Monday 28 December 2015

Another year nearly over…

So that’s 2015 almost done, dusted and packed away in our memories. We’re half way through a decade and I still can’t work out how to pronounce it. Was it twenty-fifteen or two thousand and fifteen? And does it matter?

As ever it’s been a year of ups and downs. I had a big birthday in June. I turned 65! I know how to pronounce that; it’s pronounced ‘old’! The best thing about my birthday was spending it in Jaffa and the best thing about Jaffa was watching the mix of cultures and religions, living shoulder by shoulder, with tolerant smiles. So much can change so quickly or was it an illusion created for me, the tourist?

This time last year I was tentatively thinking of getting myself fitter. Now I go swimming twice a week and I love it but I haven’t quite mastered the gym… yet.

This time this year I’m tentatively thinking of joining a choir. I’ve just signed up for a taster session with the National Rock Choir. I wonder if I’ll enjoy it. I won’t know until I try.

A few months ago I bought a new car… new, but the same make, the same colour; the only difference is the registration plate.

Yes, I’m a bit conservative. I don’t like change but I can’t stop the date from changing. It’ll take me a few weeks to get used to writing 2016 but I won’t be making New Year resolutions. I’m old enough to know that it’s not only with a new year that we can have new opportunities. They’re there at any time of the year. It’s up to us to grab them.  Right?

So let’s drink to a year of new opportunities, opportunities that we don’t let slip by, opportunities that we grab and run with.

Happy New Year

Sunday 20 December 2015

After the Earthquake

Today I'll like you to meet my very good blog/Twitter friend, Jo Carroll, who has some important news to share.

Thank you so much, Ros, for inviting me to drop by your lovely blog. Dear Reader, you should know that this is especially kind, as Ros has fits of the vapours if she even reads about some of the things I get up to.
[This is very true, Jo.]
But she has taken the risk on behalf of my new book. What a star!

For those of you who’ve not met me before: I gave up work to go walkabout in my mid 50s, and came home with stories. I’ve carried on travelling, and carried on telling stories. But this book is more than just a travelogue about my recent trip to Nepal; it has different tales to tell.

Firstly some important points explaining why this book is so special:
  • All profits are going towards building a house that came down in the earthquake.
  • I know the man who will build the house and the family that will live in it.
  • I know the rubble that they lived in throughout the monsoon.
  • If you want to know more about the appeal, you can find the details here. 
This is the first time I’ve allowed myself to ponder on the wider impact of the earthquake on an economy, eg the man by the roadside in Pokhara with bikes for hire. He’s lost his shop, and can only call to passing tourists from the inadequate shelter of a tree. All of which sounds very serious. 

But no book of mine about Nepal would be complete without the exploits of Tika, Shobha and their family. 
     The cold shower.
            The irreverent giggling at the Peace Stupa.
                  Eating chips on their rooftop.
                        AND I had a close encounter with a crocodile.
                              [Smelling salts please, Jo!]

So there you have it: After the Earthquake: Over the Hill Goes Back to Nepal.
(Sorry, it's an ebook only - it's very short and so it's not economic to invest in printed copies.)

Thank you so much, Jo. What an amazing project. I've already downloaded my copy.
I'm sure I'm not the only reader who is inspired by all your hard work and commitment. 

Thursday 17 December 2015

Yesterday's Brush Strokes

A piece of free verse poetry and a thought on life:

If every day was truly a new beginning
you would start each morning with a blank canvas.
You would paint with untamed inspiration
as your day emerged dripping with vibrant colours.

In reality morning canvases are tainted
with the marks of yesterday’s brush strokes but,
in that moment when sleep clouds your consciousness,
you anticipate a canvas that is virgin clean.

Then you remember
and you get up
and you get on with your day
because that is all there is.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

My New Gym Routine

Last November I blogged about going swimming and getting fit. I'm pleased to say that, give or take a few weeks, I've been swimming twice a week since then. I started off swimming 4 lengths before gasping for breath. I can now swim 14 lengths... then I gasp for breath so I'm feeling quite pleased with my progress.

Swimming is great for aerobic exercise but my ageing body (and yes, it is ageing!) needs to do weight bearing exercise to try and ward off osteoporosis etc (I'm not sure what the etc refers to but I'm sure it's not very nice!) That is why I was at the gym first thing this morning trying to look keen and alert. The instructor had the measure of me in minutes. He took me down to the area that housed the bikes, treadmills and some curious 'bit of an escalator' machines. He said that we would ignore the upstairs which he referred to as 'testosterone land', with weights stacked on holders and machines that conjured up 'torture chamber' images.

My gym programme is simple and sensible - for a start. The bike only takes me up and down a few gentle hills, the treadmill is set to the mildest of undulations, then there's the 'bit of an escalator' machine. That may take me some time to get used to but I shall persevere.

Instead of 'testosterone land' he handed me a strip of bright pink rubber and a detailed printed sheet of exercises. "You can even do them at home," he said so if you'll excuse me, I'm off to do some hamstring curls followed by triceps extensions and reverse crunches...

...but first of all I'll have a coffee and donut because not only is it Chanukah when it is mandatory to eat donuts (we enjoy lots of fried foods this week to remember the miracle of the one-day's worth of oil that burned in the temple for eight days) but also, all this talk about curling, extending and crunching has given me quite an appetite.

Thursday 3 December 2015

Baby, it's cold outside

Some people don't seem to notice the cold but I think I have amphibian in my blood. I slow down as the temperature drops and I'm truly grateful that I don't have to work outside.

I had an outdoor job once, when my parents ran a market stall. I've blogged about life on the markets in My Market Performance but I didn't mention the all-consuming pain of spending a day on the market in the depths of winter. I'm talking more than numb fingers and toes. It was a cold that attacked my entire body and it took hours, sometimes days, to recover. It was a tough life and I only stuck it for a short time.

So it is with genuine empathy that I express concern for the many outdoor workers at this time of the year when the inevitable frosts will soon be upon us. Take the postman, for example, struggling with red and frozen fingers to sort and post letters. Then there's the window cleaner slithering on icy slabs with his ladder, the garage man lying on his back under a car with a swift north-easterly whipping round his trousers, police on the beat with frozen feet, and as for those car washers; have you seen how red and chapped their hands are?

The list is endless. There are road repairmen, tree surgeons, street cleaners, gardeners, and don't get me started about the horrors of being a sailor, trawler man or fisherman at sea. How they survive the sub-zero temperatures, the wild seas and the gale force winds is beyond my comprehension.

I know that there are lots of jobs that I haven't mentioned and I'm sure that they are all equally tough at this time of the year so let's spare a though for all outdoor workers as the temperature starts to plummet.
I'm typing this with a snuggle blanket over my legs, a cat curled up next to me and a mug of hot Ovaltine on the table by my side. I can hear the wind whooping down the chimney but it can't get at me. I know that people have to do those outdoor jobs and I am grateful that they do them. I'm just glad it's not me.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

St Pancras Station is wearing its Christmas glitter but...

...there's good and not so good:

Going to the smoke is easier than when I was a kid, except it’s not smoky anymore, not at London’s St Pancras International Shopping Concourse anyway. One hour and five minutes and I’m there, meeting up with Lovely Daughter.

Descending the escalators to the glittering mirror-ball world of shops at Christmas, I’m caught unawares by the policeman and police dog. “Keep walking! Don’t stop! Let the dog sniff you!” How could I help but have a moment’s falter in my step?

OK, so everyone else was photographing the enormous Christmas tree made up of 2,000 Disney character teddies and it didn’t feel cool joining them but I did it anyway. I love teddies.

And because it was so difficult to get the full effect on camera, here's a close up of one tiny part of this huge, huge tree:

Lulled by the Christmas lights and festive shop displays we were jolted back to reality as two policemen walked past carrying machine guns, not just-in-case-holstered, but in their hands as if they might have to use them at any moment.

The opulent surroundings of Searcys Champagne Bar and Restaurant provided the perfect location for quality time with Daughter. We ate well, chatted loads and almost managed to put the entire world to rights. It was posh fish and chips for me followed by ice cream – delicious!

Meeting Daughter on a one-day return means that the time flashes past. We were soon hugging and waving our goodbyes and it was too quickly over...

...but how great that we can do it. When I was a kid the steam train took hours of slow and dirty chugging. Don’t you just love today’s high-speed world... even if it does have its 'not so good' moments.

Tuesday 17 November 2015

My top 5 musings about driving at night

We have just spent a lovely, hectic, lively, tiring, weekend with the kids and grandkids. It would be a little less tiring if I didn’t have to drive back in the dark but with the nights drawing in there’s no alternative, so as I drove I wondered…

1.  Why does it always start to rain when I’m driving at night turning the windscreen into a myriad of tiny headlight reflections?

2.  What is the point of stopping for a coffee, which is my usual middle of a journey driving routine, when it’s too late to have a coffee?

3.  Who is the owner of that car that always comes straight at me with its full beam full on?

4.  Where has the road ahead gone and is it only me who can’t make out which way the road twists and turns in the dark?

5.  Why do I forget to blink my eyes when I’m driving at night?

Does anybody else experience such night-driving problems?
It’s just me then!

Sunday 1 November 2015

The Mist Descends - Autumn photographs

What a difference a day makes:

I took some autumnal photographs in the garden yesterday.

It was October 31st and I tried to capture the beauty of the light on the autumn leaves.

I couldn't catch the bird song

or the slight smoky smell in the air

so you will have to imagine those things.

On the left is the sun shining through the Rowan tree.

The birds have now eaten most of the berries. I hope they don't regret gorging. I hope it's not too cold a winter.

On the right is the Virginia Creeper.

It is always far more spectacular than my camera can ever portray

so loads of imagination required here please.

This is a seed head from an echinacae flower.

I suspect the birds have been gorging yet again.

Then came this morning, November 1st, and the garden is telling me that winter has arrived...

...Now, where did I put my gloves?