Thursday, 22 December 2011

Malaysian Joy - Christmas Treats

I truly love my job. Today I found out the names of 6 of my lucky students being given the opportunity to carry out their industrial placement next year in Malaysia. What a great Christmas present I've been able to offer them this morning. I was so pleased to be able to email them all this morning informing them the Company who wanted them and where they would be working and offering them this great opportunity not only to expand their degree knowledge but to live and work in a fantastic exciting country for a year on the other side of the world. The younger generation of today are so very lucky to be given the opportunity in Higher Education to do things like this. This type of thing just wasn't available when I was their age. I hope they grasp the opportunity with both hands fully. Malaysia is a fabulous country, the people are friendly, gracious and very helpful. I know the students who have been and are currently there, have a once in a lifetime experience and what great memories to have when they grow old. Lucky them and lucky me to be involved in such a privilege as this. Happy Christmas everyone, joy to all. :)

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Budgie's first love!

Just a little ditty to relate regarding one of my 2 budgies. Having done the usual daily change of water and seed for my 2 guys. I noticed Max the older of the two was attempting to bathe himself in his drinking water. Having tried the budgie bath in the past which he pointedly ignored I had given it up as a bad idea, now I thought I'd try the budgie bath again as he seemed quite keen to have a wash! I fitted the bath to the front of his cage but couldn't quite close the door, thus I left him to his own devices, thinking he may not want me to see him partaking of his ablutions and left the door open for him to fly around and dry himself off. Never known him to be so keen to have a bath and freshen up before - strange??

When returned from work Max was nowhere to be seen. I knew the place was closed up tight so he had'nt gotten out. I looked in all his usual perching places but no nothing. I checked the Christmas tree several times and the presents that lay at it's foot but no luck. One more check of the Christmas tree revealed he was there after all. How could one miss a blue budgie on a Christmas tree twinkling with lights and full of tree decs? Easy when you don't expect to see him cosying up to the fairy on the top that's how!! (Ah Hah - here lies the possible answer to Max's desperate attempt to bathe in his drinking water methinks!!) The fairy had a smile on her face but Max looked crestfallen at the possible rejection of his advances. Ah well the path of true love never did run smooth even at Christmas!! I just wish I'd taken a photo - next time may be. Must remember to keep the bird bath available for his next attempt at courtship with the Christmas Tree Fairy.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Arabian Nights (Where?) Party

Having worked hard all year, our little group of Stop Smoking Counsellors usually treat ourselves to a well-earned Christmas do. This year the organiser thought an Arabian Nights theme would make a change. Hmm interesting but worth a try. We ventured out on a wintry night excited at the prospect of an enchanting evening. We discovered we were one of 30 tables attending the event, our table being at the back of the dance hall. We had been ribbed for months we would need to be able to belly-dance amongst other things - the mind boggles - or should I say the tummy wobbles - and not necessarily in all the right places!! The tables were set up beautifully, the food was decidely English but good to eat. The bar was free drinks all night but as I don't drink, one can only take so much soft drink before the bloatedness starts to appear. My colleagues excitetedly tried the cocktails "Sex in the Sahara" or "Sex on the Magic Carpet". What did they consist of? Supposedly Vodka & Archers for the Sahara Version or Red wine and Cointreau for the magic Carpet. Surely they must be good? Well they would've been if they hadn't been two thirds fruit juice and lemonade my friends retort! The entertainment was NOT what we imagined nor was the decor of the dance hall. Expecting to be served by men and ladies in traditional costume, we were let down by the fact they wore the usual black and white serving uniforms; the belly dancers numbered 2, whom we never saw from our vantage point only their two heads and four hands, no bellies, nothing else. The decor consisted of 4 cardboard cut out palm trees, 1 very large stuffed woolly camel, 2 white cardboard cut out camels and one white cardboard camel driver!! As my colleague mentioned "not a lot of atmosphere here is there"? Well we had a good laugh about it, spent the evening letting it all hang out on the disco dance floor and were glad to see that some of us oldies could still out-dance and out-move the youngsters of the night and were still standing at the end of the evening enough to remember, what we ate, what we drank and who we went home with!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Christmas Tree Dilemmas

Following on from my other Christmas blog. I bought a Christmas tree this weekend, very much the traditionalist, I still love the smell of pine in the home which always brings back memories of Christmasses past. On my way back from a Christmas shopping trip I saw signs for Christmas Trees chopped or rooted. Intrigued I followed them only to find a Christmas Tree nursery virtually on my doorstep which I never knew existed. As mentioned in my other blog, I just wanted the usual Christmas tree but oh no that's too easy!! I was met with a large field of several different tree plantations of trees, not just the bog standard Norway Spruce which we all know and love here, but other alternatives, were Blue Spruce, Normanndian (I think that's how it's spelt!!) and so on and so on!! Some drop needles, some don't, some hightly scented, some not. Different labels on different trees indicating the price you would need to pay except "a yellow label which you can't have because someone has already reserved it". Oh Lordy how much more confusing is this going to get! You could dig up your own, chop it down yourself (tempting to chop down the biggest on the plantation but better not) or get someone else to chop it down.I only wanted a little itsy bitsy tree for somewhere to put my presi's around, but I was faced with trees several metres tall!! I asked the very kind lady wearing the Santa hat who was trying to look Christmassy with a bit of tinsel around her sleeves and a bell on her head but very muddy butterfly boots (huh!!), "Do you have any small trees?" She looked at me blankly and said oh yes and pointed to one that was almost 5 feet tall!! Is it me? I'm thinking, "Actually, no I mean really small trees you know about 2 - 3 feet tall?" "Oh I don't know, we don't have much call for small trees these days" At which point I'm thinking yes it must be me or else she thinks I really tight-fisted and have no Christmas spirit at all!!

She takes me to the plantation owner who as a favour lets me choose from a plantation of nursery trees with the retort, "It's O.K. me duck, we try to please all our customers, you just choose the one you like". Oh relief, I'm then faced with the decision of a dropping needle or not, a blue or not oh I give up!! I resort to getting one chopped down whereas I always had a rooted one, but at this point I just wanted to get a tree and get it trimmed up with decs. Having chosen a very prickly blue spruce upon espying a colony of ladybirds over-wintering on it's top, decided I couldn't resort to damaging the wildlife being an eco-friendly type of person and had to choose another and went for a Normanndian. Get me out of here quick. At least the lady with the bell, hat and tinsel was offering treats of a mince pie, chocolates and/or some Damson Gin. Thus didn't have to decide on a mince pie, there was only one on offer but had to make a decision on the chocs., wasn't a problem just dived in and took my favourite before the beady-eyed little elf standing next to me pinched it!! Aah the joys of Christmas time!! :)

Grumpy Ole Woman - Christmas Choices

Today I'm putting on my Grumpy Ole Woman hat! I usually love all things Christmas, decorating, lights, carols, shopping and scrummy food! I am wondering this year "is it me?" In my childhood, Mince Pies for example only appeared a day or two before the big event, usually made by Mother's own fair hands with a little help from me - well those that ended up in the patty pan and not on the floor that is! Christmas Puds were made at least a year ahead and stayed in the pantry in it's ceramic bowl fermenting and soaking up all the wonderful juices that went into making Christmas Puds so special. The Christmas cake too had been made well in advance and only iced perhaps the night before to make it fresh and sweet. Small Stockings were hung up with a minimum amount of goodies in them usually an orange or tangerine in the foot of the stocking with an assortment of nuts, one or two little trinkets and that's about it. It gave me so much joy!

Now going into a store one is faced with the biggest array of food, toys, decs., cards etc., it sends the mind and eyes askew. For example, I'm not a great mince pie lover but thought this year I would treat myself to a few not having the time to make them these days. What was I faced with? About 20 different types of mince pie, from minis, alcohol laced, non alcohol laced, iced, unlidded, lidded, crimped, uncrimped, decorated, undecorated, children's pies, etc., and so the list goes on. All I wanted was a bog-standard mince pie for goodness sake and only a few not boxes of 9,12,16, 24, 48 - oh go away please! I like mince pies even less now!!

No wonder the world economies are in trouble with so many choices Christmas has lost it's purpose and it's meaning for many, many people. I'm convinced if we went back to limited ranges of everything, we would not be tempted to buy things we cannot afford or need right now because the choice just wouldn't be there. Food or other objects would not be wasted so much and the pressure would be off of all, for all sorts of reasons.

Bah humbug I hear some shout!! No not at all. Don't get me wrong I love my Christmas time as much as anyone else, the fun, the laughter, the over-indulgence and the pig-out factor that we suffer from but secretly delight in!! But let's get a grip and remember the true meaning of it and what it is meant to portray. Particularly when on the other side of the World half are starving and suffering through lack of the basic necessities of life. Happy Christmas everyone :)

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Adding to the Gallery

Just adding to the Gallery in case you want something to look at today, some of my earlier efforts. The animal picture is a composite from photographs taken when privileged to go on a once in a liftime trip "On Safari" in Kenya,great memories and what an amazing place. Pic no. 2 is Cotswold country in the U.K. & Pic No. 3 is off the coast in the U.S.A. I consider myself really blessed to have visited some wonderful places in the World and hope to be able to continue the journeys, God willing:)

Friday, 25 November 2011

A Painter's lot is a very happy one!

This is what I do when I have a few precious moments to myself. I get so engrossed in my work I forget the time - as I did last night - when I decided I was getting rather tired and thought I'd better stop. On looking at the clock I discovered it was 2.a.m. in the morning - yes - for sure even after a double-take!! I guess it's the equivalent of the writer's flow - only it's artistic flow - because I also get the opposite -artist's block too and the pictures just don't work!!

My paintings flow between Impressionism style (well I like to think it's something akin to anyway!!)- pallet knife and gentle landscapes hence the continual flow of pics with my camera. It's like the traditional artist's notebook only mine is the latest digital version that I attempt to draw inspiration from. Some modern technology is the buis thankfully!!

Now I've finished I have to find something else to paint - lovely :)

A new Day is Dawning

What can I say? More gorgeous English Skies.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Autumn into Winter

As our Country slips into the sleeping seasons, we were privileged to take the dog for a nice evening stroll and again witnessed our countryside moving from Autumn into Winter. It is still very warm for November but the mists are beginning to rise and the sun is setting lower and sooner in our English skies. Some shots from the walk, we are so blessed here to witness the changing seasons every year and I never cease to be bored by them because every year brings new surprises. The dog enjoyed it too!! Enjoy.

Fair Highlights - Loughborough Town

Hi readers, well we braved the fair on a lovely evening - traditionally it's either very cold or very wet for the Loughborough fair - this year it was neither thankfully so it was a fun packed event. I tried out my camera saved a few but deleted even more - the advantage of digital, you can make lots of mistakes and you don't have 100's of unwanted pics cluttering up the loft!!

For those of you unfamiliar with the Loughborough fair, what makes it unique is that it sets up all around the town centre in the market place and surrounding the centre streets in amongst the main shopping thoroughfare. 100's of years ago when it first started this was probably O.K. but now with skyscraper high fairground attractions it makes the fair even more unique. They have to set up in surrounding car parks and side streets to avoid the buildings but that just makes it more interesting and daring should one wish to attempt a ride on the high flying sky attractions which just miss the roof tops and shop fronts by a hair's breadth!! Piccys attached to get some idea, but what a lovely evening was had, despite the grumpy young stall holder who insisted I take no pictures of his chocolate covered apples or his fondue arrangements - goodness knows why - nothing unique about it and I didn't want to anyway - the candyfloss stall was far more appealing and attractive to look at!! His loss 'cos didn't buy anything off

his chocolate stall - misery guts!!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Fair's In Town

Well it's the weekend of the annual Loughborough fair. I will practise with my new camera and try to get some of those amazing piccys that we see in all the photo-mags which never seem to turn out quite the same when I try it. Never give up though is my motto, eventually I may get the classic night-time fair lights shot!

This has given me cause to contemplate when I was a growing up. In my local home town in Suffolk there was always a sense of excitement as the fair weekend approached especially as we had been saving up to go for months and months from the pocket money. It always set up on the village green in the next village to my home town. This necessitated a walk in the evening if the weather was fine of some 3 - 4 miles, a bus ride or in my teens a ride on the back of one of the scooters (I was a "Mod" in those days definitely not a "Rocker" a k a motor bike clan!!).

There was something about the fairs then that just seemed so magical which somehow has got sadly lost in today's commercial environment. Then the fair was the best form of entertainment for "the working classes" if you like. With cheap side stalls we could go on and win all sorts of fantastic prizes for as little as anything from a penny to sixpence. To win a goldfish in the little see through drawer-string bag was the best prize ever, usually by getting a ping pong ball in the metal buckets. This was a skill in itself because inevitably the ping pong balls bounced out of the buckets sometimes hitting you back in the face but a laugh nevertheless. Caused a bit of a problem when having to get the goldfish home on the back of the scooter but we managed it and the fish survived - a very long time actually!! Particularly as the passenger was supposed to hold on to the driver with both arms, but we were never caught by the local "Bobby" and even if we had been he would have just clipped our ears and told us not to do it again!! Health and Safety would have had a field day!! Then there was the inevitable coconut shies, with the boyfriends trying to impress their girlfriends by throwing the smallest very battered wooden balls to try to knock the coconut off it's sandy stand into the sawdust below. The smell of candy floss, toffee apples, coconut ice, hot dogs etc., was something else - tickling and teasing the nostrils to the extent that you could no longer resist the temptation and you just had to buy something with the last sixpence (2 and a half p in today's money!!)you had left. We would come away armed with an assortment of toys, not cheap rubbish that we get today, sometimes even kitchen utensils or crockery and we all felt we were the "best in show" for very little outlay.

Then the rides were something else too, again for very little outlay we had the times of our lives with everything from the massive swingboats, pulling on the ropes to go higher and higher and only being slowed down by the fairground attendants who used to "put the brakes on" by stopping us with the most enormous plank of tough but bendy wood which enevitably ground us to a halt, the smell & sound of wood biting on wood a memory never forgotten. The Cake walk where we had to try to walk on moving boards getting from one side of the stand to the other without falling down with the current pop music of the day deafening us whilst we fell in all sorts of ridiculous manners but laughing all the way. Then there was the Waltzers, a new invention then so we had to queue for the rides and the attendants would spin us around and around faster and faster, screams and peals of laughter ringing out. Most of all the dodgems, what a fantastic ride. Bombing around the metal floor, with electric sparks darting out of the bottom of the cars and out through the arials at the top, how fantastic was that and crashing as hard and as fast at possible into your mates or family members usually ending up in a multiple pile up on the dodgem floor with us falling about in hysterical laughter. All sights and sounds never to be forgotten by me but sadly not experienced in quite the same way by my children or grandchildren today, how I wish they had been there then just to see and know how different it was then and oh so much more fun.

Oh please bring back the traditional fairs which are not blighted by health and safety rules, extortionate pricing that now puts them into the realms of only the rich and famous can afford to visit. Why can't we just have fun any more and live a little. Laughter is good for the soul and for us - a medically proven fact - so lets get back to it please!!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Another perfect morning

More sunrise's but worth the view. Love em!!

Bonfire Treats

We had some very wet days leading up to our Guy Fawkes night on 5th November with the threat of everything being a complete wash out here in the U.K. Mercifully the rain held off long enough for the fireworks celebrations to go ahead. My first effort at taking pics with my new camera of fireworks and bonfires wasn't brilliant so there's room for improvement but have to practice sometime. It's not until tracking the fireworks up in the sky one realises just how fast and high they travel!! Nevertheless after experimenting with different time settings haven't done too bad!! Check out the last image with the child taking a piccy with his mobile - I wonder what Guy Fawkes would have make of that!! Enjoy.