What next…?

Christmas has come and gone. New Year has flashed out of sight. It feels like all the many months in between stretch before us in never ending monotony and dreariness.

January is pretty much the month of letdowns. Deflation. Anticlimax. We get our credit card bills and hope they got the name, address AND reference number wrong at the top of the page with big numbers on… The sad and partially eaten-by-the-cat Christmas tree comes down. The house looks empty. We go back to work. It feels like we never left. Life has not miraculously changed. We give ourselves Resolutions for the New Year. Things we know we should do but also know there’s not a snowball’s chance in Hawaii that it’d ever get done.

It’s funny, that. I sat in assembly next to my year four class and the headmistress asked what all of our resolutions were. The teachers all said the same thing- “healthy eating/living/gym/personal trainer/swimming pass”. Very nice teachers. Well done. Even if you never try to change or if you sack your personal trainer due to “other commitments”. Uh huh. Yeah. Sure.

You know what my kids said? “I’m going to read to my little sister when I can remember.” “I’m going to be kinder to my Mum. She does so much for us.” “I’m going to try to tell my family I love them. Even when they annoy me”.

Brutally honest some of them were. But the thing that made me proud was the way they wanted to change for the benefit of people they loved. Not all of them. Don’t get me wrong, kids can be selfish too. Even if they never do these things. The way they considered someone else for that moment, thought about how lucky they were to have them, just made me smile.

We could all do to listen to childish innocence once in a while. Think, even for just that moment, about someone other than yourself. The teachers responses didn’t surprise me. That whole ‘look out for number one’ mentality seems to permeate the boundaries of home. I don’t like that and it makes me sad to think my family have to cope with my selfishness.

So my resolution is going to be the same everyday, for every new year we enter. I am going to be more aware. Awareness for me means not taking OH for granted. He does the cleaning, the washing, tidying, cooking, basically everything, and he does it so quietly that I have been completely selfish and unaware of how little  I bring to the workings of our home and relationship. I am going to be more aware. I am going to text my brother more, just to let him know I’m thinking of him. Awareness. I am going to call my Dad as much as I call my Mam. Awareness. I’m going to consider WHY a child says/does things before I dole out the aftermath of judgement. I’m going to be attentive to Jethro, my little guardian angel, because he gives me so much joy, I feel I need to give more back.

That’s really the key here. Giving.

Awareness for me is knowing what I’ve got, being grateful for it and giving it back.

The new Kindle Fire.

I sit here, writing a review on the new Kindle Fire from my new Kindle Fire.

I must admit, I love a new gadget; something new to play with, figure out, personalise…

Well, from a fabulous new gadget point of view the new Fire definitely deserves five full stars. I have never been good with computers. I get them to do the job I need doing if only through sheer will and not any great affinity for technology.

The kindle has a very simple set of menus that load quickly and are easy to navigate. The home screen shows all of your books, apps, favourite websites, music and photos as nice big cubes to scroll through (see, no stupid techno-jargon here) and if that’s too much, you can choose one sub section to browse from the left-right list at the top of the home screen. Easy.

I am an avid book fan. Books, the paper things that can’t crash and don’t need charging, are a tad bulky and I knew I’d need a kindle eventually. When my laptop died Dad told me this was the best choice. Probably my only choice as my house just isn’t big enough for all my books.

So, books on the Fire. Once set up you can browse on Amazon.co.uk and buy books through the link to the kindle store (something you don’t see on the Amazon website itself). Downloading a book takes less than 3 seconds and once bought, is backed up on Kindles own ‘server’ Cloud. I don’t have money to throw around so am selective when paying for books which, on a kindle, aren’t exempt from vat charges by the way. But, the vast amount of freebies found through Books- store in your menu mean you can try several thousand wonderful trashy tales just to get you used to the way it all works.

Apps are another favourite and of course, I don’t pay for these. They are silly time wasters and a fantastic addition to your home screen just to give you the option of a distraction other than reading. Unfortunately there are hundreds of apps that all do the same things. I rarely want to know the weather in LA (and only LA it seems) but would much rather have a lunar calendar app installed. Well, if there is a free one, I sure as hell can’t find it.  Though if you are an angry birds fan, you are thoroughly catered for.

The touch screen sensitivity is fantastic and I am  typing this whole thing on the touch screen keyboard with very little difficulty. Wonderful stuff.

BBC iplayer is pre installed, facebook is easy to find and the ebay app keeps you completely on top of your purchasing. It is an android and the similarities between the Fire and my Galaxy SII is odd. Meaning unless you can chance over the running systems confidently without turning your Kindle into an empty black shell it is and does exactly the same as a phone. Only minus the camera and calls. Email. No problem. Word files. You gotcha.

I think once you regularly start using the Fire, it should begin to gain some sort of  character and personality. Adding skins and accessories will only help me become more attached to my device. With that in mind there is a veritable treaure trove of goodies aimed at the new Fire owner (beware, the Fire is smaller than the Fire HD an cannot be used with covers, skins etc for use with this bigger model.) Apps get added as and when you find them, my Christmas gift list app being a firm favourite right now alongside amazon and solitaire (but no, I didn’t spend five hours playing on it) and I’m going to add other free apps from my favourite websites to ease the shopping experience on the run up to Christmas.

Getting online is easy and once you have popped your home broadband password in, you never need to do it again. Your Fire, when turned on to receive WiFi, will only prompt for connection if it cannot find your default/home connection.

Battery life is extended by turning off WiFi searching and if you only read books rather than playing solitaire for 5 hours straight (no, I did not do this, I just assume it’s common sense). To charge fully on an old style Kindle charger which, no, does NOT come with the product, luckily my OH has old style Kindle, takes a fair few hours which is probably why the cheeky bastards at Amazon took a charger out of the product specifics and now try to charge you an arm and a leg for the ‘Fast Charger’ or what ever the heck they call it, which charges, you got it, faster. This is the only downfall for me which has less to do with the product and more to do with greedy retailers.

I’ll add photos as and when I upload them onto my device. I’ll have to sync up my Galaxy and Fire to swap photos around through the laptop as intermediary… nice when they keep it simple no?

 

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?

People who write reviews.

Okay, so the people I am talking about here are the kind of people to go to a great little steakhouse that we love, order a fish special and then complain about it the WHOLE NIGHT continuing to complain by writing a review online to try to put other people off.

For a start, WHO THE HELL GOES OUT OF THEIR WAY TO GO TO A STEAKHOUSE FAMOUS FOR IT’S STEAK, TO ORDER A FISH PLATTER?

Secondly, I write reviews, but apparently not on the things I should be. We recently returned from a 10 day holiday to Gran Canaria and stayed in a small resort called Cordial Green Golf. Can I just say, the reviews we read were not all that great but the photos and write ups for the actual resort were so (as it looked the least tacky and possibly the newest on the island) we went.

And you know what? It was great! I mean, it was three star so there weren’t chocolates on your pillows or a floating pool bar or your own personal butler but hey; we stayed in a clean, tidy, compact little two story apartment they call a ‘bungalow’, the two pools were IMMACULATE and one of the two was huge, we spoke to a couple of cats who lived there presumably to keep the pests down, (of which we never saw a single nasty creature so they were doing a good job) the bar on site was nice, just a bar you know, the food was really good too- we had a sandwich for one lunch, hamburger for another, bar food, another night I had the most fantastic sirloin steak (and I like good steak) that we went back so I could make OH have one too. We very rarely ate in the apartment as, to be honest, what’s the point in going on holiday to go grocery shopping, cooking for yourself and doing dishes? We went out for two meals a day and as it;s so cheap out there, barely noticed the cost of the taxis to get out and back.

We’ve sadly read some reviews of the resort since returning and get madder and madder every time we do. This holiday was a cheap getaway. That’s it. Our 10 day stay probably equated to about £200-300ish with the flights taking up the rest of our budget. I mean, come on, what do you expect for that? I’m telling you, I’ve paid more and had worse. I think some people want everything for nothing. One reviewer apparently fell down the stairs during the night on a return from the bathroom. Hmm, we tried it and to be honest, to deliberately bypass the bed you’re trying to get back to to then fall down stairs that are big and obvious is a feat we just couldn’t accomplish. This reviewer then got taken to hospital because of her stupidity and was appalled when the hotel management didn’t visit to sit by her sickbed, ‘apologise and bring her flowers’. Why? Why would he? YOU fell down the stairs. YOU. Your clumsiness, illogical movement and frankly ridiculous sense of direction helped YOU fall down the stairs.

I can bet she’s visited a few foreign hospitals in her time.

Another reviewer wanted compensation from the resort for ’30 euros of groceries spoiled’ when there was a huge power cut one afternoon. When the resort wouldn’t comply she went to a holiday Rep to demand money from her. Lets just say, in my line of work, I also meet goons like this who demand things when they’re mad. Who do they demand compo off if there is a power cut in their hometown in England and £300-400 of frozen food is spoiled? Hmm…

We’re also told in my line of business that if a customer is dissatisfied with a product or service they will tell at least 10 other people about it. Probably write to your head office too no doubt. If a customer is satisfied or really pleased with a product or service they usually tell 2 friends. Two. So in the grand scheme of things there is one good review to every five. Even if you have a thousand happy customers, you’ll hear back from the few who are NOT happy.

Sucks right?

I know some businesses are not up to scratch and some products aren’t worth what you paid for them but be realistic in your expectations people, if you pay £4.99 for and ipod speaker, realise it will not last forever and will not be as good as a product worth £499.00. Come on! Seriously.

Well from now on, when I’m pleased with a product or service in a store, enjoyed a meal in a restaurant or a stay in a hotel I WILL review it.

I urge everyone else to do the same and help rid review sights consumers and businesses rely on, of hundreds of negative and whingy reviews. If you love it, TELL people about it! There should be more balance.

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.

Fort Nelson visit…

On Tuesday we ventured up to Fort Nelson. A wonderful piece of architecture that lies across Portsdown Hill like a cat along a windowsill; sleepy but still elegant.

Here’s what we found there…

As you can see, I love me some Architecture. Red brick is unusual where I come from (Yorkshire, Yellow stone) so I still find the colours fascinating.

I may well add more information into this post as and when I think of it… Be prepared 😉

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 😉