Earlier this month, hubs and I took ourselves off for a few days to Chester (north of England). AJ had some meetings arranged, so I tagged along and we made a short break of it. Chester is a gorgeous place, very close to the border of Wales. It’s a walled city, founded as a Roman fort in 79AD. You can still walk the city walls and view the amazing medieval buildings, most of which were restored in Victorian times. The main shopping centre has The Rows, said to be unique to Chester. These are continuous galleries reached by steps and forming a second row of shops above those at street level. Pretty little boutiques and charming coffee shops are in abundance here. Some parts of The Rows still boast original 13th century buildings, making Chester a truly fascinating place.
We took the train from Chester into Wales and the seaside town of Rhyl. The weather was lovely, our trip being placed between the two storms which hit the UK this month: Ophelia and Brian. Rhyl has a gorgeous sandy beach and a long promenade, just perfect for dog walking. We really missed Vivvy and kept saying how she would have loved it there with all the other dogs. We did take her back a stick of doggie rock though 🙂
Then it was time for a trip down memory lane and a day visit to Liverpool. I absolutely love this city, it’s vibrant, friendly and steeped in culture. Naturally, the Beatles influence is everywhere, from the musicians who pepper the streets serenading the shopping public, to the restaurants and museums. Of course, we had to do the touristy things, like visiting the Cavern Club and taking that Ferry Across the Mersey. Well, you have to, don’t you?
It was a really lovely trip and we packed a whole lot into a short time. I’m starting to enjoy mini breaks like this one almost as much, and sometimes more than full-blown holidays/vacations. Here’s to the next one…
Ah, September … leading us gently into the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. But, of course, it’s also spider month, that time of year when the males begin to search for a mate and the little critters head indoors to find a place to spend the winter.
Essential household equipment
I’m no fan of spiders and would never hurt them, but I don’t especially want to share the house with them either. Usually, the old upturned glass and cardboard removal does the trick, but so far this month these invaders have been pretty large and so I’ve been on the hunt for deterrents.
To date, I’ve tried herbs – lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint – and scattering horse chestnuts around the room, but they don’t seem to work too well, especially the chestnuts because I found a spider virtually sitting on top of one! And they were also too attrac tiveto a certain Ms. Vivvy who thought they looked like a fun new thing to play with. But then she also finds the spiders themselves pretty interesting and pounces on them as if they are new playmates.
She’s very disgruntled when we bring out the glass and cardboard and they’re removed from her vicinity.
Things I still plan to try out are citronella spray and lemon surface cleaners and polish, both of which have been recommended.
One of the things that really surprised me while researching the internet for natural deterrents was how many sites have photos of huge, and I mean huge, spiders on their web pages. Surely many people looking for deterrents are going to be mildly arachnophobic. The last thing they’d want is a massive spider looking out at them. Much the same as when I purchased a commercial spray to try. I bought a couple for my mum as well and had to cover the depiction of a spider on the bottle with a stick-on smiley face before I gave them to her.
Speaking of arachnophobia, be warned that the following video is probably not for you. Someone let loose a tarantula on a London tube train. They were lucky someone didn’t have a heart attack!
Yay! Fox Poo!
That’s a question we’ve been asking a lot lately. The sad truth is that it’s emanating from a certain Ms. Jones. And that would be Vivvy, not me! You see folks, lately we have a home that seems to smell permanently of fox poo. Too much information? Sorry, but there’s no beating around the bush on this one. Vivvy simply adores rolling in the Chanel No.5 of the doggie world, but for us humans…it’s gross.
We’ve tried everything to destroy the lingering scent of eau de fox poo, including: tomato ketchup (which leaves Vivvy looking like something out of a Hammer Horror film), soda water (which leaves us fancying a gin and tonic), and a specific spray from the pet store which turns the smell into something else entirely. Yuk.
Enjoying a mud bath
To make matters worse Vivvy hates the hosepipe and runs to the bottom of the garden to hide under the hedge. Anyone would think I’m trying to kill her. Not that she dislikes water, far from it, and she’ll throw herself headlong into the tiniest puddle, the muddier the better, and seems to have built-in radar for the nearest stream. We’ve come to the conclusion that despite her penchant for top class canine perfume, she’s a tomboy at heart.
Yesterday, I took advantage of the good weather and had a spring clean. Flung open every window in the house, shampooed the carpet, washed everything that could be washed (including a very reluctant dog), and gave Vivvy’s toys a whirl in the washing machine. As you can see, she wasn’t too happy about that, turning her back on me to make sure I was aware of her displeasure at seeing her beloved ‘babies’ hanging unceremoniously on the washing line. But needs must.
Look what they did to my babies!
So this morning the house (and dog) is spruced up and smelling fragrant. But since we’re just off for a walk in the local woods, I’m banking things won’t stay that way for long. But I wouldn’t change it for anything. Clean or dirty, we love our girl to bits. I just wish she’d change her perfume preferences!
When AJ and I travel, we almost always carve out time to visit the local art gallery and museum. During a few days in Derbyshire, we found a small art gallery in the city of Derby virtually dedicated to a famous local 18th Century artist, Joseph Wright. We didn’t know much about him or the art of the period, but we were lucky to visit at a quiet time which meant we had what amounted to a private tour of the room housing his paintings.
Our guide was incredibly knowledgable about Joseph Wright and pointed out many things in the paintings that I’m sure we would have missed if we hadn’t had the benefit of his expertise. Here’s a link to the gallery if you’d like to see some of the paintings.
Joseph Wright was considered the first professional painter to express the spirit of the Industrial Revolution and was famous for his use of light and dark in his paintings, especially favoring subjects portrayed by candlelight. Some absolutely stunning work.
But what caught my attention was the artist himself. An amazing creative, with absolutely incredible talent, he was prone to fits of depression and doubts about that talent. During one period of his life, after he had produced paintings such as A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery (see link above), and having received bad reviews for some of his work, he became really disillusioned with himself and his art and stopped working completely. He wrote:
“I have heard nothing but humiliating observations on my paintings. which have tended much to the inactivity of my pencil for sometime past. What a mere machine I am become. Depressed and renedered useless by a little censure and put into motion again by a little flattery. I really believe my enemies might persuade me I have no pretentions to paint. What a thing have these weak nerves made of me.”
Food for thought for all the creatives out there, because I’m sure we can all understand these feelings. How many times has a bad review or negative response to our own work made us put down pen, pencil, brush, needle, etc? It’s comforting to know that we’re in good company, and that even the greats suffered through periods of procrastination when they felt their work just wasn’t good enough.
Some things, it seems, never change.
I met a friend recently who, using Lavada’s brilliant new word, was suffering from the ‘gloomies’. She said there wasn’t anything she could pin it on as her life was going pretty well, but she just felt a little down and couldn’t seem to shake it off. After a long chat over a couple of coffees and a fairly large slice of cake, she said she felt decidedly better. No real surprise there, of course. A good chat with a friend can often lighten our mood, not to mention sharing an especially scrumptious, if highly calorific treat 🙂
When it came time to leave, my friend told me that she was going to clinch her new improved mood by singing her ‘happy song’ at the top of her voice while driving home. It was a song she’d learned in school, a silly little ditty that always made her feel happy. Do we all have one of those? A special song we spontaneously burst into when feeling good, or when we want to improve our mood?
I do, and here it is. Do you have one?
Let’s share our happy songs…
Vivvy at 15 weeks!
It’s hard to believe but Ms. Vivvy will be three years old next week! Wowee, where has the time gone? We adopted her just under two years’ ago and she’s been an absolute joy…and in unexpected ways. She’s not only gorgeous, well-behaved (mostly) and adaptable, but she’s so friendly and cheeky that she’s got quite the reputation here in the village where we live. We’ve lived here over twenty years now and until we started puppy-walking for guide dogs we only really knew a handful of people. That wasn’t helped by the fact we were both working during the day, too. Walking Vivvy has changed all that and now we have made so many lovely new friends and we really enjoy exploring the gorgeous countryside surrounding us.
Vivvy – almost 3!
Because Vivvy has loads of doggy friends in the village I wanted to throw a ‘four-paws-party’ next weekend to celebrate her birthday and invite her chums along for fun and games in the garden. AJ thinks I’ve taken leave of my senses 🙂 While considering logistics I think he might be right. One of Vivvy’s BFFs is a sensitive little girl who gets stressed about the vagaries of the outside world, and her mum is currently trying to get her to come into our garden so that the girls can play while we enjoy a coffee, but until that happens I can’t consider a party without Vivvy’s special pal in attendance. Then there are a couple of dogs who don’t like each other, one who is very possessive over balls, another who barks incessantly when he gets excited…all in all, maybe a party is a trifle ambitious.
So, I’ll be making a special liver cake (yuk!) for our birthday girl (with candles of course) and she’ll have a special outing to the seaside (her most favourite place on earth) and extra special hugs from us.
We are all creators, or at least have the potential to be. That’s one of the messages behind Elizabeth Gilbert’s book BIG MAGIC, Creative Living Beyond Fear. As a shameless believer in magic, with an interest in the nature of creativity, I couldn’t resist this book. It didn’t disappoint.
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
The author digs deep into her own experiences to offer an interesting, unique and witty take on the nature of creativity and how we can harness it for success in whatever endeavor we choose. It’s a chatty style, and you don’t have to wade through loads of heavily scientific or esoteric ideas to get to the heart of the book, which is basically that we all have the right to live a creative life, but have to accept that doing so will bring challenges.
There is much reference to courage, and how we have to make space for fear. Fear is inevitable on the creative journey, and where some people say you have to conquer fear to move forward, the author says to make space for it because it will never go away. She says that the less you fight fear, the less it fights back. To give it its voice, then tell it to simply sit back and enjoy the ride. And then there’s the importance of giving ourselves permission to create, and not to worry whether our work is good or bad, if it’s high art or low art, whether or not it gets stellar or woeful reviews, etc. etc. We just need to put our best work out there and celebrate our own courage at having done so. Gilbert says we “can only be in charge of producing the work itself. That’s a hard enough job” and that we should refuse to take on any additional jobs such as policing people’s opinions.
Another interesting part of the book was the notion that ideas are all around us, floating in the ether waiting for someone who is open and ready to receive that particular idea. If that person refuses to run with it for any reason, the idea will simply float back into the ether until it finds another willing, and ready, mind. Fascinating stuff, and it certainly gave me and my tendency to procrastinate some food for thought 🙂
I very much enjoyed this book. For me, it’s a keeper.