Friday, 31 December 2010

Spot's Spot: A happy week!

Hello all - this will be my last post of 2010! 

I've been having a grand week at home, what with log fires and having both Mum and Dad to pester for my tea.  Plus I got to supervise them sweeping leaves, and sawing wood.  They have to be watched otherwise they don't do it properly.

Here is me with my new ragga toy they gave me:

and out on the Forest on Boxing Day, brrr cold on the toes standing around waiting for Mum and Dad!

And out in the woods today - look at Mum with no crutch just a stick thing!  she's acting much more normal these days.

Tonight apparently my Auntie G is coming over to see the year out (if we stay awake that long, I know I won't!!).   She gave me a scary squeaky space hopper for Christmas, I'm really not sure about it.

Happy New Year everyone!!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Time to relax

Today we are having a day off.   No appointments to meet, no people to see, no conversation to make, nowhere to go.  Just mooching and doing whatever we please.

So far that has consisted of Mr H walking Django and mending his trousers (he is the ex-upholsterer, I go nowhere near the sewing maching except in emergencies!); I stayed in bed til 10am, showered and planted some bulbs in the garden.  

That's another first - gardening.  Now I don't need my crutches out in the garden so it makes life a lot easier (especially the 'cleaning up after Django' part!).  I think this afternoon we will clear up some leaves and dig some potatoes/carrots for tea.

This is not our garden, it is at my parents' house, where I grew up.

So, other bloggers have been reflecting on 2010 and looking forward to 2011.  I was trying to remember the first 6 months of this year, but the only things that stick in my mind were the ice in January; visiting friends in Cheshire; a night out in Cowes at Easter; our week in the Lake District; Mr H getting his first Forestry Commission job; and our long drive to Scotland and back to view his new flat.  The rest of life was the grit and sand that filled in the gaps between the stones.

The latter 6 months have been about new experiences and good things coming out of bad.  It's so easy for people to see the negative, but I see the fact that Mr H and I are closer than ever; we both have jobs; I have started playing with art again; staff at work have been forced out of taking me for granted and are more involved (maybe I should see the crash as an extension to the management course I did just before it); and I have all you new friends!

As for 2011 - all I can say is that I will take it as it comes.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Whimsical Wednesday

The Paddle-Duck
Is rather confused.
He flaps like a flat-fish,
And catches newts.
And turns up his beak
At anyone who laughs at him.

Propping up the eyelids

I almost fell asleep across my parents kitchen table this morning... at least, it felt as if I just closed my eyes I'd be gone.   We went over for two reasons - firstly my sister was down with her two youngest children (11 & 13) and her man so we wanted to see them; secondly Dad had a tree that needed cutting down so Mr H was doing the honours while there were extra hands there to help, and to kill two birds with one stone, as it were.  

I don't know how people cope with having loads of family around at Christmas, it makes me feel quite claustrophobic. Trying to find enough chairs/plates, who wants tea/coffee/whatever, lots of people talking at once.. I know some people thrive on the hustle and bustle but I just want to escape to a quiet corner somewhere with a good book.

I haven't done much physically over the last few days, other than the odd short dog walk, but I realised that we have seen friends/family every day since Friday. Combined with a drive up to the Cotswolds and back, I can't believe how exhausting it's been.   Tomorrow I have a day off from talking to anyone other than my husband and my dog, hurrah!   

Oh, we talked about the dinghies last night... one of them is a single-hander which I sail on my own; the other is a 2-man old wooden Firefly which I sail with Mr H.  We agreed to keep them (not that I was going to be making any big decisions now anyway) and just carry on pottering about in it as we do now.  ie. not worrying that we don't go out every weekend or for hours at a time.   I must stop comparing myself to the other people in the sailing club, those who are passionate about it.  The sort that go racing on Boxing Day even when it's -6C and there is 3" of ice on the slipway.

While they are doing that, Mr H. and I willl be getting on our walking boots and woolly hats and heading for higher ground.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

I've been thinking...

.. yes I know that's pretty dangerous, but it happens on occasion. 

A couple of times in the last two days the subject of New Year Resolutions has come up.  Among our family and friends we seem pretty unanimous that we don't do them, as they are pointless and why is it any different deciding to do something on the 1st Jan as any other day of the year?

Everyone knows that new gym memberships peak in January and attendance is tailing off by the end of February.     I used to have a long-term New Year resolution to stop biting my nails.  When I eventually did stop, it was for some other reason completely and nothing to do with the resolution. 

This year, what with things being put into perspective somewhat, Resolutions seem even more pointless.  The only one I thought about on the drive home today was:

To walk a-top the embankment and stay out of the ditch.

In other words, not to live life head-down working, or cooking/cleaning/everyday living, but up on that embankment looking around to see what's going on outside my own hill-fort. Looking for ways to expand my horizons and make the most of the fact that I'm alive and kicking. Not doing things because 'that's what's expected of me' but doing things I want to do; getting priorities balanced between other people and myself.  


One of the things that has come about after the crash was the question of what I really miss.   Most people think I'd miss sailing - since that has always been part of my life; I own two dinghies, and over the years have done a fair bit of big-boat racing though that is now about a week every 2 years so doesn't really count any more.     Most of the sailing people I know, put in my position, would be tearing their hair out not being on the water, and desperate to be deemed fit enough to sail again.    

But I don't miss the dinghy sailing one bit.   It makes me wonder how much I actually enjoyed it before?  I know that I've always had a self-confidence issue with it and can quite easily come up with excuses why not to go out: too much wind, not enough wind, too cold etc.  Maybe I've been kidding myself all this time?  I don't know when I'll be able to sail my dinghies again and I don't really care; I know it's winter now but even in the summer I didn't sit in the garden thinking 'what a lovely day for a sail'.  It costs me £260 a year to keep 2 boats in the club dinghy park, and now I'm thinking I could use that money to go to Scotland and go canoeing with Mr H. and Django instead.

The thing I have consistently missed the most is walking, the most simple thing of all.   Not walking as in around the house, but walking to work, or into town, or along the clifftop or out on the Forest with Django.   And as an extension of that, the walking that I had started getting lazy about - out in the hills, mountains or long distance paths with Mr H. 


Sunday, 26 December 2010

IF: Winter

During the Winter
Henrietta cheered herself up by
Sitting in her deckchair,
Reading 'Holiday 2011'

No hangovers here

We had a fairly quiet Christmas Day, as we normally do.  In the morning we opened some presents and dug the veggies out of the frozen ground for our evening meal, then Mr H took Django for a walk while I did a bit of tidying and a bit of chilling out.   My parents came over in the afternoon after they'd watched the Queen's Speech; we played some vingt-et-un (aka Pontoon) and Mr H. went bankrupt, even as banker!   I said it was a good thing he went into Forestry. 

Our evening meal was melon and gravadlax, followed by roast pork and home grown veg, and Christmas pudding. My parents went home about 8pm so we had some time alone to just relax and watch some comedy on iPlayer, and open some presents we'd kept over. 

Not what most people would consider a 'traditonal Christmas Day' - we didn't overeat or drink very much; we didn't have a big pile of presents, just a few.  We didn't go to church because we don't any more - and why go at Christmas when you don't go the rest of the year? 

Best present for 2010: a pair of Grivel Spiders from Mr H.  These are like mini-crampons which fit in the instep of your boots for walking on snow or ice.  Having them meant that the three of us could go out for a lovely walk on the Forest today, where normally I would fear to tread...

If God isn't out here as well as in church, then something's definitely wrong.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve...  I should be panicking about tomorrow's meal, or out partying... instead I'm sitting by the fire (warming the chimney!): Mr H and Django have been out for almost 3 hours visiting friends which left me to doze on the sofa and watch all four episodes of The Nativity on iPlayer (a very good dramatisation).   

Merry Christmas to all my blogger friends :-)  

Thank you for being there to share my ups, downs and sideways this year!


Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Who am I? Where am I?

OK, what day is it? Thursday? No, Wednesday.. I think? 

At lunch yesterday (was it?) somebody commented about saving themselves for Saturday. "What's happening on Saturday?" says I....   somehow it seems odd that Christmas Day is also an ordinary day of the week.

Yes I'm still totally out of sync.  Every time I post on Beautiful World now, I have to pause and think what day it is, in case I'm trampling all over the Thursday theme (again).

Only about 16 hours til Mr H is home.  Not that I'm counting you understand.... ohhhh no.  This week I have been living on jacket/baked potatoes because all the food I have in the house is designed for two people and I don't want to waste eating any of it on my own.   I think maybe I have been anticipating next week more than I realised...?

I couldn't be bothered to find a photo for yesterday's post, sorry about that.  When I first started posting I never put a photo in, but now I like to have an illustration of some kind.   Hey, just for fun, here is my very first post.

Today's is one that Mr H sent me last night, I think it is Stow-on-the-Wold but anyway it's definitely the Cotswolds. I love the colour that the streetlights, the darkness and the camera project onto the scene.

One more day of work and then I'm done; though tomorrow's work is going to be a bit patchy - partly because of the things I can and cannot do (as the database has now been 'frozen' for end of year maintenance), and partly because of my boys coming back. 

I'm sure no-one will notice.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A quick one

Just a quick one as I'm about off to bed...  Since I worked a bit on Sunday I am completely out of sync with what day it is at the moment, and keep forgetting when I posted, or didn't!   I had an ok day today - after a bit of a crisis day at work yesterday with 4 of us flat out out trying to sort out a major issue, this morning I had a few fallout e-mails to deal with but not too bad.   Then we had our office Christmas lunch at a restaurant in town; it was pretty low key, no-one was drinking much for various reasons, but it was nice and relaxed and good company (we always invite 4 or 5 guests). The food was lovely, and normal sized portions - it was so nice to go home from it not completely stuffed and not drunk!  

In fact I worked for another 3 hours after I got home until my best friend G arrived bearing a few groceries I'd asked her to get while she was at the supermarket.  And knowing I'd been out to lunch she also came bearing pizza to save me cooking, bless her.

Mr H called me at about 5.30 to say he'd arrived in the Cotswolds ok.   Apparently the motorways were ok, and not too busy, but the conditions were worse when he got off them; he was going to tell me about some 'dodgy' moments, but I don't want to hear them.  Kind of in the same way I don't like it if we stop at the bottom of a mountain for him to point out the routes he's taken up it which to me look like death traps.   Do the stuff, come home safely, but don't tell me about how you nearly fell through a snow cornice, ok?  

So, that's the long bit of the journey done, but not necessarily the hard bit!  He's off to his brother's in Stow-on-the-Wold for tomorrow night;  he came through there and said there's a foot plus of snow, and it looked like people had just stopped and left their cars in the high street, which made it a pain to drive through. 

Two more sleeps!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Spot's Spot: My last night?

Well I have been watching Dad pile up stuff that looks suspiciously like he's going somewhere... I know the signs!   I'll do my miserable 'oh I suppose you're leaving' look until he picks up something of mine and puts it on the pile, and then I'll bounce manically around in excitement ooooohhh!

It's been b.... jolly freezing up here recently, though we haven't had as much snow as everyone else, apparently.    Still we haven't been out on the hills quite as much because he can't get his sticks in the ground, or see the planting mounds, so I've spent some time in the office.   Here are some pics of me at home (by the bed) and at work this week:

Still my bits have been freezing and sometimes I have to put my coat on, good thing Mum sent it up.  This is me in the works van, don't I look important!?


So anyway, I overheard Dad and Mum talking last night and I think we are going home tomorrow - or maybe to Uncle P's for the night which will be cooooool!  He loves me and always ruffles me up so that dog hair goes everywhere.   

I'm a little confused though because Dad has been packing some of his climbing gear and stuff that we wouldn't normally need to drive home.  Big thick clothes and boots and stuff, and lots of food.   I wonder if it's anything to do with the snowy stuff?

Who was 'HD' ?

This is the second bedroom/studio/study window.  It is an old Crittall window and it holds a bit of a mystery; for some reason I haven't really thought about it until now. 

It has some initials etched on one of the panes, the 3rd from the right, 2nd row down to be precise.

The way my mind has worked while staring at these, procrastinating over my studies is as follows:

The initials are etched on the outside of the glass.
They are old fashioned style which dates them.
They are on the opening side of the window, so couldn't have been done easily by leaning out of the window; whoever did them must have been out side.
Below this window is what was originally an added-on lean-to kitchen.

I thought about this, and now I have a vision in my head of a kid climbing up on to the kitchen lean-to roof and sitting by the window, maybe shooting at birds with his catapult, and idly etching his initials on the pane. (I'm assuming it was a boy but I suppose it could have been a tomboy girl). 

I started wondering who he was?

A son of the house? I suppose it must have been his/siblings bedroom window as there are only 2 bedrooms   Maybe it was a trouble-making friend messing around?  

Did he get into trouble?   there wasn't much that could have been done about it other than replace the pane; and given that this was a modest cottage (dating back to early-mid 1800s) originally inhabited by staff from one of the local manor houses, I doubt there was the money for that.

What do you think?

Saturday, 18 December 2010

IF: Mail

After reading the letter
She got in the mail,
Mimosa couldn't help
Slipping into some lovely

A friend for Spot and more snow

I awoke this morning to the sound of someone's house alarm going off, and a large bleep from behind my head, and the realisation that my digi-clock wasn't on.  Hmm, no power then!  It was 7.45am so time to wake up anyway... but I considered staying in bed for a bit as it was nice and warm, so I opened the curtains and lay and watched big, wet, sticky snowflakes falling outside.  But I can't lie in bed for long so was up and boiling water for tea in a saucepan on the hob by 8.30.  It's at times like this I'm so grateful I have a gas cooker - and a lighter - so it was still fried egg on toast for breakfast!

I went out and put some more bird seed on the bird table and in the feeder. Minus the crutch spikes as they are superfluous in snow and just get clogged up. Unfortunately most of the bird food seems to be getting eaten by starlings and jackdaws at the moment, but the dunnock and blue tits do still get a look-in. 

Then I decided to build a snowman, as I didn't build one last time it snowed and I was in the right mood today.  Except that it wasn't really snowman shaped, so I turned it into a snowpuppy!  which was much more fun and it makes me laugh every time I look out the window and see it sitting waiting for a biscuit.

Today I had designated as a Study Day so I sat upstairs in the spare room/studio/study room and read about senses and perception, and attention.   All interesting stuff which helps to explain my 'selective attention' as in not noticing things, and how we can drive to work and not remember anything much about the journey.

It's hard to work though with this view in front of you:

...and starlings squabbling over the suet, or doves sliding down the birdtable roof and hopping inside, or a blackbird perched on the edge of the snowy veranda roof.

The snow is thawing already, but the skies have cleared so I expect it will freeze tonight and be icy tomorrow.   Mr H doesn't have much snow in Ayrshire, I think it all fell on N.Ireland before it got to him.  But all I can think about is what conditions are like between here and Scotland... I can't bear the thought of he and I being separated by snow for Christmas. 

I think I'll spend the rest of the afternoon choreographing a one and a half-legged 'Thaw Dance'.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Catch up

Sorry, it's been an 'interesting' week with work and my head has been full of that so nothing to post here!   And it's ongoing so if I'm a bit 'dot-and-carry-one' (as my boss puts it) over the next few days, that's why.

I have realised the similarities between some aspects of my work and designing a psychology experiment.  In both there are a lot of 'what if' questions to ask ourselves.  At work it revolves round rule-writing or programming - watching for loopholes, or odd boats that won't fit, or the way others will intepret it, or a myriad of other things. It's a part of work which can be really frustrating, but I enjoy.   Similarly with psychological studies there are the Confounding Variables which will mess up the results.

On another subject, I got the latest 4 x-rays on disk so I have updated the x-rays page.  They look fairly similar except for the fact that the bone-coloured areas are growing!   Still I looked at them and though "Why the hell was I even thinking about driving?".  This is one of them:

I have told my boss that the full days in the office aren't working; they were really an experiment so that's fine.   They involve so much stimulation, and getting up and down to see people and discuss things, that for that evening and the whole of the next day I feel exhausted and emotional.  It's just not worth it.  So I've suggested 3 half-days a week (starting after the New Year); anyway it's not as though I'm not working while I'm here at home, in fact I'm probably doing more.

Today I am going in for a lunchtime meeting about some technical stuff so will be there for the afternoon.  Then I need to set to some studying reading this weekend.  Christmas is all done and bought and there is no more money left so I won't be going near any shops!  Just counting down to Thursday when Mr H gets home :-)

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Love where you live

I have been trying to find out about travel insurance for trips within the UK, since Mr H and I have a hotel booked with a 'no cancellation' clause (that's how we could afford it!).  So there's the question of not losing our week's money if we can't get there for some reason.

All the travel insurance information I look at only seems to refer to people flying abroad. I have come to the conclusion that those of us who predominently holiday within our own beautiful countryside are very much in the minority.   There are still so many places we haven't explored, and the week we have booked is in the Peak District which is beautiful area right in the middle of the country.

Others do not seem to even consider it - if they are having a holiday then there is no question that they will  being queueing in the airport for a week in the sun, or on the slopes. 

No flying required

Give us the wilds of Scotland, a long-distance path along a yet to be explored coastline, or a quiet Cornish campsite anytime (yes, they do exist, out of season).   We do make exceptions for visiting friends in the Dordogne on occasion ;-)

[*Mel, I can see you shaking your head in horror already!]

So I have resorted to e-mailing a question about travel insurance to one of the companies. I daresay they will reply once they have recovered from the shock.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Delegating and crossing the road

OK, I have had to have a rethink about this working business...  the last couple of days I've been feeling very emotional, tired, teary; and if anyone is nice to me (which everyone is!) then it make it worse!   The Whys and Wherefores I think are a combination of lots of things:
  • Missing Mr H
  • Christmas and all the little things and arrangements connected with it.
  • End of the year at work - so many things that need doing before the New Year
  • Going into the office for full days - I am having to rethink that one.
I tried to delegate a big job to someone this morning, it has ended up as a compromise, we will each do something on it. I'm just going to try not to stress about it and give some of the responsibility to others in the office.

I used to be totally useless at delegation.  It probably stems from the fact that for 12 years I was alone doing my job, so I did everything. I helped design the systems and how things were done, and I had my methods for getting the work done.  In 1997 when I ended up on anti-depressants, the boss realised we needed more staff.  Now there are 4 of us doing what I was doing, and I have had to Let Go and let people get on with it, and make their own mistakes...  It's difficult, relinquishing something that you have built up yourself over so many years.

Partly it is a control thing, of course; but partly it is the feeling that 'if you want a job done properly, do it yourself'.  Not saying I'm perfect, far from it, but it frustrates the hell out of me when people make careless mistakes.  It begs the question, if you put safeguards in to prevent mistakes, does it stop people thinking for themselves so they switch off more, and hence make more mistakes?

So, yes learning delegation has been hard for me, but I have been getting better at it.    The accident was in fact good for the office - people were forced to do things they would normally just ask me for; and it has also prompted us to make sure more people knew about various systems, rather than just one person.  It has made me much more relaxed about my work, all part of the same shift in priorities which both Mr H and I have experienced since June 27th. 

Recently, when I have been walking about a bit more, I've realised how difficult crossing the road is now;  I mean in places where there isn't a pedestrian crossing.   Now that I can't stride across quickly and time it perfectly between cars - I have to leave loads of time to walk across slowly and not risk tripping over in my rush.  Yesterday I had to wait for ages to cross the main road, before I was happy there was enough time.

But yes, I have been known to delegate crossing the road to somebody else, if the post box is on the other side!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

How did we end up doing all this talking?

This morning I sat in bed reading a New Scientist article about the evolution of language.  Not only does this link in with my studying, but I've mentioned before that I'm interested in language.  According to the article, (which concentrated on spoken language rather than writtten) there are three main theories behind it, what are known as 'protolanguages' ie. systems which have some of the components of language but not all of them.

Musical: an explanation first offered by Darwin in 1871, roughly saying that to start with vocalisation in animals/birds was just to say "Hey, I'm here, and I want to mate."  Darwin reckoned that early human vocal learning more closely resembled song than speech. which later started taking on more meanings.

Gestural:  ie. communication was originally by gesture rather than speech. This is supported by the fact apes and chimps can be taught gestures and some sign language, but no-one has managed to teach them to speak.  One suggestion is that gestures originally referred to whole thoughts or events, rather than individual things or actions.   I can just imagine the gestures used to convey "So, fancy coming out to watch me hunt, then back to my place for some rumpy pumpy?"   The various possiblities of why this would develop into speech include the need to communicate in darkness, or with their hands full of spear heads perhaps?

Lexical: ie. the use of individual words before this developed into forming complex sentences.  This parallels with how children initially learn, gradually building up the number of words they can string together to make sense.  Well, they make sense to their parents anyway.

Another section of the article explained the physical differences in larynx position in different animals, and how this affects the ability to speak. However, it's not that simple, since lions and tigers have low larynxes like we do, yet they cannot speak (I'm excluding The Lion King here, ok?).   So it really comes down to how the brain is wired up and how that evolved over time.

I ended up sitting in bed, with a finger held lightly either side of my larynx (where the Adam's Apple is) and discovering that when I spoke I could feel the vibrations; and if I made different sounds, at different high or low tones, I could feel it moving up and down etc.   I daresay this is obvious, but personally I have gone 44.5 years without ever trying it.  If the neighbours were listening at the bedroom wall they must have wondered what the hell was going on!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Six Word Saturday

Need to tidy. Where to start?

Disclaimer as I know Mr H. reads this blog. This cartoon is metaphorical not literal...

The weekend is generally my tidying/studying time, especially since I'm no longer in the habit of striding into town (15 minute walk) to see the Saturday market and look for things to buy that I didn't really need. 

The sitting-room, in fact the whole house, still has remnants of when I was sleeping in here - stuff in places where it wouldn't normally live.  Stuff we wouldn't normally have! Piles of DVDs borrowed from friends, rubbish/recycling baskets that were in here temporarily but now I find quite useful.  Magazines, books, CDs, aaggh and now my new floor bicycle that arrived yesterday!

The kitchen still has my trolley and stool in it although I haven't used them for a couple of months.  I could put them in the workshop I suppose.  My friend said I could sell the trolley but I keep thinking that I'll probably use it for going shopping, when I'm happy to walk but not carry a rucksack full of stuff!  or maybe I'll be too embarrassed to use a granny trolley. 

The kitchen table is covered in post, drugs, notes, stuff.

And I brought the recycling bin into the kitchen from outside, so that I didn't have to open the back door every time I want to throw away an envelope - I was ending up with piles of paper on the side ready to be put in the recycling. Under the drainer, where it got dripped on. The thing with our back door is that it was cheap.  So after 17 years there is a half-inch gap down the side of the bottom half where it has warped, so in the winter I jam a dog-towel in there to stop the draft. So it's a nuisance to open/close it in the winter. I know, I know!  but have you seen the price of a good quality, hardwood exterior door??

The desk has a large pile of post that belongs to Mr H on it, and a bag full of boxes of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen where my friend went a bit overboard buying it for me.  And other crap.

And as for the bedroom.... I need a severe clear out of clothes and somehow I'm never in the right mood to do it.  So I look sorrowfully at the pile of stuff by the bed in the morning, then come downstairs and forget about it.

Anyway, I do need to get some of this stuff sorted out before Mr H gets home on the 23rd, since my parents are coming for Christmas Day evening and we'll need somewhere to eat our food....

Friday, 10 December 2010

Tired and emotional

I ended up yesterday Tired and Emotional.   I was at work all day, a lot of which I seemed to spend running (metaphorically) back and forth between people and computers, sorting things out.  By 3pm I was visibly flagging.  It must have been visible because my friend offered to take me home; but I didn't want to sit at home feeling miserable, better to have people around me when I feel like that. 

There are some things that are worrying me about my parents at the moment (which I don't want to post about here) - with that and everything else going on in my head at the moment it all feels too much sometimes.  Why do families cause us so much strife and worry...?  because we love them so much I suppose. We might not always like things they do, but we can't escape the blood ties. 

I am the youngest of three children and the only one who still lives locally to our parents' home, so I tend to feel responsible for looking after them, which I find hard sometimes.  I shared some of my worries with my sister last night though, and felt much better afterwards.

Going back to yesterday...  it was a good thing that my friend C was 'booked' to come home after work and help me put up my Christmas tree and decorate it, in exchange for a meal.  In fact, she bought Mr H. and I the Christmas tree as our present, which I thought was a brilliant idea. 

So I now have a twinkling sitting room, all I need now is Mr H. and DJ to share it with... only 13 days to go... not that I'm counting!


Thursday, 9 December 2010

The dreaded question

One of the questions I most dread at this time of year is "What do you want for Christmas?"

My answer is always "I don't know" or "nothing really".  What I should say is "I'd like a surprise". I don't want to know what I'm getting, and anyway the things on my want list at any one time are normally £100+ ie. out of the budget of presents.   (If you are the sort of person who spends £100 on people's Christmas presents, unless they are your Significant Other, then you are out of my league).

The second worst question is "What does Mr H. want for Christmas?".   For goodness sake I have enough trouble thinking of something to get him myself; you think I'm going to let you pinch my one idea?

The truth is, there is very rarely anything either of us wants.  Or to rephrase that, there isn't anything we want that we haven't chosen ourselves, if that makes sense.   When one is a teenager it's easy - just get some CDs or something.  20s - something for the house/flat.  Mid-40s?  I'd like someone to strip off all the anaglypta paper in the bedroom, replaster and paint it. OK? 

My best friend tends to get us treats. Edible treats. Which is perfect - we get to indulge ourselves on nice stuff we wouldn't buy, and there is nothing left to clutter up the house afterwards or have to keep on display.

Sometimes I wish people would just stop the whole present thing. A couple of years ago we didn't buy any for the family and donated to a charity each instead. 

As it is really only my parents who ask me, I'm sure it stems from them worrying about getting us something we don't want, and I can appreciate the sentiment. 

But I still hate that question.  

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Horace isn't happy

Horace doesn't like being stared at.
He wishes he'd been born a zebra,
So that he could blend into the background.

Pressing 'Send'

Today I worked a half-day on the premise that I worked a few hours over the weekend for the Phuket regatta.  Normally I would not bother to take the time in lieu, but today I felt that I needed it so stopped work at lunchtime. 

This afternoon I procrastinated for a while, writing to Mr H. and to his sister, and doing a bit of shopping on Amazon... I have ordered myself an indoor cycle-exerciser like this:

Mr H. suggested getting one of those racks that you fix your bicycle to which turns it into a fixed training bike, but I don't have the space for that in the house!  So, I think this will be good for some exercise for my leg; and apparently you can put it on the table and use it for your arms as well. All while watching DVDs or writing a blog, although yes if you were exercising you arms that would make typing difficult 

After making myself yet another cup of tea, I settled down to get on with some OU studying, I had to finish writing up the design for an experiment and try and incorporate 'adrenaline junkies' into my essay about neurons. A stroke of genius as an example, I thought!  After reading it, re-reading it, re-re-reading it and trying to trim some words out of it, I had finally had enough and pressed SEND.   

It's always a bit of a scary moment, submitting essays. It's almost as bad as that 'Message Sent' moment on e-mail or text when you've told someone something they might not want to hear. Or asked a question you're not sure you want the answer to.  You know that it's Out There and there's nothing you can do about it, no matter how many times you press Cancel.

Spot's Spot: Nostalgia

Hi everyone,

I suddenly realised that I'm going to be 11 in January.  11 !!!!  can you believe it.   So I was idly flicking through some old photos and feeling nostalgic, and thought I'd share some here...

Me, 8 weeks old

Grrr, die ball, die!

Messing around with my dog-dad, Revel. We lived together until he went to dog-Heaven a couple of years ago :-(

My favourite pic of me and my dog-dad Revel. xx

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Worn out

No energy for imagination for a post today; I did a full day at the office and then went food shopping tonight - I'm ready for bed now and it's just 9pm.

Will try and produce something tomorrow as it's a home-working day.

Monday, 6 December 2010

The Leg - update!

5 months since the crash:

Hi, well I went for x-rays this morning. The last ones were 2 months ago, when I was told I could progress from non-weight bearing to 30% bodyweight, and that I could be on one crutch by now as long as it didn't hurt too much. That's pretty much what I've been doing, and using one crutch indoors, but two if I need to walk any distance.

Today's x-rays looked really good. I'm not sure how to describe it but there is callus/bone all the way down my femur now, if you see what I mean, no gaps. All the screws are still where they should be and the nail is still straight! 

I saw a young-ish Registrar, who seemed to have more time than the consultants I normally see, and took the trouble to see how far my knee would bend (good), and how much strength my thigh muscles had. He got the x-rays up on the screen and referred back to the prevoius ones for comparison, and explained everything really clearly.

Instructions now are to put an increasing amount of weight on it over the next 3 months, as much as I feel it can take; but still with the support of one crutch to start with.

I asked about driving: but apparently this question is not up to them but up to the insurance company, and someone else I forget. The braking foot is the important bit, and the basic question is: if I was involved in an incident, could I stand up in front of a judge and swear that I was in complete control of the vehicle? Obviously at the moment, no; apart from anything else, I'd be thinking about my leg and not concentrating properly. He said that I'm not going to be driving for the next three months, which is a nuisance but it's not worth the risk, is it?

So that's where I am now, and my next appointment isn't for 3 months ie. the the beginning of March. I will post the latest x-rays when I have them!


While I was waiting I met a girl in her late 20s who was on my ward for a couple of days, so we had a good chat. She had what I thought was a cracked pelvis which sounded like it would heal quickly; but evidently not since she is still being x-rayed and using a crutch 5 months later.  I don't think it was quite as simple as it sounded when she first described it to me.  Anyway, she did it just tripping over on a pavement, which must be really depressing.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Facebook... hummm

Yet another Awareness Status has hit Facebook today:

"Change your facebook profile picture to a cartoon character from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same, for the NSPCC. Until Monday (December 6th), there should be no human faces on facebook, but an invasion of memories. This is a campaign to stop violence against children".

or, variation on the theme:

"Change your profile pic to a cartoon from your childhood. the Goal?...not to see a human face on FB until Monday Dec 6 and be surrounded by only your best childhood memories. Show your support in the fight against Child Abuse and copy and paste to your status. Invite your friends the same!"


Most people know about the NSPCC (for non-Brits, that is National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) and are aware that violence against children exists, and yes 99.9% of the population are in support of stopping it.

What I fail to understand is what doing this on Facebook is going to achieve, it's not as though anyone is suggesting supporting the NSPCC with funds to carry on their good work.

On two of my friends' pages I asked "How is this going to help prevent violence against children?"

One reply was : "Who knows? but good excuse to relive our childhood!", another was "harmless fun :). Now go pop one of those 'happy pills' and smile :)"

So why not just say "Let's all change our profile pictures to a childhood cartoon for a bit of fun", instead of wrapping it up with some altruistic motive.   

What is the psychology behind the fact that 90% of my friends who are regularly on Facebook have changed their profile pic to a cartoon, with or without the text?

1) Do they really believe that it is going to have an effect on - well anything really?  other than making themselves feel good. Personally all it made me think of was cartoons.

2) Do they think that if they don't follow the herd people will think they are a bad person?  

3) Do they just automatically copy/paste without even thinking about it?   Are those who did the picture without the text being more honest... but what.was.the.point.?

Probably a mixture of the above.

I have just posted my status as "Juniper thinks people would help more by going to"

No doubt somebody will tell me I need to develop a sense of humour.

TP 126: Night

Warm, glowing steeples
Welcome you out of the night

for Thematic Photographic theme "Night"

Friday, 3 December 2010

IF: Prehistoric

When is graffiti not graffiti?

for Illustration Friday's topic 'Prehistoric'

Friday ramblings

Well, what a week it's been. Is it really only 7 days since I was sitting in Mr H's flat before flying home?    I had my good office day on Monday, then the snow came on Wednesday night, and seemed to bring with it low voltage electricity into the office which meant the servers kept shutting themselves down. It turned into a frustrating week, work-wise. 

Yesterday I braved a walk round to the post box while the footpath still had enough snow on it (rather than compacted ice) but today I didn't allow myself out.  My sister called me this evening to check that I was looking after myself and not doing anything stupid - she knows what I'm like!  Tonight we are forecast rain and sleet on top of 6" of snow, and ice; so heaven knows what it will look like out there tomorrow.

The long, snowy rope that is my washing line

So, the servers were on and off for most of the morning while they worked out what was the matter with them.  It's worrying how lost we feel when we don't have the links to which we are accustomed.  If the broadband goes down it feels as though we're cut off from the world!   This weekend I am work duty for the King's Cup, in exchange for depriving them of my presence (obviously not a fair exchange, what could possibly replace my scintillating company?).  So, I hope that all is sorted out otherwise I won't be able to login, and I'll have to call on the boss for help to sort it out; it's not like I can just pop down to the office is it.

Anyway, this morning I used some of the down-time to have a hot shower and (sorry but I'm going to mention The C Word) write a couple of Christmas cards, the sort that also involve writing a letter.  I am always disappointed when I get a card from a relative or friends I haven't seen or talked to for ages, and it just says To Juniper and Mr H, Happy Christmas, love from Aunt Ethel.  What a waste of paper, frankly.  

Going back to the weather, I have pretty much made the decision not to go to my OU tutorial tomorrow, as I don't like the sound of rain/sleet on top of ice and snow.  However, I will reserve final judgement until the morning as I don't have to leave til 9am (a friend is lined up to give me a lift). The subject we are going to discuss is mainly research methods - correlations, IVs and DVs and interpreting scatter plots, confounding variables (I love that phrase) and experiment design.  Now I find all that stuff fairly logical and straightforward; I'm sure some of the 'what ifs', questioning, handling data, finding data patterns, and taking nothing for granted at work help in some strange way. I'm not saying I know it all, but on the other hand I know some people really struggle with it, and it might just do my head in to sit through 2 hours of people Not Getting It.

Thursday, 2 December 2010


I have just realised that if I didn't have a broken leg I would have been booked on a flight to Phuket today for the King's Cup... as the way of the world works, with this weather I would not have been looking forward to trying to get to Heathrow at 5am this morning!

A couple of years ago I decided not to go, for various personal reasons. That was the year that there was trouble at Bangkok airport and many people couldn't get there; I'd have been in limbo not knowing whether to attempt the trip or not. 

Sometimes I feel fate really does step in with the arrangements.

What animal was this?

My town awoke this morning to 6 inches of snow, so I decided I wouldn't be going into the office today after all.  The snow is ok but I wasn't so keen on the steps up to the office...

I got my priorities right and went out and sorted out the bird-feeders before breakfast; a robin was out mooching around trying to eat the frozen seed so that had to be fixed.  First footing it across the lawn, I always hate to spoil it!  normally of course there has been a DJ out in it before me, but not this morning.  My tracks out to the bird feeders were interesting...

I did discover I got snow-balling in my crutch crampons, will need to vaseline them like horses hooves! I thought I was going to get a snow-day off today, as I couldn't log into the server, so could check e-mails but not do anything else. My boss is stuck at his house out in the Forest and various others can't get in - great I thought, no-one there to re-boot the server!  But sadly I've just heard that someone is there and re-booting as I write. 

Ho hum, I thought I could get on with my work on confounding variables and correlations, I'll have to save that for later.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


Mimosa Moose (her parents had high hopes)
Watched shyly from behind a tree.
Hoping he would see her,
But desperately not wanting to be noticed.

Psychology and the workplace...?

Today I got so fed up with trying to explain something, from home to a colleague in the office, that I need to go to the office tomorrow to actually discuss it with the same program screen in front of us. Otherwise there is the danger of him making a decision that will not be good, just because he doesn't Get It.   People who don't do the admin don't understand the admin, and when they start saying "But we don't need that on there do we?" when we do need it,  that gets me uppity. 

Sometimes they sit at their computers or in their meeting rooms, unable to see beyond the needs of our own four office walls, while the rest of the staff field questions from people in far flung countries to whom it really isn't that obvious actually.   I have always been the Representative of the People in our office. The boss is an engineer, the other bloke knows all about building racing boats. I am trained in nothing relevant but I understand how normal people think (although it is debatable whether sailors are normal, but near enough for this discussion) and it comes in very useful when ideas need pulling back down to earth. In fact between the three of us we usually end up in about the right place.

And no, my wanting to keep certain aspects of the program that have worked just fine for 10 years cannot be compared with one of my other colleagues wanting to keep a printed back up of everything in triplicate, in 3 different folders, just in case. 

On the subject of Psychology, I am really enjoying my current chapter of studying which is research methods - correlational experiments and studies. I am enjoying it because it is easy. I understand it. I can draw a scatterplot and I know what x and h axes are. And even better, the second part of my assignment is based on this, hurrah!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Uppers and downers

Going to the office is great, I'm on a high all the time I'm there.  I have friends to talk to and have a laugh with; work is more efficient as all the files and e-mail are in one place, instead of half on the server and half on my hard disk; I can have instant, face-to-face discussions instead of e-mail/skype/phone discussions. 

Today was the first time I went in for a full day, 9-5, but it was a bit different because the 8 of us went out to lunch on the proceeds of selling half the filing cabinets, part of our quest to reclaim a room in our little office. So we had a two hour lunch break and had fun. They didn't have any chocolate puddings so when we left we sent the boss (since he had a car) to the shop with a tenner, with instructions to buy chocolate bars for us all, of which he did an admirable job despite his comic eye-rolling.  So it was a Good Day.

Then I came home. 

As soon as I shut the front door behind me I felt completely flaked out and lonely and just wanted to cry. It felt like the come-down after a great party, when everyone goes home and you're left alone surrounded by dirty dishes and spent party poppers.

My surefire and certain cure?  Boots off, slippers on, cup of tea, and Alison Krauss on the stereo....

Monday, 29 November 2010

Door to door

I just had a visit from two lads from Southern Electric. I reckon they must have been given the job of door to door visiting on a cold November day as some sort of penance for a transgression. Their hearts really weren't in it.

SE Man : Er yeah, hi, we're from Southern Electric?

Me :  Oh right, have you come to read the meter?  [then notice there's a 2nd man lad]

SE Man : Er no, er this is my colleague. We've got a list of people in your area and er, it look like, er you might not be getting the best deal at the moment?

Me :  Well, I'm with npower anyway not Southern Electric.  [nb. they still read the meter even though the bill comes from npower. Yes, confusing I know]

SE Man : Yeah, but, I dunno I've been given this list and you might not be getting the best price?

Me : I'm sorry, I don't understand. [understanding perfectly that they didn't know what they were here for]

SE Man : Yeah, no, er [points to my highlighted name on his list] apparently you might not be on the best tariff?

Me : Well I'm with npower anyway, and I'm quite happy with my tariff.

SE Man : Er, ok, no worries then.

[walks dejectedly away with his mate]

As I watched them walk away, I felt quite sorry for them.

Happy Monday!

I spent most of yesterday working on my second essay, and every time I itched to put a semi-colon I put a full stop instead. Aaaaghh it hurt!  ok deep breaths.  It's nowhere near finished and isn't due til after Christmas but it's good to have a first draft down. I also need to put in the references, and an intro and and outro which are the hardest bits not to sound waffly in!  Then the second part of the assignment is analysing statistics, so that shouldn't be too hard if I put my logical head on.

I was going to go into the office today, but had a lousy night's sleep; it must have been the glass of wine I had last night, I'm supposed to be avoiding alcohol while on DHC.  Still, when I did sleep I had 'interesting' dreams about friends discovering they had two children they didn't know about and tasked me to find them. I was expecting kiddies but they turned out to be about 18.   The night before I dreamed about riding a temperamental horse that talked, and meeting a lady who had fallen off her penny-farthing bicycle. 

Anyway, I decided to work at home, and can always use the excuse that there's a light frost this morning and our steps to the office are 'treacherous' in the winter. I chose that word carefully by the way, I want to use it before the local press do. Last winter a friend and I ran statistical analysis of the words they used to describe the conditions. I remember that 'treacherous' came out top by a mile. Though to be fair, in January we did have rain/freeze/rain/freeze which resulted in everything being covered in an inch of ice - I needed my spiky walking poles to walk to work, because it was like walking on..well.. ice.

Treacherous walk to work, Jan 2010

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Back in Southern Reality

I had an uneventful journey back to my Southern Reality.  Yes I needed the hankie quite a bit but who wouldn't when hugging and waving goodbye to their ain true love? 

I had more friendly wheelchair people to negotiate the airport for me, and left on time for what proved to be a most enjoyable flight. It was daytime and clear skies for most of the way so we had fantastic views of the lightly snow-covered landscape below us.  I took the opportunity for some photography while gazing out of the window.
Looking north east from Glasgow towards the Highlands

Just as much as I love the open countryside and the grandeur of distant mountains, I am fascinated by the  aerial views of towns and cities, with their neatly designed housing estates and road systems.

As we approached Southampton I could see that greenliness* prevailed, not a snowy patch in sight. I smiled as we flew in low over the city - I could see a lit up fairground carousel spinning and Christmas shoppers in the decorated main street, it made me feel almost festive!

Dad was there waiting for me when I arrived and although I suffered my 'passenger stress' on the 45 minute drive home, I was pleased to see the roads were clear and dry.  Maybe we will get some snow and ice in the next week or maybe not; we tend to have our own micro-climate here, maybe it's the southern sea air.

Although I miss my boys like mad, it is good to be back home. It is also rather comforting to know that if it gets snowy or icy I can just lock myself inside and not need to go out. Although, I have just ordered myself some ice spikes for my crutches ;-)

*yes, I made that up, it rhymes with 'cleanliness'.

Six Word Saturday

Flying Home to my other Reality

We woke to half an inch of snow on the ground, but still-green hills!   Checked Glasgow Airport, all scheduled flights leaving as planned.  Friend texted to say there is no snow at home.

Phew, it sounds like I will be home without too much trauma.  Except that of being dropped off by Mr H and Django at the airport, I have made sure I have my hankie in my pocket...

River Doon

Friday, 26 November 2010

In today's News

That's my News, not the stuff you get in the papers!

Firstly, I heard from Nice Policeman Phil (I imagine him in his 40s with a slightly harrassed look) that the report has been sent to the Coroner, and that it all might be done and dusted based on the report and written statements. Even if Mr H and I are not required to attend the hearing to give statements personally we will have the option to attend.  Having been dreading the thought of it, now I rather want to go in the hope of learning 'Why', and oddly also for educational reasons to see what actually happens.  It may well all be an anti-climax of course.

Secondly, I got the mark back for my first OU assignment for this year.  It was ok but not as good as I'd hoped; but then a first assignment in a new year and with a different tutor is always going to be a learning experience.  My tutor wrote a long and very useful critique and comments which was good - I've heard that some write virtually nothing.    One of the things I found out was that "psychology as a discipline generally prefers succinct and concise sentences whereas the 'Arts' subjects are probably happy with longer sentences". Hmm, I suppose I'll have to save my arty sentences and semi-colons for my blog!   Not that I'm a waffler but evidently I am by psychology standards. 

She also suggested lots of other things I could have included, but with a word count of only 1000 words I think it would have risked becoming a list of bullet points.  Still I got a good pass and it's a challenge for the 2nd assignment now.


TP 125: Sepia

I'm not sure whether this is true sepia, but it's as close as I can get!  for Thematic Photographic.

November canoeing on Loch Ard, the Trossachs, Scotland