Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Present

I have had a tumultuous few days - a close friend was suddently taken critically ill and I have spent the last four days (hence no posts) either sitting with his wife by his bedside, or travelling to and from the hospital.  This friend is a larger than life character in every way; to see him reduced to a still form packed with tubes is a hard thing to witness.  I have been pondering on how lives can change in literally a second and how we never know what is around the corner.  The last few days has been a stark reminder that we must appreciate and live for the moment.  It's a bit of a catchphrase at the moment I know, but true nevertheless.  A truth to ponder...

'Yesterday is a memory, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift, which is why it is called the present'.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I've always been a reader, pretty much since I discovered Enid Blyton.  It helped that all my family were voracious readers and writers themselves and our house was filled with books.  It was not uncommon for my entire family to be sitting round the breakfast table each of us reading our own books (for my Dad it was the newspaper).  These early habits continued throughout my teenage years, into University and my choice of degree and into my job in publishing.  I love the way a good piece of writing can take me away from the here and now into a different place.  In my current job it's a constant refrain of affection in the staffroom "don't talk to Sarah when she's reading".  Over the years I have accumulated hundreds and hundreds of books - I do tend to hoard them it's true.  Every time I've moved I've sold huge amounts to second hand shops, keeping the prized ones, and then begun over again.  My current house has a landing that is filled floor to ceiling with books. One day they will all come crashing down as I attempt to wrestle one out from near the bottom of the pile.  And then, then, Amazon came to my rescue with the Kindle.  I'd watched various e-readers being reviewed and was intrigued by them, but loved the physical feel of books so much, their smell, the satisfying whoosh of pages being turned, that my curiosity stayed put.  Last Christmas desperately trying to give someone an idea for my Christmas present I suggested a Kindle.  Which I got.  Which I love.  Not more than books, but for the sheer speed of access to all these titles.  For me it's akin to setting a child loose in a sweet shop and saying you can have anything you like.  60 seconds or less and there's my novel, poetry book, whatever my choice is without even leaving the comfort of my bed.  True indulgence.  I currently have 70 books on my Kindle and it's come into its own on holidays when I take one kindle not 8 novels.  I do however still buy the 'real' thing, especially books that need to be looked at and appreciated in paper form, but for the time being the landing has been saved from collapsing into the living room, and that can only be a good thing!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Going Out

I'm a feast or famine type of gal!  By that I mean, an all or nothing, rarely anything in between.  So when I'm working - that's it, I work, hard, a lot and I'm not very good at that life-balance thing where you work AND play. I'm not a great advert for work/life balance, I realise that!  So, during term-time I don't tend to go out much, especially during the week; in fact my non-teaching friends now don't even bother to ask.  However, come the holidays I need to make up for lost time and catch up on the world around me whether it be catching up with friends and long boozy lunches, seeing a few films that I didn't catch first time round, mooching round a museum or a trip to the theatre.  Here are some of the things currently on my holiday 'to do' list:

Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement at the R.A. I love Degas, especially his sculptures of ballet dancers.  He totally captures their fluidity and grace and this exhibition features sculpture, paintings and pastels.

A Walk On Part Soho Theatre (Nov/December) written by my Uncle, Michael Chaplin, this play debuted at Live Theatre, Newcastle and is coming to London very shortly. Based on the witty and contemporary diaries of MP Chris Mullins it charts the decade of demise of New Labour.  I've booked ringside seats for the opening night and I'm really looking forward to it - a sort of day-late birthday present!

West Norwood Feast  I've been dying to visit this event since I read about it here.  Feast is a monthly Sunday market that brings together a diverse range of skills and entrepreneurial talents.  Run by the local community and volunteers it promises vintage clothes, homemade cakes/food, fresh produce, delicious street food and also a 'stall' I've been dying to find called Letter Lounge.  I'm a great advocate of the written word and I mourn the loss of the simple letter or card.  Whilst I'm as guilty as the next person for using email and text I do love to sit down and pen a handwritten note or card, and when I receive one it makes my day (See this).  You never know, that quiet thump as the envelope hits your mat, may be a letter from me!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Getting Away

I'm always up for a weekend by the sea and this past weekend was no exception.  As I didn't have the car I decided to get the train.  Did it take the strain? Oh No!  It added to it, as I waited for over an hour at Clapham Junction for South West Trains to sort out a signalling problem.  Then the train was freezing cold as they had the air con on full blast - fridge mode!  Anyway, although it was an inauspicious start, my mood improved once I got on the foot ferry to Cowes and we began to skim over the waves.  The sun was high, the sky blue, yachts dipping and swaying through our wash.  I stayed here and it was as welcoming as I remembered it.  I slept and read and watched the boats.  Then I ate and drank (too much!) and poured myself into bed, falling asleep to the sound of the waves on the shoreline only a few feet away.  Bliss.On Sunday we walked a deserted stretch of beach on the West of the Island;  it felt quite desolate, the Atlantic waves were strong and brutal, crashing down on the shingle beach. So, here are some pics for those of you that didn't make it to the seaside this weekend - dream away...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Feeling Fruity!

Sometimes it's enough just to have some mouthwatering photos...groups of the same thing always look more enticing and closeups reveal beauty and symmetry in even the most mundane things.  Knobbly carrots, crispy apples, the lace-like contours of a cabbage all seem to rise above their lowly status when seen like this...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Childhood Favourites

I've been thinking about doing this posting for months - originally it was going to be my top-ten influential books.  Books that changed the way I viewed life and even in some cases steered my life down a completely different path; however, when I began to make a list it just grew and grew so I've decided to split it into two.  Here is my first list: Books that I loved as a child and that I still remember with a great deal of affection and have even gone back and re-read as an adult...
For some inexplicable reason, this independent young nurse became a role model for me, especially when I was being bullied by a maths teacher when I was about 10
One of my earliest memories is of my Dad reading this to me at bedtime
This was one of my Mum's books from her childhood

I loved the idea of this little water-baby, it completely grabbed my imagination
I LOVED this book - the idea of two children being locked in Kensington Gardens and the baby Peter Pan.  The illustrations by Arthur Rackham totally captured my imagination

The Famous Five on Treasure Island.  The book that singlehandedly got me reading - I rarely read until I picked up this book and from then on there's been no stopping me!

There are more, many more books that I could list - the Bruno 'Miffy' books, Ursula Le Guin's series, The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge.  I absolutely devoured everything I could get my hands on but the one thing they all did so well was to capture my imagination and take me to a magical world.  I'm intrigued about what books would appear on your lists?  Let me know...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Therapy Part 1

A few weeks ago I made public my plan to be a little more healthy, to literally honour my body a little more than I had been and try out a few 'therapies' en route.  Well, true to my word I took myself off to the Vitality Centre for a Reiki session.  Now, I've had Reiki before and for those of you for whom it's completely new, basically a practitioner passes their hands over your body, aligning your chakra's, and generally attuning to your body. This session was slightly different because the practitioner offered me Celtic Reiki.  Celtic Reiki is basically a tuning into what the ancient Celts and Druids used to do when they communed with nature.  I really had no idea what to expect but went along with it with an open mind.  As I lay there I could feel what I thought was the practitioner moving around me, but I sensed it rather than felt it.  Over a minute or so of this and it felt like I was in a swirling vortix of energy.  I then began to feel tingling wherever she placed her hands and in my minds eye I saw a myriad of beautiful colours, similar to the experience I had with 'normal' Reiki.  The difference came afterwards in the 'debriefing' where she passed on 'information' about me and my body that came to her via... Trees... I know! I hear what you're's the hug a tree brigade; but before you scoff too much let me just tell you that she was scarily accurate.  Over certain chakra's she picked up certain trees which represent particular emotions/problems/blockages and she was spot on every time.  I left feeling bemused but definitely invigorated and it did leave me with renewed energy and a feeling of well-being that I hadn't felt for some time.  It's not for everyone, but with an open mind it's amazing what you can take away... try it and see!  I'd love to hear from anyone who's tried this, or any other 'therapies' that they found beneficial...

Saturday, October 15, 2011


When I was about ten or eleven my grandfather gave me an old edition of The Young Visitors by Daisy Ashford.  She wrote it when she was twelve and it is a young girl's account of upper class life in the late 19th century.  It was published complete with her phonetic spellings, including 'viseter'.  When I opened my edition on my birthday my grandad had put in this inscription on the front page 'Looking forward to your first novel too'.  Well, sadly he didn't live long enough to see me publish my first novel, although he did take great interest in what I wrote, especially in my poem writing phase.  As long as I can remember I have written, diaries, letters; I particularly remember a story I wrote for my best friend when I was about 13 and she loved it so much that I had to write the next chapter before each visit to satisfy her.  Over the years I've started (not finished) several novels and when I came across NaNoWriMo I decided I was up for the challenge.  Basically, you write 50,000 words in a month.  Challenging? definitely.  Do-able?  Well, I'll keep you posted.  National Novel Writing Month begins on 1 November so watch this space.  In the meantime here are some novels that have particularly inspired me recently.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Wonderful Weekends


This week has gone so quickly...I've been manically busy at work and been to Brighton for a conference which was inspiring as well as challenging.  I got to Friday night and felt exhausted and very ready to recharge my batteries.  I've been redesigning the 'spare'/Tom's/study room and it's gone from being a space that most mother's of teenagers dread to enter, to a calm and zen-like arena and the hunt was on for a desk that would fit in without changing the ambiance. Dwell came up with the goods, so Saturday saw me trying to get rather a large (but beautiful) desk into the back of a Fiesta!  I also came home with an additional present for the room - see photos below.  Today we've been visiting friends in leafy Surrey and had a wonderful woodland walk in glorious sunshine with the added treat of  late ripening blackberries lurking in the hedgerows which we later ate in a crumble. Lunch was a roast with all the trimmings, wine and much banter and it tasted all the more delicious because I didn't cook it!
Free standing Buddha

Glossy new desk

Vintage biscuit tins for storing jewellery