Saturday, 26 February 2011

Happiness is ...

... a glass of champagne and a chocolate teddy bear. Well done, Harvey Nicks.

Happy days

Presents, as Queenie in Blackadder would say, I like presents. Or more accurately, pwesents! And this (long) weekend is jam packed full of them.

It started with my present to myself of a day off spent doing nothing. However, my doing nothing-ness did extend to shopping, when I bought myself these gorgeous cocktail glasses with the remnants of my Christmas money (Thanks Mum!) Now I really can entertain my guests in style with glasses worthy of my awesome jet lag curing cosmopolitans! Not to mention dirty Martinis.

I also have a package sitting waiting to be opened on my almost birthday on Monday and apparently another in the post/mail on its way here.

Then there's my visit home to see the olds on Sunday, which is guaranteed to produce a goodly stash of loot. And my birthday weekend trip to Edinburgh tomorrow/today with cocktails at Harvey Nicks to look forward to.

Plus tonight I've had a great time out with friends at an entirely unserious charity music quiz, with the added bonus of picking up some late Christmas presents too.

All in all, a happy weekend. Thanks guys, you've come up trumps again. What would I do without you?

Posted to The 52 Week Project on Flickr

Friday, 25 February 2011

Ah! That's better

What is? I hear you ask. Having a day off after a busy week when everyone else is still nose to the grindstone, that's what!

I am treating myself to a long weekend in honour of my forthcoming almost birthday, and do you know what? It's great. There's something extra special about being off when no-one else is (although from the busy-ness of this coffee shop you wouldn't think it), almost like skiving or playing hooky. And even though I'm not really doing anything special with my day off, it is a real treat.

So what have I done so far? Well, I had a lie in this morning - after Cat had woken me up at the normal time to shout at me to feed him, that is. Then I decided to go for a run and while my legs felt like lumps of lead all the way round I surprised myself with a not too shockingly bad time. Mind you, I've got a lot of training to do if I'm going to manage to achieve my running goal for the year!

And now it's lunchtime and I'm out sitting in one of my favourite Stirling haunts, enjoying first a coffee and now an interesting pot of Blue Lady tea (not to be confused with that 1970's classic, Blue Nun!!) and hiding from work colleagues who have popped in for a quick Friday lunch out of the office. To be fair, I'm not really hiding, but I am making myself look busy in the hopes that I won't have to share my quiet time. Aren't I anti-social?!

But I will be making up for it later when I join up with a clutch of completely daft people to take part in the not entirely serious annual Charity Music Quiz and compete for the honour of coming last. Not that it will be much of a competition. My musical knowledge is fairly shocking (I know what I like but don't ask me to name the artist, or even the song!) but points can be won by bribing the quiz master and his glamorous assistant, and also by undertaking forfeits. Most of my points from previous years have been won in this way. Oh, and by cheating, which is positively encouraged.

So, I'd better stop blogging now and start memorising my iPod playlist to avoid complete humilation this evening. Hope you're enjoying your Friday - just not as much as me!!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Pay attention to me

Is it any wonder I'm not getting much crafting done these days?

Still, I have a day to myself tomorrow. Maybe I'll get some done then.


Maybe not quite yet, but it was definitely much milder today so perhaps Spring really is on its way sometime soon.

And to help me feel a brighter, it's my birthday weekend, and it starts early tonight. A day off all to myself tomorrow, what joy!

Anyway, what today's mildness made me remember was...

Spring has sprung
The grass is riz
I wonder where them birdies is
Some say the bird is on the wing
But that's absurd
The wing is on the bird

Or something like that - there seem to be a multiplicity of variations according to Google!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Mustn't grumble

No, really. I mustn't! I need to stop behaving like an angst ridden teenager and realise that life, on the whole, all things considered, at the end of the day, isn't half bad. Actually it's pretty damn fantastic. It's just that we, I get so caught up in the little things that irritate or annoy me that I forget how small they actually are. And how much I have to be thankful about.

A couple of conversations this week have reminded me of this. As a good friend suggests, when asked how I'm doing, I should really be saying 'Fantastic! Just wonderful, thanks.', instead of 'Not bad' or 'Fine'. Even 'Good' would be an improvement.

Because when you, I stop to think about it, my life is really great. I have a job that pays a good wage. I may not particularly like every minute of it, but at the same time, no-one is exploiting me, I don't get daily abuse in the course of it and I get a considerable degree of freedom to choose what it is I do, hour to hour and day to day. I have a safe place to come home to at night. I don't have to worry about what might be waiting for me when I open the door (apart from cat sick that is!). I can live without the constant fear of death or injury, rape or torture. I can express whatever views I want without fear of recrimination or oppression. I have my health and I have good friends and family who love and care for me. I don't have to worry about where my next meal is coming from or make the choice between a roof over my head or clothes on my back.

Sadly the same can't be said about all people, in this country and abroad. There are people who's lives are bad, stressful, unhappy, unsafe, poor and afflicted. We, I should remember that next time I find myself saying 'What a nightmare day I've had'. It's unlikely to be true - and I might just feel a bit happier and at ease with everything if I could remember that every once in a while.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Hope is the Thing with Feathers

"Hope" is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea,
Yet never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me. 

 By: Emily Dickinson

Monday, 21 February 2011

Mind over matter

As blogged on Saturday (and well trailed in advance!), I spent this weekend at Scotland's International Tango Festival right here in Stirling. It was a fantastic, if completely exhausting, weekend. I learned loads and had fun at the same time.

But it wasn't all sweetness and light - there were times, perhaps because I was so tired - when I lost confidence and nothing seemed to go right. It reminded me of that saying, whether you think you can or you can't, you're probably right. The power of the mind is amazing. Tell someone they can't do it, and they'll probably fail - unless they're thrawn and won't to prove you wrong. But even then, I'll warrant that deep inside they're probably worrying it might just be true.

I had my own experience of that this weekend - not so much anyone else telling me I couldn't do it (although the critique of dancing from my teacher at the Braveheart Ball after a long day in the dance studio wasn't entirely positive!), as me thinking that for myself. It started with a less than perfect first workshop on what should have been the basics of Walking, Posture and the Embrace. I found I just couldn't relax into the class and switch off from my working week (finished just 30 minutes before the start of the workshop) - which meant that my focus wasn't where it should be and the necessary connection was lost. Surviving the evening Milonga helped but I wasn't at my best or most confident.

The next morning, however, a combination of a more positive frame of mind and 2 exceptionally good teachers meant that I thoroughly enjoyed my workshop on colgadas and volcadas and felt at the end that I knew what I was doing with them - which my long suffering dance partner and I proved in the Tango Lounge later that afternoon. Likewise the much dreaded afternoon workshop on Giros (my tango bete noir!) was equally successful and I was filled with confidence and vigour for the evening's Braveheart Ball.

At which point, it all started to fall apart again. A couple of dances where I couldn't feel my partner's lead quickly became a few more and then I made the disastrous decision to dance with my dance teacher - resulting in the aforementioned critique.

Now I know he meant well. And I know his frustration was as much in his seeming inability to teach me how to do it right. But what it left me feeling was a complete failure - there didn't seem to be anything I could do right - and that was the end of my night's dancing. Although, admittedly, it would probably have been the end anyway since my feet were so sore by then I could barely stand on them!

So it was with a degree of trepidation again that I turned up at the next morning's workshop on Boleos and the free leg (my other tango bete noir). And once again, I needn't have worried. Two more exceptionally good teachers, a relaxing atmosphere and a fresh start all made for an enjoyable experience and me feeling that I had 'got it'.

So what's the point of this ramble? Well, it's partly to let you know a little bit more about what I learned about tango over the weekend. But it's also to share what I learned about myself and the power of positive thinking, or at the very least, not letting my negative thoughts control me. It's not just in tango that can happen, it's in so much else as well. If we allow ourselves to be constrained by our doubts and our inner critics, we run the risk of limiting ourselves far more than is actually real.

Want my advice? Don't completely disregard your warning voices - but just treat them with a grain of salt, and don't let them dominate. And in any case, what's wrong with failing to be perfect every once in a while???

PS Want to see what my feet were like at the end of the weekend?

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Thirsty work

Just a short post from Scotland's International Tango Festival here in Stirling. And we're having great fun.

Two workshops, one Milonga and a practice session down. Two more workshops, the Braveheart Ball and lots more practice still to go.

At the moment we're probably suffering a bit from overload. My feet are sore and my long suffering dance partner is doing well to put up with my occasional grumpiness caused by 'not being able to do it' frustration!

Anyway, rest over. Time to get back to the dancing. Frame, posture and embrace!

Posted to The 52 Week Project on Flickr

Thursday, 17 February 2011

100 things

I was going to do a different post tonight, but a friend of mine just blogged her '100 things' and I thought I'd give it a go too.

So here you are, more than you ever wanted to know about me!

1. I'm a younger sister and the baby of the family
2. I have blue eyes but wish they were green
3. I have mousey blonde (now going grey) hair and always wished I was a natural red head
4. I'm now an unnatural red head
5. My sister is a natural red head and always wished she had black hair
6. I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up
7. I've been married, and divorced, twice
8. I still dream I'll meet the right guy, fall in love and settle down
9. For now, I'm consoling myself with Cat
10. I was painfully shy as a child
11. I was bullied when I was in school and it took me well into adult life to get over it
12. Whilst I'm successful in my job, I spend my time worrying that someone will find me out and it will all fall apart
13. I cannot sit still and do nothing, I always have some project or other on the go
14. I can speak French, German, Spanish and some Italian, and a few words of Hungarian and Russian as well as English
15. I love travelling
16. I love learning new things
17. I get bored trying to be good at the new things I learn
18. I'm very impressed I've stuck with the tango for as long as I have
19. I am thinking about giving up my car since I hardly ever use it these days
20. I pretend to be scared of numbers but actually I'm pretty good at them
21. I get irritated by sloppy grammar
22. I get amused by unintentionally funny things people say or write
23. I love shoes
24. I have too many shoes
25. I believe there is no such thing as too many shoes
26. I cook to relax
27. I drink wine every evening and secretly worry that I drink too much
28. I started running last year and am planning to complete my first marathon this year
29. I worry that people don't really like me
30. The only thing I ever really wanted to be was a Mum, but it just didn't happen
31. I have had skin cancer
32. I worry that I might be a bit of a hypochondriac
33. I love to flirt
34. I'm scared of spiders, bees and wasps
35. I'm a voracious reader and usually can't sleep unless I've read at least a few pages of my current book
36. I usually have several books on the go at the same time
37. I have run my own business
38. I made a loss on each year of trading
39. I would like to do something completely different with my life but I don't know what
40. I miss my big sister so much it hurts sometimes
41. I spend far too much time worrying about things that will never happen
42. I have an over developed sense of responsibility for others
43. My favourite colour is probably yellow or red
44. I'm a Pisces
45. I'm a Leap Year baby
46. I have 2 birthdays every year except in a Leap Year when I have 3 (and a birthday month)
47. I find it hard to take life seriously at times
48. I have a healthy disrespect for authority
49. My musical tastes are definitely eclectic
50. I would like to be bad, but I'm not brave enough
51. I once had my palm read and was told I'd live until I was 84
52. The fortune teller also said I would never be a trouble to no-one. She was wrong there!
53. I do tarot readings
54. I don't believe in having my fortune read
55. I believe in homeopathic medicine
56. I'm a size 8 but worry about my figure/weight
57. I booked Deacon Blue twice - once for £800 and once for £10,000
58. The best holiday I ever had was in Goa
59. I can knit, sew and crochet
60. I have made my own silver ring
61. I am a frustrated writer
62. I have been published once
63. I have sung in a choir and performed in solo
64. I can play piano - after a fashion
65. I have no tattoos or piercings, other than my ears
66. I have flat feet
67. I'm 5'2" and have trouble finding trousers to fit
68. I worry about looking like mutton dressed as lamb
69. I don't believe in life after death but can't believe we just stop being
70. I truly believe I am lucky and blessed to have the friends I have
71. I believe respect has to be earned
72. I don't suffer fools gladly
73. I'm scared of heights
74. I took up climbing to get over my fear of heights
75. I like to think I take good photographs
76. I wish I was more creative
77. I was vegetarian as a student for about 2 years
78. My favourite season is probably winter
79. I don't think we had enough snow this winter
80. I've only ever had 2 stays in hospital, apart from when I was born
81. I've been in an ambulance once
82. I've been to A&E 4 times
83. I've never broken any bones, apart from a tiny one in my foot
84. I love steam trains
85. I prefer rugby to football and cricket to tennis.
86. I think golf is a good walk ruined
87. My favourite cocktail is a Cosmopolitan
88. I love chocolate but don't crave it
89. I generally prefer savoury to sweet
90. I love rice pudding
91. There are very few foods I don't like, apart from badly cooked ones. And offal!
92. I've never killed anything I've eaten
93. I can change a tyre, I just choose not to
94. I can change a fuse and a lightbulb, put up a shelf and lay a wooden floor
95. I made all the curtains for my first 3 houses
96. I am worth more dead than alive - financially at least
97. My favourite poem of all time is The Good Morrow by John Donne
98. My favourite book is The Jungle Book
99. My earliest memory is being lifted over the garden fence to our neighbour's house and gripping my toes in my shoes to keep my sandals on
100. I worry that I'll be on my own for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Dance yourself dizzy

It's about a year since I first started to learn Argentine Tango and over the past 12 months I'm really pleased with the progress I've made, and more to the point, the fun I've had learning. I've made some great new friends and found a way of getting out and about for a bit of a social life. I've remembered what it's like to learn something new and not know how to do it, that it's ok to make mistakes, that you have to go through being a beginner to get to being better, that it is entirely the natural way of things. Having spent too many years being 'grown up' I realise now that I'd forgotten that feeling, and whilst scary, it's also liberating to feel it again.

So now, a year on, I'm looking forward to my first Tango 'event'! This weekend sees the Scotland International Tango Festival right here in Stirling. I'm booked in for 4 workshops, 2 dances and open access to the Tango Lounge, and I can't wait. I'll be learning about the basics at the first workshop on Posture, Walking and the Embrace, before moving on to various embellishments in the other workshops on Boleos, Giros and Volcadas and Colgadas. Hopefully I'll be practising them all at the Braveheart Ball on Saturday night. But whatever, I'm sure I'll be enjoying myself, and getting a workout at the same time.

And in case you're wondering, the roots of tango are well and truly in Buenos Aires. It is a dance of the barrios, vibrant with passion and performed as a living dance still to this day. As with many other popular pastimes, it spread to the more affluent classes and the rest is history. It's not without its political dimensions either. In the 1950s, tango was frowned upon and was driven underground. This resulted in a very close and tight form of the dance being developed as venues got smaller and smaller but the crowds of dancers didn't. You can't dance tango without getting close, so people with personal space issues who try tango will either get over their issues really fast, or give up!

Whatever the history, it's an amazing dance to learn. Precision, spontaneity and passion all in one art form. As a woman the feeling of giving up responsibility and simply following can be incredibly liberating. Difficult to do, but liberating all the same. I'd recommend it to anyone - in fact, there are still tickets left for this weekend and a fabulous beginner's package available, so if you want to give it a go, why not pop across to Stirling and have a try this weekend.

See you there, I'll be the one in the blue tango shoes with the big grin on my face!!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Finding peace

After a busy, intense day at work, how best to relax, recover and find peace? Quite often I'll take the easy way out and collapse on the sofa with a glass of wine and something mindless to watch on the TV*.

But every now and then I'm inspired to try something different, and remind myself that being active in itself can be a relaxation. I've blogged many times before about how much I enjoy cooking, that I actually find it relaxing. So sometimes, like tonight, I turn to cooking as a way of unwinding.

I'll not lie, it's also a way of using up what's left in the fridge instead of having to throw it out. And of having food in the freezer for days when I don't have the energy or the time to make something from fresh.

Tonight's creation was a vegetable and bean chilli - using up the fresh vegetables that I'd bought in a fit of optimism the weekend before last and were in danger of lurking and leaking if left too much longer in the depths of the chill box. I didn't actually eat it tonight, I heated up a pork and cider slow cooked casserole from the freezer instead. So now, I've relaxed, eaten and still have a meal in store for tomorrow night too!

What's not to be happy about?

*As regular Crafty Manoeuvres readers will know, I rarely actually just sit doing nothing. So collapsing on the sofa with a glass of wine usually also involves some kind of yarn project. Another one finished last night - what do you think? I think I have almost enough of these hats now for a different one each day of the week! 

Monday, 14 February 2011

What's love go to do with it?

My heart has made its mind up
And I’m afraid it’s you.
Whatever you’ve got lined up,
My heart has made its mind up
And if you can’t be signed up
This year, next year will do.
My heart has made its mind up
And I’m afraid it’s you.

Going Too Far
Cuddling the new telephone directory
After I found your name in it
Was going too far.

It's a safe bet you're not hugging a phone book,
Wherever you are.

Spring Onions
Decapitating the spring onions,
She made this mental note:
You can tell it's love, the real thing,
When you dream of slitting his throat.
                                       all Wendy Cope

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Once more...

...unto the breach, dear reader. Or to put it another way, I've got a new challenge to complete.

Fresh from finishing my 30 day photo challenge, and 6 weeks into my 52 week project , through the post this week I received the equipment for my latest project - a disposable camera and a return envelope.

The challenge? 27 non digital photos on a theme. The theme? Signs and symbols. The reward? At least one of my pictures will end up in a book and a touring exhibition. The instigator? Who else but Just Frances, my newly acquired partner in crime!

That should keep me busy for a while.

Saturday, 12 February 2011


This morning I found myself doing my Dorothy impression. No, not the click your heels 3 times, No Place Like Home kind of Dorothy, (that was earlier in the week) but the pounding on your own round empty playing fields type Dorothy as in that fabulous all time classic film, Gregory's Girl.

Yes, this morning I went out running again for the first time since September, and I managed a not too shabby 40 mins for 3.5 miles - not quite my best 10k pace, but certainly not bad for having had a 5 month break. It was a little bit wet under foot as you can see from the condition of my running shoes afterwards, but other than that it was an exhilarating way to start the weekend.

The endolphins are definitely flowing, and helping with the residual ruby slippers feeling that I ended the week with. So much so, in fact, that I'm seriously considering signing up today for the Loch Ness Marathon in October to 'run' alongside my good friend, Frances. The aim will be to finish the 26 miles, not necessarily to run them all - and while I'll be running for myself and to exorcise my own personal demons, I'll also, like Frances, be running for her late husband and my friend, Paul, who sadly died far too young before he could achieve his ambition of running a marathon before he was 50.

So I'm off now, while I'm still on my endorphin high, to sign on the (virtual) dotted line and then I'll settle down to enjoy the rest of my sunshine filled weekend.

Posted to The 52 Week Project on Flickr

Friday, 11 February 2011

Love - 40

My sister blogged in December about how difficult she finds Christmas, not because of any emotional catastrophes, just because there's so much for her to do to make it a fantastic holiday for everyone else. At a time when everyone else seems to be looking forward to the season with excitement and anticipation, my sister (and lots of other hard pressed mums no doubt) are wracked by over work, trepidation and, probably in some cases, fear about whether the budget will stretch far enough.*

My own personal 'most miserable time of the year', however, has to be right now as we run up to Valentine's Day. Nothing emphasises the fact that you're on your own more than the onslaught of love, happiness, coupledom and romance that surrounds Valentine's Day in our modern world. Everywhere you look at the moment, all you see are cards, hearts, and things 'for two'. My email inbox is inundated with offers of romantic getaways, candlelit dinner options and gifts for the special someone in your life.

And as regular readers will know, that's not the way it is for me just now. I find myself in my 40s and on my own, and with no obvious prospect of that being any different in the foreseeable future if I'm honest. I've struggled with this over the past year or so, and while I'm getting better, it is hard to have it shoved in your face quite so forcefully everywhere you go.

But this is not a pity post. I'm not distraught or prostrate with grief. Actually I'm doing ok on my own for now. It's just a reminder that what may seem normal for most people, isn't universally so. Not everyone will be happy at joyous occasions. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be in a loving relationship. What is fun for some people is just plain hard work for others. These things are useful to remember. The world looks very different depending where you're standing.

*By the way, my sister and her Mum compadres aren't the only people who struggle with what popular culture decrees should be 'happy times' for us. It's well known that Christmas can be difficult emotionally for any number of people. Bereavement, divorce, separation and illness are just a few of the things that can make it hard to cope with. Equally, the increasing emphasis on alcohol as the natural way to celebrate can make it a dangerous time for some - for the drinkers themselves and for those who suffer the consequences of other people's drinking.

Craft and cunning

I commented in a blog post earlier this week that I didn't really blog all that often about crafty stuff anymore. So I thought it was time I rectified that and shared with you one of the projects I've just not long finished.

This was it just before it got finished and I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. It was my second attempt at a moebius loop neck warmer, and I think it has actually worked this time. It was meant to be made from some 4 ply pure new wool I picked up in the Edinburgh branch of McAree's but it wasn't knitting up right, so I raided this Cashcotton from my stash and it worked fabulously well. I was never going to finish that cardigan that had been on the pins for the last 5 years anyway!!

So, rest assured, I am still crafting* - or at least as much as Cat will let me given that he likes sitting on my lap and doesn't like my attention being on other than him. My knitted garments now have an additional layer of added cat fur in their make up, and my wrists bear a few more scratches as a result of impatient and jealous swipes.

*Despite fewer craft related posts these days, the tag 'handmade' is still one of the most frequently used on Crafty Manoeuvres, so I'm not straying completely from my original mission. Just diversifying a bit!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

It's a cat's life

As regular readers will know, I recently acquired a new cat. New to me, that is. Cat (he still doesn't have a proper name and seems to be settling quite nicely into Cat - good enough for Audrey Hepburn, good enough for me!) is 10 years old and has had a whole life before he joined me. And it appears he was completely babied in that former life. One of his endearing habits is a constant desire to nuzzle. One of his less endearing habits is pushing his face into mine and wiping his nose on me, usually in the morning when I'm still half awake and not able to defend myself!!

In one short week, however, Cat has wormed his way fully into my life. I'd forgotten how lovely it was to have someone waiting for you when you get home, someone how needs (and kneads, in Cat's case) you to look after them and who offers you love and affection in return. Whoever said that a house without a cat can never be a home was spot on.

Apart from a brief period when I was at University and just after, there's always been a cat around my home. Miss Kitty and her 'brother' Kab joined me when I lived in Bristol and stayed with me for most of the next 2 decades. Before that were the cats of my childhood - Tuppence, Dinah, Moggie, Tao, Hammy, and Riley (briefly). Wherever I was there was also a cat (or two) - so now it feels like equilibrium has been restored and once again my pleasant house is filled with fur, to paraphrase.

Coincidentally, at the weekend I heard a piece on the radio about the Scottish Wildcat and the fact that it is now an endangered species due to hybridisation with domestic and feral cats. It reminded me that much as we love our cats, we also have a responsibility to ensure that they don't damage the environment around us - whether that's urban or rural. The best thing that any cat owner can do in this regard, is make sure their pet is neutered. Unless you're going to breed from your cat (and if it's not a pedigree, why would you?), it really is kinder, safer and more responsible.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with these thoughts:

"You can keep a dog; but it is the cat who keeps people, because cats find humans useful domestic animals."
- George Mikes from "How to be decadent
"Dogs come when they're called. Cats take a message and get back to you."
- Mary Bly

"Way down deep, we're all motivated by the same urges. Cats have the courage to live by them."
- Jim Davis

"Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea."
- Unknown

And also this one - did you know that there's an award winning cat photographer - as in a cat that takes photographs, not a photographer of cats. Thanks to Barbara for the heads up on that one!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


One of the things I promised myself for 2011 was to be more active in it - not as in exercise type active, although that is one of my goals for the year, but as in making more active choices and not just letting life push me along until, hey presto another 365 days have passed and I feel like I blinked and missed them.

There's a lot more to it than this I know, but I'm really pleased that over the last month I've managed to find time for friends - new and old. Undoubtedly Cat has helped here since he's been a bit of the motivating factor for visits. But at the same time I like to think that I would have made the effort anyway - to celebrate, commiserate or just check out that everything is ok. The challenge now will be to keep it up and not let it slip.

I always like to find a photo to go with my blog posts. When I was trying to find one for this post I found myself drawn to images of bridges - things that help us connect with what can otherwise be separated from us, not always completely severed, sometimes just inconveniently so. Friendship is what keeps the connection going even through distance, time constraints and sometimes complications and disagreements. Friendships, like bridges, help us stay connected, help us overcome obstacles, but also like bridges they need a bit of maintenance every now and again. You can't just trust that they will always be there if you don't do some repair, a bit of TLC or even just checking every now and again.

Like the Forth Bridge, it's a neverending endeavour. Not a task, but an investment, and one that brings its own rewards. If it's a task, the chances are it's not a friendship that you should have. And if it doesn't reward you in some way, then you're best exiting it as quickly as possible.

I have said many times, I am lucky to be blessed by wonderful friends, who give me love and support, help me through the hard times and join me to celebrate the happy ones. I work hard at being lucky however, or at least I hope I do. I hope I'm a good friend who's worth the investment from others. I hope I repay the debt of friendship that I owe to others. And I hope that if I don't, my friends give me the opportunity to try again and work a bit harder at being a good friend to them.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Don't let them break you

There are people that will investigate you
They'll insinuate, intimidate and complicate you
Don't ever wait or hesitate to state the fate that awaits those who
Try to shake or take you
Don't let them break you

You can do anything you want to do
It's not wrong what I sing it's true
You can do anything you want to do
Do what you want to

People that despise you will analyse then criticise you
They'll scandalise and tell lies until they realize
You are somebody they should have apologised to
Don't let these people compromise you
Be wise too

You can do anything you want to do
It's not wrong what I sing it's true
You can do anything you want to do
Do what you want to

Hey you you're not their puppet on a string
You can do everything
It's true if you really want to
You can do anything you want

Just like I do

You can do anything you want to do
It's not wrong when I sing it's true
You can do anything you want to do
Do what you want
Thin Lizzy

Today I find myself needing to listening to this wise advice. 

Monday, 7 February 2011

300 not out

This is my 300th post on Crafty Manoeuvres! Yes, since I started blogging back in April 2007, I've subjected you dear reader to 300 episodes of self indulgent carp. Well done, you for staying the course!

The subject matter of the blog has changed quite a bit in that time. To begin with this was a blog about my crafting - hence the title. These days there's not a huge amount of craft blogging going on and much more about my favourite subject - me. To be fair, I have gone through a fair amount since April 2007 - two changes of job, a divorce, a change of location, deaths (not my I hasten to add, this blog doesn't come to you from the great beyond!), illness and other momentous happenings. If you read my blog on a regular basis, this will be all to familar to you.

I think I should try to get back to at least some blogs about craft - but not today. Today's post is going to be a celebration (briefly) of all things 300. From the tortuous film of the same name, to the 300th birthday of the Spectator, to the fact that 10 to the power of 30 (ok, not quite 300 but 10 x 30 is 300 so I'm claiming it) is a nonillion. There is apparently a 300mpg car, London is allegedly 300 miles from Paris and I'm about 300 days away from starting my Christmas shopping.

All in all, 300 not out. Not a bad score really.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

What are words worth? Part 2

I blogged yesterday about a linguistic experiment one of my fellow bloggers had participated in recently. It looked mainly at how different people from different places said particular words, but it also asked about the words people used for everyday items. I blogged my answers to the questions yesterday (too shy/self conscious to videolog the sounds bit!) and it got me thinking to how we really can be divided by a common language sometimes. 

While the divide is probably most stark between UK and North American English, it happens in the UK too. When I lived for a while in Bristol, and once I'd got over the Somerset accent, I began to notice the other linguistic differences. I knew when I started also using personal pronouns to refer to inanimate objects, (as in, See that Washing Machine, I'm afraid she's broke she is) I'd probably stayed there too long. It worked in reverse too. I can still vividly remember the completely blank look I got in response to my entirely mundane question of 'Where do you stay?'. Apparently the correct phrase is 'Where do you live?' Asking someone where they stay apparently is a Scottish turn of phrase.

But as I said earlier, the richest vein of common language divide has to be between the UK and our North American cousins.  

First of all, we have the straightforward 'same thing, different name' situation;
  • aubergine/eggplant
  • coriander/cilantro
  • spring onion/scallion
  • lorry/truck (to choose a non-cooking example!)
Then we move on to the similar word but just slightly different;

  • Mummy/Mommy
  • Maths/Math
  • sledge/sled
Of course, we also have the whole spelling thing going on;

  • colour/color
  • centre/center
  • neighbour/neighbor
And apparently even the punctuation can be different!

Most fun, perhaps - or at least to my infantile sense of humour, are the words that look the same but mean something completely different and can get you in a whole lot of trouble if you're not careful;

  • crisps and chips v's chips and fries
  • road and pavement v's pavement and sidewalk
  • trousers and pants v's pants and panties
  • rubbers and condoms v's erasers and rubbers
  • fanny and arse v's v-jay-jay and fanny
Going to the hairdresser in North America to get your bangs seen to is perfectly acceptable, but in the UK might lead to the aforementioned establishment being raided by the Vice Squad. Likewise, being sacked in the UK is unpleasant and economically disadvantageous, whereas in North America I understand it can also be an embarassing experience that happens mostly among co-eds at school (de-bagged I think is the UK public school version). And as for cottaging, well in Canada it's an activity the whole family can enjoy. Try the same in the UK and you'll end up on the Sex Offenders Register faster than, well a fast thing! Likewise, beaver hunting in Canada and the UK are very very different pastimes.

For more serious students, try this for a more erudite, less puerile, exposition of the subject. Meanwhile, I'm of to chortle into my coffee and make a mental note to take that book on Scottish slang out of the (children's section) of the library again - how many different words for your Shareen??

Saturday, 5 February 2011

What are words worth?

A friend blogged (or rather vlogged) recently about a linguistic experiment looking at dialect. As you'll see if you click across to her blog, it involved reading out a list of words and was examining how different dialects say different words. The experiment involves videoing yourself saying the words and while I'm not going to do that - my webcam is nowhere near good enough and in any case I hate hearing/seeing myself on video - I was taken by the second part of the experiment, which was a list of questions about terms used for everyday items - I suppose the point is to examine vocabulary as well as sounds.

As I scrolled down the list, I was reminded just how confusing language can be. We can use the same word but mean completely different things, or we can see the same thing and use completely different words. It gets even more dangerous when you bring abstract notions into the equation  - is your definition of fear, happiness, shame the same as mine? If I'm not explaining that very well, try this little test - get a group of people to imagine a dog playing in the garden and then ask them questions about it and you'll soon see what I mean. What colour is the dog, how big is the garden, what is the dog doing? I promise you, you'll never say 'I know what you mean' with conviction again!*

Anyway, to get back to the experiment - I thought I give the second half a go. The first few questions completely flummoxed me however. I've never come across the idea of throwing toilet paper over a house let alone realise that it had its own special name (teepee in case you're wondering, apparently). I also didn't know there was a bug that rolled up when you touched it (a roly-poly it seems**), although I did know there was a plant that closed all its leaves up when you touched them.

As for the other questions. well...

  • What is the bubbly carbonated drink called? In North America it tends to be called soda as a generic name. I would probably call it lemonade, fizzy juice or fizzy pop. If I was pretending to be more Scottish than I am, I might call it ginger. But definitely not soda!
  • What do you call gym shoes? Sneakers or trainers - Of those two choices, it would definitely be trainers. But I might actually call them gym shoes. When I was younger it was plimsolls, and again, a more Scottish choice might be gutties.
  • What do you say to address a group of people? - It depends how formal the setting is. In a formal setting it would probably be - Good Morning, Good Afternoon or Good Evening; less formally it would probably be Hi.
  • What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs? - I think this means Daddy Long Legs (sometimes called a Jenny Long Legs in the UK) but if it's really some kind of spider, I wouldn't be calling it anything as I would be out of the room in a flash!
  • What do you call your grandparents? - I called my grandparents, Granny and Grandad followed by their surname to distinguish between maternal and paternal sets. Interestingly, my Mum and Dad have chosen Nanna and Granpa as their labels of choice for my nephew.
  • What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket? - Shopping trolley. I thought this was a strange question until I reflected that they're called carts in North America.
  • What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining? - I can't think of a special name for this, although it does create a rainbow if you're lucky. Otherwise I think we just call it summer here in Scotland!!
  • What is the thing you change the TV channel with? - I guess I would call this the remote, or if I was being formal, the remote control. I do also call it the doofer, particularly at work for the one you use with the projector (and that never works!). It's quite sad really that I'm guessing no-one will think of a button or their finger as their first answer to this one. 
The interesting thing about this experiment is that often, unless someone makes you think about it, you're not conscious of local dialect words you use, or the fact that not everyone uses them. It would be interesting to know if you use different words - is it just a North America/UK thing or are there differences even within one country?  

* - credit to coaching tutor Andy Vass for that example, used to warn us of the dangers of assuming we understand what the other person is thinking without checking it out first 

** - having checked this out on Wiki, it seems that we do have roly poly bugs in the UK after all. Here we call them variously Woodlice, Slaters or Gran'fers, plus probably some other names too. I didn't realise they rolled up when you poked them. Must be a North American pastime; I always thought they were strange folks over there!!

Thursday, 3 February 2011


No doubt that's the way Cat's catnip mouse is now feeling, but to be honest it's the way I'm feeling as I drag myself to the end of the working week.

At least the mouse only had to suffer one night of mauling to end up in that condition. At least I don't get quite so physically mauled at work. Although sometimes it certainly feels like it.

Anyway, work is going to continue being crazy mad for the next couple of weeks so I apologise in advance if the blog gets neglected as a result. If all else fails I may just post pictures of the continuing adventures of Cat, the feline with no name.

Posted to The 52 Week Project on Flickr