Time for an embrace…..

My daughter has many words of wisdom, but one of my favourites of hers is ’embrace the seasons’. We all too quickly lament the ending of summer, or the onset of winter but as sure as night follows day, the seasons will arrive and we need to accept what they bring. I think with her tuition I have been taught to love each season for what it brings and enjoy a new calendar page always.For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, we are in autumn now (I appreciate I have some southern hemisphere readers who for them, ‘autumn was just so last year darling…’ ) I also have some North America ‘cousins’ reading this who of course use the term fall, rather than autumn. Anyway, having got those disclaimers out of the way it is autumn in the UK and to be honest it has been wet. Not just a little wet but depressingly downpouringly wet for a lot of it so far. In fact yesterday we had several days of rain in just one hour alone. So I have to say I really have struggled to embrace autumn…I couldn’t manage a hug, just a little soggy peck on the cheek kind of kiss, that you give your dreaded and scary great auntie Flo when you are a child …and you are instructed to kiss great Auntie Flo as she arrives on a bi annual visit. If you as children, didn’t have relatives like this making an occasional state visit to your home, then all I can say is you have been incredibly lucky.Today, however autumn was here in full glory….blue skies, falling leaves and nature showing all the tell tale signs of…”its time for me to rest a little, and move in to the next phase of what I do so now here are some wonderfully coloured leaves and here is some food I have prepared to keep the birds fed over winter”.In a village I lived in some years ago, they had a church social club called the Autumn club – it was for senior citizens and had the usual array of activites for mind, body and soul. I was always struck by the positivity of that name of club for those moving into the autumn of their life .Thankfully, I have got some time time to go before I join that group, but meantime I plan to keep embracing seasons as they come along…. for sure they have their challenges and whether it the cold of winter or heat of summer …these can be issue for those in poor physical health (..or indeed financial health) but in general each season gives us opportunity to enjoy nature and the traditions that abound within our calendar.Enjoying this blog…I hope so? Its only ever intended as a quick read for you and an outlet for me to share my random thoughts.Please click like …if you like it, and comment it you want to say anything good or bad…I can take it! If you think others would enjoy this, please do share on your social media platforms. Thanks for reading……..

You may be recycling more than you think…

My early memories of recycling as a child in the UK in the not very environmentally focussed 1970’s were confined to old newspapers collected by the scouts to raise their funds,

returnable lemonade bottles returned by myself to raise my funds

and my parents ever growing compost heap to raise the local methane levels.

Fast forward over the next few decades and then there thankfully was more awareness and opportunities culminating in the increasingly normalised approach we have today.

Yes, in most residential districts (but it does surprisingly vary in scope even from municipality to municipality in the UK), you will find an array of recepticles outside houses on ‘recycling collection day’ for glass, paper, cardboard, tins, some plastics and garden waste.

That’s all good stuff and how it should be…but what really encourages me now are the other activities. We are turning old and unused industrial units into homes, old railway lines into bridleways, footpaths and cycle tracks and this is not just in the countryside ….you don’t get more city centre than the Hi Line in New York where an old railway line has created a fantastic inner city walkway, garden and general leisure space.

Its not just about ‘practical re-use of items’ or a breaking down to raw materials when things are too old to fulfil their original purpose. Sometimes the new life can be as an art form. Even old London tube trains can become an artistic canvas!

Not to be outdone, with ideas for new uses for old things, easyJet the low cost airline have an old bus literally attached to the front of their HQ building to create more meeting space.

And on the subject of airlines…how about this as a ‘feature’ for your hotel entrance…

But the best and simplest of all are the charity shops that fill our high streets….old clothes, old books, old music are all recycled to new owners with some money made for a needy cause along the way and delighted new owners buying at low prices. And it really is a win, win. Often these shops are staffed by volunteers and they will be from a wide sphere…retirees wanting to give back to the community, others who find it an opportunity to engage in a lower stress environment than the conventional workplace would allow and actually a whole raft of other reasons.

So remember when you give to or buy from a charity shop, the benefits are spread widely.

Giving, buying, sharing…it’s all about showing some love for the world and treating it with dignity.

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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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