Thursday, 19 December 2013

Going walkabout

Good morning (I think - although it might be another 24 hours before I post this).  Greetings from somewhere over Asia.  No idea where as the in flight map isn't working.  I think we have an hour to go before we land in China, en route to Oz.

I've just spent the most uncomfortable night I've ever had on a plane.  The seats on this one are hard, rock hard.  Had some difficulty over our seating at check-in (I worked out that we had not been seated together on the flight plan, so surprised the staff when we said we are travelling together. This airline gave no choice of seats).  Anyway we scored a rank of three seats between the two of us, so could stretch out, but it doesn't mitigate feeling like you're sitting on/snuggling into concrete.  My head has obviously been in a weird position because my neck is complaining. 

So far the airline is scoring (out of 10):

Cleanliness 10
Service 5 (OK but don't collect dirty cups or towels)
Comfort 4 
Food 9.5 (would have been 10 except for the sabotage prawn in the dim sum)

There were no passenger comfort bags, ie with ear plugs, eye mask and tooth brush.  I'm desperate for a toothbrush - my teeth are furry and horrible.

The crew are a bit unenthusiastic.  Better on the second flight than the first, but they remind me a bit of theChinese  crew on the last Qantas flight out of Beijing in April 1986, which coincided with my only trip to Beijing.  (There was some deal and China Airways took over manning the route.). Anyway the Chinese crew were rather obnoxious and demanding and did not endear themselves to the Qantas crew (one of the Qantas stewards grumbled to me about them).  It was obvious that they weren't air crew because they liked helping people.

I hate being at the mercy of people like that!

Anyway, we'll be landing in Melbourne soon.  Can't wait.

-Pam (written Saturday night)

Friday, 6 December 2013

Doing the laundry

Probably the most annoying thing about having the kitchen gutted is not being able to use the washing machine.  Currently, it has no waste pipe.  Although we'd done two loads last week, before the builders started on Saturday, it's amazing how quickly the dirty laundry builds up again.  This afternoon, I loaded up the laundry trug and headed out to find the nearest laundromat, 3 miles away.  They've almost disappeared - we had to find this one on Google - and when I set out, I'd never been near this one before.  Drove passed it twice before I spotted it.  

Once inside, I was gobsmacked to discover the price of a wash. The last time I paid to do laundry was 1990, when it was a couple of Pounds to do a wash AND dry.  Guess how much it is now?  £5 for a small machine.  £6.60 for a large.  Talk about expensive!  At that rate, a family doing two washes a week could pay for their own machine in four to five months.  

Both large and small machines only took £1 coins or 20p pieces.  I'd planned to do a light wash and a dark, but ended up shoving everything into the one large machine - I didn't have the change for two.  (DH - aka "Keeper of the Laundry" - will go spare when I tell him.  Mixed washes are one thing he doesn't tolerate.). Reviewing my resources, I had 6 x £1 coins, 4 x 50p and 3 x 20p. (I'd already had to pay 60p to park.  Thank heaven I hadn't used all the 20 pences.)

Settled down to read my latest book, leaning against a dryer.  The wash was surprisingly fast, just over half an hour including prewash.  

It was only when I emptied the washing machine that I remembered how laundromats make their big money: from the dryers.  The dryer is 50p for 5 minutes and only takes 50p pieces.  However, even after it had been through the industrial spin, my wash was very wet - not sopping but more like twice as wet as it would have been at the end of a cycle in a domestic washer.  I split the load into 2 and put 2x50p into each machine.  I'd thought I'd had more but it wasn't the case.  I sat there praying the big industrial dryers dried really fast because I was out of 50p's and there was nowhere to get more (I tried buying something at both local shops but they were out of 50p's).

10 minutes later, they both ground to a holt.  Gingerly I opened the closest door. Inside was a pile of hot, streaming laundry.  The other dryer, with the sheets, faired better. The sheets were almost dry.  

With no other option, I bundled the wet washing back into the trug, put the almost dry stuff in a bag, and headed home. Every radiator now has it's garland of washing carefully positioned thereon and the house smells like an old-fashioned laundry.

Unless our washer is workable, I'm not doing any more laundry until I get to Melbourne next weekend.  I'd rather turn up at my sister's house with a suitcase full of dirty clothes than pay those exorbitant prices again.

- Pam (did I mention we're spending Christmas in Oz?)

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Angel of Death

One of the constant descriptions you hear about nurses is “they’re angels”, which would be rapidly followed by a comment about how “nursing is a noble profession”. When I was nursing, there were times when both statements would annoy me. I remember snapping at my dad once, saying “there’s nothing noble about watching a dying man trying to tell his wife he loves her when she won’t damn well listen!”.

Because I spent much of my nursing career working on cancer wards, together with a year working in Radiotherapy And Oncology Outpatients, I rapidly came to the conclusion that, if I was an angel then I was an angel of death, since I spent most of my time trying to make the dying comfortable.

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. It can’t be helped - several of my friends have either lost a parent this year or are experiencing the pain of watching a parent undergo life-prolonging treatment for terminal cancer. Perhaps it’s our age. It’s the alternative mid-life crisis; not so much “life is passing me by -what do I do with myself?” but instead “I’m not old enough to lose my mum/dad! How can this happen to me?”.

As a friend, I have learned that the best thing to do is listen, hug your friend and ply them with tea/suitable beverage. Offers of help need to be specific: “do you need me to collect your brother from the airport?” is easier for a grieving mind to process than being asked “is there anything I can do to help?”.

On Saturday, I will be singing in a service to celebrate the life of a dear friend’s dad; a lovely man who recently lost an 18 month battle with pancreatic cancer. I consider it an honour and a privilege to have been asked. It is my gift to my friend and her family. I hope they gain a level of comfort from it.

- Pam

PS: The other life lesson I’ve learned is that marriage makes things far easier if your life-partner dies – from organising the funeral to dealing with the deceased’s estate, being married to your partner will make things much, much easier. There is no such thing as de facto marriage in this country, so if there isn’t a will the surviving partner will lose everything. Even if there is a will, they won’t be sheltered from inheritance tax on the estate. (And don’t get me started on hospitals/doctors who refuse to give spouse status to the non-married life-partner of a patient….Red rag to a bull, that….)

Saturday, 30 November 2013

It's started!

Finally, after a 3 year delay, work has started on my new kitchen!  

Final "Before" photos:

One last look at the ceiling.  See the chink of daylight?

I am so excited!

- Pam 

Sunday, 6 October 2013


Looks like we are going to need some more gin....

There is still 1kg of sloes requiring gin, currently lodged in my freezer.

A couple of weeks ago, my dear friend AJ and I played golf and, inbetween holes harvested the nearby blackthorn bushes.  We liberated 1.8kg of sloes, which I brought home, washed and froze (splits their skins so that you don't have to stab them with a skewer).  Tonight, DH and I made sloe gin, following the recipe from .  

Should be ready to drink in three months.

- Pam

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

View from my commute

Thursday was a long day.  Thanks to two meetings, I had to work in our London office,  so left home at 6.30am to get the bus then the Tube.  The view on my walk to the office certainly made up for it...

That's right.  I spent the day looking out if the window at Tower Bridge, with the Tower of London in the background.

Sometimes, I feel very lucky living on the outskirts of London.

- Pam

Sunday, 18 August 2013

And so the season begins

You can guess where I am.

Come on Chelsea!!!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Oops!! I slipped

I'm knitting a Five Hour Baby Sweater out of Stylecraft Baby Aran in the shade Baby Lemon for the newborn daughter of one of DH's colleagues. With 20 rows to go on the body, I know I will run out of yarn. I always knew it would be tight, even after inserting the reminants of some white aran yarn into the yoke to pad out the yarn as a styling detail. (Photo below.)  I can't do another stripe of the white - I've used all that I had - so this morning, I unwillingly went searching online for some more. 

(I really didn't want to go yarn shopping. Even with the Fashion on the Ration challenge, my stash is approaching epic proportions.) Below, is the exact transcript of a conversation I had with with DH…

  ME: Just to let you know that I've ordered some more of the baby yarn from a shop on line. It'll arrive over the weekend (probably).

  DH: Cool. So I assume you order lemon/yellow? 

ME: Yes, same shade. Probably a different dye-lot, though, so I'll have to wait for it to be delivered and then alternate rows in order to ensure the change in dye lots doesn't show up.
 [ cough ] 
In order to get free P&P, I had to buy some other wool. Some 4-ply in French Navy. [ cough ] And it made sense to buy 12 balls because a) I don't know how much I'll need to knit the jumper I want (I'll be knitting "off-piste"), and b) it got me an extra discount. (I only paid for 11.) 
[ cough ]
 I'm sure it'll squish down into nothing.... 
[ / cough ] 
DH still hasn't responded.

-  Pam (another 16 coupons spent)

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Nickle and Dime-ing it

 (How annoying - I wrote this post and then lost it.)

Have I ever mentioned to you our coin collections?  How, every day or two, DH and I empty our wallets of 1p, 2p, 5p and £2 coins and pop those coins into various jars and a money box.  The coppers (1p and 2p) go into one Celebrations sweet jar; the 5p pieces into another; while the £2 coins, aka the "Running Away Fund" goes into a Maltesers phone booth money box.

 The coppers jar holds about £22 and takes a year or two to fill.  Ditto the Running Away Fund, which holds £600.  In the thirteen years since we started filling it, 5p jar has never been emptied.  The above photo is at least three years old and, even though we have been adding to the jar assiduously since then, it took forever to fill.

A couple of weekends ago, the jar was finally full.  And heavy (once they were bagged and tagged, I weighed the coins: 10.2kg).  It took the two of us over an hour to count them all.  5p coins are small, about the size of a dime, and the instructions from the bank was to put £5 in each bag - i.e. 100 coins.  We filled 32 bags.   DH lugged them into the bank on the Monday and added them to our Running Away Fund (holiday money) savings account.

Thirteen years of saving 5p pieces netted £160.

- Pam

Saturday, 27 July 2013

66 Coupons? Not a problem.

I am feeling a bit like a fraud.  You remember my fashion on the ration experiment?  I've just been updating  the box on the right to include all my purchases since I last wrote about it.  And it's left me feeling rather fraudulent.  Why?  Because, a) I have a lot of clothes in my wardrobe, and b), when I have made purchases, they've been second-hand from a charity shop which doesn't cost coupons (5 balls of Sirdar Calico, an M&S t-shirt with the tags still on but labelled "donated goods").

So why does that make me feel fraudulent? Unlike my WW2 sisters, I'm not suffering for my fashion.  To be fair, I gave up on trying to be fashionable a long time ago, when the fashions stopped suiting my body type, so I am not desperately chasing the next big thing.  I don't care if my suit is 6 years old, as long as it still looks smart and fits in with my late-1930's/WW2 fashion style.  Additionally, in Wartime terms, I have quite an abundance of clothing, yarn and fabric stashed away.   Even shoes.  I suspect that level of abundance puts me in the league of the Wartime upper-middle class.

(On the shoe, thing.  After a conversation with Tall, when he claimed his wife had over 150 pairs of shoes - turns out she has 154 pairs and a database of them(!) - I went home and counted my pairs of shoes.  Before I tell you the total, please remember that I am a woman who generally wears the same pair loafers to work, lives in sandals in the summer and trainers in the winter.  So.... You'd expect me to have maybe a dozen pairs of shoes, right?   I have 35 pairs of shoes.  And I probably missed a pair or two in the counting.  And that includes my site boots, my gardening shoes, several pairs of boots, my slippers, etc, etc.  There were even pairs I'd forgotten I had.)

Perhaps I'd better keep this challenge going for a few years, instead of one?

- Pam

Friday, 28 June 2013

Categorise us

These things are givens: my blue-green eyes;  the brown curly hair that refuses to be tamed (I joke "it wears me"); that I am a musician; that I'm Mensa-level bright; that I like puzzles and solving problems but can't do crosswords; my need to create and craft; that I'm a damn good cook and love entertaining;  that I am a bookworm; that even though my father worked in a factory and my mother trained as a dressmaker, I am inexorably middle-class.

While some a physical attributes or accidents of history, many of the above are labels I stick on myself.  The human tendency to categorise people always amazes me.  As a species, we are awfully judgemental. We go about consigning our acquaintances to labelled boxes, e.g. "shelf stacker" or "nice but dim" or "arty" or, my favourite from a friend, "so common they'd make TOWIE look posh".   It can be funny watching the reactions when the labellee doesn't conform to the labeller's expectations - have you ever had someone protest to you, "But you're not like that!" when you do something that doesn't agree with their preconceptions? 

I've mentioned before that I hate to be labelled, hate the assumption that just because I like one thing, I will dislike another. In any given scenario, you can only possibly present part of yourself to the world.  The core "you" will always be present but it's highly unlikely that your closest loved ones will see the same version of you as your colleagues.  I am aware that pretty much everything people might know about me depends upon where and how we met, for example, at work most of my department do not know that I play RPGs on the weekends. I'm not ashamed of it but it's only ever come up in conversation once, at which point, I out geeked the guy who thought he was the resident geek. They know I sing in a choir but it's taken some of them years to reconcile my taste in classical music with going to rock concerts.  Wonder what they'd say if they knew the last band I listened to live played bluegrass and the one before that played skiffle?

On the flip side, if you knew me through role-playing or choir, it is unlikely my profession would have an impact on you.  At most, you'd know I'm an accountant in an engineering firm.  If pushed, I'd tell you about the business I look after now, possibly about the project I looked after for 5 years. There are days when I re-read some of the emails I've sent at work and think, "my God, I'm good at what I do" but, outside the recipients, only another accountant would get the impact of what I've written.  Maybe that's why many of my dearest girlfriends have a connection to my profession and the job I do.  When the "Ladies of A" get together, we trade war stories about segmental analysis, complain about revenue recognition, share the triumph that comes from finally being able to take the static figures from the management accounts as presented in Hyperion and drill all the way down into the ledgers to find the primary transactions.

If you were watching us from a nearby table at a restaurant, you probably wouldn't notice until after the second or third cocktail since the conversation is always interspersed with stories about husbands and children and football and holidays and houses and hobbies and homemaking.  Until that point, from the outside, we probably look like any other group of middle-aged "ladies who lunch".  After that point, when the alcohol  loosens the volume controls, you might notice the lack of conversation about hair and make-up while we dissect the technicalities of the accounts we manage (although we might make the occasional detour into shoes...).  Another case of appearances deceiving.  Not fitting in to neatly labelled boxes.

I am not a stereotype.  Don't try to make me one!

- Pam

(Incidentally, one of the funniest assumptions that has ever been made about me is when my Head of Project Controls and I went to check into a hotel in Glasgow and walked up to the reception desk together.  Having told the desk clerk that I'd booked two rooms, indicating my male colleague as I did so, the clerk promptly asked me if we'd like two keys to my room! J's face was a picture.  I hate to think what mine was like.)

Friday, 14 June 2013

How many meals?

This morning, I skived off work*, scooped up the contents of the meat fund and went to the kosher butcher.  It had been six months since my last visit, I had £230 to play with and a freezer that looked half full.  In the end, I spent £199.35 and bought the following:-

2kg roasting chicken - 3 meals plus stock
3 x 350g packets of chicken livers - 3 meals
2kg rolled turkey leg roast - 3 meals
marinated Tuscan lamb roast - 1 meal
1lb marinated stir-fry beef - 2 meals
4lb minced (ground) beef - 8 meals
Shoulder of lamb - 2 meals
5lb cubed steak - 5 meals
9 chicken breast fillets - 9 meals
Lamb spare ribs in honey - 1 meal
2 packs beef sausages - 2 meals
700g turkey schnitzels - 2-3 meals
6 packets stock cubes

So that's 41 or 42 meals where each meal feeds a minimum of 4.   The only thing I didn't buy was steak.  (I forgot.)

Let me restate it:  that's four roast dinners plus leftovers; three pre-prepared Chinese meals (just add veg and rice); nine large chicken breasts (250g each) which will make nine stir-fries/ risotto/pasta dishes or curries; five assorted beef stews or curries; 8 meals of minced beef and other possibilities; three of chicken livers; plus a bag of "I don't feel like cooking what have we got to eat?".

It will take us through to December by my reckoning.  Sometimes my ability to stretch out food amazes even me.  Of course, we eat the odd vegetarian meal - less frequently than you'd think - and a reasonable amount of fish (maybe 2lb a month if you include tinned tuna and pilchards), but we don't go hungry by any stretch of the imagination.  Nor do we eat out a lot.

Hmmm..... Do you remember back in October when I was toying with doing a Wartime Experiment but wondered about whether we could survive the food rations?  Dealing with the meat ration was really what was putting me off trying the experiment.  Well,'s  UK inflation calculator tells me that £200 today is the equivalent of £3/17/9 in 1941 money (£3, 17 shillings and 10 pence).  In 1941, the meat ration was 1s2d per week.  Therefore, I reckon I've just bought 15 weeks' worth of meat ration for two people.  Food for thought.

- Pam

* More to the point, since I have done at least 40 hours unpaid overtime since the start of May, which includes unwilling working 5 hours on Saturday and our timesheet week runs Saturday to Friday, I told my bosses that I was booking that time in my regular 40 hours and not working today.  (At my grade, I can't claim paid overtime.)

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Stopping for breath

Hello.  How was your weekend?  Mine was very productive.  This is the first weekend since the start of May that I didn't have work to do, and I made the most of it.  Friday, I finished work at 12, then met a friend for lunch and a very l-o-n-g chat (lunch finished at 6pm!).  Saturday, we went to the farm shop, the supermarket, then hit the garden.  Today, I collected Howard from the airport, cleaned the house, cooked up a batch of base, prepared dinner for tomorrow night as well as tonight. I even snatched an hour or so sitting in the garden today, knitting and listening to the cricket on the radio.

It might not sound like a completely fun weekend, but compared to the previous few it was bliss.  I've spent so much time working in May, that just getting a few hours to potter around the house was lovely.  There are two bank holidays in May, after the first - Monday 6th May - I worked 50 hours in 4 days.  You know how I normally work half days on Fridays?  Well, I left the office that Friday after 9pm.  We went on holiday on the Saturday - Malaga in Spain, I may tell you about it sometime - got home the following Saturday at 4pm and by 6pm, I was back logged on and worked until midnight.

And so the cycle continued. Early mornings.  Late evenings. Back and neck rigid with tension. Two more weeks. Two trips to Glasgow.  Two reviews with the Big Boss.  Final submission date was Thursday.  I went home on Thursday night, leaving my work laptop in my desk, feeling lighter than I had even while on holiday.   And being able to take this weekend off was a joy - housework or not.  We haven't quite finished, tomorrow has the potential to be nasty but, thanks to this weekend, I can face the day relaxed.

I hope your weekend has left you in a similar state.

- Pam

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Marry the man = Marry the job

Once upon a time, I had a friend who was dating a sports journalist. After a few months, she started getting very sulky about him spending most weekends of "the season" working. Her complaint was that you didn't date someone in order to spend most weekends alone; you dated them to have someone to spend weekends with! At the time, I was a bit mystified - surely she knew what his job entailed before they became a serious item? Hadn't she considered how it might impact on their time together? To not do so seemed to me to be as silly as those Army or Navy wives who complain when their husbands are sent abroad on a tour of duty. You knew that their job was their life when you got involved with them, so why exactly are you complaining?

A couple of weeks ago, a colleague asked me whether DH minded the long hours I put in and the travel that I do. The question surprised me*. It could be interpreted on several levels, although I am sure the original intention was just curiosity and a chance to compare someone-else's circumstances to his own. Of course, in a male dominated industry, there is always the sexist angle that we expect wives to put up with travelling husbands but vice-versa is rare enough to be an object of curiosity. However, I don't think that was his intention. Still, he got me thinking - what are the assumptions we make about our relationships? And that reminded me of my friend, above.

Maybe I am different from other people, but I have always assumed that you have to accept your partner as they are - and that includes accepting the impositions of their job. Marry the man; marry the job, as it were. Then again, I started my working life doing shift-work, in a job that required a degree of obsession to enable you to do it (nursing). Perhaps it has given me a different perspective. I don't understand when women (and it is usually women) complain about the hours their husbands put in, but they're happy to enjoy the benefits of the income his hard work pulls in. You can't have it both ways.

In engineering, there often isn't much of a choice - you want the job, then you have to work at site, miles from home. It isn't a lifestyle choice; it's a choice between earning an income or being unemployed; paying the mortgage or worrying about where the next meal comes from. Even if you are a permanent employee, there are only so many times you can turn down working away before it damages your billability and your career. Oh, and marks you down as dead-wood for the next round of redundancies.

However, a marriage is a partnership. If a job offer or promotion comes through that involves longer hours/weekend working/working away/a long commute then you have to discuss it. When the job is a lifestyle, both partners have to have buy-in, even though reality is there may be little or no choice. It is what it is. But both parties need to accept that. And accept that, if you love your partner, then you need to love their job too.

- Pam

* The answer, when I asked DH, was "No" but he's a bit fed up with dropping me off for early flights.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Office memo

To:  Tall and Dark

Cc:   Handsome



You come under the collective banner of "the men in my life". One way or another, I spend a considerable part of my waking life either talking with you or doing something with you in mind. There are days when I feel that I've acquired two more husbands: Tall and Dark (I'm married to Handsome). You two are my "office husbands", to listen to, cajole and worry over as necessary.  I do appreciate being your sounding board. And I'm very fond of you both. (Right now, with all the changes that have gone on at work, I feel like I've also acquired an office "Dad" - our new Commercial Director who is responding to things in a bewildered, "Father of the Bride" kind of way.)

How did it all get to be so complicated?  I remember at Christmas telling Tall that, daunting as the learning curve was, I'd loved every minute of the months since we'd changed regions and "long may it continue".  I was considerably more involved  in supporting Tall and it was fun.  I did wonder how long it would last before something came along to spoilt it all because, as I said then, "I'm not that lucky". And I'm not.  Turns out, the answer was less than six months.

It's been an interesting month since Tall, Dark and I met in Manchester (the "three amigos").  I can't talk about most of it on a blog - that would be both unwise and unfair - but I think that, if he is allowed, Dark will become a worthy successor to Tall in his (former) Commercial Director role.  While I have a very similar relationship with Dark as I do with Tall, unfortunately, Dark hasn't been allowed to take over all of Tall's role. (It's been split, which is how we acquired Dad.) But, just as I did with Tall, I anticipate finding myself sitting on a hotel bed in the late evening somewhere in Glasgow, in my best Dana Scully mode, typing up debriefs to Dark on my laptop:  downloading my brain into an email, setting out who said what and why, and trying to identify the relevant (and the logic) in what was discussed during a day of meetings.

I can't thank you enough, Tall and Dark, for the glimpses you've given me into the commercial aspects of running our business.  Since our business had no financial management support until I came along 2.5 years ago, the majority of your colleagues just view Finance as transactional with nothing else to offer (and that includes your big boss).  You know I've tried to change that - and you've tried to help me - but it's been like being stuck outside an invisible force-field, watching but unable to hear or participate in what is occurring inside.  Dad was certainly of that view when he took over his new role, but you have both tried to persuade him that it is a mistake to exclude me. It may be working - at least he's decided we need regular, fortnightly meetings.  We'll see what happens with them.

Will Dad succeed in his new job?  I don't know.  He seems to look at me (and you two, too), like a father confronted with his teen-aged children, wondering what-on-earth they're talking about.  He hears the words, but they aren't making sense at the moment.  Can we help him to understand?  I hope so.  But he has to put us in a position where we can help him.  Keep me or Dark out of the information loop and there's not a lot we can do to save him when he starts to drown.

Only time will tell.

- Pam

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Book Review - That Woman by Anne Sebba

This was a book that I'd wanted to read for a while, a biography of one of the most notorious women of the 20th century: Wallis Simpson.  When I thought about it, what did I really know about Mrs Simpson?  Only that she was the twice divorced woman Edward VIII couldn't live without and gave up his throne to marry.  For that matter, what did I know about the King apart from that he was known as "David" to his friends and family? 

Sebba does a good job at filling in the gaps in my knowledge of both lives.  David is an insecure womaniser,  a man of obsessions, a spoilt brat to whom only his parents ever said "no".  His world revolved around him and his pleasures; while his parents world revolved around "doing your duty" and "putting the country first".  He spent the 1920's deeply in love with one married woman, Freda Dudley Ward, before dropping her for another, Thelma, Lady Furness.

Wallis grew up as the poor relation of a wealthy family and Sebba demonstrates that the insecurity that caused never left her.  She marries early, selling herself in marriage to a man she barely knows but one who offers glamour and some level of financial security.  Win Spencer was a pilot, in the US's fledgeling Naval Air Service.  He was also a cad and a drunkard, who set about boosting his own ego but undermining his wife's.  The marriage fails and Wallis goes looking for a new man upon which to hang her dreams, eventually meeting and marrying Ernest Simpson.  The rest of her story is fairly well known and is the focus for the majority of the book.

This is a book that is well written and well researched.  Where Sebba loses me is her argument that Wallis' flirtatiousness and childlessness was driven by a totally unfounded claim - that Wallis suffered from a Disorder of Sexual Development ("DSD"), possibly pseudo-hermaphroditism, where the sufferer is genetically male but grows up female because her body is insensitive to androgen  By advancing this argument, Sebba totally ignores the social mores of the time and the subsequent effects on all Wallis's girlfriends.  Wallis belonged to a class in which, during the early 20th century,  the only way to obtain security/wealth/position was to marry well. Having a career and creating your own financial independence was out of the question. Forget about marrying for love - those girls were bought up to consider a man's fortune and his prospects before they considered his personality.  It is, therefore, no surprise to discover that few of her contemporaries/friends had successful first marriages. 

How did you win and keep your man?  You had to impress upon him that he was the most important person in your world, strong, handsome, the focus of all your attention.  If you ever watch a flirt in action, that is what they do.  They bewitch you with their charm by making you feel wonderful.  As the poor relation in an upper-class world, Wallis had to master the art of flirtation because all she had to offer was herself.  The flip side was that flirting gave her a sense of worth; as long as men fancied her, she had value.  The only time in her life that Wallis felt fulfilled by things she did - as opposed to the attention she was paid - was during World War 2, when she volunteered for the Red Cross in France.

What about her childlessness?  Sebba contends that birth control was unreliable so there must have been something physically wrong with Wallis.  Rather than DSD, it is statistically more probable that either Win Spencer or one of her subsequent lovers gave her chlamydia or gonorrhoea, diseases which cause physical damage to the fallopian tubes and lead to abdominal adhesions, which may explain her later gastric problems as well as her inability to conceive.  In addition, by the mid-1920's, Wallis would have been able to obtain reliable birth control in the form of a diaphragm either from one of Marie Stopes' clinics or from a sympathetic gynaecologist.

Sebba's final argument in support of DSD, that Wallis is rather masculine in appearance ignores something she argues later:  that both Wallis and David suffered from anorexia nervosa.  Through most of her adult life, Wallis kept her weight below 7.5 stone (100lb).  If a woman has insufficient body weight, her ovaries will cease to function, causing infertility.  Additionally, how can your body lay down "womanly" fatty deposits (i.e. to soften the face) when there is no fat to spare?

I wish that, rather than waste her time finding arguments to support her flimsy theory of DSD, Sebba had spent the time and word count focussing on Wallis's life after the War.  Compared to the inter-war years, this period is glossed over completely.  I doubt that it is less well documented.

On the whole, I give this book 7 out of 10.

- Pam

Saturday, 30 March 2013

On Sleep

My internal alarm clock is screwing with me again and not letting me sleep in.  Yesterday, Good Friday, I was awake at 5.30am.  Today, I made it through to 6.15.  Wow! A whole 30 minutes more than my usual, scheduled week day alarm.  You can tell, I'm not best pleased to wake up early on two days when I don't have to go to work and could actually sleep in.  Even on work days, I'm routinely awake half an hour before the alarm goes off.

What is it, body?  What are you trying to tell me?  Thursday, last week, I had to go to Manchester by train.  The only unusual thing about this trip is that, instead of travelling solo, I was travelling with a colleague and he was picking me up at 5.45am, on the way to the station.  So why did I wake up at 4am, instead of with my alarm at 4.30?  I'd gone to bed late-ish so couldn't have had more than 5 hours sleep.  Of course, you had to top that on Friday morning when, having gone to bed at 3am, you woke me abruptly in a panic 10 minutes before my alarm was due to go off at 7am, telling me I'd slept in.  I felt absolutely shattered all morning.   (Nothing whatsoever to do with the wine/whisky I'd drunk the night before or the fact that we only went up to bed because they closed the bar on us at 2.30am.*)  Ten minutes!  Couldn't you at least have let me enjoy those ten minutes in sleep?


- Pam

*  While the focus of the Manchester trip was to deal with some serious work issues, it was also the opportunity for the "Three Amigos" to get together afterwards, switch off and be sociable.  The "Three Amigos" are me, my current Commercial Director (who is being shunted into Sales by management) and his chosen successor, our Head of Project Controls, who currently looks after my two major projects.  We are good friends and would probably have talked all night, if the bar closing hadn't reminded us about the passage of time.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Musical memories

One of the things that set humans apart from the other animals is that we make music.  There is evidence that we made music long before the Neanderthals died out - I think Howard Goodall's History of Music series on the BBC cites a 28,000 year old bone flute!  Possibly, it's something we discovered early on, not long after the first ape decided it was better to live on the plains and sprint across them on two legs with your arms pumping hard.

However it came about, music can be evocative, triggering memories of people, events and emotions almost - but not quite - forgotten.  How many of us tuck away the memory of a boyfriend together with the music you heard on the radio all that summer, so that when you hear a certain song again years later, all the memories of him come flooding back?  How many couples have "their song"?

On the flip side to that, how many times do you find yourself remembering a particular song, after certain events have occured?  I grew up by the beach, so a hot summer's day accompanied by the smell of the sea will always make me think of "Beach Baby" by First Class, and going down the beach with my mates during the long summer days of high school.

When the gloom and cold get to me and work seems to be one long day after another, there  is a particular song that plays in my head.  It's the words of Banjo Paterson's Clancy of the Overflow set to music by some Australian country singer.  While I have vague memories of a single being released around 1980 (possibly this one), the version in my head is one which was played live to me and some classmates on our year 12 camp.  We were high up in the snowy mountains near Gelantipy and the guy who performed it belonged to the campsite.  I don't know how many times during a long and frustrating day at work, I've heard him singing in my head:-

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
    Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
   Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.
And I somehow fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,
   Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal -
   But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of "The Overflow".*
It's my escapist fantasy poem.  The music is little more than the hook upon which the poetry was reeled into my mind. I've lost count of how many offices I've sat in and recalled those words, wishing like the Banjo that I could replace the endless grind of "the cashbook and the journal" with wide open fields and the bush.
And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
   In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
  And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.*
I don't get homesick often.  But I was chatting with a colleague about Australia, trying to put into words how I feel about my homeland, and ended up quoting poetry to him, starting with Dorothea Mackellar's My Country  (still under copyright so read it via the link) followed by Clancy of the Overflow.  (Yes, I did find myself wondering whether I must be crazy to quote poetry to one of the guys at work, but it didn't seem to go down too badly.) 

Anyway, the above is all a longwinded way to explain why I've just wasted an hour trying to find a recording that matches - even vaguely - the recording of Clancy of the Overflow that plays in my head. There are dozens of recordings on Amazon: some performances that just made me cringe; others that reminded me of the Australian country dances craze that surfaced in the 1980's on the eve of the Bicentenary.  I want the one that will evoke the smell of eucalyptus trees on a summer's evening mingling with the smell of wood-smoke from a fire that's just been lit because the temperature is dropping rapidly after sunset.  I ended up with this version by "The Colonial Boys".  It's not bad, but I can't smell the wood-smoke.  I think I am going to have to keep looking.

- Pam

* Extracts from Clancy of the Overflow by Andrew Barton ("Banjo") Paterson, first published in "The Bulletin, 21 December 1889.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Belated post for St Valentine's Day

(I meant to write this for St Valentine's Day but lack of time got in the way.  This is a post where I pull myself up to my full 5 feet 4 inches and dispense the wisdom I've accumulated over the years and ramble on about love....)

In the recent past, three incidents have occured which got me thinking about the subject of "Love" and what it means.  The first was a meal with a friend where she described her last-but-one and last-but-two relationships as "love-less". (Never met the most recent guy.) Both relationships lasted 3 or 4 years and, well, at the time she definitely fooled me. I tried to get to the bottom of what she meant, without asking intrusive questions that might shut her up, and was left with more unasked questions than answers.

The second was this very thoughtful post about love and relationships by my friend, Diana. (Please, go away and read her post and then come back.  OK?)

The third was a conversation with another friend, one of my fellow sopranos from choir.  She told me about bumping into an old friend recently, a man to whom she was very much attracted.  The problem was that he has a very different belief system to her own - something she found abhorrent - and she was having a difficult time getting her head around her abhorrence and why not compromising her own beliefs is important.

Anyway, it all got me thinking...

My philosophy regarding love has always been that it doesn't matter if I end up hurt so long as a) I don't hurt anyone I care about in the process, and b) I can get to 95 and say proudly to myself "Wow! I lived. I had a great time!".  If you don't risk love and the pain that comes from broken relationships then you aren't living; you are just existing.

As far as I can tell, real "love" is based on four things:-
  1. Sexual attraction. Often this is the hardest part. For the last 20 years, I've worked in male dominated environments with some really nice guys. At times I was single but I've spent most of that time with DH.  From all that time, I can count on my fingers the colleagues whose mere presence makes/made my pulse race. Pheromones play a large part in that, the rest is indefinable. And, surprisingly, you can feel the pull even if you're happily/deeply/enthrallingly in love with someone else.
  2. Genuine liking. You can like someone, even fancy them, but if there's something you don't like about their attitudes or opinions it will niggle and eat away at you. I don't mean they have to like everything you do, just have considered opinions you can respect. It's how you instinctively respond to the throw away remarks - don't belittle that. For instance, on one date, the guy made a throw away remark that made me realise that I couldn't trust him. It's the throw away remarks that give real clues to someone's character. And if you don't like someone's character, that's a real turn-off sexually.
  3. Genuine caring for the other party. It's about putting the other person's feelings before your own, say when you don't go to that party because it'd be awkward with his kids and ex-wife. We've all watched-from-the-sidelines relationships where one party is really demanding and the other is always in a spin trying to please them. And that's not a loving relationship; it's abuse. There's a song Leanne Rimes recorded with the lyrics "When it's all over, it's not over for you...When you love enough for both of you, no one else has to do...". It is a song about a one-sided relationship and when I think about my relationship with Dumbo, that song always plays in my head. I loved and cared about him, he only cared about himself/what he could get out of the relationship.

  4. Trust/honesty. In order to have trust, both parties have to be honest with themselves and each other. We all know someone who was so desperate to be in a relationship that they "settled" for someone who'd "do" and, years later, when the relationship split up a) they tell you that it was a loveless relationship and b) nobody-else is surprised.

    Also, with the trust thing: I've spent quite a lot of time working away from home, staying in hotels with my male colleagues. (Engineering is like that.) I'll spend those evenings in the bar/restaurant/on a pub crawl/watching sport with the guys, being "one of the lads". If DH didn't trust me, those evenings would leave him sitting at home in an agony of jealousy, which would eat away at our relationship like a cancer. (Incidentally, you know when you're one of the lads when, at the Christmas Party, they do a double take when they see you all glamm'ed up because they've stopped thinking of you in that way.)

    And,  finally, on the subject of trust. You have to trust yourself that nothing will happen if, when thrown together on an away trip, you or the guy-who-gets-your-pulse-racing are already in relationships with people you love and care about. It's being honest about what is more important to you - a quick fling or your existing relationship. (Also, affairs never work out well.  Might as well just enjoy spending the next few years with an added zing in your work relationship.)
Gross generalisation time:-
  • From personal observation, women often confuse lust and sex with "love", while men appear to have the capacity to compartmentalise them into different emotional boxes. 
  • Women get so hung up on finding Mr Right that they scare guys off and ruin potentially great relationships. Mr Right-for-now is enough. If he's going to turn into Mr Right-forever then it will happen without worrying about it/brooding over it/choosing your engagement ring on some arbitrary timetable.
  • On the flip side to that, you get women who spend years with a bloke they like but with whom the lust has worn off very quickly because they perceive it to be better to have someone than no-one. Once upon a time, I worked with an office junior who confided that her new boyfriend had just been arrested for beating up his previous girlfriend.  She was so happy to finally have someone in her life that she couldn't understand why we were all so horrified.  In order to make her understand, I actually asked her, "do you think so little of yourself that you're happy to settle for someone who beats up his girlfriends?"
  • You cannot predict the future. Nobody can. Whatever armchair psychologists say, people do not conform to sets of rules - everyone is different and every relationship must be approached on its own terms. You cannot predict one person's behaviour from how another behaves in similar circumstances. However, if you watch someone's behaviour over a period of time, you may discern a pattern that is applicable to them. (Anyone know a serial committment-phobe?)
  • If you actually like someone and fancy them, tell them!  Women drop lots of hints but they never actually say what they want or mean.  How can the poor bloke decipher whether you like him or not, if you don't actually say it?
  • Nothing is scarier to a man than a woman out on the pull, or vice-versa.  Seriously, nothing will put a man off faster than being dressed up like a WAG, combing the bar looking for a date, while giving off the aura of "desperate".  Want to know how that appears to a man?  Think of all the sleazy blokes who try to chat you up doing their best Howard Walowitz.  Got it?
The critical thing is, make friends with members of the opposite sex and love will follow when you least expect it.  Trust me on this.  I'm married to a wonderful guy and I have a lot of male friends.  And it was through one of those friends that I met DH.  I do not have men falling over me every time I walk in a room, a la Marilyn Monroe.  I am not a stunning beauty. (I think I look "OK", but that's all.)  But I spend a lot of time with men - frequently, I'm the only woman in the group - and I know men like me.  (To quote one colleague:  "You're pretty. You like beer and football.  And you cook. You are an engineer's wet dream!".)

Whilst I know anecdotally that some people have had success with internet dating, virtually everyone I know who is in a stable relationship met their partner through work or friends or shared interests.  It sounds trite, but if you're looking for a man go where the men are:  learn about football and rugby and cricket; play role-playing-games; take up martial arts; join the gym and lift weights.  These are places where single men are found.  Make friends with men and, sooner or later, you'll meet one who has that certain something and thinks you do too.

(If you're a bloke and you are looking for love and you can read music and pitch a note, for God's sake join a choir.  Not only is every amateur choir in the country desperate for male singers, choirs and drama groups are where you'll find the single women. Also dance classes and salsa nights. Trust me on this.)

If you are looking for love, good luck.  I hope the above is helpful to you.

- Pam

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Interior Lives, Exterior People

*** Spoiler Alert ***

If you are a fan of NCIS and haven't seen episode 2, season 9 (a.k.a. "Restless"), read on at your peril.  This blog post contains spoilers and a link to a full plot synopsis.

***End of Spoiler Alert ***

Last night, after DH and I watched episode 2, season 9 of NCIS, I fell asleep thinking about how everyone has interior and exterior lives.  The episode includes a storyline about a delusional 27 year old woman, who has been living as a teenage girl, running away from her foster families just before her "18th" birthday and then establishing herself as a 16-year-old in a new foster family somewhere else.  She truly believed she was that teenager; it wasn't an impersonation or an act.

Anyway, it got me thinking. We all have a fantasy life and a reality life, but most of us can distinguish between the two. Out fantasy life includes our internal dialogue - the things we can't say or act out.  Here's a typical example from my life:  Tuesday 6-ish pm, my New Boss phones me.  Outwardly, I'm my usual cheerful, chatty, polite self. We talk for 10 minutes. Inside my head, I'm thinking "Will you please just get to the point man and go away!  I'm busy. Got at least an hour's more work to do before I can go home.  I'm already well into overtime and you're wasting my time."  Of course, I say none of those things.  But that's what I'm trying to describe when I talk about internal and external lives:  internally the quiet guy in Corporate may daydream about how he'd seduce the new secretary in Legal; externally, he's still trying to find out her name and if she's single. 

Young children act out their fantasy lives all the time.  As they play a box becomes a castle, a house, a king's throne and then a boat.  They live the experience, peopling the world around them with characters from whichever plot they're imagining.  How many young boys have jumped off the shed roof, believing they're Superman and can fly?

I think a sign of growing up is the disassociation between fantasy and reality; it's knowing the difference between what's in my head and what's actually happening.  It's also knowing that actions have consequences.  For many, knowing the difference between reality and fantasy is the definition of sanity.  

We all - all of us - have a real life and a fantasy life that just exists in our heads.  For most people, the borders between the two are distinct and the fantasy life is kept well hidden, confined to daydreams or the inner dialogue where you're reliving that conversation with your boss/husband/colleague and wishing you'd said x, y or z.  It's what we feed when we read novels or watch films.  I don't know about you, but if I can't identify with the main character(s) and lose myself in their story, I lose interest and stop reading/watching.

Humans have been telling each other stories for thousands of years. Novelists are people who can take their interior, fantasy world, put it down on paper and tell convincing stories with it.  It's a gift.   A good story passes the reality test, i.e. it gives a "yes" answer to the following question: if confronted with those circumstances would I or someone I know act in that way?  Doesn't matter if it's a modern murder mystery or set in a feudalistic fantasy world where an elite troop ride dragons out to fight the enemy.  The characters have to act credibly.  (As an aside, years ago, I tried to read The Da Vinci Code.  Whilst I could get beyond the annoying chapter structure - seriously, one paragraph = one chapter?? - I couldn't get beyond the point where the hero walks into a bank in the middle of France within a day or so of the story beginning and the conspirators know who he is and are expecting him.  Just not credible.)

Where am I going with all this?  Last week, I attended the role-playing games convention, Conception.  Four days of battling demons and enemy legions, from the safety of a comfy chair around a table in the New Forest, using multi-sided dice as your weapons of fate.  Trying to explain RPGs to a muggle is difficult, although the Wikipedia definition is a good starting point:
A role-playing game (RPG and sometimes roleplaying game[1][2]) is a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative, either through literal acting, or through a process of structured decision-making or character development.[3] Actions taken within many games succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines.
At Conception, as at most games conventions, we were using pregenerated characters.   The interesting thing happens in a campaign game when people generate their own.   Often you get clues as to the person they are in their own inner fantasies.  I know one man who always plays a female character and she always the same: a cross between Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Wonder Woman.  It didn't take long to realise that she is his fantasy woman, the one he'd like to seduce.  Another man I know always plays the military hero type: his characters will always do something rash like a HALO jump at night when they have a 5% skill in parachute.  (On that particular campaign, we invented the phrase "going out for an alibi".  While he was off doing something risky, our characters would go out for a meal in a public place, thus establishing their alibis and proving they couldn't possibly be involved in his stupid plan.)

Me?  Often the clue is in the name of my characters:  Dana Scully, Ziva.  I like to play strong, smart females.  Frequently science types.   What does that say about me?

- Pam

Friday, 25 January 2013

The Toy's Last Milestone

They took my Toy car away on Tuesday. I'd spent what-felt-like days caught up in the insurance-company-telephone-death-spiral. Net result: he was written-off and taken for scrap. When the drove him onto the transporter, I seriously wondered if I was doing the right thing - it felt like a betrayal.

This is his last ever milestone.

Goodbye Toy and thank you for all the great times.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The Toy is No More

My Toy car just got written off!  He was parked up on the street opposite our house and one of the teachers from the neighbouring school just drove straight into him.  Head on collision. 

Smashed headlight.  Smashed grill.  Punctured radiator.  Damaged bumper-bar.  Too old and too many miles for it to be an economic repair (264,500 miles on the clock and 12 years of service).   The insurance company have told me to remove all my personal belongings and they'll arrange for a salvage company to take him away to the big scrapyard in the sky.

I'd spent today home sick and was lying on the couch under a duvet when I heard the sound of glass smashing followed by car crash noises.  Looked out the window and saw a car with its hazards flashing.  Looked for the Toy and realised he was 15 feet or so down the road from where I'd parked him on Monday night and not looking healthy.

Damn, damn, damn!!!!

I know he was old and had high mileage - after all, I am responsible for over 99% of them.  But this isn't the way I thought he'd go.  I thought we'd get to 300,000 miles and then, possibly, trade him in.  Or aim for 350k and see what happened.  It's not dignified and it's not fair!

Now I'm going to have to spend the next few days finding and buying a new car.  Not what I'd planned to do but commuting to work by train is not a long term option either economically or time-wise.  As it is, I'm going to take the rest of the week off sick because I'm certainly not well enough to face that train journey.  And I may work from home for a few days next week.

- Pam

PS:  The driver of the other vehicle is OK.  A bit shaken but not hurt.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

PipneyJane's Wartime Experiment - Fashion on the Ration

As mentioned in my New Year's Day post, I've been toying with the idea of implementing some type of WW2 wartime experiment.  (I first mentioned the idea in this post back in October.)  So far, what I've decided to do is Fashion on the Ration.   Anyone willing to join me?

The 1941 clothing ration was 66 coupons, which had to cover everything:  underwear, stockings, socks, hats, shoes, skirts, jackets, shirts, trousers, coats, knitting yarn, etc.  The idea behind the ration was that it would enable everyone to buy one new complete outfit per year, nothing more, nothing less. Second hand items were exempt.

 Government announcement in the Times, June 3, 1941

In larger print:

Item Of ClothingWomenGirls
Lined mackintosh or coat over 28"1411
Under 28" short coat or jacket118
Frock, gown or dress of wool118
Frock, gown or dress of other fabric75
Bodice with girls skirt or gym tunic86
Divided skirt or skirt75
Dungarees or overalls64
Blouse, shirt, sports top, cardigan or jumper53
Pair of slippers, boots or shoes53
Other under garments including corsets32
Petticoat or slip, cami knickers or combinations43
Apron or pinafore32
Scarf, gloves, mittens or muff22
Stockings per pair21
Ankle socks per pair11
1 yard wool cloth 36"wide33
2 ounces of wool knitting yarn11

Assumptions for the challenge:-
  • 1 metre of fabric equals 1 yard.  No penalty for width.
  • 2 ounces of wool knitting yarn equals 50g of any knitting yarn.
  • Based on the quantity of fabic and work involved, a "corset" is the equivalent of two bras.
  • Ditto one pair of Cami-knickers would equal two pairs of modern bikini-style knickers or thongs.
  • Bodice with skirt = shirt/blouse/t-shirt purchased at the same time as a matching or co-ordinating skirt or trousers = 8 coupons.
  • Dungarees = jeans = 6 coupons.
  • Divided skirt = trousers = 7 coupons.

Examining my wardrobe-crystal-ball for 2013, I know that I'll need to acquire at least the following:-
  1. Underwear.  At 4 coupons a pair of cami-knickers, new underwear will be very expensive.  However, I will argue that one pair of 1940's cami-knickers uses the same fabric as two pairs of modern bikini-style knickers, giving the equivalency of 2 coupons per pair of knickers.  So, lets say I'll buy 5 new pairs at a cost of 10 coupons.
  2. A navy blue suit.  Currently, this is the one thing my work-wardrobe is missing.  The question is: do I make or do I buy?  I reckon I could make an entire suit:  jacket, trousers and skirt with 5 metres of woollen cloth and 3 metres of lining fabric, if I line it. Purchased is 25 coupons while home-made is 24 coupons.  Of course, if I find one in a charity shop, that will be coupons saved.
  3. New loafers.  I get through a pair a year so that's 5 coupons gone.
  4. Ditto another pair of trainers.  Another 5 coupons spent.
So that's 44 or 45 coupons spent before I consider t-shirts, blouses, jeans, knitting yarn, etc.  Hmmm......

- Pam

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

PS: I agree with Dilbert

2013 (and a quick review of 2012)

My first lie-in of 2013 ended at 7.52am when, after 6 hours sleep, I gave up trying to go back to sleep, got up and went and had a shower.  If the start-the-New-Year-as-you-mean-to-go-on brigade are to be believed, my 2013 will consist of a lot of early starts and not much sleep.

Still, it's given me some time to consider how 2012 went and what I'll do differently in 2013.  In 2012, I had multiple goals.  Here's how they went:-

  1. The nebulous fitness goal: to strengthen my body by working out/lifting weights three times a week.  Big fail.  Didn't work out once.  I am weaker now than I was a year ago.
  2. The not-so-nebulous fitness goal: to be able to run 5k/3 miles without stopping, and to achieve this before my birthday in August. Another big fail.  I just couldn't get out of bed to start running.
  3. To be more organised.  Nebulous, but successful. 
  4. To be tidy.  My desk at work has stopped breeding paper.  'Nuff said.
  5. To buy less than 12 items of clothing in 2012 (underwear, socks and stockings exempted).  SUCCESS!!!  My purchases for 2012:  3 pairs of jeans, 2 t-shirts, 1 blouse, 2 hats, 1 suit;  so 9 items in total.
  6. To knit 1 pair of socks every 2 months. SUCCESS.  By October, I'd finished 7 pairs of socks and am now 70% through an 8th.
  7. To knit 6 sweaters.  Partial success.  I finished 5 sweaters, including Pretty In Pink (still needs to be photographed).
  8. To lose 14lb in weight.  Partial success.  By June, I'd lost 7lb but put most of it back on by the end of the year.
  9. To only buy yarn from a) charity shops or b) if it is less than £3/ball. Oh, and the yarn budget for 2012 will be £60 for the year, no more.  This was successful until I went to the Knit & Stitch Show at Ally Pally back in October. I nearly didn't go until a friend persuaded me.  Then I went mad.  I refuse to tell you how much I spent.
  10. To really work at having a decent veggie garden this year. I'd like to be able to feed us from it for days/weeks at a time.  Big fail.  The garden yielded garlic, onions and potatoes.  That's all.  The onions weren't particularly big, either.  If anyone tells you that gardening is easy, they're lying.
  11. To use things up. I have a stockpile of "stuff": make-up, fabric, cross stitch stuff, yarn, etc, and it's time to make a dent in it.  SUCCESS.  I cleared out the stockpile of hotel shampoo, made a big dent in the collection of hotel body-wash (we still have tons), and the body lotion stockpile has decreased dramatically.  The make-up stockpile is down by three make-up bases, one blusher and two mascaras.  However, I think it'll take me a decade to use up my lipstick collection.
On the whole, I think I didn't do too badly.  How did you do with your New Year's Resolutions from 2012?

Highlights of 2012 were the trip to Oman, my sister's visit, the various concerts I performed in, the Last Night of the Proms, the Queen's Jubilee and the Olympics/Paralympics. DH is working at a job that stimulates his mind instead of just paying the bills (and enjoying every minute, as far as I can tell).  On Ravelry, I participated in the Ankh-Morpork Knitters Guild Guild Wars 2012, competing in every round. Workwise, I have a new job title at work ("Finance Manager") and a new reporting structure, but my job hasn't really changed.  It's just got more complicated.

Goals for 2013.

I am not proposing to set many goals for 2013.  I know, earlier this year, I toyed with setting a Wartime Experiment challenge for myself, but I'm not sure I'm up to it.  Anyway, this is my list so far:-
  1. 2013 is my year of vintage knitting.  For sweaters, I will only knit from vintage or vintage-style patterns.
  2. To only buy British/locally manufactured yarns.
  3. To work out 5 days a week, either weight training or running.
  4. To lose 20lb in weight.
  5. To work on my voice and my musicality.  I'm a very lazy singer and need to work much harder.
  6. To build a cash cushion.  I'm aware that Toy won't last forever (he's done 264,000 miles) and want to pay cash for the next car.
  7. To finish the downstairs of the house.  It's time we had a real kitchen.
  8. To get a dog.
Happy New Year everyone!!!