Chancing my arm

Tower Bridge, opening

You may have noticed a certain lack of activity on here recently. It’s down to a number of things that have all come together at once, but it’s mainly because I seem to have developed repetitive strain injury in my left wrist and arm, and typing has become a painful exercise. It throbs even when I’m not near the computer and it’s been bad enough at times to stop me sleeping.

My arm’s been feeling a little strange for a while, and heaving boxes full of books around during the move didn’t help things at all. However, the real culprit was the two or three weeks when I had to use a laptop instead of my desktop computer – the typing position was very awkward as I didn’t even have a desk to sit it on at the time and had to crouch over a coffee table.  I’ve had something similar happen before.   A while ago, before we moved, I set my desktop up to be as ergonomic as I could manage – this was prompted by problems I was having with my neck that time (I think I may be slowly disintegrating). That plus a bit of Bowen therapy got my neck back to normal but now I’m going to have to look very hard at the whole thing again.

Apart from a bit of height adjustment (which is going to be difficult given the existing office furniture) the obvious solution is an ergonomic keyboard. These are really weird……they split the keyboard in two with each half set at an angle – a bit like Tower Bridge looks when it’s halfway open (see above). They also add in a kind of humped effect going from front to back, plus one or two other strange little delights. I’m going to have to find somewhere to try them out and make sure I can still touch type in these crazy positions, but a bit of experimental hand twisting has convinced me that this might well be the answer.  I hope so.

The downside is that I do believe these keyboards are quite expensive to buy, so I’m hoping I don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for it.  I’ll just have to go there armed with lots of cash, but it will be worth it – a real shot in the arm to be able to type painlessly again.  In the meantime, since the sun is over the yard arm and I’m literally chancing my arm to keep typing, I’m off for a large glass of wine.  OK, ok, I’ll stop now, I really will…….

Boxes again, and a cat in a basin


I just have two quick things for you today. First, notice the pile of empty boxes above – there are 130+ and don’t include the 25 or so we gave back to the removers on the day.  The question now is: where do we put the empty boxes???  (we’re going to need them again before the year is out)

Second, one of my cats has taken up residence in the wash hand basin. She’s fascinated by the water that comes magically out of the taps; she can’t quite figure out when it’s going to happen, and hasn’t made the connection yet with my presence being the deciding factor, so she hangs around in hope……

Jammy the cat

Boxed in!

Boxes 1

We’re here, we managed to transport two cats and two rabbits here without too much trouble, and the house is liveable in – just. There are boxes everywhere, piled above head height in places.  I’m appalled at how much stuff we have, and that’s after giving our home a fairly serious decluttering about a year ago.  There’s something almost obscene about the sheer quantity of things we possess when you see them all boxed and together in one place.  Much of it is books, which I don’t mind and don’t place in the general category of clutter, but an awful lot of it is bits and pieces that ‘might come in useful one day’, but probably won’t.  I’m thinking if that day hasn’t come in the past year or two, it probably isn’t going to.

The problem is that we had a loft full of this kind of stuff and there isn’t any accessible loft space here, or even a garage to put it in, so it’s all in the living space at the moment.  There are some things I’d planned to get rid of anyway and wanted to sell on ebay, but they do need to have a home in the meantime that keeps them out of our way.  We also have things like a washing machine that doesn’t have anywhere to go because the rental property already has one – we don’t want to get rid of it because when we buy again we’ll probably need it.  And our old home had a couple of huge storage cupboards, which we don’t have here, so space needs to be found for their contents.  We’ve looked at various options, including commercial storage, but that’s way too expensive so we ruled it out and have now concluded that buying a large garden shed combined with some radical culling will probably solve the problem, and we can take it with us when we go – which is all fine, but we still have to buy the garden shed and erect it and until we do we’re going to have to live like this.

My study is still a mess and full of – yes – boxes. I’m writing this on the laptop at the dining room table (which is in the living room because the dining room is full of boxes!), but am hoping to have located my computer again by tomorrow and to have a small space cleared round my desk that I can work in.  I’ve really missed my blogging and other online activities and can’t wait to get back to doing some photography and writing again.

This all sounds rather gloomy and it’s certainly not meant to. I’m actually as happy as a pig in clover – I love the house, which is full of light and air (or will be when the boxes go), and I like the area.  I’ve not had time to explore yet – I’ve hardly left the house since we got here – but am looking forward to this immensely.  And since I rather like organising and tidying, there’s a lot of satisfaction to be found in unloading boxes and deciding where things will go.

Before I go, I think our removal company deserves a mention. Darrell, Gordon and Martin were absolutely wonderful – they worked tirelessly to pack us up and move our stuff, stayed unfailingly cheerful, considerate and helpful, and didn’t even complain too much at having to carry yet another box of ‘Gilly’s books’ up a steep flight of stairs.  If you live in Kent and are thinking of moving, I can thoroughly recommend Jordan & Jarret.

Boxes 2These boxes are just the ones holding the books that were in the loft; there are about two to three times as many that came from the main part of the house!


Too many goodbyes

Sun, pebbles and leaves

I’m feeling sad. So many goodbyes, although I’m grateful that many of them are really au revoirs.  Up till now I’ve mostly felt excitement about the move, but as we get closer and closer to the big day I’m becoming more and more aware of what I’m leaving behind.  Each day brings another ‘last time’ for something, and usually some sort of goodbye to someone.  Yesterday my hairdresser hugged me after my last appointment with her – I have to say that that’s a first 🙂  Yesterday evening we went for a last meal in the restaurant where we had our wedding reception, and they gave us double portions of everything (I’m still feeling stuffed) and big hugs as we left.  Everyone has been so lovely, and it’s brought home to me how many wonderful people there are in my life.

I’m excited very excited – about moving, but for the moment I just have to let the sadness of what’s being left behind percolate through.  I want to get on with it now; I’m tired of goodbyes.  And although I’ve been loving the social whirlwind of trying to see everyone before I go, I badly need a few days spent quietly, on my own.

It will probably be a week or so before I’m back here; I’m taking a little break to do some packing, and I don’t know exactly when I’ll get hooked up to the internet again after the move.  They’ve promised the day after, but you know how these things go……..wait for me, won’t you?

Room with a view

Circular window

The cottage we stayed in last week was converted from a farm building and this circular window was in the bedroom.  It was positioned low down, the top of it being just below hip level in the wall, so when you woke up in the morning you could look right out while still lying down.  I want one of these!

A little photographic tip: I used fill flash here to balance the light outside with the relative dimness of the room.

View from the Wirral

View over Dee Estuary

Well, here we are on the Wirral peninsula and the holiday cottage we’re in is to die for. It’s immaculately decorated and furnished, and the owners have provided absolutely everything you could possibly want (well, except for a cheesegrater – we have binoculars, wine, a sewing kit, a first aid box, quilted toilet paper, a welcome pack of basic food and the best organised and most comprehensive information pack you’ve ever seen, but no cheesegrater).  The picture above shows the view from the sunroom (rather sweetly referred to by the owners as the ‘sitooterie’), across the Dee estuary to the Welsh mountains.  I could sit and look at this view for ever.  Every evening has brought another spectacular sky and I wanted to post some of the pictures, but I’m having computer trouble again so you’ll have to wait.

Despite the fact we have two laptops with us, I can’t get anywhere with editing the photos and they do need a bit of tweaking to show them at their best.  (The photo above is untweaked and could probably benefit from some small amount of tweakerie, but I had to give you something to look at.)  We have both a Windows and a Mac laptop with us.  The Windows has Photoshop Elements on it, but I only installed it before I left and didn’t realise I would need to enter the product key code when I first used it and of course I don’t have it with me.

Never mind, I thought, I have Photoshop on the Mac – I’ll use that. But have I mentioned that I hate, detest, and loathe Apple systems?  Every time I try to do anything on one, I end up tearing my hair out with frustration.  I’ll happily concede that they’re beautiful objects, but I just can’t use them.  First of all I couldn’t find Photoshop, it wasn’t in the dock and I didn’t know how else to get hold of it.  I fiddled around and eventually got it up, then tried to open one photo.  The photo was on an external hard-drive and I couldn’t get the drive to open.  Then I did, but when I tried to open the image the drive just disappeared.  Finally I got it back again and opened one image in RAW.  At that point I realised that the angle I was viewing the screen at completely changed the way the photo looked, and I couldn’t tell how it would look when seen normally, so I decided to come out and just play a little with the jpeg instead.  Then I couldn’t close Camera Raw because the buttons were completely off the bottom of the screen and it took ages to find a way of resizing the window so I could get at them.  Having exhausted my repertoire of curses by then, I decided to call it a day and go back to Windows.  Which is where I am now…………. anyone want to buy an Apple laptop? – I’m not joking here.

All that aside, we’re hoping we may have found a house. We did a marathon viewing of eight houses in one day, and apart from the one that was stratospherically outside of our price range, only two of them were even worth considering.  I’m really quite shocked about the state some of these places were in; lots of them (including the one we’re interested in) were really dirty and shabby.  Perhaps I’m being naive here, but I’d think you’d want to at least give the place a good clean before you tried to interest anyone in living in it – wouldn’t you?  If we get this one, we’re looking at a good two or three days of cleaning and going round it with a few cans of emulsion before we start moving stuff into it.  It’s scruffy.  The house itself is really very nice, and meets our needs pretty well, at least in the short term.  It’s more spacious than the one we’re in, and moreover it feels very spacious, and it’s nice and light.  It has loads of storage space and bookshelves, and it’s in a very nice little village and quite close to a railway station.  More importantly, it just felt right when we walked in the door.  But it is definitely scruffy.

We’re now waiting to hear back from the owners. We asked for a small reduction in rent, and for the cupboards and sheds to be left completely empty (some of them were full of junk), and the garden to be trimmed and tidied up.    This seemed quite reasonable at the time,  but it’s been a day and a half now and we haven’t heard anything.  To be truthful, we don’t have much bargaining power – we need somewhere to live and we need it now, so we are definitely going to give in if they object – but you’ve got to try.  At the moment we’d probably roll over and wriggle ingratiatingly at their feet if they’ll only just allow us to live in their house – grubby, scruffy and all.  Keep your fingers crossed for us.



My word for 2012


It seems to be the thing these days to choose a word to represent your year to come, and also your year that just went. My word for the year that’s ending would have to be ‘difficult’ or, if I’m going to be really honest here, ‘bloody awful’.  I know that’s two words, but it does require the swear word to be truly representative of how I feel about it 🙂  Should I care to put my positive hat on (and I must admit there are days when it stays hanging sullenly on the coat rack) then perhaps ‘challenging’ would be fairly accurate.

I did choose a word last January that was altogether more positive than any of these – ‘connection’. In the way that life has of playing ironical little jokes on you, I was ill for so many months that I wasn’t able to maintain the connections with people that I already had, much less make new ones. However, as the year has gone on I realise that I actually have made connections with lots of new people, and have managed to re-establish the old ones too (so maybe it’s not all been bad). So I’m going to take another punt at this, and with some trepidation I’ve chosen the word ‘flow’ as my hope for 2012.

I’d like my life to flow, easily and effortlessly, like a clear and lovely river that simply bypasses any obstacles in its way. I’d like to feel I was floating gently downstream in a small and prettily painted rowing boat full of cushions, feeling the sun on my face and the gentle rocking of the water, and preferably with a wine glass full of something Australian in one hand and a box of something from Hotel Chocolat in the other.

I want to allow the water to take me where it will, trusting that it knows what’s best for me, but perhaps giving the rudder a little tweak now and then to encourage my boat in a particular direction (because I can’t give up control entirely, you understand). I want to enjoy the scenery as it passes, accepting that the beautiful parts come and go, that there are always more beautiful parts than ugly ones, and that the ugly ones will soon move behind me as well. And with reasonable regularity, I’d like to plop myself over the side and do a bit of swimming in the cool, welcoming water because, nice as it is to relax with the wine and the chocolate, I need to feel I’m doing something too.  But I will always be swimming downsteam….

Yes, that’ll do nicely for 2012.

Making cards for Christmas: first find your photos

Queen Bertha

I’m drowning in photographs. I have so many on a variety of hard-drives now that I can’t remember where anything is.  A friend asked me last week if I could make her some Christmas cards using some of my photos, and I rather foolishly said that she should look through my Flickr stream and tell me what she wanted.  I only ever put low resolution images on Flickr, so I needed to find the high-res originals of the ones she chose.  Nightmare.  It took me all day. There’s one that I still haven’t found, and I gave in and used the version I’d uploaded to Flickr.  Fortunately it was a slightly higher resolution than normal for some reason, and it’s printed out very nicely at 6″ by 4″.

Here’s the problem: I have no obvious way of organising them. My memory stood me in good stead for ages but now there are about 35,000 photos floating around and I’m lost.  I’ve got Photoshop Elements, but I hate the Organiser that comes with it and don’t want to use it.  I’d like to get Lightroom, which I believe helps you organise very efficiently, but the operating system on my very old computer isn’t up-to-date enough to be compatible and I can’t afford to buy a new computer right now.  I can’t upgrade the operating system because the computer innards couldn’t cope.  Added to this, my computer won’t recognise one of my external hard-drives and if I want anything off it, I have to connect it to Geoff’s laptop and transfer what I want to a USB pen and thence (does anybody but me use the word ‘thence’ anymore?) to my machine.  My computer recognises my other external drive, but if I leave it plugged in when I boot up, it tries to boot up from the external drive and won’t start.  It’s times like these I wish I had money; it’s not always the solution to life’s problems, but it would be in this case.  Ah well, if I have to sell my car, which is looking more and more likely because I can’t afford to run it, I’ll at least put the proceeds towards sorting out my digital problems.

Anyway, one thing that was very interesting was to see which photos my friend chose. I’ve put them all on here.  A couple of them were obvious choices and would have been ones I’d have gone for myself, but a couple of the others were ones that I’m not really very happy with.  The reflection of the Cathedral in the leaded window (below)  is one that I’ve never felt good about; I like the idea but I didn’t feel I’d really pulled it off – I think it’s cropped a bit too closely, and the reflection hasn’t come out quite as well as I’d have liked.  I felt rather awkward while I was taking it, as people live in there, and it looked like I was trying to peer in through their window.  I think I rushed it a bit.

Cathedral reflection

The others, including the one at the top, are all places in Canterbury except for the blue angel at the end which is an obvious Christmas choice and one I’m rather fond of.  It’s been seriously Photoshopped and you’d barely recognise it from the original, which was taken in the cemetery next to Pugin’s house in Ramsgate.

Tudor houses under snow

Cathedral and rooftops

Canterbury snowmen


Summer, I miss you

Summer days

Hard to believe it was only a few weeks ago that I packed my notebooks, pen and camera into a backpack and lay in the sun in the middle of a wildflower meadow to work on my essay.