Friday, 7 December 2007
I work in local government and everything is driven it seems by the ubiquitous "target". Some targets are good - to achieve more or to get better are good goals to strive for. However, we have been working towards a really unpleasant and negative target that makes me feel quite uncomfortable. We have been counting down to the end of the year the numbers of people killed and seriously injured on the roads of Essex. The aim was for the number to be lower than last year - and although we did manage to reduce the overall numbers from last year, unfortunately we didn't quite achieve the figure set for us by central government. It's been horrible to see the number posted on the office wall, gradually rising every day. Christmas and New Year are both very bad times for road casualties, and the most dreadful ones are those that involve young people or children. I have always loved that song by Chris Rea, "Driving Home for Christmas" but it is always tinged with a horrible thought that nowadays we make so many more car journeys at this time of the year, and at at the same time there will be lots of people on the roads who are on the way home from a drinks party or a night out. The floral tributes that you see on the roadsides are a dreadful reminder of the lives that have been wrecked and so often drink driving is responsible. I personally believe we should adopt a zero tolerance to drink driving in this country as they do in some other European countries.
I'm also very conscious of safety as a cyclist. I always wear a cycle helmet, reflective/fluorescent gear and have lights front and back (as well as assorted reflectors). You wouldn't believe the number of drivers who still don't see me (or perhaps choose not to!). I don't cycle on the pavement, and always stop at traffic lights, yet the number of times I get abuse, both from pedestrians and drivers, is unbelievable. My worst problem is with the dog walkers. Part of my route to work is along a shared cycle/footpath which is wide enough to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists but the problem is the dogs - I don't dislike dogs, but the dog owners who walk on one side of the footpath with their dog on the other side with the lead across the width of the footpath really take the biscuit. Oops this has turned into a rant - sorry! Pedestrians who step into the road just because they haven't heard a car coming are also a real hazard. I don't set out on my journey to mow anyone down, but pedestrians are always astonished that cyclists can't stop dead. In the Highway Code they give the stopping times for cars travelling at different speeds, and most people are aware that the faster you are going the longer it takes to stop but a cyclist travelling even at 3 or 4 miles an hour (which is slow) will need a few yards of stopping distance.
This is one of the government's Think campaign posters - it is aimed at drivers to make them more aware of motorcyclists, but cyclists are also very vulnerable. I have only been involved in one accident as a cyclist when a driver opened their car door as I drew alongside - I was very bruised and shaken but it was lucky that it was on a quiet road as I was thrown across the road - if anything had been travelling in the other direction it would have been much worse.
PS - the posting date for this is showing as 7 December - I started it then, but didn't get round to posting until today - 5 January 2008!
Saturday, 17 November 2007
Here are the things I bought at the jumble sale last week - total expenditure £4!
A pine beveled mirror, three books, a ball of wool - and for the rabbits, a blanket and a wicker basket to play with.
The blanket will be something to keep the bunnies warm in the winter - and I've painted the frame of the mirror and hope to hang it up later this weekend.
For the first time yesterday I tried knitting using dpns but I was an utter failure and had to give up after about two hours. My daughter wants some fingerless gloves but I can't get the hang of the technique. I will try again, but I think I'll start on something simpler first.
Saturday, 10 November 2007
First was this butter dish for £1. I've been wanting to get a butter dish for a while as I've felt guilty about buying butter or margarine in plastic tubs for a long time as we have no recycling for any plastics other than plastic bottles (shampoo, milk etc). I have returned to buying block butter which is only wrapped in paper - and this can be folded very small before throwing away. I'm trying to reduce our household waste, and part of the exercise is to reduce the volume as well as the weight, so everything that can't be recycled or composted is squashed flat, folded down or crushed. In an average week, we don't have more than two carrier bags full of rubbish, in good weeks only one. OK, you spotted the immediate problem - carrier bags. I won't buy black sacks for rubbish and never get supermarket carrier bags as I always take plenty of shopping bags with me - but occasionally we do end up with bags from other types of shopping and these do get used for rubbish. I am sure the day will come when there are no carrier bags at all in our house, and I'm not sure I like the idea of putting loose household rubbish in the dustbin as this will mean more frequent dustbin cleaning. While I have carrier bags I will continue to use them to throw away rubbish, but eventually I'll need to find a hygenic solution - wrapping in newspaper maybe? Hmm; I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
See how small a butter wrapper is when it's folded up!My other bargains were these two plates at 15p each. I love topiary (a long time ago I trained a bay tree into a lollipop shape, and it lasted for about 6 years, but sadly it died a couple of years back due to an infestation of some kind) and I just liked these plates. I don't really need plates, but these would be nice as cake plates don't you think?
I also got a couple of other items which might be suitable as Christmas gifts (so I won't post photos here).
There's a jumble sale at the local scout hall this week end. I may take a stroll round there this afternoon and see what I can find.
Monday, 15 October 2007
I am trying to do my little bit to make a difference. Every year on World Environment Day I struggle to find a new pledge to agree to as I do everything I can to reduce, reduce, recycle, etc. We have facilities locally to recycle paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, metals, wood, textiles. I compost vegetable and garden waste, I cycle to work and have replaced light bulbs with energy savings bulbs. I try to dispose of unwanted items to charity shops or through Freecycle rather than sending them to landfill.
But having read so many amazing blogs by people who are really making big changes in their lives, I realise that I have a long way to go. I so admire those who spin and weave, keep chickens and have allotments, growing a wide range of fruit and vegetables. I can't do all of these things (at least not while I have to work full time to keep up the mortgage payments), but I am going to keep on trying to do more.
Let's hope that Blog Action Day increases awareness of environmental concerns.
Thursday, 4 October 2007
On the positive side of blogging, it warmed my heart to see how much support Jane received from her readers after the vitriolic article in the Telegraph, and the enormous outpouring of sympathy when Alicia's dog died (and the hundreds of welcome comments when her new puppy arrived) was truly amazing and the unbelievable generosity towards Rachael when her cat Digit came back from the dead!
So it's not all bad...
Sunday, 16 September 2007
Meanwhile, here are some of the things I've been doing:
- Making jam - for my friend who is fund raising for the hospice
- Blackberry Jam and Apple & Blackberry Jam (my favourite). These are the few I kept for me - about 20 pots of jam went off for the sale.
- Taking two very cross rabbits to the vet for their Myxamatosis jabs. No photos of them I'm afraid - since their visit to the vet they are staying very firmly out of my way. Little do they know they're going back in two weeks for their VHD jabs. I expect after that I won't see them again till spring!
- Making Bunny Manor fox proof in preparation for the long dark nights - it's turning into Colditz - photos to follow when all is complete.
- Covering old box files to store magazines and knitting patterns in:
- Painting my newly acquired EBay bargain - I got two of these basket stacks for a very reasonable £13. The other one has two drawers and they will be very useful for storing sewing, knitting and other such crafty things, plus all those odds and ends that we all have lurking in drawers! Also I've got a few charity shop bargains. I want to paint or decorate this little jug but need some inspiration first - any ideas?
Sunday, 19 August 2007
Monday, 13 August 2007
I was busy over the weekend having a big sort out and found lots of things that are no longer of any use to me , but I thought someone out there might find them useful so I listed quite a few things on Freecycle - buckets and spades and sand toys, an inflatable shark (yes a shark!) and fun tyre, bats and balls, a child's bike seat, a couple of hideous brass plant pots, etc etc, as well as a lawnmower and garden roller for my next door neighbour.
Saturday, 11 August 2007
I knew before he was two that something wasn't quite right but I didn't know exactly what was wrong, it just seemed strange that he didn't have any interest in talking. I actually thought he might be deaf but he was checked and found to have normal hearing at around 20 months. It was a real struggle to get anyone to take any notice - the health visitor said he was "a late developer" and the GP wasn't really interested.
Sadly, worry about my son's development took a back seat as just before his 2nd birthday he was scalded on his chest and upper arm which involved weeks in hospital and months of dressings and eventually pressure garments. In addition, around the same time my 4 year old daughter was diagnosed with a blood disorder that we battled with for the next 7 or 8 years. On top of everything, we also moved house, but at last I found a new health visitor who was more inclined to listen to my concerns about my son's development, and we were referred to a paediatric consultant who tried in vain to assess him. My son either couldn't or wouldn't co-operate, but finally there was recognition that something was not right. He was referred to a children's centre where he had weekly speech therapy sessions; there was very limited progress, and eventually at age 4 he was referred to an educational psychologist. She told me then that he had an Autistic Spectrum Disorder and decided that he would need to go to a special school where they would be able to carry out further assessment.
We didn't have a great experience with education; the local provision didn't really meet my son's needs at the time, but I'd like to hope things are improving. The National Autistic Society's campaign Make School Make Sense asks for improved training for teachers and better provision of schools. I hope that in time there will be more support for people with autism and their families. As the song goes: things can only get better!
Friday, 3 August 2007
Thursday, 2 August 2007
I had planted tomatoes, courgettes, broccoli, cabbages and pumpkins and a few assorted herbs in the garden, but the wet conditions have meant that I have very little to show for my efforts - the slugs and snails just love the wet, and mildew seems to be spreading everywhere.
Work has been horrible, which I won't elaborate on but things have been so bad I even applied for another job and although I got an interview, I wasn't successful. I'm keeping my eyes open for other opportunities, but I'm the wrong side of 50 and it isn't easy.
Among my few entertainments this month, I decided to read all the Harry Potter books - well the first 6 at least. The final instalment still awaits me. I know, they are children's books, but I've enjoyed reading them, and it's been a bit of escapism. I loved fantasy books as a child/teenager, all the C S Lewis books, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but I haven't really read much fantasy as an adult. I mainly read crime novels, psychological thrillers and modern and classic fiction. Maybe I'll dip into some adult fantasy fiction, and see it they are as much fun as HP!
Sunday, 1 July 2007
Heat oven to Gas Mark 4 350F 180C
Grease and line a 2lb (large) loaf tin
Mix together thoroughly
4oz (100g) soft margarine
4oz (100g) soft brown sugar
8oz (200g)self raising flour
1 level tsp mixed spice (or more if you like it spicy!)
1tbsp golden syrup
1 large ripe mashed banana
4oz (100g) sultanas
Finally add 2oz (50g) chopped walnuts and mix well
Bake for one hour, then reduce the oven temperature slightly for another 20-30 minutes until golden. To check the cake is done, insert a skewer into the centre - if it comes out clean the cake is done!
Thursday, 28 June 2007
Sunday, 24 June 2007
I came home from work on Thursday and was startled by the amount of daylight in my kitchen and discovered that the tree has been lopped off three feet from the ground. I should be happy - but sitting on the fence were the pair of wood pigeons who had been nesting in the tree. I've watched them building their nest for the past few weeks and now they sit forlornly wondering what has happened to their hard work and their babies. Laying on the path I found two broken eggs - I feel so sad for them. I hope there is enough of the summer left for them to find a new tree, build another nest and lay more eggs.
On a more selfish note, whoever cut down the tree trampled all over my garden and broke off my two sunflowers - and this all happened without my neighbours even mentioning they would be cutting down the tree and would need access to my garden. I imagine my poor rabbits were very stressed by the entire experience too!
Sunday, 17 June 2007
My amazing daughter finished her exams on the last Friday in May and I drove up on the Sunday to collect her from university and empty her room in her shared house - she won't be returning to university for her third year as she has a placement in Cambridge. I should have taken a photo of my car filled with (almost) all her possessions (we had to leave her bike, a bookcase, and a few other bulky items in my mum's shed in Bristol for collection at a later date). It was a frightening sight!
AD had only two brief days to sort everything out, pack and get ready for her trip to Romania. On the Wednesday, I drove her to Luton Airport for her flight and then straight back to work for a tedious finance meeting. What an exciting life I lead.
I'm going to try to grow a few vegetables in the garden this year. Years ago (when my children were at school and I only worked part time) I used to have an allotment and would love to have one again, but know that I can't dedicate enough time at the moment. But I miss the satisfaction that comes from growing and harvesting your own food. I'm just going to grow tomatoes, courgettes, some salad vegetables and a couple of pumpkins (they make wonderful soup!).
Friday, 25 May 2007
We have had no hot water all week - amazing son discovered the problem on Sunday night - while in the shower - ouch! Cold water is far from ideal for washing hair that is almost elbow length (AS likes the goth look and hasn't had his hair cut for a couple of years!). However, we were able to get someone in to fix the immersion heater, and I had a lovely long shower this morning (as opposed to juggling with kettles and jugs of water every morning). Being a person who washes their hair every day, I read this with interest. I don't know if this is something I could try. I do try to cut down on blow drying my hair. When I was much younger I had waistlength hair, and I didn't even own a hairdryer, so it is possible to manage without. But the washing.... somehow I can't contemplate this at the moment.
AS is suffering with a very bad cold and sore throat and quite a few people at work have similar symptoms. Amazing daughter is in the middle of her university exams and has been struck down by a horrible bug too, though of the stomach variety. In addition this is the worst time of the year for hayfever, which another cross she has to bear. She has worked so hard, but is very worried that she will do badly this year (this is her second year).
Thanks to Willow for your comments on our rabbits' window box - the wendy house was bought from EBay, and had been built by a dad as a play house for his daughters, but they had outgrown it. It was originally painted blue, and the window box was already attached to one end and a trellis to the other. To me, it looks a bit like a prairie log cabin, you could just picture an old woman in a rocking chair on the porch shelling peas, or darning socks! It is just over 5ft high inside (I can just stand up in it as I am just under 5ft tall) but AS keeps banging his head! I liked the light colours - most wood preservatives and stains are quite dark, but having painted my fence the lovely light green, I thought the cream and more of the green as a contrast would look nice. I like the beach hut look too, so my poor old shed had better look out or it might get a lick of paint next!
I'm currently reading my way through the Rebus novels by Ian Rankin - 6 down, quite a few to go. I think I'll take a break when I finish the current one and try something a bit different. When I find a writer I like, I then try to read their entire output, but that doesn't always have good results. I'd read a couple of Joanne Harris's novels that I really enjoyed, but when I read a couple of later books I found them disappointing. I started reading the Ian Rankin books because I got a bargain paperback of his from a charity shop, but when I started reading found that I needed to know what had happened in the previous novels. I've gradually got through the earlier Rebus novels, and haven't been disappointed yet, but I do feel the need for a change of style for a while.
Thursday, 24 May 2007
Saturday, 12 May 2007
One of the things I like about living in mid Essex is the proximity to the countryside. On my short journey to work each day, I am fortunate enough to travel along a very attractive path, which is surrounded by trees, with the River Chelmer running alongside.
Most days I cycle to the office along this path and cross over the river via a footbridge. It's very pleasant, and as the seasons change there are so many lovely things to see. I actually took these photos about two weeks ago, and in just that short time everything has become even more lush, there are even flowers opening on the water lilies in the river (the variety is Brandy Bottle - though I've never got near enough to catch a whiff of the scent that gives it it's name!).
Recently, one bank of the river was banked up with willow, which is a natural means of reducing erosion. It is quite attractive, and apparently in a couple of years there will be a lovely willow hedge holding everything firmly in place.