How I fixed my sleep … without sheep

“Sleep is like a cat: It only comes to you if you ignore it. I drank more and continued my mantra. ‘Stop thinking’, swig, ’empty your head’, swig, ‘now, seriously empty your head’.”  

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 

Larson cartoon animal humourDid you know?

The first reference to counting sheep is found in a twelfth-century Spanish book, Disciplina Clericalis by a lad called Petrus Alphonsi. It’s a collection of fables in which the author tells one humorous tale about a King and his Story-teller counting sheep. Apparently counting sheep was a widespread practice in early Twelfth century Islamic countries, which fascinated and influenced our dear Mr Alphonsi. No doubt a shepherd or five was known to fall asleep during this monotonous daily routine …

Et voila! The origins of a completely useless remedy for insomnia.

So you can’t sleep? Neither could I – on and off for almost 10 years!

Now I’m sleeping like a baby. Continue reading How I fixed my sleep … without sheep

Speak to me 2020

“I keep turning over new leaves, and spoiling them, as I used to spoil my copybooks; and I make so many beginnings there never will be an end. (Jo March)” 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

mouse on stepsMy Dad was desperate to retire.  He wouldn’t admit it, but work was challenging and he wasn’t coping. He had many plans for his retirement years. But he was also anxious. After all, he’d worked since he was 16.

On his last day at work I gave him a card.  “How exciting,” I’d written. “To be on the cusp of a new season, a new chapter in your life!

For months, even years later, in deep thought, he’d often say to me, quite out of the blue, “I’ve thought a lot about what you wrote in my card. A new chapter … I’ve got to make the most of it.”

After he died I found that card with a few other precious things he’d kept in his bedside table. Continue reading Speak to me 2020

Communism: Ceaușescu’s 170 room palace for his family of 5

“This world is full of the most outrageous nonsense. Sometimes things happen which you would hardly think possible.”  

The Nose by Nikolai Gogol

Sunset
Moldova to Romania – sunset on what used to be the northern reaches of the Danube Delta

I sent a Happy New Year message to a friend today.

iPhone auto-correct did it’s magic again …

Complications of the Season to you!” I sent him.

I think you could say that Complications of the Season is what Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu experienced on Christmas day in 1989 when they were summarily executed by firing squad. Continue reading Communism: Ceaușescu’s 170 room palace for his family of 5

Something special to declare

“Now here’s my idea. Why not keep the journey times the same but make the trains so comfortable and relaxing that people won’t want the trip to end? Instead, they could pass the time staring out the window at all the gleaming hospitals, schools, playing fields and gorgeously maintained countryside that the billions of saved pounds had paid for. Alternatively, you could just put a steam locomotive in front of the train, make all the seats inside wooden and have it run entirely by volunteers. People would come from all over the country to ride on it. In either case, if any money was left over, perhaps a little of it could be used to fit trains with toilets that don’t flush directly on to the tracks.”

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson 

tour of Moldova
Travelling the length and breadth of Moldova.

A knock at the door. Lights on. We sat up, bleary-eyed. 03h30.

A black-leather-jacketed Romanian border guard stood at the open door of our train compartment.

“Pașapoarte!” We handed them over.

A welcome fresh breeze played into our 2 person compartment from an open window in the corridor. Old soviet trains are seriously over heated in winter.

“English?” he noted. We nodded.
“Tourist?” Again we nodded.
“You have something special to declare? Drugs? Weapons.” Continue reading Something special to declare

A funny old time

Mama in a huge plaster cast
Big foot and our new little cousin.

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”

The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

“Come home, Babes. All is forgiven.”

This is the WhatsApp message I received from Hubby about 10 days into my recent 2 week break in South Africa.

I didn’t go because South Africa won the Rugby World Cup, though they did. Nor because it’s dark and cold in the UK, which it is. I didn’t go to check on our house, although I did that. I went because Continue reading A funny old time

The case of the Pumpkin Soup and the problem with British politeness

“It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin. That brought you down to earth. That gave you a reason for going on. Pumpkin.”

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

soup Guest: “What exactly is in this soup?”
Me: “It’s pumpkin soup.”
Hubby (encouraging): “It’s an early spicy pumpkin soup.”
Guest: “Unusual taste.”
Me: “Yes. I’m afraid something went wrong. You don’t have to eat it.”

It was almost a case of ‘Nyamazela-at-the-Church-do-with-the-pumpkin-soup’.

I pride myself on being a better than average soup maker. But as the old adage goes, and Hubby pointed out rightly when we were destroying the evidence later that night, pride comes before a fall. Continue reading The case of the Pumpkin Soup and the problem with British politeness

Billingsgate Market, City of London

“Fish,” he said, “I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends.”

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

One of the enduring memories of my childhood is lying on the back seat of our family car, in the still cool dark hours of pre-dawn, still in my pyjamas, toe to head with my brother, and wrapped in a blanket, listening to my parents quietly chatting to one another, as I dosed and they drove.

It’s a peaceful memory, filled with potential and promise. Early morning. Pad kos. The open road.

Note: I don’t do early mornings. I love my sleep. To this day, I’m only really prepared to get up early for a road trip. .. and the promise of tea.

In the second to last week of August, Hubby woke us up at some ‘unGodly’ hour – me and Mama – to drive to Billingsgate fish market. Continue reading Billingsgate Market, City of London