Saturday, 29 November 2008

Time for a walk

It has been a chilly and grey day in the UK. Despite the weather, I wrapped up warm in my black and white winter coat, my thermal socks and leather gloves, with jeans and a cosy jumper, and I went for a walk. Oh and I took my new camera. Of course.

The leaves have fallen to the ground and the bare trees are standing proud in my local park.

This is the windmill land mark opposite the park. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of a “Smock” windmill remaining in England. It was built in 1803 by James Noakes, a local farmer. Now it is open to the public on certain days, to look around and learn the history of.

The church I was christened in 35 years ago.

In loving memory of those who lost their lives in the first and second world war.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The elf, the hammer and the camera

I have a confession to make. Try not to be too alarmed dear readers, I haven’t ran along the streets of London dressed as an elf and declaring, “It’s 29 days until Christmas!” (Even though it is 29 days until Christmas!) And don’t worry, I haven’t buckled under the pressure of magazine press dates and casually strolled into the office carrying a hammer and proceeded to smash my Apple Mac and desk into tiny little pieces. Nope, I haven’t attempted to do either of these actions. I wouldn’t even contemplate smashing my Mac and desk. Think of the mess it would make and the trouble I would land myself in. Oh, and my elf costume is at the dry cleaners, ha, ha!
But I have splashed out and treated myself to something quite expensive and very rewarding. And I can’t help feeling a smidgen of guilt at doing so.
In my past life, five years ago, when banks were dishing out loans left, right and centre, before the black cloud of recession loomed over our heads, my bank transferred a loan into my account. It was for a substantial amount of money towards decorating and furnishing my home at the time, and for one particular day in my life. Finally, five long years later, I have finished paying for the loan. What a relief that is. Particularly as I no longer live in that home and my past life didn’t quite go according to plan.
Here’s where the guilt part comes in. Despite the fact there are 29 days until Christmas and practically everyone I know celebrates their birthday in December - in my defence I have bought most of my Christmas and December birthday presents - I have bought myself something. My sensible side knew that I should be spending the money on the remainder of pressies, but my selfish side bought myself a new camera!
I read camera reviews on the internet and asked for camera advice in electrical shops, and with my new knowledge and my extra cash, I bought a Canon E0S 1000D. I can’t stop looking at it and smiling. I have an enormous instruction manual to wade through, but I’ve kind of got the hang of it. So guess what I’ve been doing recently? I have been taking photographs of absolutely everything and smiling a lot.
Beside, there’s another pay day until Christmas and a full 29 days of shopping for other people. And it could be worse - I could have walked into the office, dressed as an elf, with that hammer and a naughty glint in my eye! Now that would have been a confession and a half.

Pictures of the day:

I took my new camera to my friends house at the weekend. I love her decor, she has some amazing wood carvings from her travels. Naturally I took pictures. And we looked at old pictures of us together.
Do you like her hand chair?

The laughing Buddha.

Remember the old days, when one would print out photographs instead of displaying them on computers?! That's me in Tenerife by the way. Click on it to enlarge and look how young and thin I was!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Lucky star

Do you think that some people are born under a lucky star? Perhaps at the precise time they entered this world, Saturn was in the eleventh house and all the lucky stars and planets were facing the right way. Therefore, wisdom, good health and good fortune would be their destiny. As you can probably tell, I am not an expert when it comes to astrology and I have completely invented this theory and birth chart.
Or do you think luck is not something you were born with, it has nothing to do with the stars and the planets, but everything to do with you as a person and your outlook and attitude towards life?
I was thinking about and referring to this luck thing on Monday night. It was competition night at the photography club. My club and neighbouring clubs were competing for a trophy, judged by a professional photographer. Check out his website here!
He was actually standing in my local hall with his wise words and expertise, and his scarlet haired wife. Impressed? I was.
Anyway, Monday night I heard myself saying, “I’m not lucky, I never win anything,” as I departed with my shiny gold pound coin, in exchange for a strip of raffle tickets. Competition night also means raffle night, and as I shoved my tickets in my black leather purse, I couldn’t help lusting after the champagne bottle and the box of chocolates.
It’s true though, I never win anything. And it’s not without trying. Twice a week, every week - for a few years now - I use the same faithful numbers for the national lottery. You would think, according to the law of averages, my numbers would have appeared on those balls a few times by now. Three of my numbers have appeared ONCE. I won £10. I owed my father £10 so I passed my winnings straight over to him. It wasn’t my finest hour. Hardly the win of the century, was it. Another time, for about ten months, I entered every competition I came across. This was when I was buying far too many magazines each week. Trips to Florida, sports cars, health spa breaks, concert tickets, gigantic plasma screens, a make-over, shopping sprees, nail varnish kit. You name it, I tried to win it. I won a big fat nothing. Not even a nail varnish kit.
But hey, I know luck is not all about winning competitions. It’s just that I've never thought of myself as someone whose life seems to flow easily and everything fits into place snugly. I look at various individuals and I think, ”How come you’ve breezed through life with no complications? You’ve met the right man, produced healthy children, live in a nicely decorated house of your own, you're financially comfortable, and life has bared no unpleasant surprises.”
Don’t let me mislead you, I’m not trying to give you a sob story and play the sympathy card by saying I’ve led a tragic life. Because I haven’t. Oh I’ve had my ups and downs, as I know a lot of people have. My keen and eager heart has been trampled on and broken in a few places. I have one failed marriage to add to my list of disasters and as a consequence, love has left a bitter taste in my mouth and forever is a word I am very suspicious about.
I lost a precious and dear sibling when I was seventeen years old, which ripped my family apart. The gaping hole of loss is something which will never mend. You can stick a plaster over it, but the wound will always be there. Whether it bleeds profusely one day or it’s an uncomfortable itch the next, anyone who has ever lost someone will know the pain never fully disappears. Especially when the loved one was too young and they were stolen from you in cruel and abrupt circumstances.
But having said all of this, I do realise that I am blessed with many things in my life and compared to others in this world, my life is a garden of paradise.
Which brings me back to my opening question regarding luck. And I think I may have answered my own question. When I think about all the people in this life who I love and who love me back, the wonderful people who I share my life with, all the things I am grateful for, the things which make me smile and feel happy inside, I feel the luckiest girl alive.
And guess what? I won the raffle Monday night. Yes, that’s right, I actually won something! Unfortunately other club members beat me to the champagne and the box of chocolates, I was left with Richard Branson's autobiography. Still, it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, or so they say. Especially after complaining that I never win anything.
So, perhaps it’s not all about those lucky stars. You just have to count your blessings, remember the good things in your life, and everything else will be okay.

Picture of the day:

Flowers in autumn.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Flying Pink Hearts

They’re not really flying. Have you ever seen a flying pink heart? The day you see a flying pink heart could be the day you see a flying pink elephant! And if that day ever happens, well I would question what you had put into your tea or I would strongly suggest you need a little break. Strange tea bags and a stressful life can do funny things to your brain.
Although, I suppose you could say the pink hearts are flying through the atmosphere in cyber space. Flying from one bloggers home to another bloggers home. Pretty pink hearts made from pretty pink flowers. Hearts full of good wishes and positive thoughts.
I am talking about the latest tag from

Sorry it’s taken me a while, but thank you for sending this to me.
Apparently, if I play by the rules, I need to pass this onto 5 bloggers.

Cut and paste the following starting here.

I have randomly selected 5 of you below to be tagged and I hope that you will similarly publish this post in your blog. You will have to tag 5 other bloggers and just keep adding on to the list. (Do not replace, just keep on adding! Yes we hope it will be a long list!)

It’s real easy! Tag others and see your Technorati Authority increase exponentially! The benefits of Viral Linking:

- One of the fastest ways to see your technorati authority explode!- Increase your Google PageRank fast

- Attract large volume of new traffic to your site- Build your community

- Make new friends!

The Strategist Notebook, Link Addiction, Ardour of the Heart, When Life Becomes a Book, The Malaysian Life,, What goes under the sun,Roshidan’s Cyber Station, Sasha says, Arts of Physics, And the legend lives, My View, My Life, A Simple Life, Juliana RW, The Callalily Space, Petra Summer in Blue, Confessions of an Army Wife Bless’ Sanctuary Happy Life,, La Place de Cherie, Chez Francine, Le bric a brac de Cherie, Little Peanut, Pea in a Pod, The Creative In Me, Me and Mine, Pinay Mommy, Expressions from the Heart, TeacherJulie, Sweetbites by Bang, Paul, Toni and Lance - Bridging the Distance, Our Growing Family, The Uncensored life of me, My Untamed World, Something Purple, A Detour, Something Purple, Wifespeaks, Changing Lanes, Bits and Pieces, My Chocolate Coated Glasses, God's Gift, Through the Rain, My Small World,My Life, My Hope, My Future,Nyumix's Blog , The Lings, Life Quest - This is the ideal link for me to recommend this brilliant story blog. - Yippee, we’re going to meet in real life soon! - I love to read about your life in Japan and I always appreciate you checking in on me and leaving comments.
- It’s a pleasure to read your blog and your outlook on life. And I can see pictures of reindeer's! - You deserve a heart for the love you have for your kiddies and your brilliant pictures. And for reinventing yourself!

Hey, rules are made to be broken!

Can I also pass it on to: - I know it’s quite girly but have a pink heart from me to you and your family.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Three letters

What a difference three letters can make. Three innocent letters. Three innocent letters can totally transform one word. They can also completely transform an area and an evening. See how powerful three innocent letters can be?
The night before my friends wedding I did something very stupid. I was so mortified with my own stupidity that I couldn’t even bring myself to write about it. Until now. Now I can actually laugh at my careless action and the ridiculous situation I found myself in. Believe me, I did not find it remotely funny at the time.
I’ll start at the beginning. The night before my friends wedding I left the office in a rush. I vacated the building later than planned, due to an unexpected telephone call. Therefore I was in a rush to board my train for the dinner date at my friend Caron’s house. She was cooking curried cottage pie for myself and our mutual friend Claire, and I was scheduled to arrive at 7pm.
My taste buds were already working over-time, imagining the delightful cottage pie, and I was hurrying myself along, looking forward to catching up with my dear friends. In my haste, I failed to see three innocent letters at the end of one word. Three letters which caused a great amount of stress and panic amongst my friends and I.
Fantasising about the cottage pie and slightly worried about the time, I glanced at the board at the train station. I sighed in relief when I noted the next train to my friends town would be leaving in two minutes, from platform 15. I practically ran to platform 15, so as not to miss the train. Jumping through the train doors I spied a window seat and sat down with my newspaper. Phew, I thought to myself, it looks like I won't be so late after all. Ha, if I only knew then what I know now.
Remembering there would be a few stops until my journey ended, I opened my newspaper to see what was occurring in the outside world. Politics, tragedies and celebrities. I read the newspaper, happily absorbing myself in the outside world. After a while I looked out of the window to see which station we were at, thinking that I should be at my friends town very soon.
My heart skipped a beat when I read the name of the station the train was departing from. Anxiety started to rise in my anxious body. Where the heck was I? I had never heard of that station. That station was not on the way to Caron's house. I looked around for a friendly face, already dreading the answer to my question.
I asked a man where the train was heading, and if it was the correct train to my friends home town.
It wasn’t.
I was literally miles and miles away from where I was supposed to be.
The man laughed as I gasped in horror, and I realised I had failed to see the letters H – A – M at the end of the crucial word, on the board, at the train station.
Three letters, that’s all they were. They were not hiding from me, they were not trying to trick me, but for an unknown reason my eyes had not registered them. I gasped again when reality hit me and my brain worked out how long it would take to rectify my journey. And to top things off, the battery on my mobile telephone was wickedly beeping at me.
Panicking, I found Caron's telephone number in my mobile contact book, and I managed to call the number and yell, “I’ve got on the wrong train!” before my battery hopelessly died.
I could feel my cheeks burn an angry and embarrassed shade of red as I realised how careless I had been. I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry. Or both. My stomach rumbled in sympathy when I thought about the curried cottage pie patiently waiting for me. My body shivered as I disembarked at the next station. I pulled my cardigan around me for comfort, cursing myself for not wearing a sensible coat. I was hungry, cold and mighty peed off.
Three hours it took me to correct my journey. Three long, lonely, cold, hungry, frustrating hours. And all because of three small letters.
Three hours late, at 10pm, I rang my friends doorbell, nearly weeping in relief at finally arriving at my destination. My friend flung open her front door and hugged me tightly.
“Thank God you’re here! I've been so worried about you. Where on earth did you go?”
“Three letters!” was all I could say, as I walked, traumatised, through my friends front door.
I could no longer prevent the evil and sadistic thoughts that flashed through my tired mind, directed at the three letters. Three letters H - A - M which completely changed a word, a journey and an evening. I despised them. And I thought it was only fair that they accepted their share of responsibility for sabotaging my Friday night.

Picture of the day:

Three flowers.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Recharging my batteries

Staying in. It's the new going out. As much as I love to dine out or dine at friends, visit places I have never been to before and generally have a good time, sometimes I crave an evening at home. It's not that I'm dull or anti-sociable, far from it at times, but it's nice to recharge your batteries and relax. Wouldn't you agree?
Tonight I've got it all worked out. I have a plate of my favourite 'staying in' food waiting for me - quiches, cheeses, pates, crusty bread and salad. I have my new Stephen King book to absorb myself in, and entertainment on the television including Come Dancing and The X Factor. Both programmes are enormous hits in the UK and you can guarantee the dancing and the singing will be discussed next week, in the office and with friends.
I'm also itching to put my black and white spotty pyjamas on, after indulging in a huge vanilla essence bubble bath. Bliss. There is no way in this world I would swap places with anyone else tonight.
Staying in. Who needs to go out in the cold and dark when I have the green armchair, my favourite food, singing and dancing, Stephen King and a bubble bath.
Besides, I've had an enjoyable day at the photography exhibition in my local theatre. My photography club are displaying but I didn't print any of mine out as I still don't think I'm up to their standard. And I went to my cousins house. It was her youngest sons first birthday. There were plenty of presents and smiles.

Pictures of the day:

The exhibition.


Thursday, 13 November 2008

Look who's moaning

I didn’t realise how much I moaned about work until I went out for lunch and moaned about work.
We’ve had a mini crisis in the office. Another one. This time it involves a major printing error in our monthly magazine. An error which has been sent to and spotted by one of our most important and influential clients. This mini crisis has fallen amongst trying to produce two newspapers for a conference in Cape Town, and slap bang in the middle of an office move.
The sales representative and the client service manager, from our printing company, were summoned to the office for an emergency meeting. An emergency meeting in the boardroom with myself, my not-so-new boss and the publisher. Apologies were made, reports are to be issued and confidence is something the printers are trying to reinstate.
After the seriousness of the matter was discussed and promises for a brighter future were made, we set off to an Italian restaurant for lunch. Bread, olives, wine and pasta were ordered and we all began to relax. I passed on the olives, personally I think olives are disgusting. To me olives are on a par with prawns. I can not bear them. But that’s just my humble olive and prawn hating opinion.
Olives dismissed, it was not long until we were all laughing heartily into our pasta dishes, earlier boardroom tenseness had clearly evaporated. The majority of laughing was targeted at my not-so-new boss and I’s interpretation of life in the office. Oh how we moaned.
It can be the small things sometimes, such as delayed and overcrowded trains, with elbows in your face, on the way to the office. “I only have to look at Jo in the morning and she knows exactly what kind of journey I’ve experienced,” said I. “Oh yes,” said Jo. “Sometimes Nikki has steam coming out of her ears and I know it’s been one of those journeys.”
The mystery of the window was then discussed. “And who keeps opening my window every morning? It’s freezing cold and my paper work is flapping around and I don’t understand who keeps insisting on doing this!?”
We all tutted and agreed mid-November is far too cold to open windows, especially when there is air conditioning blasting cool air out just above our chilly heads.
The bread basket was passed around and my boss moved onto network problems, network problems when we are trying to log-in to our Macs. “There are only 4 Mac users in the building, two of them are Nikki and I, and whenever our machines fail to work and we explain we are Mac users, an IT man will come up and shake his head and claim that he didn’t know we were Mackers! But I typed it in the report and they should know this!" Next it was my turn to moan. “Don't talk to me about those reports! They're far too long winded and time consuming. You have to log a problem report, then a received report is sent to say it has been logged, then you wait. And wait. You chase the logged report and the received report to ask how much longer you have to wait until your problem is fixed. Then you wait for a reply and another report. I just call the nice man in IT and ask him to help me.”
“How the heck do you manage to get straight through to the IT desk? You must charm the IT guy, he ignores my telephone calls.” My not-so-new boss was outraged.
Wine glasses were re-filled and this was the perfect link to complain about the high volume used during telephone calls from the sales guys. Some days you can not hear yourself think above the racket.
“Thank goodness we are moving to the other side of the office,” I managed to say in between mouthfuls of pasta smothered in a tomato sauce, aubergines and peppers. “The quieter side of the office where I wont be bashing into people and listening to the early bird package, and I can concentrate on my own work.”
All hell had let loose. We were on a roll as the sales rep and client services manager laughed at our predicaments. And we hadn’t finished. We were in uproar regarding the mess other colleagues leave in the kitchen. "Come on, you wouldn’t leave your own kitchen in such a disgrace. Coffee and milk are spilt on the work tops and left for the cleaner to mop up. And although I appreciate the cleaner tackling the washing up, I'm sure she must attempt it with her eyes closed. I would rather do it myself if it meant I didn't have to look at dried cereal pieces and jammy finger prints left on bowls and glasses!"
Clients lack of respect for deadlines and specifications were our next culprits. Our listeners sympathised. It’s a well known fact that publishing houses are always pushing for new print dates and do not always provide the correct formats to printing companies. Not us, I hasten to add!
“It’s so frustrating,” my boss and I both stated. “We couldn’t be any clearer with our specification sheet and instructions. Do you think anyone actually bothers to read them? Why do we bother even sending them?”
Cue for more tutting and laughing regarding annoying dilemmas in the working environment.
“Anyway,” said my not-so- new boss, finishing the last drop of white wine. “Is that the time? We really should be heading back to the office.”
Our contacts at the printers agreed we had been very insightful, and amusing, as the bill was paid and coats were placed on our backs, ready for us to embrace the frosty mid-November temperature.
“Sorry,” I said. “Have we been moaning?”

Picture of the day:

The Christmas lights outside the office.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Girl's night out

It has become a tradition amongst my circle of friends to go a little bit crazy on my birthday.
A few weeks in advance an email is circulated, a night is booked, a new venue is chosen, a private area reserved and bar food ordered. Then the count down begins.
Basically, it’s the perfect excuse for us all to get together and let our hairs down. Not that we really need an excuse but we all lead such busy lives these days that it can be tricky to pin point a night out. Therefore, I always try on my birthday night out to see as many of my friends as possible.
This year was no exception. Emails flew backwards and forwards, my friends from far away planned their journeys to London, and a suitable apartment was found for certain individuals to stay in at the end of the night. Usually new outfits are bought too, although this year I managed to recycle an outfit (finances are tighter these days) but the usual, "What are you wearing?" conversations were held and body parts and clothing analysed.
And so, last Friday night at 6pm the fun began. The Wax Bar was this years destination. Retro decor, pop music and plenty of bottles of wine. Friends walked through the doors, squeals of delight could be heard and for six solid hours we did not stop talking and laughing. I think we danced too. Oh and I insisted that my friend Sarah participated in swimming lessons. Don’t ask. There is usually a story or two to tell after our night out. Usually we are texting, telephoning and emailing for days after the event, reminiscing our behaviour and roaring with laughter every time we are reminded of various actions.
However, last Friday night after six hours the evening did not end for three of us. Oh no, three of us trailed through London in a black cab to an apartment in the Docklands area. The three of us who live in different corners of the country and who did not want the night to end in the Wax Bar. Petrol garage food was greedily eaten in the apartment lounge and our lives were discussed in great detail. We never run out of things to say. Although after a few hours even we had to admit defeat and retire to our bedrooms, yawning and muttering, “Look at the time, we’ve done it again!”
We looked a sight for sore eyes the next day. It was worth it though, and as my friend Caron's email began this morning, "Oh what fun we had!” It then finished with the words, “Thank goodness it’s at least 358 days until we do it all again.”
Yep, we are all still recovering from the girl's night out. Maybe it is just as well that birthdays only come along once a year.

Pictures of the day:

Girl's night out.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Dolly daydream visits the sea-side

It’s official. It’s official because it has been confirmed by Psychic Sarah, who lives on the pier in the Essex sea-side town of Frinton. She has confirmed by using her psychic powers and by reading my aura, that I am a daydreamer.
I visited Frinton, with friend, at the weekend. With our walking boots on we explored the coast line and admired the view, the sea breeze gently caressing our skin.
“I love those beach huts!” said I, immediately picturing myself owning one and wearing over-sized sun glasses and a pretty floral dress, perched on the decking and gazing out at the waves crashing onto the delicate sand. With book in hand and flip flops on my feet, I would make my way down the steps and onto the beach, breathing in the salty sea air and tilting my head towards the sky so my pale skin could feel the benefit of the suns rays, radiating warmth and happiness onto my face.
Or perhaps I could visit the beach hut with friends. Red and green checked picnic blanket in one hand and white wicker picnic basket in the other, I would run with friends, giggling, onto the beach, flopping down into the sand, ready to eat and drink and soak up the sunshine and the laughter.
So it was no surprise when I stopped at the pier on Sunday, with friend, and by reading my aura Psychic Sarah informed me that I am usually disconnected from the outside world and spend much of my time daydreaming. My friend sniggered when I read my reading. “Yep, that’s me,” said I. “Dolly daydream. Come on, let’s buy a bag of chips on the sea front so I can daydream some more.”

Pictures of the day:

Scenes from Frinton.

Monday, 3 November 2008

The hairdresser and the musician

My dad fell in love with the girl next door. The girl next door who would one day become my mum.
I never tire of hearing how they first met, and I often drive past the hairdressers my mother worked in and the street they used to live in and I picture them, many years ago, when I was merely a twinkle in their eye.
My father was working on cruise ships as a musician when he met my mother. At the time he was based in the UK, awaiting another trip travelling the seas and playing his saxophone. They dated and set a wedding date, and my father sold his brand new sports car for a deposit on their first home together. He then searched for a 9 to 5 ‘sensible’ job so he wouldn’t be travelling the world and be absent for long periods of time. That’s love for you. And 2 years later, on their wedding anniversary, along came me.
I never tire of hearing stories of their childhood either, before fate and geography brought them together. “It wasn’t like this when we were young,” I frequently here them say. My mum often tells me how she would spend the night dancing in the building which is now a bingo hall and walk home, on her own, clutching her shoes as her feet would be sore and aching from all that spinning around. “There wasn’t the high crime rate then, a girl would feel perfectly safe walking home on her own.” I’m also constantly reminded that there was no television, telephone or computer in my parents family homes. In fact, when I was born the telephone was still a rare thing in many households and my parents had to send a telegram to most of their friends, to inform them of my arrival. Can you imagine not being able to communicate by telephone?! I never leave the house without my mobile, and I take it for granted that everyone I know owns a mobile and I can call them or text them and almost immediately be in contact with them.
My fathers childhood was very different from mine, and very different from my mothers. There is a fourteen year age difference between my parents, and my father lived through the second world war, where he was evacuated out of London and into the country side. To be separated from your parents, and your home, at such a young age is something I can not imagine either. My dad often refers to money as shillings and reminds me how food was rationed during the war. If I was to travel back in time and explain to a shop keeper the price of food these days, they would probably fall off their chair in astonishment, that’s if they were sitting down, if they were standing they may have fainted from the shock. Can you imagine trying to explain blogging to a shop keeper during the second world war?! They would probably think I was barmy and to communicate with people from all over the world at the touch of a button was unthinkable. Rather like man walking on the moon!
I can’t help wondering how different things will be for my children - fingers and arms crossed that I will have my own family one day. Technology is progressing constantly. Will we have cars that fly? Dinners that cook themselves? Who knows hey! Nothing would surprise me though.
In the mean time, I’m grateful for the progress and I'm grateful that technology allows me to blog. I’m also grateful for the three course meal I shared with my parents last week, on my 35th birthday, which was also my parents 37th wedding anniversary.
I think they deserve a medal for sticking together for 37 years. An enormous gold one, with the following words engraved: 'It must be love.' Why else would you do it?!

Pictures of the day:

Present time.

The anniversary/birthday restaurant.

Strawberry Meringue.