Wednesday, 30 June 2010

'Treat the souls of others with care, you cannot see the pain they carry.'

This is what I did today...I had my magic potion infusion for my rheumatoid arthritis at hospital - Actemra is on drug trials, and which hopefully will get NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) clearance for general use soon.    The drug is administered by infusion into my arm and the procedure takes between 2-4 hours depending on how many blood tests and monitoring schedules are required; it's a small price to pay comparitive to how I was before I started Actemra.   

It's a
 mysterious process when the brain heals from the memory of pain; I was practically skeletal, I had gone down to a UK size 6 and my bones stuck out everywhere.   It was impossible to sleep or stay awake; even having a blanket cover me was painful.  If Merlin brushed against me I would scream inwardly - we had to work hard

Monday, 28 June 2010

Currently Reading

Miss Chopsticks by Xinran - the story of three sisters born into a poor family in a small northern Chinese village. The book cuts to the heart of the way women are perceived - because of the shame of by their mother's inability to 'lay eggs' (bear sons), the girls are given numbers instead of names. Women are like chopsticks, their father tells them; fragile and expendable. Sons, however, are the roof beams which hold up a house. After the eldest sister drowns herself in a well when she is sent to marry a man she does not love, sister Three leaves to find her fortune in Nanjing, followed by Five and Six, one of whom is presumed (wrongly) to be stupid.
The girls make their way, finding jobs, friends and a life, but each story ends differently, ultimately proving that girls can also be 'roof beams'.  
The book is gentle, enchanting and beautifully written - I always enjoy Xinran's writing, and the translator has done a great job, making sure the reader has a grasp of the subtleties of the original language.  The author wrote the book based on the stories of three women she had met, and because the culture is so different from my own, I love to read literature about China and Japan - highly recommended.
The African Queen by C.S. Forester - I confess I've only ever seen snippets of the film featuring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn - for some reason I've just never fancied it that much.   I saw the boat, The African Queen, used in the film as it is moored in Key Largo, several years ago on a holiday - and I could not imagine how a film could be based around something so tatty and unpropessing.   Having read the book, I can both appreciate the story and the little boat, and that means I will definitely make an effort to watch the film.
The writing is so descriptive, so evocative and so wonderful that it is almost as if the reader is right there, with the story, and the story itself is quite wonderful.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
So many people had told me that this was such a great book and that I had to read it. Certainly, it is ambitous and considering the author was only 25 when he wrote it, its a considerable achievement. Almost a thousand pages long, its subject is medieval life and the trials and tribulations of a group of characters, a monastery and the machinations of royalty, peasants and any one else in between. As you might expect, because of its length, it rambles some and I felt some tight editing would have improved the experience - towards the last third of the book you start to lose your way and the characters start to merge a bit, so you end up racking your brains as to whether this is someone new or someone from seven chapters back - or maybe that's because I'm dim or something. Anyhow.
The author has obviously done a lot of research, but probably not enough for a book of this breadth and ambition. This is not a book for the faint of heart - it features two graphic rapes which I hadn't been prepared for and whilst I wouldn't describe these as gratuitous, perhaps we didn't need quite as much detail. Follett wrote a follow up book which I will read, but again, here is a book which does not stand up to comparison with the CJ Sansom 'Shardlake' books (Dark Fire, Dissolution, Sovereign etc).
Josephine: A Life of the Empress by Carolly Erickson; I confess to having listened to this as an audio book rather than having gone for the hard slog and read it. Not that it was a hard slog, it was readably wonderful though the central character is presented in an unfailingly positive light when in fact she appears to have been a venal spendthrift; it is evident that the author had done a great deal of research. I had not known much at all about Empress Josephine other than she was Napoléon's wife and wore some pretty darn cool tiaras before this book, but I learned a whole lot more here.
Born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie in Martinique (known as Rose), she had quite a life before ever setting eyes on Buonaparte who was six years her junior. Married to an alternately indifferent and cruel aristocratic husband, Alexandre de Beauharnais who, despite being a leading light in the French Revolution was himself guillotined, she survived him in the French prisons awaiting execution herself by being too ill to be guillotined.
Having risen alongside Napoléon to the apex of Society, Josephine ruled with him as Empress; during her life with him she endured many cruelties inflicted by his family; however it was her inability to produce an heir - perhaps due to her tribulations in prison during the Terror, that brought about their divorce in 1810 in order than Napoléon could marry Marie-Louise of Austria by proxy; Napoléon remarked after marrying Marie-Louise that "he had married a womb."
Josephine and Napoléon remained on good terms, he said the only thing to come between them was her debts.
Joséphine died of pneumonia in May 1814; despite his numerous affairs, their divorce and his remarriage, Napoléon's last words on St. Helena were; "France, the Army, the Head of the Army, Joséphine."

Friday, 25 June 2010

No, I'm doing SOME work, honestly!

Still being subject to the "GREAT CREATIVE BLOCK" of the summer, I've turned to doing things like tidying my studio, cleaning my house up, spending some more time with my horse and designing some new kits for BeadAddict - here's one - the pieces are done as you can see, I've even made up the kits and I'm currently working on photos and instructions.  This one will launch on the 1st July (with a fair wind behind it...) and more to come...

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Braver than brave

This is Oscar from Jersey who came to grief last October under the blades of a combine harvester whilst snoozing in a field; in a terrible state, his human rushed him to his vet who had read about state of the art prosthetic limb surgery. Oscar was referred to Noel Fitzpatrick, a veterinary surgeon in Surrey who agreed to make him the first subject of his ground-breaking plans to fit mechanical implants into bone.
The three hour, £4,000 operation was a world first; his new paws were developed by a

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Cheshire Show 2010

Today I spent a beautiful sunny day at the local Cheshire agricultural show, where the country-loving population of Cheshire congregates to show off their cheese, their cakes, their flowers, horses and their goats, amongst other things.   As I know my horse is already the best in the world, we decided not to enter anything to give everyone else a chance of winning something (hah!)

The first tent I went into held pigs.  I didn't stay in there very long.  I think you can imagine.

I watched a carriage driving class with breathtakingly smart horses, drivers and little lightweight carriages - the chap pictured driving this beautiful horse is 82 years old.   82, wow.  I wonder if he does his own grooming and mucking out.   Why did I wonder that??  Anyway, when all 5 participants arrived in the ring I knew he was going to win, his turnout was so perfect I couldn't fault it.  And I know nothing about carriage driving.   The only thing was, the class took so long to judge I began to lose the will to live, so I went for ice-cream and came out of the food tent half an hour later to find he was driving round showing his red ribbons, but then, maybe he'd been doing that for half an hour, I don't know.
I attended this year with an eye towards perhaps taking a stall in the craft tent next year.  Uh-uh, I don't think so.  I was so disappointed.  Wouldn't you think that the Cheshire show would concentrate on crafts local to the area?   There was an abundance of mass produced junk jewellery, crafts which had been imported from places across the world (where presumably they can make it cheaper than we can here), and just general garbage that no-one would want.   The few really good crafts-people in there were just about overwhelmed by the abundance of - basically - crap.   I felt truly sorry for them.  And the tents were so hot I thought I was going to die within about 8 minutes of going in, and then I felt sorry for everyone.  
I fell in love with the goats.  I have to get a goat or two, true, they stink, but they have great characters.   So I have decided to keep a herd of pigmy goats in the back garden - I wonder if the neighbours will mind?  Mind you, with some of the parties that some of our neighbours have until four in the morning followed by free-range shouting and arguing for a couple of hours, goats would probably be a neighbourhood blessing.   And in case Fran, my neighbour down the road is reading this, no, its no-one actually on OUR road, if you get the picture.    And Fran, you wouldn't mind me having goats in our garden would you??  Bang go those roses, though.

This picture is of a young woman who had a most beautiful goat, she did tell me what it was - I may be wrong but I think a 'blonde Jersey' was what she said, though it may be that the goat had just eaten a blonde jersey.   I'd like to know who this goat's hairdresser is.  I wonder if he's cheaper than my hairdresser.

To be fair it was a lovely day.  I bought two sunhats because it was so hot I felt Iike I had  sunstroke (maybe I thought I had two heads by then, which does suggest I actually HAD sunstroke); I also bought a cherry pie which went straight into the freezer after reason set in when I returned home and I realised 32 degree heat is not the time of year to be eating pie. 

A lovely day.  I'll probably do it again in five years or so.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Finding a Spark with a Creative Block

(Disclaimer: Before you get excited, these photos are of OLD work, long gone...!) Sometimes I don't make a thing.  Not so much as a pair of pliers picked up, and though I have visited my felting wool regularly (so it doesn't feel neglected), I have no desire to make anything right now.  
Creativity is frustrating at this time, because obviously, no creativity is going on.   I find this happens when my balance is disturbed, and recent events - moving my horse from his long term home and the bad feelings surrounding it seems to have done that.   Sometimes balance can be

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Blue, making a flipping nuisance of himself again....

As everyone knows, this is Blue.  Blue loves to run up the pull out stairs to the loft (and then hide), he loves to drink from the toilet and he loves to sit in boxes, any box he can find.   He IS a pain in the derriere but we wouldn't have him any other way.....

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

And the Winner is....

The winner of my May 'Win A Necklace' competition is Susan from Coventry - congratulations Susan, your necklace made with Murano glass, Swarovski crystal, sterling silver and seed beads is on its way!