As ever, Liz delivers.

Adventures in reading, writing and working from home

IMAG0179.jpg This is a rather special book review, and so I’m letting it stand on its own.

My partner, Matthew, had shown an interest in reading this book a while ago; he reads a lot of audio books on his 3-mile walk to and from work. I’d been eying up the book and wanting to read it for some time, but was held back by my TBR Mountain, promising myself I could pick up this hefty tome when the TBR got that little bit smaller … Then my friend Sian presented me with a copy for my birthday! Hooray! Matthew was keen on reading the book together, and our friend Linda picked up on this and was keen to join in on her Kindle, and so the great Capital Reading Project began.

How we did it: Matthew would listen to his around 2 hours’ worth during the day. Luckily, the book…

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Zumba with Buble and on being judgemental.

I have never been to a Zumba class before and noticed there was one in my local church hall. I have put off going because I was worried that I’d be the oldest and fattest and least fit, that it would be full of yummy mummy types fitting in a class while the children were at school and I would feel old. The real reason of course was I was too lazy and full of self-pity to get off my fat arse to go.

Yet I needed to inject something into my routine.  I either seem to cook, clean or post on Facebook, and occasionally blog. Also, it is cold and I can’t afford to heat the house with just me in it, so off to Zumba; ‘Wi’ Kay’ I went. Yes that is what her banner said. Which nearly put me off.

Anyway Kay is a diminutive, slim, fit Scottish lady with loads of energy and the average age of the people in the class is about 65. I was possibly the youngest there. My heart sank, then, I thought, well even I may be able to keep up with this bunch. How wrong I was.

Some of them were in their beige period, with sensible shoes. All very friendly, everyone came up to me to introduce themselves. Yet, I still thought, what have I done? I used to dance at the Pineapple Studio in Convent Garden. Has my life been reduced to dancing with grannies in a dusty church hall? I could barely give my name, yet alone maintain eye contact, I didn’t want to engage with old people. Not today.

Then they got out these.

bell 2I felt under dressed in jogging bottoms and trainers.

As we started dancing I thankfully recognised some of the steps from my ballroom dancing lessons when I was 8. I can still Cha Cha Cha you know. And some of the other moves from aerobic classes in my 30’s. And boy, my hips did ache. I couldn’t co-ordinate the arms and feet though, so I did a bit of a Michael Flatley impression with feet moving madly and arms stiff by my side. And I started counting the steps. I was used to an aerobic instructor shouting out directions, but Kay just danced and we were to follow. Everyone knew the steps and it was all rather erotic flirtatious, with hips a swaying and come zither looks. All I could think was, do they dance for their husband on a Saturday, and does he notice? Or would he rather watch Match of the Day? These grannies mean business.

Once I relaxed, it did get better. No one was watching me or judging me, I could see that the class was structured well, with a warm up, and mixed tempo like interval training, if you like. The Tango was interesting as it is a very ‘sensual’ dance and my did those ladies like a bit of sensual.

The music was an mix of upbeat flamenco, pop and Bhangra. And Micheal Buble, Save the Last Dance for Me.  I just could not equate all this with the average age of the room. Then it occurred to me, these were children of the sixties, they invented the twist and rock and roll. They were the same age as Paul McCartney and Rod Stewart.

To be honest my feelings were very mixed, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in a class with older people. Yet if it had been all young fitness freaks I would have felt worse, I know. My self-esteem and confidence has taken quite a bit of a bashing and I know that by being Active and Connecting as per the Five Ways to Wellbeing may will help improve my mental health. Being with young skinny girls in leotards may not be what I need to feel better about my body image. Who am I kidding anyway, I meet all the criteria to go on a Saga Holiday!

And you know those grannies rocked with their belly dancing scarves. They were connecting, being active, taking notice, learning and were giving. They were smiling and laughing, it was me with the long face and slumping shoulders. I was grumppy old women who would not engage.

During a break the only other young person (like my age) came up to me and asked if I had been to a Zumba class before today. She was genuinely surprised when I told her it was my first time. ‘But you have danced before?’ she asked. ‘You know all the steps and everything’. And that was all I needed to start letting go of my inner crap and start enjoying myself.

At the end the grannies  took off the scarves and wrapped up in their beige coats and went back to being a woman that maybe you would not notice in the supermarket queue. Yet for that hour they had been an exotic dancer and loving every minute of it.

I was ashamed of myself and my negative attitude and age stereotyping. Who am I to dismiss anyone, make judgement on any person? I hate it when young people only see the old woman in me and here was I, guilty as charged.

Later on that day I happened upon a conversation on twitter commenting on a discussion at #commscamp13.  I was able to contribute to that conversation and I hope,  that to an extent made amends for all the judgemental, depersonalisation I had been guilty of earlier that day.

  1. @dosticen Customers, consumers, service users, stakeholders are all terms being bandied about. Not heard citizen once

  2. @siwhitehouse @dosticen I hate ‘service user’ as used by someone talking about people living with dementia recently #commscamp13

  3. @travellingcoral I’m not surprised. It’s horrible and de-personalising (that’s a word, yeah?) #commscamp13 @dosticen

  4. @GeorgeJulian I assume you meant “What’s wrong with using the word people” & not just “what’s wrong with people” @travellingcoral@dosticen

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  1. @dosticen @siwhitehouse @travellingcoral Oops, this cld be why I’m not in comms 😉 I meant what’s wrong w the term ppl, but similarly… 😉

  2. @dosticen @siwhitehouse @GeorgeJulian people that’s the word, whether we are old, young, ill, well, why other words used?

  3. @travellingcoral @dosticen @siwhitehouse Language is chosen for a reason, is powerful stuff. Depends on level of passivity want to encourage

travellingcoral

Last weekend I went to Malvern with Phil, my husband and Jo-ann, a friend I met on Facebook. The trip had been planned before my recent bereavement and for a while I thought it may not happen. I didn’t want to do anything except mope. However, I knew that getting away from the routine of home would be the therapy I needed. After weeks of horrible cold weather that kept us huddled inside for fear of going arse over tit on the ice and all the emotional crap a change of scene is what was needed. DSCF0016

We were so lucky with the weather. For days it had been snowing which would have meant cancelling because the British cannot deal with a few centimetres of snow. The country comes to a standstill and motorways get blocked and no trash is collected. I was checking the weather forecast which promised rain, to…

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Rantings of an Amateur Chef

One of the first recipes I posted on the blog was one for a slow cooker version of Beef Burgundy. In fact, it became a very popular post as it gave my secret to ensure my slow cooker prep from the night before was not forgotten the next morning when it was time to start the cooking.

This version does it the old-fashioned way, in a big ole pot.

The flavors are so rich in this dish and served over Amish noodles, it was fantastic.

Make sure you never cook with a wine that you wouldn’t drink directly.

I used pre-cooked bacon, so this was doing just a little browning up.

I did add a little oil as the pre-cooked bacon yielded little grease.

Adding the veggies.

And the wine.

Putting the meat back in and the spices.

Finally the mushrooms.

Looking good!

So tasty. The meat melted in my…

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Three go to the Flea and other adventures

Last weekend I went to Malvern with Phil, my husband and Jo-ann, a friend I met on Facebook. The trip had been planned before my recent bereavement and for a while I thought it may not happen. I didn’t want to do anything except mope. However, I knew that getting away from the routine of home would be the therapy I needed. After weeks of horrible cold weather that kept us huddled inside for fear of going arse over tit on the ice and all the emotional crap a change of scene is what was needed. DSCF0016

We were so lucky with the weather. For days it had been snowing which would have meant cancelling because the British cannot deal with a few centimetres of snow. The country comes to a standstill and motorways get blocked and no trash is collected. I was checking the weather forecast which promised rain, to wash away the snow and clear blue skies all weekend. I looked out of the window and there was a blizzard blowing. But for once the forecasters got it right and to Malvern in the sun we went.

The main reason for going was for the massive flea market that is held at the Three Counties Showground. Both Jo-ann and I love old china and vintage stuff and Phil also likes a rummage for a bargain. Plus a bonus was a visit to Carnival Records for a serious vinyl fix.Benidorm

With so much to see and do we decided to make a weekend of it and booked into a B&B. This would give us time to trawl the shops in Ledbury and Malvern, have lunch at an indie cafe and we would not have to get up at stupid o’clock for the flea market.DSCN3830

We stayed at Marl Cottage, run by a friendly, helpful if talkative couple who are mad about wildlife. So much so, they have installed a camera to film the badgers in the garden at night and live stream this to the guest bedrooms. I say garden, it is more of a mini country estate with its own lake, bee hives and so many birds encouraged by the numerous feeders. To say it is peaceful is an understatement. Somewhere that is spotlessly clean with a good breakfast is all you need from a B&B. Badger cam is the bonus for insomniacs like me.DSCN3862

We were spoilt for choice for our evening meal, with a number of good pubs within a mile or so and a Thai restaurant in the village.  We chose The Chase as it had good reviews and sold proper beer, aka Real Ale. We tucked into slow cooked blade of beef and while Jo-ann and Phil supped Bathams I, as the designated driver, had a sip of beer, then soft drinks, which always seems a shame in a proper pub. But there you go, I had a bottle of Italian chardonnay, bought earlier in Ledbury, stashed in the fridge, for a tipple during Badger Watch.

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Ledbury is very county and people were shopping having just come back from a hack, or maybe they always wore jodpurs and riding boots to shop. Lots of lovely shops with clothes I can neither afford nor need and lots of quirky independents, who were so welcoming. All greeted you when you entered with a friendly hello and no trace of the false Have a Nice Day/what can I sell you and if you aren’t buying go away now attitude I experience all too frequently. There were no bored sales assistants picking their fingers or worse their nose. No, these people were genuinely happy to have you in their shop. And the place was buzzing.DSCN3836

Carnival Records was also very busy, one guy was filming there and if you look carefully you will spot us all browsing the music. He was just so thrilled that the shop is so busy he goes into help for the love not for money. And was truly getting very excited about Record Store Day. The enthusiasm and the knowledge of the people who are there just make you want to go back and spend your money.DSCN3846

The flea market was heaving and there were hundreds of stalls. Too much Poole Pottery and too expensive for my liking and I got fed up of ‘the best price’ when asking how much stuff was, yet it was interesting to see what people will buy. I will reassess all my now apparently vintage Tupperware and the dinner service I use every day. As someone who wants to downsize, declutter and  travel more, my house is full of mostly what was on sale at the market, which means I am either right on trend or I have the crap no one else wants…. DSCF2027

As they say, one man’s trash is another mans treasure. This basket however, will be treasured for a long while. Wish it was mine….

basket

On the way home we broke the journey to have tea at a Barnett Hill Garden Centre. Again this place was heaving. The cafe was busy with families tucking into giant portions of ham ploughmans, chips, ice cream and cake.  There was a childrens entertainer and facepainter and the store sold everything from Joseph to Joules. I never even got to see any plants!

And I pondered about the so-called death of the high street and how online shopping was killing traditional retail and why some traders seem to thrive like this place was and others are not faring so well. The phrases ‘Broke Britain’ or ‘austerity cuts’ is not one I could use to describe any of the places we had visited. I accept that the Shire counties are more affluent than Sandwell, yet it was not just locals shopping in Ledbury and Malvern. People will travel to enjoy a positive retail experience and to get things they can’t get where they live.

The garden centre was a day out with granny and the kids. It had something for all ages and income. It was the first sunny Sunday in a month of Sundays, spring seemed tangible and thoughts of gardens and planting and BBQ’s may have had something to do with it, but Barnett Hill have got it right. They are not just a garden centre. They offer a day out for the whole family.

So what can struggling retailers learn from Ledbury and Barnett Hill? why is Carnival Records buzzing yet HMV are in administration? What do they do that is different? My local high street doesn’t even have a proper green grocer yet the council are delighted that 35 jobs will be created by Iceland moving into a local shopping centre. A shop that sells poor quality food to families living below the line. That puts profit before people. If just some of  the empty shops on my high street were independent bakers and green grocers, selling local goods made by local people, more than 35 jobs could be created and the money would stay in the local economy. And that makes me sad. Because I really think, my high street is dead.

Interesting reflection just how much of “you” was based more on geographic location than anything else

What the Asparamanser said

My daughter was a guest at a Hen weekend recently where they were all asked to bring stories about dating disasters. The bride to be was to guess the person the story was about. My daughter story began with the words ‘I was at my mom’s Christmas Party’ and the bride immediately shouted out my daughters name. It seems that amongst my daughters friends my house parties were legendary.

Now one could think, how cool that your daughter and her friends enjoy your parties. I would like to think that too.

130So I will tell you another story. When I was on the Whit Tour with the Jockey Men’s Morris in May 2011 I had my asparagus read at The Fleece Inn. For this you are given a bunch of asparagus and drop them randomly on the table. One stalk slipped out of my hands before I dropped the bunch and I got a knowing look (more of that in a moment). This Asparamanser told me two things. One was to get all my affairs in order as I needed to make sure all the plans were in place for a long journey. This was a bit uncanny, as I was, as readers of this blog know, going to be embarking on the round the world trip in October 2011. I had only just that week announced to my work place of my intention to take redundancy in order to travel. Nothing was booked.  A  few close friends knew I planned to travel. The asparagus reader could not have known that. Then she came back to the asparagus that had got away. This indicated, apparently that sometimes after a drink or two I may be a bit loose with my words and say things I may regret, and I needed to be mindful of that.  On the coach after lunch we all shared what the asparagus reader had told us. When I mentioned  the bit about the loose tongue at parties, all my friends burst out laughing.

So I have appear to have a reputation of giving and enjoying parties. Which is fine. Except that my parties include lots of wine. And beer. Well I have friends who are Morris men so naturally there is beer. All in the safety of my own home. Well sometimes in other peoples houses. And always lots of lovely home cooked food and samosas and music and people enjoy themselves. They must do because they keep coming back.

We scaled back on parties this year, we were recovering travellers and had lost the house party mojo. There was no decent weather for a BBQ and now no young kids around to want a firework party. At Christmas we held a poker party and a vinyl night. Close friends and family who played poker, listened to vinyl,enjoyed shared food and well yes some New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, craft beer and organic cider.

IMG_7232Our round the world trip was on reflection a journey to new world wine growing regions. Paso Robles California (they keep the best); Marlborough, New Zealand and the Hunter Valley and Margaret River in Australia.  We enjoyed our wine responsibly, most of the time. We also discovered the delights of a Sunday sesh in Melbourne (thanks to What’s Dave Doing) at Riverland Bar and a post, cooling drink, after a very warm day trip to Williamstown relaxing with craft beers, food and ChloeIMG_5541This is the view from our seat in Chloe’ s Room overlooking Federation Square and the Christmas Tram.

And this is the lovely food we enjoyed.IMG_5533

In SE Asia we drank beer, as it was cheap and we were hot. In the last 11 days of travelling I lost about 12 pounds in weight, due to a combination of beautiful healthy freshly prepared food, the heat, and no wine. We did save a lot of babies but that is another story. I had already lost about the same amount of weight in Fiji for the same reasons, despite spending most of the day sleeping in a hammock.  I was slimmer and healthier than I had been for years when I returned home.

Back in the UK I soon slipped back into bad habits.  At first, because we were broke and had no jobs, and had enjoyed the cleansing diet in SE Asia,  we ate healthily and drank occasionally. A year later, and the bad habits had crept back into our lifestyles. I had the ill health of my mom to contend with, unemployment, and lots of other stuff that is life. I put on weight. I decided to start running to combat the weight and my low mood, then got ill so had to stop.

And now it is almost Lent. Traditionally people give up things. Some people give up chocolate or wine. And some people take something up for Lent. A food bank charity has suggested that people donate what they save at Lent to them. One year I read of a family who lived on the minimum wage during Lent. They wanted their children to be able to reflect on how privileged they were, so had to forgo cinema visits and ballet lessons. They didn’t eat out and cut back on grocery bills. And donated what they saved to some charity. what a good idea, I thought. Then I read  ‘this excludes our mortgage payment’ and that made me very angry indeed. The smugness of living a comfortable life and let’s pretend to be like poor people mentality infuriated me. I have lived on Income support and know what is like to have only a pound in my pocket to feed a family of four. And that same smugness creeps into Live Below the Line, which is why I blogged about that too.

However, it has made me think, could I, should I give up wine for Lent?

Oh and I have just read this blog about the Asparamanser so there seems there is a pattern in her predictions……

Like Verity, I admire those who chose to live differently, but this lifestyle would not be for me, either.

Am I still travellingcoral?

I have spent the past few months sharing my photos from the round the world trip I took with my husband last year. In a few days we will have been back in the UK for a year. Which is why I sometimes wonder that to call this blog travellingcoral and to use that as my twitter name is wrong somehow.

Yet in my head, I am still travelling. I have written before that I still can’t get used to having actual wardrobes and live in nearly the same clothes I wore on the trip, I expected that to last a few weeks, but it has lasted 52 weeks. IMG_1322

I didn’t leave my heart in San Francisco. I left my soul in nearly every place we visited. I ache to be back in New Zealand, to spend more time in Bay of Islands and the Coromandel Peninsular, to visit friends in Wellington and see more of the South Island. And I wished we had gone to Yosemite when we were in California, spent more time in Santa Cruz and stayed longer at Pismo Beach.

We spent nearly two months in Australia yet only scratched the surface. Even though the cost of everything is migraine inducing and I have no idea where one buys underwear (no Marks and Spencers) I’d go back in a heartbeat. Melbourne got under my skin and I miss it so much.They have free BBQ‘s in public places, and trams, and seating like this.

IMG_5187IMG_5888

I follow some brilliant travel bloggers and when I read about what they are up to and places they have visited my heart literally aches. Yet these same bloggers were wonderfully helpful when planning the trip and continue to inspire future travelling plans. Thanks particular to these guys: http://whatsdavedoing.com/ http://www.ytravelblog.com/ and also look at this if you are even remotely interested in travelling http://nomadicsamuel.com/top100travelblogs

In a previous blog, https://travellingcoral.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/go-now-while-you-can/ I mentioned how Mom had encouraged Phil and me to take this trip. And now she has gone my one big tie to my adopted hometown has gone too. Ok I still have a house and a son and a husband here, but other than that….. well I don’t have a job, the kids are in their 20’s and I don’t really want to live here any more. And now one of my new friends is moving back to Sydney which will mean I will have nearly as many close friends in the Southern Hemisphere as I have in the UK.

My memories of SE Asia weren’t my fondest. We were travelling with G Adventures and of course in a group you can always expect there to be tension occasionally. I think this group was unique in that one individual managed to alienate everyone in the group within 24 hours. All of us tried to get along with her, some with more success than others. As we often had to travel for 5 hours plus on mini buses, it did become a sometimes comical but always a tactical manoeuvre to avoid being in the same bus this person was in.DSCN0313 If this sounds cruel, I am sorry, yet it is true. All of us on that trip would have had a better experience if this person had not been there.DSCN0282

We developed a penchant for singing Hollywood Musicals very loudly and discovered new versions of Doe a Deer (linked to beer and Saving Babies) and she was always offered the seat at the front with the driver. The tour guide sacrificed his single room and shared with a traveller so that no one else had to share a room with a person who despite having the biggest bag didn’t seem to wash or change clothes.The suitcase was full of food she had brought from Canada and she was still eating it 11 days later.

Pong, our wonderful guide in an effort to calm her, and give us respite,encouraged her listen to Buddhist Chanting. Can you imagine sharing a cable car with her? This is the impact it had on one of us.DSCN0741

Yet looking back at the photo of that trip with G Adventures brings back good memories, especially with Sean, Kelly, Jojo and Gemma. The hours we spent looking for this eh Sean!DSCN0442And I got to eat wonderful food, took part in karaoke (what happens in Krabi, stays in Krabi) and saved lots of babies and enjoy views like this.DSCN0853

So am I still travelling? While not having left the UK in the past 12 months Phil and I have had a number of mini breaks. Hay and Brecon for the food, scenery and the books; Winchester for the markets; London for the theatre, The Tate and London Calling to see Paul Simon in Hyde Park (all London visits are due to the generosity of my wonderful daughter and her partner). I am off to Malvern to visit the flea market and Carnival Records and browse the vinyl with my new friends and Holly the Australian Cattle dog who I met via Facebook (the friends not the dog, obviously). And drink tea and eat lots of cake probably.

And yes I am still travellingcoral. Travelling isn’t about visiting places and taking photos. It is is about how what happens and who you meet shape your life. The people I met on my trip are the lasting memories, strangers who became friends.The new friends in the UK, my mom’s illness and now her passing have and will continue to shape who I am. And may it never stop.

Like Liz, once I have read one Austen I feel inclined to re read them all. Looking forward to going back to my shared Reading Group and listening to Persuasion being read aloud.

Adventures in reading, writing and working from home

Jan 2013 month of rereadingThe month of re-reading is over (well over, sorry!) and it’s time to review those last reads and to have a think about how it’s gone this time.

Jane Austen – “Persuasion”

(1980s)

I was slightly dreading reading this one, as I was leaning towards the more familiar “Pride and Prejudice”, which was celebrating its 200th anniversary in January, too, and it is one of the two Austens I know least well. But it’s not a hard read, and it’s a short one (my normal length volume fooled me by including the memoir of JA by her nephew in the same edition) and very absorbing. As usual, Austen does her timeless thing so well, with her portrayal of ex-lovers meeting, or rather being thrown into one another’s company, years later, having to cope, matchmaking their friends, etc. – situations that can easily be described emotionally in exactly the same way…

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