Sunday, 30 March 2014


John Harle describes mediocrity as a great option. It might not be great, but it's not bad either.  What are you mediocre at?

This is the first of my 50 topics to blog about and I've been mulling it over for a while.  I find it really hard to say things I'm mediocre at.  And yet surely it's in the very nature of the British to be mediocre?  Who wants to admit they're bad at things? And who would want to be so big headed as to say they're good at something?  But then again, to say you're mediocre would mean saying you're not good.

I used to be a care assistant.  I was pretty mediocre at that.  I didn't have the natural kindly bluster which I saw in some rare souls, which helped people feel safe, and at least a little bit listened to.  I made mistakes.  But I wasn't cruel, I did recognise the humanity of the people I was working with.

Washing up - very dull, unless you've got a
helper to chat with.
But what am I mediocre at in my life now?  I'm tempted to say housework.  I do enough so I'm not embarrassed by the grime when people come around, but I'm not a natural picker-upper.  My husband grumbles from time to time about the state of the place.  He's not having a go, he just has higher standards than me, and less time at home.  Whenever he does have a grumble about it though, I feel like he's having a go at me, and I have to remind myself that housework is not solely my responsibility, and that our house is just fine.

Because do you know what?  I'd rather be mediocre at housework than good at it.  I don't want to be a person who hoovers their stairs daily, or who cleans out the oven after it's been used.  I would rather be writing, or playing, or enjoying the sunshine (hear that, weather?), than cleaning.

One of my friends said that no-one lies on their death-bed wishing they'd done more cleaning.  I've been in some houses where I suspect she's wrong, where a bit of cleaning might keep folk off their death-bed a little longer.  But I think she's right most of the time.  Dusting can wait.  Let's build a den.

This post is part of a series of 50 I'm doing. I'd love to see your take on one of the titles.  Find the full list here.

The book challenge
Words at 1/4/14 - 69,748..
17,095 words done since the challenge began, 9717 last month, and 1461 today!
Where I'm at in First Draft - Chapter 13.
What I did last - a scene with the heroine and hero, leaving a friend's house.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

visiting the garden of cosmic speculation

All pictures taken at the Garden of
Cosmic Speculation by me.
I'm not convinced on the name to be honest, but if there is any way you can get to this garden just North of Dumfries for the afternoon of Sunday 4th May (which is the only afternoon it will be open this year) do yourself a favour, and go.  It's about £6 to get in, and the money goes to a good cause.

I've given you a flavour with some of the photos I've taken, but I'm sure you can do better.  There are lots of great pictures of it on the Charles Jencks site here.

The garden is huge, covering 30 acres, and has lots of different areas.  For one afternoon only you can roam at will, set up your picnic blankets and enjoy your picnic in beautiful surroundings.

It's busy, but I've always rather liked that.  Land structures like the one pictured here actually look pretty good with lots of people on.

If this all looks rather familiar you may well have seen some of Charles Jencks work before.  Like the Landform Ueda which used to be outside the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, or Northumberlandia near Newcastle, or What is Life?  at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin.  Jencks brings his interest in science, and medicine, into the garden.  The landforms are marvellous, but so are the more natural spaces, and there are many and more beautiful plants.

Have you been yet?  Or seen any of Jencks' other works?  Will you be going this year?

The garden is open nearly every year on the first Sunday of May.  Some years are better than others, which is generally down to the weather.  The pictures below are from the first time we went.  When it was sunny!

This is one of my favourite photos ever.  I got another one of this tree the following year, but the weather wasn't as kind, and there were no leaves.  Hopefully spring this year will be kinder.
Other posts you might like:

The book challenge
Words at 27/3/14 - 67,552 (that is about 2/3 of the way there! Maybe.)
14,899 words done since the challenge began, and 8982 so far this month.
Where I'm at in First Draft - start of Chapter 13.
What I did last - a scene with the heroine and the hero.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

happy for 100 days: days 11 to 20

Ever since I started this challenge I've had Pharrell William's Happy running through my head.

The video features lots of dance walking, which is a thing right now. Honestly, Google it.

So now whenever I think of the word 'happy' I envisage our choir singing an a cappella version of Happy while dance walking along the front at Largs. Do you think I should suggest it?

I'm enjoying finding the happy moments every day. It's making some days shine a little brighter, and on harder days it's good to find a reason to be happy. Even if it's not a big reason, it's a tiny little sparkle right there.

If you fancy taking part in #100happydays you can find out more here.

What's been making you happy lately?

On day 11 I was very glum, but my littlest gave me a happy moment by offering to share her biscuit to cheer me up. I'm a very lucky mummy, but I didn't take it.
Day 12 saw the performance of Rose's play at my writing group. It was great fun.
Day 13. Having got a new type of pain to go with the other one my doctor sent me to the dentist. He removed a troublesome tooth with minimal stress and made me a lot happi.
Day 14. Tried feeding the children something different and got the thumbs up! Result!
The children all snuggle in with me for a bit before breakfast in the morning. It makes me happy. Day 15
Day 16 was another low day, but I did take a moment to appreciate all the stuff my husband does for us, like lifting the dolls house he painted up into the loft he floored. He's also smart, funny and fab. I'm very lucky.
Day 17 was our 10 th wedding anniversary. We're celebrating later in the year, but still had a happy day.
Day 18. I've been trying to say 'yes' more this year, so I signed the family up to run a mile for sport relief. It was a gorgeous day, and we did run a little bit, but this young lady stayed with me the whole way, encouraging me, and making the experience better. I love hanging out with her, she's what a best friend should be, and I'm so lucky to be her mum. Oh, and we did it! 
Day 19 was the day I finally admitted it was spring. So happy to see the back of winter.
On day 20 I hadn't realised how stressed I was about the possible causes of the pain until I felt the relief after my appointment.  I've been diagnosed with an atypical neuralgia, and while it might happen again it should be easier treated if it does, and there's nothing scary going on, so lots to be happy about.
What's the take home message here? Seems to me there's one thing uniting all these pics. They're the square snaps of Instagram. I'm getting to love it. If you're on Instagram you can find me there at ohwedo.

Other posts you might like:

The book challenge
Words at 27/3/14 - 67,552 (that is about 2/3 of the way there! Maybe.)
14,899 words done since the challenge began, and 8982 so far this month.
Where I'm at in First Draft - start of Chapter 13.
What I did last - a scene with the heroine and the hero.


Hello all, 

Have you come across the work of Nicholas Epley?  He's a behavioural scientist at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business.  

He was on the Freakonomics podcast the other day, talking about his work.  You'll find it here.  He was explaining an experiment he did.  Students were recruited to take part in the study, and when they turned up they'd be given a Barry Manilo T-shirt, asked to put it on, and then taken through to a room where around ten people were doing other things, where they were given a pen and a form, and asked to fill the form in quickly as they were a bit late.  They were then left to fill out the form.

A few minutes later, the researcher came to get the student, saying that it's actually too late, and so take them back again.  

At this point, the student would be asked what proportion of people in the room noticed that they were wearing a Barry Manilow T-shirt.  The students, who were embarrassed to be wearing the T shirt, thought that about half the people in the room had noticed.

In actual fact, the researchers checked, and hardly anyone in the room noticed that the student was wearing a Barry Manilow T-shirt.

Which goes to show that whatever you wear, it's your opinion that matters.  According to Prof Epley, it also shows that because we think of ourselves first, naturally, we tend to think that others are thinking of us too, and this is just not true for the most part.

It reminded me of a time when I was in Camden, London, with a boyfriend.  I was browsing in the market while he ran an errand...

Now it turned out that the errand was going to stand outside a police station and smoke a joint.  Strangely enough he was taken into the police station to receive a caution.  Inside, he told the police that I was waiting for him, somewhere in Camden Market.  The police promised to send someone to find me, and tell me what was going on, and asked him to describe me.  They also asked if I was distinctive.

I had been going out with this bloke for a year, and we lived together, but when he described me to the police, he got every item of my clothing wrong, and he told the police I had black hair, when it was in fact, purple.  He did say though that I was distinctive.

Policemen are well used to looking for people based on descriptions, which although the people giving them believe them to be true, are actually way off, so when the policeman saw me in Camden Market, he made a bee-line to me, and explained the situation.  I was very impressed (with the policeman, not with the boyfriend).

Do you think you would have noticed the Barry Manilow T-shirt?  And, could you describe your other-half right now? I'm thinking that you'd have trouble with the clothes, but you'd get the hair right.  What do you think?

Other posts you might like:

The book challenge
Words at 26/3/14 - 66,354.
6008 words written so far in this chapter.
Where I'm at in First Draft - middle of Chapter 12.
What I did last - a scene with my heroine and her mother.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

hanging out washing

My neighbours flowers.  They are
constantly putting us to shame.  We are
very lucky (we definitely win for views).
We've seen a little bit of sunshine in recent days, and other people's flowers are looking fabulous.Which reminds me - I really need to plant some bulbs.  When's the best time to do that?

Heavy snowfall killed all the spring flowers last year, and for two years before that, but March 22nd last year was a doozy.  I had a good moan about it here.  So I wasn't quite willing to call Spring until we'd passed that date and seen some spring flowers survive.  

So I'm calling it now.  The grass is growing, bugs are surfacing, and loads of birds are enjoying an early feast.  The neighbours flowers are doing very well, and we have seen some sun.

It's going to be a while though before the ground gives up the mud.  To have had a winter of almost continual rain has been hard going, and mud is everywhere.  I saw some people had got clothes out on the lines, and I considered putting my whirligig back up, but to be honest, I'm not yet willing to trudge up the slope in the mud to get it up.  I'm justifying this with the thought that it's just too cold for clothes to be able to dry on the line yet anyway.  Obviously others don't share this opinion, so I had a look into the science of line drying.  I'm going to share what I learned (although it's pretty obvious), but I'd really appreciate your opinion.

The three things which you've got to think about when it comes to line drying are:
   -  temperature
   -  breeziness
   -  humidity

The ideal day is hot and dry with a nice breeze.  In that sort of weather even jeans can dry in the time it takes to do another load in the washing machine.

Apparently, if it's dry and breezy but really cold, your clothes will still dry.  But it will take a lot longer.

Similarly, some people get a cover for their drying lines so they can put clothes out in the rain.  The trouble with this is that you're reducing breeziness, and even if it isn't raining directly on to the clothes there is a lot of moisture in the air, so it will take a lot longer to dry.  If it's just a passing shower this is not much of an issue, but if it's raining all day, you might be better off inside.

The other point of the triangle is breeze.  If it's a hot dry day, with no breeze, I guess your washing might take longer to dry, but I would be unlikely to notice, because I would not feel like slogging around with laundry!  On the other hand, if it's too windy you may find yourself going around to a neighbour's to retrieve your smalls, which is never fun.

But I'm still not clear on when is warm enough for line drying to work fast enough that my clothes won't be out there all day.  In America they use the same rule as for when you can wear white shoes (?!) ie. between Memorial Day and Labour Day (last Monday of May to the first Monday of September).  But I guess there's some wiggle room according to weather variations.

What guidelines do you use?

In researching this I came across a Wiki-How on how to dry your clothes outside.  You'll find it here.  It's a bit of an odd one.  I'm going to paste step 8 on how to put clothes on the line here, because reading it gave me a glow of superiority.  My mother taught me well (not my father - he used the dryer at the laundromat), I hang up everything 'correctly' (apart from sheets, but my sheets are too big to do as described here).  My husband is more of a 'throw it at the line and use some pegs to hold it there' type.  What about you?

8  Pin up the clothes. Hang the clothes on the line so that they don't slip and then put the pin on. It is usual to turn the clothes over the line to a length of about 2.95–3.9 inches, 7.5–10cm to ensure that the clothes won't come off but hang heavier pieces about one third to a half way over the line to prevent them falling off.[13] Err on the side of turning over more of the clothing on windier days, to provide more grip. To prevent clothes pin imprints on clothing, try to pin the clothes in discreet locations. If you hang clothes with care, line drying can often result in clothing that dries without wrinkles, saving on ironing time.[14] Here are some specific tips for hanging different types of clothing:
  • Hang t-shirts by folding the hem a little over the line and pinning on at each end.
  • Hang shorts and pants/trousers by the waistband on the line if you want to minimize wrinkles.[15]
  • Hang dresses from the shoulders if straight, from the hem if it has a full or gathered skirt, or from hangers if possible (hangers mean less wrinkles).[16]
  • Hang straight skirts by turning over the waistband and pin each side; hang gathered or full skirts by the hem.[17]
  • Hang socks by the toes, bras by the hook end, and fold the waistband of underpants over the line and pin either side onto the line. Fold handkerchiefs in half over the line and pin at each end.[18]
  • Hang towels by folding them over the line one end and pinning each end. To help achieve a softer dry, shake towels a lot before hanging them on the line, with a "snap". Doing this loosens the pile. Do it again when removing them from the line.[19]
  • Hang sheets by folding hem to hem, pinning one hem over the line, then pinning the other hem to the corners of the first hem, just a few inches/centimeters inside the first hem corners. Have the sheet open toward the wind, to allow it to billow like a sail, and run your hands down the edges to ensure it is hanging square and even.[20]
  • Widthwise is best for hanging items such as sheets, tablecloths, and flatwork because it takes up less space on the line and puts the stress on the warp yarns (the yarns that run lengthwise), which are stronger than the filling yarns.[21]
  • Hang blankets and other heavy items across two lines, or more, as needed.
  • When hanging 100 percent cotton items, don't pull wet clothing and pin as this may cause items to widen.
  • To conserve on clothespins, overlap garments and use one pin to hang the end of one piece of clothing and the beginning of the next. This can be space-saving on the line as well, although don't do it where the overlapping would prevent drying on thick items. And be careful that dyes are not likely to bleed!
  • If you run out of room when hanging up whites, you can pin up two pairs of underwear with the same clothespins so that they are doubled.
  • Take care not to let clothes or other items drag on the ground. Double check while hanging that all clothes and fabric is pinned up far enough from the ground.
Taken from WikiHow here

I love a bit of crazily specific instruction, me.

Anyway, I'd really be interested on your thoughts on this matter.  Let me know.

Other posts you might be interested in (which all include the word 'laundry' in them somewhere) are:

The book challenge
Words at 13/3/14 - 60,945 (can't update while computer being fixed - but it's been fixed, and I should get it back today!).
4838 words written so far in this chapter.
Where I'm at in First Draft - middle of Chapter 12.
What I did last - a scene with my heroine and a client.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

getting free prescriptions

The great British Labour party politician, Aneurin (Nye) Bevan, unveiled the National Health Service at Trafford General Hospital in Manchester (then called Park Hospital) on 5th July 1948.  One of its core principles was that it would be free at the point of use.  When he unveiled the plans, Bevan declared: "We now have the moral leadership of the world".

He was clearly pretty chuffed with it, and I can understand why.  The NHS was just one of several things that the Government of the day were trying to do to improve the lot of ordinary people.  The change was dramatic.

However, running the NHS for free was expensive - the government wasn't willing to make the necessary taxation decisions to fund it, not wishing to give with one hand and take with the other, so charges were being suggested as early as 1951, which led to Bevan's resignation, and a split in the Labour party.  Charges weren't brought in until 1952, after a Tory government had come to power.  

The first charges were 1 shilling for prescriptions, and £1 for dental treatment.

Prescription charges were again abolished in 1965, but reintroduced in 1968 (both decisions made under Labour).  The new prescription charge was 2 shillings and sixpence, and several exemptions were put into place.

Scotland re-introduced free prescriptions in 2011, behind Wales, who bit the bullet in 2007.  England is now the only part of Britain still charging sick people for prescriptions.  The current fee is £7.85 per item.  There are lots of exemptions, which mean that only around 10% of prescriptions are paid for, but there are still people not taking things which they should.

The British Medical Association have argued that the exemptions in place in England are illogical, and unfair, and it has called for all prescriptions to be free.

Lots of medicines are very expensive, but £7.85 doesn't cover that.  Governments should be working with drug companies to bring those costs down.  

The first few months of this year have reminded me how glad I am to be living in Scotland, and getting free prescriptions.  I have been on lots of different medicines, trying to find a way to cope with the pain issues I've been having.  Sometimes I've had new medications on a daily basis.  If I'd been in England I would not have been exempt, and my illness would have cost my family almost £100 so far this year.  That is just adding insult to injury.

When the Scottish Parliament brought free prescriptions back in 2011, the SNP, Labour, and the Green Party were all very much for it.  The Liberal Democrats supported it, but kept one foot on the fence, naturally.  The Tories on the other hand called the move "politically irresponsible," and let's face it, they'd know.  

And breathe...

So what do you think?  Would England be better off with free prescriptions?  Can we fix the NHS and keep it working?  Or should we turn it into Medicare and all go to BUPA instead?

Other posts you might like:

The book challenge
Words at 13/3/14 - 60,945 (can't update while computer being fixed).
4838 words written so far in this chapter.
Where I'm at in First Draft - middle of Chapter 12.
What I did last - a scene with my heroine and a client.

Thursday, 20 March 2014


Medical technology these days is awesome.  

There, that's me done.

Not really. 

We are getting some really good prosthetic limbs for when people lose them, through illness, accident, or through conflict.  There are special legs for running, arms which people can control with their thoughts, and lots of other good stuff going on.  The mind boggles at what will be available in years to come.

But you know when someone needs to use one of those things which talks for them?  They nearly all sound like Stephen Hawking.  That's fine, if Stephen Hawking is someone you can identify with, but what if you're a little girl?  What if your family all have strong Birmingham accents?

Well Prof Rupal Patel and Dr Tim Bunnell are working under the name Vocal ID to change that.  They use whatever bits of voice a person has, and also use voice donations to make voices for people that actually fit with the person.  Prof Patel has given a talk on it:

Prof Patel is based in America, and this work started out in America, but it's spreading, and Vocal ID is looking for voice donations, as well as people who can provide technical and business expertise.

Donating your voice involves recording yourself saying set things.  It takes about two to three hours to donate your voice, and you can sign up to say you're interested here.

The book challenge
Words at 13/3/14 - 60,945 (can't update while computer being fixed).
4838 words written so far in this chapter.
Where I'm at in First Draft - middle of Chapter 12.
What I did last - a scene with my heroine and a client.