Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

What would you change?

I woke up today thinking about things like body image, plastic surgery, and social pressures to look attractive and have a toned body. No idea why I was thinking of that of course, as I have never considered plastic surgery, or living my life in relation to image. For one thing, I am too scared to have any unnecessary surgery, and it is also very expensive.

But like most people, I have lived in a modern world subject to being bombarded of images of people who are considered to be beautiful, good-looking, and a cut above everyone else. Therefore, it is only natural that at times I might have wished to have been born looking more like George Clooney than Yoda, but I have never thought for one second about trying to achieve that by resorting to cosmetic surgery.

As with ‘Fake News’, we now live in times where people can also enhance their bodies or appearance by resorting to fakery of some kind. Lip plumping, breast enlargement, wrinkle removal, buttock inserts, to name but a few. And I am not just talking about women of course. Men are having their chins sculpted, chest muscles enhanced, hair woven, and even cheekbones altered surgically. Driven by the desire for that perfect look, a large percentage of the populations of some countries appears to be willing to undergo any pain and discomfort, and to spend a significant part of their income too. Some people have even ‘changed’ the colour of their eyes, by wearing contact lenses designed to give them that ‘piercing blue’ effect.

I thought about what I might change about myself, if I was brave enough, and rich enough to go about it. I have always wished that I had been a little taller. Not a basketball player height, but six feet tall would have been nice. I doubt that would really be possible, but it would have been a change not to have spent so much of my life looking up. Although I lost most of my hair in my early forties, that never bothered me much. I had it cut very short all the time anyway, and the change was minimal. But I have spent my life disliking the heavy bags under my eyes, which appeared when I was still young. Years ago, I read that the procedure to remove them was simple, and relatively cheap. But that old terror of surgery meant that was never going to be a consideration for me.

As you get older, people imagine that you don’t worry so much about how you look. To a degree, that is true, and I would never consider trying to disguise my age by attempting to look younger. Men who wear wigs and toupees just seem sad, as far as I am concerned. But that doesn’t mean that I am comfortable with having the beginnings of a ‘turkey neck’, or jowls like those on my dog. Maybe I would change those if surgery wasn’t involved, I’m not sure. Because I am a coward when it comes to surgical procedures, I am going to have to live with what life has thrown at me, and how my face and body appear to the world.

But what about you? What would you change, if I had a magic wand?
Anything? Or nothing at all?


Mud again! With photos

After complaining about mud recently, I thought I might show you some pictures of it. Despite two days of bright sunshine, it doesn’t appear to be drying up. I took these shots on Hoe Rough today.

Soft mud, on reasonably firm ground.

Ollie, drinking watery mud. He loves the taste.

Mud under water, boots stuck fast.

Ollie rushing along a muddy path, blurred by his speed.

Six Today!

Ollie, my loyal canine companion, is six today. He was born on the 12th of February, 2012. Never have I owned such a trouble-free pet, and one that takes loyalty and good behaviour to the next level too. Not only did he fast become one of the family, he also gave me reason to walk outside every day, and to meet many of the people in this area that I would otherwise never have encountered.

His adventures became the mainstay of my blog, and he has attracted fans from all over the world. I rarely go anywhere without him, and he has accompanied me on all of the recent holidays I have taken too.

He is notoriously camera shy, so I have had to use old photos for this post. On his birthday walk today, he was able to spend it all with his friend Toby, the Jack Russell Terrier. He went for a dip in the river, and enjoyed all his favourite spots and smells.

Later on, he will get a new toy, and something special to eat. He is middle-aged now, having reached half of the years usually lived by his breed. But he hasn’t changed at all, and is still just as much fun as when he was a pup. Happy Birthday, Ollie. X

(Both photos are by my great friend, Antony Kyriacou. )

Thinking Aloud on a Sunday


I woke up thinking about mud today. Nothing really surprising there, as I have thought a lot about mud since moving to Norfolk in 2012, and getting a dog. I even wrote a short blog post about mud, in January 2016. It features in my life a great deal, more than I ever imagined something like that would.

When you have spent most of your life in a city like London, mud is rarely an issue. It is something you almost never see to be honest, unless you have a very large garden, or go out of your way to leave the city, and go somewhere muddy. But why would I have ever done that?

In Beetley, my encounters with mud are daily, at least for six months of each year. A result of frequent heavy rain, melted snow, or the overflowing small river having burst its banks. I have become an expert on mud of all kinds, as well as coming to dread the mud, and often hate it too. I am told that one reason it is so bad, is that it is rarely cold enough for long enough to freeze the mud around here. Even after nights when the temperature has dropped to -5, a short burst of morning sunlight is guaranteed to melt just enough mud to make my walks treacherous, as well as unpleasant.

Cows don’t help either. When the small herd was kept on Hoe Rough for a few months, they left behind hoof-prints and breaks in the soil that soon filled with rain, turning into mini-mud pools overnight. Though the cows are long gone, replaced by less mud-inducing sheep, those holes and ruts are still there, and still full of mud. I also discovered that there are many types of mud. On the harder soil, slippery mud lays on the surface, resembling the shiny chocolate Ganache beloved of modern bakers. Walk on this at your peril, as it is as slippery as the surface of an ice rink.

Mud also dwells beneath what appear to be tufts of grass. They look solid enough to walk on, but the mud is waiting below, to suck the boots off of the feet of any unwary walkers. There is more obvious mud of course. The eight-inch thick stuff accumulated on the main paths, often turned into what looks like black soup, after more heavy rain. I would not usually choose to walk through that, but often a thick tangle of brambles either side gives me no other choice. Ollie is untroubled by mud of course. His light weight and delicate paws rarely break the surface, and he is oblivious to the wetter pools, splashing them over me, as he runs ahead.

I have tried various different types of boots to make walking in the mud bearable. My first sort were not up to the job. Lighter, thinner soles made them work like ice skates, and I had to resort to a large stick, just to stay upright. After trying some heavy-duty boots, I have finally settled on neoprene-lined knee-length boots, with soles almost as thick and rugged as tractor tyres. Even with such specialised and expensive footwear, I am unable to avoid the main problem, as I still have to actually walk in them. They disappear into the mud with each step, requiring considerable effort to lift my leg each time to continue my walk. It is like walking in weighted deep-sea diver’s boots.

This means the walks only get me half as far, in the same two hours or more, with Ollie constantly running ahead, then looking back to see why I am not keeping up. It is also more tiring to walk in mud of course, so I return feeling worn out most days at this time of year. The sun has been bright so far this morning, which means I can anticipate more mud when I take Ollie out later.
I doubt you ever think much about mud, and rightly so.

I don’t blame you at all.

Thinking About Something on a Saturday


Perhaps because I was rudely awakened by a parcel delivery this morning. I started thinking about hibernation. My warm and cosy bed still beckoned me to return to it, but adopting my usual ‘I am up now’ attitude, I boiled the water for my coffee, and stared through the kitchen windows at the bright but cold day outside.

January and February are pretty useless months, as far as I am concerned. If you live in northern Europe, you can expect little relief from bad weather, which often gets worse as February drags on. My year might just as well have only ten months in it, as I have little inclination or inspiration to do much at all, between Christmas and my birthday in March. Short bleak days, and long dark evenings always make me wish I was wealthy enough to escape the English winter, and spend it somewhere with a kinder climate.

Then I thought about those animals that hibernate. Dormice, Hedgehogs, Ladybirds, Bumblebees, Snakes, Frogs and Toads, and Bats. In other countries, Bears also hibernate, (after a fashion) as do Skunks, Ground Squirrels, Hamsters, and Prairie Dogs. This seems to me to be an eminently practical solution to avoiding the worst time of the year. Eating enough food during the plentiful times, storing some away in case you get peckish when resting, and dozing away quietly as all the bad stuff goes on around you, unaffected by the winter blues.

Humans got a raw deal from nature. We have to constantly drink, and also exercise to avoid muscle wastage or vascular disease. But mostly, we have a brain that is too active, so we are too easily bored. To make for a successful hibernation, we would no doubt require books and light to read them by, even a TV or radio, to break the monotony. I know, it might seem to be just a silly, random thought on a cold morning.

But just imagine how nice it could be, to avoid the bleak months, and wake refreshed at the time when everything around you is reinvigorated.

Thinking Aloud on a different day


Actually this happened yesterday, so strictly speaking it is part two of Sunday’s post.
But I had already published two posts, so saved it for today.

Walking around with Ollie, slipping on mud, and feeling the freezing sleet and tiny hailstones hitting my face, I started to think about gravy. That was no surprise, as on Saturday evening we had served a roast dinner for six people, and gravy was talked about a lot, believe me. I am writing about those flavoursome sauces here, like a nice peppercorn sauce, or a tangy mint sauce. No, just the brown watery stuff, sometimes thin and runny, often thick and glutinous, with added grease and meat juices, usually poured into the mix from the pan used to cook the meat.

When I was young, and living with my parents, I had no choice about what to eat. Dinner was whatever my Mum put on my plate, and I just had to get on with it. We didn’t have a dining table back then, and things were never served up in dishes to help yourself from. The whole meal was dished up onto a plate, and we ate from our knees perching on a sofa, or on a tray placed in our lap. Almost every meal had gravy added before serving. It wasn’t on the side, in a nice jug. It had been sploshed over the whole meal in quantities that required incredible balancing skills during eating, or it would flow off of the plate, and onto my legs. And every meal tasted the same too, whatever the choice of meat that day. Everything I ate, with rare exceptions like stews or meat puddings, just tasted of the ‘brown stuff’.

And it wasn’t just at my house, oh no. Go to eat at any of my relatives, or at the home of a friend, and the same applied. Dinners should have been served with flood warnings back then. Most people regarded the gravy as the single most important constituent of any meal, and some of the local ladies were as famous for their gravy-making as Mrs Beeton was for her cookery book.

But then I grew up.

Once married, I immediately told my wife that I no longer wanted my meals swimming in gravy. Enough was enough, and I would chose to ‘eat dry’, unless a tasty and appropriate sauce was relevant to the dish. We had a nice dining room, and sat at the table to eat by then. My first wife served gravy in a jug, and I could decline to add any. The sense of gastronomic freedom was overwhelming, and at the age of 25, I began to discover that beef did actually taste different to lamb, and that a meat pie did not have to have the appearance of a soaking wet bath sponge, to be delicious to eat.

But I still had to deal with public disapproval. Over dinner at my in-laws, my refusal to add almost a pint of gravy to my Sunday lunch caused open-mouthed gasps of displeasure. Anyone would have thought I had come to sit at the table naked from the waist down. Then there were the ‘gravy evangelists’, those who felt that they had to lecture me about eating ‘dry’ food, and why that made me strange beyond belief. Hosting dinner parties was a new experience at the time, and I soon discovered that not having gravy was a bigger cause for conversation around the table than the sorry state of political affairs in Britain. Guests would stare at me openly, wanting to watch me eat my ‘dry’ meal. Some shuddered with revulsion as I enjoyed my food, and others were vocal in their disapproval. “I just don’t know how you can eat that without gravy, I really don’t”. Generally accompanied by a shaking of their head.

On the occasions when I returned to see my Mum for Sunday dinner, she would quiver at the thought of me not having gravy anymore, as she poured my share onto her own meal, the fat and grease glistening on top of the brown water. At times, she would go on about it for so long, she would have to re-heat her own meal, as it had got cold whilst she berated me.

And it has never stopped.

My step-children just cannot understand why I won’t have gravy. I spend hours preparing beautifully crisp and golden roast potatoes, succulent cuts of meat, and vegetables that look appealing, only to watch as they pour piping hot brown fluid all over it, and turn my masterpiece into a spongy mush. They even have the temerity to praise me for the excellent crispiness of my potatoes, before drowning their meal in a veritable flood of meat-flavoured juice.

No doubt all you gravy lovers out there will be preparing your placards, and heading for Beetley to join in the protest at this post. But I will continue to enjoy my meals as they should be eaten, without needing a lifebelt to survive on the plate.

Thinking Aloud on a Sunday.

A-Z Posts

These posts are usually about serious thoughts, or something strangely random. But today it is just about Blogging, so not very interesting, I’m afraid.

I am currently running an A-Z series on film directors, so naturally I have been thinking a fair bit about that subject recently. I woke up today thinking about it again. Doing these self-imposed A-Z challenges can be time consuming, but also very enjoyable. Searching my brain for choices, researching dates and correct spellings online, and trying to produce a daily post that is relevant and readable.

The other plus is that they do attract a lot of comments, and interaction in those comments too. There are also other bloggers who are very knowledgeable on the subjects I have featured, and I have been able to learn a lot from them. That some regulars are put off by not being interested in the subject featured is inevitable, but they also attract new readers and followers who are keen to learn more about films, music, literature, or any subject chosen.

The potential is huge of course. You might add an A-Z of travel destinations, favourite foods or restaurants, or pick any subject you are interested in. These blog challenges are suitable for any blogger, whatever they like to do, or to write about. One thing to bear in mind is that interest does wane, as the alphabet continues. The huge increase in views at the start begins to diminish rapidly, perhaps as readers become less inclined to wade through 26 posts about the same thing. However, many followers enjoy sticking with it, often waiting for their own favourite letter, or adding their personal recommendations along the way.

So why don’t you think about doing one, on a subject of your own choosing?
I will follow along with it!