Monthly Archives: April 2016

My date with a guy called Leo …

The weather was a glorious Spring day.

The setting of the Science Museum was perfect.

Just a shame my date has been dead for nearly 500 years!!!

 

I have loved the Science Museum ever since I was a little girl and my parents used to drive us into London to while away a Sunday afternoon playing with all the fun stuff they had for kids that used to be housed in the basement – I hasten to add this was pre-internet, pretty much pre-computer, so it really was lots of machines with levers that you could pull and buttons you could press.

And I have never grown out if the place – it’s a perfect place to embrace my inner geekette.

Well, with a Saturday all to myself and nothing better to do, I thought I would trot into London and visit the Science Museum – after all normally I have the company of SC who whistles round at top speed not really paying much attention to anything, so a saunter around – well when I say saunter, I don’t actually mean that as I walk fast – the museum would be wonderful.

I totally forgot that they have an exhibition on until September 4th all about Leonardo da Vinci. So I paid for my ticket and spent a fabulous couple of hours taking my time looking at everything, listening to every audio going and having a go with every bit of equipment there was to get my hands on (and I was not the only grown-up doing so!)

The man clearly was a genius and had a brain so far ahead of his time it was unbelievable.  Some of his invention were pre-cursors to stuff we have in the modern world.

For example he invented a 3 wheeled cart for a theatrical production, steered by a rudder attached to a 4th wheel, and motorised by cogs – this they reckon was the pre-cursor to our modern-day cars!

His idea for a diving suit was not so far removed from our modern-day equivalent, and then there was flight, anatomy, weapons, mathematics, this list was endless.

I did not know that he actually wrote backwards! All his notes are written from right to left and although the words are spelt correctly and not backwards as well, the letters are written as if in a mirror. Not entirely sure if this was due to secrecy and only his successors would know the code, but it must have taken some doing!

I was blown away – literally.

Although most people would think of him as a painter, apparently he only ever painted 30 pictures and there are only 20 surviving to this day, compared to over 5000 notes (can’t remember if that’s sets or pages).

If you get a chance to go to the Science Museum before the 4th September I would definitely recommend this exhibition. I would gladly go again, and probably find out more stuff that I did today – you always gain more knowledge after the first experience I find!

After I said goodbye to Leo, I have to admit, that although I didn’t have SC with me I just couldn’t help myself going to some of the other hands-on interactive galleries – I know I’m such a big kid 😉

And I also managed to spot Wally – courtesy of a gentlemen wearing a white and red knitted bobble hat!

With that done, I headed back to the tube.  The sun was still shining, but I was in desperate need of refreshment. So I stopped off at Embankment (luckily can walk to the train from there), found a friendly purveyor of teas, purchased a soothing chamomile and in the middle of London found an oasis of calm.

Literally next door to Embankment tube station, there is a delightful garden/small park and in the midst of all the hub-bub the garden was peaceful and serene. I sat in the sunshine, listening to the birds, sipping said tea and partaking of one of my favourite past-times – people watching.

Who knew Antirrhinums were also called “bunnies ears!”

The old lady sitting next to me didn’t like the students chatting outside her flats and told them they should go to the nursery up the road instead of back to college!

I hope the man in the suit jogging through the park got to where he was going on time (and without splitting his trousers, they were rather tight!)

And then I noticed people stopping near a tree, “mmm, must be a bird up there!” thought I. Then I realised they were looking at the back of the tulip bed. And lo and behold this is what they were all looking at:

Fantastic Mr Fox

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Friday Poem – Beltane

A poem about the Beltane festival by “Lady Slipper”Beltane

Love making May crowns, willow wands with SC and casting spells to banish to shades of Winter 😉

Beltane

 

Give way the cold, let the thaw begin
As Winter transforms to Spring again.
Let all creatures of cold slumber rise
And feathers on wings fill the skies.

 

Brooks and streams are babbling
All harken to the song they sing.
The Crocus and the Daffodil
Casting off their Winter chill.

 

Bare boned trees show signs of life
For they’ve withstood cold Winter’s strife.
Sodden fields soon to color green
As life returns where death once seen.

 

A tiny babe born one Yule
Nurtured through many Winter’s cruel,
Has now grown to a maiden fair
Let the joy of Beltane fill the air.

 

From a child the maid she grew
With an innocence known only to a few,
Sheltered by her purity
As to fulfill her destiny.

 

In linen gown with golden thread
A crown of flowers round her head,
Was taken to a secret place
Where her lover could behold her face.

 

Now the maiden sweet with raven hair
Her soulful eyes and skin so fair,
Chance for to meet her lover’s gaze
As he peers at her through his forest maze.

 

The Green Man Cern in gallent stride
Has claimed her for his maiden bride,
And from their love the two shall bear
A babe at Yule with raven hair.

 

Now the maiden has become the Crone
And she spends her time mostly all alone,
With sweet dreams of the Summer Land
Where she’ll soon return to once again.

 

Old and withered when the Crone she died
No tears for her left to be cried.
Though the cycles of life sometimes seem cruel,
Still a babe is always born at Yule.

 

We will celebrate into the night
Our passage into this Pagan Rite,
Let all hear the drumming sound
For the seeds of Beltane have gone to ground.
Our heritage passed hand to hand
And shoulder to shoulder we will stand
By the water’s edge for all to see
Sending love to the Universe, Blessed Be.

 

 

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So, it’s easy being a single mother is it?

Apparently Mylene Klass has said she loves being a single mum, she wants to ‘own’ it (whatever the hecky thump that phrase means) or #someothershit

Well, and please excuse the sarcasm here but it probably helps if you have millions in the bank, nannies or au pairs and not much else to have to worry about.

But for those of us who live in the real world the answer is slightly different.

No, it isn’t easy.

It’s bloody hard work!

I certainly didn’t set out to be a single mother, but ended up one pretty much from day 1. (And no, before anyone jumps in, I have never, ever denied any contact – just like to make that clear)

You don’t just have to be 1 parent, you have to be 2 rolled into 1.

The job is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with no break.

No one to say “you know what, you have a lie in and I’ll take the baby out for a couple of hours!” – and believe me after 18months of being woken every 1½hours I looked like the living dead, followed by not actually sleeping through the night until he was 4, it’s no wonder I have bags under my eyes the size of a 747 cargo-hold!

No one to help you when they’re sick with a fever of 104, or having night terrors and you have no clue what to do.

No one to help out if you’re sick.

No one to talk to.

Now, I will admit I am luckier than a lot of lone parents out there, my parents took us in, and yes I don’t have to worry about rent or food. But I don’t and never have just sat back and taken advantage of their good nature – and I will never ever be able to repay them.

I don’t go out every night of the week, sleeping with any Tom, Dick or Harry.  In fact, it is very rare I go out at all – I go ballroom dancing once a week and that pretty much sums up the extent of my social life.

And yes, my so-called friends thought I had the life of Riley because I lived back with my parents. Why my parents do all the work for me and I can just swan about doing jack-all.

Actually that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I actually hold down so many jobs it’s unbelievable.

I’m obviously a full-time “most-epic-awesomest” mummy ever.

But I’m also, full-time housemaid, chef, laundry woman and most lately elderly carer.

And a business owner – which as you can see is not very far up the list due to all the other stuff that has to be done.

Then there’s the fact that I am still living with my parents and trying to bring up my child – can you see where this one’s heading? Yup! I say something to SC, they yell at me, for getting cross with him, and then in the next breath say I’m letting him rule the roost!!

And yes, I am extremely lucky that I do have my parents there if I am unable to do the school run because I need to be at work early, or can’t get home in time, or if I am unwell they are to help.

So, it’s not a doddle.  It certainly wasn’t a career choice and I wouldn’t say I ‘own’ it!

And yes, there are times, quite a lot if truth be told, where I wish there was handsome prince, just someone to talk to – about anything, someone to share the load with, someone to put their arm around me and say “don’t worry, I’m here for you, I’ll protect you!”

So, it is hard, very hard indeed, but it does have an extremely brilliant plus side.

SC and I have the most amazing relationship. The bond is unbreakable. And yes, I know, he’s only mine for a short time, but right now he is my entire world.

We are a team!

And I wouldn’t swap what we have, or have had, for anything.

 

 

 

 

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BREXIT – Are you In or Out?

On Thursday 23rd June Britain will decide whether to stay put or bid au revoir to the EU.

From the outset, I would like to point out I have no idea which way to vote and am not a member of any political party. These are purely just my observations and not an indication of which way anyone should vote.

But what is the best decision?

Like a game of cricket there are two sides: in and out.

The team that’s IN says the best thing to do is stay in and the team that’s OUT says the best thing to do is leave.

And all their arguments just seem to be contradictions of each other – and it’s beginning to sound like a well-loved Monty Python sketch.

But what is the best decision? How do we make up our minds?

Since it is probably the biggest decision the UK has had to make since deciding to join the Common Market in 1975 should we simply just toss a coin, try and find out as much information as possible ignore everyone else and draw our own logical conclusions, or simply just tune in to WII-FM and vote according to which camp we think we (as individuals) will be better off?

I guess my first question would be whether the UK really is well-regarded and considered as an influential power within the EU at present.

If it is, then that sort of gives team IN the edge. If not, then really what have we got to lose by leaving?

From what I’ve read, or at least tried to research, there’s a lot of scare-mongering going on. It’s all going to be doom and gloom whichever way we vote.

But I think in all honesty, it’s not going be like the morning after a night on the town, or ripping off a band aid. We aren’t suddenly going to wake up on June 24th and find the world has stopped, everyone’s jobs have gone and the price of food and flights to Europe increased infinitesimally overnight, whichever way the vote goes.

Which leads me to my second question, if we stay in, despite the pro-EU leaflet saying we have special status and won’t join the Euro or be part of any further political integration, won’t that kind of making our membership a little bit null and void. A bit like being on a team but not really being part of the team, so to speak.

And as we’ve already, apparently secured a permanent out from joining the Euro, or be part of any further political integration, doesn’t that give team OUT the edge?

I make that one all! And still the decision is no clearer!

So, moving on to the hot topics, that are categorised in the IN and OUT leaflets, regarding the vote.

  1. The Economy

The pro-EU leaflet states that “The EU is by far the UK’s biggest trading partner. EU countries buy 44% of everything we sell abroad, from cars to insurance. Remaining inside the EU guarantees our full access to its Single Market. By contrast, leaving creates uncertainty and risk.”

Now, playing devil’s advocate and ever the mathematician, what drew my eye was the number 44%. So the EU may buy 44% of total UK exports, but let’s just flip that around. That means that 56% of total UK exports are sold elsewhere and surely that is a bigger percentage. So if we sell more stuff to outside Europe then surely that negates the leaflet’s next point that “Remaining inside the EU guarantees our full access to its Single Market. By contrast, leaving creates uncertainty and risk

Which leads me to my third question – when 56%, or more than half, of total UK exports are sold outside the EU, how can leaving the EU create such a huge risk to UK exports?

Also, if EU countries are buying goods will they suddenly stop buying them on June 24th if we leave? And on the flip side will they suddenly stop exporting cars and goods to us?

If that does prove to be the case then they clearly aren’t very good at running businesses. From where I stand I certainly can’t see Mr Head of BMW say “we’ll stop selling cars to the UK, our profit margin doesn’t matter?”

The pro-EU leaflet also states that “The Single Market makes it easier and cheaper for UK companies to sell their products outside the UK, creating jobs as a result.” But who to? This sentence is not qualified. Since less than half of total UK exports end going to the Single Market is this just a red herring ‘scaremongering’ sentence?

It may take some time to sort out new arrangements, but I don’t see that by leaving the EU we will lose full access to selling to the EU.

Now, moving on to team OUT’s leaflet – they say that “at the moment the UK has no trade deals with important countries like China, India and Australia. If we vote to remain in the EU, we won’t be able to make our own deals. We’ll keep having the same old rows about bailing out the euro (€).”

Why don’t we have these deals yet? China and India have been up-and-coming economies over the last 15 years, who has been sleeping on the job and not getting this done.

The Chinese President did visit last year and there was some stuff I read about bi-lateral agreements, but I couldn’t find any mention of a formal trade agreement (please correct me if I’m wrong)

As for Australia and the rest of the commonwealth – well according to Wikipedia “Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973, and its evolution as a member state of the European Union (EU) has meant that for practical purposes, the United Kingdom cannot independently enter into negotiations with Commonwealth states to establish a free trade agreement. Instead, the EU, as a representative of all its members, negotiates collectively.”

So much for the Commonwealth Free Trade process!

Is that a win for team OUT? (I guess that makes it 2-1)

 

  1. Improving our lives

According to the IN leaflet this is separated into “Cost of Living” and “Travel Abroad”

Cost of Living

Their leaflet states that “If the UK voted to leave the EU, the resulting economic shock would put pressure on the value of the pound, which would risk higher prices of some household goods and damage living standards.”

No one knows exactly what will happen should the vote go to the OUT camp or indeed to the IN camp.

So, is it fair to state that there will be an economic shock?

Would it be a long-lasting and catastrophic shock (as in the case of Japan in the early 90s), or would it just be a short-term panic shock and then back to business as usual?

Is that sentence, and the use of the word “risk” surely just playing into the fear factor?

Looking at the value of the pound against the dollar over the last couple of months there was a definite bottom to the graph at the beginning of March – where you got just under $1.40 to the pound – but the graph has been slowly, but steadily climbing back upwards thus showing the value of pound is getting stronger.

And if you just use the FOREX as a guide, there’s always some kind of fluctuation when major announcements happen, some big some small, but it always manages to bounce back.

Again, nothing will happen instantaneously. It will take time to re-negotiate trade agreements should the OUT vote win, and whilst there may be some increase in the cost of living, as it will have been spread over a length of time (the leaflet suggest it will take 10 years to sort out trade agreements) surely it any increase will be absorbed into the general increase in living costs that we have endured over the years anyway?

So, is there any substance to this claim? I have no clue, and no counter-argument as the OUT leaflet doesn’t mention cost of living.

Travel Abroad

Will it become more expensive to travel in Europe if the OUT vote wins?

According to the IN leaflet, “EU reforms in the 1990s have resulted in a drop in fares of over 40% for lower cost flights.”

Is this really the sole reason for voting IN?

Having used certain low-cost airlines over the years, it’s not always that cheap, and sometimes the destination really is miles from anywhere! In fact, once I found it was cheaper to actually use a national airline than a budget one.

I don’t this can be chalked up as a win for team IN, so the score stands at 2-1

 

  1. Immigration & Border Control

Onto a big, hot topic here.

Team IN states that “The Government has negotiated a deal that will make our benefits system less of a draw for EU citizens. In future, new EU migrants will not have full access to certain benefits until they have worked here for up to four years. The Government will have greater powers to take action where there is abuse of our immigration system. Some argue that leaving the EU would give us more freedom to limit immigration. But in return for the economic benefits of access to the EU’s Single Market, non-EU countries – such as Norway – have had to accept the right of all EU citizens to live and work in their country.”

Team OUT states that “If we vote to remain in the EU, we’ll be stuck with an out-of-control immigration system which is bad for our security. The European Courts will be in charge of who we let in, and who we can remove. Imagine if Turkey joins this broken system. If we Vote Leave, we will be able to have a fairer, more humane system based on the skills we need. We’ll be able to control numbers without having to turn away talented people from outside the EU who want to contribute.”

To be fair, I can see valid points to both sides of the argument here.

Both sides seem to agree that the immigration system is out of control and there does need to be some form of more stringent controls.

To be honest I like the idea of a points system and skills shortage lists like they have in Canada, Australia and New Zealand (and how bummed was I to be 10 points under the limit for NZ – still my dream of moving there is not dampened – but I digress)

With regard to border controls, there’s no mention of this in team OUT’s leaflet, and team IN quite rightly states that we are not part of the EU’s border-free zone, and that the UK has the right to check everyone arriving whether they are from an EU country or not.

Hmm, well I’ve been through border control and seen everyone waved through bar me, just because SC has a different surname and I have to prove he’s my son (do they want to see the scars?) – and yes I seriously do have to carry his birth certificate to prove it (never mind my surname is also part of his name!!!)

I’m so totally chickening out of any further discussion on this one, so I think I’m calling it a draw!

 

  1. EU Member Benefits

Team IN states that “For every £1 paid in tax, a little over 1p goes to the EU.”

Team in states that “We send over £350 million to the EU every week – enough to build a modern hospital every week of the year.”

So, I’ve done some delving and being a mathematician some quick calculations.

A website called “fullfact.org” broke down the EU payments as shown here:

  • £18Billion – is what we should pay
  • £5Billion – is our instant rebate – so we never pay this and our Membership Subscription (for want of a better word) is £13Billion
  • BUT we also get £4.5Billion coming back due to EU spending on the UK

So our total bill is £8.5Billion which is not (sorry Team OUT) £350Million a week, but £250Million a week.

Pah! What’s £100Million amongst friends?

It is still an extortionate amount of money, and yes would do an inordinate amount of good building better health services, new schools, etc.

BUT! And here’s the but.

If you spin it with Team IN’s argument and look at the Tax Revenue (courtesy of “economicshelp.org”) for the UK, you can see the UK government collected during 2013/2014 £490Billion. That’s just purely tax collected not including any assets, interest, etc.

So if we work out the percentage our EU Membership costs, we get that 1.73% of taxes collected goes to the EU. Which sounds a lot a better really, and quite frankly begs another question what exactly happens to the remaining 98.27% of tax revenue??

It’s amazing how the same things can look so different from different angles, isn’t it?

Based on these figures alone, I think Team IN can chalk this one up as a win. (2-2)

 

  1. Control over our Laws

Team OUT state that “If we vote to remain, EU laws will overrule UK laws and the European Courts will be in control of our trade, our borders, and big decisions like whether prisoners are allowed to vote. If we Vote Leave, UK laws will have ultimate authority and we will take back control. We should be able to vote out the people who make our laws.

Team IN makes no comment on this issue.

On a common sense ground, surely as a democratic society we should be able to vote out people who make our laws, if we don’t like what they are doing? And on this basis if we don’t have a say in who is making the laws, where has our democratic right gone?

As there is no opposing argument, I can’t chalk this up as a win.

 

So at the end of a hard fought match we have …

A TIE!!!

Seriously?

Looks like I’ll be flipping a coin then!

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Out of the Mouths of Babes – Pride & Prejudice

I love this Jane Austen book – it was the first I read and well it does the soul good to sit through 6 hours of the BBC’s adaptation of Pride & Prejudice – cue an excuse for a picture of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy 😉"and your parents? are they in good health?"

SC first saw chunks of this about 2 years ago and now, every time it’s on (fairly regularly it would appear on the Drama Channel) he loves sitting and watching it with me. He does a very good impression of Lizzie saying “Mr Darcy!” – which cracks me up no end 😉

Anyway I thought you might like SC’s take on the cast list:

Mr Wickham – Boo! Hiss! Pantomime villain.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh – “she’s a mean old lady mummy!”

Mr Collins – “he’s quite nice, but a bit annoying.”

Mrs Bennett – “mmm, she’s OK, but I wouldn’t want her as a mummy.”

Lizzie Bennett – “she’s lovely. Just like you mummy.”

Mr Darcy -“oh, he’s very nice. I wish he was real mummy, so that you could have a happy ending, just like Lizzie.” (Lord, love him 😉 )

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My Top 5 Shakespeare Plays

Well, I couldn’t let this occasion pass without mentioning my favourite plays by the “world’s most celebrate playwright”, could I?

I actually really like Shakespeare. This was quite a difficult choice as I have seen quite a lot of his plays, but these are the ones that have stuck in my mind over the years.

So, and I’m probably going to get all cliché and popularist, but these are my favourites:

5.  The Winter’s Tale – OK, so this made it in only because it has possibly the best stage direction ever – “exit, pursued by bear”. But I did see a thoroughly brilliant production of this play a couple of years ago and the performance of Autolycus was so utterly and brilliantly funny it has stuck in my mind.

4.  Hamlet – this had to be in really. I’ve seen the Mel Gibson and Kenneth Brannagh movie as well as seeing both David Tennant and Jude Law play the roles. I always fancied playing Ophelia – maybe because of the flowers – but to be honest I don’t think I would make a very good Ophelia, I don’t think I could carry off the wistful look and I’m far too tall for a start.

3.  Macbeth – this was the second Shakespeare play I was ever introduced to. I was in my final year of primary school and our headmaster introduced us to the bard and we had to sit and listen to a record of the play (yes, a record!!!) Did I understand it? Not really. I then saw it whilst I was a drama school – admittedly it was an understudy rehearsal so the cast were playing several characters, which was equally confusing, but then they went and killed the good-looking one!!! Why??? I have seen Macbeth once since then and it was only after watching the short play afterwards – called “Elsie & Norm’s Macbeth” – did I actually get what the play was about.  So thanks Elsie and Norm, and for anyone studying Macbeth who, like me is a bit stuck, then try and find Elsie & Norm to explain it to you.

2.  Much Ado About Nothing – OK I unashamedly admit this is in purely because of the Kenneth Brannagh film, the Italian countryside and Keanau Reeves sporting a brooding look and leather trousers!!

1.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream – yes, I know it’s obviously all about the fairies, but this was the very first Shakespeare I read and saw when I was about 8. I love everything about this play.  Being tall I always wanted to play Helena, but I’ve got a hankering to play Titania as well one day. This was also the first Shakespeare play I took SC to – he was 6 and he sat through it at The Globe. It was a cracking production and made even more memorable due to several mishaps on stage which had the cast in stitches.

 

Where do you stand on Shakespeare? Love him or can’t abide it? What’s your favourite play?

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What if?

‘Letters to Juliet’ is unashamedly a girlie rom-com, chick-flick, and yes, I cry. But towards the end of the film we hear the letter that ‘Juliet’ writes back to Claire – after a period of 50 years:what if greg plitt

Dear Claire,

“What” and “If” are two words as non-threatening as words can be.

But put them together side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life:

What if?

What if?

What if?

I don’t know how your story ended but if what you felt then was true love, then it’s never too late. If it was true then, why wouldn’t it be true now? You need only the courage to follow your heart.

I don’t know what a love like Juliet’s feels like – love to leave loved ones for, love to cross oceans for but I’d like to believe if I ever were to feel it, that I will have the courage to seize it.

And, Claire, if you didn’t, I hope one day that you will.

All my love, Juliet

 

And it’s true.

“What if” does have the power to haunt you.

What if I had done this, what if I had done that?

All those regrets that hang on those 2 words. Things you wish you could have done, should have said, etc.

But holding on to the “what ifs” doesn’t do anyone any favours – believe me, I know.

I’ve learned that we can’t change the past, no matter how hard we try. We have to live for the present and use our past experiences to shape our future ones, so that we no longer think “what if” but live a full life with no regrets.

At the end of the day, if things don’t work out the way you planned or wanted – for example you didn’t get the job, promotion, house, etc, then maybe it wasn’t meant to be and maybe, just maybe life has something better lined up for you.

That’s a hard one to get your head around sometimes, especially if you feel that your whole world is collapsing around you, but it does get better.

You just have to believe in 3 things: in yourself, in other people and that anything is possible.

And sometimes you’ll find that something in the most unlikely of places when you’re least expecting it.

These days I don’t think “what if” and try to second-guess the future or over-analyse every little minute detail of life, I just let life flow.

I have finally learned that “you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf!” and it’s actually great fun.

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