Thursday, 31 October 2013

Happy Halloween!

What are you all dressing up as? Anyone trick or treating tonight?

ps. check out more Liz Climo, she's awesome -

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Sandwiches! Sandwiches Everywhere! and not a Drop to Eat!

The lovely Miss H introduced me to the Sandwich game that her and her other half play on the odd occasion. I told Jules and her mister about it over the weekend and before you know it we were inundated with thoughts of sandwiches. Basically, all you do is substitute a word in a phrase with the word 'sandwich', like so: 'Now is the sandwich of our discontent', 'My sandwich, my sandwich, a kingdom for my sandwich!', etc. etc. This kept us busy for days! Some of the gems we came up with included:

Can I compare thee to a summers sandwich? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
A midsummer nights sandwich
The Portrait of the Sandwich as a Young Man
A Sandwich named Desire
Sandwich on a Hot Tin Roof
Sandwich to Heaven
Smoke on the Sandwich
A Comedy of Sandwiches
It is a truth commonly known that a single man in possession of a fortune must be in want of a sandwich.
Round the World in 80 Sandwiches
Journey to the Centre of the Sandwich
Bohemian Sandwich (try and get that one out of your head.....)
Wuthering Sandwiches
Hey Mr. Sandwich Man
Bill and Ted's Excellent Sandwich

... and on and on. Have you any gems to add? Put a message in the comments box below, I'd love to see what we end up with!

Ah, pasteis de nata, you speak the truth...

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Mind like a Clear Sky

I've just arrived back from spending a few days in Cascais, Portugal with Jules and the family, amongst others. Actually, amongst many others - I was there for a Buddhist meditation retreat and teachings and there were somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 people booked in. Pretty extraordinary!

The festival site was in the Hippodromo, and I was sharing a house with Jules and the family and a couple of other ladies about 20 mins walk away. It was mostly sunny, so I could flounce about in nice dresses and I even got a bit of a tan. In between meditation sessions we took walks around the place - we sat in the park, went to the play ground with the kids, we went out for coffee and we sat and picnicked on the beach. The seven of us all had a fairly leisurely family breakfast together every morning too which was lovely (and we all know how much I love breakfast!) and I had lunch and dinner with the family too, so I got a lot of time with Jules and a lot of time with my godson.

The house we were staying in was someone's weekend house - so I was expecting a cottage. Oh my goodness, was I wrong, it was huge! All three of us ladies had a room each, and we shared a bathroom and an extra toilet downstairs, while Jules and her mister took one of the upstairs bedrooms and the kids shared another room. In addition to that, there was a whole bit of the house that had just been renovated and so was unfurnished - which included another kitchen upstairs and a dining room, and then there was an extra floor and a balcony roof at the top with a stunning view. (We also met a teeny gecko up there!) The garden had a 'barbeque hut' (which was the size of my living room at home) and a whole section that was cordoned off for the owners dad to raise pigeons in. And did I mention the African bar downstairs? Yep, here it is:

The back wall is staked with bottles of Rum and Tequila and there were glasses all laid out for us. Needless to say tequila and meditation don't mix, and I'm not even going to think about how I would deal with a hangover while being woken up by small children in the morning.

The view from the roof top balcony
The walk to the Hippodromo was quite lovely - though pretty bumpy. You really notice those things when you are pushing a stroller with a 4 year old in it. The cobbles were very beautiful but very uneven and there were inexplicable random posts in the middle of the pavement from time to time. Oh well. I did really love the tiles on the walls, some of them were stunning.

The festival itself was just over a week, though I could only stay for four days. We had the blessing empowerment of the wisdom Buddha Prajnaparamita, so the teachings were pretty profound. I caught most of the teachings but I missed the more intensive retreat part. I actually missed a few of the morning meditations too, but I was happy to spend time with my adopted family - I miss them and the kids are growing up so fast! There were a few people that I missed, but I caught up with a whole load of people I haven't seen for a while, and I made a few new friends too - I met a man from LA who reads the news on NPR, and a lady who works for a charity that encourages prisoners to do activities and care for disabled people, which sounds amazing. One of the things I love about festivals is that they are so international - the teachings are interpreted into 16 other languages.

And even:

How very exciting! It was pretty well set up given the number of people they were expecting. The atmosphere was pretty easy going on the whole. There were a few places on site to get coffee and a food court. The main meditation tent was pretty big, but they had a video link as well that later turned into a kids and family area - so the parents could get some of the teaching, the kids could still run around and no-one else would mind. The shrine was beautiful as always.

I feel quite sad in some ways - partly to leave Jules and some of the other people, partly because this may be the last public teaching that my spiritual guide does (he is already retired, this was a guest appearance). I have been up and down and round about the last few months, and in truth I'd forgotten how much I need to reconnect with other people who are trying to lead the same type of life as me. I also really needed that reminder that my spiritual guide is always close to me, all I need to do is remember he is in my heart. There are many ways to get a message through  - so even when he is gone, I will still see his teachings all around.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Notice More

I like having a wander around and looking at things. When I keep my eyes open, I usually get what I need.
Some days you need a giggle:

Some days you need some beauty:

Whitstable beach graffiti

Some days you need some encouragement:

At the edge of an alleyway off Whitstable high street

And some days all you need is love:

London gets a bit lovelier

Friday, 18 October 2013

The Postman Always Rings Twice

Yesterday, Middle B and I went out for dinner - the first time in ages. Then afterwards we decided to go somewhere else for coffee. Except what we actually had was strawberry milkshake and a coffee and chocolate truffle and a pear milkshake and a parmesan and olive chocolate. Yes! Parmesan and olive chocolate! 

The other excitingness is that various people have been sending me post. Not just I-ordered-it-on-the-internet-for-myself-and-forgot post, but actual, real, unexpected post! Hurrah! I got a letter from Miss H, some teeny homemade cookies from Miss V, and then today I got some chocolate from a friend because it reminded her of me.

It did come with the comment 'I know you would never snarl like that though', which is is very true.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Let it Shine

It's been a pretty busy couple of weeks, I'm just settling into my new timetable at work and having to juggle things about. For those of you who don't know, I work as a Support Assistant at a Dyslexia and Disability Unit in a university, so I help students with their academic needs. Timetabling can be pretty hairy, so you end up with all sorts of subjects depending on which students need help in which lectures at what times. I love my job... I really, really love my job. What I don't love so much is all the uncertainty at the beginning of term, but that soon passes and I remember just how much I love my job. I mean really...I get to attend lectures by passionate, inspired people about interesting things... and yet also be helping other people fulfill their ambitions, forging relationships and finding out about different experiences in life. This term I got back one of my students from last year, which is lovely because we got on really well, and I've got another four new students to get to know. All in all, my lectures are about international conflict, international security, divided societies, drugs and culture, managing people, fires and explosions (forensic physics), punishment and prisons, and international business  - all this knowledge I'm accumulating, seems like preparing to take over the world, no? I'll be a benevolent dictator, I promise - if a little ridiculous.

In other news, dress no. 3 is progressing quite happily, despite work disrupting my sewing classes I have managed to get into a routine with that too. All I need is to get back to the gym and all will be well. Still, piece by piece. I have acupuncture on Friday, which I'm really excited about... I am feeling a lot better for being back at work, but I'm still feeling a little precarious about life... time to get some sparkle back, I think. I spent a bit of time with M recently and remembered just how much I appreciate him. We've both been a bit rubbish about being in contact over the summer but I think we're going to have to sort it out. Seeing him definitely helps me sparkle. So, I can get my sparkle back by hanging out with some long lost friends, by finding pretty things to wear, by learning interesting things, by finding things delightful and mostly by laughing a lot. If any of you want to contribute to this, feel free to make me laugh anytime or pass on anything you find delightful, I'll be much indebted to you. Who knows, maybe I'll send a few giggles your way too. In fact, I think we should make it a project: we spend November doing our best to be sparkly - much needed as the winter draws in! Let me know all the things you are doing... we'll all be glittering and shining and sparkling about the place in no time!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

A Dance is as Good as a Rest (or Better)

I've got my timetable now fairly much under control I think, but work are still assigning me hours. I ended up working yesterday morning, which wouldn't be so bad if I didn't teach on a Tuesday night. As a consequence I was pretty knackered yesterday, though luckily I had the afternoon to chill and hang out with P and Miss T. We had a cheap and cheerful lunch - the girl at the bar was dressed as a chicken and later on a man came in who was dressed as a hot dog. After that we had a wander around town and then went for a coffee at Pret - where I had a in-depth conversation with the man behind the counter about calling people madam, miss, or lady (he professed that he really hates being called sir or mister, and would rather be dude, mate or pal, frankly). Then Miss T ran home to change into her jive skirt while P and I nearly missed the last Park n Ride bus - I had to put my hands on the bus door and look like a sad puppy til they let us on. At which point P started worrying about whether she could remember which car was hers, and it was getting dark. It was ok, it was fairly much the only car left in the car park, so all good there. We managed to get to Jive without running over any pedestrians - it was a narrow call though ('He's wearing black! Why hasn't he got reflective clothing on?' 'Yes, but your car is also black, hmmmm.')

So we made it to Jive where upon everyone was still playing pool and smoking. I was all raring to go, just waiting for the furniture to be moved out the way so we could dance, which made Miss T giggle quite a lot. The legendary Phil had been at the bar for a while and had consumed a fair few pints (I should imagine) so he taught a couple of moves and then spent the rest of the night chatting and dancing alternately. Miss T and I hit the dance floor, I got a few dances in with Red and a good few (and a rather lovely chat) with Ingrid. It's probably the most I've ever danced at a dance lesson actually.

As the evening wore on, I started to get more and more tired - I hadn't had much sleep as you may recall, and neither had Miss T - which meant more and more giggles. Which turned into giggling fits. More and more people started to leave the bar and head home (or to another pub) and we were left with a hardcore few - and the barman, who did end up learning a few moves at the end of the night. P and Miss T joined me in some silly dancing and generally having a mess about - at one point someone told us that we needed to behave with more decorum! Before you know it all the classic moves had come out - 'changing the lightbulb', 'mopping the floor', 'shaking the dice' - to the point where the legendary Phil came over and asked what we were doing. 'Big fish, little fish, cardboard box' I replied (doing the suitable hand movements). 'Fish? What? Are you part of the angling society or something?!'. I have no idea what he was doing in the 90s, obviously not following popular culture. Miss T gave me a really massive hug at some point and exclaimed 'I finally know what you smell like! Cinnamon and oranges and cloves and Christmas. Yeah, you smell of Christmas.'

More and more drinking was had, I got a few slow dances in with the legendary Phil, a few more ridiculous dances in with Miss T, and before you know it I was making my excuses and running away. If I hadn't had work at 8.45 this morning I'd have stayed til the small hours. P gave me a lift home, bless her, and I was off to bed to try and get some sleep. Needless to say I'm absolutely knackered today, but in such a good mood - there are times when the tiredness is worth it. I sat in a physics lecture on Fire and Explosions from 9 - 11 am this morning - and actually really enjoyed it, such is the power of a good night out dancing. I think all of us needed to let our hair down, and so we did. I wish every night out was as good as that one! It was entirely unexpected and completely delightful. Rock it!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

What a Cracker

The place where I teach meditation has a fantastic caretaker - he's a spritely gentleman in his 80s and he comes in to lock up every week while I'm packing up and we always have a little chat. I see him once a week, which is probably more than I see some of my friends, to be honest!

Yesterday, I asked him what he was up to and he replied 'About 5'11 by now'. It cracked me right up. Hooray for Tommy Cooper style humour, you don't get much of it about these days.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Back to Work

It's been a crazy week for me, I'm back to work after a long, hazy summer. It was weird not having a routine, and now it's weird getting back into it. I'm happy with my timetable so far - I love the Uni I work in anyway, I've got some awesome students that I'm assisting this year, and the courses I'm working in are amazing. I'm hoping for a couple more hours, but at the moment I can't complain one iota. The best bit is that so far I have flexi time on Wednesdays, so I haven't even had to move my sewing lessons.

Speaking of sewing lessons, I'm onto my third dress - we're learning about button holes and pleated skirts in this one. I don't have much space in the house I live in so Fran said I could come into the shop and use the sewing machine there when she's not using it. That means that I get some sewing in between lessons without having to pay for it, which is great, but I also have enough space to cut out and iron and all that jazz. So kind! I've also spotted a few wonderful fabrics in some of the clearance sections of some lovely online shops so I've been getting all inspired.

One lovely thing I found out is that my old tutor from my Uni days is coming in at some point this term as a guest speaker - I'm not sure when the talk is but I hope I can make it, we used to get on really well and I'm looking forward to seeing him.

So far, so good. If things carry on like this I'm in for a fantastic term!