Relearning Talent.

Some people instinctively know how to cook. Some can sing like no other. Some people can ride a horse perfectly after never having met one before.

Not me.

Okay, I’m a pretty fab home cook and I can ride but I had to watch and study and learn. I had to imitate others to be able to do these things myself. Therefore I am not naturally talented. I have to keep learning, trying, experimenting and refining to be good at something. Hey, don’t we all? I think it was my Dad that said,

“You might be the world’ s best violinist or archer but if you never pick up a violin or a bow how will you know?”

I’m not sure where he heard that but he’s right.

Everyone in the world has a talent but if you never get the chance to try that one thing, you’ll never know if you could have been the best. Lack of patience can hold you back. Lack of imagination can hold you back. Parents, family, peers, colleagues, friends, fear of the unknown, money, culture and indifference can hold you back.

I love painting. I feel I’m not naturally talented but I can imitate very successfully. With patience, practise and perseverance I think you can be good at anything. So I’m a pretty good painter. Just because I really really want to be. If you look at my Dad’ s saying the other way round, there’s no point being the best painter in the world if you don’t actually paint.

The thing is, like I said before, if I don’t keep doing what  I love doing (painting) then I lose the muscle memory, the colour palettes, the shaping, all the little tricks that made that one single painting good all those weeks ago. I have to practise and build it all back up again. I cannot simply create masterpieces. I am not a fluke; a rare talent that just is.

I’m not alone. Most of the world is like me. We all have to practise and keep going. For most real people it’s discipline that makes us great, not always talent.

I will keep going with the painting. Eventually I will get something fabulous on paper that makes other people say “Wow, aren’t you talented.” and I will say “Yes, why yes I am.”

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My new addiction…

I have a few little obsessions. Generally they change with the times. Although I don’t think I’ll be rid of this one any time soon.

I adore mood boards and sketchbooks. If I could, I would hang a cork board and pin things on my wall until it’s inches deep with cut outs and clippings. Unfortunately this would be expensive; books and magazines don’t come cheap.

So what have I found?

Pinterest.

Yup. If you’ve known about Pinterest for years then I apologise, this post will bore you to tears. If not, YOU NEED TO CHECK OUT PINTEREST IF YOU ARE ANYTHING LIKE ME.

So, I collect and collate. I horde and I keep. Pinterest is basically an online mood board or pin board for anything and everything you like, want to share, want to read, rate or follow; recipes, animal photography, pet pictures, craft projects, diy tips, interior design ideas, posters, sayings, tattoo ideas, wedding inspiration, kid stuff, education, health and well being, beauty, products, jewellery and fashion. Everything. On one board alone I probably have over 400 items or ‘pins’. These pins are links back to their original source which is fab news if you find some good stories while browsing that you want to keep or read later.

The thing is, for me, it’s like reading a magazine that changes to suit what you want to look at. It’s the magazine chameleon. I get home. I pick up Kindle. I browse Pinterest. So much so now OH has noticed. We watch tv and I browse Pinterest. “How can you even be watching this and messing with that?” He has now noticed I laugh at my Kindle screen more than I laugh at him. For him, this is the intruder in our relationship.

I even feel a bit guilty if he looks over and catches me on it.

So, this obviously means I am addicted. I have to stop. Go cold turkey. Pull the plug.

But I’ve just seen the most amazing print your own scarf tutorial…

😉

September.

I love September; so this post will be dedicated to everything that reminds me of September, everything that this month is to me, everything that screams memories, thoughts and ideas about this month.

Firstly, of course, it’s the month of mine and Other Half’s birthdays. So, presents and cake!

And the Seasons really do become quite apparent when September hits.

And, as you know me so well, I do like a nice autumn-y scent to snuggle up to after a breezy walk back from pub! 😉

No, this isn’t me but I don’t have a good pic of any of my Mam’s home made Aran jumpers she has knitted me. Still, aran means snuggly warmth without a coat- September. Follow the link to get yourself one.

With me wanting to become a Primary School Teacher, September yells “Back To School!”

At this precise moment I’m sat in what seems to be early morning darkness. The rain is lashing down on my garden and my little car outside, I have the promise of getting drenched cycling to work and I feel really good about it. Rain in September is special. It’s invigorating; it adds to the damp and softly decaying smell of leaves on the ground (a reminder of the rural home and village I grew up in) and it lasts ALL DAY. The energy and simple cleanliness of Mother Nature at it’s best after a hot summer. The darkness too isn’t quite as foreboding or depressing this month. I’ve only just noticed it getting darker and I can rearrange my furniture for cosiness. Jethro isn’t so pleased. He doesn’t like going out when the rain is coming down practically sideways but he watches it fall from his perch on the back of the sofa in the front window, listening to the noise it makes on the plastic corrugated sheeting of our conservatory roof.

September is my favourite month.

What do you all love about September?

Cats and their History with Magic

Not dogs and magic. Or even horses and magic. Somewhere along the path of Paganism or even Witchcraft there will be references to all and any kind of animal but the cat has long been associated with the occult and in particular women.

‘The cat, the animal which famously does not come when called, has long been an emblem of independence- and of free, independent, autonomous women.’ 1

Women have forever been inextricably linked with cats; their sinuous bodies, thoughtful natures and mysterious night time wanderings connected them also to the moon and from here, women too. Lunar phases and the midnight sky have for centuries been the territory of female deities and therefore all women.

Cat-fights and Hissy-fits describe, in colourful native dialects, the interactions and moods of women. It is interesting when people look at an image of an animal and see, not only what the animal is but what sex they perceive that animal to be, in that moment. For some reason this is important information for the human mind. Cats are female. Dogs are male. Doves are female. Hawks are male. We must get these perceptions from somewhere, history, our upbringings, cultural observations… I’m not sure. It’s just interesting.

I think even now this quote is relevant. In my own experience; all the men in my life, in fact, all the men I personally know have the wrong character for cats. They are all wonderful people and it is not their fault but by this I mean they are not suited to the intricacies or the subtle movements of a cat and it’s emotions. Them men I know who are what they call ‘cat-people’ just like the easy natures of a cat. I genuinely believe the male friends I have who call themselves ‘cat-people’  (there aren’t all that many, funnily enough) are really not. They are still heavy handed (physically and emotionally) clingy and attention-seeking (also physically and emotionally) and have no concept of the subtle nature of a cat. The men I know (and I actually know a fair few women like this too if I’m honest) who don’t know how to understand cats, tend not to ‘like’ them. People do not like what they do not understand, it’s a fact of human nature.

Personal space isn’t required when owning a dog for example. Silence and the fragile nature of peace is also, not required. Independence is not a word in the dog-owning dictionary, try inter-dependence. I believe in souls and the essence of one living thing being in a certain kind of harmony with another. Some people have an affinity for horses, some people know their pet, some people understand animals better than other people and I believe this is because of the harmony of their soul and the way they are in character and disposition. I’m not going on about some mumbo jumbo here; I believe that some people you just ‘get’ even when you have nothing in common, are drawn to you and you to them purely because of something intangible and undeniable and almost indescribable. The same with animals and maybe even other things.

But, I digress.

It has long been a folk-lore ‘fact’ that cats were tortured alongside their mistresses in the early witch burnings both in Britain and abroad for being Familiars or ties to the devil.

The fact that the cat cannot be manipulated like a dog, can move silently as and when it pleases and sometimes seems to have a ‘sixth sense’ all added to the mystery and intrigue surrounding them and historically added fuel to the flames of ignorance and fear.

I’m not completely convinced cats and indeed their people (we all know cats are never ‘owned’ but are the one’s who do you the service of owning you) were persecuted as violently or as massively as some believe but throughout history women have been persecuted, denied rights, tortured and killed. In witch burning tales the accusations of witchcraft usually came from the mouths of fearful or jealous men and women to then be taken up and acted upon by more emotionally damaged (to torture any creature, be it human or not, the person must be damaged) disturbed, violent and abusive members of the community.

It seems to me that even now, lone women (in certain circumstances) are still considered outsiders. I think for centuries now to ‘fit in’ and be one of the crowd is valued much more highly than what each individual member of said crowd’s talents and characters are. In the earliest communities in Britain, men and women looked very equal within society. Male deities have always been worshipped for strength and power. Female deities were once viewed in the same light- Freyja, Frigga, Bridgid, Hera, Athena, Minerva, Adi Parashakti, Bastet, Ma’at, Sekhmet and all the others. Bastet or Bast, the ancient Egyptian protector of the Pharaoh and solar goddess, was once a hugely popular goddess with the people. They could connect with their goddess through her animal ‘familiar’ or sacred animal, the domestic cat. Cats were every where in egypt, everyone who could have a cat near them would, they gave companionship- their own and that of the goddess, they helped keep rats and mice in check, protecting vital grain and food sources. Bast was a solar goddess and when my own cat comes to wake me every morning I can see how he also brings me the sun every day.

Freyja rode a chariot pulled by huge cats and they became synonymous with the Norse deity who by far one of the favourites of the people who worshipped at that time. Freyja was a warrior goddes, the patron of crops and childbirth, she also taught the gods the art of magic. Maybe she is the connection between cats and magic that was brought across the water for us Brits and our early ancestors?

So, was it the introduction of a religion who deified one single man and one single male God that spelled disaster for the strength of the feminine in Britain and Europe? Who decided man was greater than woman? And why do all the men I know still stick their noses up when I say I own a cat?

But again, I digress 🙂

1 The Element Encyclopaedia of Witchcraft  by Judika Illes, Animals; Cats, pg 44.

In the Garden- an update.

Things have started to go a little wiry and crazy in the garden. The weather Gods have been Divas for the past month and from January style rain to the 26 degrees centigrade it is now is a turn around to say the least. My Sun-Dance seems to have worked for the time being at least.

The abnormally mild start to the gardening year was welcomed in in April and plants started flowering around mid March. Early, I know. When the weather turned in May and it got cold the poor petals wilted and the plants just died back. Depressing. Well now the weather has settled (thank the Gods) the garden is starting to get into it’s rhythm. I’ve attached a few Macro Pics of the more colourful bits (there is, unfortunately, still too much bare ground in between these parcels of petals to bother with large scale photos)

If I can get these things to grow, you should be trying too! Good luck 😉

 

Men & Women…

So different…

Especially for me, in a shop, trying to sell things. I am a people-watcher. No, it’s not some odd Sci-Fi name I gave my kind. I just find it intresting to look at people; their actions, reactions, how they speak, why they speak, what they do when they talk to others, the way they talk to others, I find it interesting.

I can tell things about a person by the objects they buy in the cookware shop I work in. The colour of the dinner service they buy tells me a lot about their personalities. There are different personality profiles for each product too; either personality A or personality B.

For example; there is a Denby dinner service in store with blue blossom pattern on pale cream china. It’s modern as it’s a design from the Monsoon Collection but there are two people who buy this. The Fussies. The Romantics. Let me explain.

The Fussies are an older client who grew up on floral patterns and feel comfortable living with them, enjoying the modernist type but feeling safe enough in the old ‘floral’ genre to buy a whole dinner service. The Romantics are younger, maybe even my age, who are as the name directs, romantics. The soft floaty floral is easy on the eye, nothing too striking but a little different than a plain white set. If we didn’t have the floral blue set, these customers would buy plain white. The fact that this set is blue also means something to me. Calm, sensible people; neither type wanting to draw attention to themselves but with a bit of imagination showing in their product choice. They don’t take risks, they don’t shout, they don’t complain. They only buy something if they were looking for it. They do not buy things on the spur of the moment.

Sometimes you can see these customers as soon as they walk in.

The customers that walk to the back of the shop are more difficult. Le Creuset customers. I’ve titled this post ‘Men & Women’ because on the sales from the more expensive back of the shop one of the pair is difficult. Sales is a juggling act, fact, opinion and imagination bundled up in a eloquent pitch to get them to part with money.

Hey, it’s my job.

So when I see a couple looking at a product, I give myself a moment to work out the dynamic. Who’s in charge? Who’s mind is elsewhere? Who wants to be any where else right now? Who is in a bad mood? Who is opinionated? Who is clueless? These questions help me tailor my pitch. Guys want to know fact, product detail, technical points, the bits that to be quite honest don’t mean diddly squat unless you put them in context, which some of these guys really can’t grasp. Why yes, cast iron is wonderful stuff and the goose pot is an incredibly large pot designed, yeah, you got it, to fit a goose inside. Yes you can use it on the hob and in the oven and what not and who-ja-ma-wot-sit but really, are you ever going to cook a curry THAT BIG? Or, more directly, A GOOSE? Or seriously, is your oven EVEN BIG ENOUGH?

‘How you getting on there? You okay?’ I ask them. These men turn and look at me like I’m a cockroach. ‘I’m fine.’ is the answer when you know fine well they are most definitely not, in more ways than one. Lo-and-behold, twenty seconds later, out the corner of your eye, when you are stood no further than six feet away, in plain sight of these sexist, bigots they catch your manager walking past and grab them to ask about ‘the product details’. Your manager is male. Hmm, get that. I’m a girl so despite my thorough training and years of experience in sales, my love of cookware and kitchen products and the fact I am much more informed than my manager means nothing. You got it. The first thing they care to notice is the fact I’m a girl. A girl that looks under 25. I mustn’t have a clue.

Then there’s the wives/girlfriends/what ever that make me laugh. Some get angry with their men for looking at goose pots and asking me questions about stainless steel verses toughened non-stick. The women who cling to their men-folk like I’m going to jump on them and take them down. The women who are so under the thumb it makes me wince to hear the way their men talk to them. The women who are snappish and angry at me cause they have to replace something they broke. I get them all. Sometimes they make you laugh. Sometimes they ruin your day.

I had a customer throw a hissy fit because I wouldn’t use a whole damn sheet (almost 3 ft) of bubble wrap to wrap a mug for him to get home. ‘What happens if it gets broken on the way home?!’ he screeched at me. I told him he’d have to throw the mug at the ground to break it through the already requested eight sheets of tissue paper (standard wrapping in store is 3-4 sheets) and if he did manage to break it it would be like any other product broken from misuse. Mugs aren’t supposed to be thrown at the floor or dropped. They will break. Alas, he did not take this lightly. So I set my male college on him. Luckily he was in the same frame of mind as I. The customer left after two minutes.

There was one woman who wanted us to package every single piece of a twelve place setting dinner service (12x soup bowls, 12x dinner plates, 12x salad plates, 12x tea plates, 12x tea cups with accompanying 12 saucers, 12x mugs with teapot, platter and serving bowls x2) to send abroad. Tissue was not good enough. She demanded boxes and crates and tissue and bubble wrap and sellotape and an address label and personal shipping. Well, not quite the last two but it makes me mad. If you are silly enough to buy that amount to ship to South Africa it is a downright CHEEK to ask the staff in a store to package it up for you. Our job is to wrap only enough for a customer to take home. NOT SHIP ABROAD. That’s like going into a store, buying a t-shirt and asking the poor person at the till to wrap it in birthday paper and write out the card!

What the hell people? Get a grip. You want to send it abroad? You pay the price for packaging, not the bloody company you buy the products from. There is no service like that in our store. DIY people. That’s life. The customer is NOT always right. In fact, they are wrong more often than anything else.

I must admit there are some lovely people out there; beautiful, wonderful, kind, generous, funny people who have the time to be kind and polite, patient and humorous. I just wonder how these demanding, angry, aggressive, possessive folks manage to function in the world. Surely they struggle with all that angst? I just think to myself, if they can be that rude and obnoxious to a complete stranger and not think twice, imagine how they are with their families? I shudder to imagine.

At least kindness and compassion get returned to those who give it. Hopefully anger does too; that way, those people might understand how miserable they make others.

 

Mother’s baby chicks…

My mother has caught the bug.

Well, she caught it last year and now it’s getting pretty bad… Chickens. To be honest it hasn’t just stopped with the chickens; she now owns quails too. They eat eggs like I eat Smarties.

Last spring she got herself (and my long-suffering father who on the sly really enjoys the birds) four baby chickens. They were about 6 weeks old if I remember correctly. They are all Bantams, the easier to house and pick up if needed; one grey Dorking, one teeny little black thing that looked like a starling, one ugly baldy headed little Rhode Island Red and one ginger Dorking. Strange looking without their full head of feathers but sweet enough.

Unfortunately they lost Clarisse (the Starling looking one) to the dog’s big clumsy foot when she was startled by a loud noise and managed to escape. Kimmy the Wiemeraner was just trying to stop the chick and misplaced her foot, hitting the little bird. She didn’t know what she’d done wrong the poor dog, Mum and Dad were so upset.

So, they went back to the place they got the originals from and picked up another RIR Bantam. They were then all named- Dora (the bigger grey Dorking) Cora (the smaller ginger one) Rita (one of the Rhodies, now going by Reets) and Skeeta (the other, now going by Skeets) They were happy for a full summer and autumn and winter not laying a thing due to seasonal weather and temperatures and started laying this spring.

Cora got sick, the poor little thing got quiet and listless and in a couple of days passed away. We are unsure as to what definitely saw her off but it could have been a combination of being egg-bound, the warm week my parents had enjoyed in the garden followed immediately by frost and bitter winds the next, and the fact she didn’t want to eat. So RIP Cora. She was my favourite.

By spring my parents didn’t want to introduce any other girls to the trio so left it there.

Only that wasn’t where they left it. My Mum had been secretly researching another type of wee fowl all through the winter in preparation of the spring when she would be able to bring home some teensy baby quails!

Oh yes. Quails. A-bloody-DORABLE. My folks went to pick up the babies April-ish time and had a tank waiting at home to put them in as they were still too young to be out in the terrible weather, 4 weeks old if I remember rightly. She only picked six at first and found them to be so sweet and charming that after the little birds were big enough to go outside in their own coop, she and my Dad went out and bought another twelve. It sounds a lot but these quails are only just comparable to slightly overweight (okay I’ll be honest, obese) sparrows and take up very little space individually, my parents also giving them the most massive coop and run I think I’ve ever seen in a domestic space.

She has since swapped out a male from one batch of quail chicks and a hen from the other with a friend of my Dad’s who has a menagerie of her own and who handed over two sisters; Cagney & Lacey. Two pure white Bantam Silkies. The (bless them) ugliest two chooks I’ve seen but with the folks love, attention and albeit higher quality and quantity of food and treats, the two of them are now proud as punch to be squarking (Lacey I think is the culprit here) around their new coop. Oh yes, they have their own little semi-detached in my parents rather-too-large garden.

And now, these.

Both Millefleur and Lavender Bantam Pekins. Pic above is them at 2 days old I think… They came to my mother from a school project for the wee ones. The teacher wanted her reception class to see where baby chickens come from. The miracle of life and all that.

I won’t go into too much detail but I do think if my Mother hadn’t have picked and paid for the fertilised eggs and been there to supervise said reception teacher, all of these adorable babies wouldn’t be here. The teacher only managed to kill one in her ignorance and lack of research and planning. The silly woman had the humidity too low in the incubator and then went and put a whole tub of dry layers pellets inside too. Is my poor mother the only one with enough brain cells to realise the pellets will soak up any moisture in the air, therefore dropping the humidity and temperature in the incubator, therefore making any hatching impossible for baby birds as the drier the shell the more difficult and dangerous hatching is?! That one poor baby got it’s tiny head out and the teacher seeing this, decided to put food in for them and the problem as previously mentioned occurred, cementing the half hatched baby in it’s own shell to struggle and suffocate. My poor Mum was devastated. As this all happened at school, in a class room, there was only so much influence she could have and the teachers didn’t head her advice and ended up killing the baby chicken.

It scares me to think people that ignorant teach the next generation. Ignorance is just as dangerous as fear but… That is for another time.

And you can see the difference here in their tiny little flight feathers. SWEET! Happily, the teacher in the story became bored after the rest of the chicks hatched (minus three that didn’t pip also due to the extremely low and insufficient humidity the teacher set and the one that passed) and they are now happy and racing around their new home, eating, drinking and playing hopscotch with all their brothers and sisters. This morning my Dad called them my Mum’s therapy; I believe he’s right.

So, my parents are addicts. Bird addicts.

I suppose there are worse things to be addicted to… 😉