Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Genuine Lady Gardeners

Shrubs, bare earth and cropped lawn in a corner of the garden
The Garden, October 2019
There's so much filling my days and weekends, but I'm trying to avoid making this blog into an online diary. What has been notable?

The gardeners. They comprise an older and a younger lady, whose leaflet advertising their services is headed 'Genuine Lady Gardeners'. Whether that indicates that they are genuine gardeners or genuine ladies is not clear at all, but anyway I had booked them to deal with my lady garden on Wednesday. They had expressed concern several times that they might not be able to park their van and trailer outside the house. So on the designated morning I kept watch on parked cars, went out to talk to my neighbours, borrowed a cone associated with the skip that has been in front of my house for many weeks and reserved a suitable spot.

The skip is there because the alley that runs behind the houses on the adjacent road is accessed directly opposite my house. Within one of those houses lives K, who very politely knocked on my door some time ago to let me know that his significant building project would require a skip, and was altogether very nice about the fact that it would need to be outside my house. Since then I have had several conversations with the builders and even loaned them my parking pass when I overheard their discussions about the parking enforcement, and K has offered to pay for me plus one to have a very fancy dinner (which I declined with thanks). Anyway, what has this to do with my lady garden?

The GLGs did not arrive as early as they had indicated, and K's builders were fussing about because they were due to have a delivery of screed, and I was constantly nipping out to see what was going on and to defend my reserved space. On one such occasion I discovered that a van had taken the spot, so I went to talk to the driver who was still sitting in the van, talking on the phone. He made no attempt to cut his conversation short, and at first denied having moved the cone before making it clear that he didn't care that I was reserving a space - at which point I went to get my phone to give K a call. Before I could do it, one of the builders stepped in and told the driver in no uncertain terms to move his van, saying that I'd been very helpful and they were happy to return the favour. That's how we do things round here.

Before
After
My garden is now transformed. The GLGs removed everything that was not anchored into the soil except for the mint that I told them I definitely wanted to keep. There's nothing but shrubs and bare earth left, some stalks where the fuchsia used to be, and no sign of the decorative grasses, aquilegia, foxgloves and cornflowers that I quite liked, or the bluebells that I didn't. They found a wasp's nest, a large number of screws and building litter, and cleared much of the paving but didn't apply weedkiller, which they seemed to think was not part of this job. That's what you get for having no written quote, or invoice either as it turns out. These genuine ladies are all very much cash in hand. They assured me that it would all grow back and look less barren in the spring, and I could get in touch again and they'd come back to do the weedkilling. I think I'll look elsewhere.

The other LTRP project that I have just started is the downstairs shower, and possibly the whole of the wall that side which is showing signs of water damage. So far one company didn't phone me back and I had to phone them again two days later, and a different tradesman didn't turn up as arranged - he has since texted to apologise that he dropped his phone in a bath of water and it has only just dried out. It can't be denied that this is an inauspicious start to the project.

Genuine Ladies

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Retreat

Buddha statue surrounded by candles, flowers, symbols and pictures
Shrine to Shakyamuni and Vajrapani, Taraloka, September 2019
Last week I slept in my tent in the grounds of a women's retreat centre on the Welsh border. It wasn't easy to find, mainly because I forgot how untrustworthy my satnav is - it took me to the general location, but I had to resort to Google maps for the last couple of miles. It wasn't raining as I put up the tent, but after that it rained solidly, persistently, pitilessly for very nearly all the time I was there (although it wasn't actively raining when I took the tent down at the end). On one day it was sunny in the afternoon, and then the night was cloudless and the temperature plummeted, but I had borrowed two extra duvets from the centre as well as a hot water bottle so I was actually too hot.

Accommodation aside, there were 21 of us including 5 who were helping to run the activities, and a couple of other staff who did the cooking for us. The food was vegan, delicious and plentiful. We all had about an hour's work to do every day - chopping veg, washing up, cleaning - and for the rest of the day there were scheduled activities, plenty of free time, and a proper break from routine. No TV, radio, phones, email, Internet. For all we knew the outside world could be going through an apocalypse but if it was out of earshot and didn't show up in the sky we would have been blissfully unaware.

It was blissful, actually. The second worst thing that happened to me all week was that I swapped places to be in a different chair in the shrine room without knowing that they were rearranging the shrine room so the change of seating was completely ineffective. The worst thing that happened to me all week was that I was forced to go first when we were talking in pairs - doesn't sound very bad, but I really didn't like it at the time.

The daily routine was an early start for meditating before breakfast, including gentle exercises that I didn't want to join in with on the first day but looked forward to by the end of the week. After breakfast there was free time, then a session before lunch, another break, a session before the evening meal and then some sort of ritual before bed, which for me was about 9.30 p.m. given that I needed to get up at 6 a.m. I'd prepared for the ritual stuff by getting my local group to focus on ritual for the previous four weeks, and I gave it a try, but it's not really my thing.

We spent about three days in silence. This seems like an odd thing to do, and it is, but it seemed to serve two purposes. First, it really frees up thinking space. You don't get sucked into conversations, or have to seek out somewhere quiet to do some reading. The second effect is that it removes the social pressure to make conversation, to think of things to say over meals, to fill silences with trivia, complaint or just small talk. The downside is that during that silent time you don't get to know much about the people you are with, or make meaningful connections beyond passing the peanut butter. But silence isn't so much a rule as a guideline. Rather than protracted miming it was perfectly acceptable to ask quietly "Where are the spare duvets kept?", and if you wanted to have a conversation it was fine to go for a walk along the canal.

As for what I learnt, it wasn't very much about Buddhism. The theme of the week was 'Mindfully Alive', and as usual much of the talk was about existential concepts that I can't easily grasp (which is why I wanted to go second when we were working in pairs). But I got to grips with Buddhist ritual, met some lovely people, did a lot of reading and thinking, some walking and writing, slept happily in my rain-sodden tent, slowed right down and enjoyed the silence. A calm, positive effect persisted through the weekend, and of course was dispelled almost immediately at work on Monday by my colleagues.

Goddess face, Adhisthana, July 2019

Friday, 20 September 2019

Marmalade does not count as a portion of fruit

Avenue lined by tall palm trees
Botanic Garden, Rio de Janeiro, April 2019
I suffered for 10 days with a cold I caught from a Doctor; that's the last time I help him out with a challenging patient. Not really, he's the Doctor I chose to keep when I reduced my working hours. But he could have kept his cold to himself.

Luckily illness didn't stop me from accompanying mum and dad to the last wedding I'm likely to be invited to - both nephews now done and the niece declaring she's not getting married. All involved seem to have escaped without catching anything from me. As weddings go it was a good one - a Humanist ceremony in a field out in the open, so a good thing the weather was fine. Afterwards there was a tent for food and dancing, but as the sun went down it got really cold, and obviously the main players were a generation younger than me so the music wasn't from my era. They had laid on a whole lot of attractions though - props for photographs, pick and mix sweets, a bar making burgers and bacon sandwiches, a fire pit with marshmallows to toast, the wedding cake, a mountain of cheese, more doughnuts than you can imagine and probably more that I've forgotten. It was nice. Mum and dad stayed for the ceremony and some nibbles afterwards but headed off in a taxi before the partying started.

The tax return is done! Also Eurostar booked for ski trip #2 after a whole lot of hassle with logging in and passwords. I'm not convinced the Eurostar website will ever work for me again so I've printed tickets and emailed them to myself just to be sure. Ski trip #1 is all arranged by someone else so I don't need to do anything much. Next job will be booking the bus to the resort from the train station and then it's ski hire and I'll be ready.

The planning and arrangements for all these ski trips and another visit to the Christmas Market in Munich and a week-long retreat in October have been disrupted by my changed working hours. Annual leave in the NHS is incredibly complicated: it is calculated on an hourly basis and you have to include Bank Holidays in the allowance. So if you work 10 hours on a Monday and 1 hour per day for the rest of the week, you have to book 10 hours off when a Bank Holiday falls on a Monday, but conversely if a Bank Holiday falls on a day that you don't work you can use those hours for leave on another day. Swings and roundabouts.

The hours allocated for leave are also calculated pro-rata for weekly hours worked, and the year for which leave is calculated runs from April to March. I halved my working hours at the end of July, which is only a third of the way through the year, so in the second two-thirds of the year I was given half as many leave hours compared with my allowance in the first third of the year. My problem was that I took an awful lot of my year's allowance in the first third of the year, what with the trip to Brazil and the music festivals. When the allowance was calculated for me (there was no chance of me being able to work it out for myself) in August I was presented with a remaining allowance of 1.75 hours up to the end of the year, whilst having committed to two ski holidays requiring 27 hours off. And I was fortunate that Christmas and New Year holidays are not on Monday or Tuesday this year, otherwise I would have ended up in negative balance. Luckily I've been allowed to juggle my working days and take the days off that I need by working extra days in December, January and February.

I have started to use my days off for leisure pursuits as well as all the admin and household tasks that are still needed. Last Friday I took myself off to Birmingham. One of the reasons was that I needed to exchange a defective pan at John Lewis, but then I had lunch at my favourite Cafe Soya, and afterwards I went to the Museum and Art Gallery for the first time in the nearly 20 years I've been living and working here. I didn't have time to see all that much, which leaves scope for another exciting visit, but I did see the Staffordshire Hoard, which is both more and less impressive than I was expecting. Less impressive because all the pieces on display were smaller than I expected, but more impressive due to the sheer quantity of tiny fragments that were retrieved from a ploughed field., totalling 5 kg of gold and 1.4 kg of silver. Now I have looked at the excellent website (link here) I have to say that the information provided at the exhibition itself isn't great.

Another new responsibility for me this year is to be Captain of the first mixed team for badminton club 2. The main tasks are to assemble a team for each match, collect match fees from each player, and register the score if we win. Which sounds straightforward but is usually quite a lot of hassle - I can't play in our first match, and all the men are proving remarkably unreliable so early in the season. But anyway, Mr M, I iz a Captain now, and therefore fully qualified to adjudicate on fruit portions in marmalade and other conserves.

Christ the Redeemer from behind with outstretched arms and green umbrellas
"I love you this much"

Friday, 13 September 2019

Reps

Glorious red-tinged evening sky over the ski slopes
Les Arcs, March 2019
I''m loving the new working pattern of Monday and Tuesday only, except that last Friday I went to work for a training session on the software that goes with the Flash Glucose Monitoring sensor called the Libre (which I've written about before). The training was to be delivered by one of the company reps.

We are plagued by many reps, most of them annoying and unreliable, with a couple of shining examples of how it should be done. They are very rarely allowed in at any time other than lunchtime, when they are expected to provide lunch for us, and are very much judged on the quality of the food. The rep that bought sandwiches from the hospital canteen will not be coming back; Asda and Morrisons are tolerated; Sainsburys and Tesco are welcomed; and M&S and Waitrose are very much appreciated.

Most of the time they want to discuss a new product - it could be a medicine, or a device like a glucose meter - or some research that has proved the superiority of one of their products over its competitors. The nurses show some interest because one of them is able to prescribe, although 99% of the time we have no influence over what patients are given because that is the doctor's job (and the doctors seldom have time to join us for lunch). I just eat the lunch and sometimes learn something.

A few of the reps are memorable - the one who showed us pictures of the enormous house that he and his family are building from scratch, the one who always brings wonderful Indian food like samosas and chicken tikka, the one who used to be a Dietitian before she became a rep and really knows what she's talking about. Others are terrible - one company whose products we actually want to use has not managed to retain a rep for more than a couple of months at a time since the last one left in questionable circumstances three years ago.

Another rep was in a relationship with one of the doctors, which was frankly unethical and corrupt. Since the doctor stopped working with us and they are no longer a couple her sales figures must have plummeted, but she continued to call on us without invitation and try to rearrange our shelves and cupboards to favour her products, looking increasingly unkempt, and on one occasion at an evening meeting we were fairly sure she was drunk. At one lunch she started to challenge us about why our patients are on someone else's medication rather than one of hers, and eventually she was asked to go away, and we told the company that we no longer wanted her to visit us. A pity in one respect, because she was a Waitrose shopper.

The Libre rep used to be very unreliable - late, disheveled, and lunch from Asda. Before the Libre was prescribable the company offered to set some people up on a two-week trial, so we duly contacted patients and had about twenty booked in for a group session. On the morning of the session the rep told us she couldn't come, and couldn't even offer a rescheduled date. The patients, some of whom had taken time off work and couldn't be notified of the cancellation in time, still occasionally remind us of this when they are feeling grumpy, since they don't necessarily appreciate that it was not us who cancelled.

Eventually the company was told that while we were very interested in their product, we were not going to tolerate this situation any longer and we wanted a different rep. They obliged, and for some time all has gone well. The teaching session last Friday was supposed to be delivered by the new rep, except that we were notified that morning that she was unwell, and the old rep arrived. Late. Looking like she'd been dragged through a hedge backwards. She took a few items out of the bag for our lunch (Tesco), but unaccountably took most away with her again. She didn't have the right cables to do a presentation using our projector, so we had to squint at her small laptop screen. The content wasn't what we had asked for - and then she announced that she had been assigned to us and was coming back because the new rep is being moved elsewhere.

Well. After an uncomfortable silence one of our lead DSNs told her to her face that this was not acceptable, that we had asked for a different rep and we jolly well weren't prepared to have her back, and pointed out that even on this occasion she had arrived late without all the equipment she needed. It was a tremendous and brave performance.

So with luck we won't see that rep again. But I wouldn't bet on it.

Pink flower close up
June 2018

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover

Frederica
by Georgette Heyer

narrated by Clifford Norgate
"Rich and handsome, darling of the ton, the hope of ambitious mothers and despair of his sisters, the Marquis of Alverstoke at seven-and-thirty sees no reason to put himself out for anyone. Until a distant connection, ignorant of his selfishness, applies to him for help."
A lovely easy read as usual, although this time with a little bit too much extraneous material and not enough focus on the mismatched pair who are of course destined to be married in the end even though they don't realise it.


Image of the book cover

The Gathering
by Anne Enright

narrated by Fiona Shaw
"The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan are gathering in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother, Liam, drowned in the sea. His sister, Veronica, collects the body and keeps the dead man company, guarding the secret she shares with him."
A book often feels like a journey to me - starting full of expectation, and either rewarded or disappointed by the scenery and the experience. Sometimes there are wide vistas, or amusement parks, or snow muffling the sound of footsteps, or the smell of rain on baked grass and hot pavements. I rarely abort the journey before the end (but I admit the Origin of Species beat me). This book was a comfortable medium length motorway journey ending at Gatwick airport, with a glimpse of only a couple of interesting sights out of the window on the way. The narrator's brother has died, there's a secret which is never resolved, and then another one, and that is pretty much all there is to it. Although the writing kept me on track and the narration was excellent, it was a disappointment, as are so many modern novels - and this was a Booker Prize winner as well. I really don't know what those judges are looking for.


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On the Origin of Species
by Charles Darwin
"Darwin's insistence on the immense length of the past and on the abundance of life-forms, present and extinct, dislodged man from his central position in creation and called into question the role of the Creator. He showed that new species are achieved by natural selection, and that absence of plan is an inherent part of the evolutionary process."
I had thought that I'd read this before and it was quite straightforward, but it turns out I was wrong on at least one count. It started well, but I had to give up on it in the end - he was obviously very committed to the hypothesis and supplied endless evidence and arguments to support his work, but I got tired of all the different families, species and varieties of plants and animals. I skipped to the last chapter which was titled 'Recapitulation and Conclusion' but even that was too dense. Well done to him (and Alfred Russel Wallace) for getting it right, though, and I'm going to accept the theory without managing to plough through the seminal work on the subject.


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The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting, and the Science of False Memory
by Julia Shaw
"Memories are our most cherished possessions. We rely on them every day of our lives. They make us who we are. And yet the truth is they are far from being the accurate record of the past we like to think they are."
The main message throughout this book is that despite what we know, believe, perceive or imagine, our memory even with the strongest sensation of integrity is unlikely to be accurate. It is ridiculously easy to plant false memories even when you're not working with a researcher who is trying to do just that. However, without memory we can't create the sensation of time passing or even know who we are, so we'd better make the best of it. Just don't insist that anything happened as you remember it, because it probably didn't. I passed this book on to dad, and he's found it so fascinating that he finished it in two days but is hanging on to it because he wants to read it again. Anyone who knows dad will join me in celebrating the fact that he's both willing and able to read a book again, even if he insists on lying in bed to do it.


Image of the book cover

Under the Knife: Remarkable Stories from the History of Surgery
by Arnold van de Laar
"From the story of the desperate man from seventeenth-century Amsterdam who grimly cut a stone out of his own bladder, to Bob Marley's deadly toe, this book offers all kinds of fascinating and unforgettable insights into medicine and history via the operating theatre."
Easy to read and pretty interesting too - another one to give to dad after he's finished with the memory book. I can get through a lot of books when they're ones I've chosen from the 'science' section rather than the strange books I've picked up from various second hand sources. And when I'm sitting in a tent in a field rather than at home surrounded by all the things I ought to be doing.


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The New Meditation Handbook
by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
"With 21 easily accessible, step-by-step meditations, this fully revised resource provides readers with guidance on how to transform their daily lives, fulfill spiritual potential, and find lasting happiness."
This was given to me by a friend who attends meetings in a different branch of Buddhism (Kadampa) from the one that I have become attached to (Triratna). I'm sure the alternative viewpoint is equally valid for some, and he seems to be happy with what he gets out of it, but I really didn't like the approach to meditation that is advocated in this book. It starts with an exposition about rebirth, a belief in which is luckily not insisted upon within Triratna (at least among the teachers I've encountered). Then it makes a number of other controversial assertions (what we experience in the womb, what birth feels like) and false deductions ("since it is impossible to find a beginning to our mental continuum [whatever that is], it follows that we have taken countless rebirths in the past [er, no it doesn't].) As I write this I find that I am a bit cross about the whole thing, but as the friend who gave me the book is incredibly skilled at rhetoric and argument and I am not, I shall keep quiet about how I feel and make non-committal noises if I am asked what I thought of it.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Shrewsbury Folk Festival

Statue of St Francis
Cathedral, Rio de Janeiro, April 2019
I've been away again, another festival, this time in Shrewsbury. For once we had a proper hot August Bank Holiday so I sweltered in my tent and in the marquees - the organisers eventually took the sides away from the hottest marquee on Monday to bring the stages down to a more manageable temperature. Still hot though. The music was, as usual, tremendous - highlights were Grace Petrie, Reg Meuross, Daphne's Flight, Winter Wilson and Granny's Attic. And Umai, a wonderful Japanese restaurant in Shrewsbury.

There was lots more to do too - I'm not a fan of the ceilidh but you could dance your heart out, and there were workshops for every instrument known to folk. I don't really take full advantage of the opportunities offered, but for the first time I did get my money's worth from the First Aiders. One eye started to sting and tears flooded down one cheek due to the combination of sun tan lotion and extreme sweatiness. The nice man in the First Aid tent squirted a vial of saline into the offending eye which helped no end. Other than that, everyone survived.

Apart from the festival, I'm still coming to terms with my extra free time, although it seems to be filled with as much activity as before I gave up two days work. A trip to mum and dad, giving blood, my activities with the Buddhists and the badminton club - there must be some extra time somewhere, but I haven't quite discovered it yet. And before you ask, the tax return is still waiting. Any minute now...

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Getting on with things

Tiny succulent plants in a pot viewed from above
Adhisthana, July 2019
I'm starting to settle into my new working pattern, although it brings new challenges. I'm very happy pottering at home on my own, but how do I make sure that I don't become a recluse? How do I build structure into my week, when there are no fixed points to latch onto after the end of Tuesday? Which of my huge list of potential new avenues of activity should I start on, and how do I maintain momentum? How do I control my access to the kitchen and not gain weight? These are obviously wonderful new challenges to have, but I don't want to end each day thinking it was an opportunity missed. **

So far I've kept myself busy, and I have been impressed by the number of jobs that have been hanging over me for a long time that I have managed to complete. Some very small (cleaning the microwave), some incomplete (I did clean some windows, but not all), some ongoing (the original gardener I contacted isn't available but recommended a different one) and some huge (the living room decoration is complete!!!!) And I can spend more time with mum and dad when they need me. And I'm definitely going to start on the tax return, oh yes, any minute now, I'm definitely going to start on that.

It's not all about jobs, I've also watched several films and a number of episodes of 'Friends' which Lola II lent (gave?) me for my birthday, and even went to the cinema, which felt like a real treat during working hours, even though it was school holidays and so overrun with children.

Ilf returned to finish painting the living room woodwork and hang some pictures for me too, which brings to an end one of the bigger indoor jobs within the LTRP. I can reflect on my achievement now, starting with the garage in 2016 and including the huge kitchen project which lasted from 2016 to 2018. It was a daunting prospect to look forward to and pretty difficult during the work, but I did it, and have learned new skills along the way. Making decisions has become easier rather than procrastinating and agonising for days over the options.

There's more still to do - the shower room and the hall both need attention, and then external painting, and once those jobs are done the last room is the main bedroom where there is nothing structurally wrong but it could do with decoration. So it's not over yet; you can expect ongoing LTRP reports for the foreseeable future.

** Landrover Man and Bee Lady - any tips?

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Working hours

View of the new veranda
August 2019
As I write, I am about to start my new phase of working just under two days a week (instead of just under four days a week). It has been a long time coming, with my team leader and manager making it much more difficult than it needed to be. I put in my application for 'flexible working' back in January, and the meeting that should have taken place within a month of that application actually happened a week ago. That was when, among other things, I discovered that the replacement for the 13.5 hours I am giving up will be 15 hours. Not that it makes much difference, but it would have been nice to know a bit sooner than a week before the change takes place.

I have been busy in every spare minute at work trying to clear some of the clutter that I have accumulated, as I will soon be sharing my office space with someone who might want to put her own clutter somewhere. My new co-worker (I'll have to think of a suitable name for her at some point) is young, and along with her role in diabetes for the Trust she has also been doing a Masters in some aspect of Type 1 Diabetes and exercise - I don't know the details. She has managed to spend a Wednesday afternoon with me in the most complicated pump clinic that I'm involved with, and will be going on a course before starting to deliver the Type 1 education instead of me. It was really difficult deciding what to give up, but it's possible that I can still deliver a course now and then. I'll be meeting with my team to talk about practical arrangements soon.

In Buddhism news, I went on a weekend retreat which is always a source of much flowery photography and usually generates some reserves of patience and equanimity for me to take home. Being on the team for the local Buddhist group has allowed me to make a couple of suggestions for future topics on Tuesdays, but for the next four weeks when we don't rent the usual church hall I will be hosting the group for some study of a short lecture called 'The Taste of Freedom'. I have read it through once and, as usual with anything philosophical or poetical, I can make little sense of it. We'll see whether that changes over the course of four weeks.

Another birthday came and went, and Lola II spent the day with me when my objective was to make use of the many excellent charity shops in Leamington to replace worn out items of clothing and try to find a suitable outfit for an upcoming wedding. We had an excellent lunch at my new favourite cafe (Warwick Street Kitchen since you ask) and I succeeded with getting the whole wedding outfit and a new pair of jeans all for less than Lola II paid for our lunch. I was also hoping to use the latter part of the day to clear some of the excess junk still in my loft, but we didn't manage that. Next time.

And the LTRP continues: Olf and his Sidekick have been busy with the veranda, and I think it is finished though there may be a few small issues that aren't apparent to me - they will be back in a week or so. Sidekick does all the work; Olf drops in and sometimes shouts at him. This makes me uncomfortable and after this job I will try to find another builder. I also tried to engage a gardener who told me he would phone back to arrange to visit, but hasn't. I will pursue this; it's a jungle out there.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
by Joanna Cannon

narrated by Paula Wilcox
"England, 1976. Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands."
Ultimately unsatisfying, it's as if the author wanted to make the story arc more interesting so she chopped the two timelines into little bits and switched from one to the other so by the end the whole story had probably been told but I had pretty much given up trying to work out what had actually happened. Each character in turn was made to reveal his or her particular secret (which sometimes had nothing to do with the main story) and I carried on hoping that there would be a summary at the end. But there wasn't, and that made me quite cross, so obviously I'm not going to like this book.


Image of the book cover

The Lie of the Land
by Amanda Craig
"Quentin and Lottie Bredin, like many modern couples, can't afford to divorce. Having lost their jobs in the recession, they can't afford to go on living in London; instead, they must downsize and move their three children to a house in a remote part of Devon."
I was given this by H, unread, because in the first couple of chapters the characters are so unpleasant that it doesn't surprise me that he didn't want to carry on. But I find it difficult to stop reading unless a book is unreadable, and this one isn't. Everyone gradually starts to behave better, the mystery is a fairly good one and redemption of a sort is achieved at the end, so it was worth persisting.


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Sailing the Wordly Winds: A Buddhist Way Through the Ups and Downs of Life
by Vajragupta
"Tossed around by gain, buffeted by loss, borne aloft by praise, cast down by blame, how can we not be ground under, lose all direction, confidence, and sense of purpose? This book focuses on the Buddha’s teaching of the worldly winds, how we can learn to navigate them more effectively, so that we can sail safely through life rather than being blown off course, however stormy the weather."
A very Buddhist book which I read during the weekend Retreat that I recently attended which focussed on its subject matter. It's helpful if you're into this sort of thing, which I increasingly am, although still baffled by much of the abstract terminology and concepts of the Buddha's teaching. If I were to pick out one bit in the book that I'm particularly conscious of putting into practice at the moment it would be the reminder to be aware of the difference between control and influence. I cannot control what is going on around me, all I can do is try to influence it. And that helps me to cope with it gracefully.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Music, building and film festivals

During the deconstruction of the veranda
Olf's Sidekick, July 2019
Hasn't it been a long time? A long and quite tiring time, but mostly a good time.

I have been to a music festival of psy-trance, techno, glitch-hop, drum 'n bass and other impenetrable genres of music mainly featuring repetitive beats. Except the dubstep, which we wandered into at random, and my friend 'whispered' (i.e. shouted over the volume of music) in my ear "We have accidentally entered the Dubstep Zone." At which point we wandered away again - the first time I have encountered modern music that I physically could not dance to. And there was camping, and it only rained a tiny little bit, and I enjoyed it.

In LTRP news, Ilf spent a couple of weeks making good, priming and painting the freshly plastered walls, leaving the door and window frames and skirting still to do. This week Olf and his Sidekick have started to replace what I call the 'veranda', for want of a better term. Dictionary definition: "A platform with an open front and a roof, built onto the side of a house on the ground floor." So not far off, except it isn't really a platform, just the path along the side of the house with a covering roof. Anyway, they are replacing it, along with doing a few other external maintenance jobs while they're here. The LTRP is going really well. I don't know what I'll do when it's finished (except it will NEVER BE FINISHED).

And (cue trumpet fanfare) - the inaugural Gulloebl Film Festival (Random Chairs in a Darkened Room) in Leamington has taken place! The Lola Towers Auditorium performed spectacularly well despite the lack of preparation, and Lola II and Mr M seemed impressed enough to allow the franchise to continue. To be fair, they played a key part in the event going well, as I literally couldn't have done it without them. It was actually very poorly attended, which took much of the pressure off and gave me time to have much needed power naps which I might not have managed if we'd been running at full capacity. Highlight for me: the opening night and the film Marvellous which is uplifting and funny and tragic and I strongly encourage everyone to see it.

Ilf, smiling, holding a paint roller
Ilf, July 2019
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