Ooooh, shiny!

Excitement! This week I got my first ever blogging award! The handsome, multitalented, funny and awesomely cleanshaven Erik has given me one of his five Artey Y Pico awards. Basically you choose people whose writing you enjoy - Erik and I have been mutual readers for a while (heh. That sounds dirtier than it actually is!), and here's what he had to say about my little blog:

"2. The Country Mouse Tales: The good Claire has a true gift for the written word which always makes for a pleasant read regardless of the subject matter she chooses to broadcast. It's always entertaining to hear about a slice of life from across the pond."

Aw, shucks. Thank you, lovely. If you didn't live so far away, I would so take you for a bite to eat to say thank you.

And now I get to choose five people to pass the award onto, and there a rules for how this is to be done (official, huh?)

1. You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award through creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogger community, no matter of language.
2. Each award should have the name of the author with a link to their blog.
3. Award winners have to post the award with the name and link to the blog of the person who gave them the award.
4. Please include a link to the Arte Y Pico blog so that everyone will know where the award came from.

So here are my five picks:

*drum roll, please!*

(for fun, I've also put at the end of each pick what I would do with each blogger if we hung out for an evening)

1. Erik's ramblings. The stories. The quotes. The music. The movies. The Scarlett Johansson obsession. I just really enjoy Erik's blog, and have for a good long time. He's also part of the reason this blog's still here - a bit of gentle bullying from him last year helped me regroup a little blogwise! I'd love to hang out watching movies with Erik, then maybe go grab some beer and food and play pool. He'd win. I suck at pool.

2. Small moments make a life. Darlene blogs straight from the heart, and her posts are peppered with wisdom, beautiful photos, humour and loveliness. I admire her spirit and talent so very much. I'd love to go for a walk with her, and then maybe share some tea and secrets under a starry summer sky.

3. As good as it gets. I discovered the beautiful Scarlet's blog earlier this year, and am amazed by the sheer humour and energy which infuses her writing. I want to drink red wine with her and set the world to rights!

4. Permanent Title Currently Under Construction. The amazing Christy writes brilliantly about music and life in the city, and is never afraid to go off on an entertaining or unexpected tangent. I've also met her in person and she's equally cool in person. I would go gigging, then hit a bar and maybe a club with this good lady - in fact, I may just do that, if and when she comes over this side of the pond :-).

5. Somethings Gotta Give. Ashley is another blogger I've been lucky enough to meet in person, and she's wicked cool. Her blog is funny and frank and so like her it's spooky. I'd take Ash around London (so long as we could avoid any haunted houses...;)).

Congratulations, gang. And thank you once more, Erik. You rock, and you managed to make me blush. High five!

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Letting the numbers speak for themselves – a “how many” meme.

How old are you?
I am the grand old awesome age of twenty-seven. Or at least I was, last time I checked!

How many musical instruments can you play?
I sing, and play the flute and recorder. Oooh, and the triangle. I’m wicked good at the triangle ;).

How many countries have you lived in?
Scotland, England, Germany and Luxembourg. So that’s four. So far, anyways.

How many schools have you attended?
6 primary (Applegrove, Hayfield Lane, St. Clement’s, Barnes Wallis, Cheshire, Griffon); 2 secondary (R.A.A.S., Forres Academy); and two universities (Aberdeen and Durham). Quite a few, then!

How many boyfriends/girlfriends have you had?
Serious ones? That would be one. I spent most of my early twenties in a bit of a commitment-phobic place, so I dated and had fun and all, but it’s been an age since I’ve been anyone’s girlfriend. I hope I get the chance again sometime, but I don’t think boys look at me that way! Which is kind of a shame. The one time I was someone’s girlfriend, I was pretty good at it, from what I recall (it was back in the Victorian ages though – perhaps I’m mistaken….?).

How many years since you last played on a swing?
One, I think. Yep, I definitely went on the Grant Park swings last summer. I may go again this week, now I think of it.

How many bones have you broken?
Thus far (touch wood), none. I’ve fractured my wrist before though (rollerskating), and fractured my right foot in four/five places (fell several feet off of a zip wire platform).

How many siblings do you have?
I have a younger sister (Sian, a.k.a. Midimus) who lives down south with her boyfriend and is kind of figuring it out for herself just now and pretty and clever. And I have a younger brother (Peter, a.k.a. Minimus) who lives at home with the parentals and is all kinds of good at computing and funny and kind.

How many homes have you had?
Nineteen. I think. I’ve moved a lot.

How many people have you kissed?
Would it be terrible to say I don’t know? After almost ten years of being single, I’d have to sit down with some paper and have a big old think. But if you chose a sensible number, you’d be right. Not a slut. Not a prude. :-)

How many languages can you speak?
I’m pretty good at English. I speak a decent amount of French and a little German. And I understand a teensy bit of Spanish and Italian. To my eternal chagrin, however, I’m not naturally talented when it comes to languages. Unlike HRH and Mlle Wilson, who are both amazing at languages – I’m in awe of their skills.

How many times have you been in love?
The kind of love you have for friends and family? I have so much of that in me and in my life, I swear it fuels me. But romantic love? Thinking that one person is just amazing, and wanting to build a life with them? That’s yet to happen.

Wow. Isn’t maths revealing?

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Sometimes, when I'm least suspecting it, I get a glimpse of who I want to be, where I want to be and what I want to do. For a second or a minute, sometimes even a few minutes, the obstacles around me...or the obstacles I put in front of me....just aren't there. And I'm brave and strong and not afraid anymore.

I love those glimpses.

Sometimes, when I'm least suspecting it, I get a glimpse of who I might be, where I might end up, and what might happen to me. For a second or a minute, sometimes for a whole sleepless night, I see nothing but hurt and pain and loneliness. And I cling with all my might to all the blessings and goodness I have and pray and hope and wish that this darkness is all in my head.

I hate those glimpses.

I want to build on the former and move on from the latter. It used to be that I rarely got the former, but in the last few years they have happened more and more, and the latter are fading out more. I feel like I'm ready for that. Who knew I'd grow up more in my twenties than my teens? Also, how angsty is this post - can you tell I've just watched a 'One Tree Hill' marathon?

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Way up in the hills above my hometown, is a beautiful viewpoint at Califer. I hadn't been back in years and years, but yesterday evening, after dropping off Harriet and Andrew, I just really felt like going up there. I hadn't been there in a dozen years, and had no real idea of how to get there, but little car and I headed the only way we knew...up. And we found it! I spent a good half-hour just sitting up there, looking out, dreaming and thinking and looking. It genuinely is one of my favourite places on earth.
I have a tonne of friends I'd love to take up to Califer - we could take a picnic and chat and sketch and enjoy the views. I can think of dozens of fellow bloggers who I'm sure would fall hard for its charms. One day I hope I'll fall in love with someone, and I'll want to take them to Califer, and show them the view that's so special for me. And if and when I have kids, whenever that may be and wherever I live then, I know I'll bring them back and take them up there, show them the bay, and the Firth, and Dunrobin Castle in the distance.
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A look back meme

Inspired by the ever beautiful and talented Darlene at daisies (, who in turn had been inspired by the lovely I Am (, I've decided to do the latest meme sweeping the blogosphere. Feel free to join us - it fits in well with all the thinking and pondering I've been doing lately...

(a's a little dark at the start. But it has a fairly happy ending :-))

Twenty years ago....

I was seven. And every time I see a picture of me at that time, I just want to jump in a time machine and go and give that sad, scared, lonely little girl a hug. I've more or less blacked (or should that be greyed?) out a good 90% of my ages 5 to 10 (seriously. I struggle to recall books I read, names of friends, favourite TV shows. The memories just aren't there...), and all I can see in the photos of that time is a lost little girl. I was pretty and slim and bright and so eager to be loved and utterly alone. This was smack bang in the toughest period of my life, and it breaks my heart to think of how I felt and how I percieved things. The deep cord of sadness and loneliness that goes straight through my character (yes, underneath all the sunshine, smiles and joy, there's a depth!) is pretty much a direct result of this time, I think. There were good times, I'm sure. I just can't remember them. It's like my subconcious took the whole time, bundled it up like you do rubbish at the end of a kids party (you know, where you fold up the paper tablecloth with all the junk on, and then shove the whole thing in the bin?), and just moved on.

Which means I'm healthy. But I wish I could give that little lonely tomboy a hug.

Fifteen years ago....

I was twelve. And I had just finished my first year at boarding school. In many ways, my time at boarding school was the making of me - I was bright, and I could learn. It taught me about friendship and teamwork and when it's best to just shut the hell up. My boarding school was very rough, but a great place for me at the time. This was also the time that I started piling on weight... I arrived at school a healthy, broadshouldered little girl of eleven. And was bullied incessantly for being fat. With the divine irony of preteen thought, this triggered my comfort eating for the first time. Meaning I did become fat. Sigh. But as coping mechanisms go, it's one of the least deadly. But as I try and move on from this fifteen years later, it's amazing me how hard the cycle can be to break! I think also the fact that I was bullied by girls and boys at the time meant that becoming fat became something of a power. Because if you're fat, boys don't notice you. It's a thing I've been hiding behind ever since, and part of the reason I think my current weightloss has stalled. Yep. I'm scared.

However, unlike my memories of seven, there are some great times I can recall...the first time I sang a solo and thought "This is what I love to do". The first time I came top of the class. Silliness and midnight feasts and girly chats in the dorms.

Ten years ago....

I was seventeen, and smack bang in what (I didn't know at the time) was one of the best summers of my life. A couple of months later one of my best friends would pass away and it would be that moment where I became a grown up, that point where you know you can't go back. But in July 1998 I didn't know that. It was a summer of babysitting and waitressing and lying on the beach and going to the local disco on a Friday and Saturday and parties and waiting for exam results and your day being made when that cute guy from orchestra looked your way. It was an amazing summer. I was very clumsy in the way I looked, and personality wise I was way more of a doormat than I am now, but the Claire writing this was starting to take shape.

Five years ago....

I was twenty-two, and had just finished university. I had a degree and some great friends and a head full of dreams and ideas. I also had a place on a college course to do Radio Production (one of my dreams!)...which I promptly lost despite aceing all the interviews etc....because they added an extra thousand pounds to the fees. Disappointed doesn't even cover it! It was a time of hopes and fears and indecision and trying to sort out what I wanted to do. I'd had a really bad time about two years prior to this (my life up to and including twenty had it's fair share of awfulness!), but I was finally cimbing up from it, and around here is where I really started to be the me you read here. I'm still growing and changing, but the cycle that started for me about five years ago is the best of my life. And I say that completely unironically. It may suck sometimes, it may have bad times, and heaven knows I screw up sometimes, but I love where I am now. My twenty two year old self kicked it all off.

Three years ago.....

I was twenty four. I had just finished my PGCE at Durham, after one of the busiest, most stressful, and awesome years of my life. I had worked hard and got a great qualification. I had grown immeasurably in confidence (I'm still an inherently shy person. But ten years ago or so? I wouldn't say boo to a goose!). I had met three of my best friends (Mlle Wilson, HRH, and Jean, I'm talking about you!) and a heap of other amazing people. I had secured a job at a really good school. I was an excited wee thing! I was also the largest I had ever been, after snacking far too much when under pressure and drinking far too much when letting my hair down. I'm two dress sizes smaller now, which is brill. Despite this hitch, I'd say three years ago was a pretty great place.

One year ago.....

I was twenty-six, and working at LASA (Lady Annaly's Summer Academy, the summer program/finishing school) with some amazing girls. I was feeling pretty good about my teaching after two years at the same school, but the seeds of change were starting to sprout, and ideas for other projects and pursuits were starting to take root. I was lucky enough to have an amazing bunch of friends. I loved my blog (still do!) and was very excited to be hoping to meet some of my fellow bloggers when I holidayed in Canada a few months later. I'd just passed my driving test (third time lucky!) and was looking for a car. I'd recently joined a little movement called 'Join Me' after reading a book my friend had recommended (I had no idea what a knock on effect this would have!). Life was pretty darn good.


I had a lovely day. The sun was shining, and there was a crisp light breeze coming in off the Firth. I went up to see Erin and her beautiful boys (the universe, in its infinite wisdom, has given me many wee people to coo over. Which for someone as awesomely broody as I am, is a powerful gift). I drove along the coast path to meet Sam for lunch and we sat out on the deck, watching the clouds wisp across the Firth towards the moutains of Caithness and Sutherland. I went to Elgin and bought books (still one of my favourite treats!) and met my friend Ewen. We went for Irn Bru and chat. I drove home in the sunshine and had tea with the fam. I sent some email, checked some blogs, and then headed to the park where I sat and chatted with Ross, Ewen, Harriet, Jamie and Andrew, before we all headed in to watch a Ben Folds Five DVD together. I remarked that a day like this was pretty much one that my seventeen year old self would have adored - all the fun, just with more diposable income, a car, and broadband internet!


It's 11.15, and I'm writing this in my PJs. After this, it will be reading blogs, reading books, writing postcards, cooking, maybe a swim.... The pace of life in Forres during my summer holidays is blissfully relaxed.


Who knows? More holiday fun, I would guess.

In the next five years.....

I have so many dreams and hopes and ambitions. If you've seen 'Never Been Kissed', there's a point where Drew Barrymore's character asks another character what she wants to be when she grows up. The other girl answers with a list of about eleventy million things - that's how I feel.

I want to help people and have fun and create and change the world. I would like to fall in love and have adventures and build a home and have babies. I wish such good things for the people around me - love and success and peace and goodness. I want to write stories and sing songs and bake cookies and take pictures. I hope to be brave and silly and good and clever and kind. I want to dance at gigs and laugh with friends and wake up in the arms of someone who just makes my heart sing. I want to make a difference and be inspired and love life and encourage people. I would like laughter and late night talks and challenges and so much. I want to be a positive in the lives of others.

I intend to be busy. :-)

Oooh, and what a perfect opportunity to post one of my current favourite songs - 'Five Years Time' by Noah and the Whale (

I really enjoyed doing this meme. It was a job and a half, but I'm glad I did it (and thank you if you persevered and read it all!).

What would yours say?

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Afraid of change, afraid of staying the same

Morning all! It's 7.15 (a.m.!) and I'm up and blogging as I have breakfast. I hope you're suitably impressed by the enthusiasm :-). The title of this post comes from one of my favourite BNL songs ("What A Good Boy" - I've chosen a live link from youtube, because the official video isn't available in the UK. Maybe they are scared it will blow our minds? Excuse the sweary whoppy intro, and hold out for the tune. And enjoy the frat boys singing along), which happened to be the first thing that came on my media player as I hit play. What an apt song, what an apt lyric, for a twentysomething at home again,

It's a beautiful day here. As I look out of my window I can see a beautiful blue sky, with just a few of those wispy, high altitude clouds. The sun is out and smiling down on our litttle town, exactly as it did all day seems I've brought the summer with me. For now, anyway. This *is* Scotland. Rain is always ready to strike! It's so strange to be back on our little housing estate, exactly like the service housing estates I grew up on (except this one is nicer, smarter, more expensive, and has fewer deserted children sitting in the road). The sort of place where people wave to one another as they put the bins out, where a new car attracts attention, where a late arrival home from the pub causes curtains to twitch, where the summer holidays mean that from 8-8 our cul-de-sac is a riot of children playing on their bikes, running around, playing hide and seek. Is there anything more inherently awesome as grade school kids enjoying their summer break?

I'm so proud of my parents and their house. It's the home they've always dreamt of, and they've worked hard to get it. There were times in my teens when I was genuinely worried that they wouldn't be able to afford a home after Dad retired from the RAF. But they did it (because they're awesome), and I'm so happy their dream came true.

So the summer of fabulosity, fun, and thinking continues. I feel I'm coming to a bit of a crossroads, so the time to ponder is most welcome. I'm trying to get my head straight and sort out goals and the like - what do I want to do? What do I need to do? What's not important anymore? And most pertinent of all - what the heck do I do with my hair?

So that lyric spoke to me this morning. "Afraid of change, afraid of staying the same"? Welcome to my headspace (in a good way - this think's been brewing a while).

Hope your week has started awesomely!

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Way to procrastinate, Claire

So tomorrow I start the mini-epic journey home, where I fly or drive north (driving this time) for the summer. Because I live so far from home (505 miles door-to-door, fact fans!), over the summer break I try and get home for a healthy wodge of time. And it's usually great fun. But heaven knows, I will do anything to avoid packing for a roadtrip.

Since I got home from work this evening (I'd popped in to straighten up a few things before migrating) I have managed to pack THREE things. One pair of jeans, one paisley smock top, and a cardigan. I've been packing since I can remember (ex-RAF brat, ex-boarding school kid, student for five years...), and yet I'll still do anything to avoid it. As I type this my case sits on the bed, empty, waiting for attention. It'll get done. At about midnight. Y'know, if past form's anything to go by!

The joys of procrastination, however, mean that I have got stuff done. I've made a killer picnic for the roadtrip (I HATE service station food. And I really, really hate paying the prices they charge for it! So I have prepared a bag of delights for Sunday and Mondays meals - cheese topped baps filled with yumminess, cookies, bananas, apples, goji berries, pepper sticks, tortillas, cashew nuts... and to drink, water, juice, a couple of cans of red bull and lashings of ginger beer. Nyom!). I've read three chapters of my book. I had a highly entertaining phone call of a hour with Mlle Wilson which ended with me changing my facebook status to "Claire: platonic hottness, baby!" Just because. I've started planning mixes for Christy and Jamie. I've doublechecked the route north (6 or so hours tomorrow, 5 or so on Monday, traffic being well). I had a brief msn sesh with Harriet, caught up on emails, did the dishes, did some fact did more or less anything but pack!

I am looking forward to being home. It's always weird - here I set my own schedule (as is only right - I'm 27!), but at home I revert to being part of a family unit. But it's fun. I'm looking forward to long silly chats with Mum and Dad. I'm looking forward to hanging out with Siblingus Minimus and playing on the wii, going to play badminton (which, when we play, really is BADminton), inventing sandwhiches. I wish Midimus was going to be home, but that's not to be.

I'm looking forward to catching up with Ewen and Ross and Harriet and Andrew and Jamie. I can't wait to hear the band play together in the new format. I'm looking forward to being one half of Barry and Paul with Feef, the girl who makes my friend so very happy. I'm looking forward to Bubbleatron reunions with Maria, and "barren" chat with Toaly, and lunch with Erin and her boys. I'm also hoping to catch up with Jenna and Shona and Laura and Morag and Shirley and Debbie and Amy and Murray and Cameron and Vicki and Fraser and Sean and Michael and Lindsay...all the other awesome members of my beloved Scottish contingent.

I'm looking forward to Joinverness, and am excited to have the Joinees in places familiar. I'm excited to go to a Join Meet so close to home! I'm looking forward to the Festival, and the adventures that Lou and Shelley and Jude and I may have. I'm hoping that Mlle Wilson might even make it up for a visit :)

I'm looking forward to sitting on the beach at Findhorn and hearing the waves crashing into the pebbled beach. I'm looking forward to driving up to Califer viewpoint and looking out over the Firth, a view I've loved since I can recall. I'm looking forward to sitting in the corner of the Beastie or the Carisbrooke, hearing the accents that sound like home, the chat, the banter. I'm looking forward to Moray skies, those deep blue star scattered skies I've been wishing on for years...

Now I just need to get there :-) Back to the packing!

Hope you are all having a lovely weekend thus far!

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That feeling that feels like home....

Home is such a funny concept, isn't it? That space or place or time where you just feel safe and needed and at peace. It's something I've been thinking about recently, trying to make the intangible a little more tangible.

I love that feeling of peace, of serenity, of safety, of wholeness. I can pinpoint moments where I've felt the bliss of wholeness, the joy of homeness. It can be to do with a place, or a person, or just a state of mind. And it's great.

Lying in my bed reading late at night (yes, my crappy old couchbed, in my tiny wee flat), the lamplight soft on the yellow walls, music playing quietly, a cup of tea to hand and rest in grasp.

Sitting on the beach at twilight, the sound of the waves in your ears, the strange peace that comes from something as vast and unknowable as the sea.

Singing along at the top of my lungs at the gig of a band or an artist I love, jumping up and down, not caring how I look, not caring if I get mussed or if my shirt rides down or I get dishevelled. Just there, in the moment.

That moment where I hit the last part of my drive home and the Highlands loom before me as something deep within me just resounds.

Holding a tiny new baby for a big old hug session and just being blown away by how tiny and precious and amazing she is. Wanting so much for her and feeling so priveledged to be part of who she might become...

A kiss you can lose yourself in. A kiss that makes you feel found.

Conversations in the wee small hours with people you love and respect. The kind of conversations that show you who you really are.

After a night of nothing untoward happening, waking up in someone elses arms, and just feeling protected and rested and happy.

That moment on stage when you're deep in the song, and the audience are with you, and the band are behind you, and you just know this is part of what you were born for.

And a hundred other moments, all meshed together and blissful.

To close my ponderings on home, the lyrics to one of my favourite girl songs about the same. Here, it's romantic, but I think there are many ways to feel like home:

Feels Like Home - Chantal Kreviazuk (here with a cheesey 'The Notebook' inspired video!

Somethin' in your eyes, makes me wanna lose myself
Makes me wanna lose myself, in your arms
There's somethin' in your voice, makes my heart beat fast
Hope this feeling lasts, the rest of my life

If you knew how lonely my life has been
And how long I've been so alone
And if you knew how I wanted someone to come along
And change my life the way you've done

It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
It feels like I'm all the way back where I come from
It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
It feels like I'm all the way back where I belong

A window breaks, down a long, dark street
And a siren wails in the night
But I'm alright, 'cause I have you here with me
And I can almost see, through the dark there is light

Well, if you knew how much this moment means to me
And how long I've waited for your touch
And if you knew how happy you are making me
I never thought that I'd love anyone so much

It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
It feels like I'm all the way the back where I come from
It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
It feels like I'm all the way back where I belong
It feels like I'm all the way back where I belong

And for all my fellow hopeless romantics, a quote from 'Sleepless In Seattle' to close:

"Well, it was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were suppose to be together... and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home... only to no home I'd ever known... I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like... magic."

I wish that feeling for all of you.

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An English Country Garden

I was goofing around in our garden the other day and was reminded how beautiful it is. So I took some pictures to share with you all - it really is beautiful at this time of year! Click on for pictures of the garden I'm lucky enough to call home:

I hope you like it! And apologies for the fact I can't name the plants....

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Hopes and wishes and dreams...

Many months ago, the fabulous and multitalented Sacred Suzie inspired us all to make boards of our wishes, our hopes and our desires, a sort of 'manifestation', if you will. In typical Claire fashion, I knew I'd enjoy doing this, but was deep in the throes of a particularly crazy workweek. So I wrote myself a post-it and said I'd get on to it when I had time to spare. At the start of my summer break I found the post-it and got to work! And below are my collages. They're a bit amateur (I like arts and crafts, but I do find them hard sometimes!) but I actually really enjoyed making them.

I just collected words and pictures that inspired me (so there's pictures of the beach at Findhorn, the Cairngorms capped with snow, a London scene, Maya Angelou, Dolly Parton, Audrey Hepburn, and other things), collected some quotes (a couple of which I've written out below) and words that reflect the things that I love, the things I think are important, or the things I hope to have... It was powerful to sit down and actually think about these things :-)

"Then you rose into my life
Like a promised sunrise
Brightening my days with the light in your eyes.
I've never been so strong,
Now I'm where I belong."
Maya Angelou, from Where We Belong (A Duet)
"I was born with an enormous need for affection, and a terrible need to give it."
Audrey Hepburn
I also wanted to put in this poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which sums up a lot for me, but ran out of space! I have a copy of this poem on a wall in my classroom and a little framed version of it at home:
"Definition of a Successful Life
To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived."
I love that poem.

This was such a relaxing, comforting and inspiring thing to do. Thanks for the cue, Suzie!
What would your collages hold?
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Fun and Games!

I am literally just back from a lovely long visit down to London. It was all a bit impromptu and random and last minute, but altogether it was just really fun and silly and ace. After coffee with Beverley and Rachel I jumped on one of the Thursday evenng trains down to London, and then met a bunch of lovely folks in 'The Cock', the Joinee pub of choice in the capital. What followed was a really nice chilled Thursday drinking session, with about ten of us eventually fizzling down to a final four. Just good pub stuff - silly chat, ridiculous injokes, tall tales.... After last orders, Kate and Jason (my hosts for my stay - thanks again guys, I had a lovely, lovely time!) and I piled into a cab and headed for home.

Once we were home, Kate and I realised that Friday was our friend Mr J's birthday. So we should make him a gift!!! (We may have had some wine and gin :-)) He's of the opinion that birthdays are a just point for reflection, so we started to make him a "reflectometer". Words would fail to describe this - imagine foil, photos, card and doodles and you would start to get the drift. By 2 am we were tired, so we decided to reconvene in the morning.

Friday morning and we were up and at em fairly early as we had to motor to a music video audition for Kate. Kate's an actress and she's so cool (she wound up getting the job, naturellement!), so this was me living a little vicariously. After that we went for brunch and beer and completed our "Reflectometer!" (yes, it has acquired an exclamation mark). And then we decided to drop it off for Mr J. He works in a major London venue - cue Kate and I looking very silly and fangirly as we dropped it off at the stage door! We then headed for a pub in Camden (the same one, coincidentally, that later that night Amy Winehouse would make her DJing debut in). After about half-an-hour Mr J called us to "thank" us for our gift and came to join us for a while, and after he'd returned to work another friend, Scott, came to join us. He's a total Camden expert, so he took us for a wee look round the market before we headed to 'The Good Mixer'. This pub is something of a legend - musicians have been drinking there for generations. I liked it because it reminded me of the pubs at home in Forres. We drank, we chatted, I played pool incredibly badly against a total stranger. Phil and Jason joined us. Kate and Jason and I went for a bite to eat, and then we returned to say goodbye to the boys. Whilst doing this I managed to spill my friend Phil's pint all over the place (and a little bit on some poor hipster girl - I apologised profusely, of course!) - overenthusiastic hugging! And then Kate and Jase and I went to watch the Mamma Mia film, at the giant Odeon in Leicester Square. Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

On Saturday Kate had rehearsal, and Jason was helping their friend Ben to move in, so I went for a wander. It was lovely. I walked for ages, looking at the boats on the river, having a gawp at Tower Bridge, exploring the east end, then wandering around the Tate Modern for a while. When I returned home I introduced Ben and Jason to the televisual genius that is My Super Sweet Sixteen. A little later Kate arrived home and we just had a lovely evening of chat and wine and deli treats and kareoke and bad, bad TV. The boys retired around one, but Kate and I stayed up chatting till half three. This may be why I'm so tired at quarter past eleven this evening!

And today was more chillaxing, and then Kate and Jason and I headed to the pub to meet up with Mr J, and were then joined by lots of other lovely Joinees - Anna and Steve and HBR and Phil and Jamie and Siobhan and countless others who arrived as I was leaving, or after I had left. Lots of fun and silliness and hugs and just a great rounding off to my little London jaunt.

A walk, a tube train, a train, and a car ride, and I'm home. And I need a big old sleep. But I had a really good time.

How was your weekend?

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A change is as good as a rest. So a rest and a change must be doubly awesome...

First things first, thank you for all the lovely comments, emails, etc. after the mini wobble last week. I was just so very sad. It only lasted about 48 hours, but it was a necessary evil, methinks. There were situations and things I needed to be sad about, and I feel better for having hit the low. Thank you for letting me do so!

So now I am on summer break, which feels a bit like coming off of the motorway where you've been barrelling along as fast as possible, heading up the slip road and sitting down for a picnic. It's nice and all, but the change of pace is a shock to the system. I've done quite a bit in school today also, cleaning / sorting / filing, and will be in and out during the next fortnight. And then, up north to visit the Scottish contingent :)

The end of term itself was the usual whirl - Thursday was eeevvvviiiillll (trying to get the kids and all their stuff and their binbags of games kit out), and then Friday was a bit of a love-in - hugs and thanks and cards and prizes and presents and then all of us staff getting together for curry and a few drinks. We also said goodbye to two of my good friends, which was sad. And the staff band I help to front performed, which was amusing.

Saturday dawned crisp and sunny and clear and I spent the morning drinking tea and relaxing and generally having a great time. And then I drove up to Liverpool for a 'Doctor Who' party at Casa Jamanda. Top fun! Dalek cookies, lovely conversations, more Doctor Who than you can shake a stick at, and lots of silliness. And then Jamie, Laura, Amanda and I spent most of Sunday in our PJs chillaxing, talking, and being silly. Ace.

Yesterday I hit the housework (long overdue!) as I had to be in for a package to be delivered. Of course, the package never arrived. Grrrr. But now both my flat and my classroom are at the halfway point of a grand tidyup - it looks awful but it's getting better ;)

So the next two weeks are sort of potter-y - lots of bits and bobs to do, and maybe a few jaunts hither and thither - Brighton? Birmingham? Harlow? Bracknell? Towcester? MK? London? I just can't decide (holiday brain!). And then, to the north, to the north....

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