Bits and Bobs · Uncategorized

The A-Z of me

A couple of weeks ago some of the very talented writers in the Irish Parenting Bloggers group started writing A-Z’s about themselves.  As ever, I’m a bit late to the party, but was tagged by Clare who writes at The Clevs to add mine, so here goes!

A  One of the things that infuriates me is apathy.  I really can’t get my head around the mindset of people who have no interest in what’s happening in the world, or who just sit around and whine things are bad but do nothing about it.  Drives me demented.

B All I want in life isBooks. Well there was never going to be anything else for B really was there?  I have everything in this list except not enough of 5 and 11 and will always need more 12’s.

Chocolate, crisps and cake, three of my biggest weaknesses when it comes to snacking.  I’ve never tried to make crisps or chocolate, but love to make cake……. These were my first attempt at hot cross buns (before baking)DSCF3332

D  Dandy Walker Syndrome, the rare neurological condition our beautiful daughter was born with nearly eight years ago.  Becoming a parent for the first time changes your life in ways you could never have imagined, but this diagnosis (which came prenatally) took our lives in a direction we never knew existed.

E  I love elephants, no idea where this came from or why but I just love them.

F    I can’t remember when I first heard the word feminism or discovered what it meant (and then went on to discover how it has many different interpretations) but I vividly remember the first time it was used in a derogatory sense towards me. Yes it was the classic “You must be a bra-burning feminist then” when I expressed an opinion aged 15 in the school library that I didn’t think it necessary for women to change their surname upon marriage.  F is also for Fionnuala, my amazing and adored daughter.

G  On a good day (and today is dry at least!) I can easily spend an hour just sitting in the garden listening to birds and daydreaming.  A great way to switch off.

H  my truly wonderful husband. Falling in love with him changed my life in ways I could never have imagined, and has enriched it immeasurably. And following on from F above, I didn’t take his name when we married. As he put it so well when talking to another person “She has a perfectly good name of her own.”

I  Imagination  – mine is always on the go.  Sometimes it would be nice to turn it off for a little while.

J  Growing our own fruit and veg has made me come up with ways to preserve our bounty.  Jam is something I made rather a lot of last year – gooseberry, gooseberry & elderflower, blueberry, marrow & orange, marrow & ginger, blackberry & apple (ok that was jelly).  I haven’t entirely got the hang of it yet but there’s a nice feeling in seeing the jars all full and neatly labelled.

K  One of my forms of therapy is knitting.  I don’t claim to be very good at it and I’m not terribly fast, but I enjoy it and it helps me to relax and unwind.  Apart from when a pattern goes wrong and I curse it to the pit of hell.

L   Liverpool, a city very dear to me and the football team I’ve supported since I was 6 years old. The latter fact played a small part in my choices for university applications and I’ve never regretted going there as a very nervous fresher 23 years ago.  Great city, great people.  I ended up staying for 10 years.

Money.  Like many people I spend a certain amount of time having to think about money and usually how to make it go further.  I’m not however motivated by it and have zero desire to accumulate a lot of it.  Once I have enough to meet my living expenses I’m not bothered about having more.  Here’s another mindset I can’t understand: people who have made more money than they could spend in 20 lifetimes yet they carry on making more.  WHY???? A certain wealthy businessman who lives in Malta comes to mind here.

N Current affairs, politics, news, I’m a news junkie.  Two daily newspapers, the news/current affairs radio programmes, never miss at least one evening news show on TV.

O   I hold very strong opinions on a lot of topics and am not afraid to express them.  Sometimes this annoys people. See F above.  However, I maintain – well I would wouldn’t I ? – that my opinions are as valid as anyone else’s.  And hopefully better thought out than some.  I am working hard on listening better to other people’s opinions too.

P  powerPower. I had some fascinating discussions and arguments about power and its meaning, use and abuse while studying community development last year.  Still pondering this one through but I think its something we hand over way too easily.  And see A above.  

Q  As a child I asked questions constantly.  Why this? Why that?  Why does…. ? why doesn’t…….?  I keep questioning, always will.

R  A rose by any other name would smell as sweet apparently.  They are my favourite flower, apart from yellow ones.  They don’t feel or look right to me.

  Being by the sea is one of my favourite places.  It doesn’t matter which sea or where I’m near it.  But I wouldn’t want to live on the coast  – I like to keep it as somewhere to go for a treat and to relax.

T  I was never that keen on or interested in gardening as a child and teenager (probably not that unusual) but developed an interest in growing food around the time I really learnt to cook.  This would be 20 odd years ago now.  Over the years this has deepened and now we grow some fruit, some veg and herbs.  So why is this not under G for garden or F for food?  Cos deep down I really want to be Barbara from The Good Life!! Love the idea of self-sufficiency and hope to make more moves in this direction.  The Good Life

U University.  Sometimes I feel I didn’t make enough of my time at university.  Don’t be too surprised if I end up at one again in the not too distant future!

V  Vino. Red for preference.  There is something incredibly relaxing for me about sipping a glass of good red on a Friday evening.  A good way to start the weekend!

W  Walking.   I have started to walk between 4 and 5kms every day, don’t hugely enjoy it (I could be at home reading a book!!!) but I can feel the benefits so will persevere!

X  Xenophobia – the fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or their politics or culture.  That is the definition from the online Collins English Dictionary.  I cannot, and never could, understand prejudice.  Its the most frightening mindset out there and I do my best to challenge it when I hear it.

Y  I’ve only done Yoga a few times, but every time I have loved it and found it a great stress reliever.  I would love to incorporate it into my weekly routine somehow.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz  I love my sleep and I love my bed!  Curling up in there with a good book is a great pleasure.

Books · Living the Good Life

The good life – and books good and well, less good

Ever read a book you were immensely looking forward to and ended up disappointed?  It happened to me recently.  I’ve been interested in self-sufficiency, the good life, living outside of the system, whatever you want to call it, for years now. While I’m not in a position to adopt that kind of lifestyle at present (and maybe never will be) it doesn’t stop me daydreaming and thinking about it.  In the last couple of years I’ve been reading accounts by and about people who have done this – or similar things.  And some of them have been fascinating – Carol Drinkwater’s series of books about her olive farm in the south of France enthralled me and I’d recommend them to anyone.  Some I stumbled across and didn’t expect to enjoy; Rosie Boycott’s Spotted Pigs and Green Tomatoes was one such. Review of it here (originally published as Our Farm).  As well as a highly enjoyable account of how she and her husband set up a smallholding near Ilminster in Somerset, it is a passionate call for people to realise the impact of supermarkets on small towns and communities and for us to think more about where our food actually comes from.  Rosie Boycott isn’t the first to write about such issues of course, but her book is so well written that it is easy to engage with the arguments she makes and you get completely swept up in Ilminster’s battle that the book becomes something of a pageturner.  So that was one book I loved although I wasn’t expecting to.

In much of my reading about self-sufficiency I came across many references to Scott and Helen Nearing, considered by many (and rightly so IMHO) to be the pioneers of the concept of ‘The Good Life’ The Good Life Center.  Intrigued by the story of this couple who built their own houses by hand, who gardened, who lived out of the system to a large extent, I ordered their books and looked forward greatly to reading them.  Now, my life being what it is, I waited for a time when I could read the books properly, not having to rush through them and read them bit by bit when other commitments permitted.  So I finally got round to them over the last couple of weeks.

Imagine then my disappointment when I read them and didn’t enjoy them.  Don’t get me wrong, they are quite interesting and full (sometimes too full) of useful detail and information for anyone who wants to live that life.  But oh my word the books are so dry and so puritanical.  You never get a sense of how they FELT to be living this way, what they thought, whether they had any struggles.  The life they describe comes across (to me anyway) as humourless and austere.  The word ‘dour’ (especially when said in a Scottish accent) sums it up perfectly.  Don’t misunderstand me, I admire what the Nearings did and I can see how and why they have inspired so many to try something similar.  But oh did life have to be so devoid of fun????

I read ‘Living the Good Life’, ‘Continuing the Good Life’ and ‘Loving and Leaving the Good Life’.  And they’ve all gone to the charity shop…… I hope someone else enjoys them. I really wanted to and I didn’t.  Ah well.

Living the Good Life

Baby steps Barbara-style!

For a long time now I have been entranced by the idea of self-sufficiency.  I LOVE ‘The Good Life’ (classic 1970’s British sitcom) The Good Life and always fancied myself as a bit of a Barbara to the extent that my husband and I jokingly call each other Tom & Barbara whenever we are working away in the garden or when he is repairing things around the house rather than just buying something new.  But I have never really done anything about it apart from read books on self-sufficiency from John Seymour to the Hamilton brothers and accounts of other people leaving the Rat Race (such as Elizabeth West) and daydream.  A lot.

But this year I am going to be 40. The big 40 where life begins so it is said.   And I’m thinking about it all again.  However, this time I’ve resolved not to rush into it all madly, and take on too much and then fail miserably and become depressed as a result.  Nope, this time I am taking it slooooooowly.  I have a lot more constraints on my time, with my little daughter and my own business so the first step I’m going to take is to carry on with the reading – and re-reading – and select an aspect that I can easily fit into my existing life without it costing lots of money because thats something we don’t have an abundance of either!  So watch this space!  This week I’m still trying to shake off a dose of flu so I defnitely won’t be starting anything outside but I’m carving out a bit of time to do some constructive thinking.   And I’m decluttering too, which I guess is part of self-sufficiency in its broadest sense – getting rid of a lot of stuff we just don’t need and assessing just what we do need.