Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love and Other Money Making Schemes

I don’t “do” Valentine’s. Never have, doubt that I ever will. Certainly not in the traditional sense of rushing out to get something for your significant other just because it’s 14th of February. In the age of Instagram these Hallmark holidays are a great opportunity for bragging and brownie points.
“Look what I got for Valentine’s!”
“He brought me out to dinner”
“He got me this giant bouquet of flowers”

Yeah, it all smells like a get-out-of-jail-free card to me. Remember this one day and you’ll be excused until the birthday or anniversary rolls around. Top tip: propose and/or get married on Valentine’s Day and you’ll have one less date to remember. For those suffering from chronic absentmindedness (or maybe you just can’t be arsed), find someone who’s birthday conveniently falls on February 14th, December 24th or 25th or perhaps New Year.

It’s not that I have anything against showing your love an appreciation to your nearest and dearest whether it be a bunch of flowers, a box of chocolates or a piles of books, whatever you and your partner in life are into. It’s the whole laziness of lumping everything onto one day, spending needless amounts of money on it, and then forgetting all about it until next year.

As gestures go, I’m much more in favour of little and often than grand and seldom. If you want to whisk me away to a tropical paradise, by all means feel free to do so, but I am equally happy with something a lot more everyday. It’s the cup of coffee that appears by your bed on your day off so you can sip in peace. It’s the opening of the bread bin and discovering your favourite loaf. It’s the folded clean clothes put away in the wardrobe. It’s the car cleared of snow and already running as you go out the front door.

It’s the little things. Lots of them. It’s the everyday gestures that I love. The fire that’s lit as I walk into the room. The “you look beautiful” as we head out the door. The “I love you” just before you fall asleep.

He did walk in the door this evening with a giant bouquet of flowers. I have made a beef and mushroom pie because the man loves pie. Not because it’s Valentine’s day, but because it’s Wednesday.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Great Equaliser

On the back of some conversations I’ve had over the last couple of months regarding body image, nudity and cultural differences, I decided to take to my keyboard after a “little” blog hiatus to put down my two cent’s worth of thoughts. About bodies. Our own and those of others. How we see them, how we don’t and how we really need to look at the way we treat them.

A six-year old girl telling her mother she thinks she’s too fat.

Two teenagers comparing their bodies wondering why they don’t look the “way they should”.

The young man at the gym because he thinks he’s too skinny.

The older man at the same gym because he thinks he’s too pudgy.

The woman in her thirties online shopping for every cream and lotion available to get rid of cellulite.

The woman in her forties flicking through ads for wrinkle removal.

We’ve all been there at some stage. Some of us never leave that stage and continue to poke, prod and criticise our own appearance. Looking at our thighs in the mirror and lamenting the fact that there may be a blemish, or dimpled skin or just the “wrong” shape. And then try to change it. Why?

There is this mythical creature that is The Ideal Body. We’ve all seen them on screens big and small, in the pages of magazines and even on the street and sighed “why don’t I look like that?”. Or maybe you haven’t. Maybe it’s been just me looking at someone with long legs, slender waist and sleek hair and have lamented the fact that I was born of a gene pool where my legs are more adapted to herding cattle through boggy woods that they are to gracing an ad for stockings.

Truth is, even the supposedly ideal body looks entirely different in real life once you see it without airbrushing, careful lighting or clothes. *gasp* Yes, I mean naked. Completely naked. You see, I grew up in a culture where, from a young age, you would see other human beings naked on at least a weekly basis. *larger gasp* While I understand most of you outside the Nordic sauna culture will possibly struggle to grasp this, for me and millions of others this is the norm. You go to the sauna at least once a week. With your family. N A K E D.

Every house has a sauna. Every apartment building has a sauna. I moved to my first apartment in college and was presented with keys to the front door, keys to my apartment and the rota for your weekly sauna slot for the sauna that was in the basement. You got half an hour every Saturday (the traditional sauna day in Finland) and there also was a free-for-all sauna on Wednesday evenings for two hours where anyone could go. Yes, anyone. Well, anyone who lived in the building. So on Wednesdays you could see your neighbours naked.

Sauna is so ingrained in the Finnish culture, there are very few events that don’t involve stripping down and enjoying the gentle heat. Midsummer: have a sauna and swim. Christmas: have a sauna and a roll in the snow. Visiting friends or family: have a sauna and eat until you burst. Hosting foreign diplomats: have a sauna and discuss politics while in there.

You see, the sauna is a great equaliser. Go into any public swimming pool or a public sauna anywhere in Finland and there you are, among other humans and their bodies. You could be sitting next to a doctor, a teacher, an engineer, an astronaut or a secret agent and everything and anything in between. You don’t know and you don’t care. You don’t care because there you are, all humans with your bodies that all look different and yet somehow the same.

What I am trying to say, in a very convoluted way that is dangerously close to becoming an Ode To The Sauna, is that it’s no wonder that living in Ireland, I’ve come across so many people who seem to think there’s something wrong with their bodies because they don’t look like the ones in ads look like. It took me a while to realise that there’s no weekly nudie routine here. There’s no normality in nudity. There’s nowhere to see another human being naked, unedited, in a neutral setting.

I used to go swimming in the local swimming pool daily, if not more often if I had the time. They urge you to use the sauna and showers before putting on your swimsuit and getting into the pool. The pre-teen me saw women of all walks of life at all stages of life. I saw wobbly bits and hairy bits and smooth bits and toned bits. I learned that all our thighs spread out when we sit down. I learned that we all have belly rolls when we’re sitting hunched over letting the steam roll off your back. I learned that no two bodies look alike.

We used to gather our friends in a cabin by the lake for a night or two, go to the sauna together and have a few drinks, cook some insanely garlic-laden food and stay up until the wee hours talking shite. A mix of males and females, naked in a sauna together is nothing out of the ordinary to a Finn. Nor is it anything sexual. Again, it was a safe environment where you could, quite literally let all hang loose and just be. There was no judgement, nobody pointing out that you didn’t look right, I’m pretty sure nobody was even looking. We were too busy talking. Or just too busy sitting quietly and relaxing.

I understand now what an advantage this was. From a young age I was exposed to the fantastic variety of humanity. My Irish friends did balk at the mere idea of seeing your friends or family naked. I understood that I was so so lucky to grow up in a culture where nudity isn’t necessarily sexual. An old saying in Finland claims that you go into the sauna like you would into a church. Quiet, contemplative and as you are. In the sauna there’s no big beardy guy in the ceiling to tell you you’re going to hell for looking at your neighbour sideways, though so I’ll stick with the sauna, thank you very much.

Yes, we are all bombarded with the images of what is for most of us, unattainable body shape. There’s no avoiding it or even trying to pretend you’re not affected by it, even if it is just for a moment. For most of us, it’s not a just for a moment. But at least I’ve seen the real thing. Not just my own, but those of others. Different shapes and sizes and all beautiful in their own way.

I’m not saying let’s all get naked and take a good long look at each other. The Irish psyche probably wouldn’t be ready for it. But maybe, if you get the opportunity, go to a sauna. Go to a sauna somewhere where it’s a place for cleansing and relaxation. Where you’re not allowed to wear a towel or a swimsuit. Where you are just like everyone else with all of your bits.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Weight(y) Matters

Hi. I have lost weight. I am aware of this as it is my body that has diminished in size and I do spend the vast majority of my time inside my body. There really is no need to point this out, certainly not in the way that I have encountered in the recent weeks, maybe even months.

I used to be fat. I wasn’t always fat. I have been various different sizes during my nearly 35 years walking this lovely earth. I have been a “normal size”. Then I was overweight. Then I was skinny. Then overweight, then small again, then slowly getting fatter until I decided to do something about it.  Now I am no longer fat. Regardless of my weight or size, there have always been people who seem to think it appropriate to comment on it. These are mostly people meaning well or people who may not realise the impact of their flippant comments but can I please just address one and all of you when I say there is no need for you to comment on weight lost or gained. To anyone.

Granted, my weight loss right now is noticeable. Shedding 30% of your body weight tends to show. I am pleased and proud of myself for the hard work that I put in and that paid off but listening to comments about my weight is never something I want to be subjected to. Nobody should be. You may mean well by exclaiming “Wow, you’ve gone to nothing!”. I am aware. The pounds didn’t magically vanish overnight and I am not in a state of shock trying to figure out why my trousers won’t stay on me all of a sudden. Step aside, Captain Obvious, I’ve got this.

When I first started losing weight, all the comments on my appearance were positive. As I continued to lose weight, the tone changed.

“Ooh, don’t you think you’re losing too much?”
“Have you stopped eating altogether?”
“Turn sideways and we won’t be able to see you!”
“Be careful now, you don’t want to overdo it”
“Are you sure you’re not ill?”

That last one really baffles me. Really. What if I was ill? How would you feel if I turned around and told you I was seriously ill and that was why I had lost weight? Bet you’d think twice about blurting out the first thing that crosses your mind. Sometimes I think that is said only in search of juicy gossip but then that’s awfully cynical of me, isn’t it?

To the commenters exclaiming that I “must’ve stopped eating” , let me assure you, that is not only physically impossible, going against every survival instinct years or evolution has hammered into you, also something I would never be able to do because I love food. Maybe you’ve never seen me destroy a three course dinner but rest assured, if you’ve seen me eat, you know what the likelihood of me ever letting go of that pleasure good food gives me is.

I mentioned this on Twitter this morning and discovered these seemingly well meaning people are everywhere. No matter what the person’s size, there’s always someone out there to pass comment on it. And make assumptions. If you’re fat, you’re lazy, eat badly and sit on your arse all day. And apparently it’s ok to point this out. If you’re slim, you’re unhealthy, don’t eat and are about to collapse from exhaustion. Apparently it’s okay to point this out, too.

I feel amazing. I have more energy, I love the way I look and I can run a decent distance without wheezing my lungs out. To achieve this, I eat so I don’t pass out while exercising. It really is that simple. On the days I don’t exercise (and this may shock some people) I also eat because that’s what you need to do in order to stay alive. The fact that you don’t see me eat doesn’t mean I don’t do it. There are a lot of things I do that you can’t see. For example, I shower every day. You don’t see me do it, yet I do it and nobody has questioned my personal hygiene habits purely on the basis of the lack of visual proof.

What annoys me is the assumption these people make that it is perfectly acceptable to pass a comment on someone’s weight or appearance. Not everyone welcomes it, no matter how positively you mean it. I daresay most people would feel awkward having someone you don’t even know that well making a comment about how you look. I, for one am touchy enough when it’s coming from someone I love. Just don’t say it unless the person you’re talking to has explicitly asked you to comment on their weight. Even then it may be best to avoid commenting altogether. Weight is a touchy subject.

Even if it is “just words”, you are invading my personal space with your comments and opinions. Just like a touch, when unwanted, it is uncomfortable. I work with people, a lot of people. I can meet and chat to hundreds every day. Not one has passed an unwanted comment. It’s the ones who know me superficially who seem most keen to point out there’s less of me than there was a few years ago. Again; I am aware. There has been a few leery ones. The really uncomfortable ones where a man (yes, always a man. I’m only stating a fact, not hating everyone with a penis) decides he needs to inform me that due to my weight loss I am now more or less attractive to him than I was before. Yeah. I really don’t want to know. I really, really don’t need to know that you may spend a moment thinking about me in a way that is in no way related to what I do for a living. I’m not saying I don’t do that about people I meet but at least I have the common sense to keep these thoughts to myself.

Now, if you find yourself just itching to pass a comment on someone’s appearance, here’s a few you can try instead:
                “You look great”
                “ I like your top/jeans/shoes/hair/scarf/eyes etc..”
                “What a lovely smile”
                “You look happy”

If talking to someone you’re not all that particularly fond of, add sarcastic tone to the statements above and you’re good to go.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mirror, Mirror

I saw someone post a photo of their most recent beauty purchase on Twitter this morning. It was a "pore minimiser", which prompted me to tweet this. Having tiny pores on your face is an aspiration that has baffled me for some time now. Every time I see or hear an ad for facial cream/cleanser/toner/industrial sander that claims to minimise your pores I stop and wonder why the hell should I bother? Are pores really that aesthetically offensive that we should be taking every measure possible to hide them from view for fear of traumatising small children?

I mean, if you find your own pores offensive to your own eyes, by all means, go ahead and use whatever you want to make them smaller or invisible. Just don't tell me I should do the same because you have an adverse reaction to visible pores. Same goes for pretty much anything to do with beauty "standards" set predominantly by companies who make money on your insecurities. Set by companies and repeated by a chorus of converts who seem to be in a hurry to convince themselves and others that you really do need that serum(*) which makes your earlobes appear more attractive.

My problem is not with the beauty products or even most of the advertising of said products. My problem is the homogenisation of the people targeted by the advertising. The assumption that everyone cares about the size of their pores, the frizz in their hair, the odd spot on their skin or the fact that they're going grey. I'm only talking about my own personal experience and am not for one second suggesting any of what I have said or am about to say applies to any other person on this planet. Just wanted to make that clear before I go on.

I don't give a shit if you can see my pores. I don't give a shit if I can see my pores. Mostly I can't because I wear glasses and can't see myself that clearly in the mirror after my shower. I slap on moisturiser, put on my glasses and head off blissfully ignorant of the size and shape of my pores. Yes, moisturiser. I did say I don't have a problem with beauty products, but the unnecessary "goals" the companies selling them are setting us. To be honest, without my collection of moisturisers I probably would've shrivelled up a long time ago. I have very dry skin, especially in the winter when the central heating is enough to make matters worse by a multiple of ten at least.

I also get highlights in my hair. I use make up. I like to do my nails in pretty colours. I sometimes despair about my frizzy, flyaway hair but I live in a country with high humidity 95% of the time, so there isn't much I can do about that other than pull my hair back in a ponytail, spray it with hair spray and carry on. I have stuff that's great for keeping my hair from looking like I just stuck a fork in my toaster but I could not be bothered using that on a daily basis.

I guess what I'm trying to get across here is how annoyed I get when I picture a brainstorming session in one of these companies.
- Right, we need to think of something new.
- Which body part has gone unnoticed until now?
- Back of the knee?
- Knuckles?
- Little toe?
- Toes! We could launch a cream that makes your toes all the exact same colour. Because having slightly different skin tone in your toes is unsightly.
- And hair removal cream for that bit of hair that grows on your big toe.
- We'll call it "BeautiFoot" and make sure everyone knows they can't wear open toed shoes without having put this on first because it's just wrong

Or something equally ridiculous to peddle a product that is entirely unnecessary and the sales of which are based on an idea put forth by the company manufacturing the product that there is something about your appearance that needs to be fixed.

Some of these companies are trying to pretend they're all for positive body image and that they're in the business of making people feel beautiful. Yes, feel beautiful not as you are but as you are after using our product. Most recently the beauty giant Dove started a campaign on Twitter, #SpeakBeautiful. It really didn't take off as planned . This is only one company and there are many more out there guilty of exactly the same thing.

I'm worried now that I may sound like a hypocrite. I do use beauty products as mentioned earlier. But I can tell you also of the things I don't bother doing which seemingly are deemed in the mainstream media as necessities. For example, right now my legs are sporting quite a healthy growth of hair. I'll get around to waxing at some stage but in the meantime I'm really ok with a bit of fuzz. It's still winter, you know. My face hasn't any make up on it. My pores stand proud and there is a spot under my nose. There are a couple of stray hairs on my eyebrows that I will pluck as soon as I remember where I left my tweezers. Speaking of tweezers, I need them to get rid of the two stubborn stray hairs that grow on my right nipple. Yes, really. My hair has met shampoo and conditioner this morning but I think I'll leave it at that.

I cannot stress enough how annoyed I get when I hear of some new inane, insane, outrageously ludicrous beauty fad, usually endorsed by a celebrity. Just google "vaginal steaming", "bull semen facial" or any combination of random words and you're likely to find something you're supposed to be doing to your body to deem you fit to face the society's collective gaze. It is as if we're supposed to be aiming for a plastic look. Invisible pores, invisible grey hairs, invisible wrinkles, invisible panty line. Let's erase everything that makes us individuals.

I'm 34 years of age and really quite comfortable in my skin. Finally. It's taken a while. A long while. I've always struggled with my weight because I love food and until a few years ago I hadn't realised that exercise can be enjoyable. My skin is and always will be a little bit dry because I'm often rushing out the door and don't have time to moisturise. I remember the nurse at our local health centre feeling the back of my arms and saying to my mother that my skin there felt a bit rough. I think I was 5 or 6 years of age. I remember wondering why that was worth remarking. I'm still wondering.

It's taken me this long but I finally feel like my body is my own. It's built for purpose and I love it. Yes, there is that bit of belly fat I could probably live without but apparently that's where my tickles live. I can live with that. Yes, my dry skin feels uncomfortable. Which is why I moisturise. Not because I want my skin to look acceptable to someone else, measured by someone else's standards. Yes, I wax away any unwanted body hair. Because I like the way my skin feels afterwards. To have gotten to the stage where I can honestly say I do love my body, hasn't been easy. It takes daily encouragement and a reminder that my body has served me well and the fact that it's the only one I have. There are days when I need more than a gentle reminder. I know I'm lucky, I have someone who tells me I'm beautiful. Every day.

This is just me, though. I know this. You might be like me and not really bother with make up unless it's a special occasion. (I love doing my hair, getting dressed up and putting on make up but I really couldn't bother with it every single day). Or maybe you like to use every lotion and potion in your extensive collection before you head out and face the day because that's what makes you feel good. All I'm saying is that there is no right or wrong way as long as you're doing what you're doing because it's what feels right for you. Not because someone in an advertising agency decided you should cover up a part of your face because it doesn't look like the face of a photoshopped model.

Wow. That's a long rant. I'm off to find my tweezers now.

*Disclaimer: no such serum exists. Yet.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


I am in the middle of a lovely, lazy, loungy day off. I have spent majority of it in bed with a few magazines, coffee, cats and chats on my phone. Guilt free nothingness for hours. I can tell you, it feels good. My greatest achievements today include trips from the bed to the kitchen to refill my coffee, having a shower and getting dressed. Demanding, I know.

The fact that I need to more or less plan these kind of days is neither here nor there, but I tell you, I strongly recommend it. There seems to be too much pressure to be (seen to be) doing something all the bloody time. Or maybe it's just me. I feel a pang of guilt if I haven't done something worthwhile or productive every day. Guilty why, I have absolutely no idea. Nothingness is good for the soul. Nothingness is great for recharging you internal energy reservoir. And I for one feel the need to do that in the autumn more so than any other time of year.

Autumn is high-energy time. Autumn is new beginnings and planning ahead. Autumn is getting ready. And you need energy to achieve that. Hence the need to stock up on that all-important drive which will get you through the winter and well into the spring when the brighter days and sunshine are enough to see you motoring through pretty much everything.

So with that in mind, last week I spent two days in Dublin doing nothing. From the lazy start to the leisurely drive there, the "no deadlines, no stress" approach to the whole mini holiday, it was thoroughly, utterly, blissfully filled with nothing at all.

I spent hours walking around Dublin in exceedingly good company. Lunch took us three hours and burgers big enough to dislocate your jaw if you weren't careful. People watching, chatting, laughing. Connecting.

We went to see comedy, looked for a late pint and stumbled upon a guy with a fantastic voice and buckets of enthusiasm. We got to be leprechauns. We walked a bit more, talked a bit more and laughed some more. There's another thing good for the soul. Laughter and lots of it.

See, I went with a friend who is both old and new. Old in that we've known each other for years. New in that we've only recently gotten to know each other better. Yet another thing good for the soul. Friends. Not to mention old friends who happen to know where the good comedy is on the cheap and can also smuggle you into the Leprechaun museum for free. It's not what, but indeed who you know.

Back to the present. About four coffees into my "morning" I think I'm ready to leave the house. I do have plans, they're just very flexible and involve another friend having a lazy day.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Getting There

Let's talk about exercise for a while, shall we? Yes, really. Exercise and being healthy, to be more exact. I know, if we were to rewind back in time to about 2 years ago, even I would be laughing. Yes, me talking about exercise and healthy(ish) living.

I posted this photo on Twitter and Facebook recently. Just shows you where it started and where I am now. Actually, I may be a tiny bit further than the "after" photo since it's six months old now but you get the idea. On the left, I'm singing at my brother's wedding in September 2012. On the right, I'm posing for a mirror selfie at home in March 2014.

So, what happened in between? I wish I could tell you. If I had a simple answer, something that set it all in motion, I'd bloody bottle it and make my millions faster than you can say "Run, fat bitch, run!". Something did click in my head, though. Some people might put it down to the fact that I turned 30 in 2011 and all that but I'd like to think that had only a little to do with it.

Anyway, that winter I made the most of my free time. I walked. Just walked because it didn't require anything more than the runners I already had and the comfy trackie bottoms I was wearing to arse about the house in. I also took full advantage of the miles of car-free paths at work. I can tell you there's nothing more frightening than walking down a country road around here when you know around the next corner there could well be a predatory car hurtling towards you, its next victim. In short; roads here are narrow and people drive like lunatics.

Food-wise I really got into 5:2 diet.5 days of eating normally, 2 days of restricting your calorie intake to 500kcal per day. Worked for me, since there were days at work when I'd only eat very little if anything at all and eat only once I got home. On the fasting days I never felt hungry, the day after I only ever felt lovely and light and full of energy. I must say I've talked to people who've had terrible experiences with the same diet so I am only speaking for myself when I say it actually works. It made me take a good look at my relationship with food and actually minding what I put into my body. Saying that, I still eat rubbish. Just in moderation.

Back to exercise. I never liked exercise unless it was for a purpose. I didn't see being healthy and fitter as a purpose until now. What started as walking soon progressed into jogging and running. And to my surprise I actually loved it! I loved the feeling of setting off on my lap knowing that with the music in my earphones and the steady beat of my feet on the road would help me clear my head of whatever might be floating about in there. It didn't always feel great, there were days when I would've rather been just about anywhere else but the knowledge of that floaty, happy, endorphin-induced bliss at the end of it was enough to keep me going.

There's one particular run I remember vividly and it's that one I conjure up in my head when I need motivation. It was a perfect setting. February this year, dusk. I was on the last quarter of my lap, I had just cleared the small incline and was on the terrace of a Victorian castle. The castle to my left, to my right a lake, its surface like a mirror. Beyond the lake mountains growing darker as the sun was setting. In front of me a wooded path and beyond that more mountains. Biffy Clyro's 'Biblical' was blasting through the earphones. I had found my stride.In that moment, I'm fairly certain I could've ran all the way home.

So, that's where I was and that's where I need to get to again. Sadly my joints have aged with me and my poor battered knee has decided to remind me that what happened when I was good 15 years younger than I am now, will come back and bite you if you don't look after yourself. Patellar dislocation or a wandering kneecap, as he's also known, has me off running and jogging for a while. So I'm walking. Walking and wishing I was running instead. Hopefully in another six months I'll be able to tell you I'm back on first name terms with my stride, but for now I'll remind myself that I was there once, I'll get there again. In time.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Never As Planned

It's been a while -again. History repeating and all that but I'm not going to go into detail, suffice to say it's been a busy six months on this side of the screen.

Work has kept me busy, for the main part. But fear not, It hasn't been all work and no play as the photo stream on my phone would put it. There's been some good and some excellent nights and days spent in the best possible company. Laughing until you're crying is by far my favoured form of ab exercise and there has been plenty of that.

The trip to Dublin in February was a hoot. All really quite well behaved, involving Disney Princess Mirror, an embassy that reminded us of a sauna and some camels in the roof of the hotel. Not to mention the tower room and some Finnish sweets. Also #TrainTales on the way up and down. Check Twitter for details.

Spring came and went in a blur of sunshine, increasingly busy times at work and some more than welcome visitors. Doing the tourist-y thing around where you live is always fun, this really is a beautiful corner of the world and showing people around serves as a perfect reminder of how lucky I really am to wake up to this every morning.

My long-awaited summer holiday came around very quickly at the end of June. Two glorious weeks to spend in Finland with My People. I got to snoop around my old haunts and catch up with people I really wish I could see more of. Those that remain in your life, not matter how long it's been since you've seen them last, who welcome you with open arms and in one hug the years that should've gotten in between suddenly disappear. Pardon my nostalgia here but I cannot stress enough how good it felt to see those who saw me through my teenage years. I love you and will be forever grateful that you are in my life.

I blogged little ode to Twitter over on my Finnish blog The people I've gotten to know through Twitter are, in a word, amazing. I got to meet one of the lovely ladies of Twitter in the flesh during my holiday. As with my namesake who accompanied me to Dublin in February, this lovely lady by the name of Marjo is one of those people who I feel I've known for years.

It seems like I was only back to work a few weeks ago rather than nearly two months. July and August are what we like to call Silly Season. So many people. So very many people. Work becomes all-consuming, and there seems to be very little time for anything else. For two months of the year I seem to be living, breathing, walking and talking work. It's good but tiring and while I love being busy, come the end of August I'm actually looking forward to the quieter days.

It's not all good new, I'm afraid. Our old, distinguished kitty gentleman Tom passed away last week. There is a kitty-shaped hole in the house and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't still very sad about it. His final resting place is out in the garden, beside the rock he sat on to survey his lands. To quote a tweeting friend: "May his fields be full of mice".

On a more positive note, my free time seems to be actually free in the coming weeks. I'm itching to get back into the kitchen with time to spend over new recipes. Perhaps I'll even manage to squeeze in a blog post or two.

That's all for now. See you soon!