Liebster Award – Thank You!

I am so thrilled to steer to a more positive direction and want to say a huge thank you to Bekki at The Creativity Cauldron for nominating me for this great award – what a wonderful way to encourage new bloggers!

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I nominate:

Sunshine and Celandines 

Facetfully 

The Stitch Sharer 

The Prolific Project Starter

Ana’s Lair

Plastic Rubbish

Life in thrift lane 

Beccas fabric larder

Ginger pictures

Domestic Philosopher

Book write her

I have to admit I am not entirely sure if the blogs above have already had nominations, and the last two were an exercise in discovery and what great finds they were too!

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My answers to Bekki’s great questions! 

What’s your earliest memory of being creative?

Saturday afternoons were relaxing affairs with my Nana, I loved the cosy familiarity of her weekend routines, a sharp contrast to my chaotic home life. She sat in her rocking chair, the big basket of wool beside her while she crocheted blankets that covered her knees.  The colours were completely random, based around generous donations of odds and ends from her numerous friends. We would watch old movies on her black and white tv, while I pulled out my favourite colours knitting them into complicated fair isle patterns for my dolls. At home in the darkness, fingering those stitches in the crochet blanket, imbibed with her love made me feel safe and warm.

Who are your ideal dinner guests?

Confident enough to act, I have hosted several murder mystery dinners and have had some fantastic fun along the way. A friend was dressed as a vicar once in full robes enjoyed the odd looks he had at the petrol station on the way over! I have been the murder once, but I am a reformed character now honestly!

Do you have a secret talent or party trick?

It’s weird, but I sense how people are feeling.

Are you tidy or untidy?

Well, I have a place for everything but it doesn’t always get put there immediately! Naturally I think I would slip into chaos quite easily, but I hate losing things so have recognised that I need certain level of order – I have a system that compensates for my laziness, for example I have boxes for shoes in the hallway so I can put them away without too much effort.

What is your drink of choice?

I don’t think you can beat a good cup of tea. Even when I am on my own I will make up a tea tray. Loose leaf tea in a pot, bone china tea cups and saucers and a cow creamer where the milk pours from his mouth – it always makes me smile. It feels indulgent and totally wonderful.

Who inspires you?

That depends on the subject..

I remember the first time I glimpsed a Jack Vettriano painting I stood gazing at the shop window for ages getting wet in the rain – completely lost. I love the way his paintings tell a story and he is so humble as an artist.

Maeve Binchy was such a brilliant writer – her characters were so real to me that when I finished a book I felt as if I had lost very dear friends. Liane Morriarty is as talented – I still miss the characters in Little Lies and its been a few months.

My good friend N has the best sense of humour ever! She juggles three children, three horses, two dogs and numerous pets, as well  her own business – I wish I had half her resilience.

Did you have an imaginary friend when you were younger?

No, but I was prolific reader – my journey home from school included a three mile walk from the station, I used to walk and read!

Do you procrastinate or get on with it.

It depends – I think creativity needs an element of procrastination – I can mull over something for ages then complete the process in a few hours. I need targets though, otherwise I just drift. I need time to do something properly, the idea of being in the sewing bee fills me with dread, it needs to be achievable.

Have you ever seen a ghost?

No – thankfully, I think I would be terrified perhaps they know that and stay away! I do believe that I there is far more things in this world that we can see.

In your opinion what is the best blog post you have written.

I think this one where I talk about my up and down relationship with blogging. I was writing from the heart and I feel that I am finding my writing ‘voice’.

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11 Random facts about me

Dancing is an enduring love – jive, swing, tango – I can’t listen to music and sit still.

I have a rescue staffie dog called Gus

My favourite teas in order are: Darjeeling, Ceylon, Peppermint and Jasmine

I love baking cakes and miss having children to make them with

I once slipped on a gherkin – my children love telling this tale

I love creative writing but rarely do it

I love painting but rarely do it because I loose myself, my family missed me, now I live on my own I would starve!

I am on a strict Pinterest diet – too much stimulation makes me less productive.

I love hats, wear them all the time.. ok not while taking a bath, or maybe bed, or maybe indoors

I started making my own clothes because my shape is really curvy – I went on a bra course and they asked me to check my measurements twice before the course and then checked them again when I arrived.

I adore cafes especially when they are in bookshops

The best Sunday afternoons are reading books with a tea tray nearby and home made cake.

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My Questions for Nominees: (And you dear readers! comment below!) 

If you could have a cup of tea with anyone who would it be and what would you ask them?

What is the last book you read?

You open a box of chocolates – do you eat them all at once?

If you could be any age, what would it be? (you can take your wisdom with you!)

What activity do you do where time flies?

Would you enjoy a warm deep bubble bath or a hot invigorating shower?

Choose a holiday: City break, A warm beach or a Course on a subject that interests you?

What was your proudest achievement?

If you could change something what would it be?

What is your favourite room in your home and why?

If you could have a magic power what would it be?

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What a wonderful world

I really don’t do conflict well, the last couple of weeks have been simply awful. Every now and then I have to attend a meeting of colleagues and I know enough about group dynamics to understand that someone is always in charge and its not necessarily the manager.

It doesn’t matter if I change jobs, in every workplace there is one queen bee who wields power and influence, treating those around her with contempt -they are privately hated and despised but are woefully oblivious.  I have lost count of the number of personal remarks and public humiliations – this particular queen bee dishes up under the label of ‘helpful advice’   She crossed the line so far – I couldn’t step back anymore, I had to speak up – I would like to say I did it well, but I didn’t.

What irks me is this, within all groups there is a surface tension of appropriate behaviour, we all pretend that we are a ‘team’ we don’t upset the applecart – we ignore nastiness because the only option is to break below the surface tension of politeness and start ripples that make everyone feel more uncomfortable.

Believe me in these circumstances,  there will be sympathetic colleagues who will listen to you, they will even site their own experiences, and there are others who like you are upset, but won’t complain.  Don’t be lulled into imagining this support will be there if you speak out. The moment you break the surface, you will be alone, friendless, facing a battle not just of the bully but your team will pick their side against you.

You see, everyone hates wars, division, having to choose sides – its as if by revealing the nasty underbelly you are opening up a huge wiggly, slimy can of worms and everyone backs off in horror.

Your manager is the person who has to take action, you are the softest target, no one wants an uprising and usurp the queen bee, better take out the weaker team member, load lots of guilt and blame their way, suggest they are being ‘overly sensitive’ that no-one else is complaining –  the Manager can file the incident away nicely, ticking off their boxes,  equilibrium restored.

I don’t think there is a bullying policy that can tackle the sad fact that in all groups power has a role to play. I am still not sure what I need to do to ‘pass this life lesson’ or how to walk in among a group of colleagues and not tremble. Someone might have the power to make me cry, or belittle me in the eyes of team mates, but I don’t have to play the incident over in my mind a hundred times; worse listen to my inner critic, how I should have said this or shouldn’t have said that. I make such a mess of the whole thing, that I end up wishing I never started.

In the last few days I realise I have an overly optimistic view of society, I blithely go through life imagining that we live in a wonderful world. I expect people to be kind, I try not to back bite, gossip or belittle people, not because I am ‘good’ but my self esteem scaffolding is based around acts that uphold who I want to be. Spite, running people down is self sabotage that hacks away at our inner self esteem – it never occurs to me that people do this and so when it happens it really knocks me hard. I blame all the books I have read over the years, where friendships were deep, tightly bound by loyalty. Where wrongs were always righted, the bad people were easily identified and satisfyingly punished – a world where justice reigns.

My naivety has been well and truly smashed (again!),  people aren’t nice, it is rare that people are challenged on their behaviour let alone punished, colleagues let you down and queen bees get to reign another day. Its not personal, I believe that most of us can’t express our anger to the right people, so we offload to the next available target, the guy who cuts us up on the road, the telesales caller, the person who looks sublimely happy, what has she got to smile about!

Mindfulness tells us that stress begins with wanting to alter what is; that peace comes from acceptance.

 

Maybe I finally understand we live in a world that is half in light and half in darkness,

We have never been able to explain why there is suffering, only that it exists.

A world of breath taking beauty where earth quakes kill innocent people, just like me.

Where the miracle of birth happens in the same hospital where it’s a battle to live, many don’t win.

I know that the longest night is also the longest day,

In order to have winners, we also have to have losers

That you can only see the stars at night because the sun’s light blocks them from view.

I understand that you find the darkest shadows in the brightest sunlight

And being happy attracts bitchiness like a magnet,

I may take the odd knock to my confidence,

but my self belief is shored up by acts of kindness,

loving has never been difficult,

I haven’t had to choose between satisfying my hunger or that of a child,

Or facing prison because loving someone is deemed illegal.

I have never needed to put someone else down in order to lift myself up

I haven’t had to close my eyes to someone else’s suffering, for self preservation.

I am not entirely sure the laws of Karma are as fixed as the laws of gravity,

But I can dream, cling to the belief that somewhere out there, its all in some form of balance

I can imagine I have the power to change the world, a little bit,

That my smile to a stranger lightens their load,

or the compliment to the tired bank clerk rises above the complaints when she remembers her day.

I have faith that these small acts ripple on our world wide web

After an awful week – there is a warm hug,

visits from friends,  a smiles from a strangers

Even the darkest night weakens with the first rays of a new day,

Malice might hurt but it needn’t be fatal.

For the love of vintage….


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I have been enjoying a real gem on the BBC iplayer called WPC 56, there are currently three series to enjoy – hop over and take a look you can only see them for a limited time (just over 16 days!).  I found them absolutely divine, not just for the interesting stories but the beautiful 1950s details, and clothing!  (I am a fan of call the midwife too).

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However what I loved about it mostly is the secretary who appears in the last two series: she is simply gorgeous, admired by the men but she is also a buxom woman. Oh how blissful to see the beautiful pencil skirt worn by a woman with hips, boobs and a bottom! It was so refreshing, and it made me see myself a little more kindly.  Mad Men might have also offered some pretty eye candy, but the actresses were definitely of this era of size zero. WPC 56 then is outstanding, delivering a far more attractive and authentic look in my opinion.

The 1950’s is a great period for me – I remember at one of my health checks where I was bemoaning my figure – the Nurse told me I wasn’t overweight just born in the wrong era!

I know that it is all too easy to wear rose tinted spectacles about the past, but the popularity of Artists such as Jack Vettriano where women wear polka dot dresses, hats, and bight lipstick and the men are in shirts, ties, braces and trilby hats seem such a vivid optimistic time.  Its an age where women looked different from men, dressing up was something you did on a Saturday night. For me it epitomises Glamour – and inspires me.

It has a full half skirt and is lovely to wear - you feel a domestic goddess as soon as you tie the bow!
My 1950’s inspired apron is lovely to wear – you feel a domestic goddess as soon as you tie the bow!

Where I live the clamouring for vintage is very popular, Brighton has a very active Vintage/Retro scene with Vintage Style Boutiques selling British made dresses  in Retro style. Alongside a very busy swing dance scene that offers a chance to dress up, put flowers in your hair and dance with a smart looking man in shirt and tie several times a week. I might not live in the 1950’s but I can step back in time now and then: great fun it is too.

ttfn.

 

Adventures of a Bookworm

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I am not a poet, sometimes I catch one – just like a butterfly –  if I am lucky I have time to write it down. Today, while my eyes strayed to the bookshelves (I have them in every room), this little poem popped in my head.

My bookshelves brim, both high and low

Of adventures and places, I’d like to go

Shall I journey back in time?

Or take a boat trip on the Rhine?

Traverse the galaxy, explore black holes

or find a way to save our souls?

I’ll take a course, I’ll  learn to speak,

In Russian, Spanish, Dutch and Greek.

Unravel mysteries, solve fiendish crime,

Battle, Nazis and Ghouls, and win every time.

Between the covers of a book

Adventures lurk, just take a look

A tale of courage, a life of strife,

Of how a man met and woo’d his wife.

When times are hard or the weather’s bleak

I’ll go and fight Pirates in Martinique

I have no need of plane or car

To travel places near and far

Just a cup of tea, a cosy chair

Peace and quiet, time to spare.

Upon my bookshelf, crammed in tight

Adventures call both day and night.

Susanna Di Milo

(c)2015

Weekend Adventures, Markets and Theatres

Isn’t waking up on a Sunday morning blissful? A whole day stretching ahead with no demands on my time or appointments to keep. Right now I am still tucked up in bed, laptop resting on knees, dog curled at my feet, (his peaceful snoring is somehow mediative) and a cup of herbal tea within reach.

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Mr D cooked all day yesterday, while the sun shone brightly, his culinary efforts for us to wander off and picnic down by the river today. While the sun has to penetrate the grey clouds, we are resolute to  but perhaps in the shelter of the car!

Last week I spent a heavenly long weekend in the Cotswolds – the weather was glorious and Broadway was teeming with tourists! Spring is not far away! It’s good to get away from the flat and work for a while; the dog enjoys the walled garden of our little cottage and his freedom to meander in and out without being escorted at all times!

We travelled further to Birmingham to visit friends on the Saturday and I had the pleasure of wandering the rag market where I bought some fantabulous lace and trimmings – the jewelled colours suggestive of Indian origins. There was a hodgepodge of jostling stalls selling fabric, jewellery, hosiery, bags, clothing and kitchenware it was a cacophony of bustle and banter.

Mr D revelled in the food market, while I took in the sights of a busy ethnic emporium: huge calf feet, chickens that still resembled the original creature heads and and feet intact, ( I admit to a certain horrific fascination!) as well as authentic Chinese food, packchoi, noodles and odd looking crackers.  I loved the bustle and hustle of the shouts from the traders as they offered their wares. How much richer is this experience than our supermarket isles.  The fish counter was a sight to behold! Glassy eyes and open mouthed fish, their scales sparkling among the beds of ice, prepared and ready for cooking.  Mr D bought two  Tuna fish steaks, served to him quickly and efficiently – delicious the next day still tasting of the sea!

We satisfied the hunger all the food has created,  in a nearby noodle bar.  I felt as if we had travelled to a distant country; this was not familiar Chinese take away food or the elegance of a Chinese Restaurant, rather the flavour of street food,  steamy bowls of soup, floating wonton noodles and scalding green tea in plastic beakers. The place was packed – with lots of Chinese – enhancing the sense of authenticity, while the tiny waitresses weaved efficiently between the tables, balancing huge steaming bowls of food in deep reds, pale yellows and fluffy white. I ate a whole dish of pack choi – glazed in salty oyster sauce, it feels like soul food, and sublimely delicious.

Boy in the Striped Pyjamas 1

I have been to the theatre three times in 10 days! My dear friend N and I went to see the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas at Chichester Festival Theatre. The Book was so cleverly written – a perspective of the holocaust from a naive ten year old boy, has enabled school children everywhere to understand a little of this dark period in history. It is called a fable – a tale to include a warning – an apt description.

I was intrigued to see how the play would retain the strength of the boy’s narrative on the stage;  it was very well done.  The bleakness of the location was creatively accomplished – the clack of  typewritten script introducing various elements of the story together with black and white projections of trains, and ghettos.

The genius of Boyne’s writing remained in the stage play, the boy referred to an important man called ‘The Fury’ and the bleak home was in a place called ‘Out with’  The book itself never confirms what it is all about, rather allows the reader to make their own conclusions.

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The two young actors were outstanding, the main character in particular was on stage throughout the whole play, (to maintain the story form his perspective) – he never faltered. The  brilliantly played adults slow unravelling at being in such a difficult position was at the periphery of the story, as it would be in the eyes of child.

A sad, multi layered  bleak tale – one that did leave me a little tearful.  A fable indeed,   the hope that we will tear down the walls we build – to protect us from … the muslims, immigrants, you name it. (its all too easy.) The stark warning at the end of the fable “surely this would never happen again’ tolls a loud in my ears. When I taught this book in schools we only had to look at a few newspaper headlines to see how fences and walls are well and truly tall and rigid today.

A night of Dirty Dancing

I went to see A Night of Dirty Dancing at the Regent Theatre Thursday last, which was an entirely different matter! The young performers put so much energy into the story of Baby and Johnny’s romance. Comic performances and tremendous singing combined to have us laughing and tapping our feet in no time. There was quite a lot of ‘suggestive’ dancing, bare chest and six pack exposure that had my heart racing a little – until horror of horrors I realised they were the same age as my son! (at that point I did feel approximately 100 years old!)  Thankfully the upbeat music, and the dancing soon had me tapping my feet again and we both left the Theatre with beaming smiles!

As we chatted amiably about this and that in the carpark, we watched the actors loading up their van and heading off to the next town. I have to admire these young performers, it must be an arduous and lonely life.

Jeeves and wooster

Mr D and I enjoyed an evening with Bertie Wooster as he told the tale – The Code of the Woosters.

Jeeves is giving us his version of events at Totleigh Towers, when he was despatched to steal a cow-shaped silver jug. The problem is that Bertie has only two actors at his disposal. This leads to a sustained send-up of theatrical conventions with joke props, a bicycle used to propel the revolving stage and lightning costume-changes. The fun reaches its high point when Matthew Macfadyen, who starts as the imperturbable Jeeves, is asked simultaneously to impersonate an overbearing old buffer, Sir Watkyn Bassett, and the unequivocally feminine Stiffy Byng. With equal resourcefulness, Mark Hadfield is required to switch from the imposing Aunt Dahlia to the incipient dictator, Roderick Spode, who comes equipped with a Hitlerian moustache and an extendable fascist mac. (see full review here)

It was hilarious, the comic capers as the two butlers try their best to play a host of characters while at the same time producing great stage setting had me giggling at the off.

Bertie tells his tale, while the story comes to a halt now and then as the limits of the casting gives a moments hesitation and the resulting overcoming of these obstacles are achieved rapidly – I think my favourite was a scene where one actor plays two roles having an argument. It is achieved by him wearing a dress on his right and a suit on his left!

If any of these come on tour near you, they are well worth seeing.

Is that a shaft of sunlight peeping through the bedroom curtains?

Happy Sunday

…. ttfn x