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…

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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.

So 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…..

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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)


The Wierd and Wonderful World of Llanwrtyd Wells

12 Jul

I often blog about how wonderful, unique, magical, proactive, eccentric, picturesque, tranquil, exciting, special; this little nook on our planet is.

Here is a wonderful article that really shows are more unusual side…  Thank you to Chris Kitching, TravelMail for giving it a go and then writing about it; and all those in our community that make this place what it is.

Bog Snorkelling, Man v Horse and other adventures


Julia in Action

Julia Galvin “bog chick”


Mountain bike Chariot Racing

Mountain bike Chariot Racing


Red Kite Statue

Red Kite Statue, Llanwrtyd Wells “Spirit In The Sky”


Cerdyn Villa - abergwesyn valley

Abergwesn Valley in Autumn


Gordon Green

The wonderful Green Events founder , Gordon Green MBE with me dressed a s the “Bog Frog”


man v horse

man v horse – the horse parade before the start


www.llanwrtyd.com Home of Bog Snorkelling Event-led tourism

llanwrtyd Wells, where anything can happen. and Monster Raving Loony Party H/Q, in Neuadd Arms Hotel http://www.llanwrtyd.com

Neuadd Arms Hotel


Chocolate, Peanut Butter Cheesecake

11 Jul

Whole Earth Foods sponsor the “wonder-fuel challenge”, Man v Horse Marathon, held here in my home town of Llanwrtyd Wells.  I was very lucky to acquire a case of crunchy peanut butter from the very lovely ladies who were clearly “powered by nuts” at this June’s event!

Here’s what I made with my first jar

peanut butter cheesecake

If you fancy making it yourself, this is how I made it

1 jar crunchy whole earth peanut butter

1 packet (300g) Aldi dark chocolate digestives (other brands are available!)

150g dark chocolate

100g salted butter (you don’t have to use salted but i just love salty Welsh butter )

440g Philadelphia cream cheese (or other brand)

130g castor sugar

1.crumb the biscuits in a blender ( or in a sealed bag using a rolling-pin as a hammer – great if you’re feeling frustrated, angry or need a workout!)

2. place the butter in a none metallic bowl larger than is needed (as you are going to add your crumbs in a minute), and microwave to melt (this will only take 30-60 seconds)

3.mix the crumbed biscuits into the butter.

4.press the butter/biscuit mix into the base of a loose bottom tin (I think mine was 23″,if yours is smaller your base will be thicker and your cheesecake deeper but that’s ok)

5.put this in the fridge to cool

6.melt the chocolate in the microwave in a large none metallic bowl, mix in the peanut butter (yes, all of it!), cream cheese and sugar

7.beat the double cream until it is relatively stiff (soft peaks) and stir into the mix

8. spread this onto biscuit/butter base

9. if you want, grate some extra dark chocolate over the top

10. chill (grab yourself a glass of wine whilst he cheesecake rests in the fridge)

11.Slice , serve, savour!

Do you have a wonder-fuel recipe to share?  Please leave it on my blog if you do.

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Post Referendum..wise words

24 Jun

My husband (or rather, partner), John, is a wise man.

The future is not yet written.  Everything now in the media and on social media is speculation (or guesswork, hype or scare-mongering). Every rule, regulation and agreement is up for change. Or NOT .  We won’t know the future until it is negotiated and implemented and that will involve our Government made up of MPs from all Parties, The EU Powers-that-be, The 27 EU countries and their respective Governments and the Rest of the World, talking, reacting, negotiating and implementing.

We can speculate, scare, blame, mud-sling, threaten and postulate all we like but only time will tell the truth.

As I said, John is a wise man. and amongst all that ranting and postulating and panic and speculation that has been shot at us from every direction today, came his post on FB.

“So, it is done. The people wanted a vote and we had one. It was always going to be close and, unlike a general election, this was a true yes or no question, so you will either be happy with the result, or not. I was surprised by the result. I was surprised by the engagement of so many people. I was surprised by the passion of the argument (on both sides). I was surprised by the vitriolic nature of the argument (on both sides).

But now we have a decision – a decision of the people. That is democracy – and I am also surprised that democracy has actually worked and that the government is going to do what the majority want!

If you didn’t vote, then I’m afraid you missed the boat. More fool you.

The next step is for us all to get on with it! A bit of post-match banter by all means, but the vote has been cast. If anything, the bile and vitriol has got worse… stop it both sides NOW.

The trick now is to make the decision work for us, whatever that means. Endless bitching and whining will get us nowhere.

Can we all just calm down, take a step away from the fight for a second and try looking forward in an optimistic way? The future is more than uncertain – it is unknown… that’s kind of how future is.

We are supposed to be a United Kingdom – lets act like one.”

Wise and patient words.  Let us reflect and listen.


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