Crutches And Roses

The Alpha (my husband) tore a muscle in his calf while playing tennis at Queens last night. The wonderful staff managed to bundle him into a taxi and he spent the rest of the evening with my frozen, organic peas wrapped around his leg. He is unable to walk and under strict instruction to rest the leg as much as possible. I am now his carer to a certain extent and that’s fine, till death do us part and all that. It’s fine except that he’s rather fastidious, that said,  I must admit this makes us a good match because I could quite easily have run to slobby were it not for his high(er) standards.

This morning the extent of his incapacity became apparent, so I left him in bed scouring the internet for a local mobility shop while I went downstairs to make the first of his cups of tea, Earl Grey, quite milky, one sweetener, well stirred etc etc, job done. I then faced the challenge of making his porridge, quite sloppy, stevia sweetened with sliced, fresh strawberry. I’d received instructions on making sure I selected a good quality strawberry. At this point I’d shown remarkable self-restraint as my usual response would have been either  “make it yourself” (clearly not an option) or “actually I was going to pick a mouldy one out of the bin, roll it around the floor a few times and then let the dog lick it “. Does he think I’m trying to poison him?  There’s clearly a trust issue here.

We then set off for the mobility shop with him using his trusty seven iron as a crutch. I love shops like this. The staff are great. They are friendly without being pushy and they really know their stuff. I couldn’t resist trying out one of their recliner chairs while the Alpha was selecting his crutches. I tell you what though, those chairs are amazing, super comfy with a reclining action smoother than a First Class British Airways plane seat. They come in a range of fabrics apparently, all of them sponge clean I’ve no doubt. Not quite yet methinks.

Crutches selected and paid for (they come in pairs) we made our way back home. The Alpha settled himself into his study to work and I was tasked with “toast and coffee please.”. Ok, so toast done, not too much butter but lots of Marmite. Should I cut it or leave it whole? Definitely cut, it shows more effort. Coffee, purple capsule, milky, sweetened etc etc. Sorted!! I delivered the requested order to the study whereupon the Alpha peered suspiciously into the coffee “Did you stir it?”. I went for a walk.

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The day before this latest development I went to Oxford Street to begin the trawl for a new sofa. First port of call was Selfridges, apparently they no longer sell furniture so I tried to take arty shots of the escalators instead.  Next stop John Lewis, sat on many sofas and felt overwhelmed or should that be underwhelmed by a sea of beige. Liberty next, aesthetically gratifying but I want comfort, serious comfort. I’ve been too concerned with the aesthetic in the past, “ooh isn’t that bolt- upright, blush pink sofa in the skin-chafing linen gorgeous!” No, this time it’s full on slobbing I want, but it wouldn’t hurt if the sofa could look nice as well.

I decided to pop into the flagship store of one of my favourite designers. Big mistake. I must explain that I was, at this point, probably a bit dehydrated and I had been bobbing up and down on sofas all day. I had also taken the dog for a walk first thing and so my coat was possibly a bit more mud splattered than is normal for a London store, but still. The door was opened by two burly bouncers and I was met by the store assistant. I wandered around feeling a little disconcerted by the irritating over-designedness of the place. It was all grey, polished concrete and confusing mirrors everywhere. The clothes are all artfully suspended on massive chains that hang from a cavernous ceiling. The annoying little shop assisstant was following me around the whole, time stilling the stupid chains every time I touched a piece of clothing. I went upstairs where I know they hide their sale stuff. Guess what?  No prices. Is that even legal in the UK???  No, you have to ask the tiresome little man the price and he takes out his Star Trekkie laser thingie and zaps the bar code. I left. Do they want to actually sell their clothes?

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I fled to a place of sanctuary, a place where the staff are lovely, the carpets soft and there’s chocolate. Fortnum and Mason.  Reader, I consoled myself with roses.

 

 

 

Woodland Walks With Sam

I’m very lucky in that I live less than five minutes away from a large Common. This is where you will inevitably find me, once a day,  whatever the weather, walking  or running with my black labrador Sam. There are times,  when the temperatures are sub-zero, or when the wind is blowing a gale,  that I’d really rather not have to face the elements but then I gaze into those labradorial eyes and I know I can’t let Sam down.

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It’s great once I’m out there though. It gives me the space I need to clear my head, think things through or simply day-dream and it connects me to  nature and the passing of the seasons. It also connects me to the wonderful, regular dog walking community. There’s Treacle, the dalmatian and her Mum and Dad, old Jim and the last in line of his rescue, ex-racing greyhounds, the trio of terriers, Bella, Suzie and Stan and their owners, a pair of old friends who always walk together. Then there’s Cookie and her Mum. Cookie is a lively whippet who was recently rescued by her Mum following the loss of the much-loved Biscuit. Biscuit was a whippet/lab cross, she was one of the loveliest dogs I’ve ever known. She was actually much older than her personality would have led you to believe and one night she died peacefully and unexpectedly in her sleep. We all miss her very much. *

Out on my walks recently I’ve noticed a new phenomenon,  strange fruit has appeared,  hanging from various branches scattered around the Common. This is dog poo in a poo bag left hanging in random places. What the hell is that all about?!!?  What do the people who do this think it achieves?  Do they think there’s some kind of poo bag clearing , magic fairy?  THERE ISN’T! It’s going to take years for those stupid bags to deteriorate. A friend of mine, who lives in a dog walking hotspot, tells me people are forever hanging full poo bags from her fence. I’m seriously flabbergasted, who does that?!!?

The Surrey Wildlife Trust have initiated a programme of returning some of the Common to heath land. I bow to their superior knowledge but it hasn’t half made a mess. They’ve been using massive machinery to cut down loads of trees and remove the trunks. The ground has been left scarred by cavernous tyre treads and the work has churned up an unbelievable amount of mud. I can’t believe it’s going to recover in a hurry, but ultimately it’s good to know there are organisations who actively manage and care for our beautiful and valuable countryside.

Sam had a big operation recently which meant he had to wear a cone and was off games for three weeks. I found this quite liberating to begin with. I could get up in the morning and put on nice clothes without having to consider mud, the weather, dog slobber. But pretty soon I realised I was missing being out on the Common. I went for a run on my own but it didn’t feel right. I was missing my dog,  I needed Sam.  He’s responsible for getting me out every day, come rain or shine, he cheers me up and he gives me his love unconditionally, well, as long as I feed him, he is a labrador after all.

*names have been changed to protect identity

 

 

 

 

A Brand New Year

So it’s resolution time again. Most of us will have thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas period and are now avoiding the bathroom scales like the plague. The papers are full of New Year diets and fitness regimes, they’re unavoidable and everywhere in January. This year I refuse to sign up to some insane diet/exercise plan. It’s usually unsustainable and ends with miserable disappointment. This year I’ve come up with my own list of achievable, exercise based resolutions. They’re based on things I enjoy, and/or things that have reaped results in the past

Run for 10 minutes a day. So this is really a psychological trick. I’m a real all or nothing type of person so this cuts straight through the excuses. The hardest thing about most exercise is starting. I spend way too much time thinking about it in advance, sometimes dreading it, and that can be paralysing. The ten minute rule gets me in my running kit and once I’m off, as long as I’ve done ten minutes, I know I can stop and not feel guilty or, as is most often the case, keep on going for the sheer pleasure of it. I also only allow myself to listen to music when I’m running. If I need a little extra motivation I’m only a couple of iTunes downloads away. For extra motivation do read Ruth Field’s brilliant ‘Run Fat B!tch Run’.

    FAST Exercise App (Strength)5 times a week. The FAST exercise app accompanies Michael Mosley’s FAST exercise book although you don’t need to have read the book to use the app. There are two types of exercise in the app, both HIT based. The strength section takes 7 minutes to complete, progressing to slightly longer as your strength improves. It gives great results, fast. I get this done and dusted first thing in the morning and it sets up the rest of the day beautifully.

      Yoga/Pilates 10 minutes a day. I attend a Pilates class twice a week and the thing I love about it is how it teaches you to understand your body and how it moves. I also use the ‘Yoga Studio’ app by Gaiam. There aren’t many ten minute classes but I’m using the same psychological trickery as for running. Once I’m on the mat, job done really.

      10000 steps a day. This isn’t a breeze but it’s eminently achievable. I use a Fitbit Alta to make sure I’ve done this. 

        I’ve made a few more resolutions which I’ll discuss another time and I’ll keep you updated with how I’m getting on with the ones I’ve made and whether they’ve had any effect. One extra resolution I do want to mention is that I’ve decided to keep a gratitude journal. I’m starting it this evening by way of an experiment and I’ll keep you posted. Anyway,I’d like to wish you a happy, healthy New Year and thank you for taking the time to read this blog. 

        Hot Toddys And Some Winter Treats

        We’re in the thick of the Christmas countdown here. The boys have perfected their hot toddy recipe and have kindly allowed me use of it for this blog (see below). We’ve been busy making the red cabbage and cranberry sauce in readiness for tomorrow and the kitchen smells authentically wonderful. “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas”. Tonight we’re off to some friends for our traditional Christmas evening of board games, gentle competitive spirit and lots of laughs.Then we plan to hot-foot it to Midnight Mass and should hopefully be back just in time to leave some mince pies and port out for Santa. 

        There are some things that I have already bought myself already as I am just too impatient to wait for Santa. They give me that lovely hunkered-down for the season feeling and I felt it would be rather churlish of me not to share them with you. 

        Sisley’s Soir D’Orient 

         I have only just discovered this perfume and I adore it. The first note is quite gruff but it settles down as soon as it dries into an intense, powdery woodiness. This is a sophisticated fragrance with impressive lasting power. It’s the sort of fragrance you wear on a major night out, it’s the black, satin dress and stilettos of the perfume world and it makes me feel fabulous. Love, love, love it. 


        Diptyque’s Le Roi Sapin

        I love scented candles at Christmas; there’s something almost ritualistic in the lighting of them. Diptyque brings out three winter candles every year, with slight variations on the previous ones. I adore the green one which is usually based around something they refer to as ‘sapin’; that’s fir tree to you and me. It’s always gorgeous and it usually sells out pretty quickly but sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can find it in the post Christmas sale. 


        Weleda’s Skin Food

        Weleda is the great grandfather of the natural, holistic beauty movement. It has been around since the 1920’s and its products are fab. The skin food is an intensive moisturiser; it’s a god send for chapped hands and other extremities. 

        Escentric Molecules 02 body wash

        I use this as a bath gel. It’s gorgeous and the sultry Oud-like scent lingers for ages. It’s available from http://www.cultbeauty.co.uk.


        Nobby’s Toddy

        The boys were giddily enthusiastic whilst making this. After sampling the South Bank’s finest toddy, they decided to embark upon their own brewing quest. And to my astonishment they actually managed to come up with something rather wonderful. 

        1 litre Apple juice

        The juice of 1 fresh lime

        Peeled, grated fresh ginger ( add sparingly to taste. Fresh ginger is a ferocious beast that cannot be returned to its cage once released)

        1 cinnamon stick

        30 grammes of brown sugar

        Brown rum

        METHOD

        1. Put all the ingredients, except for the rum, in a large pan over a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Do not boil. 

        2. Add one shot of rum and taste. Add more ginger if required. 

        3. Strain through a sieve. 

        4. Add one shot of rum per glass and add the toddy mixture. 

        5. Stir and enjoy.

        Bottoms up, seasons greetings, merry Christmas and a joyous New Year to you all. 

        ‘What Alice Knew’

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        I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to review ‘What Alice Knew’ by T A Cotterell, as my first blog post. I must confess that I know the author personally but I have done my level best to not let that cloud my judgement.

        SYNOPSIS

        ‘Alice has a perfect life – a great job, happy kids, a wonderful husband. Until he goes missing one night. She receives a suspicious phone call; things don’t quite add up.
        Alice needs to know what’s going on. When she uncovers the truth she faces a brutal choice, but how can she be sure it’s the truth?’

        REVIEW

        What Alice Knew is, at its most basic level, a gripping psychological thriller that quickly sinks it’s teeth into you and canters towards an unexpected but deeply satisfying ending. It’s so much more than that though; this is a very clever, multi-faceted and beautifully crafted book.

        The book starts with the ominous lines ‘A portrait is a quest for the truth. It spares no one.’
        The voice of Alice, a portrait artist, then takes control of the narrative. She is opinionated and scathing, making for an uncomfortable bedfellow to begin with. However, as the opening lines portend, she embarks on a journey of discovery.

        Alice is privileged and she’s also judgmental, arrogant and an intellectual snob even though she protests that she hates snobbishness. She’s obsessed with the ‘moral high ground’ but at least here she’s willing to admit that it’s a luxury she can for the moment afford. She is incarcerated in an allegorical cave, bound by her own arrogance. As the scales start dropping from her eyes her narrative softens and she transforms into a far more sympathetic character. Here we understand that the title of the book ‘What Alice Knew’ becomes ambiguous.

        There are many themes woven throughout the tapestry of this novel – sacrifice and self sacrifice, truth and lies, perception and misperception. These themes (and there are more) are masterfully handled and they pose many questions that leave you thinking long after you’ve finished the book.

        Having an artist as the narrator is a neat device as it dovetails very successfully with some of the key themes. This device also allows for full flexion of the authors Cantabridgian History of Art degree. It left me feeling smug when I understood the references and reaching for my iPad when I didn’t. Are there perhaps too many art references in this book? Possibly, but I’m willing to forgive that as I felt I’d learnt something when I’d finished the novel.

        The dialogue in this book is sparkling. The words dissolve quickly into the pages and you’re left fully experiencing the voices of the characters. There’s some great writing and a plethora of memorable quotes. One of my favourite scenes was where Alice has to paint a portrait of her nemesis and it sparks with tension. She starts reciting a litany of colours in her head by way of a coping mechanism. I experienced this as having a metronomic quality, pieces of the puzzle dropping into place, nails in a coffin. Wonderfully atmospheric.

        What Alice Knew would make a good choice for a book club. It’s a cracking story, jam packed full of topics for discussion. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and it gave me food for thought long after the final page.