Ali remain my closest friends.....friends I can turn to whenever I need a shoulder. Even if we haven't spoken for months and months, we all know we are at the end of a phone for each other. This is the three of us at Himself's 50th birthday party last year (that's me on the right).

Our lives have diverged over the years but we've been with each other through birthdays, marriages, childbirth, health issues and death. We have had several mass gatherings, mainly at Em's house as she has lots of room, and it's great because all our partners enjoy each others company too and we have had some very fun times together. Long may it continue!

The second website that has had a major effect on my life is, of course, Greyhound Gap. I had crossed paths with Lisa from time to time around a couple of dog rescues websites but didn't really know her very well. Then one day I received an e-mail from Lisa saying she was setting up Greyhound Gap. I mooched about their forum for a while and then along came Lurcher No.2. He was one of Gap's first rescue dogs and I won't details the story of how he came to live with us because I've done that several times already in this blog. Tyler enriched our lives so much that I felt very strongly that I wanted to be able to give something back. The then treasurer was emigrating and having to give up the role and I offered to take over the role. Gap wasn't a very big organisation then and I remember thinking that surely it couldn't be that difficult to write a few cheques and keep basic records! But Gap has grown and grown. It has a vast number of fantastic supporters, without whom Gap could not function, and many of them have become close friends. Gap is now a registered charity and with anything between 50 and 60 dogs in our care, it takes up a fair amount of my spare time dealing with all the donations that we receive and paying anything between 20 and 30 vet bills every month! But I wouldn't give it up for the world. It has become it's own community with a lot of like-minded people always there for anyone who needs help and support, whether they have dog-related problems or personal ones. Like the Crazy Gang, Gap has also seen people through marriages, childbirth, health problems and death. It is a network of people who care and it has totally changed my life. Long may it continue too.

Don't forget to check out all the other Fun Monday blogs - there's a list over at For The Long Run.

This blog is posted in memory of Queen Bea, Lisa's much loved Greyhound, who went to the Bridge very suddenly yesterday afternoon. At only five years old, she was taken from Lisa much too soon. Forever in our thoughts.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

I wonder if I can stay awake...

Astronomers have announced that a giant cloud of hydrogen gas is racing towards a collision with the Milky Way. Smith's Cloud, as it is known, may set off spectacular fireworks when it smacks into our galaxy.

In 20-40 million years time.

Oh and don't worry if you're not feeling up to watching on the night, it should last several millennium.

That's alright then.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Maternal instincts. Or not .

This morning I was reading RDHmom's blog about her and her husband's journey to have children. I'm finding the insight into the emotions of someone desperate to have children incredibly interesting.

You see, ever since I was old enough to understand what reproduction was all about, I have always known that I did not want to have children. I do not know if the maternal gene just passed me by, whether my fear of pain meant that the thought of giving birth scared the pants off me (or, more literally, not!) or my mother's dire warnings of what would happen if I ever became pregnant. The latter, of course, was meant as a deterrent against having sex as a teenager, rather than not ever becoming pregnant, but I think that one backfired on her a bit because it certainly worked and she has only just got over the fact that she won't have grandchildren. It was also a bit ripe considering she fell pregnant with me at 19 before she got married but I guess she just didn't want me to repeat her mistakes. Not that she regretted having me but it meant she had to give up her nursing training and that, I think, she did regret.

There have been times when I have had the odd twinge, particularly if there is a newborn around, but within seconds the reality of having a screaming little person relying on me for every need comes crashing into my brain and the twinges soon disappear. Add to that the fact that I simply do not understand children. I cannot relate to them on any level at all. And they always cry if I hold them!

So not having this driving need for children, it has always been difficult for me to understand the emotional pain that couples who want children, but can't, must go through. I have been known to say in the past that I could not understand why those who are not able to have children just can't accept that there is a good reason why they can't, whether it be medical or indeed, divine, if you are of a religious mind, and move on. Now that I am older I can see the callousness in that statement and realise that it's not quite that simple. Having a driving biological need to do what it is we are here to do and not being able to fulfill that need must be absolutely heartbreaking.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Wet dogs. Bloody ears.

Sometimes you just know that when you wake up at some unearthly hour of the morning, you are simply not going to get back to sleep. I woke up just before 5am and was wide awake. I lay there for a while in the vain hope that I'd drop back off to sleep and at 6am decided to get up.

Just as I was getting my coat on to take The Lurchers out for an early morning walk, it started to rain. And then some. The Lurchers don't care and I was wrapped up with my wellie boots on so we went anyway. It was so lovely and peaceful with not another soul in sight and that meant The Lurchers could let rip. Lurcher play gets rough. It's just how they are but when they really get playing they make a lot of noise with much baring of teeth and if there are other dog-walkers about you can see them looking and wondering why on earth I'm letting my dogs fight. You smile and say "They're just playing, honest" but you can see the doubt in their eyes as they turn and walk the other way anyway!

The thing about wet dogs though is that when you get home, they shake water everywhere. Except this morning that water was red. The play obviously got a bit too rough and Lurcher No. 1 has nicked Lurcher No.2's ear. If you have dogs you'll probably know that even the smallest scratch on ears bleed copiously. Lurcher No.2 now has a pink neck and I have matching pink pebble-dashed walls. And pink is so not my colour.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

How good is your geography?

Mine, I can tell you, is absolutely useless!

A friend sent me this link and I'm not sure that I can quite forgive her. Traveller IQ Challenge. Apart from showing up my complete lack of geography knowledge (Himself was in hysterics watching my efforts last night) it is completely addictive! And I can still get no further than Level 6!

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Under the Weather

I was going to just write a quick post to apologise for not getting round all the blogs I should be getting round. I am feeling absolutely crap today as the cold virus that's doing the rounds has finally caught up with me. So if you have visited my blog, and I know a few new faces have, I will be round to return the compliment very soon, I promise!

So that's what I was going to do but as I wrote it, it struck me that what an odd phrase "under the weather" is. We are all, technically, under the weather all the time given that the weather is up in the sky and that is very definitely above us. So I googled the phrase and I cna now share its origins with you.

"Under the weather" is a nautical term that was originated, I believe, in the British navy. When a sailor was ill, he was kept below decks, and thus, under the weather.

Moreover, the deck they were under was likely "the weather deck", meaning the most exposed deck on the ship, usually the foredeck (over the seamen's quarters at the front end of the ship) or the quarterdeck (where the helm was located, high for a good view). Either way, if you needed to be sick, you wouldn't want to "toss your cookies" where the wind could toss them back in your face, nor would anyone with you want you to do so. You'd be firmly told to "under the weather" to be sick.

There you go and don't say you never learn anything by stopping by here!

Tuesday, 8 January 2008


Following on from Yesterday's Fun Monday, here's the prequel that should have been part of yesterday's post got a bit unwieldy!

As a family, we got our first dog when I was about 2 years old. Now, there's something you have to know first. My father was, and probably still is for all I know and, indeed, for all I care
(and there's another blog story in there that I must tell you one day), the sort of man for whom big was always best so there were no little powder puff dogs for us. Oh no. We went straight in for one of the biggest dogs around. A Pyrrenean Mountain Dog. And there the sarcasm will end because we're getting serious now.

Quella was adorable and adored. Quella was a brood bitch and had been involved in an accident of some sort. I'm hazy on the details but I think it involved a barbed wire fence. She lost the litter of puppies she was carrying and also had to be neutered (now ain't that a shame). As she was no longer of any use to the breeder, she came to live with us. I loved that dog. She put up with all the things that no dog with a toddler around should have had to put up with and, for such a large dog, the situation could have been disastrous but she took it all in good grace and started me on the road of my love for dogs.

My mother in particular loved that dog and when my parents divorced, I'm sure my father took great pleasure in making sure he got custody of Quella. My mother was heart-broken.

As the family went it's two separate ways, I had two dog families. One bonus I guess. My mum gave a home to Sheeva, a labrador/alsation cross, apparently, and she was the main feature of my life as I grew up. I loved that dog too and she also put up with more than her fair share of teenage tantrums but she was always there at the end of my bed offering the sort of comfort that only dogs can.

My father, meanwhile, carried on his large tradition with a St Bernard. Complete with brandy barrel. There is something very adorable about a dog with few brain cells. But when that dog is a St Bernard, you are in for a whole bunch of trouble! He blundered and blustered his way through his life and left me with some very happy memories!

The problem with large, pedigree dogs is that they have a short life span. So it seemed that in next to no time, Sir Jasper arrived. Sir Jasper was a Great Dane. It was about this time that the relationship between my father and I started to fall apart so I have few memories of Jasper, other than that he had a tail that could cut anything clean in two with one sweep.

Back to my Mum, Sheeva passed away quietly in her sleep and I was devastated. The one constant of my teenage years was no longer with me. We waited several months and then headed off to our nearet rescue and came home with Ben, a Border Collie. He was a 12 week old puppy when he came to us and lived to a ripe old age of 17. He was a dog on his own that one. He could scale 8 foot walls and disappear for hours on end...and we still have no idea of where he went to but he always came home. I shudder to think of that now. We were so blase about it.

And there ended my childhood and adolescence with dogs. I moved away from home and in my busy life I had no time, nor the stability, to offer a dog a home. They were barren years.

Then I moved in with Himself. And Himself had Cisco. The Queen Mum as she was known to our friends! A mutt of so many crosses that it was impossible to pinpoint any single one of them. Please excuse the terrible picture but it's been scanned in.

Cisco and Himself were inseperable. He rescued her from a squat and they spent every living and breathing moment together. She would, from time to time, acquiese to letting me look after her but made it abundantly clear that she was only biding time until Himself came home. She too lived to the ripe old age of 17 but her last year was painful. We were on holiday in Cornwall and she fell 5ft off a wall and we believe, although we can never be certain, that she suffered some brain damage as a result. She became a little senile and incontinent and started to have fits. To my lasting shame I can see now that we let her go on for too long. We kept thinking we could see an improvement but, of course, we were kidding ourselves. The day she passed to the Bridge will stay with me forever. The vet came to us at home and we were all in floods of tears. Himself called all our friends to tell them the news and I don't think we have ever grieved so much for anyone - human or canine.

That evening there was a tentative knock at the door. Friends had driven 5o miles to see us. Fearing we wouldn't want company they didn't want to stay, they just wanted to make sure Himself was OK. But we invited them in and they produced a bottle of whiskey and we all proceeded to get very very drunk. We spent the evening alternating between crying and fits of laughter at the memories we all had of her. A more fitting send off I could not imagine.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Fun Monday #3

Lisa at Lisa's Chaos is our host for this week's Fun Monday. This is want Lisa wants to know about:

Let’s meet your pets. I think most of us have at least one pet and I would like to see your fluffy or scaly pal. If you don’t have a camera you can tell us about him/her/them. If you don’t have a pet tell us about a pet you had or a pet you want. If for some weird reason you hate all animals we want to know why gosh-dang-it.

Ooooh now are we on a subject close to my heart!! I could, and indeed did, write a very long blog about all the pets that I have had the good fortune to share my life with but it was so long that I would have lost you all before you reached the halfway mark so I have decided to focus on The Lurchers and save the rest for another blog. Suffice to say that, except for a few lean years when I was at college and getting my career off the ground (hah!), there have always been dogs in my life.

Lurcher No.1 came, surprisingly, first. Himself had always wanted a hairy grey lurcher. So we set about finding one. Except that the first lurcher pup we came across was Georgie. And once I'd set eyes on her there was no way we were going home without her. And she was not grey. Or hairy. She was smooth coated and black and white. Hey ho!

Day 1.

Georgie is my soul dog. She is such a character and there is no doubt in my mind that she has been here human form. It almost seems like she gets so frustrated sometimes at not being able to say what she wants to say! She is a dream of a laid back that nothing fazes her for a minute. She likes to think she's top dog but really can't be bothered to enforce it so just kicks back and enjoys herself! She loves people and considers herself to be a real “meet and greet” dog, particularly if she comes to work with me when she has to say hello to everyone that walks through the door. She’s also a smiler, baring her teeth in an enthusiastic grin when she meets old human friends. She is much more a people dog than a dog dog, preferring the company of people over other dogs.

And now? And now she is hairy!

And then came Lurcher No.2. Tyler.

Day 1

Georgie might be my soul dog but Tyler is my heart dog. I love my dogs equally but Tyler has stolen that little centre of my heart. Georgie is so confident and sure and can look after herself whatever the situation but Tyler is much less confident and finds some situations stressful. He just pushes my “look after me” button!

Possibly my favourite photo of The Lurchers

Tyler is a rescue from Greyhound Gap and didn’t get the best start in life which I think affected his confidence and ability to interact with other dogs. But he is also goofy and funny and makes me giggle at some of his antics.

And now…

My dogs are my everything and their needs are put first above everything else in my life. I cannot put into words what they mean to me and how much I love them. There just are no words to express feelings that deep.

A lurcher, by the way, is a crossbred Sighthound. The cross will be between a Greyhound, Whippet, Deerhound or a Saluki AND a Terrier (usually a Bedlington or a Border) or a border Collie or a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Those are the traditional crosses but there aremany crosses these days that can be called "lurcher" but the undelying rule is that there must be a sighthound in there. Georgie, for example, is Greyhound x Saluki x Border Collie x Bearded Collie so she is quite thickset for a lurcher. Tyler, on the other hand, is a Greyhound x Deerhound with, we believe, some Border Collie and he is very much the classic sighthound build - long legs and deep chested.

Don’t forget to go over to Lisa’s Chaos and catch up with all the other Fun Monday blogs!

Have to blog. Have to blog...

Having signed up to Blog 365 I have to blog something. Except I am so brain-dead today after last night's party that I have nothing to say that could be of any interest to anyone. So instead you can have a couple of photographs that I took last year and have just been having a play with. Enjoy a little reminder of warmer days!

Saturday, 5 January 2008


I am lucky to have a fantastic vet to care for The Lurchers. We've used them for over 20 years with various pets that have come and gone and I trust their judgement when it comes to what care my pets need. Both partners in the surgery are superb and the support staff second to none. It also helps that one of the partners gave a home to Lurcher No.2's litter mate after they both came into Greyhound Gap's care and we're considered family!

Nothing is too much trouble for them and, having been so spoilt, it came as something of a surprise to realise that other vets wrap themselves in as much beauracracy as the National Health Service.

The downside of our vet practice is that they are not the closest to us and neither do they offer a 24 hour emergency service. Clients are referred to another surgery that is even further away. So when we moved to our cottage just over a year ago, I rang the veterinary surgery that is closest to us and explained that whilst I didn't want to change vets I wanted to know that I could use them in case of an out of hours emergency. No problem they said, you can just come in if the need arises.

Imagine my surprise when I rang them on Sunday evening and was told that they couldn't see Lurcher No.2 as we were not registered with a vet that referred to them for emergency cover. Sorry and all that but you have to go to wherever your vet refers. So I had to drive Lurcher No.2 20 minutes to the other emergency vet instead of 2 minutes up the road.

When I rang the surgery the next day to voice my complaint, I was told in no uncertain terms that that was the choice I had made as a pet owner i.e. to choose to use a vet surgery further away rather than consider the implications of having to travel in the case of an emergency.

That left me a bit dumbfounded and wondering whether I'm putting my own desire to have The Lurchers treated by a vet I know and trust ahead of their needs should an emergency arise.

It's really not good to be pondering things like this at 1am, it really does your head in.

Friday, 4 January 2008


Why, at my age, am I still getting spots?

And why do I always get a big red corker of a spot two days before a big, posh party?

I mean...I exfoliate, I wash, I cleanse, I moisturise. So why does my skin think it's forty-something going on 15? I'd tell myself it's my youthful complexion acting youthful but that would be wishful thinking.


Thursday, 3 January 2008

Branching Out

Greyhound Gap, whilst focusing on rescuing greyhounds and lurchers, does occasionally take in other waifs and strays that find themselves needing a home for some reason. Usually because a pet owner has passed away and will have dogs other than sighthounds, or perhaps cats, budgies and apparently even a sheep. Or because some idiot *spits out that word* advertises hamsters on Freecycle.

Lisa and I both have a soft spot for hamsters. We've both kept them over the years and they don't deserve to be given away in Freecycle like an unwanted bit of furniture. So we are taking in a group of male dwarf hamsters and some of them will be coming to live with me!

It'll be nice having hammies around again, they offer hours of endless entertainment and for such little creatures, they have oodles of personality! Himself hasn't put up any argument, although I did tell him when he was half asleep *whistles nonchalantly*.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Piling on the Pounds

Earlier this year I did extremely well in losing 18 excess pounds of weight and managed to get myself down to 9st 13lb (139 lbs) which was the lowest I had been in over 20 years. I knew I wouldn't be able to stay at that weight as that had been a real effort but when I leveled out at 10st 2lb (142lbs) I was happy.

Then, in the run up to Christmas, that weight started to creep up and two weeks before Christmas I weight in at 10.5st (147lb). I absolutely refused to get on the scales over Christmas - I knew I'd piled even more weight on - I could feel it in the tightness of my clothes - and what was the point of stressing myself out about it over the holidays?

But we're back to reality this morning and, taking a very deep breath, I stood on the scales. Then got off them very rapidly. I've put on another 7lbs.

I blame Himself personally. He went shopping to buy all the drinks for Christmas and also decided to stock up on nibbles. "Nibbles" in his mind is four or five different boxes of after dinner mints, a tin of Heroes, several big bags of crisps and a selection box of chocolate biscuits. He knew I also had mince pies, ice cream, Christmas pudding, and two other alternative puddings plus one of our guests was bringing a pudding and that all our other visitors would be contributing something to the growing food mountain. It's being from a large family that does it. He's one of eight children and I suppose you must get used to dealing in quantity don't you?

And yes, I know I didn't have to eat it. But it's there isn't it? He knows my will power is zero when we have chocolate in the house and that I can't abide waste. It's all his fault. Definitely.

We have a black tie function to go to next Saturday and my dress, which fitted where it touched 7lbs ago, is not likely to be able to be done up. Or, if it is, is going to have some rather unsightly bulges.

So that's it. I am well and truly back on the diet. 7lbs in three days? Not likely is it?

*Aoj goes off to rummage through the wardrobe to find bigger dress*

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

I present this blog.......... you from the comfort of my bed. It's been a long few days with precious little sleep on Sunday night with Lurcher No.2 being poorly. So we are having a lie in. I'm perched on one end of the bed and Himself on the other and there are two comatose lurchers in between us. Not a bad way to start the new year really! Lurcher No.2 is much better this morning although still not 100% but he has eaten a little food which is a good sign.

So welcome to 2008! I hope all your celebrations went well and that you're not too hungover this morning. I always feel very optimistic on New Year's Day. It feels like the slate has been wiped clean and we can start all over again with a fresh, new year. I don't make resolutions....I never keep them so not much point although there are a few things I would like to achieve this year. Having also made quite a few new blog friends this year, I'm looking forward to seeing how everyone's year pans out! But that's just because I'm nosy!

I also seem to have been rash enough to sign up to Blog 365. Quite what possessed me I don't know but, be assured, you can expect lots of drivel from this blog this year!!