Friday, 14 December 2012

30 Things: #10 - Describe your most embarrassing moment.

Oh, this is easy, and unfortunately, I remember it only too well!

Boxing Day, 2003. My delightful offspring were spending Chrimbo with their father, as usual (I used to cook Christmas dinner for Shelter on the 25th, then spend the next day in blissful solitude!), and as was my wont, I decided to spend the entire day in my dressing-gown, with my PS2, a stack of games, and with loads of candles alight! Bliss!

And then I heard it... a strange noise from outside. One of my friends said he might pop over to collect his trailer from my garage, so I went outside to say hello. You all know how the next bit goes.... gust of wind, front door slams, keys still in the house... and I'm in my dressing gown and slippers. On the doorstep. In the middle of an English winter. The noise turned out to be nothing more than the garage door banging in the wind.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

30 Things: #9 - List 10 people who have influenced you, and describe how

Gosh, I fear this is going to be difficult... I'm not easily influenced!
  • Amato mio - no-brainer, really... when you are as close to someone as we are to each other, there is obviously going to be some kind of influence. Amongst so many other things, I think he's probably taught me how to be a better person.
  • My mother - another no-brainer: my mother was one of the worst role models it's possible to have, and made what little of my childhood I spent with her, an utter misery. Because of her, I became strong and single-minded, and determined to be a far better person than she ever was.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

30 Things: #8 - What are 5 passions you have?

Oh, this is going to be relatively difficult; I'm one of those people who is either completely obsessive over something, or just don't give it a second thought! That said, there are things/areas which I am very passionate about... moreso than everything else I obsess over!
  1. My life! It may sound obvious but I really am passionate about the life I lead. I have an awesome life... Italians have a word for leading an awesome life; passione!
  2. My relationship with amato mio. Early next year we will have been together for ten years, and the flame burns increasingly bright. I am absolutely dedicated to keeping it so - not in any bunny-boiler kind of way but more in the way that something worth having is worth working hard for.

Monday, 3 December 2012

30 Things: #7 What is your dream job, and why?

Hmmmmm.... I don't honestly know that I have a dream job. There are a few I think it would be really cool to have;
  1. Astronaut - really, who wouldn't want to be up there, exploring the stars?
  2. Firework designer (as opposed to pyrotechnic designer) - making big, coloured explosions for a living... how awesome, eh?
  3. Gastronaut! I've no designs on being a famous TV cook but it would be great to be able to make a living from my culinary experimentation.
  4. Vulcanologist.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

30 Things: #6 - What is the hardest thing you have ever experienced?

Accepting that two of my grown-up children no longer needed me... and respecting their wishes.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

30 Things: #5 - What are the 5 things that make you most happy right now?

This is going to be easyyyyyyyyy!

  1. Amato mio... although technically not a thing, more a 'he'!
  2. My awesome life! Seriously, would you not be happy if in the past few months, you'd lived in, or travelled to, 16 cities, towns, and villages, in six countries, across three continents... and met some truly amazing people? *And* done it all with the person you are passionately in love with!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

30 Things: #4 - List 10 things you would tell your 16 year-old self, if you could.

Hmmmm, OK then....

  1. Follow your dream, and grab every opportunity. Don't believe those around you when they tell you you cannot be an actor - you are incredibly talented!
  2. Don't start a relationship with R; he will get really upset when you turn down his proposal, and he will rebound badly. It will be very sad.

Monday, 26 November 2012

30 Things: #2 - Describe three legitimate fears you have, and explain how they became fears.

1. Heights... serious, serious issues with heights. I have no idea why or how - survival instinct I suppose! I try my best to get over it though; one tactic was when I was living in Thailand, to go onto the roof of our condo and walk ever-closer to the edge (the wall was lower hip height for me, so v.scary). I found that taking my camera really helped because my desire to take cool photos took my mind of my shaky legs!

I also rode a huge elephant through the jungle, down some very hair-raising slopes. My eyes leaked during the last five minutes when I actually thought I was going to plummet to my doom... but Dodo, my lovely ele, stopped, let me off, then 'protected' me while I regained my composure and got back on his neck.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

30 Things: #1 - 20 Random Facts About Me!

I found this excellent blog post from Cherishing Hopes and Dreams, via Pinterest - do read it, it's such a good idea. So good in fact, that I, along with many other bloggers, have decided to create a month's worth of posts based on the list.... although because I'll be on the road soon, mine will likely take more than a month!

I think it would be rather fun if you joined in too, and if we could all link to each other's blogs, and perhaps learn a bit more about each other. What do you think?

Monday, 5 November 2012

What is it like to live in Taroudannt?

Several people have asked me what it's like to live here in Taroudannt, and some from MFP have remarked that I don't seem to be eating much Moroccan food... so I thought I'd write a quick blog post on the matter! 

Everything we eat is Moroccan... but maybe not what most people's perception of what that is!

We live in a very small city around 50,000 people; it's not at all touristy, and only has a few restaurants. There are a handful of street vendors and several little open-fronted cafés which sell cooked food. However, it's all tagines... with meat in! There are two restaurants which will make us vegetable tagines but everywhere else, it's carnivore heaven!

There is not a culture of eating out here (the only people who seem to use the restaurants are foreigners who only ever stay two nights at most, on their way to and from other places!); most people cook at home, as I do. There is a wealth of fresh fruit, veg, herbs, and spices, plus lots of pulses... and of course, couscous!

Apart from our rent and bills, which come to around 23 USD per day, we spend on average, 6 USD per day on food (that's everything for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and water) and household items (cleaning products, toilet tissue, etc.) - less than 30 dollars a day for all of our needs! Cool eh?

Food is very cheap here; for example, olives are 12 dirham - around a dollar per kilo, cherry tomatoes are 5 dh a kilo, and a loaf of khobz - flatbread - is 1.2 dh. Most people however, have very little money. There is high unemployment, which means that although the minimum wage is set at 3,500 dh per month (403 USD), in Taroudannt, most people only earn around 700 dh per month (80 USD). There are so many men clamouring for work here, employers can get away with paying as little as possible. People work seven days a week, often until quite late at night. Most women here do not appear to go out to work - apart from anything else, I don't think they would have time to do a job outside the home! 

It's a very hard life for the locals (harder still for those in the villages): there are no supermarkets here, no pubs, no clubs, no cinema, no trains, no fast-food places, nowhere to buy alcohol (not that I am aware of), no TV dinners, no processed foods aside from Laughing Cow cheese triangles, the occasional pack of fairy cakes, and some biscuits, plus very few modern western influences, barring satellite dishes, mobile 'phones, and the occasional knock-off tee shirt or hoodies! There are not many modern cars either - but there are lots of horses, donkeys, and carts!

Yet with little time, and little money, people here are among the most generous, both materially and spiritually, I've ever met - I have the utmost respect and fondness for them. On Saturday, my usual herb seller had run out of parsley, so I found a little old man who had a few bunches he'd no doubt either grown himself, or had purchased for a few dirham in order to sell on to make a very small profit (a huge bunch of herbs costs 1 dh to buy). Not only did he throw in a bunch of verbena for me to try but he offered to share his pomegranate with me too! On Friday, our neighbour called around to welcome us to our new home, and to present a gift of fresh fruit and Eid sweetmeats!

There is no state welfare here but despite the unemployment, no one goes hungry. They have family welfare here instead - people look after each other. If someone has no family, friends and neighbours will help. In fact, this has been true of every Muslim country I have been to. Leaving aside religious fanatics and fundamentalists (of which I have seen no evidence here), Muslims are the very soul of gentleness, kindness, and compassion. They are good people.

People here are very friendly too, and every merchant we go to teaches us how to speak Berber or Darija - every child/teenager wants to practise their French on us, and even a little English too sometimes! Our daily lives now consist of speaking a mixture of five different languages: Berber, Darija, classical Arabic, French, and a little English... six if you include our comedic miming/sign language! At first though, people used to stare at us (and some were distinctly wary) but now they say hello in the street, hug us, shake our hands, and invite us to join them for tea (we both love Moroccan mint tea)! Most of the merchants now charge us local prices (although occasionally we'll try a new one who will attempt to inflate costs!), and some even give us discounts. Most of them offer us freebies to try, especially when they get new biscuits or olives in! Yum! 

I adore living here; I loved Thailand but this is so completely different. It's like stepping back in time to a gentler age, where people care for each other (although they do in Thailand too, of course), where they look after each other, and where they have time for each other. Unlike Thailand however, there is not the sense that the western world is going to take over any time soon. Chiang Mai was fantastic but there are a lot of western expats, and a myriad tourists - if Taroudannt has any westerners living here beside us, we are not aware of them, and as I said before, there are few tourists, and those who do come, don't stay long because really, there is very little for tourists to do here... which suits us down to the ground!

We lead a very simple life here; we have very little, we need very little, and we desire very little - it's as close to perfect as I've ever known! 

Friday, 26 October 2012

Be Proactive!

Copying and pasting this to your Facebook Wall will not prevent children being kidnapped, or puppies from being beaten; nor will it eradicate breast cancer, testicular cancer, or homophobia. It will not foster racial harmony or religious tolerance, and it certainly will not bring back anyone's loved ones from the dead.

Do not copy and paste if you agree... go out and do something proactive instead.

Source unknown

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Living in Taroudannt, Morocco

 In six weeks we've travelled to - and stayed in; twelve cities, towns, and villages, in four countries, across three continents! Two weeks ago, amato mio and I came to live in Taroudannt, in Morocco's Souss Valley. And we are loving it!

It was a bit of a culture shock at first - a world away from living in Chiang Mai, and a little bit daunting at first... but now people have got used to seeing us about (apparently most 'westerners' stay here two nights at most); shopkeepers and stallholders now wave and say hello instead of trying to get us to buy their tourist stuff, restaurant owners no longer need to give us menus, and we have made a few friends here. People are very kind and generous, and most have such a sense of fun!

We've been staying in a beautiful guesthouse, Dar Fatima, for two weeks, where we have made friends with the owners, Brahim and Jamilla (like me, they both used to be teachers!), and tomorrow we move into their apartment for the next three months - maybe longer!

Everywhere we go, people are teaching us bits of Darija (Moroccan Arabic), so we're thinking of giving up trying to learn standard Arabic because very few people here speak it! Some understand and speak French, which is fortunate for us, but we both look forward to the day when we are able to go to the souk and be able to get across in Moroccan what we'd like, rather than having to resort to speaking bits of five different languages! It's certainly a challenge... but we are getting there!

Taroudannt is pretty conservative, and I am so glad I asked around about what to wear - I came well-prepared! Barring a few younger people, who wear a mix of traditional and 'western' style clothing, most people here wear djellabas and kaftans - it's lovely!

Also lovely is that apart from some mobile 'phone shops and satellite dishes, you'd not really know the 21st century has arrived; there are no boy-racers playing boom-boom music in their cars, no nightclubs or pubs. There are no fast-food places, no McDonald's, Burger King, or Pizza Hut, and no supermarkets! There are lots of tiny family-run shops which sell things like loo roll, cleaning products etc. and a few items of pre-packaged confectionery but for the most part, the food all comes from the myriad butchers, spice merchants, grain sellers, and greengrocers etc. Oh, and patisseries of course! And there is a dairy, which sells unpasteurised products. Yum!

I have no idea what the big cities are like... but this is all the Morocco I've ever wanted. It's perfect!

Can you make a living from your hobby?

I was just chatting to a friend on Facebook about people making a living from their hobbies, and we both agreed that it's unlikely to happen. And we also agreed that it's hard to tell a chum who asks for advice that s/he just doesn't have the talent or the wherewithal, that they should concentrate on finding a 'proper' job, and save the hobby for the weekend. 

I'm a huge, huge advocate of following a dream but I also firmly believe that we should know our limitations. We have to understand and accept that at some point, we have to toe the line, which means knuckling down and being adult enough to say, 

"OK, I don't really like my shop job - it's tedious and the customers are often rude, but you know what? At the weekends, I get to run around the woods with my friends, dressed as a mighty wizard... and my boring job enables me to fund my hobby!"

I think the trouble these days is that we're constantly told in schools, in the Media, and by the do-gooders, that every one of us is extraordinary, and that we're entitled to an extraordinary life. And therein lies the problem: yes we are extraordinary... as a species - but that doesn't mean that as individuals, we necessarily are. It doesn't mean we deserve anything, nor have a right to expect anything. Whatever we want, we have to work hard for, and this is something so many people seem not to understand. A lot of people also don't comprehend that just because their doting partner adored the lopsided sweater they took six months to knit for them, it doesn't necessarily follow that people will come flocking in droves to commission more of their 'unique' creations! (OK, amato mio's sweater wasn't lopsided but it's definitely on the large side, and it did take me about half a year to knit!)

Sure, it would be awesome to be able to make a living doing the things we love to do but from experience, I can tell you that even if you do not end up loathing that thing, it will rule your life; you will have to work very long hours for a pittance; and it will always be an uphill struggle

People are constantly telling me I should open a bistro, and then express surprise when I tell them that it would be my idea of hell on earth (well, one of them)

"Why?" they ask, "You love cooking, and your food is amazing!" 

It's because I love cooking that my food is so good - if I had to do it for a living, I fear the joy would go out of it, and it would become a chore.... worse, it would become something I felt imprisoned by because I would be reliant upon it. I do the things I love doing because they give me (and sometimes other people!) such immense pleasure - far too many times I have tried to capitalise on them, only to realise what folly it is. I don't want to go down that road again!

A hobby is something which should relax you, help you unwind, forget the cares of the everyday world.... when it becomes the source of stress and worry, what then? Do you get another hobby... and then think, 

"Oh, perhaps I could make a living out of this?"!! 

There is a reason why there are relatively few professional artists, knitters, writers, designers, musicians, athletes, etc. in the world - and they are paid lots of money because they are a rarity. They do what they do because they're driven, obsessed perhaps, and they are only where they are because they work at their craft to the exclusion of almost everything else. None of these people woke up one morning and decided that this is who they wanted to be - they have been these people since they took their first breath, and they have spent all of their lives doing the thing they were born to do. And none of them believe it to be the soft option; working in an office, 9-5, Monday to Friday, is the cushy number... making a successful business enterprise from a hobby is not

These people are remarkable at what they do - most of us are not. Fact. The sooner people accept it, and understand that they may well not have a life less ordinary but that they can build upon they life they do have, the happier I believe people will be. And probably more fulfilled too.

Be thankful for the life you have - if you are reading this, you are already far more privileged than most of the world's population. You are remarkable in your own way - rejoice in it but don't try to make more of it than it is. And don't expect the rest of the world to view you as anything more than an ordinary human being... just as we all are. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Be the change you want to see in the world...

Semi-literate indignant rants about how the system is failing, about how there is no justice, blah blah, and asking people to copy and paste to their Facebook walls is not pro-activism. No one who should care gives a fig for your Facebook rantings.

If you are not happy with things, do something positive, take action.

If all you are prepared to do is rant on Facebook, and believe it is enough, then really, you have no cause for complaint about your 'failing' system.*** By not being pro-active, you are just as much a part of the problem - your inaction is seen as acquiescence... is that what you truly want? If you want things to change, you have to do more than pontificate.

Be the change... don't expect others to do it for you so that you can reap the benefits.


*** A failing system, incidentally, which ensures you can sleep easy in your bed at night; which ensures you have employee rights; which enables you to live in comparative luxury; which gives your children (and you) the right to be educated; which provides you with good food and clean drinking water, plus shelter and warmth; which gives you medical treatment beyond the ken of most of the world's population; which allows you to have a monthly overdraft of more money than most people earn in a year; which does not put guns in the hands of your children; which allows you to walk the streets without fear of being raped; which allows you to choose from hundreds of channels to watch on your large flatscreen TV; to read whichever books you desire; to say whatever you like, without fear of recrimination. Some crappy system, eh?

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Abortion Is Wrong... Really?

Abortion is wrong. No arguments...
  1. It doesn't matter if the pregnancy is a result of rape: the onus is on the woman to take adequate precautions to ensure she does not become pregnant if she is raped.
  2. If someone is sterilised and becomes pregnant, she should not be having sex.
  3. If someone is sterilised, and over the age of bearing healthy children (e.g. if there is a chance they may have something wrong with them), she should not be having sex.
  4. A blastocyst is a sentient human being. 
  5. Abortion is the same as eugenics.
  6. Statistics are meaningless, therefore it is reasonable that in areas of high poverty, high disease, and high crime (including rape, murder, mugging etc.), more babies than can be sustained are brought into this world.
  7. There is no such thing as an accident. 
  8. If someone posts a pro-life propaganda image on Facebook, and couples it with the comment, "No discussion" - people are not supposed to want to discuss it because Facebook isn't the place for such discussions.
  9. If you don't agree that abortion is wrong, you have a rusted, closed mind.
  10. Rape-pregnancy is a smokescreen used by the pro-abortion lobby.
  11. Logically and scientifically, abortion is wrong.
  12. God and Jesus say that abortion is wrong.
Shockingly, the above were all from a female. 
  1. Trauma from rape is merely an emotional response, and raped women are therefore in no fit state to make the decision to have an abortion, should they find themselves pregnant.
  2. "Ask anyone whether they would have preferred their mother to have terminated them, and see what they say".
  3. If you put yourself inside the body of a rape-conceived child you would not want to be killed in a judgement call made by someone else. 
  4. Drawing a line as to when a group of cells becomes a sentient human being is wrong, and is "... a bad place to find yourself in".
  5. Despite being sterilised almost a quarter of a century ago because I didn't want any more children, and probably being too old to bear healthy kids, I am completely wrong to say that I would have an abortion if I found myself pregnant...
  6. "You'd rather enjoy your lifestyle than carry the life you made and therefore it should be killed because you'd be upset - and noone likes being upset so off with their head! Hmmm :/"
  7. "Perhaps they [aborted foetuses] feel entirely justified then in killing you if you're in their way?"
The above were all from a male... a stupid, blinkered male, at that.

There really are some nutters in this world.

Needless to say, my Facebook friends list has been reduced further. Not because people don't agree with me but because they are:

  • a) incapable of seeing any viewpoint other than their own, therefore it cannot ever be an equal friendship
  • b) because they did their best to make me look and feel like a worthless piece of shit because I don't hold the same beliefs as them.

Fortunately, they weren't actually friends - just people I've had dealings with via work.

I make no apologies for believing that not only should a woman be entitled to make decisions about her own  body but also about the rest of her life. And how fucking dare anyone who has had no experience of rape, pregnancy, extreme poverty, or violent crime, and who has only ever known their comfortable middle-class British way of life, presume to dictate to others how they should feel, and what they should do with their bodies?

I do however, apologise for the sweary bits... but that's how strongly I feel about the subject. Idiots.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Real Friends Do Not Encourage You To Jeopardise Your Health

Why is it that when someone overweight says, "I am going on a diet", or "I need to lose some weight", there are always sycophants who say things like, "Oh babe*, you look lovely... you have a beautiful figure - you don't need to lose anything"... even when the person is blatantly overweight or even obese (28lbs + is considered obese)?

Are people:
1. Thick - can't/won't think, so offer up a completely glib remark
2. Lying - afraid of hurting the feelings of others
3. Lying - secretly glad their friend is overweight because they think it makes them look good
4. Lying - an overweight friend justifies their own weight issues, and makes them feel better about themselves
5. All of the above
6. Telling the truth - they genuinely believe that being overweight looks nice

Surely a *real* friend would be supportive? They wouldn't tell someone they look lovely when clearly the person doesn't feel that way?

I don't mean someone wanting to lose 'a few pounds' (although even then, if someone feels they need to lose 7lbs, for example, they should still be supported), I'm talking about people who are obviously overweight. It's really galling to hear some of my friends being told they 'look fine', when what they are asking for is support (because they need it). It is unhealthy to be overweight, why would anyone encourage someone they allegedly care for to be unhealthy?

If someone doesn't feel right, and feels they don't look right, surely their feelings should be respected, and not be met with throwaway comments because 'friends' cannot or will not be honest with each other? Surely a real friend would be concerned for a friend's health and wellbeing, and would tell them the truth?

Real friends don't encourage indulgent beer and cake consumption!

*Could there be a worse expression?

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Spicy Food....Why?

It's not that I don't like spicy food - I do... as long as it's not too spicy - I just don't understand what the point is of having it so hot that it hurts to eat it.

Image credit unknown


Some of the farang men here – yikes! There used to be a saying; FILTH (Failed In London, Try Hongkong)... sad  to say that this seems to be alive and well here in Chiang Mai (and, I suspect, other parts of Thailand too). The attitude of some of the western males here is frankly, archaic in my opinion. 

I am utterly shocked an appalled by the attitude of some of them. It’s bad enough that they refer to their employees as servants, when in fact what these people do is maintain the garden and clean the house, but I find the attitude toward the Thai women actually to be repugnant. 

Freely admitting that they came out here to have multiple girlfriends or sex-partners, they then complain that the Thai women they are with refuse to ‘be a source of pleasure’ for them (their words, not mine) if they are not faithful to them. Do they really think that Thai women are so desperate for a western man that they should be grateful for any crumb thrown to them? That they should be meek, humble little women, serving the man’s every whim, no matter how unreasonable it may be? Or do they genuinely believe they are such a great catch because they have an amount of money and these women don’t, that the women will just accept their unreasonable behaviour in order to feed their families? 

What is this, the dark ages?

And then you have the ones who complain about the bar girls; firstly that they exist, and secondly that some are over 30 (and I’ve heard both of these from the same person). So it’s not OK to be a bar girl, and it’s especially not OK that some are not as young and pretty as certain men would like them to be. It’s as though there is something wrong with a woman who is not  a teenager or in her twenties. I honestly don’t understand why a guy in his sixties would want a 19 year old – either to have sex with or to marry. What do they have in common? Yet you see this all the time here... and usually, the man is walking ahead of the girl. 

What I especially don’t understand is men in their sixties (for example) who are with girls who look like children. Thai women often look far younger than they actually are, and I have on several occasions discovered that someone I took to be around 13 or 14 was in fact in her early twenties. Maybe it’s me but I find something very sordid about a retired man who wants a woman/girl who looks like a child.

Maybe some of these relationships work – I’d hope that not all of the men are horrible individuals, and I’d hope that not all of the girls are on the make (although I’m sure some of them are, and frankly, good luck to them!) but the more I see of this, the more I have to wonder at the mentality of the men who go down this path (sometimes over and over again – I recently heard of a man in his seventies who has just got divorced from his seventh Thai wife). On the odd occasion I have been unfortunate enough to be in the same restaurant as some of these people, overhearing their conversations (all their wives’ fault of course), it seems that most have had failed relationships/marriages in their home countries, yet expect the Thai women to drop at their feet and worship them... without ever addressing any issues which are likely to have contributed to the other break ups (e.g. too much booze, chauvinism, generally being an arse, etc.).

I recently heard one complain that his wife has refused to sleep with him until he mends his philandering ways; he actually said she was being completely unreasonable, and that as a man it was his right to have as many women as he wanted... and that his wife should be grateful he married her! And yet another was soliciting advice from his peers as to the best way to do a bunk on his wife... the consensus was that he wait until she is asleep, sneak out, and head for the nearest border. Unbelievable. Fortunately, our encounters with these kind of people are few and far between; they don’t really come up to where we live and socialise, well not much, and we keep away from those kind of farang haunts in the city.

In addition to seemingly treating their wives and girlfriends like pieces of meat, it’s the complete disregard for feelings of others; it’s how they abuse their host country; it’s the rude jokes they make about the Thais when they think they cannot understand what is being said about them. It’s the constant trying to get one over on the Thais, and it’s how they are all ‘experts’ regarding the finer intricacies of the Thai government. But mostly, it’s that even though they complain endlessly about how horrible it is here (it’s not – it’s lovely and the people are lovely), they are still here. In a way, I actually feel very sad for these people because I don’t believe that anywhere, anyone, or anything could ever make them happy or be satisfied with their lives. Much less be thankful. It must be a very sorry state of affairs to be so utterly without grace and dignity.

Monday, 4 June 2012

The tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth!

Grace Dental Clinic - My Chiang Mai Dentist

As a child, my deciduous teeth were very attached to me, so much so that my dentist (Dr. B) had to remove them as and when the new ones started to come through. When I was 15, I somehow developed an abscess (I've always been very particular about my oral hygiene, so I can only put it down to the fact that my mother had a habit of repeatedly hitting me in the face, and all that trauma created a weak spot), and so I took myself off to see the dentist.  Dr. B was on holiday, and instead, I was seen by his locum, who as it turned out, was quite the worst dentist I've ever had dealings with.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Alfred the Great - The Victorian Saxon King of England!

According to a BBC programme I watched recently, Alfred the Great, that renowned Saxon king, took London in 1886!

I bet someone wasn't amused!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Chicky Net!

Before I arrived in Chiang Mai, I signed up with Chicky Net (which I found through Chiang Mai Grapevine) in order to find out more about the city, to possibly make new friends, and more importantly, to see what I, as a western woman, might expect from this city so far from my home.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Songkran and Freckles!

Well here's a thing....I have freckles on my arms. Who knew?!

Thanks to my paternal Italian genes, I have always tanned easily but in the UK, it's generally not warm enough for me to want to uncover, ergo. There have been a few occasions - such as when I was working on the permaculture project - that I'd be out in the sun in a strappy vest, and became tanned; however, for the most part, a tan is not something I generally sport in the UK. And I would nail my tongue to a table before going on a sun bed or getting a fake tan! Ewwww!

 My English mother, on the other hand, was a pale-skinned redhead, who had loads of freckles, and I am supposing that this is where my new found 'dottiness' has come from. At work at the Kids Home Foundation, I spend most of my time outside, and when not at work, I'm usually out and about. Of course, here in Chiang Mai, it is the hot season (although TBH despite amato mio finding 38c too hot, it doesn't feel overly warm to me. It does get very sticky though.), so I am living in loose trousers and strappy vests (style did not get on the 'plane with me, I'm afraid!)...which means I am becoming browner. Today I noticed that my arms have rather a lot of freckles....I'm tempted to take a pen, and join up the dots to see what picture I get! On a more serious note though, now the smog has cleared, I should be more diligent about wearing sunscreen. I'm not entirely convinced about the whole skin-cancer from the sun's rays argument but it's probably best to not take chances, eh?

On a more watery note, it's now Songkran (New Year), and here in CM, the celebrations last for several days, during which time, unless one stays indoors the whole time, the chances are, soakings will be in abundance!

Yesterday at work we made Songkran decorations with the children, and then played a game with water bombs we'd made with balloons. It was a lot of fun....but I didn't get wet! After work, my lovely friends, LiLi (who is a wonderful artist) and K'Poon (who is also wonderfully-talented), and I drove around the city on errands....if K'Poon's car had been a convertible, we would have been soaked!

Later on, amato mio and I decided to run the gauntlet of Huay Kaew Road, and to Kad Suan Kaew (a five-minute walk away) to stock up on groceries. He managed to run away from most of our aquatic assailants but by the time we got to the shopping mall, I was completely drenched from head to toe! I didn't mind one bit - it was warm, and it was fun! Revenge was ours however, because we bought a couple of super-soakers, filled up at the tap very thoughtfully provided by the Chiang Mai Orchid hotel, and let rip! I can honestly say that I don't believe I have ever laughed so much with random strangers! I had to wring my clothes out over the balcony though, before entering our apartment!

Today and this evening, we're staying in because we both have work to do, and actually we've only ever spent an entire day and evening in our apartment once, I think. It will be quite a novel experience! Tomorrow however, will be a different story. I shall put on my bathing suit and a pair of lightweight trousers, lock'n'load the super soaker, and engage in some gratuitous water-warfare....not least because some friends have thrown down the gauntlet!

For those of you who cannot be here, feast your eyes on this video from a few years back...

Monday, 9 April 2012

In Praise Of Clear Skies And Easier Breathing!

The smog has cleared and we can see the sky at last... and it's beautiful! It's funny how much we take things for granted - back in Europe, we never really gave the sky a second thought, other than to look at it to see if it was going to rain!

And then in Dorset (UK), we discovered the stars, and gained a new appreciation of the sky. But we still didn't pay much attention to it afterward.

On the 'plane to Thailand, it was amazing to look down from the sky to see the land and the mountains below (especially the mountains!), yet once we got here, we found the sky had 'disappeared' because of the smog from the field and forest burnings. In additions, I found I was coughing quite a bit (which is disconcerting, not least because I am not a smoker), sneezing and awful lot, and have had very itchy eyes... although these last two could be due to hay fever (and the aircon!). The thing I really noticed was how dirty my teeth felt almost as soon as I left the apartment... not good when I'd brushed not five minutes beforehand!

We didn't really think about the lack of sky-vision too much... until a couple of days ago when we noticed that there were clouds! Beautiful white, wispy clouds! We had a full moon on Friday, and were actually able to see its aura/halo. It was amazing!

We had another downpour yesterday evening, and today, the sun is bright and the sky is blue. Long may it last!

We can also see Doi Suthep from our condo now, and it too is truly beautiful. How cool to live within sight of a mountain! I love Chiang Mai... almost as much as I love Venexia!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

In Defence of Pinterest Users

What is the difference between sharing a photo on Facebook and sharing one on Pinterest? Other than that the Pinterest one will usually be linked back to the owner of the work, thus driving traffic to their site (not to mention that re-sharing is generally very good free PR).

I don't understand how some photographers and artists can complain that people are Pinning their work, and then go and share the work of others on their Facebook timeline, without crediting the owners! Is this not hypocrisy?

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Have Visa, Will Travel!

Yesterday, amato mio collected our visas from the Thai embassy in London - the feeling of joy and excitement we both felt was akin to receiving a much longed-for gift....or perhaps the next instalment of Fallout or Assassin's Creed! Heheh!

Obviously, for security I have removed any incriminating identifying information - I'm not really a secret agent with no identity....or am I? Muahahaha!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Since When Have 'Slebs Been More Worthy Than Anyone Else?

Almost one billion people worldwide suffer from hunger-related issues. (146 million of those are children - 10.9 million under the age of five will die this year because they do not have enough to eat.) 98% of these people are in developing countries, with 65% in just seven countries. There are more starving people across the world than there are in all of the USA & Canada, and the EU. Every day 25,000 children die of hunger...that's 15 infant deaths per minute. Hunger is the world's no.1 health risk, and tonight one in seven of the world's population will go to sleep hungry. 

Forgive me therefore, if I do not blog about empty platitudes and sentiment, mourning the demise of someone whom I knew just as well as each and every one of these starving people. I simply cannot find it in my heart to jump on this particular bandwagon... not when 1 billion people's suffering is considered less worthy of mention and consideration than the premature death of someone who knowingly destroyed her life*.

But here's a thought - instead of rushing to buy the inevitable greatest hits album (with 'previously unreleased tracks'), which will no doubt be pimped by iTunes within the next week or so, so that people can prove just how much of a fan they are, how about donating that money to The World Food Programme, Poverty Action, or any other charity which is fighting to save all these people? 

The cost of one iTunes album could probably feed one person in the developing world for over a week!
*It's not that I don't have any sympathy for Whitney Houston's demise, of course I do - it's an utterly tragic waste of life. However, regardless of whether her death was immediately related to her substance abuse, there is undoubtedly going to be a link. From the minute she was born, she led a privileged life...a life which she chose to destroy. One billion starving people have absolutely no choice. What is truly heartbreaking is that for the majority of the world's population, every moment of life is the most precious gift, yet in our so-called developed western society there are those who choose to throw it away.

Be Happy For Others!

Amato mio are moving to Thailand at the beginning of March! How exciting is that? We really can’t wait!

Most of our friends and family are thrilled for us, yet a few seem to think we’ll be murdered in our beds, die from disease, be killed by venomous creatures, have terrible accidents, be victims of crime, and a hundred and one other misinformed ‘reasons’. I suspect the worst thing which is likely to happen is that we get an upset tummy!

Some people we don’t see from one year to the next have said, “Oh but we’ll never see you” .... hmmmm, they don’t see us anyway because mostly we’re all so tied up with our own lives that we rarely take time out to visit each other, so how is being on another continent and not seeing each other any different to living an hour's drive away from each other and rarely making the effort?

Wat Prathat, Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai. Copyright Frank Farm

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

How Do You Reward Yourself?

Yesterday I burned 1630 calories, and I was feeling pretty good about it (I still am, despite having had a migraine due to a lack of sleep, which in turn was due to my horrid neighbours keeping me awake...again). As I ran my bath afterward, it occurred to me that despite finding time to spend 30-60 minutes in the bath most days, it is something I consider a real treat, especially when it has plenty of bubble bath and candles (I don't like having the light on in the bathroom because the extractor fan comes on at the same time, and it's really noisy). 

Image source: Jurlique Spa at the Firesky Resort, Arizona

Monday, 30 January 2012

Are People Really That Stupid, Or Is It Just Wishful Thinking?

I love MFP, I really do. I've made some wonderful friends there, and I am the first to admit that without their support, and the accountability that MFP gives me, I'm not sure I'd have shed my excess weight. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I wouldn't have started running or doing 30DS, were it not for MFP, and I absolutely would not now be thinking about P90x. I should point out that I am only thinking about it at the moment....but it's a start!

But oh my goodness...some of the people on there (who are not my friends, I hasten to add), are barking so misguided! A couple of weeks ago, someone claimed to have been told by their doctor that when you lose weight it's because the fat comes out of your body... in your urine! She attempted to explain the 'science' behind it, and even said it had happened to her. Then you have all the people who swear that if you inject a pregnancy hormone into yourself (or have it in drop form), you only have to eat 500 calories a day, and you'll be super-healthy and slim! And let's not forget everyone who cannot grasp simple physics - that if you have two things which weigh the same as each other, one cannot be heavier! Oh, and while I am on a roll....

Monday, 23 January 2012

Hyperosmia post update!

Just a quick note to say that following my blog about hyperosmia, I was contacted by well-respected US journalist, Deborah Lee, who along with her colleague, Katie Gilbert, is writing a research piece about the condition. After several emails back and forth, I was interviewed via Skype last week!

We had a really interesting chat, during which time we both came up with several new ideas and theories. It was both refreshing and stimulating. Also interesting was that she said several doctors have debunked the claim that certain hyperosmians can 'smell through buildings' (for want of a better expression), yet I can, and the journalist said that she'd interviewed other people who can as well. We don't imagine these things! So much for expert medical opinion! I'm not saying that their opinions are invalid, but they are just that, opinions, not statements of fact. Perhaps once the condition is better understood, these doctors might revise their views!

Anyway, I am going to be kept in the loop regarding the research, and was asked if I'd be happy to give further interviews, to which I readily agreed. The more is known about this condition, the better, as far as I am concerned. They are also going to let me read the final piece - I'm really looking forward to it!

Oh, for the love of Whedon....would someone please just give me a job?!

I'm really not someone who is given to whining, and I'm rarely the kind of person who lets things get on top of them but honestly, I'm starting to feel rather fed up and demotivated by this whole job-hunting malarkey.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

YOU are what's wrong!

I am so tired of the constant whining by people about how all the ills of their lives are the fault of someone or something else. This morning on MFP, I came across a post by someone, blaming the US celebrity cook, Paula Deen, for making Americans fat and giving the nation diabetes! I should warn you now that there's a very scary Photoshopped image of Ms Deen on the home page!

Not examples of Ms Deen's recipes - just a load of high-fat foods, courtesy of the National Cancer Institute

Monday, 16 January 2012

Curvy Women/Real Women....Oh, Please!

So this year's hotly-debated topic on MFP is shaping up to be 'curvy'. Have we finally moved beyond all the HCG, ToM, muscle/fat weight, and starvation mode arguments, and replaced them with intense debates about curvy and real women? Already I am sick of seeing 'curvy' topics showing up on my home page (and I am sick of seeing it spelled 'curvey')! Who cares? If people want validation for their outward appearance, perhaps they should be looking within - it really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, surely?

What saddens me the most is that instead of sticking together and being supportive, women now seem to be taking a stance against each other. And the irony is that despite their claims to the contrary, if they had the bodies of 'not real women', I very much doubt they'd be looking at pictures of overweight women, wishing they looked like them.

Original image credits unknown

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Because we all love a cat in a box.....

It's true - the internet is full of images and videos of cats in boxes. Forget porn, comedy moggies are the true reason the internet was invented!

Anyway, please bear with me...I'll get to the cat-in-a-box in a minute....

I'm 3lbs down since Jan 1st, which means that since October (when I got sick), I have gained 6lbs. Porca puttana! 

I'm not sure that's entirely accurate however because my scales have been rather temperamental for the past few months (even with a new battery) - I have to bash them a bit to make them work...which is probably not good for them! I think they are still under guarantee, so I shall see if the manufacturer will make good on it. Plus (and this may be TMI, for which I apologise profusely), I'm having 'digestive issues' right now, so perhaps that's a contributing factor too. It might be time to up my daily dose of aloe vera, and eat more live yoghurt...I'm feeling very bloaty and whale-like right now.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Recipe/Ricetta - Cauldron Curry

Yes, I really do cook curry in a cauldron! It's very good for outdoor gatherings such as the Summer Solstice party we had at the permaculture farm my friends and I worked on a couple of years ago...

And yes, that's an earth oven too - we have made some fantastic pizza in there!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Introverts....and the lies people tell about us!

Via my lovely chum Kirsty's blog, The Leopard Anchor, I came across Carl King's blog post about the myths of introversion...and nodded in agreement with everything he wrote. And smiled. A lot!

Here are his 10 myths - but do go and read the rest of his blog post, especially if like me, you are one of the 25% of the population who is introverted/introspective...which frankly, is a very good thing in my opinion. I wouldn't want to be any other way. And neither would amato mio, who is also one of the few! As are the majority (if not all) of my friends.

Recipe/Ricetta - Melanzane al Forno con Pecorino (Parmigiana)

This rich, tomato-ey, cheesy oven-baked food just may be my most favourite dish in the entire world, and I suppose it's considered by my friends and family to be my signature dish. It's not remotely Venexiano however; both Campania and Sicilia claim it for their own....but since Campania was formerly part of il Regno di Sicilia, this is not surprising. For me, this is the ultimate comfort food!

It is popularly known as Parmigiana Melanzane, which most non-Italians erroneously believe comes from the use of the hard cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano. However, the name actually reflects the arrangement of the melanzana; since each slice slightly overlaps the previous, it resembles the slats on a wooden shutter. In dialetto siciliano, 'parmiciana' means 'wooden shutter slats', while 'palmigiana' is the shutter itself. Parmigiana is merely a corruption of these words, and nothing to do with the cheese. In addition, Parmigiano-Reggiano comes from the northern Italian regions of Emilia-Romagna & Lombardia, so it's highly unlikely that it would form part of a southern culinary tradition!

Who says cookery is not educational?!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Crafty Photo Scavenger Hunt: December 2011

In a departure from the usual food and fitness talk, I am taking part in the Crafty Photo Scavenger Hunt, which this month is hosted by the lovely Emma over at The Gift Shed (do take a look at her amazing work while you're there!). Admittedly, I should have blogged this at the end of December, not the beginning of January; despite putting a reminder on my calendar for the 30th, I still completely forgot! Fortunately Emma sent me a reminder, saying I had until the end of this week! Phew! Thanks, Hedgie!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

New Year - Old Routine!

Back on track today: I gained a couple of pounds between December 19th and today but since I currently have The Attack of the 50ft Hormones, it could be that, and not nomming and quaffing, which is responsible....although I doubt it! Hard to tell when I haven't actually weighed myself for two weeks.