Monthly Archives: March 2016

What’s the best April Fools Prank you’ve ever played?

In honour of it being April Fools Day tomorrow tell me what your best April Fools prank has been 😉

I think mine was when I was at university (oh, so many years ago).

I shared a house with my friend and 2 blokes. One of the boys and I decided to prank the other boy that lived in the house. We spoofed a letter from a fictitious girl saying that she’d seen him in the Union bar and thought he was lovely and suggested meeting him. We didn’t tell my friend because we knew she wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face. We posted the letter and, I’m sorry to say he went on ‘the date’! He got home and we did ‘fess up, because although it had been quite funny, we did feel very bad and sorry about it!

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March 31, 2016 · 8:42 pm

CHILDREN’S BOOK REVIEW: Winterling Series by Sarah Prineas

winterling

  • Stars: If I could give a million I would
  • Would I recommend it: In a heart beat
  • Age range: 8-12

 

Wow! Wow! and WOW!

Oh my goodness, SC and I have read some fab books but these would most definitely be in the top 3. Possibly even number 1!!

I bought “Winterling” for him a few years ago – as is my normal book buying method I just thought the cover looked interesting – and one night I had to go out so Grandpa was in charge of night-time reading. When I got home I asked my dad whether SC had enjoyed the beginnings of the book to be met with a grunt and “Didn’t make any b****y sense! He didn’t think much either.”

Hmm! I was a little bit surprised as I thought he would like it.

Flash forward to September last year and after ransacking the library over the holidays and devouring pretty much their entire back catalogue, I said we would read “Winterling”. “But Mummy,” came the responding whine, “I didn’t like it before.”

So, I suggested maybe we should give it another go, with me reading this time and if he really didn’t like it then we would read something else the following night.

45 minutes later he was hooked 😉

I won’t give any of the plot away, because that’s not fair, but it’s full of magic, adventure, mystical lands and at the heart actually lies a story about being true.

It’s perfectly written for children (and adults – I’m hooked too)

The best part is you actually start to care about the characters and what happens to them.

Well, we finished Winterling and then found out there were 2 more books in the series – Summerkin and Moonkind. So at Christmas I bought them for SC.

We couldn’t read them straight away as we had a backlog of library books again, but we started them as soon as we could.

And we were not disappointed – you know how sometimes sequels can be a bit of a damp squib? Not these books.

Action-packed and full of magic.

Well, we finished the final book – with both of us blubbing and cries of “But Mummy, I need to know what happens next!” – that’s how much we care about the characters.

Thankfully, one quick email to the lovely author I was told that there was a final book, because so many readers had asked the same question. It is only available as an e-book, so I had to download to my mum’s Kindle (I prefer holding a book!).

And yes, this resolved all the questions and they all lived happily ever after 😉

These were the most amazing children’s books we have read, to date, and I cannot recommend them enough.

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Would you rather go bald or grey?

… or really why should it matter?

We all age – it’s nature’s way.

Surely, it shouldn’t actually matter – should we just embrace the fact that we’ve lived, rather than go into panic mode that we have a few grey hairs or the hairline has started receding.

And is it as bad for men as for women?

After all there’s an entire industry built around covering grey and anti-ageing products for women – you know the stuff with caviar (that’s this month’s popular purchase).

And the media pressure on females in the public eye – constantly asking “what has happened to so-and-sos face, has she had surgery/Botox?”, “Ooh, check out the grey hairs on these celebs” – does it actually matter?

We can’t stay looking as if we’re 21 forever – and if we can then maybe it’s because we have made a pact with the devil and have a painting of the true us hidden in the attic, a la Dorian Gray (that classic tale by Oscar Wilde) – and besides who would want to stay 21 forever?

Sure at 21 I could party until 3am and still make it 9am lectures thinking nothing of it, I had no responsibilities and I had less of a furrowed brow (which, seeing as I was always such a serious child started when I was about 8!) but I was just starting out on the journey of adulthood.

Flash forward a few years down the line and like everyone else have had my fair share of troubles, but would I want to be 21 again? If I had that chance would I do anything differently?

I would probably answer that with a no and a yes. No, I wouldn’t want to be 21 and yes maybe I would do things differently, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I wouldn’t still have ended up where I am right now.

But I digress – bald or grey?

Guys when they go grey start getting called distinguished, or silver foxes. Women get told to reach for the dye or they will end up looking like a salt and pepper pot!! Where’s the fairness in that?

Being grey or bald does not define who you are? What you do and how you make people feel defines that?

For the record, I have a few silver hairs, but will I be reaching for the dye bottle?  Nah! Not yet 😉

And if it gets too bad, or my extremely fine, thin hair starts to thin I have a goodly collection of wigs and hairpieces – always wanted a reason to wear my blonde wig 😉

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Love is the answer!

loveIt’s always the answer.

From Elsa thawing Anna in Frozen to the endings of all those chick-lit novels and rom-com movies.

Love always wins and conquers everything.

So, maybe the answer to all the problems of the world lie in one simple word … LOVE!

Rather than seeing differences why can’t we learn to embrace the similarities we all share?

We all want to be loved, to be felt worthy, to be felt important and that we matter – whether it’s in our personal lives, relationships, jobs, community or anything else.

Love wins over hate, indifference, despair, etc. every time.

But we have to love ourselves first and foremost.

If we love who we are, then the world will see our light and reflect it back onto us. We can then, in turn shine our light on other people, to light their world.

After all, according to a Japanese book on Buddhism called “The Teaching of Buddha” – “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

So what have we got to lose? We have nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain 😉

 

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Is humanity losing hope?

hopeWe’ve all been there. Hit the bottom of the barrel, feeling like the whole world is conspiring against you and not knowing where to turn.

But, something gnaws away at us, makes us re-evaluate situations, look at things from different perspectives and suddenly we find ourselves slowly, but surely climbing (clinging on for all our worth) back up from the depths of despair.

And that something?

Hope.

Sitting listening to the sermon in church this morning, something the Bishop said made me think.  He said that right now, here, in the 21st century people were losing (or had lost) hope.

And that got me thinking.

Really?

Have you lost hope?

I know I haven’t. I still have hopes and dreams unfulfilled – and I have that little spark inside me that makes me believe that anything in this life is possible.

Although on a bigger scale it does, at times, feel that the world is in need of a miracle.  Everywhere you look there seems to be nothing but despair, death and destruction.

So what do we do?

Do we simply think it’s not my problem and turn a blind eye? Try to help everyone, but end up helping no one and having the tables turned on us so we’re the bad guys? Think that whatever you try to do won’t make a difference so you don’t even bother trying?

Or have we, as the Bishop said simply just lost hope and faith in humanity?

Surely, that would be the worst thing we could possibly do. If we don’t have hope, we have no way of making the world a better place for our children and future generations.

There’s a beautiful poem by Emily Dickinson – which was one of my Friday poems a few years ago.  It is called “Hope is the thing with feathers” and it tells us that however bad things get, hope is always there for us. Enjoy 😉

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

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Welcome to the 21st Century

Today I decided to finally upgrade from my old, clapped-out cell phone to a touchscreen smartphone.

I don’t need apps galore – to be honest I really only use the phone for calls, texts and occasionally taking photos, but the fact that my phone only stored about 15 texts before it said “memory full” was beginning to grate.

There were 2 problems I faced:

  1. My SIM card is literally a 20th century one – it is still the very 1st SIM card I had when I got my 1st mobile (I’m rather attached to it) – so it doesn’t fit very well in these new phones which take much smaller SIM cards
  2. I know my contacts are stored on the SIM, but how on earth do you transfer and stuff on the phone??

The 1st problem was easily solved by the man in the shop who had a nifty little device that actually cuts down your SIM card to the correct size 😉 how handy! So instead of having to phone up my mobile provider for a new SIM (with same number) and then get the guys to transfer contacts to the new SIM, with one quick SNIP it was done.

I have to say, I did have a bit of a heart stopping moment when the SIM went in to the new phone and it refused to recognise the mobile provider.  Thankfully, though it was user error – not me I hasten to add…the guy in the shop had put the SIM card in the wrong way round.  Easy mistake to make – heck, I wouldn’t even have known where to start, I’m still not entirely convinced I know how to take the back off this thing!

Now the 2nd problem allowed me to fully embrace my inner geekette 😉 I enjoy problem solving.

I searched for hours on t’internet to see if you could transfer text messages from phone to phone.  It seems fairly straightforward from smartphone to smartphone, there are many websites that can help, but when it’s just your normal, standard old-fashioned (for want of a better word) mobile, there is nothing.

The texts it seems stay on the phone, but you cannot transfer them.

Or can you?

As I said I didn’t find anything on the internet, but I did manage to find a sort-of, make-it-up-as-you-go-along work around. Crude, simple but effective.

It seems if you try to forward a text message, one of the options is to “save”, this then saves the text to your drafts folder, which is on the SIM!

So when you put your old SIM in a new phone, voila, the text message is there.

Like I said, it’s a crude method and it can take a while, but I thought it would work.

Did it?

Well, um, sort of. When I turned my new phone on there were 4 of them there, but not all.

Then, I hit on another brainwave. Bizarrely I have several other phones for different purposes, so I wondered if the text messages were on the phone then if I inserted a different SIM I could then just re-send my messages (which were now handily saved in the Drafts folder) to my number.

BINGO!

So, there is a way. It is crude. It’s not very technical, just time consuming. And, of course it does help if you have another phone with a different SIM.

But, I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to get my brainwaves turning to solve the problem.

After all, as the very lovely Audrey Hepburn is quoted as saying “nothing is impossible, the very word says I’m possible!” 😉

 

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World Poetry Day – “Just Checking In”

In honour of World Poetry Day, I dug through my old “Friday Poem” posts and found one of my favourite poems.  Enjoy 😉

This beautiful poem came to my via my mum, she was given it by a man who walked into the church reception, and he, in turn, had been sent it by his son in Africa.prayer

The author is unknown, but it is a truly beautiful poem. Enjoy.

Just Checking In

A minister passing through his church

In the middle of the day,

Decided to pause by the altar

To see who comes to pray.

 

Just then the back door opened,

And a man came down the aisle,

The minister frowned as he saw the man

Hadn’t shaved for a while.

 

His shirt was torn and shabby,

And his coat was worn and frayed,

The man knelt down and bowed his head,

Then rose and walked away.

 

In the days that followed at precisely noon,

The preacher saw this chap,

Each time he knelt for just a moment,

A lunch pail in his lap.

 

Well, the minister’s suspicions grew,

With robbery a main fear,

He decided to stop and ask the man,

“What are you doing here?”

 

The old man said he was a factory worker

And lunch was half an hour

Lunchtime was his prayer time,

For finding strength and power.

 

“I stay only a moment

Because the factory’s far away;

As I kneel here talking to the Lord,

This is kinda what I say:

 

I JUST CAME BY TO TELL YOU, LORD,

HOW HAPPY I HAVE BEEN,

SINCE WE FOUND EACH OTHER’S FRIENDSHIP

AND YOU TOOK AWAY MY SIN.

DON’T KNOW MUCH OF HOW TO PRAY,

BUT I THINK ABOUT YOU EVERY DAY.

SO JESUS, THIS IS BEN,

JUST CHECKING IN TODAY.”

 

The minister feeling foolish,

Told Ben that it was fine.

He told the man that he was welcome

To pray there anytime.

 

“It’s time to go, and thanks,” Ben said

As he hurried to the door.

Then the minister knelt there at the altar,

Which he’d never done before.

 

His cold heart melted, warmed with love,

As he met with Jesus there.

As the tears flowed down his cheeks,

He repeated old Ben’s prayer.

 

“I JUST CAME BY TO TELL YOU, LORD,

HOW HAPPY I HAVE BEEN,

SINCE WE FOUND EACH OTHER’S FRIENDSHIP

AND YOU TOOK AWAY MY SIN.

DON’T KNOW MUCH OF HOW TO PRAY,

BUT I THINK ABOUT YOU EVERY DAY.

SO JESUS, THIS IS ME,

JUST CHECKING IN TODAY.”

 

Past noon one day, the minister noticed

That old Ben hadn’t come.

As more days passed and still no Ben,

He began to worry some.

 

At the factory, he asked about him,

Learning he was ill.

The hospital staff were worried,

But he’d given them a thrill.

 

The week that Ben was with them,

Brought changes in the ward.

His smiles and joy contagious.

Changed people his reward.

 

The head nurse couldn’t understand

Why Ben could be so glad,

When no flowers, calls or cards come,

Not a visitor he had.

 

The minister stayed by his bed,

He voiced the nurse’s concern:

No friends had come to show they cared,

He had nowhere to turn.

 

Looking surprised, old Ben spoke up

And with a winsome smile;

“The nurse is wrong, she couldn’t know,

He’s been here all the while.

 

Every day at noon He comes here,

A dear friend of mine, you see,

He sits right down and takes my hand,

Leans over and say to me:

 

I JUST CAME BY TO TELL YOU, BEN,

HOW HAPPY I HAVE BEEN,

SINCE WE FOUND EACH OTHER’S FRIENDSHIP

AND I TOOK AWAY MY SIN.

I THINK ABOUT YOU ALWAYS,

AND I LOVE TO HEAR YOU PRAY.

SO BEN, THIS IS JESUS,

JUST CHECKING IN TODAY!”

 

Many people will walk in and out of our lives, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.

May God hold you in the palm of His hand and Angels watch over you…

…So friend, this is me…

“Just checking in today.”

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It’s International Happiness Day – What are you happy about?

happyApparently, it’s International Happiness Day today – a day to be happy.

Do we really need to set aside a day to be happy?

Surely, we can all find at least 1 thing to be happy about every day, can’t we?

How about just the fact that you woke up this morning – surely that’s a good enough reason to be happy?

Sure, you may dislike your situation/job/life/etc., but you’re alive! That’s got to be cause for celebration.

Now, I’ll admit in the past I probably was one of those people who’s glass was half empty – not what you’d call a burst of sunshine, more like a little ray whose spark was being gradually diminished by “the bad people”.

BUT, I made it through the dark ages, so to speak and nowadays my glass is very much always full 😉

Yes, I know the theoretical glass is only half full of water, but the other half is full of air, and I know when I went to school ½+½ always equalled a whole!

So, here’s a few of my things I’m happy about right now:

  • I’m alive
  • I am healthy
  • I am free to make my own choices in life
  • I am comfortable with who I am
  • I am happy to be me
  • I am blessed indeed to have SC
  • No matter what – my family love me
  • I am enjoying living
  • I make the most of every opportunity (or curve ball) life throws at me
  • I have some good friends who have been there for me when I needed them

How’s that for a starter for 10 😉

Now, it’s your turn … what are you happy about?

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So what do you think of the new F1 Qualifying Format?

mercedesIt’s the start of the new F1 season, and along with the new cars, new driver line-ups there’s a whole raft of new rules and of course, the new qualifying format.

From this season drivers will have at least a five-minute window in Q1, Q2 and Q3 to set a time – but after that point, the slowest driver will be eliminated every 90s. From the 22 entries this year, 15 will progress into Q2, and then eight into Q3 – until there are just two men fighting it out for the right to start from pole.

In theory, it sounds like a recipe for a fun, fast and furious set of qualifying sessions.

In reality – and yes I was up at 5am this morning to watch (I am such a car geekette!!) – meh!!!!

The problem is that the format works well when all the cars initially race out on to track to set their times, but then there is not enough time to turn the car around, i.e., do an in-lap, change tyres, re-fuel, re-jig set-up etc. and get back out and do an out-lap prior to another flying lap before the clock starts ticking.

So, what we ended up with was a lot of cars sitting in the garage and not bothering going back out.

Thus making the first qualifying session of the new season rather dull and lack-lustre.

I think in an attempt to try to make F1 more interesting this new format was pushed through too quickly with not much thought to the actual practicalities of time constraints, turnaround and more importantly, the fact that super-soft tyres don’t do more than 1 lap before they go off and as an aside there’s also the fact that not all tracks take less than 90 seconds to go round!

BUT, on the flip side, I think it is possibly unfair to just write this new qualifying format off after one attempt. After all it was a new system, it will take time to get used to, and it probably threw the engineers as much as the drivers and the viewers., and with a few tweaks could provide the excitement that it was intended to.

So, what would I tweak?

Well, I actually thought the system worked really well in the Q1 and the initial part of Q2 sessions – you saw all the cars on the track and there were some surprises in the knock-out stage – this could, of course, have been caused by actual car problems. Then, there was the excitement of 1 car being counted down to knock-out and then improving its time so the car above then being in the knock-out zone, etc. In my humble opinion I thought that worked, but again it was OK for TV viewers, but the spectators in the stands at the actual track had no clue what was going on.

So, a big thought needs to be put in to how to let the live spectators know what is going on.

But the final part of Q2 and Q3 was just a complete damp squib. No excitement whatsoever. No 90 second shoot-out between the last 2 cars standing.  In fact, nobody bothered going out again with 3 minutes and 4 seconds remaining on the clock! It was all over and done with. That fat lady, so they say, had sung!

Maybe an idea would be to lengthen Q1 session and knock half the field out with the new elimination format.

Thus leaving 11 drivers for Q2 and Q3.

Then go back to the old format for the last 2 sessions, but reduce the time and have, say 2 x 10 minute sessions. At the end of Q2 knock out 6 drivers, which should leave 5 standing and then we’ll have a fairly empty track for 5 cars to shoot it out for the top 5 positions.

But even if qualifying becomes more exciting, will that stop the tedium of some of the races that are pretty much just parades? Once the first lap is over there is no overtaking, just the spectacle of cars going round and round.

Much as I love cars, F1, speed, etc., there is no getting away from it, some of the races are dull.

The race should be about the drivers pushing themselves and the car to the limit, going as fast as they possibly to win, rather than it being about tyre management, fuel saving, team orders, etc.

And I fear that until the race can be about that, then whatever you do to try to spice things up won’t make any difference whatsoever.

So, what do you think about the new qualifying format and how would you improve F1?

 

 

 

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Was Joan Bakewell right to link anorexia to narcissism?

narcissus

Before I answer that, let’s have a bit of a Greek Mythology lesson:

Narcissus was the son of the river god Cephissus and nymph Liriope. He was proud, in that he disdained those who loved him. Nemesis noticed this behavior and attracted Narcissus to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image.

And from that vain lad we get the expression “narcissism” which means (according to Dictionary.com) an inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity. And in a psychoanalysis context, erotic gratification derived from admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.

So, no. Baroness Bakewell was emphatically wrong to link anorexia with narcissism.

An anorexic is not in love with the way they look, or indeed in love with themselves. Believe me, I know. I’ve been there.

After being teased about the way you look, or made to feel worthless, or that you are the stupidest person in the world, you feel hopeless and helpless and not in control of anything in your life.

You look in the mirror and see fat, ugly and stupid.

There’s a little trigger that switches on in your brain that says, “if you lost a little bit of weight, you’d look and feel amazing!”, and then after losing, say a couple of kilos, the trigger switches on again, and so you lose a little bit more, and then a little bit more.

And there isn’t a problem, you see, because you’re in total control – but when you look in the mirror that fat, ugly, stupid girl is still staring back at you, so you lose another couple of kilos.

You start exercising in secret – 100s of abdominal exercises to trim the wobbly bits around your tummy.

You start hiding food, pushing it around the plate and making it look as if you’ve eaten something.

You become clever at hiding the fact you don’t eat. You find ways to skip breakfast. You lie about having lunch, and then you eat a tiny amount for supper.

When I was a teenager, I lived on a sandwich a day for 2 years. Not a fact I’m particularly proud of now, but at the time it was the only way I could feel that I was worth anything.

I didn’t have many friends at secondary school – I was different (a bit geeky (something I’ve embraced as I’ve grown up), preferred performing arts to make-up and boys, etc), I was never one of the “special pretty” girls at dancing – just the tall, plain one at the back.

I just wanted to fit in! And I thought if I was thinner, maybe I would be prettier.

Nowadays, I love being different. Different is me! 😉 And, as I’m always telling SC “why fit in, when you were born to stand out”. The one thing I have learned in life is to be yourself. People will either love you, hate you or blow hot and cold no matter what you do.

But back to the point in question, anorexia is not about vanity, it is ultimately a cry for help.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I never got so bad that I had to be hospitalised. I could never make myself throw up, tried it – stuck my toothbrush down my throat, gagged, but couldn’t do it.

If anorexics were narcissists, then they wouldn’t self-harm either, would they?

Self-harming, like eating disorders, is again brought on by feelings of such low self-esteem and self-worth and trying to grasp back that sense of control.

Even a recovering anorexic will always have an issue with food. Sometimes they go the other way and become bulimic. But again, that’s just the control coming in to play.

I had both anorexic and bulimic tendencies – meaning I munch an entire packet of biscuits and crisps and cake in one sitting, then I would starve myself for a couple of days to punish myself.

For the record, I never self-harmed!

I had periods of anorexic-skinniness throughout my teens, twenties and thirties.

Did it make me feel happier? Did it make me feel prettier? Did I ever feel thin enough?

No, no and no.

So, what changed, if anything?

One word. Me!

I realised that the only way to feel happy, is to feel happy with who you are. You may be different, quirky, geeky, normal, flamboyant, etc. But the thing is you’re you. Nothing can change that – and just because you don’t fit into some conventional society-labelled pigeon-hole – why should you?

If we can feel happy with who we are on the inside, then it shows on the outside.

I tend not to look in the mirror these days – only to apply make-up. I don’t weigh myself 5 times a day any more. I exercise, but not to excess.

I still am careful with what I eat – but nothing as bad as it was. If I want cake these days (admittedly I tend to ration to once a week- still a slight issue of control) – I’ll have a slice – after all there are just some days when you need cake. So you buy cake, eat cake and the cake is good 😉

In conclusion, society and the media has a lot to answer for. We tend to always point out the negatives about people, rather than the positives, which is a shame, because everyone has something good about them.

Focussing on the positives is a great thing to do.

Here are my 3 positives about me that I’m grateful for:

  1. I love my very long legs
  2. I love my pixie chin
  3. At long last, I have grown to love me 😉

What are 3 positive things you love about you?

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