Friday, December 28, 2007

Looking Back, looking forward...

Well, Christmas day was a quiet affair. I went to my parents for dinner and we all ate big dinners and imbibed some nice wine, crackers were pulled, gifts were opened and afternoon naps were taken by my parents while I regressed and watched Finding Nemo. I had some great gifts:
  • A wonderful calendar of garden photos all the way from the Hollywood Hills, taken by Naomi herself of 'Here in the Hills'.
  • A macro lens for my dSLR (does the Snoopy dance).
  • A monopod for my camera :)
  • Perfume
  • The usual choccies
  • Socks (thanks mum!)
  • Aromatherapy paraphernalia (thanks CQ and D)
It is perhaps no surprise that two of my closest friends bought me aromatherapy and 'pampering' style gifts for Christmas. As you might know I have been feeling rather stressed the past few weeks, due to work, study and a family situation and lately I have not been feeling myself at all and I have not been well. I am feeling a little less stressed now which is good news.

January is named after the god 'Janus' who had two faces and could look forward to the new year and back on the old one. Quite frankly I will be glad to see the back of this year. It has pretty much been my Annus
Horribles. For most of the year I have been dealing with my divorce which is now settled, though at times it has been very hard. It was the right thing to do but after 14 years of being together it was difficult to deal with. My mother became ill in April and was in and out of hospital many times which was worrying, but is thankfully doing much better now. I changed jobs in April due to my post in the organisation being cut. Luckily they found me another one but lately I have had to fend off sabotage of my projects from another team leader whilst also facing the potential cut of my post in further downsizing in the organisation (I am still waiting to hear the outcome). In the summer my family were affected by the flooding in the UK and then in September my niece was killed in an accident with a car. Since then my younger brother has launched a personal and abusive attack on me and I can't even imagine what I have done. It has been most upsetting and I have been very down at times with too many tears shed.

Of course it wasn't all awful. I did get to visit Vienna which was lovely and I did pass my last round of MBA exams which meant that I could proceed to the final project
and I will hopefully graduate next May. I am sincerely optimistic that 2008 will be a kinder year. I have much healing to do still and will have difficulties to face on the work front and my studies to finish. I do not make New Year resolutions but, like Janus I do face the coming year with hope and the resolve to put 2007 behind me where it belongs. I wish all of you a prosperous New Year, filled with health, wealth and happiness, especially for those of you whom I know have also had difficlut times. I wish it for myself too.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

It's 6am on Christmas morning and I can't sleep. This hour of the morning is not a stranger to me on this day. As a kid I would always be too excited to sleep, wondering if Santa had been and looking forward to opening my presents. I would be so excited that this hour of the morning would be no stranger to my parents either on this day, as invariable my brother and I would wake my parents up whispering loudly or moving around (quietly we thought, but I suspect more like bull elephants). I remember sneaking down to see the presents under the tree and being filled with awe and wonder at what seemed a miracle to my young mind.

As I grew older I learnt that Christmas was a time for giving as well as receiving and to this day I enjoy watching others open the gifts I have bought them more than receiving gifts myself. The look on their face when you have got it just right is priceless and I must admit that I get such a kick of seeing someone I love made happy by a gift that I have chosen for them. If there was a real Santa then I can truly understand what his reward is for doing his night's work and I am not just talking about the mince pies and assorted drinks left out for him!

However, no matter how central the giving of gifts is to this celebration, I think it is important to remember the true meaning of Christmas, which is not the commercial whirlygig of buying presents, but in peace and goodwill to all men. I remember learning about the men in the trenches during WWI coming across No-mans-land to meet, share rations and play football together on Christmas Day. I am awake because my family is divided. Since the death of my niece it has fallen apart and some upsetting things have been done and said. On this day, I am awake pondering all of this and wondering if our family can play it's own game of football.

I wish all of my friends in blogland a very Merry Christmas and for those who do not celebrate it, Happy Holidays. Seasons Greetings, goodwill and peace be with you.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Santa's Little Helper

Hi! I cannot believe how busy I have been lately or how stressful! I had three meetings on Tuesday and two of them were to do with the 'Alpha Male' situation (see here). After a very tiring day it looks like our corner is being defended by the team leader so I am optimistic but I am not naive enough to think that things will be smooth. The team leader was meeting with Alpha Male today so I guess I will find out what the outcome is tomorrow. Still, the good news is that I got my MBA essay finished and handed in. I had to stay up until midnight after getting home from the meetings but I worked all evening and I did it and I think it's good enough to pass. I am much relieved. I think Tuesday was one of the most stressful days in my life!

Anyway, during one of the micro-breaks I took away from my essay over the weekend I came across the little fella in the clip below which made me laugh. I do believe he is all set to help Santa deliver the presents this year :)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Mind Googles

I was idly checking my blog site meter stats yesterday as it made a pleasing diversion from the essay I had been slaving over all day. It can get tiring solving your organisational problems y'know so a girl needs a small break! Anyway, I was marvelling at how flung some people are that visit my humble blog. Lately I have had visitors from Morocco, Guam, Australia (Hi Melody), Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, Spain (Hi Mar), India (Hi PS), Canada (Hi Carmi) and just about every state in the US (Hi All) and from all over Great Britain. It's quite amazing to think that people are able to read my ramblings from so far away!

I also found it interesting to see how people came to my blog. I recognised many of the folks who often visit me and found that a lot of people end up at my blog through Google. These are the search words that seem to bring them here:
  • Bobcat or Bobkat
  • Smallest castle (in the world/ in England/in Britain)
  • Bouncy balls
  • Gorillas
Interestingly enough my nom de plume brings flocks of people to my site. I can only assume they are disappointed when they get here if they are looking for large earth moving equipment, a patented hull design or llamas! Yes, you read that correctly, llamas (check out the links in bold). However, one set of search words particularly amused me and perturbed me all at once. I cannot begin to wonder what type of person this is or why, after typing in those search words they visited my blog, or why they should think that these particular 'items' would be any different on Christmas Eve to the rest of the year. Sometimes, I think such questions are best left unanswered.

For now, it's back to the essay for me, wish me luck as I'm up against a tight deadline, and next week I have an important meeting where I find out if I still have my job or if Alpha Male is being put back in his box. After that I have my work Christmas meal. I'm not sure I'll be in the mood but hopefully I will have something to celebrate rather than sorrows to drown.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Great gifts!

I am still extremely busy so I haven't been around in blog land much lately. I am still trying to finish my MBA essay which I am having all kinds of trouble with and to top that I am currently working all kinds of hours to keep my job. I don't want to go into details but a senior manager from another team has decided that the strategy work my team does should be under him. He is a typically pushy Alpha male and has been sabotaging a project I have been working on by gaining support for having it scrapped in favour of his project, which would mean he would secure the funding and staff he is desirous of at the expense of my team. This is causing me quite a bit of stress.

At least I have finished my Christmas shopping! I am just waiting for one or two things to be delivered (fingers crossed). However, for those of you still struggling to find that 'hard-to-get' present for that tricky friend or relative that has everything, or who is difficult to please I have a few ideas which might help (links to sites in bold). For the dog lover or sports enthusiast I think the calendar above is ideal as it combines them both! Apparently it is packed full of Westies having fun!

I haven't forgotten the cat lovers either and I have found this delightful tea towel holder. It is both a novelty cat item and a useful thing for the kitchen or cloakroom. How delightful!
For those who like to have the newest gadgets and who like to lead the way in the fashion stakes I think this banana mobile phone holder would be perfect! Talking to fruit it is also healthy for the calories counters among your friends and family.

So there you have it, your last minute difficult present problems have been solved! I do not charge for this service, the looks on their faces as they open their gifts is enough reward. I will try and visit you all soon :)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Brussels (sans sprouts)

I am back from Brussels now and although I spent most of my time there in meetings I did get a free evening to explore. So, straight after the first day's meetings I went back to the hotel to freshen up and then it was straight out and about.

The weather was showery and chilly but that didn't dampen my spirits as I always love being in a foreign city with time, no matter how little, to explore. I have been to Brussels on business before so I headed straight for the Grand Place, a wonderful cobbled square surrounded by grand historic buildings. The first time I saw it, it made me gasp at it's architectural grandeur. I did not expect it to have the same effect on me again but I was wrong. It was dark by the time I got there and as I rounded the corner and the square opened up before me I stopped dead in my tracks. I was met with quite a spectacle.

The square was full of people and nearly everyone was watching a light show which was playing on the church like building that dominates one side of the square. Operatic pieces and other music (such as the piece in my video), filled the square and the lights changed with the music to create a kind of theatrical spectacle. I stopped near to the life sized nativity and Christmas tree and recorded the video above on my mobile (cell) phone. It's not quite the same as being there but it's the best I could do.

After watching for a time I went to find something to eat and then visited the Christmas markets where I bought some hand made decorations and. of course, chocolate before heading back to the hotel, via the Grand Place where the lights and music played on.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Give me a sign!

I see Bob delivered my message in the post below. Anyway, you will all, no doubt be greatly relieved to hear that Bob has been fed as the last thing I would do is neglect the silly old fluffy cantankerous bugger. I do seem to neglect myself a lot lately though. My life remains hectic and I will not be around much next week at all as I am off to Brussels for 3 days on business. My time there is very much accounted for so it will be all meetings and no sightseeing. Still, I hope to get out and at least buy some yummy Belgian Choccies while I'm there. I have taken the Eurostar before but this will be the first time I have travelled from St Pancras station on the high speed track. Apparently I will be zooming under the Channel at 186mph and will be in Brussels in less than 2 hours! I expect the landscape (once out of the tunnel of course) will be a bit blurry.

Anyway, I thought I would leave you with a 'fun' thing. I was talking with a colleague at work and the subject of Chinese zodiac signs came up. She was surprised that I didn't know what mine was so I looked it up. Apparently I am a 'Rooster'. Cock-a -doodle-blimmin'-doo. The thing is, much of the following is on the nail:

The ROOSTER Meticulous, Efficient, Orderly, Conscientious, Intelligent, Honourable, Notoriously Candid (yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep and yep!).

The quick thinking, ingenious Roosters are a pragmatic lot who prefer not to take any risks. Roosters are so aware of what’s going on around them that some may believe them to be psychic. It is not easy to sneak anything by a Rooster. These beings are a frank, honest lot who do not pull any punches and admire those who are truthful with them.

Roosters do not play games and are not likely to create facades to hide behind. They are honest, open and keep their word. Roosters are perfectionists and like to be in control. Their appearance is of great importance to them. Roosters do love to be noticed and love socializing with those who love them. Roosters expect and will fight for control of their surroundings and those who fall within its boundaries. They are extremely neat and expect their family members to be the same. By nature, Roosters are conservative, and loyal, trusting and supportive to those who earn it. Those close to the Rooster who do not live up to their standards will find themselves henpecked incessantly. Roosters who learn to let others be what they are will have an extremely gratifying life.

Famous ROOSTERS Include
Dirk Bogarde, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Michael Caine, Eric Clapton, Joan Collins, Errol Flynn, Melanie Griffith, Richard Harris, Goldie Hawn, Katherine Hepburn, Diane Keaton, Jayne Mansfield, Steve Martin, James Mason, Somerset Maugham, Bette Midler, Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, Kim Novak, Yoko Ono, Dolly Parton, Michelle Pfeiffer, George Segal, Peter Ustinov.

I'm still working on that gratifying life thing, but I'm getting there! So what animal are you? Find out here. See you soon.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Guard cat!

Hi, Bob here. The REAL Bob that is, not my 'owner' who I have so graciously condescended to adopt my name as a nom de plume. Actually I use the term 'owner' but we all know who is the real boss around here too. I keep her around as she has those handy opposable thumbs which are good for opening doors and packets of food. Also, she's taller than me as some idiot put everything too high in MY house so I need someone to reach stuff too. Besides, why keep a dog and bark yourself?

I have found a window in my heavy schedule of napping, stretching, napping, eating, getting in the way and napping to let you know that 'Bob-kat' is away right now being busy. Ha! has she not seen my schedule? There are not enough napping hours in the day and so my schedule eats into my night time napping! She tells me that work is manic as her boss is sick and there is much to do due to compressed deadlines, on top of that work are migrating to a new computer system which has meant much time backing up files and such and she is not getting ahead with her MBA essay as work is eating into study time! All I know is she is home late to feed me! Harumph. Anyway, time for a nap....zzzzzzzzzzz

Friday, November 23, 2007

Beauty on the Weblog

What is beauty? Well, I don't have the answer to that question, but it certainly seems to be in the eye of the beholder and Mr William Hogarth seems to feel it has something to do with variety, from the picture above. Whatever.
Beauty on the Weblog does exactly what the name suggests: It showcases beautiful things that people have posted on their blogs. When you visit you are always assured of finding something which fits the description, be it photos, poems or prose.

Imagine my surprise when the owner of this great little blog contacted me and asked if they could feature something from my blog! I felt very flattered and a little intrigued to see what would end up being featured. Go and visit
Beauty on the Weblog (click on the name) and see what was chosen for yourself. One of the photos picked is a favourite of mine.

Anyway, I am still busy and an all work and little play kind of gal at the moment and still not able to blog as much as I would like, though I have tried to visit most of you this week. Rather than bore you all silly with dull stories of work and paper writing for my MBA, I thought I would direct you to a couple of my blogging friends:

CrazieQueen over at
CrazieQueens Palace is looking for a name for her new bear which will be her mascot for the Walk of Life' she participates in to raise money for Breast Cancer Awareness. Can you help?

Sarch over at
'Sarch's Blog' is a biker from Alabama in the US and is also looking for a name, this time for his new Goldwing bike. Go on over and apply your creativity here too. Links as ever, are in bold.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I am still as busy as before, in fact even more so now as I spent most of the weekend feeling very poorly and so didn't achieve as much as I needed to. All this means very little time left for fun stuff like blogging and I am in danger of becoming dull I think due to this work/play imbalance.

So, just a minute post from me then: It's a bit like minute steak, it doesn't take long to do. The clip below is of another advert that is currently running here in the UK that I think is very clever (though I prefer the bunnies in the post below). It is apparently the most expensive Guinness advert made to date and was directed by Nicolai Fuglsig of the Sony Bravia 'Balls' fame. The advert was shot on location in a remote side village called Iruya, in the Salta region of northern Argentina, with a population of around 1,000 people and is a celebration of community spirit set around a huge scale domino toppling project which included toppling: 6,000 dominoes, 10,000 books, 400 tyres, 75 mirrors, 50 fridges, 45 wardrobes and 6 cars.

Enjoy and I will hopefully find a moment to visit each of you soon.

Friday, November 16, 2007

More Colour

This is my life at the moment:
  • Work
  • Study
  • More work
  • Deadlines
My boss has been ill for a while now and I have had to take on much of his work. All this at the same time as many of my project deadlines have been compressed and shifted left by a senior manager. Right about now I also have a deadline for my MBA and no idea what to write as it is meant to be work based and I am too busy doing actual work. All this has meant that blogging has taken a bit of a back seat so I apologise as I haven't been able to visit my blog friends as often as I would like to, and I haven't posted all week either. This pattern is liable to continue for a couple of weeks or so and then oh my gawd I have to start thinking about Christmas at some point!!! (Takes a moment to panic). Anyway, I will pop round when I can. I haven't forgotten.

Anyway, I thought you might like this commercial that I saw the other day. It was for the Sony Bravia TV. I posted about one of their adverts before *here*. You remember the one with all the bouncy balls in San Francisco? I just love their adverts. They are always so creative and colourful. They are art. This time art involving rabbits and NYC, 40 animators, 2.5 tons of plasticine and 3 weeks of shooting. What do you think?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

We Will Remember Them

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

The 11th of November is Remembrance Day in the UK, or Armistice Day as it was originally known (and still is in many Common Wealth countries). It is a day to commemorate the sacrifices of those who have fought and died in the wars, specifically since the First World War that ended on this date in 1918. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we remember them and observe a two minute silence as a mark of respect. Wreaths are laid at monuments to the dead of the wars in every city, town and village in the country and the Queen and other notable dignitaries including the Prime Minister lay wreaths of poppies at the Cenotaph in London. In the preceding days in November, poppies are worn by people and the donations raised from the sale of these go to The Royal British Legion who help members of the Armed Forces and their families. The poppy has become the symbol of Remembrance Day as it grew in the fields of Flanders where many lost their lives in the First World War. They made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and for us and the least we can do is remember that.

The following clip comes from a comedy series called Black Adder which was set in the trenches of WWI where Captain Black Adder and his trusty troops tried throughout to avoid going 'over the top'. We had shared their adventures, laughed at their mishaps and silly plans so the last scene of the series came as a shock to everyone at the time as it was so unexpected, so touching and so profound. Here it is.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Just for Laffs

I saw this.

It was after a hard day at work and a heck of a week.

It made me laugh. I felt better. It really is the best medicine you know!

I thought it might make you laugh too, if it's the sort of thing that amuses you.

The comedians name is David Armand and he appears here as the interpretive dance artist, Johann Lippowitz. Enjoy!

Monday, November 05, 2007

I Remember

Photo not mine

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up King and Parliament.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

Remember, remember... Although it's not a public holiday 'Bonfire Night' or 'Guy Fawkes Night' is a big celebration in the UK. It marks the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 which was a failed attempt by a group of provincial English Catholics to kill King James I of England along with his family, and most of the Protestant aristocracy in a single attack by blowing up the Houses of Parliament during the State Opening. Although this celebration is synonymous with the name of Guy Fawkes the plot was in fact led by a man called Robert Catesby. Fawkes notoriety is likely due to his being placed in charge of executing the plot because of his military and explosives experience.

Traditionally 'Guys' which are effigies of Guy Fawkes are burned on bonfires and fireworks are let off to mark this date. Children would often make a 'Guy' and then ask for a 'Penny for the guy' in order to raise money for fireworks. However, it is rare to see this anymore, and I suspect with inflation being what it is, the entreaty is probably nearer to ten quid for the guy.

I was hoping to go to a fireworks display this year as I have never outgrown 'ooh-ing' and 'ah-ing' at them as they bang and crackle and light up the sky like an exploding rainbow, but I ended up working late instead. I can still remember my first Bonfire Night. I was very young so as it is cold this time of the year, mum watched with me from the warmth of the bedroom. We had the lights off and waited for my poor father, wrapped up in a big coat, to light the fireworks. I remember him running around the garden like an erstwhile pyromaniac, lighting fireworks and then retiring to a safe distance before the rocket would whoosh into the air. I thought it was magical. I still do.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Art of Demotivation

The 'Art of Demotivation' is a concept promoted by They do a great take on those posters that hang on the walls of training centres, that are designed to 'pump' you full of enthusiasm and make you think that scaling Mount Everest is just a walk in the park if you are simply motivated enough. claim to espouse the dangerous and disruptive ideas promoted by these courses through a tongue-in-cheek critique of the motivational industry (which is worth millions of dollars/pounds). Their posters are a hefty dose of reality to balance all the motivational courses out there that leave you pumped up, raring to go, and inevitably disappointed when placed back into a cynical real world outside the confines of the padded training room. Their premise is that motivation can be dangerous and can actually result in decreased enthusiasm IF your expectations are not met. And there is the rub. Often reality and everyday demands get in the way.

I find their posters, ironically motivating. They give me something to kick against when I want things to be better than they claim they can be, and they provide humour when they reflect what is going on. Rather like a Dilbert cartoon. I work in a very pressurised environment at times, where results are expected and if a senior manager shouts jump, we are expected to guess how high and then exceed it. I am sure you know what I mean. I work at my best under pressure, that is when I can shine like a diamond, but sometimes when it gets too much, we can all become a basket case. So, there is more truth in these demotivational slogans than just a quick laugh, and that of course is why they are funny.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy halloween

In the UK, Halloween is not a big festival, though in the last ten years Trick or Treat has become more popular. There is much debate in this country as to whether this is a good thing or not, whether it is in fact a commercial farce with business cashing in, whether it is just fun in the community, or whether it is obtaining money with menaces. Rather than debate this though, I thought I would post the following which describes the origins of Halloween and wish my US friends a Happy Halloween. The following is summarised from

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred and it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. The Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

Celebrations included the building of huge bonfires where animals and crops were burned as sacrifices and the Celts wore costumes of animal heads and skins and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory andtwo festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees whose symbol is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1st All Saints' Day, a time to honour saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a Christaian holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows and the night before it, began to be called All-hallows Eve, or halloween.

So there you have it, Halloween is in fact an amalgamation of festivals. Happy Halloween to all of you that celebrate it, who like bobbing for apples, dressing up and getting spooky.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Road

I have been feeling very down lately which, if you knew me, you would realise is very unlike me. Life has taught me to roll with the punches; if you get knocked down you get back up and you keep going. As we all know, nobody ever said life was fair or easy. We know that life is a bumpy road and that sometimes it will be bumpier than other times. I feel that I have had a pretty bumpy time over the last 18 months or so. Each thing that has happened has gradually had an accumulative effect. A recent set of incidents involving a brother have been the last straw. I do not want to go into details but suffice to say that it hurt an awful lot and left me confused and taken aback. After the death of my niece and my divorce among other things, the camel's back found it's limit and now I find myself, well, very down and finding it hard to shake off.

I do feel I have turned a corner recently though. I got fed up with feeling so awful, and I got really bored with crying too much, which is definitely not like me. My head felt like it was full with a big ball of tangled wool and I have been trying to untangle it. So I have rummaged around in my psyche and dug deep and found some resolve. It is not easy, I find that my feelings are easily hurt and that I can be quite defensive at the moment. Getting my act together to do things can be difficult. But I am getting there. Anyone who doesn't know me well would never know anything is wrong, which suits me fine as sometimes you just have to get on with things. Life doesn't stop. The road stretches ahead and all we can do is hope that the road will become smoother. The picture above hangs in my house and at the moment when I look at it I am reminded of this road that we travel. Thanks to those who have been a great support to me recently, who listened and walked a part of this road with me for a time. You know who you are.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sun worshipper

The last weekend in the UK was sunny and although this time of the year there is a distinct chill in the air, Bob the cat was determined to catch whatever rays he could. He bothered me with constant meows, first they resembled gentle requests and then got louder and more indignant until the door was opened. He shot out like a cork from a champagne bottle and busied himself with his rounds, making sure everything was where he had left it. With this important business taken care of he then carefully selected a sunny spot under a large shrub and settled down to absorb just as much sun as he could.

After a while I went outside and he was still there. When I touched his belly, it felt soft and incredibly warm from the sun, and he gently complained as I cast a shadow over him. I took a few photo's of him stretched out contentedly but I really liked the one I have posted above of Bob on the prowl. Sometimes, a cat has just gotta make sure everything is okay before he can stretch out, relax and catch those rays.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Interview with a Bob-Kat

I'm still at a loss for words. Well, actually I'm not as such. there is far too much going on in my head that I am trying to make sense of. I suspect that there is little sense to be made of it all, but that doesn't stop my mind chasing it's imaginary tail, trying to figure it all out. It's been an upsetting and unsettling time for me. This weekend has been awful.

Rather than dwell on these things here I thought I would answer these interview questions I found over at Panthergirls, who is a fellow baked bean hater. There should be a club. Apparently these ten questions are posed to guests on James Lipton's "Inside the Actor's Studio" show. You can check out Panthergirls answers *here*. Here are mine:

What is your favourite word?
That would have to be ‘discombobulate’. Which is how I have been feeling lately among other things.

What is your least favourite word?

It’s not one I would like to put on this blog, I dislike it that much. Otherwise, I don’t much like ‘mucus’. It sounds too much like the stuff it describes. The stuff is pretty awful too.

What turns you on [creatively, spiritually or emotionally]?
Integrity. Which sadly seems to be becoming a scarce commodity in society. I like it in art, entertainment, politics and society. If I sense integrity in something I instantly warm to it.

What turns you off?
Stupid people who cannot have an adult discussion and resort to foul language. There is no reasoning with them and they seem to think that just because someone has a different point of view, they can verbally abuse them.

What sound or noise do you love?
Besides music, I suppose the noise I love is the dawn chorus. It reminds me of my early morning paper round when I was a kid. I used to love watching the world wake up as the sun came up.

What sound or noise do you hate?

Screaming children. The sort that occurs in supermarkets or other public spaces and rips your nerves apart as it’s so loud and shrill.

What is your favourite curse word?
‘Bloody’. Though I don't swear much.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Writer or artist. I would love something where I could create something that other people would enjoy and that I could step back with pride and say “I did that”.

What profession would you not like to do?
Cleaner. I hate cleaning so I really wouldn’t do anyone else’s. Ironically, I do like things to be clean though. Isn’t life cruel?!

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

'Don't panic'.

Hopefully my head will sort itself out soon and normal service will be resumed. Afterall, I still have some Vienna photos to sahre with you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lost for words

I am at a bit of a loss as to what to post about. I am very busy at work right now and tired when I get home. When I stop it's like my mind goes blank. I also seem to be getting nothing done. The faster I peddle the more I stay still. Chores are piling up and I have an essay to research and write. Motivation is lacking however.

So...I thought I would share this photo with you. I took it while I was in Vienna. I saw a few of these lovely colourful stalls selling 'Blumen' while I was there. Each one was like finding natures palette in the middle of a bustling urban scene.

When you can't find the words, say it with flowers.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Convenient Truth

(all photos in this post are not my own)

Today is Blog Action Day. Over 15,000 bloggers from around the web are uniting to help bring the environment to the forefront of people's minds. Every blogger taking part has posted about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic with the aim being to get everyone talking towards a better future. You can view the list of blogs *here*.

So what am I going to post about? I gave this much thought. I considered posting about the Antarctic or about how our oil reserves are rapidly drying up, about carbon emissions, about some little animal somewhere that is about to pop out of existence without most of the world knwoing or caring, or how about the fact that many of us live in a throw-away society, or how about posting about Al Gore? I decided against all of these because quite frankly I'm not an expert in any of these. So, I thought I would write something from me, about how I believe we can all help the environment and why I think it is worth doing. My thoughts about this are very simple:
  • We have one planet with a finite amount of resources available.
  • Whatever we do, modern life means we will have an impact on the planet. It is up to us to minimise this.
  • We can all do something. Even the smallest thing done by everyone can have a massive impact collectively.
  • If we don't act more responsibly now, we may not be able to undo the harm we are causing.

This leaves me with an easy philosophy for anyone who might be interested:
  • Try to re-use what you can or recycle. Think before you bin. Producing new things takes energy and resources.
  • Carbon emissions are a fact of modern life. See what you can do to lessen them though, such as turning the heating down one degree, washing on a cooler cycle, turning the air con down, switching off a light when not in use, putting on a jumper before turning on the heating, insulating your home, insulating your hot water tank, thinking about the type of car you drive and it's mpg etc.
  • If we all turn down our heating by one degree then collectively we save a lot of energy and perhaps even a bit of cash ourselves.
  • I live on an island. If we don't all do something across the world, then I may need armbands and a rubber ring. The pretty photos you see on this post may not exist any more and many more animals and plants will be extinct.
My question is this: Is this really what we want? If the answer is 'no' then do something. I don't need to patronise you (and I hope I haven't) as I know you are all intelligent and caring people. Like the rain drop that jumped from the cloud to earth and ended a drought because the other rain drops followed, each one of us can make a difference. I really do believe it's the small things that can count. This is what I think of as a convenient truth. We can all do it and it really doesn't put us out that much.

I have finished now. You can take my soap box away and I promise to be quiet for a bit.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's Absolute

I. Am. Divorced. Le Divorced. The 'Decree Absolute' has been granted so now I have a new box to tick on forms. I am no longer 'married', nor 'separated' but 'divorced'. I have been trying the label out in my head: 'Dee-vor-cee', but at the moment it doesn't seem to fit me very well. I think I prefer 'unmarried' as that is what I am again. I must say that I hate the boxes on forms. To me, you are either married or you aren't. I realise that legally, such things have great import for legal rights to assets and such, but the boxes are more insidious than that. They force us into social subsets which say nothing about who we really are.

Mind you, I have always rebelled against being put into a box, no matter what the label. I am unique. Just like you. No box required; I have a name. There are all sorts of popular assumptions that come with the label 'divorcee' that I don't like, 'damaged goods' being one of the worst and 'failure at relationships' being another. Not upheld by everyone, but still out there. My marriage did fail, but those reasons are complex, myriad and personal. To assume anything about who I am, or how good I am at relationships is a weak extrapolation. It takes two people to make a relationship work.

Ending my marriage has been a long and painful road so there is no celebration. Granted, it could have been much nastier but we both decided to behave like civilised adults and handle the divorce ourselves. So despite some bumpy bits we got through it. It is simply the close of another chapter in my life and all that I feel is relief that it is over so that I can get on with my life without this hanging over me. He is moving on. Good luck to him. I hope he will be happy. I am moving on. I hope I will be happy too. A new chapter has begun. Apr├Ęs le divorce!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Beautiful View

As promised, here are some more photos from my time in Vienna. These ones are all of the Belvedere Palace which is outside the Inner Stadt but is still well within walking distance, being just south-east of the city centre. This palace was built by Prince Eugen of Savoy who played a major role in defending Vienna and the surrounding lands from the Ottomans. He had victories in the Turkish Wars at the Relief of Vienna and at the Battle of Zenta. Napoleon quoted him as one of the seven generals whose campaigns were worthy of study in a tribute to his military skill. He is an extremely significant person in Austrian history and a monument to him is situated in the Heldenplatz.

'Belvedere' means 'Beautiful view' in Italian and indeed, the palace enjoys a stunning view over the city being on elevated ground. The palace gardens are extensive. They are enclosed by clipped hedging and were laid out in the formal French manner with gravelled walks and a number of fountains, together with a large pond in front of the Upper Belvedere. To the rear, there are stairs and cascades peopled by nymphs and goddesses that link the upper and lower parterres which survive from the original garden, but the patterned bedding was grassed over and is currently being restored. Despite this, the gardens were a pleasure to stroll around despite the blazing sun which threatened to scorch me, it was so hot!

The photo above is of the Lower Belvedere, which was built, not as a palace but as a garden villa, with an orangerie and paintings gallery, with suitable living quarters and was completed in 1716. The photo below is of one of the rooms inside which were all highly decorative and quite stunning. Unfortunately, most of the Lower Belvedere was closed to the public for restorative work but the parts I was able to see were magnificent including a wonderful gilded and mirrored room which used to be Prince Eugen's bedroom.

In 1720-1723, the Upper Belvedere, in the photo below, was built. It was originally intended to provide a suitable end to the main garden axis but it was soon enlarged to become the main summer residence of the Prince. Today, it houses a collection of paintings including many by Klimt with pride of place being given to 'The Kiss'. The central Marmorsaal was the site of the signing of the Austrian State Treaty, that formed modern Austria in 1955.

I spent an enjoyable few hours here, and simply had to sample the Belvedere Torte that was a specialty of the cafe there. I am happy to report that it was suitably rich, chocolatey and had a thin layer of moist marzipan covering it. I would be interested to see what the Belvedere is like once the gardens and Lower Palace have been restored so I guess I will just have to go back sometime. Life can be sooooo hard sometimes!

I still have more photos of Vienna to share so there is more to come.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Operation Christmas Child

It's only just October but already the shops are full of Christmas things. I was at the supermarket and turned into an aisle brimming with Christmas puddings, Christmas cakes, mince pies, and assorted other Christmas goodies. At a department store, I recently walked through the door to be visually assaulted by a fully decorated tree as well as Christmas cards, decorations and other Christmas paraphenalia. Thank goodness they're not bombarding my ears with Christmas carols or pop songs just yet. I used to work in a shop as a teenager and I have never quite gotten over the endless renditions of Wham's 'Last Christmas' or Elton John's 'Step into Christmas' being played over and over... to this day, simply hearing the introduction can start me twitching.

It doesn't stop there though. Oh no. At home I am bombarded with Christmas catalogues, helpfully reminding me of the last date to order and presenting me with all manner of goodies, including some dreadfully tacky and awful items, some of which I wonder who would buy them?! Christmas it would appear, is a time for shopping and for spending hard earned cash on things no-one really wants. Is this what it has become?

Not for me. I love Christmas, I always have done. I love my brightly lit and decorated tree. I love receiving gifts. I love the anticipation that a brightly wrapped box can bring and from knowing that someone has thought of me. I love giving presents just as much though, in fact perhaps more so. Nothing quite beats the warm feeling you get from watching someone unwrap a gift they love.

I came across some presents I had bought and put away for my niece the other day. I wasn't expecting it. I was innocently going through some things and there they were waiting for a birthday that would never come. It made me incredibly sad. I had bought her a little pink handbag and a necklace together with some hair accessories. I didn't know what to do with them. Giving them to a charity shop didn't seem quite right. They had been meant for Jessica. It might sound silly but I wanted them to be appreciated. That was when I thought of 'Operation Christmas Child'.

Operation Christmas Child is an initiative run by the Charity 'Samaritan's Purse'. This is what the web site says: "This annual project enables caring individuals, families, schools, churches, businesses, and other organisations to fill ordinary shoe boxes with small toys, school supplies, sweets, and other gifts for needy children around the world. Operation Christmas Child sends a message of hope to children in need around the world through gift-filled shoe boxes."

It was perfect. I immediately knew that the presents I had bought for Jessica, would make a needy child very happy and that the gift would be truly appreciated. I have filled my shoebox with 'treasure' and wrapped it in bright paper. I have made mine for a girl aged between 10-14 which is the same age group as Jess. I have included: small doll, pencil case and stationary, notebooks, sweets, bouncy balls, necklace, small handbag, hair accessories, hair brush, gloves, scarf, flannel, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste. The fact that I can do this for someone has made me very happy and seems a very fitting way to honour my niece.

If you would like to help by doing your own shoebox then you can read more *here*. The charity operates internationally so you should be able to find a collection point near you. Christmas is indeed a time for giving.

I will be posting more photographs of Vienna soon...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Anyone for Torte?

Don't they look scrumptious? See how the cream is perfectly piped and delicately dusted with chocolate powder? Or how about the neat layers of chocolate truffle cream folded over thin slices of light chocolate sponge piled high. Or there at the back, the light and fluffy strawberry cream mousse torte with the chocolate base, garnished with a real, juicy strawberry. Or is the rich dark wedge of chocolate torte dusted with poppy seeds more to your liking? Or how about the torte of Viennese tortes? The Sachertorte? A decadently rich, moist and dense (you guessed it) chocolate sponge with a thin layer of apricot jam and then covered in a rich chocolate icing layer and served with unsweetened whipped cream. This cake is so rich a small slice IS a meal in itself.

This is the sight that greeted me in every Viennese cafe. A chilled cabinets full of colourful treasure and as I was on holiday, it was of course all calorie free! Bliss! I quickly became enamoured with the tortes of Vienna. Every afternoon we would stop at a small cafe that took our fancy and take torte and coffee. The only hard part was choosing which one!

The photo above is of the Sacher Hotel Cafe, home to the original Sachertorte where it originated. It was a little more expensive but the Sachertorte was sublime. It was invented by Franze Sacher in 1832 and is one of the most famous Viennese culinary specialties. The trademark for the "Original Sachertorte" was registered by the Hotel Sacher, which was built in 1876 by the son of Franz Sacher and the recipe is a well-kept secret to this day. If you ever go to Vienna, make sure you go here and sample the Sacher torte which is truly a taste of Vienna.