Author Archives: Tricia Jones

Simple Pleasures

I love napkins/serviettes. Not just the crisp white linen varieties found in restaurants and at formal dinners, but the pretty paper versions. They make me happy. I know that sounds daft but sometimes it’s the small things scattered throughout the day that bring a smile. I tend to pick up packs of paper serviettes while out and about, and almost always bring them home from trips away, both home and abroad.

20180525_133724While at lunch last week, Jane (after looking at me sideways when I admitted my fetish for paper napkins) helped me demonstrate a particularly pretty variety used by our eating establishment. And no, we hadn’t imbibed too much wine 🙂

Napkins/serviettes have been around a long time. The first napkins were used by the ancient Romans who used pocket-sized pieces of fabric to mop their brows while eating. The Spartans used lumps of dough to wipe their hands, a practice which morphed into sliced bread used by the ancient Greeks. Paper napkins came into use after the invention of paper in ancient China during the 2nd century BCE.

The practical soon became an art form, too. Elaborate napkin folding techniques date back to the time of Louis XIV of France and to 16th century Florence. Today, it is not uncommon to find intricate folding designs both in restaurants and at private functions.

Who knew the simple napkin/serviette could have such an interesting history?

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Where did that come from?

I love spring. It’s my favourite time of year. Not that you’d know spring had arrived yet in the UK as, after a short warm and sunny spell last week, we still have chilly days and some strong winds. But, all that aside, the garden seems to be springing (ha) to life.

One of the best things about this time of year are the colourful displays in the garden. Not only bulbs I remember planting, and those lovely little spring shrubby flowers, but a few surprises, too. I don’t know how they get here, but every year there seems to be something I don’t remember planting or seeing before, obviously courtesy of the birds dropping seeds? Or seeds flying about on the wind? I’m not sure, but I’m very happy to welcome most of the new things in the garden. And the best things is they always seem to plant themselves in exactly the place where I would have put them. Spooky.

20180421_162211For instance, this beautiful flowering shrub/tree arrived a couple of years ago. It sprung up right where we can see it from the kitchen window, and we love it. Don’t know what it is, but it’s so pretty.

20180425_132234This year I’ve noticed some lovely ground geraniums popping up in a space by the window, so again when they flower we’ll have a good view from the living room. Of course, Ms. Vivvy had to investigate this new arrival to check out if it’s edible or just for show. She wasn’t especially pleased when she discovered it was the latter.

As spring morphs into summer I’ll be keeping a check to see what other new delights await. What about you? Any flowers ever arrived in your outside space that surprised and delighted you?

Snap Happy

Untitled design(5)I’ve just taken up a new hobby – photography. Well, it’s not technically new since I’ve had an interest for many years, but lately I’ve been doing more of it and find it increasingly enjoyable.

Creatively, writing has become all consuming, so I wanted something I could pick up and put down as a kind of switch-off from the head-pounding that comes from battling with plot holes and building character arcs. Photography fills that role and takes me out of my head and into the lens, so to speak.

In the past, whenever I took on something new or got enthused about it, I headed straight for the how-to books, or the search engines, and threw myself in at the deep end in an effort to learn everything possible about it. But not this time. I want to learn organically. So, no books, no courses, no internet searches (well, maybe the odd one). It’ll just be me and the camera. Learning together.

20170820_113332Doors and gates have always fascinated me. They beg the question ‘what’s behind there?’ and off goes my imagination (yes, the writer is never far away). Playing around with visual effects is fun, too. This gate from a neighboring village, found while out on a walk with Vivvy, is pretty romantic, but change the hue and tone and it becomes almost spooky. Two potential stories in the offing for the price of one snap. That’s not a bad investment of time and effort.2018-03-27 15.58.00

Of course, if I’m ever in any need of visual inspiration there’s my stalwart companion and favorite photographic subject always ready and willing to oblige. Especially if there’s a treat in her immediate future. 20180326_174036

Keeping me on my toes…

Untitled design(1)It’s been just over a year since I joined an adult ballet class and I have to say that I’ve absolutely loved every moment of every class. Like many of us, I attended dance classes as a child but put those dreams away as I grew up and the realities of life intervened.  But I never lost the love of ballet and have taken the opportunity to see as many live performances as possible over the years.

The classes I attend are friendly and relaxed with a great teacher and fab mix of fellow dancers. We always enjoy a good laugh or two, while doing our best to improve each week. Alongside the sheer joy and pleasure of dancing, it is such good exercise and has many benefits. Some benefits I’ve found are improved balance, better coordination, stronger legs and ankles, and more flexible hips. I’m sure it’s good for the memory, too, as I now seem to remember new step sequences and routines far easier than when I first started.

I’m so glad I took the plunge last year and enrolled for the class. Just goes to show it’s never too late to rekindle old loves and pleasures. Never in a million years did I ever envision that I’d be arabesque-ing and petit jete-ing (or at least attempting to) at this stage of my life.

So, this very enthusiastic amateur will leave you with a look at how the professionals do it, with my favourite dance from my favourite ballet: the Grand Pas de Deux from The Nutcracker. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

No More Bad Hair Days

I’ve been searching for months now to get the perfect hairdryer. Every model I’ve tried is just not right for some reason. Too blowy, too noisy, too hot, too whatever. But before you start thinking this woman is too picky for her own good, I should mention that the hairdryer is not for me, it’s for a certain little lady who is indeed too picky for her own good.

Vivvy has a morbid fear of hairdryers. She runs a mile as soon as she sees me enter the room advancing on her with the object of doom. But with the weather here in the UK this January consisting of rain, rain and yet more rain, the search for the perfect hairdryer has become vital if my home isn’t to smell consistently of sopping wet Golden Retriever.

When a friend suggested a heated hair brush might be the answer I jumped on the idea. And what do you know? It worked. 20180127_112536While there was some initial resistance, and I have to use it on the lowest, slowest setting, I now have a happy girl who doesn’t run away when it’s fur-drying time. In fact, she positively loves it, and actually falls asleep after a few strokes of the brush. She’ll even let me brush gently close to her ears, which is a real breakthrough. 20180127_112339

So, we now have a happy dry girl and a less smelly home. Result. All we need now is for it to stop raining…

 

 

Paddington and the Burglar

I hope everyone had a happy and safe Christmas.

Looking back to my December blogs I seem to have set up a tradition by posting a video of my favourite seasonal advert. My winner this year is the Marks and Spencer one featuring Paddington Bear. It’s a bit schmaltzy, but then I’m a sucker for a bit of that, especially at Christmas-time.

Here it is:

Did you have a favourite?

Whoosh… there goes November…

I hope everyone Stateside had a lovely Thanksgiving. November has gone by in a flash (well, let’s face it, most of this year has done the same), but since I’ve been especially busy, it has seemed the shortest month of the year so far.

First, I’ve been occupied with NaNoWriMo, and managing to keep my head above the sea of words as I battle toward the 50,000 finish line. Although I’ve done NaNo before, this year has been a bit of a struggle. The words haven’t wanted to come and sometimes it’s felt like pulling teeth. But nearly there and just a few thousand words left to write as I type this post. Although the conventional thing to do is to write the first draft of a new novel during the month, I’ve been a little unorthodox and used the 50,000 words to finish a story that’s been around for a few years now, plus written a short novella, and started another one. It feels like I’ve been very productive, but I have to admit I’ll be glad to hit that 50,000 and ease off a bit.

Second, I’ve tried to balance all the brain work with some physical activity.  Walking Ms. Vivvy is always a pleasure and trudging through fields always helps with the creative process, especially with the new voice recorder app on my phone. I often wonder what would happen if someone overheard me dictating into the machine, especially the love scenes 🙂

Then, thanks to a special monthly deal at the local sports centre (ahem* even more special if you’re a senior *ahem) we’ve been trying out a variety of teacher-led classes and also a new venture for the centre, Les Mills virtual sessions. So far we’ve sampled total body tone, fitness yoga, legs/bums/tums, coreX, body balance and sh’bam (phew, that one was a killer). This week it’s zumba, which I’m not too sure about to be honest.

But my real love has to be the adult ballet classes. There was much excitement last week when our teacher introduced some very intense foot exercises, told us we weren’t beginners any longer, and bandied around the words en pointe. That led to much speculation that we would soon be dancing on our toes like real ballerinas. Our excitement was soon dimmed when she introduced a new arm position and said ‘your left hand should be lowered to just above the height of your ‘tutu’. We all went quiet after that, as visions of prancing back to the car park after class while wearing our new ‘tutus’ took on nightmarish proportions. There were cries of ‘not in a million years‘ and ‘I’d never find one to fit me’, amongst other things.  Of course, our teacher was only joking…we hope!

Have a great last week of November …