end of summer….and a new chapter begins…

20 Sep

Last week I wrote about that lovely long summer just gone, the one when the kids are eighteen and have finished school A-levels in mid June and have right until mid-September before their next chapter begins.

I wrote about the summer and concluded with the promise of a follow-up to this:

“…….I was determined to discuss with you the trials and tribulations; nerves and nausea caused to these teens in the preparing and planning for their next chapter… ………  As I type this (or in between paragraphs ) I’m preparing his ‘final supper’; his favourite meal; one he feels he’s unlikely to ever eat again…. …… I sense a heart warming afternoon…..possibly a few tears (mainly mine); probably a sleepless night and then tomorrow a drive to Cardiff.    I plan to be the ‘cool mum’ the one who offers ‘just the right amount’ of support/detachment/emotion/comment… I plan to leave with a hug and a smile and let him get on with it…. we all know what they say about the best laid plans…..”

But it’s interesting, having let the weekend pass, arrived home and spoken to other ’empty next’ mums  I realise what I need to write more about is not the teens next chapter but ours.

We all spent the last 18 years preparing our children to be capable enough, independent enough, wise enough, balanced enough, skilled enough to move forward and flourish in that middle earth between childhood and adulthood; that place where they can practice independence with the safety net of lecturers, faculty heads, parents, family, to turn to and return to in times of insecurity, panic or concern.

We each spent the whole summer ensuring those teens had the best final summer they could.  We spent our energy, talking them through their options; preparing them for the results; creating plan B’s and plan Cs ‘just in case’; helping them fill in forms; organise accommodation, grants, loans,; purchasing kit; opening bank accounts; maybe teaching them to cook or use a washing machine.  We were their mentors, therapists, agony aunts, parents.  We help them with nerves, we helped them pack, we lent them or gave them whatever we could.  We then drove them with positivity and confidence to their new locations where we stayed ‘brave and strong’ and helped them unpack; deal with more forms; maybe deal with nerves and tears ; took them shopping (again) to stock their fridges and cupboards.  If we were lucky we met their new flatmates; checked in on them again the next day; took them for a meal.

Then we came home.

Then we mums (dads/carers/guardians) realised we had been so busy preparing them for their next chapters we hadn’t realised we needed a new chapter of our own.  Just in these two days with a quick straw poll of mums I know I have come to the realisation that the empty next moving forward plan has not been on any of our ‘to do’ lists.

I genuinely thought I had it sussed :

“I plan to be the ‘cool mum’ the one who offers ‘just the right amount’ of support/detachment/emotion/comment… I plan to leave with a hug and a smile and let him get on with it….”

…and that is what I did.  But now I’m home.  I cried quite a lot today.

I’m not sure how much/little to message/interact with him by social media is reasonable but I’m pretty sure that at the moment its ‘too much’ and I’m probably getting on his nerves!.

Some mums talk about feeling ’empty inside’ , ‘at a loss”, ‘bereft’, ‘redundant’.  For us all it’s the end of a massively long and all-encompassing chapter and because the chapter didn’t end until we safely delivered our teens to their next starting point, none of us have had any time to prepare for ourselves.  I feel sure that our next chapters will be equally as exciting and rewarding as the last.  We just need a bit of time to adjust, regroup and rediscover ourselves.

I’d be interested to know how you parents out they felt when you found yourselves with an empty next. Or are feeling, if like me, it’s just happened.  Sharing your experiences will act a bit like a support group for us newly bereft parents… please comment here on this blog so we can start-up some social interaction counselling….


the end of summer….

15 Sep

I had so many blogs I wanted to write in a timely fashion this summer.  But time for timeliness was lost to busy-ness and busy-ness was loss to craziness and a certain amount of chaotic-ness, sleeplessness and general tiredness!

It was a whirlwind summer, one that promised to be longer than most (which it was) but to fit in the extra length, time was most certainly speeded up and the resultant rapidity of activity, organisation and enjoyable experiences blurred into one mass of euphoria and exuberance.

I wanted to write to you about all the gardens I visited.

The vibrant and magestic Bicton Park Botanical Gardens, near Exeter:-

The tranquil and contemplative Burrow Farm Gardens in Axminster:-

…and the hidden gem of Hergest Croft, in Kington, Herefordshire; with its perfect little tea room and plant nursery

I wanted to wax lyrical about the wonderfully wacky two weeks of the World Alternative Games culminating in commentating for the World Bog Snorkelling here in Llanwrtyd Wells.

I wanted, but failed, to fit in participating in any of the adventures of the fortnight – although I wanted to Office Chair Race, Husband Drag, Ditch Run, Pea Shoot, Crazy Shop, Worm Charm, Race Chariots, Wrestle in Gravy, Run Backwards, Cycle Slowly and dress as a Zombie; but the extra activities in town meant extra work for me .

Then there was the fabulous Imp Club National event at Hatton Park World in Warwickshire which involved camping; cars; a rally to the British Motor Museum in Gaydon (fabulous thoroughly recommend it); and strolls along the Grand Union Canal tow path.

Meanwhile there was still work. I was busy managing five other people’s garden’s ( I love these jobs). I had my own house than needed painting and some extra shifts in our local caffi.  Mum and Dad wanted (and did) visit.  Our B&B proved extra popular this summer with both new and repeat visitors.  fitting in a hectic self employment based multitude of work activities alongside a heavy social schedule has been both incredibly exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure.  There are people I love who I have not seen or spoken to in the last 8 weeks….  forgive me until October, I will be back.  …and events i didn’t fit in (sadly) especially the Pink Car Rally which is fabulous fun and for a great cause… next year….


And then I wanted to share with you all the fun of our long planned , end of summer party where we dressed the entire garden as an enchanted landscape themed for Alice in Wonderland; complete with appearing and disappearing Cheshire cat grins; card guards, tea party and lawn croquet….

I was seriously keen to play the Proud Mum and rave about the excellent achievements of my son and his friends who all sat in nervous anticipation of their A level results until they could finally relax and revel in their exceptional successes this summer  – how proud am I to know them all.


I was determined to discuss with you the trials and tribulations; nerves and nausea caused to these teens in the preparing and planning for their next chapter… for many it’s this weeks move into their university halls.  Sick with excitement, doubt, fear and anticipation; worry about making new friends; living away from home; learning in a new way; taking responsibility for their own finances.  I drop Jason at his halls tomorrow.  As I type this (or in between paragraphs ) I’m preparing his ‘final supper’; his favourite meal; one he feels he’s unlikely to ever eat again…. well, at least until he comes home for his dad’s 60th; or the Christmas holidays… or in fact any weekend or weekday evening he wishes!!!! So it’s Thursday and I’m preparing a Sunday roast with all the trimmings and my mum’s very indulgent rice pudding recipe.  I sense a heart warming afternoon, playing board-games, having a good old laugh and possibly a few tears (mainly mine); probably a sleepless night and then tomorrow a drive to Cardiff.    I plan to be the ‘cool mum’ the one who offers ‘just the right amount’ of support/detachment/emotion/comment… I plan to leave with a hug and a smile and let him get on with it…. we all know what they say about the best laid plans.

Anyway, this shall begin my last weekend of summer and I plan to write an addendum next week…. stay in touch people… and why not tell me about your summer.

It’s lovely when people tell us they’ve had a good time …

7 Sep

We had a good trading weekend in Builth Wells at the Antique Fair. We sold steadily and made a nice profit, which doesn’t always happen but it must have been our turn, Some of the Traders took very little and we find that is how the Fairs are at the moment, very un-predictable and patchy. And we […]

via LLANWRTYD WELLS! — Boxofmisc

15 Things That Don’t Require Qualifications or Talent

25 Aug

love this list of positive and fundamentally important skills

Suzie Speaks

imageWith the impending GCSE results due out tomorrow, the topic was already trending in the early hours of this morning on Twitter with thousands of teenagers anxiously waiting to see how they had fared, many of them already dismayed at the fact that grade boundaries for certain subjects had been raised… again.

At school, I was a high achiever who enjoyed the process of learning. I worked hard with the belief that qualifications were the be all and end all to everything that would make my life successful and happy in the future, and even after doing my A levels and a degree, my GCSE exams still remain as one of the scariest and most stressful experiences I’ve ever had.

And yet, eighteen years of life after leaving school (and spending ten years working as a teacher) has made me realise that, while qualifications on paper are important, there is…

View original post 716 more words

D I (Here’s) Why!

24 Aug

John and I are very make do and mend.  The idea of throwing something away because it’s old or for newer technology does not sit well with us.  And if something breaks our first thought is to fix it not replace it.  It’s saves loads of money (of which we have little) and its far more eco-friendly to fix something then scrap it and replace it with a new one.  That’s why our (touch wood) washing machine is over 20 years old and working just fine (Ok we’ve replaced parts a couple of times); and why we still have a cathode ray tube TV (that my dad was chucking out 15 years ago because the colour definition had gone – but we fixed for £30); and why John just had to have a go at this…

We bought a Toyota Prius from our wonderful local Toyota dealership in Builth 10/11 years ago.  Second hand 2005 model.  Despite its dents and scrapes its been fine. The garage service and MOT it annually and fix any niggles and problems.  they’re a fantastic team and should we ever need a new second-hand car we will get another Toyota because of their customer service.

Our trusty Toyota Prius

Our trusty Toyota Prius

A few weeks after the last service which includes a battery health check we went away for a few days in our Imps.  On return john went somewhere in the Toyota and by the time he returned every warning light was on ; glowing red cars with exclamation marks VSC and break warnings… it did not look good.

Popped to the garage and were told it would be one of two things a faulty start-up which made the computers think the hybrid battery was failing; or the hybrid battery was failing.  They reset the warnings and said if they don’t come back on then all is well.  sadly they all came back on.

Now I know nothing about electrics/electronics/engineering or cars but the hybrid battery, I’m told is made up of a series of cells that together make up 220V and although the car is petrol and electric, once the hybrid battery fails the car dies, it will not continue to work on just petrol.

A new hybrid batter fitted by a dealer is £1200 (that’s one and a half hours of labour (£125) and the battery.  The car is maybe worth scrap value without a working battery.

We don’t have £1200 or access to it in any way.

New Hybrid Battery Cells

New Hybrid Battery Cells

John researched refurbished batteries and they were around £300-400 but were in places like Cambridge and Coventry.  Plus our wonderful garage agreed they would fit it for us at the same rate but would not be able to offer a guarantee.  all fair enough, but one big problem,,,, We didn’t have a car to go and get one.

After much research and YouTube video watching our very own handyman, my John, decided he would give it a go himself.  He purchased two new cells at £56 delivered and allowed himself 2 days to dismantle the car and attempt the repair. (Two cells with the thought being that the car might have managed with one failing but two it would be unlikely coupled with the garage previously assuring us that in most cases the cars are scrapped well before the hybrid batteries fail – they’d only ever had two fail in all the years…now three)

So, how did John get on? Well here’s his Vlog about it.  Basically £56 and  four hours and we have a working car again!  Plus he only needed to replace one of the cells, so we still have a spare.

I think I’ll suggest to our Dealership that they offer this service.  For £350 we’d have probably have let them do it and I bet they could do it in an hour.

But for us, here’s a better example of why we DIY… We just saved ourselves £1100!!!

£350Mil is enough to….

15 Aug

Another Brexit ‘lie’? In fact its ‘politician speak’ or ‘marketing speak’ or ‘spin’.  It’s a statement of fact . You COULD build a hospital for £350Mil (true ? I don’t know the cost of building a hospital – i suspect it depends on size, location, facilities etc), its possible. It’s a statement. It’s not a promise to do so.

Marketeers always use statistics and empty statements to sound knowledgeable, supportable, better than the rest.  It’s a sales pitch.  ……

“…up to 99% improvement…”.

The advert probably won’t say 100% because we consumers might not believe that shit.; but  99% improvement, that’s what they hope we’ll hear.  According to sales figures that’s what many people will hear. “wow if I use that shampoo my hair will be 99% softer”.
What does it really mean?  It means nothing.  “Up to”, could be 1%, 12%, 87%; anything really.  It could mean no improvement at all!.  It’s not a “LIE”, it is in fact a ‘TRUTH” but it doesn’t give you anything.

£350Mil is (probably) enough to build a new hospital; no-one actually said they would.

I remember David Cameron stating in a speech how sad it would make him if he had to do something (cut some benefit or other), I forget exactly which cut saddened him.  What he didn’t say is that he wouldn’t cut it.  Once voted in he did cut it.  Did he lie?  Technically he didn’t, his spin doctors/script writers worded his speech so he actually promised nothing, he just lead the ‘consumer’ to believe he was on their side……

Did he lie?  I suppose in this instance I might argue that the cut didn’t even make him sad…so maybe he did.

63% didn’t vote Brexit….

15 Aug

This number has been bandied around a lot post-referendum. It’s a statistical calculation used by the ‘failed’ side in most elections.  It’s the fascinating thing about statistics.  They really can say anything.  By ‘fascinating’ read ‘frustrating’, ‘annoying’ or downright ‘misleading’.

You could use the same statistical method the other way round.  That is , apportion all those who abstained (didn’t know, didn’t care, or didn’t make it to the polls) on the Brexit side.

Doing so we could conclude that 67% of the population didn’t vote Remain!!!!

In the hope at this point Remainers continue reading, I would say “stick with me, I’m writing here about statistics, not Brexit”. I’m using Brexit as an example of statistics in use.

Personally, I used a similar statistical argument after the May elections when I was aggrieved that the Tories were voted in. It’s not quite the same because we run a FPTP voting system so the Tories did actually only have 36% of the vote.  I still used the argument and added the non-voters to the other side reducing the Tory leadership to representing only 16% of the electorate. Shocking huh?

Clever old stats. Marketeers, politicians; economists and businesses around the world rely on statistics to prove their point and to make life altering decisions. but statistics can say whatever you want. simple use and compare the numbers with different things to get your point across.  I worked in Sales for a while I always managed to make the results sound positive , I just compared them with a different period or product or person….

We’re all human and we all have an opinion, so remember, assume everything you read is biased, even if it’s trying not to be.  Even this!!!!😉

Stargazing and Dancing at Solarsphere…

11 Aug

This weekend in Builth Wells, Powys, at Penmaenau Farm & Camping is a little known and quite fabulous music festival.  Coupled with astronomy and located in a designated Dark Skies area  this little event has a timetable of great music, largely from unsigned bands , and knowledgeable, entertaining speakers from the astronomy arena. It’s Solarsphere. I went last year.  It was brilliant.  I’m going again this year.

The atmosphere was easy-going and friendly.  There was absolutely no trouble at all.  The shower and toilet facilities are fantastic.  There’s a bar but campers are also welcome to bring their own just not into the event section.  Loads of people bring along really really large telescopes.  It’s really family friendly; workshops for adults and kids, stalls (I’ll have a range of cards and skyscape art with me), great and inspiring FREE talks to attend, loads of varied music and children’s entertainment. Kids under 13 get in free with accompanying adults and a 3 day/night pass is only £45 (£20 for 13-16 year olds)  Bargain.

solarsphere program 2016

solarspher program 2

D I Why?!

10 Aug


We moved here eleven and half years ago.  Feb 4th 2005 to be exact. The house was run down and dated but we could see past all that.

We needed to start receiving B&B guests that May so, as we walked through the door on that first morning we started ripping out carpets as we wandered from room to room. Thirty years of coal and wood grime and a good inch of dog hair; we wanted them out before the removal van arrived.

This was followed by the fun bit, four weeks of knocking the crap out of the place; chipping back plaster; taking walls back to brick until they stopped crumbling away; scraping off wallpaper; whacking stuff with hammers.  You would not believe some of the findings.  Wallpaper held down with masking tape to keep the crumbling walls in; slivers of soap and old newspaper to fill holes and bridge gaps!! Four weeks later our plasterers who had helped us finish our old house (so we could move on), arrived to cover the walls back up again.  We followed them around painting and decorating.

This is a "Trouser Press Free Zone"

By May Bank Holiday 2005 we had the house ready from the front door, through the hall and into the guest dining room; up the stairs and into the two guest en suite rooms.  All our own space was in the same sorry state we found it.

We did get our bathroom finished.   John was amazing.  I wanted twinkly lights so to create this effect  (baring in mind the added complication of a curved ceiling).  John build a false ceiling, drilled 250 holes and threaded them with 1/2km of fibre optic cable before I helped him manhandle it into position.


bathroom mosaic and fibre optic ceilingA

This involved me standing on the edge of the bath, balancing that end of the ceiling on my head whilst he fixed the other end in position.  I also wanted black tiles floor and ceiling to create a feeling of ‘floating in space when standing in there at night.  I know , I’m demanding, he’s patient and obliging.  Especially considering that the glue dissolved the mosaic tile backing meaning that each 2cm square tile had to be attached individually. (I imagine lots of swearing under John’s breath and fake smiles through the 50 hours it took to create my dream).

At some point during the last eleven and a half years we have managed to (almost) finish our living/dining room, the floor is still as we found it having lifted the carpets on day one.  We just can’t find time or energy to sand the floor boards. Plus there’s a troublesome little DIY conundrum to get our heads around before we do …. the room was previously two rooms but had been knocked through at some point in its past.  The floor on the living room side and that in the dining room are slightly different levels and the gap in rough, uneven concrete.  For eleven years we’ve ‘dealt with it’ like this….  a sheet of wood and gaffer tape…its become a bit of a feature…

The kitchen we acquired with the house was a 70’s extension to the 1907 original build with the added quirk of a second ‘fix’ whereby a larder had been knocked out and a back porch had been added.  The floor with quarry tiles suffered the same idiosyncrasy as the lounge/diner; a line of concrete where the wall had been between kitchen and previous larder space and slightly different levels.

There were two different types of 70s cupboards and two different types of 70’s laminate worktop.  I coped for a couple of years and then John promised to build me a kitchen.  It’s about 60% there!!

John built the cupboards; they’re so substantial you could save yourself by hiding in the during a bombing raid.  They never quite got finished beyond the primer.  I added the mural in Spring 2016.


John has however resolved the floor issue here; leveling and quarry tiling throughout


As for the worktops. The kitchen is bespoke, lots of curves and odd-shaped worktops required.  I don’t like to make it too easy.  so we cut out some temporary ones for the shape some years back, and there they remain!  We wanted stone.  Five years or so ago we got round to sourcing some .  Too expensive.  We could never raise the funds.  We had some grandiose idea of using recycled glass composite and moulding our own with the help of a local entrepreneur; John even researched how to go about it using YouTube videos; but it all got a bit complicated.  We considered polished concrete.  We even acquired a DIY kit to do it ourselves.  I have no idea what happened to it.

kitchen plan

Last month I called in a carpenter. He’s coming in September.

Then there’s the outside. It needs painting.  its needed painting since we arrived.  At some point we started glossing the window frames. and at some point we slapped a coat of cream/beige on the front lower half.  I’ve always wanted t sunshine yellow.  Starting yesterday we’re getting sunshine yellow.

I have no idea how I’m going to tackle the front upper half over the veranda. Perhaps John can dangle me out of the first floor windows and hold onto my legs…..

13925717_10209845242318488_3432707386603736817_o 13920695_10153647598813204_5607724809679600764_n


Red Kites over Myddfai

3 Aug 13912605_1298769933474183_1529318925936773135_n


The inspiration afforded to us by our exquisite local landscapes is unmeasurable.

My latest project was a commissioned piece for a couple who live in the beautiful village of Myddfai, just fifteen miles from my own home and guesthouse .  The village is tiny but is an attraction for many walkers, herbalists, homeopaths and general tourists; with is quaint and welcoming visitor centre  / cafe / craft shop / wedding venue…

Its success is based on several things other than the obvious, genuine and warm welcome visitors receive

  • its ancient (14th Century) tales based around Lyn-y-Fan Fach about The lady of The Lake
  • its provenance regarding a dynasty of herbalists , the Physicians of Myddfai (11th & 12th century)
  • its royal connections to the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles and Camilla have a home there)
  • its proximity to a fabulous Red Kite Feeding Centre

It was this landscape around Lyn-y-Fan Fach and the red kites that inspired this panel.


(if you are interested in a commissioned panel or window you can contact me without obligation to discuss….you may be pleasantly surprised at the cost of owning your own bespoke and unique piece of glass art)