You know when there are simple things in life that bring a smile to your face? These are my current ones!
James Bay – Pink Lemonade
Considering I thought most of the single releases from his previous album wee a load of melancholy tosh, I can’t get enough of this song. Is it recorded in a different key maybe? There’s something about it. Love.
Burgers and outdoor eating
A couple of years back we bought an electric “barbecue” because the gestapo management company thought we’d burn our apartment building down if we used fire. When we moved into our house last year we expected to retire it, but it’s actually been a continuing revelation for outdoor eating after work when it’s just the two of us and a full on barbecue with coals and stuff is too much like hard work. The husband has it down to a T, and cooks THE most incredible burgers on there. Not even blowing smoke up his ass because he reads this, they’re the best burgers I’ve ever had, ever. Tasty, juicy, moist, yum! Loaded onto a brioche bun and topped with pickles, cheese slices and relish, I seem unable to stop at just one.
I always thought that Frasier would be a pompous, up it’s own ass, not particularly funny comedy show, and never had any interest in watching it. Until the husband, buoyed by watching a few episodes out of sync on Saturday morning TV, bought the box set with a view to starting from the very beginning. What can I say, apart from “I was wrong”. Yup, hold my hand up, it’s nothing like I feared. It’s gentle, clever, dry and very very witty. Niles is my absolute favourite. I love nothing more than snuggling down for a 3 or 4 episode binge and some guaranteed lols.
Sunshine and being in the garden
This needs no explanation. If you follow me on instagram you’ll have noticed I’m a weather obsessive. The sun makes everything better. Waking up, getting out of bed, leaving the house. Even being at work is more tolerable knowing there’s sunshine just outside the door. After a loooooong winter, we seem to have had better than average weather for the past month and I am living for it. Combined with that, my garden is just everything to me. I’d rather spend money on plants than shoes (I said that jokingly a few weeks ago, then realised that it’s completely true and I’m not even bothered!) and potting flowers and waiting for them to bloom is such a joy. The patio resembles a garden centre! We’re having a new lawn laid today and I’m ridiculously excited (sad, I know!) and I’m sure I’ll be sharing pics in the weeks to come.
I wasn’t overly into Harry and Meghan’s wedding in the lead up but ever since I watched the coverage on TV I can’t get enough of it! Pictures, articles, opinions – I want it all. And just how beautiful are the official photos released yesterday? Harry’s smile – could he be any happier? I think it’s a modern day love story; not only about Meghan getting her Prince, but about H getting his happy ending too (no sniggering at the back, rude readers).
What’s dinging your dong right now? Let me know in the comments!
We’d all like to think that we’d instinctively know what to say or do if a family member shared something important with us, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes we might need advice from a third party.
It’s not very often, though, that the third party would be a gay bar!
This story is pretty heartwarming – a bartender at a mostly gay bar in Mississippi took a call from a woman who’s son had just come out to her, and she didn’t want to say the wrong thing, so she called the bar for some advice.
Maybe not the most conventional approach, but thoughtful nonetheless.
Now? I’m not depressed. At all. I have a happy marriage, a beautiful home, a settled job with great work colleagues and an understanding manager. I get to go on plenty of holidays and trips, I have a loving and supportive family and a network of friends who know and accept me for who I am, warts and all.
But do I still have depression?
Is depression like an infection, where you take tablets and then it’s cured? Or is it like diabetes (for example) where it will probably need to be managed for the rest of your life? Everyone is different, I guess. Some people fully recover. Some people will relapse or have recurring episodes throughout their life. Me? I’m scared to find out. After afore-mentioned wobble, which put a deep – if temporary – chasm in my marriage, I’m not really in the market for testing my mental health by coming off my tablets. Maybe that’s irresponsible. I don’t care. I’ve been on them for long enough now that they’re part of me, and I’ve never noticed any effects (apart from the obvious and much wanted positive ones) that have made me feel a need to stop taking them (apart from that one fated time, I know I mention it a lot but it was horrible). Not everyone is so lucky, and I appreciate that. For some people, the side effects of anti-depressants can be worse than the reason for taking them. A lot of people have to trial different variants before they find one that suits them. Not me. Prozac and I got along very well right from the beginning.
But, as I said, I’m not depressed. I can’t imagine ever feeling so desolate and bleak as I did when I first started taking tablets. Sometimes I even wonder “was it that bad?” – it’s such a long time ago, literally and figuratively. But of course it was that bad, at the time. You don’t take 3 weeks off work unable to face real life if you’re just feeling a bit low. You don’t think that it would be quite a relief to not be around anymore as long as you get to say your I love yous and goodbyes to people first.
And yes I still have low days, days where I feel shitty and I want the world to stop so I can get off, days where everything is an effort, days where I’m so caught up in my own thoughts that I want to just be left alone. I don’t class those days as part of my depression. I class them as just rough days, that everybody has, right? Or do they? I also blogged recently about not really knowing who I am because I’ve been on Prozac and the contraceptive pill for such a long time. So is a sad day, a flat day, a can’t be fucking arsed day simply a controlled by pills depression day?
Who knows?! (it’s bloody complex, being a human.)
So, if I’m not depressed but I still take a daily tablet for fear of returning to that space, how do I class myself? And because I’m not actively living it, and haven’t for a long time, is it even worth me participating in the conversation? There are people with much worse experiences than me, in the here and now.
My conclusion is that I don’t need to label myself. It doesn’t matter, right now, to have a category to fit into. The important thing is that I’m mentally stable (in the most part). I had my diagnosis, a long time ago, which put me on a treatment path which levelled me out. Long may that path continue, whatever it’s called.
PS. The lovely Tina from T is for Tina has written a very apt post in relation to MHAW. As she correctly states, “we all have a mental health, and we all need to look after ourselves and learn to put ourselves first sometimes.” Regardless of whether or not you have a diagnosed mental illness or condition, it’s important for everyone to to look after their own mental wellbeing. MHAW isn’t just to acknowledge people who’s brains are a bit wonky (I’m being flippant, not rude). It should also exist to remind everyone to take care of themselves. Say no when you want to, create some me time and indulge in things that make you happy. Your brain deserves it.
It’s my final post about Rome, promise (until I go back again – which I most definitely will). I thought I’d do a quick round up of the more practical things – sleeping and eating!
Hotel Antica Dimora delle Cinque Lune
This hotel was marvellous; situated on the top 3 floors of a 6 story building, I can’t honestly remember how or why we chose it (which is unusual for me) but it ticked the boxes in terms of location (5 minutes one way to Piazza Navona, and 5 minutes the other way to the bridges crossing the River Tiber for the Vatican City) and quirkiness (the room was very gothic).
The lobby area on our floor had an opulent lounge area.
And the wooden shutters in our bedroom opened up on to candy coloured buildings and pavement cafes.
Breakfast was served on the roof with views across the city.
Breakfast was standard continental fare – pastries, yoghurts, fruit, boiled eggs, cooked meats and pizza slices (when in Rome!). The staff were super helpful; storing our bags before check in and after check out so we could make the most of our time in the city, supplying maps and recommendations and generally just being really friendly and approachable. I’d recommend it to anyone visiting Rome.
Our first meal in Rome was at a little bistro near Piazza Navona, where we ate bruschetta and pasta with a glass of wine for just 12 euros each (our expenditure on food increased massively after this point!) We sat outside under patio heaters and watched the world go by and it was lovely. It is possible to eat cheaply in Rome, contrary to my expectations, but with it being my birthday trip we splashed out on some nicer places which made the break more expensive than it could have been.
We spotted this place whilst wondering back to our hotel on our first evening, and said immediately we’d go back there to eat. It was all lit up with fairy lights, had warm welcoming patio heaters outside and just looked so quaint and pretty, plus the menu ad us drooling before we’d even got through the door! This is up there as one of my most memorable restaurant experiences ever; we sat tucked in a corner by the window, drinking chianti, and had the most incredible steak wrapped in bacon and truffle. It was PHENOMENAL.
Caffe Sant Anna
This was the lowest point of our dining in Rome, and kind of our own fault for not researching in advance. We had time for lunch in the Vatican City between our Vatican Museums and St Peters Basilica visits so stopped off at this place as it “looked nice”. Big mistake. We ordered a glass of wine each and the guy bought us a bottle. No matter; I’m not averse to daytime drinking and we thought perhaps they didn’t serve wine by the glass. The husband ordered a salad, and I ordered gnocchi, and while we were waiting for our food I checked TripAdvisor where there was review after review about the poor quality of the food (microwaved), and the discrepancies in final bills, people being overcharged, people being charged for things they hadn’t ordered – the general consensus was AVOID THIS RESTAURANT! Too late for us, we hoped for the best, but their poor reputation was proven when I watched my gnocchi be spooned into a bowl from a deli counter and then microwaved until it was so hot I couldn’t eat it, the husband’s salad was pretty much devoid of anything other than leaves, and the final bill showed 35 euros for the bottle of wine, when I knew it was only 25 euros on the menu. I challenged the wine price while the husband used the bathroom; the waiter gave me some bullshit excuse about having given us someone else’s bill by mistake (how convenient other people were eating what we were but drinking a more expensive wine?!) and the husband came back with reports of blood smeared all over the toilet. 55 euros down, no tip and a very sharp exit, as well as a lesson learned!
Osteria Dell Anima
We’d spotted this on our wanderings as well, and put it on the list to visit purely for the veal in truffle sauce (I do love how restaurants in Europe display their menus outside so you can make sure there’s something you want before you’re seated at a table). We arrived fairly late, and the restaurant was empty, but we were assured they were very much open and very much still serving. The lack of atmosphere and surly attitude of the staff, along with the fact I was trying to order a replacement oven online because our builder at home, in the final phases of work pre-Christmas, had told me by text that I wouldn’t have an oven for Christmas Day (we were hosting both Christmas and Boxing Day dinners!) made for quite a strange dining experience, but the meal itself was incredible. Truffle sauce – yowsers!
Situated in one of Rome’s many piazzas, we stopped here for lunch on my birthday. Undeterred by winter, the restaurant had placed the outdoor terrace undercover and supplied blankets and patio heaters which added to the lovely atmosphere (I’m a big advocate of sitting outside whenever possible). We drank rose wine under the fairy lights and ate spaghetti bolognese (small portion, but very very tasty) and I decided that being 40 wasn’t so bad after all.
The husband had researched my birthday meal and found a lovely restaurant but, when we arrived, they had a private party on and weren’t catering for anyone else. He was understandably gutted, but I suggested we head back down the road to Cantina e Cucina which I’d read very good reviews of on TripAdvisor. The restaurant was lovely; very rustic Italian with checked table cloths, candles in wine bottles and herbs hanging from the ceiling. So welcoming and cosy with very friendly staff.
To start I had deep fried artichoke, which is a Roman speciality, and the husband had the biggest bucket of calamari – we couldn’t actually finish it all. We both had veal saltimboca for main. It was all ok, just not what I expected (my fault for ordering off piste) but the wonderful atmosphere, and the candlelight, and the chianti made everything amazing anyway, even if the food wasn’t the star of the show. Oh and I got a tiramisu with a sparkling candle and the waiter sang Happy Birthday; what’s not to like?!
Taken as I was with the Pantheon, along with it’s proximity to our hotel, it made sense that our last lunch of the holiday would be eaten at one of the restaurants facing the magnificent building before our car for the airport arrived. We settled on Napoletano’s for it’s perfect positioning, outdoor tables and a very welcoming waiter. Even though it was barely lunchtime (about 11.50am!) I was determined to finish the holiday with a lasagne and…you guessed it…more chianti!
And it was magnificent. Really rich sauce and perfectly al dente pasta. The sun was shining, the skies were blue, a busker was playing songs that filled the piazza, and we both swore that we would be back again to this most fabulous city.
I feel kind of sad that I won’t be blogging about Rome any more in the near future, but I had a wonderful 4 days there and I’ve been reliving it for almost 5 months through these posts so…until next time…
If you missed any of my previous posts about Rome, click the links below:
I don’t know about you, but I tend not to shop very much in February and March. The shops are full of new season stuff but it’s still too bloody cold outside to wear anything less than 10 tog quilted clothes and hide under blankets at all time.
Come April though, I start to get a hankering for shiny new spring and summer clothes. Probably because I haven’t dared to unpack all of my previous year’s spring and summer clothes to avoid jinxing any good weather we might have. Or, more probably, because I get the fear when I don’t buy new things.
With that in mind, here’s a round up of my cheap and cheerful E5P buys which have ticked my new clothes box without breaking the bank.
Red ruffle hem trousers
Lesser mortals may think these are only for special occasions. I’m going to wear these bad boys whenever the mood takes me, even to work.
Peacock print leggings
Ditto the above. I’ve already worn these to work, but certainly not with a top tucked in (who wear legging like that?!)
Navy and white spot shirt dress
I’ve had a soft spot (pun intended!) for dotty dresses ever since I saw Vivian wearing her brown and white one at the croquet in Pretty Woman. Hers shows more arm and less leg. I’m thinking of teaming this with a red bandana headband and white sandals.
70s print chiffon top
I love easy to wear pieces like this (by easy to wear, I also mean easy to wash, by which I mean no ironing required!) Great for chucking on with jeans.
Frill sleeve blouse
I’ve waxed lyrical about my love of a fancy sleeve in the past, and this little lovely also has a fancy frilled front for extra dandiness.
Empire line denim dress
This is thicker than I expected so will probably get more wear in winter with tights and boots. Anyone else annoyed by her haphazard cuff folding?
Embroidered cheesecloth smock tops
Again super easy to wear and no iron (they’re designed to look crinkled!) I couldn’t choose k=just one colour so I got two. Sorry not sorry
Aztec print chiffon cover up
I’m sure I will be asked why I’m wearing a dressing gown over my clothes when I wear this but that’s ok. As you may have noticed, I’m very much of the don’t give a fuck camp when it come to other people’s opinions on my clothes!
Off shoulder cheesecloth mini dresses
More non iron beauties! I was hoping these would be long enough to wear as dresses, what with me not being of clothing model proportions, but I might be pushing it on the decency front. But they’ll look great with leggings or over denim shorts.
Has the good weather sent you scurrying to the shops? Let me know!
My cockles were warmed on multiple levels this week by this story. A man riding the New York subway, re-teaching himself fractions so he could help his son, and in turn being offered help by a stranger.
Why the multiple cockle warming, you may ask? (or you may not!)
Firstly the Dad, obvs. I have to be honest, I’ve forgotten most of what I learnt in school maths lessons (trigonometry, anyone?) but the fact that he was taking the time to get to grips with it to help his son is lovely (I know it’s basic good parenting, but I guess a lot of folks would pass the buck to someone else instead of taking the time to re-learn something from many years ago).
Secondly, public transport is a pretty inhospitable place generally, where most people go out of their way to avoid eye contact, much less be nice to someone. So the fact that the older guy acknowledged the situation is in itself a wonderful thing. But to take that a step further, and offer help, is a lovely lovely thing.
Finally, that the Dad accepted the offer of a help as a genuine kindness rather than getting all defensive or dismissive, is probably all too rare in itself these days.
The kid learning fractions isn’t the only winner here. My guess is that both the Dad and the older guy went away feeling pretty good about themselves too.
What do you think? Would you accept help from a stranger?
When I went to a Dignity in Dying meeting in Parliament back in January, it was quite clear from the MPs who attended that there’s still a hell of a lot of misconception about what the charity and it’s supporters (myself included) are fighting for. On that basis it’s clear that, when there is another vote on the issue in Parliament (as there was in 2015), those MPs won’t understand what they’re voting for, which will obviously affect the outcome.
To be clear, Dignity in Dying are fighting for a change in the law that allows mentally competent, terminally ill people with less than 6 months to live, the legal right to end their life in the UK with medical assistance. Mental competence would be assessed by an independent psychiatric professional. This would end the need for people to travel to Dignitas in Switzerland or other countries and organisations where assisted dying is currently legal. It would mean that people could die at home, in comfort, surrounded by family. It would mean they didn’t have to skulk away like criminals and worry that anyone who had helped them to make the journey overseas may face prosecution.
My Dad’s wife’s MP is Tom Watson, Member for West Bromwich East and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. He didn’t vote in favour of changing the assisted dying law in the last vote three years ago. As a constituent, she and another local resident Jim, who took his partner to Dignitas because the UK law didn’t allow her to end her life in her home country, requested a meeting with him to discuss the issue. They both shared their stories and experiences with him, and presented him with the latest research from Dignity in Dying.
Mr Watson was very moved by both of their stories, and surprised at the difference in treatment at the hands of their doctors (Dad’s doctor refused to give hi the paperwork he needed to be accepted by Dignitas on legal grounds, whereas Jim’s partner’s doctor helped them to collate everything they needed. Ironically they were both under the same GP surgery). He was visibly emotional and his opinion of assisted dying changed during that meeting. He pledged to publicly declare his support.
True to his word, Mr Watson was interviewed by the Daily Mirror newspaper, and an article was published this weekend. He acknowledges that meeting with my Dad’s wife and Jim changed his opinion, and has gone on record as saying the law needs to change
I’m sharing this message to prove that you, me, all of us, can make a difference. Not just specifically to Dignity in Dying, but with anything you feel passionately about. Maybe your MP is like Tom Watson – doesn’t understand your issue or has never really given it any thought. Maybe the thing that you want changing has never been on their agenda. Maybe you’re the person to make them understand and make them think about it.
Farmers markets are quite de riguer these days aren’t they? Any postcode worth it’s salt seems to have one. Well, I can go one better, the Farmers Market where I live won the FARMA “Best Farmers’ Market in the UK” award in 2009, 2012 and 2016 – the only market to have won 3 times!
Now I’m finished gloating, I have to admit that I don’t get there very often. I always seem to have something on, or the weather’s rubbish (I’m a fair weather person). But, on a (rare) sunny but cold February morning I toddled off up the road to buy some schizzle. And by schizzle I mean edible stuff.
The market boasts around 60 stalls with all sort of fresh produce – cakes, cheese, fresh olives and organic meat.
The pottery stall has beautiful handmade, handfired goods.
Multitudes of flavours of cordials and chutneys on this stall.
Baladee has Egyptian flavours.
The Scotch Egg man is a personal fave, because scotch eggs are a food of wonder.
There’s also a plant stall; we bought some bits which sadly died because the weather was too crap to plant them up outside for weeks afterwards.
The pastries from Cossak Cuisine were flying out!
There’s also a hog roast stall selling hot pork sandwiches, and a samosa stall where the samosas are freshly deep fried in front of you and are OMG delish. Unfortunately by the time we got there they’d sold out, oops. So the husband bought a smoked sausage pastry from the stall above, which was delicious heated up in the oven when we got home.
What else did we buy?
Some garlic rolled goats cheese, sweet potato dip from Baladee and 4 scotch eggs – honey and mustard, spring onion and garlic, sundried tomato and Eastern spice. Yum!
The market is held on the last Saturday of each month in the village square. Which means it’s on today! Unfortunately I won’t be going along because I’m going caret shopping <<hugely sarcastic yay>>, and suitcase shopping <<actual legitimate yay, because it’s for our trip to Palma which happens next weekend!>>
What’s the best way to celebrate turning 106? If you’re Jack Reynolds, you go on a 60 metre high, 400 metre long zipwire; casually gaining another Guinness World Record on the way.
I say another, because Jack is no stranger to marking his birthday with a new World Record. Last year, at 105, he became the oldest person to ride a rollercoaster; and the year before that, at 104, he was the oldest person to get a tattoo.
He even participated in the ice bucket challenge when he was 102, wearing just a pair of Union Jack pants!
Daredevil Jack is doing more in his 100s than a lot of people do in a lifetime; how amazing is that! Plus, he’s raising money for charity along the way.
As I sat watching coverage of the London Marathon on Sunday, I was struck by how many people were running to raise money for charity, which is obviously an amazing thing to do. Charity is an important part of our society, supporting needy causes that don’t get public funding.
It started me thinking, again (I’ve been thinking this for a while), about how wrong it is that some needy causes have to be supported by charity. That there is no government money for them.
Look at Cancer Research UK, for example. 1 in 2 people are now expected to get cancer during their lifetime. Shouldn’t there be more government funding available for something that affects half the population? What about sight loss charities? People who are born blind often have to rely on donations in order to get adapted equipment for the home or work – how is that right?
The thing that really got my goat during the marathon though, was the firefighters running to raise money for the community affected by the Grenfell Tower fire last year. I’d heard them interviewed on the radio on Friday, and then saw more interviews on the TV coverage. 18 firefighters who attended the fire, from North Kensington and Paddington boroughs, who’ve already done so much to rescue survivors during the disaster, were running in full gear including breathing apparatus (an additional weight of approximately 30kgs per person) in order to raise funds. But millions of charity donations already exist, and sit in the hands of the UK government who haven’t fully or correctly distributed them to survivors and those affected. Huge pots of money, donated in good faith by the British public who were saddened by the tragedy, not making the difference it should to the people who need it.
It’s morally and financially wrong.
Of course, some charities themselves are not above reprehension either. CEOs on 6 figure salaries, mismanagement of resources – it starts to add up to a really badly organised use of public cash which was donated in good faith.
Not to end on a bad note though, I salute every single person who put themself through 26.2 gruelling miles of running, in the hottest London Marathon temperatures ever recorded, to raise cash for a cause they believe in. They’re all amazing. I just hope their donations get used in the proper manner.