Posted by: tabliope | January 23, 2018

A different January

This time last year I spent the day cycling around the countryside outside Chiang Mai, visiting Buddhist temples, being blessed by Buddhist monks and eating fabulous noodles. This year I would have thrown a pity party had I had the energy; I have been floored by a cold that has had more comebacks than Winona Ryder and each time in a different guise. It’s been a 3-week-cycle of feel like crap, feel better, announce being better, feel like crap and here we go round the mulberry bush one more time.  And I decided to do Dry January. I even signed up for the app on my phone which basically means that I am an adult woman with a sticker chart, albeit a virtual one. It has been a roaring success in the sense that I haven’t drunk any alcohol and I haven’t missed it in a bad craving sort of way but I have missed the taste. I don’t like sweet drinks, I’m not keen on fizzy drinks and I can only drink so much coffee before I start to go crazy.  I actually like the taste of wine.

Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary and I plan to have a glass of wine with supper. I shall live with the shame of the thumb-down on my sticker chart.


Posted by: tabliope | December 31, 2017

I got there

In July I did a lot of gardening and we went to the Peak District. Considering it’s a 2-hour drive from us it’s pretty shameful that I’ve never done anything than skirt round the edges before now. It rained a lot and I spent a lot of time being grumpy; I was so grumpy I made myself cross and I kept telling myself to just shut up but I never quite got there.  The Duke of Devonshire’s pension post was improved considerably by our visit to Chatsworth and then eating lunch in their fancy-pants restaurant because the place was running alive with people who dithered all over the place. If they weren’t dithering then they were completely oblivious to the fact that they weren’t the only people in the world visiting an over-priced, over-crowded and over-rated country house. When Sartre said hell is other people he really meant hell is other people visiting Chatsworth on a rainy Wednesday in July. I didn’t care what the restaurant cost, even if we had to sell body parts to eat there but I was going to be in a calm place for a short while. Mr T then indulged me in my favourite pursuit of spending money on over-priced deli products in the farm shop.

I couldn’t remember what I did in August so I’ve just checked my diary and it seems I visited Elizabeth Gaskell house in Manchester then popped into the Whitworth Gallery. Later in the month I went to an exhibition of quilts in Birmingham with a friend. I have never felt quite so middle-aged in my life.  When I only half-jokingly said this to my friend she told me that I probably wasn’t middle-aged any more so a pretty successful day.  August was also peak planning time for my 60th birthday in September. But there was still something missing in my planning schedule so I suggested to Mr T that given our retirement ages were moving further and further into the future we ought to really do some big trips while we were still fit enough to enjoy them. Thus we booked 3 weeks in Borneo for next year. Yes, I know we were never going to have another big holiday after Thailand but that was before I saw the Kelabit Highlands. We’re going to spend a while trekking and going up rivers in boats and clambering through mud in the rainforests and then we’re going to present ourselves to a luxury hotel for the final 4 days and drink cocktails and wash ourselves.

In September I hit 60 years old and I got a senior railcard along with wonderful gifts and a fantastic weekend with some friends who were all at my 40th birthday party.  We had a river cruise on the Severn, drank champagne, ate cake and saw a kingfisher. In the evening we had an excellent dinner in one of my favourite restaurants and then I cooked a big brunch on the Sunday.  John le Carre’s novel A Legacy of Spies was one of my presents but it was disappointing. I’d gone to see him speak a couple of weeks before and he was excellent then but the novel just didn’t do it for me.

October saw me going to Yorkshire to meet up with different friends. I stopped in Leeds to have lunch with an old blogging buddy and then moved onto York where, by coincidence, a friend of mine from Athens was visiting and we had a quick drink and then onto the main event of meeting up with NLM and her husband, K. We first met through our 20six blogs in 2003 and despite geographical challenges we’ve done really well at keeping in touch.  Mr T and I went down to Tenby on the Pembrokeshire coast for a few days and got some autumn sunshine. One of our favourite walks from Tenby to Saundersfoot was stymied by a farmer putting cattle on one of the fields. I think that 2018 has got to be the year where I get a grip on the cattle front and accept that just because someone once got injured by a cow that it won’t necessarily happen to me. And then I think of freak accidents and become unreasonable.

I couldn’t remember much of November so just checked the diary again and it seems that I fed the neighbours’ cat for a week and we went out for dinner a few times. We have wonderful neighbours and I love living here so much.  I love our house, our location and I’m so grateful that we came to live here when we returned from Athens. I read Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House which I really enjoyed particularly because it’s so dated. I still can’t quite work out the way Hill House is constructed so may have to draw it out.

In December I read Ali Smith’s Autumn and was delighted by it.  Two weeks into December and I realised that I hadn’t eaten any meat and hadn’t missed it.  I’m unlikely to be properly vegetarian, whatever that is these days. I found an article that talked about being flexitarian which basically means eating what you want when you want. Please feel free to rant away about the mauling of ideas and language. I made up for my lack of meat in the early part of the month by eating what felt like most of a turkey and a ham for Christmas.

It’s New Year’s Eve and we have no plans other than to have a nice supper (lamb, bottle of Crozes Hermitage and I am thinking of making Pommes Dauphinoise). In January I am jumping on the bandwagon of Dry January but will try not to bore on about it.  Apart from not drinking I’m trying for the whole being a nicer person, having more patience and being productive.  Whenever I say try I am reminded of a colleague I used to run training courses with many years ago and she would say don’t try to do something because that lets you off the hook – say you will do it.  I will be more patient and more productive and maybe that will make me a nicer person.

Happy new year.

Posted by: tabliope | December 29, 2017

Moving into February

We’re still touring in Thailand for the first few days of February but we finally came home to rain and the lake that would lie in our back garden any time it rained for longer than 20 minutes. Now that we’d had our trip I needed another project and I had my sights set on the garden.  For most people this might mean phoning lots of different tradesmen and organising meetings and checking credentials and references; not for me. Although we don’t run to staff in the household we have the next best thing in our friend G who had just had her garden landscaped so I offered to buy her coffee and got her to give me the phone number of her guy who had done it. Did you get lots of quotes? I asked. Did you check everyone out? I asked.  You’re happy with all this guy has done? I asked. I telephoned him that afternoon and arranged a quick tour of our garden, looked at his quote and came up with good arguments for Mr T and that was that. But he couldn’t do it until after Easter given his popularity. Damn G and her clever ways of finding both a good worker who was also sought after.

During February I also told everyone about my trip. Did I mention Thailand? Did I? Are you sure?

There was an early spring in March with a rush of daffodils in the garden. I planned how my garden would look after all the hard work was put in. We spent a long weekend with some friends in the south east of England away from wifi, 3G and a phone signal. Thus it was on the Sunday as we travelled home my phone found some 3G and I recommenced my words with friends game that I got the news from my poor friend that a mutual friend had died the day before in a freak accident.  I often think how hard that must have been for her to tell me, particularly across that medium.

April came and my garden took shape. I started volunteering for Oxfam books and I hosted many Green Party events in our house. A snap election was called and I spent a lot of time swearing at the radio.

In May I delivered a lot of leaflets for the Greens and perfected my veggie curries and dhal. We went to Harlech in Wales for a week and because of the budget-busting trip to Thailand (did I mention our trip to Thailand? Are you sure?) I chose the hair-shirt holiday. It’s remarkably cheap I explained to Mr T because I had already promised him that we would never go on holiday ever again. Harlech is beautiful with its long stretches of sands, dunes and big skies. But outside of the holiday season there is little infrastructure like, maybe, a decent pub or shop. We spent a wonderful day in Portmeirion which is much more than just the quirky village; there are wonderful walks through the woods and along the coastal path. We drove down to the Llyn Peninsula where English is very much the second language and ate an excellent lunch in the pub on the beach and managed to get back to our car before the tide came in. Although there’s worse places to be stranded than in a pub.

In May our government embarrassed much of the UK by forming an alliance with a bunch of religious dinosaurs from Northern Ireland.

June was peak gardening for me with my vegetables in my new raised bed (yellow and green courgettes, rocket, coriander, flat-leafed parsley, – the tomatoes and chillis came later).  I stopped boring people about Thailand and moved onto telling everyone about my home-made compost. It is truly wonderful and ensured a fantastic showing of sweetpeas all summer long.

I’ll try and get through this before 2018.



Posted by: tabliope | December 28, 2017

Warning: This is still January

I love a good round-up of the year. In fact, at the end of 1999 when the telly did the round-up of the century I was in heaven with all the wallowing in what had gone on. Despite getting great enjoyment from looking back on all that’s passed, I get enormous pleasure from planning what I’m going to do in the future; in fact I think that I almost enjoy the planning more than I enjoy the event. This year has been a good year for me with many planning opportunities and much to look back on. It has been cut with sadness too.

In January I celebrated 25 years of marriage to the patient and lovely Mr T.  We celebrated this in Thailand and I’d managed to put the planning mode for this into full throttle during 2016 so that we had the best time ever. A couple of highlights of this trip: we spent three nights in the most luxurious hotel I have ever set foot in anywhere but combined with the service of Asia it was like I had been reincarnated as a princess. Our hand-wringing liberal sensibilities went into overdrive but instead of grabbing all the staff and making them join a union, we dealt with it all by tipping heavily while making free with the luxury toiletries, and yes, another cocktail would be perfect. Canapes, you say? Why not? For our actual anniversary we cycled from the outskirts of Chiang Mai to a dam where we kayaked over to a floating restaurant and ate noodles, fish and salads.

The following day we moved out of the luxury hotel and started our 3-day trek where no one was offering me a cocktail and I had to carry my own rucksack! We’d passed some Mahmoods walking their elephants but pretty quickly we were right in the countryside – just the two of us with our guide…and a stray elephant. There we were walking along a narrow track with banana trees on either side when suddenly there’s what looks like a trunk and big ears up close. Evidently her Mahmood had gone for a cup of tea and a cigarette while leaving Nelly to snack on foliage. I won’t even cross a field of cows at home so the idea of walking within 2 miles of an elephant wasn’t going down too well with me. Our guide assured us that it was tame (but huge) and that we’d be fine. I closed my eyes and ran and given that I’m here writing this, the elephant didn’t trample me to death. After that we had the most brilliant day trekking up towards a tiny village high on a ridge overlooking Chiang Mai. Jandoo, our guide had brought some lunch wrapped in banana leaves – cold sticky rice and some unidentifiable fried protein that I never really want to think about too much.  I wasn’t hungry at the end of it and I didn’t die if we want to be more positive about it.

We knew that the first village was going to be basic but we’d been assured there were mosquito nets and a western style toilet and that our guide would cook for us. We stayed in the rickiest house built on stilts with the chickens and pigs running around underneath us. There was a western style toilet with a big bucket of water next to it, no electricity and the mosquito net covered a mattress on a bamboo platform. No one offered me a cocktail. Our dinner was cooked in a wok on an open fire. (Stir fried chicken with basil and cashew nuts, rice, stir fried pork and some broth.) We ate by starlight looking over Chiang Mai and fortunately some beer was found from somewhere. I was asleep by 8.00pm which meant that I was awake to see Thailand come awake early the next morning. It was one of the best nights of my life.

I’ve lied about it being a yearly round-up. At this rate I might finish it in 2020


Posted by: tabliope | December 15, 2017

And stick a bow on it

Mr T is trying to find out what I want for xmas but because I’m very lucky I can’t really think of anything much other than the following:

  • I’d like to fully understand the problems of the middle-east (along with many others, I imagine)
  • I’d like to speak Spanish – I can’t do the mouth thing and just sound like I’m doing a very poor impersonation of someone with a lisp
  • I’d really like to be tall – perhaps about 5’9″
  • For one day I’d love to be stunningly beautiful just to see how much of a difference it really makes
  • I’d like to find my original wedding ring and my mother’s engagement ring which was lost in Switzerland
  • On that note, I’d quite like to apologise to my mother for a time when I was astonishingly rude to her
  • I’d like to be able to draw
  • Anything that gets rid of Brexit
  • Ditto Trump



Posted by: tabliope | December 13, 2017

5 bleddy days

On Friday morning as the first flakes of snow floated past my kitchen window I got on the phone to Mr T and advised him that he should consider leaving work a little earlier. A couple of hours later I phoned him and told him that if he didn’t leave work at that exact moment he’d end up spending the weekend there because the UK was suffering a major snow storm the like that had never been seen before ever. What’s that you say? We get snow every year? So we just like pretending that we don’t know how to manage a little bit of snow? Fine.

Snow works for me in the following way: You wake up, look out of your window at the beauty of the bluey-white and you find the wellies, go for a walk up a hill, photograph the snow. Say, look there’s snow on the hills maybe say it a couple of more times just to reinforce it. Go home, light a fire, have a warming drink and then look out of the window and the snow will have gone. Instead we had to cancel our  weekend in Aberdovey and spend endless days walking up the same bloody hill and meeting other people who were telling us there’s lots of snow on the hills. There is so much snow on our hills that our town appeared on the national news. This is particularly unusual because most of the UK may have vaguely heard of us but wouldn’t be able to find us on a map so I can only assume that a TV crew got stranded here and they were made to find something interesting. It was snow.

We have watched a lot of television including The Crown and our small pleasures have come from impersonating Philip, Elizabeth and the Queen Mother. Mr T does a very good Philip. I think that when Elizabeth says No it sounds more like a cat not quite managing a miaow.

Posted by: tabliope | November 30, 2017

When you don’t believe in your liver

Hipster’s Corner in the supermarket is now offering Wow  dark detox which is all natural, so that’s great then.  It’s also low calorie. The  thing that they don’t put on the bottle is that it is going to taste like crap which I imagine is exactly what you’ll be producing in bulk if you were stupid enough to spend your money on that amount of activated charcoal. It makes me want to force-feed people chicken nuggets.

I’ll spare you the rant about people starving while others are slurping activated charcoal because they might have eaten a doughnut.


Posted by: tabliope | November 29, 2017

I took time out to write to my old friend…

Four years ago today I was preparing to leave Athens to return to the UK and I wrote this final blog post for Greece. More than ever now I believe that we should tell people how much we value them; I made a great friend in Switzerland, spoiler alert: she wasn’t Swiss, and we spent a lot of time together doing our best to negotiate life in Switzerland. After I left Switzerland we continued to keep in touch and she and her family visited us in Germany and we met up again in Switzerland and a couple of times in Greece when she piggy-backed on a couple of her husband’s business trips. After I returned to the UK we didn’t exactly lose touch but we were at the level of liking Facebook posts, the odd tweet and xmas cards. Facebook is a monster for making you think you’re in touch with people when you aren’t. One day I saw a postcard of a cute boxer puppy, she had recently got a boxer pup, and I bought it, posted it off to her with a note saying ‘I miss you and we need to be in touch.’ A few days later she sent me a huge email and we were back to mailing, what’s apping, skyping and being in touch.

I am so grateful that I took that step because she died earlier this year; it has been hard enough to cope with her death and had we not been back to how we were then I think that in some ways the grief I still feel now would be even stronger.



Posted by: tabliope | November 28, 2017

Feeling most secure

I went and got myself one of these fancy password generators that then does all the brainwork for you except I didn’t realise when I downloaded it onto my browser that it would log me out of all the pages that I’m permanently plumbed into and I’d have to log myself back into everything. I’m still trying to work out how to actually get the thing to do what it’s supposed to do. It even logged me out of Feedly and it’s not like anyone cyberjacking me is going to want to know the list of blogs and websites I subscribe to – are they? I mean it’s not like any of them even update their blogs, do they? With the honourable exception of one person.



Posted by: tabliope | November 27, 2017

She’s behind you (oh no she isn’t)

If you’ve been hiding under a rock on the far side of Mars then it’s possible that you didn’t hear that I did my first Park Run in September a few days before I turned 60. Where sporting activities are concerned I’m not particularly competitive and all I really wanted to do was be able to get round the course, not die in the process and not be the absolute last; I hit all three of my targets and although not last, I’m definitely in the last quarter.  Much is made of the camaraderie and the supportive element to Park Runs and on the whole I’ve found them to be a good place to be which is why I was particularly surprised to find myself shoved out of the way by another runner at the end of the course so that she could get her code scanned and be one whole second ahead of me. I still can’t quite get my head around that at all and I can only assume that she’s the sort of person who will overtake in a car just so she can then sit at the traffic lights right in front of you. It doesn’t get her any further but at least she’s not behind me.

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