Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Can I Offer Anyone a Small Sherry?

North East councils are meeting tonight to debate the far reaching effects of alcohol misuse in the region. They want to introduce minimum prices to stop alcohol being so accessible, particularly to youngsters.

If their plan is successful then they're hoping that the next generation of kids shouldn't (in theory) spend their days pissed
up in our local parks. Winner!

That's all well and good, however I'd still like to know what they plan to do to help those people ALREADY struggling with alcohol addiction RIGHT NOW.

We have some of the worst documented problems with addiction in this region, yet the services here in the North East are woefully inadequate and policy decisions are usually made by people with absolutely no real idea of the kind of help people need.

A three day physical detox in the local hospital is all well and good to prevent seizures from alcohol withdrawal but there's no therapeutic intervention and, despite the revamped NICE guidelines, waiting lists for psychotherapy in this area can still take up to TWO YEARS.

That's always assuming you're lucky enough to be allocated to a psychotherapist who understands addiction of course, as opposed to someone who opts for that cop out diagnosis of 'borderline personality disorder'.

Labels aren't helpful at the best of times but BPD has to be one of the most damaging of all in my opinion and all it usually means is that the psychiatrist/psychologist simply didn't have a clue what else to label you with.

I have a LOT of experience with addictions, both in my personal life and also, with my involvement with local organisations dealing with addiction and the issues that stem from it, so I'm not just a member of the do-gooder, woolly jumper brigade.

I'm involved with it first hand & I see the devastating effects on the wider community, the family, the kids being taken into care, the women (and sometimes men) being beaten by their partners, the thefts to fund a spree, the evictions from homes & subsequent decline from B&B to hostel to park bench.

I see the way people bounce around psychiatric units and A&E departments and I've also seen people die; either through accidents whilst drinking, physical illnesses associated with drinking or very often, good old fashioned suicide, so the idea that all of these problems can be solved by a three day physical detox in a hospital ward is laughable.

The healthcare professionals I speak to scratch their heads in despair as they see the same people bouncing around the same inadequate system. They think it's self inflicted and their patient CHOOSES to drink when in fact, most addicts hate the way their lives are turning out but have absolutely no mental defence against picking up a drink again.

Nothing will ever change without the addict being allowed a safe place in a therapeutic environment with (preferably) psychoanalysts or psychotherapists who can help them to pick apart the reasons they drink and help them to create their own strategies for keeping themselves safe in future.

The economic effects of the current 'treatment' cycle on an already overstretched healthcare system must be horrendous. Just take a moment to consider the costs that spring to mind immediately, apart from the hospital detox...

Think about hospital treatment following drunken falls, fights etc., social services intervention, costs relating to children being kept in care, the next generation of costs from the well documented issues arising from adults who grew up in care, crime, policing, prison. I could go on forever really.

Isn't it better, both from an economic perspective but also from a social perspective, to get the addict the treatment they ACTUALLY need? To help them recover so they can break the cycle of destruction and go on to lead useful lives and become valuable members of society like the rest of us?

People often say that mental health services are the 'poor relation' in comparison to acute, clinical service provision. Well if that's true, then addiction is the Great Aunt twice removed in terms of mental health service provision.

You all know great Aunt (insert your own choice of name here). That weird woman you only ever see at Christmas? The one who comes for Christmas lunch, talks gibberish, sucks the liquor from your Christmas chocolates & puts the empty shells back in the box?

The one who drains the sherry bottle before falling asleep in front of the TV, her toothless mouth gaping open to allow the rumbling snores to escape and vibrate around the room until you can't hear the soundtrack of the film you're trying to watch?

The one who wets herself on your best, most expensive chair before she's quickly dispatched home in a taxi and you can thank your lucky stars that it's over, that you've done 'your bit' but there's no way you're doing it next year and you're going to force your sister to take her turn for once.

Sound familiar? Well that's exactly what's happening with addicts in this region. The only difference is that their health issue is supposedly being TREATED and WE are paying a fortune for these desperate souls to keep repeating the same inadequate, ineffective cycle time after time after time...

I hope the councils are successful with their 'minimum price' alcohol strategy tonight. It won't stop anyone buying booze but it'll certainly raise more money and I hope that money comes back to the councils who, for once, may choose to consult with people who truly understand addiction and can advise them how to use that money for practical, useful, often lifesaving, intervention.

I hope...

PS - If any of this has touched a nerve with you, you may find the following websites useful.

http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/

http://www.ukna.org/

http://www.al-anonuk.org.uk/






Sunday, 5 June 2011

And Then There Were Five!

Hello folks. This is just a short post to update everyone about the outcome of Maisie & William's search for a new family.

First of all can I just say a HUGE thank you to everyone who read the blog post and took the time to re-tweet and re-share it with their own followers and friends. If Blogger stats are to be believed, the post was read by more than 750 people and that's pretty amazing really so thank you all so much. The power of social networking eh?

After I published the blog on the Wednesday afternoon I felt really flat and sad at the thought of saying goodbye to the kittens. I spent most of Thursday and Friday in tears and although Woody is driven to distraction by them, I know he started to feel sad at the thought of them leaving too.

We received so many emails expressing interest. I don't think we really thought that anyone would actually read my blog, let alone respond and offer the kittens a home but in fact, the exact opposite has been the case. We were inundated with emails from people as far afield as the US and as near as the next town from our own house. Most people wanted to offer the kittens a home and some even went so far as to send lots of lovely pictures of where the kittens would be living/sleeping/playing. 

We were completely bowled over by the response and I know the kittens would have been very happy in any of the homes offered but sadly, and rather pathetically, as we read through each email, we became increasingly upset at the thought of them leaving us. As a result, we've decided to hang on to our furry little family after all and I've spent the last two days replying to emails, explaining our decision and apologising profusely for the inconvenience caused. 

Embarrassing huh? We really are a pathetic pair of softies...

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Could You Be Our New Family?

Hello. We are Maisie and William and we are looking for a new home and a new family to love and take care of us. In return we will give you lots of love, purry cuddles and giggles. Can you help?

Our mum was killed by a car when we were just three weeks old so we came here to live with Jules. At first we needed help to eat our dinners and we really missed our Mum so we needed lots of extra cuddles but we'll be ten weeks old tomorrow (2 June), and we're big enough now to live with a family without needing any special help.



We need a family who wants both of us. We're still quite little and we like to sleep together and play together.  Our tummies are tiny and we get full quite quickly so it would be best if our new family could give us small but frequent meals. Jules gives us something to eat every four hours but it won't be long before our tummies have grown and then we'll just need food in the morning and again in the evening. We like looking out of the window and we'd like to play outside when we're older but our new family will need to get us vaccinated and chipped before we can do that. We'll also need neutering/spaying but Jules can tell you how to get vouchers so you won't have to pay very much for that.



Jules would like us to live here forever but sadly, it isn't possible. There are other cats living here with Jules and they aren't used to having lots of small kitties around. One of them, the oldest one, is a little bit grumpy and set in her ways and since we came to live here, she rarely comes home anymore. This makes everyone feel bad and she's been here for lots of years so it isn't really very fair.

Jules also has something called 'asthma' and having extra kitties around is making it hard for her to breathe properly. When we first came to live here she got a bit poorly and had to go in a funny van with flashing lights on top to make her better again. She's been away on holiday for two days and her lungs have worked properly but now she's back home with us, she can't breathe and we don't want to make her poorly again.

We thought it might be useful to tell you a little bit about each of us so you can decide if we might be happy in your house.



William

Hello. I'm William. I have short hair and very beautiful markings down my sides and tummy.



My legs seem to be too big for my body at the minute so I'm a bit of an ungainly creature but Jules thinks I'll grow to fit my legs soon and I believe her. When I do she says I'll be a beautiful, refined and dignified cat and she'll feel very proud of me.



I love to chase pieces of string and I particularly like climbing curtains. Jules thinks this is really funny but I can easily learn not to do it if my new family don't like it and anyway, Jules says lots of cats do that when they're little like me but they grow out of it as they get older. I don't scratch furniture and I know how to use the litter tray so I wouldn't cause too much disruption in my new home.

I'm very affectionate and I like to be picked up quite a lot. I have a lot of energy for playing but only in short bursts so for now, while I'm still little, I like to have a snooze in between games. I love snoozing on Jules lap and I purr like a tractor as soon as she comes near me because I know it means she's going to fuss me up.



Maisie

Hello. I'm Maisie. I'm a long haired tabby and as I get older I'll need some help to keep my beautiful fur looking it's best. Jules has a special brush and although the brush is bigger than me, I quite like it when she brushes my coat with it and I'd like my new family to brush me too.



I'm smaller than my brother but I'm also braver than him and I'm learning how to jump quite high to catch the mice that Jules throws for me. I love to climb but I don't climb curtains; I prefer to climb legs. Sometimes Jules lets me ride around the house whilst clinging on to her thigh. She doesn't seem to mind the tiny scratches I leave on her legs and she says I'll grow out of it soon anyway.



I'm a bit of a chatterer and I do tend to make chirrupy sounds as I play. I also growl like a dog when I eat chewsticks and I have a really loud purr which you would hear quite often as I'm a very happy, affectionate cat. I'm litter trained and I'm trying to be more ladylike but I do make strange noises from my bottom and then everyone runs away from me.



We both like to squeeze into small spaces so our new family would have to check we weren't getting behind kitchen units or locked in cupboards. If possible, we'd also really like a bed to share because we might be nervous at first in our new home and we'd feel more comfortable sleeping together.

This is us in bed. William is poking his tongue out and Maisie is on the left as you look at the picture.

Jules is very upset that we can't stay here with her. She might cry a bit when we leave and we know she'll miss us lots but she'll feel loads happier if she knows we've gone to a nice home with a family who will love us and look after us properly. She's got fabulous friends and she's hoping that one of them might read this and fall in love with us enough to collect us before her lungs get too bad again and she has to take us to the rescue centre.

Could you be our new family? If you think we could be happy in your home and you'd like us to come and live with you you can get in touch with Jules by leaving a comment below or alternatively via twitter (@_iamjules) or facebook if you're already connected there.

We're really excited about meeting you

lots of love

Maisie and William

>^..^<            >^..^<

Friday, 22 April 2011

Some Very Disappointing News

This is just a very short post to let everyone know that I will not be taking part in the Inca Trek/Machu Piccu challenge with Metro Radio this month.

Most people already know that I had a bad accident whilst quad biking in 2009 which resulted in me undergoing reconstructive surgery to my leg. Although the surgeon did a cracking job at the time, my knee is considerably weaker as a result of the accident and unfortunately, I damaged it again whilst out walking recently. My doctor has advised that the leg is not robust enough to undertake the Inca challenge at this time and I have therefore had to pull out of the trek on medical grounds.

I was very appreciative of the fact that so many of you pledged sponsorship money via my Just Giving page. This will now be refunded to you via the card you used to make the original donation. Can you please allow fourteen days for this to be administered and then let me know if you did not receive your refund. The process is entirely independent of me but I am happy to chase up Metro Radio and Just Giving on your behalf if necessary. Thank you very much for your support and patience.

I am obviously disappointed about this recent turn of events but I'm trying hard not to feel too envious as I read the posts from my fellow trekkers as they make their final preparations before Friday ;-)

Good luck to everyone taking part on the trek. I'll be tuning in to Metro Radio to follow your progress over the next two weeks and I'm looking forward to hearing all about it when you return. Have fun!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Dancing on Ice - A Disappointing Night

I’m at Newcastle Arena with some of my fellow Inca Trekkers. We’re here to rattle our tins for charidee and our forthcoming trek to Machu Piccu.



Tonights performance is part of the Dancing on Ice tour so I was rather hoping I might catch a glimpse of Torvill & Dean before the performance started but alas, it was not to be.

Instead, my fellow trekkers had to settle for a swift triple salco in the foyer from me which I then followed up with a stunning double axel. I must have done an amazing job because I turned around to find the programme sellers had fashioned scorecards from their programmes and awarded me straight 6.0’s across the board. The crowd applauded and threw roses to show their appreciation. They begged me to give another performance, insisting they’d rather watch me than Torvill & Dean, but I believe in always leaving a crowd wanting more so I made a graceful exit with my charidee tin, which by then was stuffed to the brim with crisp 20 GBP notes. An amazing night as I’m sure you’ll agree. Well done us!*

*Disclaimer - The above paragraph *may not* be an exact account of tonights events. The triple salco/double axel *may* have been a figment of someone’s overactive imagination. In fact, the most exciting thing to happen all night *may* have been a slight altercation with a policeman who *may* have told me off for rattling my tin at him rather aggressively and virtually demanding money by menace. It *may* be more accurate to say that I stood around like a gimp, trying to look happy, when in fact I was secretly masking a world of disappointment because I spent £88431579 on petrol to drive all the way here to collect 27p(ish) in donations.

I’m really grateful to the people who made a donation but to be perfectly honest, if I hadn’t had such a good laugh with the lads I would have felt it was a massive waste of an evening.

Never mind eh? It’s all for a good cause and its hard to be too despondent when I just know Woody’s rustling up a fabulous dinner to cheer me up when I get home <hopeful face>.


NB - If your heart ached with pity after reading this sorry tale of my futile efforts tonight you may feel moved to make a donation toward my cause. Remember this is all in aid of The Childrens Society to help them continue their fantastic work and you can show your support for them AND me by making a donation via my Just Giving page

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Jules Inca-redible Journey


Some time near the end of 2010, a Twitterpal announced that Tony Horne, a presenter on our local radio station, was recruiting volunteers to walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu to raise money for The Childrens Society.  My ears pricked up immediately and I went off to the Metro Radio website to find out more.

I was intrigued for three reasons...

1.     THE CHARITY

I have a huge amount of respect for The Childrens Society and the work they do with/on behalf of young people in the UK.  If you want to find out more about the organisation you can click here but in summary, The Children's Society is committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. They give a voice  to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers. Through their campaigns and research, they seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life.

Now let me just say first of all that I'm not a prolific charity campaigner as such but, as is probably the way with most people, I try to support one or two causes which are dear to my heart for personal reasons.  The causes I support generally fall into three main areas and I think they represent the most vulnerable groups; children, those who experience mental health issues and animal welfare. Those who are often not in a position to defend themselves really.

In any event, The Childrens Society does good stuff in relation to an issue that's very dear to my heart, not least because of the way they support youngsters who run away from home and indeed their most recent fundraising appeal focuses explicitly on this issue.

For example, do you know that around 100,000 children under the age of 16 run away from home each year? And do you realise that around a quarter of these youngsters are under the age of 11?

It's a sobering thought but it's close to my heart because I was one of those runaways myself at one point.  I left home at the age of 11 and I was away for over six weeks.  As a result I was taken into care and saw out my teenage years in a variety of kids homes so I hope you can understand that I'm not all 'ladies who lunch' and that my reasons for taking part in this challenge are driven by a genuine desire to give something back to the support system that was there for me when I needed it.


2.     I'M FAT!  

There you are. I said it out loud.  And if I say it out loud I have to do something about it right? Because I've committed myself to it and you've witnessed it.  And that's gotta be a good thing because boy, have I struggled to do something about it on my own so far.

I bounced off my quad bike in June 2009 and trashed my left leg so badly that I was lucky not to lose it altogether from the knee down. Fortunately, a fairly brilliant orthopaedic surgeon carried out some nifty reconstructive surgery and as a result, I'm now fully mobile again.

Well I say 'fully mobile' but to be perfectly honest I might struggle to defend that claim if I was challenged in a court of law because you see somehow, during the months I sat on a chair with my leg in the air waiting for it to 'deflate' sufficiently to withstand the assault of surgery, I think I kind of forgot how to move altogether. Even once I'd actually had surgery, it took months before I was on my feet and walking without my walking frame or crutches and by that time I had piled on stones in weight.

Now I'd like to say this was purely down to the period of enforced inactivity but alas, I was a chunky bird even before this event occurred and I must accept all of the responsibility for making it a whole lot worse.

I mean, it's perfectly reasonable to assume I would get a tad grumpy and out of sorts while all of this was going on but did I really have to comfort eat my own body weight in buttery shortbread biscuits on a daily basis? Really?

Anyhow, I clearly lack self discipline as I'm still the same weight now, despite the fact that there is no reason on earth to stop me exercising and getting down to a sensible weight again. I swam my first width of a pool in August 2010 and I should have been swimming almost every day since then to build up my muscles again, particularly in my leg where the grafts needed support.

Instead, I've struggled to get into any sort of routine and I go through fairly erratic phases of enthusiastic early morning swims interspersed with longer periods where I don't exercise at all which is definitely not a good thing for a person with a sedentary job.

I feel sluggish, heavy and lazy and to be honest I'm really struggling with it all so I'm hoping that by committing to this challenge I'm putting a goal in place which will help to focus/motivate me to establish a decent exercise routine before I get so heavy that I'm confined to my bed and have to be winched out of the window by crane to be taken to hospital when I have my first heart attack!


3.     IT'S THE INCA TRAIL!  IT'S MACHU PICCHU!

I mean seriously, who wouldn't if they got the opportunity?  I've been rock climbing, I've abseiled from bizarre places, I've bungee jumped, I've tried all kinds of strange things (although for obvious reasons, it's probably best not to dwell on the quad biking) so I'm obviously going to leap (Ho Ho Ho) at the opportunity to walk the Inca trail.  Now all I have to to do is get fit...

Oh, and there's also the *tiny* matter of raising the sponsorship money too, which is where you come in dear reader.

You knew there was a catch didn't you?  Well you're right, there is.  I really need your support to do this so if you've been inspired by reading about the work of The Childrens Society and you're in a position to help then please do so by making a donation on my Just Giving page.

In return you can follow my progress week by week between now and May when we set off.  Assuming I'm fit enough and make the sponsorship target of course.  But we should be able to manage that if we work together, right?  

Your donation will make a huge difference to the life of a young person who may be really struggling to navigate their way through a challenging childhood and to make even more of an impact, if you're a UK tax payer, please do remember to tick the box so that the Society can claim gift aid on your donation.  It really does make an enormous difference to the overall amount we raise.

It would also be utterly brilliant if you could do everything within your power to help promote this blog. We have a long way to go in terms of sponsorship and we need all the help that we can get so please do tell your friends about it.

Re-tweet it on Twitter, shout about it on Facebook, post links to it from your own blog, get a t-shirt printed or perhaps even a hat? 

In fact, yes! Get a hat!

A huge, beautiful fedora with 'JULES INCA-REDIBLE JOURNEY' printed around the rim.  You'd suit that you gorgeous, sexy thing you!  ;)

Thanks so much for helping to support this project.  Please do feel free to add comments or suggestions at any point and thanks again for reading.


Jules





Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Triumphant Tales from the Tombola of Treats

We've had quite an eventful night tonight.  We've been to a party in Soho Square which is along the road at Sharks Bay. The hoteliers in the Sharm area all clubbed together to lay on an outdoor 'do' for the holiday makers who are here at the moment. I think it was their way of saying 'thanks' as so many people have cancelled their holidays to Egypt altogether.

It was also a nice PR opportunity and the local dignitaries were there as well as the press/media who were out in force, getting interviews and pictures of everyone having fun, which I'm sure will be used to promote the resort and show that it's safe and people are here and enjoying themselves as usual.

Being a tad on the misanthropic side at the best of times, I usually avoid any type of organised function if I can help it. The idea of trying to force myself to be jolly with a crowd of strangers just makes me shudder but I would have felt mean if we'd ducked it altogether, so Woody and I girded our loins (whatever that even means) and boldly ventured out into the night to join our fellow partygoers.

I'm glad we did too. It was really good fun and we surprised ourselves by having a thoroughly good time. Transport had been organised to take us there and bring us back, there was food and drink in abundance and loads going on to keep us entertained in the square itself. My only criticism would be the toilet facilities. Most people know that public toilets give me the creeps at the best of times and tonight was no exception. There just weren't enough of them to cope with the demand, especially for chicks, so for the second time in as many weeks I found myself in the mens toilets again but that's a whole other story for another day...



Inadequate public conveniences aside, everything else was fantastic.  The square had been decorated really nicely. There were acrobats, jugglers and fountain shows galore and guess what, IT WAS ALL TROUBLE FREE AND TOTALLY SAFE so if you're thinking of changing your plans to visit Egypt because of recent events, please reconsider. I promise you it's completely safe. The tour operators have even reinstated the excursions from Sharm to Luxor and Cairo which is a clear sign that things are settling down and confidence is being restored.

Anyway, back to last night. We'd each been given a raffle ticket at the beginning of the evening and for the grand finale, a tombola took place in the centre of the square and guess what? We won! We won an all inclusive holiday back to Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sunrise Island View resort.

I KNOW! Exciting eh? I never usually win things so it was a lovely surprise although in fairness, I'm too mean to part with the initial stake to gamble and too lazy to enter competitions so it's hardly surprising I never win anything really. I suppose 'you've got to be innit to winnit' as they say and sadly, I never am.

We were thinking of coming back to Egypt at the beginning of next year anyway so it's nice to know that's already sorted out for us but do you want to know what my favourite part of the night was? That's right. I got to HAGGLE. Ha!

Woody wandered off and left me so I spent an enjoyable half hour haggling over a pair of Converse trainers, of which I am now the proud owner. What's that? What do you mean, they're probably fakes? Of course they're not! HOW DARE YOU?!  ;-)

Monday, 21 February 2011

Sharm el-Sheikh

We went along to old Sharm tonight.  Monday is market day so we expected lots of hustle and bustle, bargains galore and a good old haggling session over cups of Bedouin tea.

Instead, we arrived at the market to find this...


See how empty it is? The locals tend to use the market for supplies of fresh produce but you can buy all kinds of other stuff here too. It's usually heaving with tourists yet tonight there was hardly anyone there.




We spoke to lots of the shopkeepers and they really are struggling at the minute. They all say the same thing; they expect the tourists to come back in March, but the sentence has a hollow ring to it once you're heard it from 3-4 shopkeepers and I got the feeling they were saying it to try to convince themselves more than anything.

The travel reps have told us stories about the numbers of people who have cancelled their holidays after watching events unfold in Cairo and I see evidence of this every day in the empty sunloungers on the beach and around the hotel pools, but Sharm is approximately 8-9 hours away from Cairo and has been entirely unaffected by the recent protests. It would be akin to cancelling a holiday to Scotland because you saw on the news that there were protests in Cornwall.

The bottom line is that Sharm is entirely dependent upon the tourist industry. The area itself is very tightly controlled by the Egyptian authorities and it is extremely safe here. There's hardly any crime and there's only one road in and out of the entire area which is heavily guarded. The only people who live here are those employed by the hotels and restaurants and if tourists don't visit, the whole area suffers terribly.

I chat to the hotel staff every day and I see how hard they all work. It's quite humbling really, especially when I consider how much I moan when I have a lot to do. These guys start work at 6am each day. They serve breakfast from 6.30am and then rotate around the various restaurants on the site as they open and close in shifts to make sure food is available until 10pm each night. They can take leave to go home to visit their families in Cairo or Luxor etc., but when they're here they work, seven days per week from 6am to 10pm.

There's no working time directive or trade union here yet the guys I have spoken to think they have it pretty good and consider themselves fortunate to be working here in Sharm. They tell me that the pay and conditions are much more favourable than anywhere else in Egypt. They get basic accommodation provided while they're here as well as the opportunity to work in an environment where most of the customers are relaxed, happy and having a good time.

I don't want to get all preachy about it and I realise many people across the UK are struggling at the minute too, but if you are having a holiday this year and you're still thinking about where to go, maybe this post will at least make you want to find out a little more about Sharm before making your final decision. I do hope so. I've visited this area twice now and I would seriously recommend it if you're looking for a relaxing holiday with good weather all year round. There are great opportunities for water sports, particularly if diving is your thing, or if you just want to escape and relax you can engage (or indeed disengage) to whatever level suits you.

If you do decide to visit, make sure you plan a trip to the market in Old Sharm. I promise you two enjoyable things will happen...
 
1. You'll definitely get a lot of giggles with the Egyptian dudes. They're full of fun and love to chat so make the most of their hospitality and enjoy a cup of tea and a chance to sit down and rest while you explore.

2. You'll get to see my very favourite thing in the whole of Sharm. This little beauty...



Isn't he hilarious? The wooden horse I mean, not the Egyptian guy. The look on Woody's face when I said I wanted to buy it for our living room was priceless. So funny. We had to stop for hot, strong coffee so he could recover from that and try to get rid of the fleas that were jumping all over us both after I'd spent the night fussing up every stray cat we encountered.

Happy holidays ;-)

I'm having a tanfastic time!

I wonder if living in a hot country for a few years can actually change a persons skin forever? Woody lived in Cyprus for a while and I’m convinced that’s the reason he tans so easily now.

I’m lying here on my sunlounger, looking across at him and seething with envy. He’s been as brown as a berry since day 2 of this holiday, despite the fact that he hates sunbathing and spends most of our ‘beach time’ curled up with his book under an enormous parasol to avoid the sun.

Meanwhile I fry myself in direct sunlight from sunrise to sunset, always hoping that this will be the holiday when I finally get a tan.

If I’m lucky, I’ll return to the hotel to take a shower later and I’ll find that my nose has turned pink and I have the beginnings of something that may, at a push, be described as a ‘healthy glow’.

I’ll do my best to nurture it with expensive ‘tan enhancing’ lotions and potions yet I’ll still wake up tomorrow to find it faded away entirely while I slept.

I’ll see my disappointed face peering back at me from the mirror like Casper the Friendly Ghost and with a sigh of resignation I’ll take myself off to the beach to start all over again.

When I get home I’ll be subjected to the usual hilarious comments from family and friends…

“Did you decide to stay at home after all then?”

or…

“Did you actually leave the pub while you were away? At all?”

or my absolute favourite one from my brothers genius mate…

“Alright Jules! Were you sunbathing under a rock again?”

Do you see how lucky I am? I’m surrounded by comedy gold *sigh*

Life can be so unfair at times.


In other news, an Egyptian man approached me yesterday and offered me one camel and one cat to be his wife.  I gave this matter serious thought (he had a boat and I've always fancied a life on the ocean) before accepting his offer.  We were to meet on the beach at 1pm but he stood me up. I suspect he got wind of my domestic skills and made a quick escape. I'll learn from this and make sure the next one leaves a deposit.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

We're here!

Hello. I'm in Egypt. This is an INTERNATIONAL BLOG POST. Fancy that eh?




The 'luxury hotel' is not so luxurious after all but I don't care because the pool is gorgeous and it's HOT! HOT! HOT!

What I DO care about though, is the wiffy which was supposed to be free/included in the price but we are being asked to pay for it. Guess how much? Go on, I dare you...

What's that? You haven't got time to mess about on another one of my senseless quizzes? Well ok then, I'll just tell you shall I?

THEY ARE ASKING FOR SEVEN WHOLE GBP'S PER HOUR FOR WIFFY.

THAT'S SEVEN GBP'S.  EVERY. SINGLE. HOUR.

Cheesus Cod! If, like me, you fiddle with your phone 24/7, that would equate to 297457267 GBP's per day. Trust me on that. I'm an accountant.

Luckily I have my netbook with me and a nice boy has given me his dongle <snigger> to use during our stay so I have avoided this dastardly charge. You can't keep a wily accountant down for long. Ha! *winky face*

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that we actually managed to get away after the holiday mishaps of the last 18 months or so. I must leave you now though. I have my knotted handkerchief on my head, my bucket and spade in my tesco carrier bag and I'm off to explore and have a paddle in the pool. Laters dudes...


PS - They haven't asked me to be President yet but I think it's just a matter of time. They're probably giving me a bit of time to settle in and get a tan so I look good on the tellybox/newspaper pictures when I wear my crown.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Urgh de toilette

I went to the supermarket earlier this evening. When I got there I needed to use the loo so I left Woody in the store & wandered off. The loos were empty but whilst in the toilet cubicle, I heard someone else enter the room & go into the cubicle next door before emitting a huge grunting moan.

"Urgh!" I thought. "That sounds like a fairly strange woman. I'll try to ignore the noise"

More grunting...

"Hang on a minute!" I thought. "That's not a woman. That's a MAN! Jeebus cod! There's a man using the female toilets! How rude!"

Full of indignant outrage I decided to inform a member of staff so the perp could be hauled out & (hopefully) subjected to a good ticking off before being publicly ridiculed for his misdemeanour.

Imagine my surprise then when I yanked open the cubicle door to find another man pissing in the sink. That's right. A MAN WAS PISSING IN THE SINK!

I shrieked and fled back to the safety of my cubicle, slamming my door behind me. "What manner of skullduggery could this be?" I asked myself. "Men? In the ladies toilets? Shocking! Oh, and weren't those sinks an unusual shape?"

Clunk! *Sound of 496526 pennies dropping*

"Holy shit! It's ME! I'm in the wrong toilets!

What can I do? I can't just walk out with a haughty expression on my face. Or can I?

If I stalk out of here with my head aloft and my patented 'eyebrow of disdain' arched tightly across my right brow, will I get away with it? Will I exude such certainty that they question their own choice of toilet? Will they assume they're in the ladies?"

I didn't of course. Instead I cowered in the toilet cubicle fearfully listening to all the nasty, rancid, grunting farty noises and praying that they'd all leave so I could sneak out without any fuss.

I seemed to be there for an age before the panic really set in. Then I started frantically texting Woody to ask him to rescue me from my cubicle. No response.

I texted again. Nothing.

I began to hyperventilate (that could have been a reaction to the horrendous smell though) and texted again. Nothing.

But wait! Sshh! Listen to that...

Could that be silence? Could they really have left?

I opened the door tentatively to be greeted by an empty bathroom. Fantastic! I sneaked out, hoping against hope that there'd be no one outside to witness my shameful error.

Tugging at the door which led back to the supermarket, I was greeted by a frosty faced cleaning lady who had been waiting ages for a 'gentleman' (me) to exit so she could get on with her cleaning duties and behind her, Woody, crying with laughter as he read the texts from his phone.

Oh the shame! Imagine how my face burned, dear reader. And how it burned again when I realised Woody had posted a screen shot of my texts on Twitter later this evening...



Oh and by the way, this is also the day that I accidentally hurled my iPhone from the window of a moving car. One of these days I'll actually get my shit together...

Never mind. At least I've got my holiday to look forward to. We're off to Egypt on Monday. Straight into the riots. Ho ho ho... *sigh*

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Lipshen

We got a new addition to the family today.  Meet Lipshen...



She came from Animal Krackers, a charity which was set up in the late 90's by a local couple, Ian and Sue, to raise funds for local independent animal rescue organisations.  Over time it became a focal point in the community and people started taking waifs and strays along, as well as their donations of items which could be sold in the shop. It's continued to grow since then and has eventually morphed into a strange, but much loved, hybrid of an organisation which serves a number of different functions across the community.

The staff consists of volunteers and they do a fantastic job of manning the retail outlet from which donated items are sold to raise funds. They visit local schools to educate children about animal welfare and they also work with older kids and teenagers to help build their confidence.  They're trying to raise money for a new animal shelter at the moment but until then, they are constantly seeking volunteers to help out with short term fostering of abandoned animals, particularly cats and dogs, as they simply don't have enough capacity to take all of the animals that need help.


When I left home earlier today with a bag of clothes and household items to go to Animal Krackers, I had no idea I'd be returning with a new member of our family.  I love all animals, especially cats, and it really tugs at my heartstrings when I hear the stories of abandonded pets. I always have to steel myself before I go in to the shop or I'd come home with every waif and stray in there but there was no way I could have stopped myself falling for this poor little mite when I saw her. She had me from hello.

Her previous owners were evicted from their house for some reason and when they left the house, they also left the kitten behind. The loathsome creatures even returned to the house a few days later and broke in to retrieve some of their possessions which had been left behind on the day they'd been evicted, yet they still left the kitten behind. I'll never understand that kind of mentally. I'd find it impossible to simply 'dump' an animal. It's utterly heartless.

The neighbours fed her for a couple of days before taking her down to Animal Krackers when it became clear that she had definitely been abandoned and that's where I met her today. Isn't she lovely? She snuggled into my neck, purred and fell asleep and my heart was stolen in a nano second.



It was out of my hands from that point on. I'd bundled her into the car and was half way home before I even remembered that I hadn't spoken to Woody about her but luckily, he was equally as smitten once he met her.

We originally called her Ella, as in the Greek word meaning 'come on'. Woody speaks Greek so it's a word which is used often in our house anyway and we thought it might suit her. We couldn't have been more wrong.  She's very cute but it's cute in a mischevious way rather than a 'poppet' way and she's definitely not a 'girly' cat at all. We had some great names suggested by friends at home, as well as on Twitter and Facebook, but for some reason none of them seemed to suit her.

She's a bundle of energy and is forever climbing walls, curtains, legs and arms; anything that's near her really. She's so small and light she can hurl herself across the kitchen without making a sound and before I'm even aware she's there, she's somehow managed to scale my legs and back and I find her perched on my shoulder like a slightly deranged parrot, peering down inquisitively as I make my cup of coffee.

It's absolutely hilarious and it's this kind of antic that made Woody remark how much she made him think of a witches familiar, so I suppose it was a very small step to then come up with the name Lipshen, which seems to suit her so much more.

We both love the Roald Dahl book 'The Witches' and we always laugh because, as someone who has a natural aversion to children and a total absence of any kind of maternal instincts, Woody insists I remind him of the Head Witch played by Anjelica Huston in the film of the same name and who has a cat named Lipshen as her familiar.

So Lipshen it is! Not that it really matters what we call her as she has a mind of her own and ignores both of us most of the time anyway. She's been here for all of five minutes and she's already created havoc.



Our older cat, Millie, is completely bewildered by it all. Lipshen has already hijacked Millie's basket and is merrily scoffing her biscuits as I type this whilst Millie looks on with a bemused expression on her face.

It's early days as yet but I do hope they settle down and get on together as I doubt I could take Lipshen back to Animal Krackers. It seems we are now a two cat family!      >^..^<    >^..^<

Monday, 31 January 2011

Wish you were here?

I'm watching the BBC news report about the recent events in Egypt.  It's amazing to observe such a phenomenal political/cultural shift as it occurs but I can't help but think it puts a 'slight' dampener on our holiday plans.

Yes, I do realise how horribly shallow and self interested that makes me sound  and no, I don't need you to tell me what a selfish individual I am. Thank you very much anyway but I think I've earned the right to be selfish about this holiday to be honest.

You see, in June 2009 I was involved in a nasty accident which rendered me immobile for the best part of a year.  I had reconstructive surgery on my leg in November 2009 which was around the same time that we got another nasty shock as Woody was diagnosed with a brain tumour. 2009 was not a good year for us at all.

As a result of these events and the subsequent treatment required, neither of us were fit to fly so we had to cancel three holidays that year. A bummer I'm sure you will agree.

"Never mind" we thought. "We'll take ourselves off somewhere really nice when I'm off my crutches and Woody's treatment is over." So we planned and booked a really nice holiday to New York in April 2010.

Two weeks! Exciting huh? So imagine our disappointment when we arrived at the airport bright and early one April morning to find that an Icelandic volcano had erupted during the night and all flights were grounded because the sky was covered in a huge ash cloud.

"Never mind" we thought (again). "We'll book ourselves a really, really long holiday somewhere nice to make up for it" and off we went to the travel agent.  We booked a lovely holiday to Egypt for virtually the whole of December 2010. A week on a cruise on the Nile followed by a week in Cairo and finally, a week at a Red Sea resort, relaxing and enjoying the sun.

A whole month! Exciting huh? So imagine our disappointment when we arrived at the airport bright and early one December morning to find our plane had been delayed by four hours because of heavy snowfall. In turn this meant we missed our connection from Heathrow to Luxor and naturally, we also missed the boat. Literally! Another holiday cancelled.

"Never mind" we thought (although my bottom lip wobbled slightly). "We'll book ourselves a really interesting holiday in January. Somewhere we've always wanted to visit. I know! What about Russia? Will it be too cold? It is January after all. Ack! Let's just book it anyway. We've managed perfectly well in Poland and other similar countries in January/February" so off I went to the internet to explore our options.

I found a fabulous deal. It was just what we were looking for. We'd fly to Moscow at the end of January and spend a week there before taking the train down to St Petersburg. We'd spend another week there before flying home again. We were really excited.

Then a bomb went off in Moscow airport so we decided that wasn't meant to be either.

So we booked to go to Egypt. In February. February 14th to be exact. Romantic huh? Just two weeks at a Red Sea resort. Nothing flash but oh my goodness, do we need this holiday to be ok. And then the Egyptian people decide to have a revolution the week before we're due to fly out there.

So as sefish as I sound, I'm sure you can understand why there's a tiny part of me that just wishes they could have hung on until March. Or even the very end of February. Just to give us enough time to let us have our holiday first. Or maybe we should just give up, stay home and rent a few DVD's. It'll certainly be a lot less hassle. Wish you were here? I don't think so!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

New Year, New Beginnings, New Blog.

I've been threatening it for a while but today is the day that I FINALLY get my act together and start a real, live, grown up blog.

I've always been a chatterer and I expect to emit a certain amount of blether but even I can see that it's unrealistic to continue clogging up my poor, overstretched Tumblr account. I'll continue to use the Tumblr mini blog for pictures and snippets but I'll save my lengthy ramblings for here. I'll also transfer some of the longer 2010 posts from across from Tumblr over the next week or two.

So dear Reader, Happy New Year and prepare to be dazzled!*


*Disclaimer - Dazzling may vary depending on expectations. It's probably a good idea to aim low to minimise risk of disappointment