Monday, 28 December 2009


Occasionally I realise that I am going to be studying for my degree for the next 6 YEARS.... and yet in the rest of my life I don't know what might have changed by then.

That feels a little odd.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Modern reality

I've never before been in the position of being friends with both parties in a separated relationship, but over the last couple of years I have found myself in that position.  They have two children and now one of them has a new partner; so when it came to Christmas cards this year I was a little perplexed what to do.  Last year I put the children on the card of my 'primary' friend; this year I put them on their mother's card and included the new partner on the other one. It felt very weird.

Having had a discussion last night about their Christmas arrangements, and how one of them might actually end up spending it alone, it made me realise how easy it is having just the one husband. So many people have to deal with complex and emotive arrangements around Christmas time... and the depressing fact is that it is probably now the norm, rather than the exception.

Saturday, 5 December 2009


Most people who know me, know that I am not the maternal type and and am happily 'child-free'; but the woman I met last night made my jaw drop.

I was chatting to a friend here in Phuket when a couple came up who knew them; first impression was 'English Public School', now living in Dubai.  After about 5 minutes the woman said "Oh by the way I had a baby", and the rest of the information consisted of the following: Had it in July, it apparently has no name (as none was proferred) but I did gather it's female; is currently in the hotel room with some local girl who speaks no English. She had a maid for the first 4 weeks so didn't have to get up in the night or change a nappy; now terribly bored and can't wait to get back to work full time in January; and motherhood is over-rated.

I was left feeling as though she had just bought a new car, not brought a new life into the world.

Friday, 27 November 2009

East meets West

The drive from Phuket airport to Kata Beach Resort feels like one long contradiction.   The overall feel is of traditional Thai countryside and slightly ramshackle houses, but each time I come there are more Western influences.   

Jostling with the mass of scooters driven by bareheaded youths (the occasional one does wear a helmet), pickups with crates stacked with coconuts or carrying workmen, and men pulling karts full of ladders there are smart pickups, vans and cars.  But the smart pickups will be parked under a very flimsy looking homemade carport which looks as though it would fall down in the first strong wind. My taxi was a pimped minibus with wall to wall leather, so much so I felt the need to take a photo of it!

But the main Westernisation is the shops.  There are still roadside food outlets (neither 'restaurants' nor 'cafes' is really the right description) and scooter repair shops and traditional Thai shops with Thai writing.   There has been a large Tescos here for some time, but on the drive down today I noticed more large superstores, and a retail park that wasn't there 2 years ago.  Nike, Adidas, surfer clothing, Xara - it was as if someone had taken a bunch of shops from a designer outlet in the UK and dumped it in the middle of a bit of Phuket wasteland.

As well as the scruffy scooter roadside hire and repair shops there are big flashy motorbike show rooms with new bikes from Honda and Suzuki and the like; on the car front I saw a massive new building which was obviously going to house several motoring companies.

Large billboards in English: adverts for Lifestyle Living, new apartments, spas, home-improvement centres, IT centres, MacDonalds... some of it seems very incongruous, especially when a few minutes later there is a place selling Thai noodles or gilt statues of elephants or very elaborate gold and red ornaments to put outside your house.   It makes you mind shift all the time between the familiar and the unfamiliar, which is really quite a strange feeling.

And amongst it all is the love the Thai people have for their King.   Yellow flags flying on gateposts; posters showing the King and his wife at work with their people; gold framed photos of the King outside houses and shops.  Maybe this is because the week I come here is the week of the King's birthday, but somehow I know this is an all-year love and respect shown openly, something you would not expect to see in the West.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Little things

On my way to work I often see a man cycling the other way, with a small child who looks about 2 years old perched on a crossbar seat, happily clinging onto the handlebars, bright-yellow-helmeted. He cycles with her rain or shine and I can't help smiling, and wondering where they are going, Dad and his little girl.

It's the little things that can brighten up your day sometimes.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Similar yet so different

Himself is away for a couple of days and nights, and I find myself trying to think the way I did when he was away for a year, but it's not the same... I don't have time to waste sitting around on the computer or reading the paper - those things that I want to do need to be done by tomorrow morning, rather than leaving it until the last minute before he next comes home.   That makes it sound as though they are things he would expect me to have done by the time he gets back, but that's not what I mean. They are things that need doing outside, and I want to get on with rather than expecting him to do it or waiting to 'do it together'.

He's not here, get on with it - that is the state of mind I got into when he lived away. It's just harder to achieve when it's only a couple of days, which I would love to spend sitting around drinking tea and reading my latest favourite author.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

This stuff gets in your head..

I am only 6 weeks into my Social Sciences course and already the grey cells are exploring their new knowledge.

While out for a dog walk the other day, himself and I ended up discussing:

- supply and demand (and how low the demand had to get before something was taken off the shelf rather than just getting cheaper; and whether that was a good or a bad thing for the Bangladeshi workers);

- the demise of fur coats and the difference between being a means of keeping warm like eskimos, and conspicuous consumption (and, why wasn't the fur isn't on the inside?)

Since we no longer have a TV (yes we watch iPlayer but actually forget to watch even the things we had our eye on most of the time), I fear we may start spending our evenings in social science debate, and subsequently boring any unsuspecting dinner guests to death...

But it will still be more interesting than X-Factor.

Monday, 9 November 2009

What have they done to the eggs?

When I were a lass, the standard time to boil an egg were 3 minutes for soft-boiled.  Everybody knew that.  I used to do them for a bit longer, say 4 minutes, because I like them a-bit-further-along-the-way-to-hard-boiled.

These days if you boil an egg for 3 minutes it would climb out of the shell when you opened it.  I boiled one for 5 minutes this morning and it couldn't quite heave itself out on to the plate, but almost.  The yolk ran everywhere and the white was watery (not pleasant). 

So WHY do they take so much longer to cook than they did 30 years ago?   Are they feeding the chickens olive oil? or are the shells a micro-millimetre thicker? 

Nowadays, if you want to Go to Work on an Egg you have to get up a few minutes earlier.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Dreams... and reality

The other night I dreamt that my work colleagues irritated me so much that I threatened to throw mayonnaise at them all...

I have just booked myself on an Essential Management course, which I think may be more useful, but without a doubt not nearly as much fun!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Brain tricks and games

I remember when I could go food shopping and it worked out at approximately £10 per bag.  Unfortunately my brain still compares everything to that benchmark - the thought that it is now more like £20 per bag is not one that I have managed to store away successfully; maybe if I did the checkout would be less of a shock.


The clocks have just gone back yet still some people don't realise that they will show up a lot better on their bicycle if they fix those red and white glowing things to the front and back; and perhaps don't wear black. Every year Autumn/Winter comes and every year there are idiots riding on the road barely visible.  I never feel stupid in my day-glo yellow jacket because I am not the one hearing the squeal of brakes as someone drives past inches from my elbow.   It's the equivalent of motorcyclists in the summer riding around in shorts and t-shirts. "But I'll look stupid in leathers in this heat".  You'll look a lot more stupid with no skin.  

Thursday, 22 October 2009


So often the days before going abroad on holiday raise the blood pressure and anxiety levels - will we enjoy it? will we come home more exhausted than before we went away?

How nice to visit friends for a week's holiday and not have any stress about it; to know that it will be totally relaxing with no standing on ceremony, no wondering if you're sitting in the wrong chair, no worrying whether it's ok to make yourself at home, or do the washing up, or to just sit and read (and not be interrupted every five minutes).  Just a laid-back, mutually (we hope!) enjoyable and chilled-out time to be had.


Sunday, 18 October 2009

Confidence questions

Why is it that some of us refuse to believe we may be good at something, or are always doubting ourselves and our abilities?

I just finished my very first Open University assignment, which I am pleased with; yet I'm thinking "that seemed to happen too easily, I must have overlooked something."

I know it's not just me...... Is it a female trait? or do men think it too but cover it up with b*llsh*t most of the time? 

I've sailed with so many men who are full of bluster and give the impression of being extremely competent, but then it turns out they aren't.  Are they scared to say 'well actually, I'm not sure about x, y, z' in case they lose face?

I do know that when I do something and afterwards think 'you know what? I was pretty good at that' it boosts my confidence until the next time when I get the same old nerves and worry about messing it up.  At least these days I will give something a go and risk making a mistake or not being very good at it, rather than saying 'no' and avoiding the situation as I would have when I was younger.

Let's face it, we only have one of these lives; and if the worst thing that can happen is that you are disappointed, or not asked back, or any other red-faced outcome, then what the hell, just go for it!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

"Does not play well with others"

I have come to the conclusion that the office communal kitchen must be the source of more raised blood pressure than anywhere in the work place.

I have laughed as much as anyone at the cartoons about offices covered in Post-It note instructions, but as soon as I go into the office kitchen I am gripped by the desire to join the Kitchen Police. Is this just because we all have different standards, or because it almost feels as though somebody else has come into your personal kitchen and messed with stuff?

Here are the notes I would like to leave in the kitchen at work:
  • Will those who eat lunch at work please wash their crockery and cutlery and place on the draining board.
  • Please empty the dirty washing water, which contains the remains of your lunch, out of the washing up bowl.
  • Please do not leave mugs etc.’soaking’ in cold water overnight for me to find in the morning.
  • Fill up the water filter jug after you have emptied it into the kettle.
  • Please wipe the work tops after you have spilled sugar / coffee / hot chocolate / water all over it.
  • Please wash up teaspoons properly instead of just swishing them in the water and thinking that will remove the tea/coffee stains.
  • Put the milk back in the fridge after use.
  • Do not leave 1mm of milk in the bottom of the bottle.
  • Do not buy odd flavoured teas that no-one will drink, unless you are going to drink them yourself.
  • Please do not leave food in the fridge for more than 4 months.
There, I feel better already.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

There's no "but" about it

I was thinking this morning about the description I had written for my Open University profile, and realised that I had automatically written "married, but no children", which just goes to show how even I am programmed to think that marriage = children.

When himself and I got engaged, my brother-in-law asked us about having children; I think we replied something about not planning to have them, certainly not straight away. His response was "why are you getting married then?".  I was gob-smacked, and if someone said that now I would probaby reply "um, love?" 

Things have changed in society, but our inbuilt stereotypical ideas still hold strong.   

I have now removed any reference to children from my OU profile; after all, people who have children always mention them when describing themselves; so by default my not mentioning them should make it clear that I don't have any, right?

Monday, 5 October 2009


I have found that when you change something, people will often say either 'I preferred it the way it was before' or 'Oh that's much better, I never liked it'; I'm never quite sure which is better to hear!

I vividly remember when we moved from our 1 bedroom modern house with a postage-stamp garden to our current 2 bedroom 19th century house with big garden, my father said "I never liked the other place".   But, being my dad, I appreciated the fact that it being our first starter home, and him always being supportive, he never said a word at the time. 

Sometimes, however, you wish that somebody had mentioned something they hated; but let's face it, we none of us take criticism well especially when it's personal choice, so perhaps it's better we tend to keep our mouths shut unless it is really vital.  

I am having a temporary change to my hair colour, primarily because I want to wear a red dress at the weekend and I think that too much red may be over doing it. So I am toning down for a month or so.  

I have no doubt that tomorrow somebody will say "Oh no, I much prefer it red!"... it's just a case of how many minutes after I walk into the office they notice it.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Lifting anchors

Last weekend three of my friends emigrated, one to New Zealand and two to Oman. Our neighbours left to live in France a couple of years ago; a school friend of mine now lives in the Yukon in the middle of nowhere.

Others seem to be able to move across the world with apparently no dissention or issues with family or close friends, although perhaps they only show us the excitement they want us to see, and not the heartache or heartbreak.

I have always lived within 3 miles of my birth place, where my parents still live. When I broached the subject to them of our possibly moving to Scotland one day, it was as if I’d suggested deepest Siberia and that rather than being 8 hours by car or 2 hours by plane, they would never see me again.

On the one hand I have always felt the closest of the three children to my parents, being the only one that didn’t go to boarding school or move away when I got married; and it is good being close to them. But I also resent the hold this has over me, even if it is only in my mind; the fact that I am the one ‘on call’ because my siblings live further away and are busy with their lives and children.

I feel as though there is a huge weight anchoring me to my home town, and dread the thought that one day the struggle to lift it may outweigh any excitement about a new life; and I know that is a feeling I have to try and change.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Dreaming vs. Doing

I have just seen the Sailability people getting ready to go out, this is a group of disabled people who go out sailing regularly.  Couple that with Hilary Lister, the paraplegic who just sailed single-handed around Britain, and it got me thinking.

So often in life we have a dream of doing something or going somewhere, but we come up against the smallest obstacle and it gets relegated to the 'too hard' pile and postponed or given up on completely; that is if we even really thought we'd actually do it in the first place!

We should have more conviction and make more of an effort to realise our dreams, otherwise we will become those people who end up regretting all the things we meant to do but didn't.

It's time to start Doing as well as Dreaming.

Sunday, 20 September 2009


If a dream is a dream re-kindled, does it still count....?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Out of the Comfort Zone

I'm not looking forward to being 50.  Yes I know it's a few years away yet but I've been reminded of it recently.

It's not because of looking older; more wrinkles, more grey hair (and more chance of looking like mutton if I cover it up).  Or the knowledge that I'll be 50 by the time I finish my degree and changing career will be more of a struggle.

No, it's because my doctor has told me that I'll have to come off The Pill when I hit 50.    That means stepping out of a 30 year comfort zone of religiously taking '1-a-day' to retain my childfree status. "And," she added, "I'm afraid you'll probably still be fertile then."   But what of these figures and charts that say I'm 30% fertile at 40-44 and only 5% at 45-49 and 0% at 50?    No doubt I will be the exception to the rule; and how will I know - trial and error??

I just hope that by then some clever boffin has invented a 99% method that doesn't involve mainlining hormones, leaving it up to himself, or wrestling with some kind of 'personal device' every time.

In the meantime I had better just make the most of the next seven years.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Real or illusion?

I have been pondering the parts other people play in creating our dreams...

On the one hand, they can support and encourage us; whether this means making sacrifices, having long intimate conversations about whatever it is we need to talk about, or simply supplying copious cups of tea while we struggle with an assignment or project.

In a different instance, they can give the illusion of being part of our dream or helping us build towards it, whereas actually they stand as a constant reminder of our reality and we can't move forward.

Sometimes they only exist in our dreams (be they day or night) and vaporise as life brings us back to earth with a bump.

It would be perfect to only surround ourselves with those who make life easy for us, but wouldn't that make life a little bit dull...?

Sunday, 13 September 2009


There is, I feel, something terribly decadent about showering at 2.30 in the afternoon.   It is almost a statement that one does not intend to work hard or do anything that might cause one to perspire, for the rest of the day.


The Car-Booters

There is only one way to do a car-boot sale if you wish to sell things and make some money: go alone so you cannot leave the stall and be tempted by the incredible variety of bargains on the other stalls...!  Arriving at 6.30am, by 7am there is the temptation of a huge field full of wall-paper tables sagging under the weight of ornaments, spare light bulbs, baby clothes, CDs & fitness DVDs, house-hold items, children's toys, and old, rusty items that defy identification.

As ever, the regulars are there as soon as you pull up, wanting to see what treasures you've got. It used to irritate me but now I just smile and say hello and let them look, knowing that often you can self half your stuff before 7.30am to other stall holders.

Today my stall was, relatively speaking, "posh".  I have an extremely sturdy table inherited from my London aunt, and one of those waterproof-backed picnic rugs. I label things with prices because as a customer I hate stalls with no prices on anything; I always feel as they judge your wealth from your appearance before deciding on a price to tell you.

Nothing on my stall was sold for less than 50p, and all the books were £1 which drew no sharp intakes of breath - interestingly the most popular ones were the walking guide books and mountain coffee table books; worth remembering.

By comparison, my neighbours were a couple of sisters about my age, selling childrens clothes and toys which had been gradually piling up in the garage over the last 10 years.  They were selling things for 20p or 50p, for  which people would have happily paid £1.  When the sale was winding down I went over to look for a present for my friend's little boy, and chose a lovely Next jumper.  "50p", she said.  "Will you take £1?" I replied.

She asked if I "do these things" every week.  Goodness no, I informed her: once a year maybe.   "You don't have much to sell if that is a year" she commented, reasonably enough.  "Ah,"  I replied, "I don't have children!!"  

After 5 hours sitting in the sun I had made a healthy profit of £93... so like the last of the big spenders, we had chips for lunch!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Dreams or Reality...?

I have spent the last 12 months "discovering myself"...  what did I discover?

That I can cope perfectly well with living on my own, apart from the monthly blues which bring on a layer of loneliness.

That I am just as untidy as him, but somehow it doesn't matter so much when it's only your own stuff.

That I enjoy studying and am actually quite good at it.

That although I am always the same person inside, my hairstyle does affect my outlook on life and how I react to others. I never thought it would be that shallow, but it is.

That I like having (almost need) something or someone to care about and care for; be it human, mammal or feathered. Perhaps this is an inbuilt female trait which I had not previous realised I possessed?

That I have started dreaming about a different future, a different career, a different house in a different place.. all things that until now other people do, but not me.  I have lived in the same town for 43 years; I have been in the same office for 25 years; I have been married to a fantastic man for 20 years (that bit I'm not planning on changing...). 

I am going to hurl those ideals of change and choice in front of me, and start fighting my natural urge to be sensible and realistic and stick with what I know.  

Maybe I'll decide that actually I love what I am and where I am.  Or maybe I'll end up as a philosophical psychologist in deepest Scotland. 

Who knows.