I am now the slightly bewildered owner of a weather station.  With a bit of time to spare and passing an Argos yesterday morning, I decided to finally get a proper alarm clock.  There was quite a staggering array of alarm clocks, I was overwhelmed and the next thing I knew I was parting with almost £30 for a weather station with alarm.  It’s touch screen too.  And it has a very useful (really?) “ice alert”.  But really, I just wanted a non-illuminated, digital (I prefer analogue but my alarms are set in such a way that every minute counts!) alarm clock that I could rely on.

I have quite a few alarm clocks, all of which have been dismissed over the years either because they make a noise (the most recent one was supposed to be silent but I could hear it so it’s now had its batteries removed in disgust), are too bright (I had a digital radio/alarm clock that shines like a torch and can only get brighter) or are unreliable (I have one that would seemingly lag by half an hour, usually occurring during the night prior to my alarm going off – dangerous). For the past few months I’ve been using the alarm on my mobile, but I’ve never particularly liked relying on a mobile phone alarm clock, though I’m not sure why.  It’s been fine though.

This morning, however, having tested the new alarm quite a few times last night, I got my call to arms from my new alarm pipping away.  I obviously set my mobile alarm as back up.  The main display is the temperature, a feature which I could quite easily become somewhat obsessed by, especially as there is a second remote temperature reader which I’ve currently installed in my utility room, the coldest room.  The difference between my bedroom temperature and the utility room is quite substantial.  I’m not surprised my cat (who dines and toilets in the utility room) appears to hate walking on the cold tiled floor, though her food is served in bowls on a length of carpet.

See, that’s how I ended up buying a weather station rather than a clock, I got distracted.  However, I did at least manage to get an alarm clock that ticks all the noise and light boxes.  I’m not sure how long it’ll be before I fully trust it and will stop using my mobile phone alarm though.

If I ever have to get up in the far too early hours, I always set more than one alarm anyway.  I have a friend who often works such hours and she’s always paranoid about sleeping in so sets a selection of alarms at times a minute or so between them and places the clocks around her room so she actually has to get up to silence them.  She said it works, but only in that it makes her so paranoid about not sleeping in that she stays awake pretty much until the alarms are due to go off, then is woken by her selection of alarms, having fallen into her first deep sleep of the night.  Cruel.

I now hope this clock will last me a good few years and the novelty of having the weather station feature won’t wear off!


I am a cold weather person, I feel uncomfortable in hot weather and anyway I genuinely have a defective internal heating system that is permanently on high.  That said, I love sunshine and I can tolerate a bit of heat if I’m suitably attired and not on public transport/shopping/at work/moving.  However, last week I had outside doors open and pleasant warm air wafted into my lounge.  It was sunny on Thursday this week so I opened the doors while it was sunny and it was undeniably chilly.  Somewhere in the past week, I feel it has become autumn.

On the discovery of this chilly air, I had a good look around at the gardens I back onto and I realised there are crispy leaves under the trees and the green on the trees is punctuated by a few blotches of brown.  Autumn is a dramatic and beautiful month, it’s just that for the first time I can remember, I’m not ready to welcome it yet.

Summer has not been too bad for me (seriously, I get hot and uncomfortable at a very low temperature and I am almost only the only person sweating furiously on the train even when I haven’t just run for the train), but I guess even I welcome the warmth you associate with summer.  Or maybe it’s more the sightings of the sun that I welcome, and it hasn’t really been on display as much as you’d hope and expect over the official three months of summer from June to September.

Yesterday, without thinking about it until afterwards, I bought a fleece.  Admittedly, I had gone into a clothing store to look for a plain white t-shirt but was confronted with winter clothes so it was probably more a trigger to remind me I didn’t have a fleece for winter rather than that I went out specifically to buy a fleece in winter clothes shopping mode.  When I got home, I cut off the labels, stroked it (I love soft fleeces!), folded it and opened my wardrobe to put it in my winter pile.  Two things then struck me: I didn’t have a winter pile; but the wardrobe shelf was full.  I then immediately had a millisecond burst of excitement, a kind of, “Oo, I haven’t worn them in ages”; a new clothes type excitement.  Then I had a real shock at the reality which is that I had worn just one thing from that summer pile of clothes (not t-shirts, more beachy floaty tops and skirts) and that it was now possibly time to put them away until next summer.  That’s not right, is is?

I have always favoured winter wardrobes more than summer ones, but that isn’t remotely the point.  I know we have erratic, unpredictable weather, we are after all an island, but over the last few years I feel that the boundaries between seasons  have been blurred somewhat and the weather is even more unpredictable and prone to extremes than ever  before, and, not to get all Greenpeace on you, as far as I’m concerned this is as a result of forces way beyond my comprehension and I do find it more unsettling than I like to acknowledge.

As for the onset of autumn, once I acclimatise and wear socks and a cardi or thin jumper about my home, I will be okay about the chill factor, but I refuse  point blank to put any heating on until at least October, and that’s a whole month before my previous heating target!

               We all talk about the weather in the UK.  I would say we complain about it more than we revel in it.  It’s easy conversation if you’re trying to fill a potentially uncomfortable silence, it’s an ice breaker and, most importantly I imagine, it’s something we can all have an opinion on and that we’ve experienced.

                To my horror, in court the other day one side’s counsel, complaining about the conduct of the other side’s witness, announced that the witness had also been “speaking to the transcribers”, which he deemed to be inappropriate.  I felt myself redden and squirm.  Fortunately the judge said she saw nothing wrong with that.  However, wary that any conversations we’d had with the witness would have been recorded, I rapidly thought about what we’d discussed: spellings and, you’ve guessed it, the weather and how hot it was in the court room (despite the frosty atmosphere between the two sides!).  The weather is, or should be, an inoffensive, uncontroversial thing to talk about and in that scenario it saved us sitting in the non-sitting court room in complete uncomfortable silence.

However, of late I feel that the weather has been over-used as a topic of conversation.  It’s been so bad and changeable over the past few months that I have even been in regular, lengthy conversations about it, even down to recalling things like, “Ooo, I remember this time two years ago smearing myself with yogurt, I got that sunburnt”.  While it is good to have a bit of a rant, discussing the weather in such detail will do nothing about it other than make you feel ever more sorry for yourself.

One of the good things about having all this wind, rain, chilliness, etc, is that on the few days it’s been sunny of late, there has been a veritable spring in everyone’s step and lots of cheery Facebook statuses along the lines of, “Wow, I’d forgotten how lovely the sun feels”.  The novelty of sunshine.  In summer.

When someone gets back from holiday, what are the questions you’re most likely to ask?  I reckon the weather is definitely in the top three.  Why on earth are we so utterly obsessed with it, other than as a conversation starter or ice breaker?  I do find it kind of interesting.  It being changeable is a feature of the UK.  On the few occasions it happens that you walk between rain and no rain, I find that amazing.  Or that there will be a thunder storm where I am but hot sun where the person I’m on the phone to is sitting.  It’s uncontrollable, unpredictable and of consideration to what we wear every day.

I moved to Japan in late winter.  Everyone there warned me that one day – I reiterate “one day” – it would become summer.  From that day until the day you left your house when it became winter, it would be hot, day and night.  There would be rain.  But it would be hot.  One day, I remember opening the door of our flat and being hit by a wall of heat.  And there it was, summer had begun.  It was horrible, a big sweaty horribleness to me, but at least you knew where you were:  cool clothing, ideally that would cope with the sweat, for outdoors and wintery cardigans for indoors because of the icy air conditioning being pumped out of every possible indoor space, public transport to shops.  But little variety in conversation, “Blimey, isn’t it hot”, or “Wow, we really needed that rain, didn’t we?”

Maybe, in fact probably, the weather really is part of the culture and character of our island nation and our cultural identity.  It’s going to be unpredictable because we are an island, in fact quite a few islands, and maybe having a common interest amidst such a diverse population is something to be celebrated.  After all, when there are floods and other dramatic and devastating weather activities, people always seem to be united, with stories of rescues and people pulling together.

Yesterday I donned a Primark-from-three-years-ago boob tube, knee-length shorts and a slightly-too-safari hat for my beach sunbathing session.  I looked dreadful.  It is a relief I am not famous and hunted by paparazzi, I would be mocked in a most cruel way.  While I freely acknowledge my sunbathing attire is not for the pages of the glossies, I am increasingly horrified by beach, indeed summer, fashion.  I hasten to add that I changed out of my boob tube to leave the beach.

Why do people with naturally pale, delicate skin insist on not wearing enough or any sun protection?  I saw a teenager with cheap-sausage pink thighs and shins wearing an inappropriately short pair of shorts, a skinny, previously pasty, topless bloke with a painfully pink chest and face … oh, the list goes on, so much burning on display courtesy of inadequate clothing.  It’s not pretty or pleasant to see.  But maybe worst of all is that we are increasingly becoming a nation of fatties.  I believe it’s largely a recent epidemic caused by fast food/junk food/ready meals and that I suspect they are more readily consumed than ever before.  As for me, I eat and drink too much and do limited exercise, but to my credit I do at least resist the, er, temptation to wear butt cheek skimming shorts and bikini or skimpy tops.

I don’t really care what people wear while they’re sunbathing, swimming, etc.  But walking around I am quite shocked at the amount of flesh on display, often of the pink/red hue.  I suppose it is none of my business what other people choose to wear, but I don’t want to have to look at bare chested men (the men with poster bodies seem not to display their goods other than in appropriate places), see women displaying their lower bottom and/or vast unharnessed boobs.  Sometimes I am embarrassed to be British, especially now I see so little style displayed.  I can see why and how we have a bad reputation (albeit a stereotype) for our sense of style.  Of course there are stylish people, but when they are consumed amongst Jo/e Public I feel they are in the minority.

What is to blame?  The advent of cheap throw-away clothing?  Magazines and the fashion industry?  Not understanding how to dress to your figure or age?  Or just not giving a shit?  As a slight aside, a few weeks ago a friend and I walked past a very long queue of largely teenage girls.  It was sunny and warm.  I am not kidding, I walked past them in open-mouthed horror, I swear I have never seen anything like it: most of the “teenage” girls were at least chubby, most were wearing skimpy clothing and most looked dreadfully, painfully, embarrassingly cheap.  They were queuing to see Rizzle Kicks.  I do try not to exaggerate, stereotype or offend when I write blog posts but really, that shocked and actually upset me.

I find it sad that a lot of people seem to have lost a sense of pride in their appearance and/or resort to minimal “fashion”, especially when they don’t, indeed can’t, carry it off with poise and confidence.  I’m not just talking about poor fashion sense, I am talking more about wearing clothes that suit you.  I’m not a complete prude, I don’t think people should be covered as they walk about in hot weather,  I just wish people would wear clothes in their size that cover private private bits, from bum cracks and cheeks to cleavages.  Am I being prudish?  Maybe I am, I just hate having to see people looking naked and unattractive as I go about my daily business on a warm summer day off.

{24/05/2012}   Looking after yourself

     Last night, in the queue of an over-heated Tesco Express, I shared “it’s too hot” sentiments with a woman next to me.  She looked hotter than me, very red, despite wearing a sleeveless dress.  She had massive scarring on one arm.  She told me that she had got out of hospital the day before after skin cancer treatment and had been told not to go in the sun, but being as hot as it was she couldn’t face covering up.  I wasn’t sure what to say, but it reminded me of so many people I have worried about who haven’t heeded advice about their health.

     I am guilty of this too.  I did a motorbike driving test (the CBT, one-day test) a few days after a general anaesthetic for the removal of four wisdom teeth.  Wearing a helmet wasn’t fun and general anaesthetics take a good few days to leave your system.   If a friend had told me they were going to do this, I would have been really worried and not wanted them to do it.  What is it?  Arrogance that we know our own body?  Stubbornness about not changing plans?  Worry about losing face and losing money?

The same applies to smokers or drinkers who are warned about the damage they are doing to themselves, but a lot of people don’t give up because of that advice or warning.  It’s horrible for those around them, it’s really difficult being around someone you perceive as being on a mission to self-destruct, because that’s kind of what it is.

What does it take to make people change their lifestyle or habits when they receive advice that what they are doing them is either killing them or making them more ill?  I knew a 40-year old man who was a smoker, beer drinker and long distance runner.  He had had a few heart scares and been told to give up all three.  He carried on, then one day died.  As I recall, the cause of death was unknown in that there were four heart issues that could have caused his death but it wasn’t certain which of the four got to him.  Is it about wanting to live your life as you love it, not wanting to change, or perhaps not wanting to ALLOW your ill health to make you change?

There is nothing more frustrating and upsetting than seeing people you love flaunt their unhealthy habits, not go to the doctor when there’s clearly something wrong or say they’re ok when they’re blatantly not.  Likewise, it is hard to change habits and address health problems.  But how ill do you have to be before you do make that choice to look after yourself?  How much worse does my RSI have to get before I accept that I am in the wrong job; when limited movement in my hands renders me unable to cook or type or write and basically do all the things I enjoy doing?  What will make the lady I met with skin cancer not go out in the sun unprotected, when already she has painful-looking scars from her treatment?  Prevention is better than suffering, right?

{04/02/2012}   Snow, The Joy of

Sledges, snowmen, attempts at making an igloo, enormous snow balls, laughing, snow angels … I absolutely love snow.  Of course, in my ideal snowy world I wouldn’t have to go anywhere non-play, I wouldn’t have to deal with wet boots/wellies and there would be no slush/brown snow.   There’s not enough snow this morning for full-on snow action, but who knows what tomorrow will bring!

My dad grew up in Latvia and in winter would skate to school across a lake or ski.  When he came to the UK, he would ski in the Alps and in his one box of pre-mum belongings, he had photos of him on ski slopes and ski medals.  I grew up believing I would inherit my dad’s ability to skate and ski.  Naturally, intuitively.  So did I?  Did I heck!

Skiing disappointed me.  I went twice in Japan, no lessons.  I had two of the most hilarious, Carry On esque holidays imaginable and I loved being outside surrounded by mountains and snow.  But I can’t ski and it scares me.

Four years ago I went to Finnish Lapland for a week’s snowy adventures.  I tried snowmobiling (a tad too much of an adrenaline rush, in fact downright lethal, but largely fun), reindeer and sleigh riding (-20 that day, eyes almost froze shut, reindeer are blatantly wild and very fast), husky sledding (very, very fast, it made me retch when they pooed -think about it – and challenging; something I would love to do again), snow shoe, er, walking (unbelievably hard to get anywhere and incredibly dull), ice fishing (bitterly, excruciatingly cold activity, but the reward of Heather catching a fish we then ate after it was cooked on a fire made it worthwhile) and cross-country skiing (the best sporting activity ever: snow, full-on cardio exercise, challenging on the flat, nearly impossible up hill and un-stoppable going down hill when your skis are in the grooves, ie crouch-down-whippet-fast).

On a less adventurous level, snow covers otherwise ugly or bland things in a beautiful sparkly blanket and creates a wonderland, the stuff of favourite children’s stories, the stuff of magic.

Two years ago, I was living in a house on the beach in Seasalter near Whitstable, from where the photo was taken.  It snowed so much that a friend and I got snowed in.  We took lots of snow jumping photos and made a snowman with seaweed, pebble and shell accessories (seaweed is great for dreadlocks!).  Without doubt, those few days will remain as favourite memories.

Many, many years ago, a friend and I who lived opposite each other (maybe aged 11ish) met up to play in the exceptionally deep snow that year.  As I remember it, we made a snowball half my height, which we couldn’t roll once it got too big and heavy, we tried to make an igloo but the building of snow bricks was just too laborious when we began to realise the enormity of the undertaking.  We then went sledding.  In a blizzard.  I remember my parents having been very worried while we were out.  I remember it being painfully cold but we were children of the Antarctic and carried on taking it in turns to pull the sledge (I wonder if this is how Carolyn remembers this?!) in a most heroic fashion.

I also remember the hill at the back of The Landway.  And the palings fence at the bottom.  And the stream beyond that.  Crash carnage!

While studying at Ol’ Miss in Oxford, Mississippi, there was a freak snow storm whereby the thick snow froze so we went sledging on ice, except we had trays rather than sleds so it was all very exciting.

These are just a tiny number of happy snow memories.  Another great thing about them is that they were all made even better by the presence of friends.  So, in no particular order, thank you Heather, Carolyn, Fiona, Nicky, Catherine P, Angela, Carla and my parents, and everyone else who doesn’t feature in these snowy tales but still have a place in my beloved snowy memories!

et cetera