Monday, 27 March 2017

Shopping Spree!

Last Thursday was Bluebell's service and MOT so after a really early start (5:30am *sob*) we dropped Tara off at my in-laws' and headed off for a day of retail therapy (and finger crossing that the car sailed through her MOT).

A trip to Ayr with the car also means a trip round the shops in Ayr. One of my favourite things to do.

Sadly there's a lot more closed and boarded up shops than there used to be when I first started going there over ten years ago. Even some of the charity shops have vacated their premises, which is a huge shame because I've picked up some lovely clothes there in the past.

When I make a trip to the mainland on a shopping expedition, I go with a particular target in mind. And this time was no exception.

I wanted a printer.

I'd done my research. I had an envelope with £31 worth of hard won vouchers, valid in Argos, and I was out to buy something which would be useful and practical for my house.

As a side note, I'd like to point out how mature and sensible I'm being here, since these vouchers are also valid in Waterstones and who wouldn't want to go and spend £31 on books?!

I'd settled on the Epson XP342 printer as being the one for me. I wanted something with four individual ink cartridges which would print on a variety of different types of paper (I intend to make my own stickers for pen pal letters and my bullet journal as well as printing photos and other general stuff too). I knew I needed a scanner and wireless (which, let's face it, is pretty standard now anyway). And I wanted something I could trust and which wouldn't cost me a small fortune in replacement cartridges.

I'd been checking for a few days before we went that they had it in stock. So after finishing our wandering and getting ready to head back to the garage, we stopped in and picked it up. My biggest bargain of the day.

It cost me £3.99. I actually spent more in Wilkinson on paper for it!

I got it set up on Saturday and it works like a dream (once I was able to correctly enter the wifi password into it, anyway).

That wasn't the only bargain of the day though. I'd gone with the intention of getting some new long-sleeved tops to replace some old and tatty ones. After picking up a couple for £3-4 I spotted a clearance rack, stuck those back and got some in slightly different colours and styles for £1-2 instead.

I'd hoped to find some new knitting pattern books there, since last year I picked up the pattern book for Jean Greenhowe's Red Nose Gang (where I got the pattern for Bertie Bloomer). No such luck this time around, but I did find a small selection of books and DVDs which I wanted (one of the DVDs was still in the plastic wrapping).

And then there was the crafty stuff.

I was very restrained this time around and resisted all the stickers and washi in Poundland. The latter was mostly because I've already bought it all before, but I kept telling myself I didn't need any more. I did get a nice pack of five with some gorgeous watermelon seed tape in Primark. I'm seeing some summer spreads coming up in my bullet journal.

Wilkinson yielded a pack of 24 Crayola Supertip pens for either £2.50 or £3.50 (I forget which), considering that not an hour earlier I'd talked myself out of getting a pack of 12 for £6.99 in WH Smith, I thought that was a sign and snapped them up. But other than that I was very restrained in Ayr.

And then we went to Lidl on the way home.

We grabbed some (edible) goodies there and of course I had to have a nose at the stuff in the centre of the shop. Mr Click saw me flicking through the stickers and told me to 'go on then' when he caught that glint in my eye. I imagine at times that taking me shopping must feel like taking a hyperactive nine year old out for him, I'm so easily excited by anything shiny or vaguely crafty.

A few seconds later I found a pack of chalk pastels and added those to the trolley as well. I should add here that a few months ago I saw a tutorial on Johanna Basford's Facebook page where she demonstrated an effect which used chalk pastels to colour and blend large areas of a picture. I added some rather expensive chalk pastels to my Amazon wishlist so jumped at the change to get something similar for £2.49!

All in all, it was a very successful day, even if we did come home to the Return of the Wobbly Rat (who's been slightly less wonky since his trip to the vet).

And Bluebell? Well, she needed a couple of things dealt with, but she passed her MOT, so definitely a successful day on all fronts!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Film Review: Lion

Several years ago I happened upon an article on BBC News about a guy called Saroo Brierley. It was an interesting story and obviously it lodged itself in the back of my brain because a few years later when I read the description of a film staring Dev Patel I thought 'that sounds familiar'.

That's because it's a film based on the book written by Saroo about the events briefly described in the BBC article I'd read so many years before.

Warning this review contains spoilers!

Don't say I didn't warn you!

At the age of five, Saroo was left at a train station to sleep by his older brother, Guddu, who had taken the child with him to find work. Waking alone Saroo boarded a train which took him on a two day journey, alone, over 1,000 km away to Kolkata. After surviving for a time on the streets he was picked up and taken to an orphanage but unable to tell anyone where he came from or even his mother's name there was little hope of him ever reuniting with his biological family. Eventually he was adopted, finding a home with Sue and John Brierley in Australia.

However, he never forgot where he came from and clinging on to some distance memories he managed to use Google Earth to retrace his journey on the train and find his way home.

This film was everything I hoped it would be and more. It's beautifully shot, both in India and Australia, so at times you feel like you're watching carefully framed photographs. There's also some very clever filming where the aerial views of Google Earth are replicated as flyover shots of the scenery in both countries. This is how the film opens.

As I sat in the cinema beside Mr Click, I couldn't help but feel a little unsure of whether he was going to enjoy the film, especially as almost the whole first hour of the film is subtitled. I'm glad that they did this, rather than just having everyone speak English.

Saroo, at age five, speaks Hindi so when he arrived in Kolkata he can't communicate with the people around him. It's a busy city with street children not being an uncommon sight, so a dirty five year old is ignored by most of the adults who come across him. It's heart breaking to watch and little Sunny Pawar who plays young Saroo does a brilliant job.

When he is eventually picked up there's little he can tell the police about where he came from. The place he lived 'Gineshtalay' is unknown to them; he can't even tell them where in India it is, and when he's asked his mother's name he simply replies 'mum'.

It's a film of two halves. There's young Saroo's life in India. The horrors he witnesses on the streets and in the orphanage, juxtaposed against the happy memories of home. Despite money and food being scarce with his biological family, you get a sense of how much his mother cares for her children and how much they care not only for her, but for each other too.

Then there's Saroo's time in Australia, as a young man, when a chance get together with some friends at university reminds him of his childhood and he opens up about his past. Someone suggests how he might go about working out where he came from.

It something that he starts off by just dipping into, but gradually it comes to consume him. Meanwhile we get glimpses into how this affects his adoptive family and his relationship with girlfriend, Lucy. There's also Saroo's adoptive brother, Mantosh, who was adopted from India also and bears the emotional and psychological scars of his life before his adoption. The two have a strained relationship and it's partially this that stops him from pursuing his search, not wanting to cause his mother any more heartache.

I love Dev Patel in pretty much anything I see him in, and I think he does a brilliant job here. He's playing a guy who is torn between the loyalty he feels to the people who have loved and raised him, and his memories of his birth family and the emotions they must feel never knowing what has happened to him. You get that sense right the way through the film.

If you've read any of the articles about Saroo Brierley (or the book he published, A Long Way Home) then you know how the film is going to end. Saroo manages to hit on the spot on Google Earth which is familiar to him, a water tower from the train station he was left at by his brother. A short scroll away is a place called 'Ganesh Talai', the place he knew he came from, he just couldn't say it well enough at the age of five for anyone to understand.

And it's from about here that you really need the tissues.

If little Saroo running up and down a train, by himself, with no way off, didn't move you, I'm sure the next bit will. After an emotional conversation with his mum, Sue, about what he's been doing, she gives him her blessing to go and find his birth mother.

And that's exactly what he does, heading off to India and retracing his steps. You can't help but feel the surge of joy as he is reunited with his mother, to the happy cheers of her friends and neighbours.

It's bittersweet though.

His mother, Kamla, breaks the news to him that his brother, Guddu, died on the night he went missing. She lost two of her sons in one day, but never having retrieved Saroo's body, she never gave up hope that he would come home.

And the title of the film?

I wondered about that the whole way through. It turns out that not only had Saroo struggled to say the name of his birthplace, he was mispronouncing his own name. Saroo was a nickname for Sheru, meaning 'lion'.

Having seen the film, I know it's one we're going to get on DVD and we're going to watch it again. It's a good film to see when you need a little reminder about the harsh realities for people growing up and living in other places around the world. There filmmakers have actually set up a charity, which you can learn more about here, to help those children living on the streets of India. But it's got that (mostly) happy ending which will make you cry but in a good way.

It's got me curious as well. I spend this morning Googling Saroo Brierley and reading Wikipedia. I'm definitely going to get my hands on a copy of A Long Way Home to hear more about his amazing story and the women who raised him.

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Return of the Wobbly Rat!

We were away on the mainland all day yesterday. We left on the 7am boat and returned at 7pm. It was a long (but lovely) day (more about that in another blog post).

But we returned to a Dodger rat who was looking slightly out of sorts.

He was standing up to the water bottle in the cage, having a drink and seeming perfectly happy with himself, but there was just something about the angle he was at that didn't seem quite right to me. We swithered about whether there was anything wrong with him, or if we were just imagining things, then got the Mischief out to play in the bathroom.

And Dodger was decidedly wonky with a distinctive wobble to his step.

He was still chuntering around all over the place, climbing, jumping, washing, eating. But he was a little out of sorts too. After having a wander, he snuggled up on Mr Click for a really long cuddle (and we both know that his preferred cuddle buddy is me).

So he spend the night in the small cage with us in the bedroom so we could keep an eye on him.

Come this morning he was no different, so it was a 9am phone call to the vet to take him in for another antibiotic injection. It would appear that having braved an ear infection in his right ear two months ago, he's decided to give it a go in his left this time.

And while he's still my Dinky Little D, he's a slightly bigger Dinky D. He's more robust and so far he's handling it a lot better than last time. He's still hanging out in the baby/hospital cage as I type this, but that's mainly because we don't want him wobbling up to the top of the big cage and wobbling off a shelf where he could hurt himself.

Aside from peeing all over the table at the vet (prompting our vet, who is wonderful, to joke 'didn't you take him out before you brought him in?') he was very good about having the injection. And he was rewarded by getting to spend the day at my in-laws' house (where the cat was actually evicted from the room when she started looking at him like he might be dinner) and got to try lots of nice nibblies.

Hopefully I'll soon be giving you an update that my little cuddlebug is back to his normal, non-wonky, self.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Life Through A Lens

I don't normally say much about current events on the blog. That's not to say I don't pay attention to the News. I do. I devour it, from as many different sources as I can. I never used to be hugely interested in politics until a few years ago and now I'll pay as much attention to that as I used to pay to the Entertainment section as a teenager.

I don't usually bring it up on the blog, because this just isn't that sort of place. I talk about it in real life, I don't need to talk about it here.

But walking Tara yesterday, I was playing things round in my head, and I realised that there was something that I wanted to say, and my blog is as good a place as any for that.

Yesterday at work we watched the awful events unfolding at Westminster on Sky News. First there was the Breaking News banner which flashed up on the screen announcing that gunshots had been heard outside the Parliament building. Then there was some more information about a stabbing. Then the news about the car being used to attack people on Westminster Bridger.

We continued with our work, of course, but there was discussion of the events and we kept an eye on what the latest news was saying, trying make sense of what was going on.

Gradually the picture of the events came together and while we still didn't truly know or understand what was going on, the media gave us a sense that we were there in the event.

On the one hand, I think this was a useful thing. When big events like this happen, it's very easy for fact and rumours to get confused. I think that having the media on the ground, reporting events as they happen, is probably a good thing. Having multiple media outlets covering the same event means that you can switch between the different sources of information and get a different perspective, which is useful, especially if you're somewhat able to filter out the bias.

On the other hand, I have to disagree with the way that Sky News was reporting on the attack.

I don't know exactly when the image of the person lying on the ground, face blurred but body clearly in an unnatural position, lying where they had landed where they were thrown by the car, but it proceeded to be shown again and again over the course of the afternoon.

At first that was the only picture of a victim which they shared. Then later there was some blurry footage of a blurry shape lying on the road with some equally blurry people rushing towards them. Then a photo of a man in a suit, seated on the ground at Westminster Bridge; his face was blurred out but his hands, outstretched to the people around him, were bloody.

There was also the footage from the helicopter circling over the bridge. Down below tiny paramedics could be seen working on equally tiny shapes, manoeuvring them onto little trolleys and wheeling them towards ambulances.

And I couldn't watch it. It was macabre. When did other people's pain and suffering turn into a spectator sport?

I hurt for the people who were involved in the trauma of the event who would later find themselves splashed across newspapers and social media. For the people who might be turning on the TV because they knew a friend or relative was in the area, finding themselves squinting at a half blurred photo of someone they might know. For the people who could potentially learn from someone's photo on TV that a loved one is seriously injured.

And I couldn't help but be torn about who to get annoyed with. Sky News for showing these photos, or the people who see an awful scene like this and decide to whip out the camera.

I think it's wonderful that modern technology allows us to record our lives the way we do. I enjoy going places, safe in the knowledge that with one swipe of my phone I can snap a photo for posterity. I'm even aware that the police are asking members of the public to pass on any recordings or photos of what happened to help them build up a broader picture of just what went on. A digital recording is a whole lot more reliable than a human memory. I get that.

But I like to think that most of us, when faced with a person injured or bleeding on the ground, would think twice about pulling out that phone camera and taking a photo.

Sadly, yesterday's news demonstrated that there are more than a few people who don't share that attitude.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017


... in the middle of charger central.

To my left is my phone, charging after I was playing with it at work today and then used it to track my evening walk with Tara. On the left hand side of my laptop is my Fitbit, on the right is my powerbank.

I'm charging everything up ready for a trip to the mainland tomorrow. We're off on a shopping expedition (and for the car to be MOT'd).

... to buy a printer.

I got £31 worth of vouchers at work a few months ago so I've been planning on putting them towards a printer. I'm fairly certain that I know which one I'm going to get and hopefully with the vouchers it'll cost me less than a tenner as well. Bargain!

... The Young Ones.

Well, not right this minute, but as soon as I'm done with this post and head to bed. Since we've finished watching The Muppet Show The Young Ones has become our bedtime viewing. I wasn't too keen on the first episode, but three episodes in and I think I'm liking it a little more.

... to bed. Early.

We've had a few late nights. Well, I say we, I mean me. I've been staying up far too late reading for far too long and we have an early start in the morning, so I should really stop here and head for bed.


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Books 35 & 36 of 2016: His Other Lover by Lucy Dawson & A Child's History of England by Charles Dickens

After reading some relatively highbrow collections of essays I moved on to some lighter material (and almost instantly regretted it).

His Other Lover by Lucy Dawson came to me in a big bag of books given to me by a family member and I figured it looked like just the right sort of fluff to follow up the heavier stuff I'd been reading. Also it was next on my bookshelf to read, and I like to follow the order of the books on my shelf, so it was an easy choice.

Things seem to be pretty good for Mia and Pete. They live together with their dog Gloria and everything is good. Except Mia begins to suspect that her boyfriend is having an affair after seeing a text on his phone. Faced with this shocking news, she decides to track down the other woman and exact revenge.

The book is written in first person point of view, from Mia's perspective, and I didn't really like her. Honestly, I felt bad that her boyfriend was cheating on her but her response was so crazy that I couldn't help but root for Pete and Liz. She would have been so much better just to call Pete on the text and his behaviour and then just leave him, since as the book went on I just got the impression that she pretty much wanted Pete so that Liz (and anyone else) couldn't have him and didn't actually care about him all that much.

It took me a ridiculously long time to read this book (given the fact it's only 262 pages long). It was over a week. I think some of this was because I was just so annoyed by Mia! It took me a while to get a grip on the story as well because in the beginning it felt as though it jumped around a bit and then I kept on stopping and not feeling like going on because Mia just wound me up so much.

And don't get me started on the ending. It just made the whole thing feel sort of pointless. Nothing changes. I'd have liked to have seen Mia decide to leave and realise she can be happy without Pete, or Pete reveal that he's definitely not been seeing Liz and Mia was being totally paranoid. Neither of these things happened and it disappointed me.

After this I decided I needed something completely different so turned to my Kindle and pulled up the most different book I could find: A Child's History of England by Charles Dickens.

This is exactly what it says on the tin. A complete history of England, written for English schoolchildren, by Charles Dickens.

I found this to be really interesting, if somewhat slow at times. I started it towards the end of August and I finished it on my work awards trip when I read over 30% of the book. Because what better way to spent your time travelling across Scotland?

It was admittedly written in a way was blatantly biased towards some historical figures and very much in favour of others. Other writings that I've read have suggested different viewpoints for certain monarchs so it was interesting to see a different perspective.

I also felt like it went into loads of details for some eras or royals, but then less for others. Presumably this was to do with what information was available for Dickens himself but that didn't make it any less frustrating. The fact he was able to go into such detail in those areas made me expect that level of detail for everything.

I really liked the fact that it quite literally covered everything. It went right back to the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, then worked forwards to Queen Victoria. Even though that's where it stops, I still found it a really interesting history book and I'd recommend it to anyone, but especially those who might have a slightly shaky grasp on English history.