January blues

Is it me, or is January lasting a really really long time? And we’re barely half way through it. Its another two weeks til February.

Anyway, I have nothing personal to be blues-ish about, but I can’t help but feel that this January is particularly depressing. It started with two deaths, neither particularly close to me but both enough to exacerbate the sadness I always face at the turning of the year. Work is, just, work like. The anti climax from our fantastic holiday in Australia was always going to be bad, but, well, it is. The evenings are a long way light enough from being good enough to do things with in the evening, and I really can’t be arsed to do stuff in the evening, whittling my time away on the internet.

So, roll on February. I hope to seize opportunities, get more motivated, and do stuff. Starting with a spot of hoovering…

Oh, and incidentally, I’ve had MS type eyesight problems (although it wasn’t MS, all the signs were that it looked like MS). What burnt sienna has to say on The Idiot’s Guide to Burntsienna’s Eyesight (and other MS mysteries) was so so so true for me in the bits relating to eyesight stuff. Its umpty-years later, and I have some residual difficulties, but I *still* have to explain that glasses don’t cure all sorts of eyesight problems. And I would add… just because I don’t have a white stick doesn’t mean I know that I’m in the men’s clothing department/where to sign on the receipt slip/I’m getting on to the first class carriage of the train and countless other things which caused all sorts of problems and embarassments.

Snow day here

But it took us a good week to get our snow. But I’ve done as much work as I can from home, the computers are down, work is closed, so now to get on to the long list of jobs I could be doing.

Or just stay on the computer ogling other ideas.

I blame Dormouse. I’ve found The Pink Whisk’s website.

Aren’t those snowmen lollies just the cutest ever???

**blows dust off blog**

My, its been some time.

Part of the delay was a holiday. Not just any holiday, but four weeks in Australia. I’m sorry I didn’t mention this before, but I’m not entirely sure that saying to the world ‘hey, my house will be empty for a month’ is the best thing to do. I did, however, get to meet up with the wonderful Ian in Sydney. In case you didn’t know, he is ever funnier, more interesting and kinder in real life than he is on his blog, which is saying something. And his blog is one of the reasons we went to where we did on our travels (specifically, I fell in love with the idea of Tasmania from this entry and the four days we had there were simply not enough, especially as we were too tired to do much at freycinet apart from breathe in the magnificent views over coles bay).

Anyway, we kept a long paper diary of our travels, which briefly went… a few days up near Cairns at Thala Beach lodge, a little piece of paradise, followed by a few days in Sydney, and a drive from Sydney to Melbourne via a circuitous route which took us to the Blue Mountains (wow. Oh wow.), Canberra (nowhere near as dull as Bill Bryson makes out) and, in a day which will go down in memory as being the most breathtakingly beautiful *and* silliest idea in the world when we woke up on Philip Island with 24 hours to get to Melbourne airport and the thought to drive the Great Ocean Road. 800 kms later, with lots and lots of stops to admire the simply stunning views, we arrived at Melbourne airport, desperate for a hotel!

We then had a few days in Tasmania (sadly, nowhere near Miss Lisa, though the thought of living in that beautiful island is very appealing) before finishing off in Melbourne.

We haven’t gone through our own pictures yet, so fortunately for you I can’t bore you with the several thousand we took…

Thoughts

Australia is big. Stating the obvious, but its big *and* deserted. And we were in the populous part. I can’t get over how far we drove at a time without seeing anything bar the occasional mailbox as signs of life. It is so empty, this is both its biggest draw but also one of the reasons why I’m not *immediately* jumping on a plane to get there (tempting as that is). It is a long way from anywhere, including itself.

It is a beautiful country. From the Great Barrier Reef to the Hazards, I’ve seen more beautiful sea scenes than I would have thought possible.

The people are so incredibly friendly. The businessman at Melbourne airport who stopped to help us with our luggage despite being busy, the many restaurant staff who were so friendly and lovely, the hotel staff who helped us, and the amazing people at the tourist information centres… all were great.

The food was pretty yummy too ;) I particularly loved the sandwiches you could get in so many sandwich bars, and the amazing breakfasts served at so many cafes.

I didn’t freak out at snakes (we saw three) and spiders. This surpassed my expectations.

I thought one trip in a lifetime would be enough. I really don’t think it is. I’m very very greedy.

Darwin airport at 2:30 in the morning is really, really dull.

Driving Sydney-Melbourne is perfectly doable, but I think in the future I’d go Sydney-Canberra, and then fly to Melbourne, as Canberra-Melbourne was fairly dull with little in the way of distractions til we were within about 2 hours of Melbourne.

Upgrading to a better hire car is worth the investment, though we were lucky enough to get a free upgrade.

The history and story of Aboriginal peoples is fascinating but sadly missing in many parts of life that I saw. Only in the National Museum of Australia did I come across a gallery which treated the subject with more pride than historical embarassment. I am ashamed to come from a country which did so much harm.

History is a relative term in a country both more ancient and much younger than mine. Still, it tickled me to travel thousands of miles to see Cooks Cottage, from Mr Ferijenland.

Good reads

I’ve read so many good books recently, its definitely worth recommending some. So, here goes…

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, has been a brilliant, passionate read that has dominated the past three days. Set in 1960s Mississippi, it takes the voices of three women to describe interracial tensions and the segregated politics of that time which is, unbelievably, only 50 years ago. How true to life I do not know (though I imagine writing something which didn’t reflect reality would have got the author into serious trouble) but its an intriguing and gripping read which I would recommend to anyone.

A Winter Rose is what I’d describe as an intelligent holiday read. Its not so challenging its going to have you trying to work out the intrigues of each character, but instead its one of those marvellous stories which goes on and on working through different aspects of life.
It follows a young female doctor in 1900s London as she overcomes prejudices to work in the East End. It falls, at times, to stereotypes (the posh parents, the arrogant toff, the good-hearted criminal) but its precisely that easy type of read which I enjoy when the mind needs something not to heavy to engage with. Its also 700 pages, so if you were limiting yourself to just one book to take on holiday, this would be it. I didn’t have a holiday to enjoy it, instead waking early and getting to bed late to finish it. Apparently its the second of a (as yet unfinished) trilogy: perhaps it makes more sense if the first book (which concentrates on characters who are side plots in this book) is read first, but I didn’t feel I’d missed out. The only thing which grated on me was the slightly over-researched meticulousness… I don’t need to be told Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Britain, or the place of the Thames in the East End. But its a minor irritation on a great read.

Sacred Hearts, by Sarah Dunant, is another riveting read set around female voices, this time the detailed setting of a 16th century Italian convent. It details the novitiate of a rebellious young woman, forced into a convent by a family looking to avoid scandal. Its another well told story, detailing politics, family rivalry, faith and early modern medicine with a meticulously researched book set in an intriguing time period.

The Map of Love is an epic novel set in present day and early 20th century Egypt. It took a long time to read – in fact, I was at it for six weeks (though once I broke its back, i read lots of other stuff very quickly) and traces a young English widow falling for an Egyptian at a time when such relationships Were Not Done, and their extended family descendants putting together the detail of their lives years many years later. Its long, but a good read, although not as immediately gripping as the others on this page.

Also read recently are two books which, whilst good, didn’t quite live up to my expectations. - Her Fearful Symmetry failed to ignite in me the same interest that her first book, The Time Travellers Wife, did. I mean, its worth reading, don’t get me wrong, but its not something I’m going to re-read at any point. Also, I was slightly disappointed with Bill Bryson’s At Home which whilst an interesting account of the stuff in all our homes didn’t have quite the same get up and go as some of his books, although its definitely worth a read.

So, erm, I’m a married lady

And clearly despite my penchant for wedding rants, its probably worth marking the occasion on my (woefully unupdated) wiblog… so, yes, erm, I got married on Friday. And there were no white dresses, silly speeches, or odd traditions (though my mum and m-i-l conspired to get an old blue hanky into my handbag when I wasn’t looking).

It was a lovely day, full of the most delicious Italian food (we got married in Italy, so this is fairly obvious) and wine, including a vineyard tour when we were already a little the worse for wear. And I got to go on a train from wedding venue to vineyard venue, and not many brides get to do that.

So that’s me, married. Fortunately its not a day I’ve spent my life building uptowards, otherwise I’d imagine the anti climax would be particularly bad, but as it is, it was back to work today (we got home on the late flight last night) and after hanging up lots of cards, its back to normal. Currently working out what time Mr Ferijen will make it back from work in order to go out to Scouts again in half an hour and how we’re going to eat something in that time…

Between the seven guests, there were eight cameras. I suppose its too much to hope that all the cameras misfunctioned, so there may be photos ahead. *sigh*

More making!

Pants beat me to it but she’s not the only one who has been crafty recently. My birthday pressie was a sewing machine, a device I knew little about before getting it (I did buy a very cheap one from Aldi a few years ago, which taught me that it had potential but £30 was too little to pay). Anyway, I set my self the task to make something before I went on scout camp two weeks later, and came up with this.
Its quite a bit of shoddy sewing and not the most impressive thing in the world up close, but I’m proud of it and I did get it done before I went to scout camp (which makes me a very happy bean). Oh, and if anyone can recommend something else easyish for me to start on making with me new toy, I’d be VERY greatful, cos though my enthusaism for patchwork is immense, there’s a limit to how much I can fill my house up with slightly iffy blankets!

Ah, yes, scout camp. As if a weekend cub camp at the beginning of July wasn’t enough, I spent last week at Broadstone Warren, a huge scout/activity site in East Sussex which is blessed with amazing scenery, private woodland pitches, and hideously vile toilets a long way from anywhere (though lots of convenient bushes). Regular readers may know I’m not in uniform but a regular helper at scouty/cubby stuff and last week was probably the week of leave I’ve been most dubious about in advance. In reality, I hardly sat down all week, was absolutely physically knackered but mentally totally refreshed and really feeling like I’d *done* something from 7 in the morning til 11 at night.

Which probably adds to the feeling that sitting in an office dealing with stuff all day probably isn’t the ideal job for me, but shall we just avoid that bit of reality as that bit of reality comes with a nice salary and job security.

But it was great to come back to a) toilets that weren’t half an mile from where I slept b) weren’t smelly and covered with the cobwebs of months of spiders and c) accompanied with showers which left me seriously wondering whether I was cleaner before or after I went into them. I can do this camping lark, but it is better accompanied by decent plumbing!

Also went to see toy Story 3 last night which was the first film I’ve seen in 3D. Film was good, but I’m not sure the 3D is worth the extra money…

Random thoughts

Anyone else finding a vote for the Lib Dems rather scary? I guess it just remains to be seen whether I’ll be one of the one-in-six-hundred-thousand public sector employees not in a job in a couple of years time.

Have you *seen* Access 2007? I’m just starting to get to grips with MS Word & Excel 2007 (yeah, yeah, I know 2010 is out but I’m behind the times) which as an advanced excel user was proving, er, challenging, and then I go on and take on an access database in 2007. Oh. Dear. Me. This is going to take some getting used to.

Its July. how did that happen?

I don’t have a free weekend at home til about 2011.

But I do have a holiday booked :) Coming to a bit of down under near you (will have to be careful talking about this, don’t really want my absence advertised On The Internet To All And Sundry).

The garden is very dry. The allotment even more so. But my Charlotte potatoes are gorgeous, even if I think they’d have been much happier with a bit of rain at some point in the past four months.

Oh my new conservatory is lovely. But never let you be sold ‘under floor warming’ rather than ‘under floor heating’ without it defined in writing. As a consequence we’ve paid £400 for something which will not do the job we wanted to (namely, heat the conservatory) and we still need to get some form of heating in here.

I knew three people getting ordained yesterday. That’s quite a lot. Good luck to them. Got talking to random Anglican in the Chinese takeaway on friday night – he was visiting and waiting for a taxi to take him back to a hotel. Said ‘oh, I can tell you’re not an evangelical, we’ve been talking for five minutes about churchy stuff and you haven’t asked me whether I’ve been saved yet’. He has a point.

I spent time with a lovely three year old today and her lovely parents who have gone through so much pain recently I didn’t know what to say. I hope that by being nice and cooking lunch, I made their day better, but I really wish I had a magic wand or at least something useful to do.

I cut the grass in my pyjamas today. I am *so* classy don’t you think?

I sang in a concert yesterday, which was interesting as there was almost as many in the audience. there were about 250 singers and an 80 piece orchestra (singing Villa Lobos Choros Number 10, and Daphnis et Chloe). The orchestra was excellent. The choir, well, meh…

I’m on cub camp next weekend and scout camp for a week at the end of the month. There’s a Village Day thing in between those two dates. Volunteering very quickly Takes Over Your Life (not to mention your annual leave allowance. Remember that, when you send your children on cub and scout camps, we’re not only giving up our time, but we’re giving up precious days of leave. A thank you occasionally would be nice).

Right, random thoughts assimilated vaguely and noted down. And Now To Bed.