I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Workflow 1


You know the kind of thing.  We settle into a kind of routine and in a surprisingly short time, get used to it so much that we hardly think about what we are doing.  In my professional life, I'd be referring to  unconscious competence but here at home, I just think of it as doing what I do.  From time to time though, I find myself a bit challenged when I need to make some changes.

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking at my blog and thinking it could do with a spruce up.  It's not that I feel the need to go with any design trends, to keep up with fashion or embed any clever functions in it, but slowly, the programs I've been using are being discontinued or superseded by newer editions.  Though I don't necessarily need the newest, latest program and frequently resist the continual pressure to upgrade, from time to time I'm reminded of the fact that I might be missing out on a useful improvement.




Of course, there is also the creeping realisation that by being resistant to change, I run the risk of being left behind and where technology is concerned, that's quite a big deal.   I'm sure Bettine would not mind me citing her as an example because she agrees that, had she embraced the concept of the cash machine twenty years ago, she wouldn't have the problem of obtaining cash now all the local bank branches are closing.  So settling into a comfort zone isn't always to be encouraged!

Remember this?

Fullscreen capture 31072017 133331


It was a conversation with the Microsoft chap in John Lewis a few weeks ago that kick started all of this.  We were looking at new computers, seduced by the pretty amazing details of the birthday surprise which my Hero loves to bits, but originally, looking for ideas to replace my desktop eventually.  We'd just bought a new smart TV and chatted about it being a computer in our sitting room,  even if we didn't quite think of (or use) it as such.  "Indeed", said Mr MS "you could completely rethink your technology set up".

Well, like almost everyone we know, our straightforward working set up at home has evolved over the years.  We each have a PC and we share a wifi printer/scanner.  We each have a tablet and mobile phone, have a laptop PC to take on holiday and the house is broadband enabled by means of a fast modem and a new mesh network.  We listen to music by means of a Sonos network, have two smart TVs and Alexa in the kitchen.   How many computers is that, then?  Nine? Ten?  Eleven? (aaaagh!)




The JL/MS chap described an alternative, replacing my PC with a simple monitor to which  the new MS Surface detachable tablet or our existing phones could be connected.  His suggestions were persuasive - after all, we can only use one PC at a time and the flexibility (simplicity?) of the concept started us thinking.  The real selling point was the idea that we wouldn't need to carry both laptop and tablet on holiday with us, because, my Hero explained, "we only take the laptop PC so Gill can do her blog".

Well yes.  Hands up!  My current Squarespace 5 blog platform doesn't work well as an Android app.  For that, the newer, upgraded Squarespace7 is better...and you can see where this is going, perhaps?  SqSp7 has a far more intuitive interface, is more powerful and the design is bang on trend.  But it's different. 

You might have noticed I've been quiet this last week?  So far, it's all been behind the scenes and although it’s almost done,  I still have a long list of things to resolve.  In my usual infuriating way, I seem to be sorting out change for my car parking purse, getting lunch together, deciding what to cook at the weekend and chatting to a friend online whilst designing icons, trying to work out how to edit a website menu and identifying fonts. 




Before too long, I might have to hit "publish" and be damned delighted!

Fingers crossed.  Everything crossed!  Watch this space!




I promised more about the competition I was judging yesterday.  It was the final of the Rose Bowl competition for the Welsh WI Federations, each of whom had held a “county round” earlier in the year – or so I thought.  Chatting to competitors later, I discovered that there had been only one entry in Clwyd-Denbigh, so they came straight through without the benefit of first round advice.  Very impressive!

The theme was “Space” and the schedule went as follows:

“A free standing display on a SQUARE base measuring a maximum of 30” x 30” when covered, placed on a table and to be viewed from the front only.  The combined exhibit shall consist of 5 items to depict the theme, items to include:

  • Produce   one item of preserved food/foods and one cooked item (no meat or fish)
  • Craft     two items showing a variety of skills
  • Floral Art     one exhibit”"

Marks to be awarded as follows: Each item 20 marks, Staging and display 20 marks and Interpretation 20 marks (total 140) “

I was responsible for the judging of the staging and interpretation and found 11 entries awaiting me.  Of course, I have no idea whose is whose at this stage, but here they are, in no particular order.




Great use of colour, don’t you think?




Sorry, my photo doesn’t show the detail in the darkness (there’s a rather lovely felted necklace in there)




A young boy’s dream of space?




A different interpretation of the theme.




This is how the exhibit was when I started my deliberations.




And this is how it was when the steward spotted the sticky fixers had given way and replaced the rocket Winking smile




This entry attracted a great deal of attention.




Battery-powered lights are very popular with exhibitors these days.




The papier mache base was a great feature!




Clever to use those glass spheres, wasn’t it?




Another interpretation of Space – “My Space”.




And finally, an exhibit featuring a moon and stars.


The results?  The winner was the exhibit scoring the highest total of marks for craft, cookery, flowers, staging and interpretation. 

1st Sir Gâr/Carmarthenshire Federation     (the display with the papier mache base)

2nd Glamorgan Federation  (the one with the glass spheres)

3rd Gwent Federation (the young boy’s dream of space)


What a great competition!  Congratulations to the winners Smile


Whatever the weather


I’ve been keeping an eye on the weather these last few days, with a couple of outdoor events in my diary.  Our friend James shared a brilliant new weather app with us which has proved remarkably accurate.  So, when we set out for Wales on Friday morning, where I was judging a competition in Glamorgan and saw what we were heading into, we took a deep breath.




Rain.  Lots of it.




Not that we needed an app to tell us about five minutes later!  I was glad my Hero had offered to drive, needless to say.




The thing is, when the time came to go home, we had to go back through it all again!   




Thankfully, on Saturday morning, the storm had passed through for the village festival which we’d all been looking forward to for so long.




Or had it?  We took refuge in the bar for a short time as the rain pelted down again.  Oh, don’t we love an English Summer?




Thankfully, it cleared enough for us to enjoy watching our friends on stage (they were on before Dick and Dom) and having had the forethought to bring our picnic chairs with us, we didn’t have to crouch!




And the cheese and leek toastie from Hobbs was the best!




You wouldn’t believe what time this traffic jam formed in Wales yesterday morning!  Sometime around 6.15am I was making my way to Llanelwedd for the Royal Welsh Show where at least the sun was shining.




The car park had wonderful views but was a little far from where I needed to be.  I spent a few minutes editing my kit, thinking it might be a good idea to take a smaller, single bag down with me, but better not forget anything!  As I did, the woman in the car parked next to mine was doing the same.  She had the added challenge of dressing the part too, for she was an equestrian judge and confirmed that yes, she judged classes where she needed to ride each horse herself as part of the judging process, as I’d seen them do at Moreton Show.  Oh my goodness, riding an unfamiliar horse in such a public arena must be tricky at times – at least I don’t have to prove my capabilities beyond applying my wit and wisdom to my comments!

Thankfully, just around the corner, I came across a chap in a pickup truck, providing a shuttle service to the showground, so I hitched up my skirt and hopped into a vehicle far better suited to jodphurs and wellies!  Never mind…diolch yn fawr!




I didn’t need to report in until 7.45am, so I had time to wander about and watch the goings on.  I love this time of the day, when there’s so much happening and yet the place is so quiet.




I knew where the kettle would already be boiling, too!




Fuelled by tea and ably assisted by excellent stewards, we worked our way through the entries and identified the winners.  It was a busy morning but so much fun working amongst friends, catching up with their news, sharing stories and admiring the marvellous work in front of us.  I’ll share more of that in another post, but for now, suffice to say I love what I do!




By lunchtime, I’d completed that part of my work and went out to enjoy the sunshine.  It was a glorious day and lovely to see so many people enjoying the show.




I always enjoy watching the livestock judging and hearing a few squeals coming from the small ring nearby, I walked over to see what was going on.  Shall we say the pigs were having fun?




Normally, the judging is a stately affair with beautiful animals being led calmly around the ring by their owners.  Today though, a few of the pigs had other ideas!  Once one decided to scamper off, then so did another…




It was only when seeing these very pigs on the BBC last night that I returned to my photographs to take a closer look and sure enough, yes, there is Kate Humble and the BBC crew filming the fun too.




After lunch (the most delicious roast Welsh lamb!) I went over to the DyfedPowys police stand (family connections there) and as I did, found myself walking alongside a heavily armed officer from the South Wales Police, looking rather out of place in such a countryside setting.  As we walked, I chatted to him about his role there, though actually I found it more interesting observing the reactions he provoked from the crowd.  Clearly many were uncomfortable at the sight of three such armed officers, some were upset and they provoked a few yobbish shouts and verbal aggression from a few.  I dislike seeing armed officers in such settings, however much I appreciate the work they do, so I thanked him and moved along, wondering what my father in law would have made of such a presence?




The trade stands were there in force but I can’t say there was a lot to interest me.




Though some of the visitors were wearing amusing T shirts.  Don’t you love rural humour?




Keeping an eye on my watch – I needed to return to the hall at 2.30 to chat with competitors who might want further information from me – I heard a cheer from the crowd by the main ring, so went over to see what was happening.  Surely, those sheep (however cute) were not the cause of such a reaction?

Hmmm…what was going on in that smaller ring though, to the left?




It was Lorenzo the Flying Frenchman, warming up his act for the main event at 1.30! 




Loud music, a full house in the grandstand and a real showman working up to sixteen horses at times, no wonder the crowd went wild!




It was time for me to return, though and having fulfilled all my obligations, I was ready for home.  As I went, I spotted these fun bits and pieces in Adra.  Not sure about the camping logo but I liked Barod am Antur!   No, I don’t speak Welsh but thankfully, I had a translator by my side Winking smile




I went off in search of a man with a pickup truck then, passing a few competitors getting the final touches to their beauty treatment.




Actually, around the corner there was a bit of a salon!




The work goes on from dawn till dusk – though judging from the noise coming from the Young Farmers bar, it’s not all about work here!




Thankfully, I found the man and his pickup truck and returned to what must surely be the car park with the best view around.  What do you reckon?

Time for home.


Ten years ago


In a throwaway line at the end of my blog post about rubber stamps, I gaily mentioned in passing that I was off to join a focus group to discuss food packaging with Marks and Spencer in Gloucester that Friday morning.

What happened later that day became the stuff of history, recorded by the women of Gloucestershire in a best-selling book with my name on the cover.  I didn’t want it to be so, but we were advised that Amazon needed an author’s name and “The Women of Gloucestershire” wouldn’t do.  I was uncomfortable to be seen taking the credit for anything more than the original idea but at least got to share it with my colleague Sue, who did the editing.




So what happened?

Well, it had been raining as we’d arrived that morning and we’d had to run into M&S to pick up our sandwich lunch platters on the way into the office.  We sat and noticed the rain falling, but thought no more of it until the time came to leave, when the puddles in the car park had joined together to form more of a pond than a puddle. It was still raining hard.  Very hard indeed.

The M&S staff who’d led the discussion had come from London, so they hopped in my car and I took them to the station to catch their train home.  Dressed in heeled sandals and totally unprepared for the weather, they were last seen disappearing into the station buildings where we had the first inkling that all was not well.  Delayed trains meant they might have more of a wait than they thought.




We were all blissfully unaware of what was going on beyond the city.  But having cleared up and gathered our things together, we all agreed, we needed to set off home as soon as we could.  The weather was not improving and from what we could tell, there might be tricky driving conditions to challenge us.

The focus group had been organised by NFWI in London, and their young Public Affairs Officer Noelle had come to Gloucester for the day to participate.  Rather than take her to Gloucester station, where as we already knew, there were delays and disruption, I offered to take her to Stroud instead. 

It certainly wasn’t an easy journey and as we drove, it was becoming clear from radio reports that she was unlikely to find a train at Stroud either.   We made several last minute route changes, finding flooded roads in the most unexpected places and manhole covers moved by water spouts. 

It was still raining, too.

So we carried on home.  We were having work done on our bathroom and I knew there were tilers from a company in Reading working there today.  Maybe they would take Noelle to the station along the way?  The last I saw of her was sitting in the middle of the front seats of a white transit van, entrusted to the care of two young men who had no idea of the scale of the problem but who didn’t mind being advised to go home early.  Noelle told the story of the rest of her difficult journey home in our book.  Suffice to say it was nearly midnight when she arrived home, having thought at one point that she’d be sleeping on Swindon station!




For those of us safely at home, we counted our blessings and thanked goodness we live on a hill.  Having said that, stories of those who had water running through their homes made us realise that even being on a hillside is no guarantee against rushing water.

It was actually Tuesday before the next challenge came, documented in my blog post here.

Later we were to learn how close we’d come to disaster management.  That rising water levels had become so critically close to the major electricity station for the county that plans were afoot to evacuate everyone.  That water supplies were running dangerously low, giving further cause for concern and I understand that we were within 30 minutes of an emergency situation being declared.

Thankfully, we were blissfully unaware of all of that and simply did what we could to manage our own situation and help those around us who were not as fit/able as we were.




Our kitchen became the water bank.  We collected drinking water from the sports club in the village and filled as many containers as we had with water from wherever we could for washing up, to be used later for flushing the loo.




And I joined my WI friends and colleagues at the local supermarket, distributing water as fast as it arrived.

I see from my blog that it was August 8th before our water supply returned to normal!


Since there was only one topic of conversation for quite some time in this part of the world, I thought it would be a good idea to capture the stories and contacted a local publisher who agreed.  We set to immediately and later that year, our book was published.    As we worked on the details, word came through from one of our members.  Her son worked for Google in the USA, in the books division and he sought our permission to make our stories amongst the first titles to be digitised.  Since the principal aim was to record history (all profits went to the flood relief fund), we were happy to grant that permission.

You can read parts of it here.


Who jumps first?


Just recently when my Hero has gone into the garden store for something, he’s surprised a small frog who appears to have taken up residence there.  Though I’m as jumpy as they are when close to such things, I was interested to see it and assess the size of the challenge.

Through a window, maybe Winking smile

But by the time I’ve gone for my camera, peered down into that bit of the garden (which is sheltered but always damp, so probably a perfect habitat for our little friend) to try to see him, he’s always disappeared.




This morning, collecting one or two stray bits and pieces which were littering the garden, providing playthings for the five little foxes who come to chase about the place each evening, I trod very carefully down the steps to that area.  I don’t know who needed the surprise least – I had a preference for it not being me.

There, sitting quietly on the step was a small, pale coloured frog.  I stopped, turned around and went inside for my camera but by the time I returned, he’d gone.

Or had he?

I took the photograph above “just in case” and looked a little more closely at the “leaf” on the edge of the pot.





I won’t trouble him if he agrees not to trouble me.  I like what he does in the garden and am happy to entertain him for as many meals as he and his family can eat.

But can we agree boundaries please?