I’ll send you a postcard…

At one time sending a postcard was an integral part of the holiday routine.

Smart phones and instant messaging have played a big part in the demise of this activity. Nowadays entire holidays are captured on Instagram and Facebook with intermittent updates also available by text, e-mail or Instant messaging .

It was therefore quite a surprise earlier in the week to have an actual postcard drop through the letterbox. It seems postcards are now specialised enough to be designed for a target audience………….In our house however we don’t do things ‘half measure’ and actually as well as having our in laws dogs whilst they travelled, we took a third dog into our care for some of that time as well. Dogs of this size come rain or shine need and enjoy a lot of exercise.…and yes, for those of you reading this who live in this part of the uk (Yorkshire) will be very aware that some of the last few days have been somewhat wet! Don’t be fooled by these photos I took a week or so back at the start of their visit……Anyway back to the subject of postcards.I am hoping the next one I get reads….’Thanks for looking after the Porshe Cayenne “……I live in hope!

National Treasure

There are many good things about living in the UK…it’s actually very important for those of us living there at the moment to remind ourselves of that, as with the huge Brexit chasm that we live beside it can seem a world full of conflict, divided opinions and distrust of each other. Sounds extreme…well thst is Britain in September 2019…not a pretty political place.

But that aside, we live in a land steeped in history and tradition and we are pretty good at preserving it.

For those not from the UK, the National Trust might sound like some second rate bank or finance house…ready to take your money but not give much back. Well, let me explain…the National Trust is actually a somewhat amazing charity who buy , save or rescue old buildings estates, ancient moorland or indeed anything that is part of our heritage or is at risk.

They then open these to the public and in many cases create viable and sustainable businesses within them. And in doing so preserve nature, traditions and even our coast in a sustainable way.

The imminent release of the Downton Abbey movie and the huge popularity of the TV series demonstrates the interest in buildings duch as these and the people who lived in them and worked, ‘below stairs ‘. The NT have got these by the dozen on their books the length and breadth of the UK. With tea shops, gardens and very often huge open spaces..for our family whenever making a long UK wide road trip we will detour to one of these for a break in our journey.

But all this comes at a price..but not a big one. The NT get no public funding and relies on admission fees, membership fees, bequests, grants, revenues from its some 400 rental cottages ,gift shops and most importantly a huge army of volunteers supporting it’s paid staff. And pound for pound…it’s really great value if you become a member…about £10 a month gives you unlimited access to literally hundreds of places. If you are an overseas or occasional visitor you can of course pay for individual admission. Yes this is a more expensive process, but you know that what you spend is being reinvested into preserving the past for future generations to come.

And as I said, it not all stately homes. My primary school (a convent school ) was housed in classic villa designed by Scottish architect Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. At age 9 I was oblivious to the style of this building from the 1800’s but absolutely appreciate it now and delighted the National Trust for Scotland were able to save it and restore it to its original style.

And finally a word of caution for any overseas visitors..don’t go through the National Trust handbook or website looking for the fictional Downton Abbey.


Although portrayed as North Yorkshire,  the exterior is filmed at Highclere Castle in Berkshire, still actually  a private dwelling so not in the hands of NT. It’s the home of the Earl and Countess of Caernarfon and only open for limited number of days each year!

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Sox appeal

I perhaps need to start with an apology for English speakers in the UK, Ireland and probably most other places…but not in the America’s…as we in Europe don’t use the word sox as  plural of sock..and we only say socks, so this may grate a little on you…..sorry!

Anyway there is a whole list of words that don’t cross the pond very well….. so let’s just move on from that. And don’t even start me on the others…..

I digress…..a  short while ago I attended an expo in connection with my day job.
As is always the case for  any such event where suppliers want to lure customers to their stands to engage with them, there are the traditional give aways. Some of these are a sure fire winner…chocolate, usb  memory sticks, key rings, bottle openers etc. always attract .

Then there is also a plethora of giveaways that have become very passe…who really wants a cheap plastic pen? or a sticker saying I❤Higginbottam & Company,  Chartered Accountants? Unless of course you are Mr Higginbottam.

Even the good items like the chocolate get eaten, the bottle openers end up consigned to a kitchen drawer…so what does have a lasting effect?

Well it seems that not only does sex sell  but socks have the same effect. I went to an expo last week and was given a funky pair of socks on a supplier stand…so for them it is practical,  memorable,  and will certainly provide a memory trigger…far better than a PowerPoint presentation and a talking point that  was far from exciting. The socks are a great reminder …the  funkier the better!

So this time it seems, the marketing department have got it just right!

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First Aid Kit…or Band Aid music

My itunes has a huge variety of music and I am always adding more of every possible genre. If my itunes account was being forensically examined in some future lifetime perhaps to try to match me to an era or interest…the musicologist would be baffled. The Cure, Lady Gaga, the Beatles , Blur, Mozart, The spice girls, Alan Jackson, Celine Dion and hundreds of others just happily co-exist. Nashville, Manchester, Liverpool and London…all on the same map page!

In the same way that we make personal friendships through chance meetings and opportunities..my music arrives equally randomly. Recently I was on a flight and perusing the on-board audio looking for Lady Antebellum and I came across First Aid Kit…I had remembered the name from my daughter talking about them….and so this was how I was introduced to them!

And as an aside, the award winning Lady Antebellum band got their name from the historical period before the civil war…the band had been doing a photo shoot in historical costume in houses of that same period. And First Aid Kit’s reason for their name…far simpler…they came across the term in an English dictionary (they are Swedish) and just thought it very aptly described what their music did!

If you haven’t listened to either of the above before as Country may not be your thing (..and it wasn’t mine)..then do give it a go. You will find them on you tube.

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Time to go wild….in the garden

Nature reminded me today that when it comes to skill, nature is streets ahead of everyone else!

As my garden is big, and work and other things have meant that evenings and weekends have been very occupied, I had to have a Plan B in force to keep things in order but still have time to enjoy my garden, rather than become a slave to it.

Essentially plan B is just for our allotment area, which we have next door to our garden which on previous years took many hours of upkeep ….and then have to sadly dispose of unwanted produce! You can only eat and find homes for so much lettuce…

So this year some of this area has had wildflower seeds intentionally sown . There has been no watering (other than by nature), no pest control – slugs, snails, caterpillars, squirrels and birds all welcome; and no staking or supporting of plants. A recipe for failure the gardeners would say…the actual result..for the first time in my life some successes with sunflowers.

Previous attempts have seen me act like an overprotective parent of a young child with protection against wet, cold, illness being thrust upon the plants only to find them fail miserably! And of course it’s not just sunflowers, many other insect friendly plants are thriving in this patch too.

I find now I am in good company with wild flower planting…many UK local authorities who are allowing parts of grass verges and parkland areas to develop naturally- everyone is a winner…it looks good, the insects have new habitats and the authorities save money on grass cutting etc.

So if you have a garden…you too should think about having a little bit going wild too.

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How to be a breakfast chef – use your mobile

I am sure I am not alone in my frustration with seeing couples or sometimes entire families at tables in restaurants all deeply engrossed in their phones. To me it seems a real waste of time to share and engage with others.

Now don’t get me wrong…I am a big user of my phone with a blog to write (!), friends to be kept in contact with, places to find and a desire to know what is going on in the world. But I do choose my moments – train journeys, waiting in airports, coffee stops (if I am alone) all provide good opportunities to do the electronic conversations!

So true to my word, last week I was in a hotel walking down to breakfast and decided to use that moment to quickly respond to a What’s App message. Well as most women know, men and multi-tasking aren’t always found in the same place ….and that sure applies to me. Walking purposely into the hotel’s restaurant, a place I am familiar with having stayed several times before, I was a bit too purposeful and instead of making a sharp left as I entered as I should have, I just kept walking. Now this is quite a sizeable and modern restaurant with an open kitchen but behind counters which the customers can see, but are separated from the various chefs and kitchen staff as they prep the food and prepare customers special order breakfast items .

I suddenly found myself amongst chefs supervising pans of frying eggs, juicers squeezing fruit and everything else needed for the delivery of this hotels impressive buffet.

Bemused faces everywhere…bearing in mind my attire – suit, laptop bag and phone in my hand they may have thought this was a dawn raid from the International Scrambled Eggs Standards body or some other such authority!

This event took place in Muscat, and as anyone who has visited will know, the Omani people and their guest workers are polite, friendly and welcoming people….so no screams of get out of my kitchen…just smiles, good morning greetings and best wishes for good breakfast.

And just for the record it was!!!

Carpe Diem

To the non Latin speaker, this is probably a fancy fish restaurant in a trendy part of town, but to those who have learnt a few such useful phrases of this ancient language, it of course means seize the day. To regular readers of my blog, I am a big exponent of grab it while you can…for anything in life ….as we never know what’s around the corner in terms of health, opportunity or just ‘stuff’ that can throw a wobble into life.

What is ‘it’?…’it’ is doing things that enriches your life and hopefully others as well….and that doesn’t always involve spending money. Unless you live in a hermits cabin, generally there are things out there in the world that are waiting for you! Be that volunteering, walking around in your countryside or city, trying new foods, feeding the ducks,or just engaging with different people.

I do realise I am very fortunate in that I have a job that takes me to different places (..and not many people have that opportunity) This week work took me to the UAE and it gave me the opportunity to catch up with a friend and former colleague recently relocated and living there. Now if I had to nominate a role model for my philosophy of life….. it is her! She is already one of the most well travelled people I know, and in this new geographic position she can weekend in India, take a short trip to Nepal or even get to the Far East…which becomes not so far east anymore! From updates I have already had when she first moved it seems she really is grabbing every opportunity not just to travel, but to explore the new city she lives in, make new friends and that’s four legged as well as two legged as she has found a dogs home that wants volunteer walkers! So already now she has just about every weekend and holidays allocated to something new. Anyway we managed to find time to meet up between work and her travels. So research was done to find somewhere new to go. Where did we find ourselves? …on Happiness Street…which I think says it all!

Lost hope for the art of the picnic?

In the world of Enid Blyton children’s books, which were essentially stories of middle class children solving crimes that the police couldn’t, being at jolly good fun boarding schools where there was not a hint of bullying (or indeed anything of an unsavoury nature) and other stories of children having a unrealistically good life in middle class families, picnics were just part of that daily life.

The Famous five, the Secret 7 or the head girl at Mallory Towers would never have been seen with a takeaway burger or a milkshake. For them it was always potted meat sandwiches washed down with lashings of Ginger beer. If you are not from a country where these books were part of your upbringing, my apologies for baffling you. But it is worth reading one – even for me as a child from a relatively well off family, but growing up in a city in the troubled early 1970’s, these books (and they were a big part of my reading) were an anathema to my normal life.

So back to picnics…I think there is a comeback..partly driven by economic necessity, partly by a drive to reduce plastic and also driven by a desire to eat more healthily and do things together as groups of friends or family. They really do change behaviours….for example you will see far fewer people using phones for messaging or social media updates when outside picnicing compared to in a restaurant situation. Result!

And the downside…just occasionally, nature wants to barge in!

A quick visit to this story of a recent family event of ours is a reminder of that! Salsa with cows

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Got to be In it, to win it!

We all have family and friends who have had great plans for lottery wins, but actually in many cases they don’t actually buy a ticket…meaning their chances of winning are of course….zero!

The reality is, even if you buy a ticket you have a greater chance of being struck by a meteorite than actually winning the top prize of millions of pounds.

I haven’t actually met anyone who has been struck by a meteorite to find out if it is a positive life changing experience, but for the moment I am going to assume no and hope for the money option rather than the ‘get hit on head by high speed fragment of planet option’ .

Much as gambling (thankfully) does not excite me and brings out the natural cynic in me…”You will never see a poor bookmaker” etc.,

like many people I am drawn to the allure of a prize draw..not so much for wanting ‘something for nothing’ but more for enjoying the unexpected. If you speak to a comper (I know this term is more used in the US than in the UK and people might be thinking I have misspelt compere!) they will tell you that participation in the big TV draws is spectacularly high and therefore the odds low. Conversely enter a competition on social media and the odds of success are much higher as the entries are lower, sometimes surprisingly low!

Last week by chance I came across an opportunity to win a book when I was perusing Twitter. I duly entered the draw from an on line bookseller (the aptly named Dead Good books who specialise in thriller novels) Well to my surprise, I won a copy of the latest novel from bestselling author Claire Douglas. The novel is set in Wales and the book seller had not only sent me the book but a packet of Welsh cakes.

Ok, so I didn’t win a car or a holiday…but I got something sent with imagination and personality…you can’t put a price on that!

Time for an embrace…take #2

We had dogs visiting and I had time for an early morning walk prior to setting off on a work trip.

Our local reservoir is a mirror of the season and looking in the mirror what I saw was waves on the water whipped up by the stiff breeze, a hint of brown on some of the leaves and a little chill in the air.

Now it’s only August, but here in the UK as we encounter global warming we see a shift with warm weather spells from as early as April or May so in some way it’s no surprise in August to get a hint of the autumn that is waiting for us when we turn the calendar page at the end of the month.

My natural response to this is to bemoan the end of summer but on this walk accompanied by my daughter I was reminded to embrace the seasons for what they are….so true, and indeed we in the UK are fortunate to live in the land of distinct seasons…even though occasionally we experience all four in one day!

Enjoy each day for what it is.

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