Sunday, 27 November 2011

Fantasy Train Posters

I love vintage railway posters and thought it would be fun to create some which were based on locations you couldn't easily get to by normal transport. Imagine how great that would be! Which fantasy location would you go to?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The blame game

If you look closely enough you can always find something to pin the blame on!
I have issues with taking responsibility for things when they go wrong. This is due to a few  reasons a) I fear authority & being told off,  b) I'm a lilly livered, conniving coward and c) it makes me feel better to put the blame on someone / something else. Give me any situation where I've caused a problem or broken something and I will inevitably come up with a plausible (ahem) story to pin the blame elsewhere. It's like paying it forward but without the altruism bit...  I'll give you some examples:

Example 1 -   I swear that the Beach Boys are the cause of my dismal GCSE results. Instead of revising I spent many hours re-playing their tracks in my room, learning the words and lip syncing along. I can't listen to them now without shuddering in horror at the colossal waste of time they caused me. If it weren't for their songs I'm sure I would have some A grades in my academic portfolio.

Example 2 - After doing poorly in my GCSEs I went on to do worse in my A Levels  (you'd think I'd have learnt my lesson). During an interview for a place at university I told the interviewer that the reason I did so badly was because this new girl had joined the sixth form of my school, proceeding to lead me astray and my academic work had suffered as a result (you know who you are missy!!). No I didn't get offered a place at that uni.

Example 3 - I'm always breaking stuff, usually glasses or plates when I'm washing the dishes, but also other random household items. Most things I touch seem to fall apart like they've been cursed or something. It's totally not my fault. For the dishes I will blame the washing up gloves (they don't grip properly) or the size of the sink (it's too small / too big) or the temperature of the water (it's too hot / cold). For the other stuff I will try to pin the blame on the manufacturer (shoddy workmanship) or any pervious owners / users (they must have weakened / damaged the item and left it for me to use!)

Example 4 - Failing my driving test. My instructor was male. End of story.

There are many more examples and I can't actually remember the last time I took responsibility for my actions. Is this a serious problem? Do I need help? Does anyone else do this? 

p.s. I hope Santa's not reading this...
p.p.s or Dr X.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Jingle Bells, Shopping Smells!

At least Santa has elves to help him
Christmas gift shopping is not going well. In fact it hasn't even started.  I keep writing lists of present ideas for people and then misplacing them. I go shopping and start out full of enthusiasm but the crowded over-heated shops soon put me off and I end up longing to go back home. I was doing much better this time last year and had finished off most of my shopping by mid November (and got the tree up!). The downside of this though was that I then started appropriating gifts for myself. Clearly not a financially sustainable course of action. To restrict this Dr X would remove the gifts from me as soon as I entered the home and wrap them up. I think he was trying to get on Santa's nice list. He certainly didn't make mine...

The gift process seems to get harder each year. Part of me wants to choose the cop out option and just get gift vouchers, but I'm not quite that desperate yet (not that I don't love receiving vouchers!!!). Plenty of shopping days left so no need to start panicking. Only people at work will keep asking me how the Christmas shopping is going and have started bragging about how they've done most of theirs. One colleague also gave me a detailed account of the three Christmas cakes she's got on the go - one of them's Delia's. Well give it back to her then, I said snottily.  

I know my colleagues are just taking revenge for all of my annoying pre-Christmas behaviour last year so I guess I deserve it, but it still makes me feel very bah humbug about the whole thing. Hmm maybe I'll see if I can access my hitherto untapped creative skills and start making gifts for people this year.  Requests for gifts to be delivered by the Christmas fairy please!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Call me Girl Friday

Just over a year ago I reduced my working days from 5 to 4 in order to have Fridays free. I wanted to use half of the day for volunteering and do something useful  for others for a change.  On my first free Friday I met with the Church manager to see whether I could be of service in some small way to my Church. What would you like to do? He asked me. What would be most helpful to you? I countered. I added that I could do administration or cleaning or make cups of tea. I could come most Friday mornings. In short I could do any random job that would help them. I could be their Girl Friday. In fact I was ready to start right away that morning.

So I was introduced to some of the main people who keep the church running in front of and behind the scenes and who work tirelessly for little or no pay just to bring the gospel to others and to show God's love in a practical way. I met the amazing lady (small enough to fit in my pocket) who takes care of the homeless, running the food shelter, providing food and clothing and much much more. I realised that she's probably the reason why so many  homeless people hang around outside the church. It's not in an affluent area anyway but the number hanging around the street, with their dogs and menacing air made me slightly fearful waiting for the church office door to open. This lady commands their respect I'm told, because she gives it to them straight, she tells them the truth and more importantly she takes the time to see them as the real people they are. I start to feel ashamed of my earlier reaction.

I met the chap who does Christian outreach work in the local primary schools - running assemblies, holiday bible clubs, Sunday school etc. He tells me that he'll start thinking of ways I can help him. I then go up to the top office to meet the Pastor who makes a good show of seeming to know who I am. I certainly don't expect him to as although I regularly attend services on a Sunday morning, the Church has around 500 people there and I don't take part in many Church social activities nor am I a member. His study has a wonderful amount of books in it and some antique looking furniture. I try to remember my manners and restrain  myself from gawping at his shelves. It's probably the nicest office in the building. There is nothing luxurious about any of the Church office rooms. In fact the whole building smells damp and everything looks well used. But in it's own way this is pleasing. I know that any funding the Church gets is put to a higher purpose than frills and fripperies. It's how it should be.

My first task was to go into the church to collect any rubbish left from last Sunday and then lay out the Welcome cards in the pews. The church administrator shows me the way that she does it and once she leaves me to it I take a quick photo on my phone of a finished pew to make sure I don't mess my ones up. She comes back in unexpectedly to explain about the locking system of the doors and I guiltily hide my phone in the rubbish box. I don't want her to think that I'm slacking on the job already. It takes a long time to do all the pews downstairs and then upstairs in the gallery. As well as collecting an amazing amount of rubbish (people seem to eat a lot of sweets in church), I pick up pens, broken pencils, a crayon, a welcome card which had a piece bitten off, someone's bible and the strangest thing of all, a big tub of aloe vera body lotion. Is dry skin a problem in Church?  I also collect two dirty coffee cups hidden under a pew. The lost property cupboard is brimming with even more unlikely items (shouldn't someone have noticed their house / car keys are missing by now?) as I attempt to shove mine in and close the door quickly to prevent them from escaping.

I get lost trying to find my way back to the church office (the place is like a rabbit warren) and have to get the tiny lady to show me the way back. My second job involves collating and stapling directions for a treasure hunt that the Church are holding for their Away Day. The church manager tells me that he's been forbidden to look at the info ahead of the day, but I tell him that I can work out how to do this on my own anyway. Until I run out of staples after the 2nd leaflet.
My last job was going to be some general hoovering but unfortunately the Hoover was broken. I quickly explained that I had no engineering skills to fix it so I was released for the day.
It felt good to walk home knowing that at last I have done something that will be of help to others. True my jobs were very small and relatively insignificant, but someone has to do them. Perfect for a Girl Friday. 

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dr X and Mz G stride out across the cold muddy fields, er wait for me!!

These boots were made for climbing!

The wild Dorset coast

Dr X looks for a suitable place to picnic. What's in his rucksack??

Frozen feet

The perfect pub - it has a fire! Dr X has gone in already
Last year, Dr X and I decided to hold our own version of Thanksgiving. After all why should the Americans have all the fun? With Mz G we booked out the whole of Saturday and scheduled fun activities. Ignoring the fact that it was one of the coldest days in November for eons, we dragged Mz G over to Chapman's Pool in the Purbecks for a bracing coastal walk to see the sea and have a picnic. After feeling intensely car sick on the journey over, Mz G was delighted to embrace the freezing winds off the sea.

If possible, it was even colder on the cliff top. Dr X tried to seize an opportunity to erect his emergency shelter which he had helpfully brought with him. No wonder his rucksack was so heavy. But is there room for three of us in there to eat our sandwiches? I asked dubiously. He claimed it was possible and would have the added benefit of being v. cosy. Despite his obvious desire to practice his bushcraft survival skills I declined, took some quick snaps of the sea (swirling in the mists below us) and we headed back to the car for refreshments.

Mz G was sufficiently recovered to tuck into her food (humous & cucumber sandwiches, salt & vinegar kettle crisps and a satsuma) and then we made the short drive to the Square & Compass pub in Worth Matravers. Some brave folks were sitting outside with their pints and watching a speckled hen run around clucking trying to find the way into it's home and escape the bitter cold. When we squeezed into the narrow passageway to order our drinks we saw why they were outside. It was completely packed. Good fortune prevailed however as just then a few people attempted to squeeze out and Mz G and I made a race for their seats, clambering over small children and muddy dogs to get to the spot near the wood burner.
Leaving the pub we were greeted by a few shy flakes of snow. I grabbed my camera and started looking for the chicken but it had long gone. Dr X didn't waste time waiting around and had hiked off back to the car.
Arriving back home at 15:00 and despite having left the heating on all day the house was barely warm. This was proof of how cold it was and also how large the house is and not that well insulated. Dr X lit the fire, I put the tree lights on and we commenced playing the Thanksgiving board game which Mz G had brought - Cluedo Harry Potter style. Dr X took an hour to read the instructions and had to be coached on how to say all the magical words properly. This will teach him not to fall asleep during the films in future...

Anyhow, he didn't explain the rules very well and I consequently lost two games and became petulant. My sulky behavior worsened when I learnt that cooking the Thanksgiving dinner would take forever and we wouldn't be eating until 19:00. Furthermore I was forbidden from eating snacks as my habit of snacking on junk food and then refusing the main food is well known. Ignoring this I raced to the kitchen and started shovelling any snacks I could find into my mouth before I could be stopped. I won't go into the two hour food preparation which followed but for future reference our Thanksgiving menu (veggie style) consisted of the following:
Starter - cranberry cheese pate on a parmesan basket with toast
Main - potato squash gnocchi covered in a creamy mushroom sauce, with pak choi and red cabbage
Pudding - white chocolate tort with a raspberry coolie

Most of the veg came from Mz G's allotment. I confess I didn't like all of it, but that's part and parcel of a big meal and I know that I'm very fussy with vegetables -  heck with food in general. Whilst we were eating we talked about some Thanksgiving traditions (like the presidential turkeys) and thought about which things we were grateful for ( warm homes (ha), food, friendship and families).

We finished off dinner by playing some more Cluedo ( I still didn't win) and wrapped up the festivities around midnight.

A good dry run for Christmas and a nice celebration in it's own right. Perhaps we'll leave out the nausea inducing car ride and freezing walk next time. Sorry about that Mz G. Xxx

Emerald Isle

I've been a bit tardy with my blogging lately, and lacking in inspiration, I've turned to some unpublished material which I kept in my diary from around this time last year. So here goes, my best quotes from an autumn week-end in Ireland 2010:

"I'd rather be at home drinking a hot chocolate & watching the X Factor" (14 year old daughter of our friends at the beginning of what turned out to be a very long beach hike)

"I don't see the point in going to school anymore. I'm going to set up my own business, I've got a business plan already" (9 year old son of our friends)

"I've decided not to confuse Santa with long lists of presents this year. I'm just going to ask for a Nintendo DS and a packet of tic tacos" (same 9 yr old)

"I'm trying to have a conversation, could you stop pointing that thing at my face" (wife to her husband who kept trying to capture her on film, no it wasn't Dr X and I)

"I'd like to point out that this is your fifth art gallery. Just in case you didn't realize." (Dr X to me in Westport following the art vision trail 2010)

"You've gained loads of shamrocks (Irish equivalent to Brownie points) on this trip. Your 'best husband of the year award' is secure" (me to Dr X in the restaurant of the Atlantic Coast hotel where we revived ourselves after visiting all of the aforementioned art galleries)