Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Currently...

Suffering...
... from the pain of an infected impacted wisdom tooth. You know, that's not easy to say when you've actually got one!

Both my lower wisdom teeth are impacted. I think the top two are as well but they give me considerably less trouble. Every couple of months something upsets them and they flare up, causing a bit of a disturbance to their neighbours. I swill a few mouthfuls of salt water, pop an ibuprofen or two, and after a day or so they resolve to behave themselves and all is right in the world (read: my mouth) again.

Not this week.

On Sunday I started getting the familiar wisdom toothy feeling on the right hand side of my mouth. I swilled, I popped. The next morning I swilled some more and popped some more. Then I barely slept because I was in pain and felt awful.

Now I hate going to the dentist. Even a check up is a massive deal for me (usually preceded by several cancellations and reschedules until I psyche myself up enough to go). But on Tuesday morning I begged Mr Click to get me an emergency appointment. Yes. The pain was that bad that I begged for a dentist appointment.

I braved work for two hours before shuffling off to my dentist appointment where he barely even needed to look in my mouth (which was just as well because I could hardly open it). I was immediately prescribed two super strength antibiotics, advised to continue taking the painkillers and was told that the tooth is going to have to be evicted.

No news on exactly when yet.

I was feeling so sorry for myself by that point that I took the rest of the day off work, snuggled up on the sofa and actually ended up having a nap (a combination of being sleep deprived, drugged up to the eyeballs, and generally feeling sorry for myself). I NEVER nap so it was definitely very needed.

Today I'm feeling quite a bit better, though I'm still sticking to soft food that can be easily broken into small pieces. It doesn't feel like I'm carrying a balloon around in the back of my mouth anymore so at least the meds seem to be working.

Sorting...
... out all the photos I've taken over the weekend.

I had big plans for going on an nice autumnal walk on Saturday. Except it was very hot and very sunny so I didn't really get any autumnal photos. It was nice to be out with my camera though and, despite saying I would switch lenses, I stuck to my 50mm lens. Just when I think I can't love that thing any more, I take a bunch of beautiful photos and fall in love with it all over again.


We also went to the Viking Festival in Largs. The last time we went was in 2010 so it was really cool to visit the Viking Village they have set up there. All the people are in costume, demonstrating tools, trades, food, crafts, the works. They're all really knowledgeable and they don't mind at all when people take their photos.

I'll tell you more about the Viking Village tomorrow.

Reading...
... still A Child's History of England by Charles Dickens. It's got to all the Edwards and the skirmishes between Scotland and Wales and while it's interesting, I've been under the weather and just not really in the mood for it. It's kind of a heavy read when you're feeling poorly.

I'm going to push on with it though and hopefully hit the halfway mark by Friday. I have a feeling as I draw nearer to the present (at the time it was written), things'll pick up again. I need to get a move on because I picked up another handful of books in Largs on Monday; I'd like to get through at least half of them by the end of the year.

Watching...
... the first series of Scrubs. It's giving me flashbacks to being fifteen and watching it in my room. The night it first aired we'd been out at a friend's house and I was determined to be back in time to watch it. I may have rather pointedly suggested that we leave as I had been promised we'd be back in plenty of time. We just made it.

Even though I've seen it several times before, it's not any less funny. In fact, it couldn't be more perfect when you're not feeling a hundred percent.

What've you been up to this week? Any issues with your wisdom teeth?

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Books 64 & 65 of 2015: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro & The Dwarves by Markus Heitz

Before I start reviewing books, can we please just take a moment to celebrate the fact that this blog post celebrates a small landmark?

The official finishing of the Black and Red notebook I got for free from work, and the moving on to my snazzy emerald Leuchtturm lined notebook which I bought with some winnings from a sweepstake at work. Despite actually finishing the notebook last September, I wasn't actually officially able to retire it (read: label it and move it onto my bookshelf with my other books) because I was still using it for these blog posts. Until now... or rather, last week. Whatever.

You're probably here for the book review, not the inane waffling about which notebook I'm writing my book reviews in, right? Side note: if you blog about which notebook you write your book reviews in, share the link in the comments, I would read the heck out of that post!

Firstly there was the book I read for Week 36 of the reading challenge; a book with a love triangle. For that one I selected Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.


This is set in a sort of alternative version of Britain where cloning has been perfected. These clones are raised to donate their organs to the people who need them and the story follows Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, beginning in their school years where they attend a rural boarding school as we, and they, gradually learn what waits in store for them in their adult years.

I first read this book as part of a 'book tree' many years ago. I immediately fell in love. I don't remember right now, without checking my notes, just how quickly I read it, but it didn't take me long. I devoured it. I kept on looking out for a copy of my own and in the end I wanted it so badly that I put aside my book snobbishness and went ahead to get the movie cover copy in a charity shop.

I still love this book but it does kind of frustrate me too. But in a good way. In the same way that Harry Potter frustrates me. Because I love the world that has been created here and I would like to know more about it, but all you have is what's given to you in the pages of this book. It doesn't stop me from wondering how the donor system works, what the other homes are like and how the world reached this point, but it frustrates me that I'll never really know.

The way that the story is told is really clever. You get little dribs and drabs of information which gradually build everything up. I've seen the film a couple of times and read the book a couple of times too and now I know how everything goes together. Back when I read it for the first time this approach made me feel like I had to know everything right now! And that's what made me get through it so quickly.

I also like the way that Kathy narrates the story. It's like she's speaking to another carer, donor or guardian, which is why she doesn't need to explain everything, because she expects them to already know. This adds to my feeling of wanting to reach into the book and ask her tell me more because I don't know all of these things.

At the same time, I can kind of relate to Kathy and the way that she sees the world. The way that she sees the world is not dissimilar to the way I view the world. That makes me like her a lot.

This reread (back at the beginning of September last year) made me want to watch the film again. As of this point (almost exactly a year later), I'm still yet to do that. I really must pick up a copy of it someplace. I'm fairly certain that the film stayed close to the book but I feel like a rewatch (and after all this time, perhaps another reread) to be sure.

One of my other minor issues that aren't really an issue with this book is the way it ends. It just ends. It's perfect for the story, of course, it just doesn't help me much with all my unanswered questions.

I follows up Never Let Me Go with a book which took me F.O.R.E.V.E.R. to read.


The Dwarves by Markus Heitz is this massive, high fantasy tome which is about warring factions of a race of Dwarves. There's something about electing a new leader and the main character, Tungdil, was abandoned as a child, raised by humans and isn't really sure where he fits in. Honestly, most of the time, I wasn't really sure what was going on in this book.

It was lent to me by a colleague at work who knew I was a big Lord of the Rings fan and I guess had read and enjoyed this. Or he was playing a cruel prank on me.

Dwarves aren't really my favourite of the races in Tolkien's works (though I'm not entirely sure why, I guess mainly because they don't come across as very likeable in The Silmarillion and in The Hobbit they're largely interchangeable) and I think they're severely underrepresented in fantasy fiction. You can't throw a stone without hitting an Elf or a Half-Elven creature, but this is the only book I've ever seen where Dwarves are the protagonists.

And these guys are Dwarves in the Tolkien sense of the word; none of your Disney Dwarfs here, thank you.

I really did want to enjoy it because I thought it would fill a gap left by The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I wanted to see someone else's take on the lifestyle and culture of the Dwarves. It really didn't live up to my expectations though.

It did have a few nods to Tolkien though, such as this:

Both sides of the alley were crammed with timber houses whose upper stories jutted out dangerously, almost meeting overhead. The uneven cobblestones never saw daylight. All in all, it wasn't dissimilar to an underground gallery, except for the stench of sewage and detritus. Mounted on one of the bulging walls was a sign showing a prancing pony; they had found their address.

Not a 'pony rearing on its hind legs' or anything like that. We can see what you did there Mr Heitz.

The book seemed to go on for an awfully long time without much happening. It was very much written in a 'tell, don't show' style. So you knew why people were doing what they were doing (to a degree) but you couldn't say what they looked like, what the places they inhabited were like, or how their outward emotions were covering their inward ones. Perhaps this is a side effect from it being translated from German. Who knows.

It probably seems like a bit of a petty complaint as well, but the names of the Dwarves and other characters didn't really tell you anything about the race they belonged to. I guess I've been spoiled by Tolkien where you know that Rory Burrows is likely to be a Hobbit, Shagrat is definitely an Orc and Thranduil has a definite Elven feel to his name. As I regularly forgot who characters were, it would've been useful to be able to use their names as a bit of a reminder so I knew at least which race they belonged to.

On the whole there were a lot of cliches and an overwhelming sense that I was reading a video game. A video game populated by an awful lot of fantastic conveniences.

It's the first in a book series and it took me eleven days to slog through it. I'm in now kind of a hurry to try the next one.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Tara's Tick

Tara has had a grand total of two ticks in the entire time we have had her. Not bad considering that we live in the middle of the countryside, surrounded by land in which deer frolic and leave behind their little buggy friends.

She got the first one within the first twenty-four hours of us getting her and immediately made me feel like the worst dog mummy ever!

Here's some photographic evidence of my complete failure to parent my puppy:

She had that sucker (no pun intended) for a couple of days because to begin with we thought it was just a wart and that she'd had it when we got her. Then it started getting bigger and she got all sad and lethargic and we realised what it was and took her to the vet sharpish.

That wasn't a happy day for Tara because not only did she get a tick removed, she got stabbed in the back of the neck with a microchip as well. She may have peed all over their floor in revenge.

And for the past four and a bit years we've been blissfully free from ticks.

Until Saturday, that is.

We'd gotten up, pulled on our welly boots and gone for a muddy walk with Tara and my camera up towards Calvary Pond, except we realised that getting back down might be a little tricky so took a detour to come down by a safer route and cut out the pond entirely.

Tara was having a whale of a time. I was happily snapping anything that looked remotely photogenic. Mr Click was enjoying himself. All was good until I tickled Tara behind the ear and discovered a little hitchhiker.

It was Tara's Tick 2.0.

And here's a little guide to getting rid of a tick.

Step 1: Panic
Freak out a little bit because there's some small beastie currently burrowed into the back of your dog's ear. Realise that it probably got there the day before when you let the dog roll in the grass and leaves because it was making her so happy. Feel guilty, ashamed, etc.

Step 2: Remember the Vaseline trick
It's something about how ticks bury their heads in the flesh and breathe through their bums so smearing Vaseline over them stops them from breathing and makes them fall off.

Step 3: Realise that making a tick fall off your pet means that potentially there could be a no-longer-attached-to-your-pet tick floating around your house
Freak out a little more.

Step 4: Decide to try it anyway
And start hunting your house for a tub of Vaseline.

Step 5: Realise you don't actually have any Vaseline
Despite the fact that those little pots seem to multiple like traffic cones in situations where you don't actually need them.

Step 6: Substitute Vaseline for lip balm
It's practically the same thing anyway. At least, it is once you've shaved some off the end of a lip balm and smeared it around a bit.

Step 7: Rub the Vaseline substitute onto the tick
Freak out afterwards when you realise you've basically just been rubbing your fingers all over a tick's bum. Wonder if it enjoyed it.

Step 8: Check regularly to see if the little blighter is still there
Due to the aforementioned no-longer-attached-to-your-pet tick thing.

Step 9: Decide that the thing needs to come off before bed and start googling
Tip: Don't Google 'tick on dog's ear'.

Step 10: Discover that the best search string to use is "how do I remove a tick from my dog?"
Answer: Follow the instructions on the WikiHow page.

Step 11: Gather tools
In my case this was a clean pair of tweezers, antiseptic, a bunch of paper towels and a bowl of boiling water (because I didn't have any alcohol to waste on killing a tick).

Step 12: Psyche yourself up
Give yourself a pep talk. You can do this.

Step 13: Go in for the kill
Have someone hold the dog steady and reveal the affected area. Hold the tweezers in one hand and with the other separate the fur so you have clear access. Don't squeeze the body! Grab it as close to where it goes into the skin as possible and pull it straight out without twisting or bending it.

Step 14: Dispose of the tick
Drop it into alcohol, or the boiling water, to ensure that it is well and truly despatched.

Step 15: Treat your dog
Dab some antiseptic on the affected area and double check that there's nothing left in the wound. Give them lots of love, cuddles and treats. Tell them what a big brave doggy they were.

Step 16 (optional): Cry like a big baby because you're so relieved it's over
Uh, yeah. This may have happened to me. Ticks are pretty much flesh eating spiders; this is a very big deal for me!

We've survived without any ill-effects and I'm feeling pretty confident that I could do this again if it was absolutely necessary. Not that I want to any time soon, so you can bet Tara will be getting less rolling in the grass time from now on!

Saturday, 27 August 2016

TV Series Review: Red Dwarf

For the last couple of weeks we've been rewatching Red Dwarf before bed. It's become a tradition for us to watch something funny before bed, you don't want to be going to bed right after watching something scary and disturbing (like Criminal Minds).


Red Dwarf was perfect for this.

It's one of those programmes that I've seen often enough to be able to switch in and out of as I want to, with the exception of the later episodes which I watched a little closer because I've not seen them as often. It is brilliantly funny and very clever. And we've got the Smeg Ups DVD now as well, so we got to watch lots of outtakes.

I've been watching Red Dwarf for pretty much as long as I can remember. It originally started back in 1988 (when I was two!) so I've grown up watching it. I can remember sitting in bed watching it on TV feeling really mature, that must've been about series seven or eight.

The early series are definitely my absolute favourites, with Backwards probably being my top, because it's just so clever (though it kind of makes my head hurt to think about it too much). Though the episode with the Tongue-Tied song is pretty cool too (for obvious reasons).


Sorry, you'll probably have that going round in your head for the next couple of days.

Series eight is probably my least favourite of the original run and while I enjoy Back to Earth, now that they've made the tenth series it's kind of dropped slightly in my ranking. I feel as though Back to Earth was very much made by the fans for the fans, whereas the tenth series returned to how it felt at the beginning.

Of the new series Lemons is my absolute favourite. The gang travel back in time and end up meeting Jesus. With the Dwarfers things aren't going to go smoothly and they end up taking him back with them, into the future, where he learns all the bad things that people have done in the name of Jesus and vows to change. Oh, and he discovers a brilliant new invention called a 'bag'.

Series ten seems to combine the original set up of the early series with a more modern sense of humour and style of filming. I think that's why I've enjoyed it so much. Things that people find funny have changed quite a bit in the last thirty years so it's cool to see that Red Dwarf has grown up as its viewers have aged as well.

And it appears that we've got some new episodes coming up in the near future as well. According to Wikipedia the new episodes will air in the next month. I hope that means they'll be out on DVD in time for Christmas!

Last night we started watching our new bedtime viewing, inspired by the fact that it first aired fifteen years ago; Scrubs. Expect another review of that sometime in the future.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Chapter-by-Chapter: New Moon, Chapter 16

Forgive this post being a little late in the day. We've finally started watching the eighth series of Criminal Minds and so I'm paying rather more attention to these episodes than I have for the previous seven series seeing as I've never actually seen these ones before.

Luckily today is finally Friday (after Thursday felt like a pretty good imitation) so we can stay up late tonight and sleep in late tomorrow. Plus it's a bonus weekend; Bank Holiday!

But anyway, let's get on with the next chapter of New Moon. This week it's Chapter 16: Paris.

What Happens?

Bella doesn't drown after all. Jacob rescues her. Someone dies. It isn't Bella. It isn't Jacob either. Bella spends a lot of time thinking about Romeo and Juliet (and I spend some time waffling about a dream I had last night) and then it looks as though someone from Bella's past might have come back.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter being called 'Paris' is kind of funny because while I was waiting for my laptop to start up (a considerably shorter wait than my old laptop, it must be said) I was reading a discussion online about whether or not Paris is a male or female name. It'll be interesting if Paris is a character's name, though I don't remember hearing anyone mentioning it in relation to a character in Twilight. My guess is it's something boring, like where Edward's been hanging out all this time.

When we left Bella last she was in the middle of drowning. She's still kind of doing that here, but she's actually made it back to the surface and a voice is still yelling at her to breathe. Except it's not Edward's any more. Nope, it's Jacob. How convenient.

Also, how traumatic for him?! He's probably just witnessed the girl he kind of likes throwing herself off a cliff into the water and is now trying to save her from drowning. Guy deserves a medal for putting up with her, I tell you.

Jacob's not alone. As Bella slowly comes back to herself she recognises the other voice as Sam. Jake's relieved when she finally manages to croak out his name. I'm probably a very bad person because my immediate response wouldn't really have been one of relief. I think Bella's already part vampire because she's nigh on indestructible!

The water licked and writhed up the sand after us as Jacob carried me away, like it was angry that I'd escaped. As I stared wearily, a spark of color caught my unfocused eyes - a small flash of fire was dancing on the black water, far out in the bay. The image made no sense, and I wondered how conscious I really was. My head swirled with the memory of the black, churning water - of being so lost that I couldn't find up or down. So lost... but somehow Jacob...

Okay, I don't care what's up with Bella, but I do want to know about the fire on the water. What's the deal with that?

Jacob's pretty angry at Bella after all, which I'm pleased about. Do you think impressionable youngsters would do something like this? As in, 'if all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?' 'Well, Bella did and she got a cuddle from Jacob'.

Bella changes the subject from how stupid she'd been to whether or not Jacob had successfully found Victoria. He hasn't. Is this going to get dragged out into the next book because I'm not sure I can stand that?

Victoria took off into the water but they lost her. Okay then.

Oh and Harry Clearwater is in the hospital after having had a heart attack. Charlie and Billy are both with him at the hospital and for once Bella feels a bit of shame about the way that she behaved. Good. She's realised that everyone else has enough to worry about without her throwing herself off of cliffs in an effort to hear her ex-boyfriend's voice.

They wind up at Jacob's house where he roots out some dry clothes for her to wear but before she can get changed they both end up taking a nap.

And I'm wondering if this is where Paris will come into the chapter because we're nowhere near France at the moment.

Bella has a random dream about Romeo and Juliet, with Juliet leaning on a balcony on a stage. It's clear that Bella really studied this text because she knows the names of the other characters, like Rosaline and and Paris. Ah, there we go! She ponders what would've happened if she and Romeo hadn't split up? Is she Romeo in this scenario? Edward is Rosaline and Jacob is Juliet? Am I reading this right?

Oh wait, no Bella's not that nuanced. In this scenario she's Juliet and Jacob is Paris. And all I can think of is that I would much rather be reading Romeo and Juliet than this waffle about it. Seriously! It goes on for about two pages! All this because of one random little dream snippet.

I kind of get the impression that Meyer had this idea for this brilliant comparison of Edward and Bella as Romeo and Juliet and then needed to shoehorn it in there somehow. And so that's why we got the random dream snippet.

Speaking of random dream snippets, I'm going to introduce a brief interlude so I can tell you all about the incredibly random dream I had last night.

I came downstairs into my living room to find Mr Click was there, surrounded by a Moses basket, bouncy chair and a mat/blanket with a little baby girl on it. She was dressed all in a pink frilly dress and when I picked her up her head did that little baby lolling thing and I momentarily panicked that I wasn't holding her right. Then she smiled at me so I figured I hadn't hurt her.

In that weird dream way I knew that she was some small percent Chinese and I don't even know why that was relevant. She had the most beautiful eyes.

Naturally I asked Mr Click where the baby had come from and he told me that 'the doctor had made some arrangements'. There was something in there about her real parents travelling across Scotland to bring the baby to the doctor who had then passed her on to us. Actually, now I'm typing this out I'm wondering if perhaps the doctor shouldn't really be the Doctor. Perhaps I should've checked out the window for a blue box.

But I was distracted by the random baby that had suddenly appeared in my house and wondering how I was going to explain her to the neighbours. At this point Mr Click informed me that her name was Shay, to which I replied 'do you think we can make that her second middle name? Because I don't really like it' before trying to turn the subject back to how we'd acquired her.

And he was about to tell me when I woke up.

I really wonder what that was all about. Whatever it's supposed to mean, I think it's a hell of a lot more interesting than what Bella dreams.

Anyway, back to the book.

Bella's moved on to wondering about the flames on the water. If the vampire disappeared into the water to escape from the werewolves, could the flame somehow have been her? Some vampires sparkle, do others look like flames?

Before Bella can spend too long wondering about this Billy arrives home. Harry didn't make it. It's very sad.

Then Jake goes to get Bella's truck to take her home and then he plans to do a little more vampire hunting. Meanwhile Bella is trying to work out whether she feels like Jacob is her brother or if she wants more from him.

I could stake a claim. I had that much within my power.

I'm not even sure what this means but I find the reference to staking anything kind of ironic in a book about a girl who has a relationship with a vampire.

As I read on it becomes apparent that she's thinking about getting into a relationship with him. The main reasons for this seem to be a) because he makes her feel safe, and b) he wouldn't say no. Two very good reasons for hooking up with someone.

Oh and we get a c) as well; Edward wants Bella to be happy and being with Jacob would probably make her happy.

Wouldn't Edward, indifferent as he might be, want me to be as happy as was possible under the circumstance? Wouldn't enough friendly emotion linger for him to want that much for me? I thought he would. He wouldn't begrudge me this: giving just a small bit of the love he didn't want to my friend Jacob. After all, it wasn't the same love at all.

Uh, yeah.

And then Bella hears Edward's voice telling her to 'be happy' while she considers all this. I guess Edward would just be thrilled that she would want to obsess over someone else instead of him. He's probably itching for her to move on so he can get on with life... er... death as quickly as possible.

But the moment is ruined because at that very moment Jacob smells a vampire and orders Bella out of the truck. Except the vampire he's smelling isn't Victoria. Carlisle Cullen's car is parked across from Bella's house and this is the vampire he's smelling. Jacob is still weary in case this is some sort of trick, or y'know, agreement with Edward to get rid of Bella once and for all.

Clearly he can smell vampire, but he can't tell the difference between male and female or one vampire and another completely different vampire. That's a bit crap. The female Cullens had better watch out if they're thinking of coming back.

It also throws a spanner in the works of the werewolves plan because it means that they can't go into vampire territory and that means Victoria has a bunch of safe places to hideout. Surely it also means that Bella's going to be largely without protection a lot of the time now. That might have its upside then.

Bella admittedly does feel a little guilty right now. This quickly gives way to a sense of something else, something a little more panic-flavoured as she realises that what she was seeing on the sea wasn't flame but Victoria's hair blowing in the wind. That means Bella very nearly met a sticky end.

Which may still happen because there's someone waiting in the house for her...

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Dear Tara

This week you turned five years old.

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!


It hardly feels like any time since I posted my Year of Tara blog post but it's been three years. Where's that time gone, Tuppy Tup?

I can still remember that day in April when we brought you home. You were so unsure of being in a car and did such a good job of travelling. At least, you did until we were about three miles from home and you puked all over the car seat. An auspicious start to your life in our family.

In the last four years and five months, I feel like we've got to know you really well. You're a total Daddy's Girl; you'll do almost anything for a 'bikkit', you are the most cuddly dog I've ever know and you sleep in the strangest positions I've ever seen.

When we got you, you really didn't know how to walk on a lead. You probably didn't for the first two years and then one day it clicked. Now we walk several times every day and you're happy to trot alongside us, and only sometimes forget and try to pull ahead. It's usually when there's something interesting up ahead and you just can't help yourself.

I love the way that when someone walks towards us your whole demeanour changes. Your doggy body language just screams 'pay attention to me, please pay attention to me'. Your ears go up and you tail wags at a slightly different pace. If they smile or stop to pet you then you dissolve into ecstasies; if they don't, your ears and tail go down and it's painfully obvious that you're the saddest dog in the world.

Other things that make you the saddest dog in the world include, but are not limited to; being put in your bedroom when you think you're missing out on something, having something you shouldn't have forcibly removed from your mouth, thinking you're going Calvary Pond on a walk and finding it's just a trip to the bump and back, and seeing Yoda getting a treat when you don't get one.

You love to help with the laundry. I think you know that's 'Mummy's job' and you don't think I'm very good at it. You're very good at sorting out socks from the pile (but not very good at giving them back), you could probably unload the machine if I let you (but given your unreliability with the aforementioned socks it's probably not wise), but you love coming out to the garden when I hang out laundry too (though you're usually more interested in exploring the smells out there than what's in the basket, this is probably a good thing).

I think your favourite time of day is in the evening, when we've all eaten tea and we've popped a DVD in the DVD player. Daddy stretches out on the sofa and you curl up on his legs. You can curl up pretty small when you want to (not when you're sleeping in the middle of our bed though, more's the pity) and the pair of you snuggle under a throw. Sometimes you dream and twitch and wiggle your tongue. You're always happiest when everyone is together, it's like you can't relax unless everyone is in the room at once.

Even though you're five and you're a grown up labrador now, you're still learning new things. You've discovered a love of cuddly toys (and you've almost learned not to totally destroy them now). You just learned to swim in the last couple of weeks (watching you in the water is one of my favourite things). The list of words you know seems to grow each month. Maybe I'm biased but you're pretty smart.

When I look at your face I only occasionally see the puppy I brought home, that gangly seven-month old bundle of teeth and fur and energy. I see it when you spot something new that you can't fathom, or when you're feeling especially playful, or when you're tired and they little puppy face pokes out from behind those grown up eyes.

More often than not, you're my big grown up girl now. You seem more serious somehow, more reserved, more sleepy and sedate. Part of me is sad for the bouncy excitable puppy that you're not now, but I'm happy too. I'm happy that I've played a part in you becoming this mature dog. I'm happy that I'm your person and when you got in the car yesterday you were so pleased to see me you leaned over the seat to kiss my fingers. I'm happy that when there are fireworks on the estate and you're scared, I'm the one you run to in order to make you safe.

I'm happy that I'm yours.

Happy birthday, puppy dog.


Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Currently...

I've had a busy week so far this week (and it's only Wednesday). Is it just me, or has it felt like Thursday all day? I'm going to be very disappointed when I wake up tomorrow and it isn't Friday.

Photographing

These two little guys who were hanging out on the wall when we got home last night:


I was especially amazed because this wall is about two and a half feet high. I'm guessing they must've climbed up some plants somewhere to get onto it. I'm also pretty pleased because these pictures didn't come out too badly, considering they were taken at night with my mobile phone. Mr Click had to wait in the car with the lights on so I could snap these.


Reading

A Child's History of England by Charles Dickens. Since watching the Dickens adaptations on DVD I've been feeling I should read some more Dickens. This seemed like it would be an interesting read as it's a non-fiction.

It kind of reminds me of the Horrible Histories books that I used to devour as a child/young teen, except it's like the Victorian version. I'm only 15% of the way through it at the moment, because apparently when I try reading books on my Kindle now I fall asleep (unless I'm actually trying to sleep, in which case it doesn't happen), but it basically goes right back to the beginning of England and works its way forward.

I'm heading into the start of the Tudor period at the moment and I've found that I've learned a bit as well as being reminded of things that I've read or heard about in the past but have since forgotten.

Writing

Yes! I'm writing again.

I've spent a couple of weeks thinking wistfully of picking Behind the Scenes up again. I dug it out. I typed up the whole Prologue, realised how awful it is and put it away again. And then on Sunday I suddenly felt inspired. I pulled it out, read through the entire thing and found myself pulling out a pen to carry on with it.


It's not actually all this cringeworthy (I'd say maybe about 20% of it is almost good). But it made me smile and I also discovered hidden depths in there that I didn't realise I'd even written. It turns out that all four of the main characters are hiding something about themselves so it's not just behind the scenes of a film, it's behind the scenes of themselves as well. It's getting deep!

Learning

Calligraphy!

I've always been fascinated with it but I've never really been able to get the hang of things. But Mr Click treated me to a dip pen calligraphy set last week and I pulled it out on Saturday to see how I got on.

Turns out, quite well:


This is the fattest nib and I need to dip after almost every letter, but I love the effect. I'm thinking I might have a go at some Gothic-style lettering at some point, but for now I'm just working on standard cursive.

I may be sending some fancy ass Christmas cards this year!

So what've you been up to this week?

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Books 62 & 63 of 2015: The BFG by Roald Dahl & The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter

I love that my review of The BFG by Roald Dahl is coming just a couple of weeks after I saw the recent adaptation in the cinema. It was my choice for Week 35 of the Reading Challenge, a book from your childhood.


This is the story of a young girl, named Sophie, who is snatched from her orphanage bed one night by a dream depositing giant who catches her peaking at him. He is the BFG, he lives in giant country among his human-devouring brethren, and catches dreams which he distributes to sleeping humans. When Sophie realises that hundreds of children are being eaten by giants in the night, she works with the BFG to formulate a plan to stop them once and for all.

The BFG was a staple of my childhood. It was on my bookcase for so many years that I couldn't tell you how old I was when I first read it. It was published four years before I was born and as far as I remember I had it when I was about six, maybe even before. Sadly, I don't have my original copy any more, but I have a nearly as battered secondhand copy.

It's been years since I last read it, years and years in fact. I really loved revisiting it and I'm determined to go back and read some of my other childhood favourites. I need to read Matilda as a matter of urgency.

It's a really quick and easy read. I started it at night (by torchlight thanks to a powercut) and I finished it less than twenty-four hours later. It was just as well because it was shortly before I went down to Wales and I knew it wouldn't be a long read so wouldn't last the journey down.

Took me right back to when I was much younger. And that made me sad that I didn't still have my old copy of the book. This one just didn't have the right smell about it.

At the time that I read it I wrote a note that I really wanted to see the adaptation again. Of course I meant the animated version and since then I've seen the live action one. I really want to see the animated one though. I've been singing the Whizzpopper song for weeks now!


I've convinced Mr Click that he needs to read this now, especially as he enjoyed the film so much. I think he'll enjoy it. It's such a fun read. I love the way that Dahl plays with words. As well as appealing to husbands, I think it's the perfect bedtime story book, or class reading book. The chapters are fairly short but plenty happens to keep kids entertained too.

I followed up The BFG with the sixth Inspector Morse book, The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter.


In this Morse story, part of a body is found in a canal in Oxford and so it's down to Morse to investigate who the torso might belong to, as well as how he got there.

This one took me a lot longer to read then I would have expected it to because I was headed down to Wales and so I spent most of my time doing fun Wales things (and travelling) instead of reading. Travelling overnight doesn't make for easy reading so I took my time over it.

I don't think that this is the sort of book that you should read slowly. At times I was only reading a chapter at a time and that made it hard to follow what was going on. Dexter has a habit of dropping in chapters which seem almost unrelated to the case at hand in the beginning, but which then relate to the case later on in the book. That, coupled with the fact that the case itself was fairly confusing, meant that I didn't enjoy this one as much at the others I've read.

And as usual, I've got my normal complaint about Inspector Morse books. It's nearly impossible to actually solve the case yourself because you don't get all the information that you need at the time that Morse does. He brings stuff up later in the book that you were never told about, or he makes huge deductive leaps which are more guesswork than detection.

It was a good read, but not one of my favourite Morse books.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Just Play(listing) Around

One of my favourite things about having the internet at home is having music in the house again. That's not to say that we never listened to music before we got the internet. Mr Click is really musical so we often have music playing. It's just it was always a bit of a faff.

We've got an ancient hifi (it's older than me and is more than a little bit temperamental) so by the time you've coaxed your CD to play and carefully nudged the volume control to a reasonable level, you're not really feeling like listening to anything anymore. Normally I'd pop a CD in the DVD player if I fancied a quick tune, but then you're limited to whatever is on the CD (and that's only once you've dug it out from the cupboard or collection of CDs under the bed).

I'm not so old school that I don't have an MP3 player. I've always put music on my Kindle and phone, but I like to have the choice of a range of different songs and styles. I hate to feel limited by whatever I've got on that device at that moment.

And so when I finally got connected at home, one of the first things I did was pulled up my old Spotify account.

And I've developed a bit of an addiction to making playlists.

Actually it's been a bit of an addiction ever since I got my first MP3 player. Even before then I used to fill up notebooks of songs which evoked a particular mood or followed a specific theme.

What I love about Spotify is that I'm not the only person who does this. Loads of other people do it too, so I'm not limited to just the music available in my CD collection. And I'm discovering all kinds of artists who I never would of considered before.

This is my latest one:


I put together a random collection of some of my favourite and memorable TV show openings (and closings too).

It's funny how some of these can take you right back. I can remember watching some of these shows as a small child, in my room as a teenager, hanging out with friends or family members at ridiculous times of the day, with Mr Click when we were first going out (right up to today).

I've always loved that about music.

Right now I'm working on my Behind the Scenes story again and I pulled up the Norah Jones album, Come Away With Me. I was immediately taken back to being 17 years old, a summer which seemed to go one forever, watching The Fellowship of the Ring and writing into the small hours of the night trying to get out a story which was unfolding like a movie in my mind.

I've got a feeling that this won't be the first playlist that I share here.

If you were making a TV theme playlist, which songs would you add to it? Are there any albums or songs that take you straight back to another time or place?

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Olympics

I can honestly say that I never really paid too much attention to the Olympics until it hit London four years ago. It was just never really something that was on my radar.

When I was twelve and visited America, on the way home from the airport my Uncle drove me past the stadium from the 1996 Olympics. It was a little bit lost on me, and not only because I was rather jetlagged at the time.

Yesterday when I got home from work (early, I do love my 'Finish Early Fridays') Mr Click suggested we rewatch the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. When it was on a little over four years ago we stopped late at my in-laws' house to be able to watch it, we've watched it once more since then and I guess the Olympic coverage on TV just put us in the mood for it.


It was fun to rewatch it. Recently I read an article which went into some detail about things behind the scenes of it as well as interviews with some of the major players.

I remember as I watched it live I had a wonderful buzzing sensation, I knew that I was watching an important historical event. Maybe not a major one, but hopefully one that in the future when I hear youngsters talking about when the UK hosted the Olympics, I could say that I watched it.

Of course, I'm really the least sporty person I know. I'm more active now than I used to be, but I'm still not about to go joining a triathlon or take up hurdling in my spare time. But there is a certain sense of pleasure to be gained from watching a person who has trained for this moment for years achieving (or failing to achieve) their dreams.

This year I'm not quite as into it as I was last time around. We still don't have TV and we didn't make the effort to go somewhere with one to watch the opening this time. I've still been catching odd bits of the events on the TV at work.

And the more I see, the more I find myself wanting to watch.

I think so far my favourite moment has been what was fondly termed 'the world's fastest bromance' on the BBC News site. You know the one I mean, Bolt and De Grasse sharing a grin and a laugh while they head to the finish line.


Are you watching the Olympics? What's been your favourite moment so far?

Friday, 19 August 2016

Chapter-by-Chapter: New Moon, Chapter 15

I'm reading Chapter 15 this week while we rewatch the Olympic 2012 Opening Ceremony. All the coverage of the Olympics has got me feeling nostalgic and since I finished work early today it seemed like a good time to pop on the DVD.

But that's not what this post is about. It's time for the next chapter of Stephenie Meyer's New Moon. This week is Chapter 15: Pressure.

What Happens?

It's Spring Break and Bella's having to spend all her time being minded by the werewolves in order to save her from becoming vampire chow. She gets a bit bored of it all and Jacob promises her an exhilarating trip cliff diving. But when he can't show up, Bella decides to go it alone. A decision which isn't up there with one of her smartest ones.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter is called Pressure so I'm guessing that this aren't going to be easy for the weres and Bella. She's going to feel under pressure with being the bait in their plan, I guess. Let's find out.

We're starting in Spring Break. Bella stresses that this is 'again' because we've already done it in the last book, she catches us up on this just in case we'd forgotten and wonders if she's developing a pattern here. It would become a little predictable if she gets hunted by a vampire every Spring.

She's been spending a lot of time with Jacob, including holding hands on the beach. You can do so much better there Jacob.

Oh, it's okay. This is just an act or something, though Bella knows that Jacob would like it to be more than that. She's so modest. Actually, other people seem to have noticed this as well. Mike points it out to Bella at work. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

We learn that Jacob has a higher body temperature than regular humans. It's because he's a wolf and also because he is the absolute opposite of Edward. He also offers to self-harm in order to show Bella how quickly he can heal now. He's been spending way too much time around her.

Apparently they're all waiting on Quil 'developing'. It builds gradually with the person getting hotter and hotter until. Well, whatever happens that makes them suddenly become a werewolf. They then have a trigger that makes them 'explode'. Written like that it sounds almost sexual. Except it isn't, since Jake nearly killed his father in that moment.

Jacob still insists that he's not miserable. Except for nearly killing his father. And knowing that Sam permanently scarred Emily when he lost it. And feeling like a monster. And scared that he's losing control. There's something about his family history in here as well. The gist of it is that he's related to Quil, they're second cousins.

There are good things about being a werewolf though, like going fast. Well, vampires can do that too, Jacob. He doesn't give any other examples of good things about being a werewolf, so I guess that being able to move a little quicker than normal is the only one.

Jacob notices Bella's scar and realises that she's been bitten and yet isn't a vampire so Bella tells him about how Edward saved her by sucking out the venom. This news almost pushes Jacob over the edge and for a second Bella is very close to ending up like Emily. To distract him, Bella agrees to tell him about the extra powers the Cullens possessed because there's no way that this could ever be a bad idea and put her friends in danger in the future.

"We're a pretty messed-up pair, aren't we?" Jacob said. "Neither one of us can hold our shape together right."
"Pathetic," I agreed, still breathless.
"At least we have each other," he said, clearly comforted by the thought.

That's like the least comforting thought ever!

Bella then bounces around trying to find somewhere safe to hang out when Jacob's not around. First at Billy's house and then at Emily's before finding herself back n the beach and wandering again. She's worried and anxious and uptight and we get it because we've been hearing this since the last chapter. She works herself up until she can't take it anymore and eventually curls up in a ball and that's where Jacob finds her.

And he decides that she needs to spend the next day doing something fun. I hope Jacob remembers that Bella's idea of fun is trying to kill herself on a motorbike. It shouldn't be hard to top that.

Yet it doesn't take him long to come out with a suitable activity. Cliff diving!

Unsurprisingly, Bella is up for it:


The dark water did not look inviting, and, from this angle, the cliffs looked even higher than before.
But it had been days since I'd heard Edward's voice. That was probably part of the problem. I was addicted to the sound of my delusions. It made things worse if I went too long without them. Jumping off a cliff was certain to remedy that situation.


And so it's a date.

Bella finds herself quite looking forward to the cliff jumping excursion, so she's a bit surprised when she gets to Jacob's house to find he isn't actually waiting for her. Billy informs her that a better date has come up, or, y'know, a fresh trail. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. They think they've got a chance to get rid of Victoria once and for all.

They've only killed one vampire together though, all their knowledge about vampire killing is passed down from father to son. So it's basically anecdotal. It couldn't possibly fail.

Bella heads back to the beach. Alone. And wonders at the lack of animals and the silence. That couldn't possibly because there's a vampire hanging around and waiting to kill her, could it? Perhaps the werewolves are using her as bait without letting her know that's what they're up to.

Now she's at the beach she doesn't want to be there, but she can't think of anywhere else she'd like to be instead. And she's worried about Jacob and blah, blah, blah.

Bella decides that now would be the perfect time to try cliff diving. Because doing something dangerous without any instruction from a person with more experience when it could potentially kill you is a totally rational thing to do. It does the trick for Bella and within a few minutes she's hearing Edward's voice in her head, pleading Bella not to do it.

She ignores him and does it anyway.

And at first it's all good.

Until she gets swept away by the current and starts drowning. What a smart move, Bella. In her head, Edward keeps giving Bella instructions to keep fighting the water, to keep breathing, not to drown but Bella just imagines Edward and happily gives up.

This is what she's wanted for ages anyway.

Goodbye, I love you, was my last thought.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

What I did yesterday...

As you may have guessed from yesterday's post we had a bit of an eventful day.

The plan had been to take a relative's car to Ayr for servicing, pick up a few bits and pieces in town that I needed for the award ceremony I'm going to next week, then pick up the car, do some shopping and arrive home at a nice respectable hour.

I'm going to blame Mr Click for that not going to plan. Not because he broke the car, because he didn't, but because he jinxed us.

Before we left my father-in-law asked 'have we got food for the dog?' as we were leaving Tara in their capable care. 'No,' replied my husband, 'we feed her at 6:30. If we're not back by then, something'll have gone terribly wrong.'

Well something went horribly wrong.

After we managed to limp the car round a roundabout and into the parking spaces outside a row of houses in a residential area we found ourselves with nearly a ninety minute wait for the RAC man to arrive to tow us the last half hour into Ayr.

Of course, when we pulled up in the scorching sun both myself and Mr Click needed to pee. Desperately.

A taxi driver pulled up by us with a delivery of eggs for one of the houses and Mr Click wandered over to ask him if he knew where the nearest loo might be. It was in an Asda shop. Twenty minutes walk away. I could've cried.

Luckily the taxi driver was awesome and he asked the equally awesome old man at number 104 if we could borrow his loo. The old guy was completely unfazed at the prospect of two random people strolling into his house to use his toilet (he clearly doesn't watch as much Criminal Minds as we do)!

Honourable mention also goes to his neighbour two doors along who came to our rescue when we were trying to give the RAC man directions to our location using only the SatNav and our limited knowledge of the road we had ended up on.

Eventually we made it to the garage. Where there was a phenomenal cock-up with the company who were supposed to provide us with a hire car (which they were helpfully going to be able to deliver to Wemyss Bay for us, really helpful when you consider we were stranded over an hour and a half away in Ayr).

In the end Mr Click and I decided to make our way home by bus and took advantage of the fact that we were going to have a bit of a wait by hanging out in Ayr. At one point that morning, while we were standing beside the car at gone half past ten (a full five hours after we'd gotten up), slowly getting more sunburned, we pretty much decided we wouldn't bother with shopping in Ayr and we'd take a trip to Glasgow on Saturday instead.

Luckily that's not necessary and I can have a lie in after Friday. The first shop we went into in Ayr produced the exact sort of clutch bag I was looking for. The next shop produced a hair band which pretty much completes my outfit for the ball.


Other finds of the day included series one to three of Outnumbered (still in the cellophane) for £5 in a charity shop, a book about the TV series Blackadder and, thanks to using some vouchers I won at work, that set of 25 Inkjoy pens and a notebook for £6.28.

Mr Click treated me to the calligraphy set (it's a proper dip pen) so I'm going to have some fun playing with that at the weekend too.

And rest assured. We made it back home, eventually. Well after six-thirty. After two hot and sweaty hours in the sun and nearly two hours on a bus. It was a long and tiring day.

I almost feel that going back to work today was a holiday by comparison!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Currently...

Recovering from
A bit of an ordeal on the mainland.

I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.


Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Books 59, 60 & 61 of 2015: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I know, I know, I've written about The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien so many times. I can't help myself, I have a problem.

I reread the book each year and it feels like each time I do, I notice things that I've never noticed before. So when Weeks 32 to 34 in last year's reading challenge were to read a trilogy, I knew immediately what I was going to read.

I also have this little quirk where each time I read the book, I try and read a different edition. This time around I most read my three volume paperback edition (the first one that I ever successfully read all the way through), though when I was on the go I read my Kindle version too in order to save carrying the books around.


Do I really need to go over the summary of this book again?

Magic Ring. Evil ruler. Short people with hairy feet. Black riders. Fellowship. Quest. Gandalf dead. Gandalf alive. Gollum. Battles. Mount Doom. Ring destroyed. Hobbits head to Grey Havens.

That about covers it.

My notes on this reread show that I really enjoyed my reread. I got through all three volumes pretty quickly, though I noted that I normally find the second half of The Two Towers drags (though on this read I got through that one quicker than anticipated). I'm not sure how much of this was because I was reading to a deadline because I whizzed through The Return of the King as well; normally it takes me a while to get through the appendices but this time only took two days.

Part of my speed of reading was the fact that I opened the book in the Kindle app on my phone so I could easily read it on my breaks and when I was out and about. I wish that I could get all books I own on Kindle so I have a back up for when book-books aren't convenient.

Each time I read The Lord of the Rings I find myself loving or feeling more drawn to different characters. I always love the Hobbits in Fellowship; prefer Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas in Two Towers; and (not so) secretly ship Aragorn and Eowyn in Return of the King. This go around I fell in love with Aragorn right from the start and even really liked Tom Bombadil more too; now he's a character I disliked ten years ago so he seems to be someone you like more as you get older.

This time I felt as though The Return of the King has become my favourite book, though I'm sure this will change on future rereads. I loved the way that everything is wrapped up but the story still goes on, we just don't get to witness it.

I really appreciate the appendices now. I like to find out the little 'behind the scenes' bits of information. It's especially sad to see what happened in Dale and Erebor during the War of the Ring now, considering we got to see them and the people who live there in The Hobbit movies.

Often I read this edition of The Lord of the Rings with breathing space in between each book, but this time around I really enjoyed reading them back to back.

Expect to see my thoughts on this one again in the future.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Walking Progress

I've slowed down a little on my walking recently. Interestingly enough, this has happened during the summer months when I have more an excuse to get out and enjoy the nice weather.

Part of this has been because I've been taking Tara to the beach and wading into water with a hyperactive labrador isn't really a good place to go with your phone. So I am walking, I'm just not tracking these walks.

Part of it is because Tara is a black labrador and she gets hot. The tarmac gets hot too, so we can't go out during the really hot weather because that would just be mean. So we stay in then.

And yes, part of it has been because I've been a little bit lazy. Don't judge.

But yesterday I went for a pretty good 'restart' walk with a group of four other girls from work. We've all been a little lax in our walking so took the opportunity to take a gentle stroll together to get lunch in the hopes we could pick up our walking group again.

Twelve miles later I staggered up the path to my in-laws' house, tired, sweaty and pretty proud of myself for surviving it after sticking to less than two miles at a time for the last few weeks.

I walked a little over a mile to the swimming baths where we started and our walk looked something like this:


We stopped for lunch and then headed back into town:


I love that it was exactly the same distance there and back again.

Speaking of 'there and back', it's helped me catch up a little on my progress across Middle-earth.

I knew I needed to pick up my pace a little as I was edging away from my target end date of the 31st of December, but now I'm back on track.


Having reached 320 miles this morning I'm onto Day 18 of the Hobbits' journey. I'm camping in a valley. There's been a lot of camping going on during this leg of the journey, but in the next 16 miles things are going to start picking up. I'm looking forward to having some more interesting things to chronicle in my Walking Journal.

I'll let you know how I get on.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Things to do when you can't sleep

I've had issues with sleeping for years now. As a teenager I'd lie awake reading or writing into the small hours of the morning. This was pre-internet so when you hit the end of a project or book there was no one to share that moment with.

Nowadays I don't really have any trouble falling asleep. It's the staying asleep that I struggle with. For the last couple of months I've fallen into a pattern of waking somewhere in the region of 2am and then falling asleep anywhere from two to four hours later.

For the most part, I'm okay with this (if slightly put out that this time it's just plain old insomnia and not pregnancy insomnia like last year). I might feel a little bit sleepy the following day, it just means I fall asleep sooner when I go to bed. Actually, if I stop up as late as possible, I'll often sleep until a more respectable time the following morning.

So here are some of the things I'm doing with this time, along with some photos of a sleepy labrador, since there aren't any photos of me sleeping!


Reading
I like to read. You may have noticed that.

It's easier to read at night if I'm reading on my Kindle, since I don't need to put the light on or fumble around with a torch in order to see my page. In the past we didn't have curtains which block the light out so this wasn't as much of an issue in the summer; now, ebooks are handy for early morning reading sessions.

Reading is a good strategy since it relaxes you and I always find it makes my eyes tired. Plus there are certain books (and authors) that are like literary sleeping pills.


Listening to music
Sometimes my eyes are tired and I don't feel like reading, but I'm still frustratingly awake. Now we've got internet access I can pull up playlights on Spotify which match my mood. Something gentle or relaxing is good.

Or you can try a touch of reverse psychology on yourself. Play something upbeat and jazzy, try and sing along to it (quietly if you're sharing your room or bed with someone else). A mini disco might not send you to sleep, but it'll keep you occupied.


Listening to white noise
I only tried this for the first time last night and I can't really say whether it helped. I downloaded one called 'Nature Sounds' last night, well, this morning, around 5am. The idea is you're given a selection of scenarios which you can select. They're things like 'Relaxing Ocean' and 'Waterfall' which play sounds you might expect to hear in that place. Mine gives you the option to add addition effects, like the wind blowing or a campfire crackling, depending on the one you pick.

Honestly, I'm not really sold on it. It took me a couple of goes to find one which didn't irritate the hell out of me. I thought the 'Calm Night' one would suit but there was some damn owl which kept hooting. In the end of went for something like 'Summer Forest'.

It gives you the option to set a timer so it automatically turns itself off once you've fallen asleep. I listened to it for about ten minutes in total but didn't feel any more relaxed or sleepy. But I did fall asleep about fifteen/twenty minutes after listening to it. I'm going to try this one again and report back.


Colouring In
I'm yet to try this one either. I'm a big fan of my colour book collection and I do find colouring in incredibly relaxing. The downside is that this would require me to leave my nice cosy bed and relocate to the living room in order to spread out all my books and pencils.

Of course, getting out of bed seems sort of counterproductive, after all, you need to be in bed to actually sleep. But sometimes I do wonder if getting out of bed would stop me from trying to sleep and so allow my body to relax or something. I feel like this is one to try at the weekends, rather than on a 'school night' so that if I need to crawl back into bed at 6am after creating a masterpiece, I don't have to worry about dozing off at my desk.


Imagination
This is a technique I've used to get to sleep for as long as I can remember and it ties into my lucid dreaming as well. Put simply, I tell myself stories as I lie there in the darkness.

As a child these were usually linked to whatever book or film I'd read or seen that day. Nowadays I'll play around with scenarios and characters in stories I'm working on. Going back twenty-three years it was like an early form of fan fiction; now it's like a way of playing around with different scenarios without committing to anything on paper.

I think this sends me to sleep simply because I've used it as a way of winding down in my sleep routine for so long. There are certain 'stories' which seem to send me to sleep quicker than others. The problem is, it gets a little boring going over the same things and often when I mix them up, they stop sending me to sleep because my tired little brain wants to know what's going to happen next in the story.


Just getting up
As with the colouring in scenario, this would require me to unsnuggle myself from the bed and get up. But again, it's an option.

If, like me, you live with someone else, you're kind of limited on just how much you can do if you decide to get up in the middle of the night. Mr Click's a fairly heavy sleeper, but if I decided to do some vacuuming or, I don't know, start doing woodwork or something, I think he'd probably notice. Watching a film on my laptop, blogging or taking the dog for a walk (if it's light enough) are all options.

Reading online I found a couple of sites that suggested that people often wake up between 2am and 4am because of a drop in blood sugar. And I thought this might be my reason for waking. So I have gotten out of bed to grab a snack (actually, I've taken to just keeping a pack of digestive biscuits on my side of the bed). I can't honestly say this has helped though, I like to fall asleep with the taste of toothpaste in my mouth; eating a digestive biscuit just means all I can taste is biscuit and it puts me off.

Sometimes I think that the reason I'm awake is simply because I'm done sleeping. Especially if I've gone to bed pretty early. Historically people used to wake and go out before returning to bed for their 'second sleep'. Maybe I should take a leaf out of their books and just go with the flow.

What do you do when you can't sleep?

Friday, 12 August 2016

Chapter-by-Chapter: New Moon, Chapter 14

I did a recap on where we got up to last week, so let's jump straight into the next chapter.

It's Chapter 14: Family.


What Happens?

Bella gets to meet not only the werewolf pack, but also pack mum, Emily. The guys put together a plan to protect Bella and Charlie which also involves using Bella as bait for the vampire. There's absolutely nothing that can go wrong with this plan.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter is called Family and I'm guessing that it's not going to be Bella's family we're meeting here. She's going to be getting to know Jacob's new family, Sam's gang. And I wonder how well this is going to go down.

I cowered into Jacob's side, my eyes scanning the forest for the other werewolves. When they appeared, striding out from between the trees, they weren't what I was expecting. I'd gotten the image of the wolves stuck in my head. These were just four really big half-naked boys.

And this is clearly why the films were so popular.

These guys look pretty similar and they're not pleased to see that Jacob has brought Bella with him. Sam is the most annoyed of all, though one of them does refer to Bella as 'the leech-lover' which is a really bad attempt at a derogatory name, Mudblood has way more impact as a put down.

One of the guys, Paul, is so angry that he completely loses control and pretty much turns into a wolf right there in front of Bella, leading to this awesome description:

Paul seemed to fall forward, vibrating violently. Halfway to the ground there was a loud ripping noise, and the boy exploded.

Umm. Cool.

Then Jacob does it to and protects Bella from Paul. Bella's really the ultimate damsel in distress.

Jacob and Paul have a full on dog fight so Sam orders the two other guys to take Bella to someone called Emily's house. These guys are Jared and Embry and they seem to find the situation quite amusing. It seems that Paul getting worked up enough to transform into a wolf happens fairly regularly and they think it's funny because he's torn up another set of clothes; Hulk-style. Being a werewolf is expensive business.

After a few minutes of this, they seem to realise that Bella is still there for all of thirty seconds, then they go back to debating who is going to win the fight. Paul's got experience on his side but Jake is faster, or something. They're nowhere near as worried about the pair as Bella is.

Actually, it's like Bella's not even there. They all get into the car and the boys are just talking about her as though it's just the two of them. That is, until they realise that Bella knows about them when there's an 'injunction' preventing Jacob from speaking about what they are. She lamely explains this away with her guessing the truth. You'd think they'd have some better way of concealing the secret, practically anyone could guess that.

And we finally find out who Emily is; she's Sam's fiancee. Bella's given the instruction not to stare at Emily. I wonder if that means that she's super hairy or something, some sort of wolfwoman. We get a little into the whole Vampire/Werewolf thing. Embry actually asks Bella whether Laurent was a friend of hers because they're not wanting to interfere with 'the treaty' which seems to be some sort of agreement that the werewolves don't attack the vampires unless the vampires attack a human. Seems fair enough to me.

Oh and the reason Bella's not to stare at Emily, we find that out when we get to her house:

The right side of her face was scarred from hairline to chin by three thick, red lines, livid in color though they were long healed. One line pulled down the corner of her dark, almond-shaped right eye, another twisted the right side of her mouth into a permanent grimace.

Bella's grateful for Embry giving her the heads up not to stare, because she's the sort of person who'll apparently eagle eye anyone who looks slightly different unless you tell her not to. Seriously?!

Despite this, Bella and Emily seem to hit it off right away, what with one being the 'wolf girl' and the other being the 'vampire girl'. I guess they can bond over their love of supernatural beings. About this time Emily uses the word 'brothers' to refer to the other guys in the pack, that ties in nicely to the title, doesn't it?

We also learn that Emily has scars all down her arm as well, which Bella puts down to a risk of hanging out with werewolves. I really hope that's not the case. If my boyfriend and his friends left me with seriously disfiguring scars, I'd be noping right out of there!

Sam, Jacob and Paul show up and everyone is friends again. Well, that's good, I suppose. I mean, at least they're not all at each other's throats any more. Not only that, Paul has a rapidly healing scratch on his arm. That's a wolf thing, it would seem.

Jacob fills everyone in attendance in on what Victoria is after, and why. Jared is thrilled about this because they can use Bella as bait to lure the vampire in and then get her. Bella doesn't get any say in this but she doesn't voice any immediate complaints either. She really does have a death wish, doesn't she.

Bella will be kept at La Push as much as possible, and they'll take care of Charlie as well so he's safe too. So Bella hangs out at Jacob's place and Billy invites Charlie over to join them. Charlie obviously seems to think that Bella and Jacob are an item now. I'm so glad they're not.

Jacob's actually looking forward to getting out hunting some vampire and he tells Bella as much as he sees her and Charlie off that evening.

Charlie, meanwhile, is a bit annoyed at Bella since not all that long ago she was complaining about Jacob falling out with her and joining a gang. Charlie also fills in that Emily was mauled by a bear, though Bella still seems pretty convinced that Sam was the culprit.

And we're into the traditional pattern in these books; the chapter ends with Bella falling asleep and dreaming about being in the woods with Emily. She uses the phrase 'waited anxiously for our werewolves to come home'. Jeez Bella, leave Jacob alone, look at how messed up Edward was after you hooked up with him!

I wonder if anyone's going to get hurt in this little plan.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Introducing Bertie Bloomer

This is a long and picture-heavy post, but I'm not going to apologise because this guy was a monster of time and effort. He's less knitting project and more work of art!


The pattern is from the Knitted Clowns pattern book by Jean Greenhowe. I scored my copy for £1 in a charity shop in Ayr, thought he'd make a good birthday present for my father-in-law and pretty much started knitting him within a couple of days.

He took a little over two months to knit and wound up not being done in time for the birthday, so he was two weeks late, but finished in time for Father's Day (by less than about twelve hours)!

 

This is honestly the largest project that I've ever attempted. There are so many different parts to him that it really was a labour of love. I had all of the colours that I needed (though at one point I was running a little low on the light grey in the watering can). And I must've used about two bags of stuffing!

He stands 19" tall; 22" if you count to the top of his mushrooms. And it's the little details that really make him. His body knitted up very quickly and once he had his face he developed this wonderful character.


The pattern is so simple. If you can knit, purl, increase and decrease then you can knit this work of art. The sewing up took rather a long time, but I actually came to quite enjoy it. I loved watching him take shape.

I only made two modifications. The partly because of the pattern calling for twisted cords on the daisy chain and the string in Bertie's pocket. I cannot get the hang of making decent twisted cords so I just plaited it. A four-strand braid looks just the same as a twisted cord.


The other modification was the daisies themselves. The pattern called for a technique which just didn't turn out the way I wanted. It didn't look even enough for me, but luckily my Mum had sent me the Scarecrow Family pattern book. Sally Scarecrow has flowers on her hat so I adopted them for Bertie. They came out slightly larger than the ones in the original pattern, so I didn't need as many. They look great though.

 

Bertie stands up on his own two feet and my dad-in-law was thrilled with him. I'd thought that perhaps he could hang out in the greenhouse to keep him company out there, but my mum-in-law fell in love with him too and wouldn't hear of it. So he lives on the desk in the living room instead. It makes me smile every time I'm in there and they're determined that I should enter him in the local Horticultural Society Show.

And will I attempt another pattern from this book?

Definitely yes!

But maybe not for another year or so!