Wednesday, 31 December 2008

2009 - Wishing You Peace

I think we all agree that it would be far better if there were peace on earth instead of the myriad wars that are being fought across the globe but one thing I’m certain of is that unless we find peace within ourselves, there will never truly be peace on a world-wide or even local basis.

You don’t have to go far before you see people using threatening behaviour. Sometimes I guess they do it because the person they’re threatening just isn’t able to see sense through any other means but mostly I think it’s down to their own lack of peace within themselves. They’re wound up, feel the world owes them something, that they have more right to something than others have, or that they need to remove a ‘problem’ that’s getting in their way. The problem can, of course, be perceived rather than real, such as in cases where one person punishes another for ‘looking at my bird’ or whatever.

Lack of self confidence, low self esteem, a society that places more value of material worth than on human relationships, they all play their part in creating unrest. I know, because I've been there.

Only when we’re happy with what we have and the path we’ve chosen for ourselves, when we respect the opinions of others without judgement and accept that we must live and let live can we truly feel at peace with the world and those who live in it. It isn't easy, but certainly a goal worth trying to achieve.

I wish you all peace in 2009. True, lasting peace that’s within you and reflects in everything you do.

Sharon J xx


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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The Importance of Contentment

One thing I’ve noticed this past year is that even though my health took a nose dive and the road back to having something resembling my normal strength has been slow and tedious and there's still a lot of climbing to do I’ve felt far more contented, especially during the latter half of the year. Not as contented as I’d like to be, but certainly enough to make a difference.

I know that contentment has come through making a conscious decision to simplify my life. I no longer wanted drama and intrigue to be part of it, I didn’t want to be surrounded by useless gadgets and gizmos that I really didn’t need, I no longer wanted to be bogged down by clutter, not only in the home but in my mind too, and I wanted the freedom to potter through life in a way that suited me without constant interference and demands from others. I wanted to get out of the financial mess I was in and start actually seeing the trees instead of just the woods.

That contentment has made other changes easier. When I was discontented with life I’d go on a shopping spree, trying to find some kind of happiness in material things, and while I did indeed get a high from buying stuff, that high lasted a very short time. Then I’d need another dose. And another. Spending became like a drug. Once I started feeling more contented with my life I no longer felt the need to fill in the gaps with stuff, because those gaps simply weren’t there anymore. Spending less made saving easier, and saving more meant my debts started to disappear more quickly. Contentment, I noticed, was having a positive snowball effect. Not only did my goals help me gain that contentment, the contentment itself led to the goals being far more achievable. A win-win situation all round.

Once I’d rid myself of the majority of toxic people in my life I found myself feeling far happier around those I do appreciate. Whereas the poisonous vipers were shutting me in before, I was opening up more, being myself again, understanding who I was and what my relationships meant to me. Without the negative influences I was feeling far more contented.

Getting rid of some of the physical clutter in my life taught me that I really don’t need things just because I think I need them. Yes, sometimes it was hard to let go but I learned that letting go of some things frees up space for other, more important things. The same goes for mind clutter. Spending time worrying over things that I can’t change, figuring out my next move in order to stop the toxic people from bringing me down… all those things were rolling around my mind, stopping me from living in the moment. When you’re contented, living in the moment becomes so much easier.

Discontent is soul destroying, expensive and makes life far more complicated than it need be. And while we all feel discontent creeping up on us now and then, what’s important is that we grab it as soon as it appears and take a good look at where it came from. Once you know what you’re dealing with, it’s so much easier to banish it from your life again. A little adjustment here, a tweak there… that’s generally all it takes. Sometimes even acceptance. Occasionally bigger changes will be needed but when you’re generally content with life otherwise, even those are easier to deal with.

Sharon J xx


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Monday, 29 December 2008

Lucky Me, Lucky You

Do you keep your food in a fridge and your clothes in a wardrobe? Do you have a roof over your head and a bed to sleep in? In that case you’re wealthier than 75% of the world’s population.

Or so I’ve heard.

Although I can’t say that the above is a fact, given the number of poor countries in the world, I can well believe it.

So when you hang your clothes up tonight before jumping into your comfortable bed, give a thought to those who are sleeping rough, some of them possibly right on your doorstep.

No matter what Santa brought us for Christmas, or whether or not we're popping a bottle of champagne on New Year’s eve, we’re incredibly lucky.

Sharon J


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Stepping Close to 2009

Ever since Christmas Day I’ve found myself reflecting over the year that has passed and thinking about where I’m heading. I’ve not been consciously making resolutions as such, but I’ve given far more serious thought to the mistakes I’ve made this year and how I can avoid them next year, the things I’ve done well this year and whether or not I can improve on them, and the path I want to follow during 2009.

I’ve never really found myself feeling like this at the end of the year before. I’ve never been one for resolutions because they generally get broken anyway, but I think the fact that I’m starting to creep towards 50 now has been playing a role in this. I want to enjoy my life, and I want to enjoy it in a way that feels right for me.


A Ward at Salford Royal Hospital - a place I don't want to see during 2009!

My health is one of the things that’s been foremost on my mind recently. I know I can’t turn the clocks back and live the life I once lived but I can take steps to keep myself out of hospital and as well as possible. I know I’ve been playing with fire recently in more ways than one and could so easily end up regretting it, so certain things need to be changed. I want to squeeze as much as I can out of life and I can’t do that unless I improve my health. I can’t re-grow my bowel or unclog my arteries but I can live a healthier lifestyle and take my medication more seriously, both of which will act as a preventative against my condition falling into further decline and will also help improve my stamina and thus the quality of my life.


My family have also been strongly on my mind. There’s a link between them and my wanting to improve my health situation, quite simply that I doubt any of them would want me to be in a worse state than I need to be or, given the worse case scenario but one that could easily happen, dead.

Paul, when he was a boy

Lise and her partner, Bjørn

LM, taken last summer

But I’ve been thinking about my relationships with various family members too. What mistakes have I made? What can I do to help my family more? What do I expect from them? How can relationships be improved?


And then there are friends. I’ve written several times before about toxic friends and why we don’t need them in our lives and while I’ve managed to rid myself of most, there are still a couple that drag me down. I don’t need people who make me feel bad about myself - when you’ve lived with an emotional abuser for as long as I did, you very quickly start believing the things they tell you and that’s VERY unhealthy. I’m incredibly susceptible to that kind of suggestion now so will have to ensure that I don’t have ANY of those kind of people in my life anymore. The same goes for those who take pleasure in opposing my opinions ‘just for the sake of it’. I like a good discussion as much as the next person, but I’m sick of just about everything I say to certain people being turned into a debate. I just don’t need that.

On the other hand there are friendships that I need to cultivate more. Those people who I feel truly comfortable around, the ones who accept me for who I am without placing any conditions on our friendship, they’re the ones I want to spend time with. They’re the ones who boost me and help me believe that I’m capable of being whatever I want to be. They see beyond my limitations and accept that I sometimes need to push the boundaries and try things that may or may not work out, even though they maybe wouldn’t try them themselves.

Friends can, of course, be family members too.

For the first time in too long I’ve started taking my life seriously. Instead of thinking about de-cluttering, getting rid of debts and worrying over the environment I’ve started thinking about ME and how I can improve my life on a more personal level. After all, if you don‘t respect your emotional and physical needs, no amount of financial security or green living is going to make you happy. Our own sense of well-being is what everything else is built upon.

This coming year I’m going to be who I am regardless of what others think of me, take serious steps to improve my health, enjoy being part of a small family unit, put myself where I want to be, and surround myself with people who I enjoy whilst still trying to be as green and frugal as I can.

Sharon J xx


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Sunday, 28 December 2008

Pets - I Wouldn't Be Without Mine

Yesterday my 5th or 7th cousin or something equally as obscure (but a great bloke, no less) made a joke about us eating Poppy for Christmas dinner. The joke carried on within the immediate family and we all agreed that it had been worth fattening her up and that it would be Jack’s turn at Easter. A joke, folks…. purely a joke.

However, I know there are some people out there who don’t believe you should keep animals at all unless they’re one day going to become food as pets aren’t ‘useful’ in any way but are a drain on our personal economy; they also demand time that could be spent in a more productive manner.

While I can understand that particular philosophy, I can’t personally agree with it. Yes, my furry friends do cost a bit to keep and yes, they do take up some of my time but they give me lots back in the form of companionship, entertainment, security and more.

When it comes to cost, they don’t really drain me. I save left-overs for them to eat and top that up with dog/cat biscuits. I know some would say that isn’t good enough but mine appear to be happy enough and although Poppy’s a bit on the heavy side - a problem I’ve had with her now that she’s knocking on a bit - she’s fit and active and a happy little soul. She can still sit up and beg and stay that way for a good five minutes if she has to.

Jack… well, he’s just always hungry. Feed him and half an hour later he’s scavenging for more food. Anything in the bin? Anything on the table? Anything on the work top? Maybe if I’m careful I can nick that sandwich right out of her hand without her even noticing! I’ve tried cutting out the scraps and just giving him good biscuits and a pouch of wet food but it doesn’t help - the boy is a pig! I have to be careful not to give Poppy left-overs that have a lot of onion in, neither of them are given anything spicy and Jack isn't given pork (we don't eat tuna so no problem there). I'll also add that they don't eat scraps every day - on non-scrap days Jack's given a sachet of wet food along with his biscuits and Poppy usually has just biscuits with the occassional half tin of wet food mixed in.

Now and then they have to go to the vet but insurance doesn’t cost more than £20 a month for the two of them and for those who can’t afford it there’s always the PDSA who’ll treat up to three pets free for those on a low income.

Time? Yes, dogs need exercise although I have to admit that Poppy doesn’t get as much as she should these days. I’ve had a bad year health wise and just haven’t been able to get out much with her. Richard takes her for a run now and then but LM… well, I don’t think she has at all this year. Strangely enough, Poppy doesn’t appear to mind. She doesn’t nag to go out and is generally happy just as long as she can be with me, whether that’s sitting next to me on the sofa, poking around in the garden or snuggled up under the duvet in bed with me. Most of the time I spend on her is pleasant, it’s the kind that builds companionship between us. She needs petting, playing with, talking to and if I didn’t have that with her I’d miss it something awful. The same applies to Jack. Although cats don’t even need walking of course. If my furry friends had been of the long-haired variety then they’d need grooming but mine don’t. The occasional bath for Poppy is more than enough.

Sometimes they drive me round the twist. Jack when he’s raiding bins or messes up my wool and Poppy when she pees on the floor but we only have ourselves to blame for not letting her out in time. If only she’d bark to let us know! But when Jack’s curled up on my lap, purring away contentedly and Poppy’s laying beside me, her head on my thigh, I feel peaceful. That alone is worth what they cost me in food and more.

Sharon J xx


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Saturday, 27 December 2008

A Painting and Other Things

After having a wonderful Christmas dinner that turned out just as it should, we opened our presents and all three of us were lucky enough to receive some lovely things.

Notice the Disney films? I collect the animated feature films and LM had bought me four! Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas and Dumbo. Lise bought me The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspain so I’ve plenty to watch this week :)

One present really brought tears to my eyes though.

This is a picture that my best friend Jo painted for me. Now she’ll be the first to admit that she’s no Van Gogh but there’s a story to this.

About a month or so ago she came to stay for a girly weekend. We had a laugh, solved the world’s problems (as you do) and went off on a zillion tangents. At one point we were talking about our dream homes. Mine’s a little white cottage that’s overlooking the sea, with flowers in window boxes and an old fashioned garden out the front. There would be a little wood nearby where I could go for cool picnics and be close to the trees and the animals that live there, and there would be mountains in the distance. Somehow Jo had managed to remember all of those details, got hold of a canvas and painted my vision!

Now this is a woman who has a young family to look after, a responsible job that keeps her busy, her grandmother’s been ill during the run up to Christmas meaning she’s had to travel from Manchester to Blackpool several times a week to make sure she’s ok, and she obviously had all the demands that running a home otherwise brings with it. And yet somehow, amidst this and the Christmas rush, she managed to find the time to paint this for me. Can you wonder that I had tears in my eyes?

Happy Twixmas, everyone.

Sharon J xx


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Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas

I hope each and every one of you has the kind of Christmas you're hoping for. Thank you for keeping me company on my journey through life this year, for being so kind, interesting and funny. You've all helped make life a bit more special.

Sharon J xx


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Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Yay! I Did It!

My Christmas food shop has been delivered and Richard's been out and bought some extra bits and bobs for me so as behind as I was, everything is now on target.

We're having turkey this year for the first time ever. I was brought up with beef at Christmas then moved to Norway where their Christmas dinner is belly pork with a special type of sausage and pork cakes but this year, after watching Jamie Oliver, I decided to go for the bird. I've never prepared and cooked turkey before so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn't go terribly wrong. A lot of the preparation will be done tomorrow - the veggies will cooked ready for rewarming and the turkey stuffed and buttered. At least that way the day itself shouldn't be too stressful with the work being shared between LM and myself.

My mouth's watering already.

The cherry vodka that I made back in August is looking good now so I'll be trying that bottling that up later today and there's a bottle of Bailey's with my name on it.

The presents are all wrapped and those that needed to be sent have been. The embroidery didn't get finished but I'm not beating myself up over that. I don't have too much left to do so they should be sent during Twixmas. People will understand that I was ill and lagging behind.

With help from Richard and LM, I don't think I've done too badly.

Sharon J xx


Image Credit: Bucklava


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Monday, 22 December 2008

O Christmas Tree

Just when I thought we’d never get the tree up in time, my daughter stepped up and did the business.

Here’s the final result.

It’s a sod to put up as each individual branch has to be put on and their colour coded by size, only we don’t have the code list anymore so it’s anybody's guess where they go. She managed it alone in an evening though (yes, it takes that long) and the next morning the lights and baubles went on. Not all 300 of them, that would have taken her too long alone, but all of the best ones and some of the smaller ones. It may not be quite as laden as usual but I still think it looks pretty. Thank LM, a job well done.

Here are a few pictures of my favourite baubles collected over the years (although some aren’t strictly baubles, but you get the gist).

And bless her, she'd even bought a bunch of pretty roses to cheer the place up during the run up to Christmas.

Now there’s just the other bits and bobs to be dotted around the living room. I can do that as I go along over the next few days though. Christmas, it seems, is coming to our house after all :)

Sharon J xx


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Sunday, 21 December 2008

Yuletide Celebrations

Today is Yule, also known as the winter solstice, the original winter celebration that early Christians tried to stamp out by introducing a Christian celebration during the 4th century instead. You know the one I mean, it’s called Christmas.

A lot of people still mark Yule though, in one way or another, because tonight will be the longest night of year meaning that the days are gradually going to start getting lighter as we once again head towards spring. If that’s not something to celebrate in the midst of a grey and dismal winter - and that’s what we usually get here in the UK, after all - then I really don’t know what is.

I don’t make a big fuss about Yule because our family celebrate Christmas too, although not from a religious point of view. We celebrate it as the turning of the year, the mid point in winter from where things can only get better. Basically, a delayed Yule celebration but I do mark the actual day in my own quiet little way by lighting lots of candles and making a meal that I particularly enjoy. The lighting of candles was originally to persuade the sun, through the Sun God, Mithras, who was born on the shortest day of the year, to reappear as quickly as possible, grow strong and drive away the darkness. As for the food, I don’t have a tradition, I just go with what I fancy. This year it’ll be marinated pork loin with cherry sauce, potatoes and fresh vegetables. The cherry sauce has been frozen for a couple of months but that’s ok, it’ll thaw out and warm up nicely and will be a reminder of the glorious fruit that will once again adorn the tree in the garden following the setting of the blossom, a true mark of spring. As for the pork, I just love pork loin, especially if it’s been marinated properly, and a few winter veg never go amiss.

In Scandinavia they still use the name Jul (pronounced Yule) to describe Christmas, rather than anything religious. Try as they might, those early Christians just never managed to ‘persuade’ them to entirely drop their Pagan traditions. They still have ‘nisser’ - naughty elf like creatures who you have to be kind to during the celebrations otherwise they’ll bugger up your crops next year - and they still use apples, oranges with cloves in, straw goats and other typically Pagan festival decorations.

Mind you, having said that, a lot of what we have originates from the Yule celebrations, it‘s just that most people aren‘t aware of them. Holly, Ivy, Yule Logs, Mistletoe, and even some ‘Christmas’ cards have a Yuletide greeting on them, being sent by people who have no idea that Yule is not the same as Christmas. The twelve days of Christmas also originates from the burning of the Yule log for twelve days.

As somebody who feels the cold something dreadful, I’m sooooooo looking forward to the sun gathering strength and warming us up again, so for me the winter solstice is definitely something to celebrate.

Sharon J xx


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Saturday, 20 December 2008

Social Services and The Rest - What Do They Know?

No doubt those of you in the UK will have heard about the James Hughes case, the severely disabled man whose body was found in a suitcase in the garden after his mother hanged herself. Once again a finger is being pointed at social services for not noticing that he’d lost huge amounts of weight, and at his GP for not having seen him for three years.

Well let me tell you something. Paul, my 30 year old son, also has profound learning difficulties (as did James) and in the eleven years we’ve been living in this country, social services have seen him once! Yes, that’s right, once! ONE TIME IN ELLEVEN YEARS! And that wasn’t in this town but while we were living in Manchester. And what’s more, they weren’t particularly interested in him either. I was told there was no work available for him and no respite care other than a weekend in a house shared with drug addicts. Yepp… that’s the God’s honest truth!

During the seven years we’ve lived here, they haven’t seen him at all. NOT ONCE!! They know of him, but they haven’t bothered to visit him, enquire about him, or anything else. For all they know, Paul could be dead and they wouldn’t even notice!

His GP has seen him maybe twice during those seven years and certainly not for the past three years. For all he knows, Paul could be dead.

A few years ago he had an appointment with the hospital that I cancelled. Nobody asked why and when I said he didn’t need a new appointment that was accepted without question. Paul could be dead.

Paul receives disability living allowance but nobody has asked to see him since he was first awarded the benefit. It just goes into the bank but Paul could be dead.

The neighbours haven’t seen him for a couple of years - not since he came home from my Mum’s two summers ago to come on holiday with us. Nobody has asked about him. He could be dead.

The point I’m trying to make is that anything could happen to Paul and nobody would notice. It’s just assumed that all is well. But how do they know that? How do they know that taking care of Paul didn’t become too much for me and that one day I snapped and…. well…. did the unthinkable?

I can assure you that Paul is very much alive and well and still helping my mum care for my dad but you really only have my word for that. Some of you will know it’s the truth because you know me personally and have seen Paul, but most of you don’t. I could be covering up something sinister, couldn’t I? How would you know? How would anybody know when nobody follows him up? I don't even have a recent photo of him to post here to prove he's alive and well (he is though, honestly. I'd hate to think you really think I might have... !)

Paul is just one of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in this country and I’m sure he’s not the only one who hasn’t been followed up properly. Who knows what might be going on behind closed doors? It’s hard being the parent of a disabled child and it doesn’t get easier when they become adults - sometimes a person’s patience can only stretch so far and when they’re not getting help….

It’s a scary situation.

Once Paul comes home for good I shall contact social services and ask why he hasn’t been assessed regularly. I wonder what they’ll say.

Sharon J xx


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Thursday, 18 December 2008

Wooly Things

I’ve finally finished making the things I was knitting and crocheting. A few bits had already been wrapped before I thought about taking photos but here are those that were left. I’m not saying who they’re for though - you just never know who’s reading here :)

Socks for keeping cold toes toasty

A crocheted brooch - the colours are slightly more muted than they appear in the photo though

A bundle of tiny hats for the preemie department at our local hospital.

I think it’s nice to give something to charity at Christmas and although I’ve nothing against donating to charity shops or putting money in collection boxes at other times, I do feel that ‘giving to charity’ should also mean actually putting yourself out a bit to do something, whether it’s a sponsored walk or other activity, helping out at a shelter or making something for those less fortunate than ourselves. The hats take no time to knit up and the yarn's all left over stuff from other projects so giving a bundle of them to the hospital isn’t much of a big deal really. And because the parents of the preemie babies get to keep the hat their baby wore whilst in hospital, they always need new supplies.

Now I just have to finished the cross-stitch projects.

Sharon J


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Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Moon River

Some of you already know that my dad’s very ill and isn’t going to get better. He’s been like it for a couple of years now and it’s a surprise to everybody that he’s still alive - alive but not living. Laying on a bed, not knowing where he is, who his wife is, who I am, or being able to feed himself or control his bowels is not living. Surviving yes, but not living.

If I’m honest, I’ve never had a good relationship with my dad. Without going into detail, I can say that he’s a been very selfish man, but it was only once I was old enough to understand certain things that I realised what he was really like. As a young girl, I thought he was great. Why? Because he was funny when he was drunk (which he was twice a day, every day) and he taught me to dance.

I used to love dancing with Dad. I can’t have been more than about four when he taught me to waltz at the social club we used to go to at weekends. Then came the foxtrot, the quick step and a few others, but the waltz was always ‘our’ dance. And even when I got older and ‘played out’ with the other kids rather than hanging in the club, I always made sure I was back in the hall for the last waltz because that belonged to me and Dad.

I don’t really have anything special that reminds me of dad but a week or so ago I came across this on eBay.

It’s the sheet music to ‘Moon River’, the song he taught me to waltz to and one I can remember dancing with him to on so many occasions, including at my wedding. I’m going to put it in a black frame and hang it on the living room wall because although we didn’t get along too well, those dances ARE good memories, and hearing the song nowadays makes me both smile and cry.

Sharon J xx


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Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Will It Or Won't It Happen?

I really can’t see there being much of a Christmas in our house this year because I’m still stuck in bed with this rotten bug. I got up for a few hours at the weekend but that just set me back again so here I am, still ‘enjoying’ these same old four walls.

At the moment I’m surrounded by wrapping paper, presents, tags, ribbons, bubble wrap, brown paper, sellotape and other wrapping bits and bobs, trying to get things wrapped and ready to be put in the post. I’m still hoping there’s a chance things will get to their recipients before the big day, especially my son’s pressies, as he’s still a child in his mind and gets really excited about Santa bringing him presents.

I also have my embroidery and knitting on the bed with me, and Christmas cards that I’m gradually writing in between doing other stuff so you can imagine what it looks like here. In a king sized bed, I have just an edge to use cos the rest is covered in Christmas stuff. Well just because I have to rest, doesn’t mean I can’t do anything, does it? It just isn’t all that easy to do it all from the confines of a bed, but I’m getting there.

I’ve ordered all my Christmas food for home delivery because I’m pretty sure I won’t be fit enough to go shopping in time. I just hope I’m fit enough to actually make the Christmas dinner because my daughter sure as heck can’t do it. She can make hotpot and shepherd’s pie but that’s about it, unless you count warming up frozen pizza. Oh well, if we have to share a tin of soup then we’ll have to…. not quite the same though.

I’m still trying not to stress over any of it. Stress just makes me ill (my body doesn’t deal with it well and it’s landed me in hospital before) so I have to stay zen-like about Christmas. Ha! I can’t say that’s working exactly because I am getting pretty fed up with the situation now, but I can’t compromise my health for the sake of Christmas.

I just wish my immune system worked properly and maybe this bug wouldn’t have hit me quite as bad. I can’t easily shake them off y’see and as much as my doctors tell me that I should avoid viruses whenever possible, I’m still part of this world and it’s inevitable that sometimes….

Oh well, we’ll just have to see how it goes.

Sharon J xx


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Monday, 15 December 2008

Pictures of Malta

Sliema - Malta's most popular tourist destination


The backstreets are narrow but incredibly quaint and certainly make for interesting driving.

A lot of the buses are very old and, I'm told, very uncomfortable. The good thing about them though, is that you can catch a bus from just about anywhere to get to just about anywhere else.

The sea surrounding Malta is said to be the clearest in the Mediterranean

Washing hanging out to dry in the street. It's a good job Malta doesn't attract the lager lout crowd or I doubt they'd be left hanging there long.

Popeye Village - the location of the film 'Popeye' starring Robin Williams

Marsaxlokk Harbour - a beautiful fishing village where life seems to have stood still for a very long time

Marsaxlokk is famed for it's colourful fishing boats (Luzzu)

Maltese Lace blowing in the breeze at the daily market

Mosta Dome - apparently the 3rd largest unsupported dome in the world

Inside Mosta Dome - an incredibly beautiful church

View from Gozo towards Comino and Malta. To be so far south, Malta and Gozo are both incredibly green and lush.

And finally, my baby, relaxing in the shade of an outdoor restuarant

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Sunday, 14 December 2008

Christmas Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect

Having been stuck in bed for a week, I am most definitely behind with my Christmas preparations. The tree isn’t up, gifts aren’t wrapped, some gifts still haven’t been bought and others that I’m making aren’t finished and cards aren’t written which is a bit of a git considering that some of them have to go abroad. Luckily, the presents that have to go to Norway won’t be opened until after Christmas anyway (I won’t go into the reasons here and now) so I don’t have to worry about those not getting there in time. I just hope everything that I’ve ordered for Paul comes with enough time to be sent down to London as I’d hate him to get his pressies late.

There’s still food shopping to be done and the mince pies and stuff that I was planning to make are just going to have to go take a walk this year. I must get the rest of the vodka into the kilner jar so that the cherry vodka’s ready on the day, though; I’ve been looking forward to that too much to miss it.

A few days ago I was getting my knickers in a right old twist over all this but I’ve come to the conclusion that Christmas really doesn’t have to be perfect. The day will come and go regardless of whether or not I’m prepared and once it’s gone it really won’t matter anymore. Nobody will remember it for the home-made mince pies, or whether or not the house was squeaky clean. And I’m sure half of those on my Christmas card list won’t really give a toss care whether or not they get a card.

It’s just one day and really not worth all the stress it can cause. I’ll do what I can and enjoy doing it - what I can’t do I won’t do and that’s that. End of story. Not having a perfect Christmas doesn’t make me a failure and nobody will be hurt, life will just poodle along as usual and Christmas will be forgotten for yet another year.

Sharon J


Image Credit: Krisdecurtis


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Saturday, 13 December 2008

Photo Tag

Yet another tag. This time it was Donna over at A More Green and Simple Life that tagged me (it must be tag season) and the idea is to go to the sixth photo folder on your computer, pick the sixth photo there and post it. Simple enough.

This is a photo taken on a canal boat holiday I had with my friend Carol last October. The weather was wonderful and the scenery beautiful. It’s the Shropshire Union Canal, which was constructed way back in 1772, taken somewhere between Nantwich, which is part of the borough I live in, and Market Drayton. Even though we holidayed VERY locally, you see your surroundings from a completely different perspective from the canals. Canal holidays are a lot of hard work but very, very peaceful.

The tag now goes to:

Green Lettuce Soup
Blog Virgin
A Piece of Wood
Lizzie’s Home World
Catz Corner
The Reductionist

Sharon J xx


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Thursday, 11 December 2008

I’m Waaaaaay Behind

My daughter smiled one of those “what on earth are you doing?” kind of smiles when I unpacked my knitting and cross-stitch in Malta, but all I can say is “Good job I took them”.

Because I’ve been ill since my return, I haven’t been able to do any knitting or sewing this week and it’s already Thursday. That means I’ve lost almost a week of making my Crimble pressies and even though I managed to do a bit in Malta, I’m way, way behind. I’d planned on using time spent just sitting in the room or on the roof terrace to keep up to schedule but I hadn’t planned on being brought down by this awful cold when I got home. Normally I’d spend at least a couple of hours every day working on my projects but that just hasn’t happened and now I don’t even know whether some people are actually going to even get their presents in time. If I hadn’t taken them to Malta then some would definitely not be getting anything because there wouldn’t be a snowball’s chance of ever catching up.

I was originally planning to get the tree and other decorations up this weekend too but I can’t see that happening either. I have no energy, my eye is sore and gummed up, my nose and sinuses are blocked, and all in all I’m feeling just a wee bit sorry for myself. Unless something radical happens before the weekend (that’s just one day away, isn’t it?), that tree just isn’t going up.

Can Christmas be postponed by a few weeks this year, please?

Sharon J xx

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Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Was It The Fog?

As most of you know, LM and I were supposed to be heading for Malta on the afternoon of Saturday 29th November. We were at the airport bright and early and thought all would be fine and dandy - as you do.

The first problem I encountered was that I had to pay for two of my three boxes of medical supplies. Granted, they’re rather large boxes but they’re vitally important and I can’t travel without them yet even though I told the check-in clerk that I’d been able to take them free of charge last time I’d flown with EasyJet and that when I booked I informed the lady on the phone that there were three of them and she told me they’d be carried free, still I had to pay. Apparently, they’ll only carry one box free. Granted it was only £12 a box but even so, I really don’t think I ought to have been made to pay when I wasn’t informed beforehand. Had I been, then I’d have had my home-care company pack everything into one box.

Anyway, that out of the way, we made our way to the gate and along with a couple of hundred other passengers, we looked forward to sunshine and warmth. Boarding time came and went… no plane. Delayed because of fog, apparently. Strange considering other flights were coming and going but we figured it wouldn’t be long. Wrong! Several hours later we finally got on a plane only to be told by the crew that they’d had to land in Leeds (this was in Manchester) because they hadn’t had enough fuel to circle while they waited for a pocket in the fog. The delay meant they’d be going into overtime and while they’d agreed to follow the flight anyway, for an extra £100 each, EasyJet had declined, offering them a measly £30 each instead. Needless to say, they’d refused.

We were then told that a new crew would be waiting at Gatwick where we’d land for a crew change before finally heading for Malta. Fair enough - we could deal with that. Did it happen, though? Did it heck! Apparently they couldn’t raise a crew that were trained on that particular aircraft so off we got again only to be told that the flight had been cancelled and we’d have to spend the night in an airport hotel.

Now that doesn’t sound too bad on the face of it, but for me it meant not being able to feed and that again means no fluids. I can eat and drink until I’m blue in the face y’see and it doesn’t do a blind bit of good. My nutrition and liquids have to be pumped directly into my veins. And we all know that flying dehydrates us, don’t we? I’d already be dehydrated before I boarded the plane so I can’t say it was a flight I was looking forward to. But I was determined to get to Malta - I needed that sun for a vitamin D top up as well as actually getting away from freezing for a while (I feel the cold something horrendous due to my condition) so we were up before five the next morning and checking in at six for a flight leaving just before eight.

Eight o’clock came and went - still no plane at the gate. Things were looking decidedly dodgy. Then, about half an hour later, as if by some miracle, a plane emerged out of the fog….

Having only had a few hours sleep and feeling decidedly dehydrated, when we finally got the hotel I just zonked out on the bed and didn’t wake up again until it was dark. LM and I jumped in the hire car and off we went, round Valletta and out into the countryside, taking tiny narrow lanes and having no clue where we were or where we were going. We enjoyed it and although poor LM had caught that dreadful bug that’s been going round and had her holiday somewhat ruined by it, she soldiered on and we had a good week.

I shall be contacting EasyJet to complain though. According to a lawyer who was on our flight, we’re entitled to compensation but whether or not we’ll get any is a different matter. It’s worth a try though.

Sharon J xx


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Sunday, 7 December 2008

Home Again

Well I'm home but I have a terrible cold so really don't feel like blogging.

I'm tucked up under my duvet and that's where I shall stay until I'm feeling better. I can't complain though, it was worse for LM as she caught this while we were away and spent most of the holiday feeling miserable.

Malta was lovely though and I'll definitely got back again one day, although I'd probably choose to stay on Gozo. More about that another day though.

Thanks to my guests who took the trouble to write a post each while I was away. Your efforts were truly appreciated.

See you all soon,

Sharon J xx


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Thursday, 4 December 2008

Dare To Dream

Hi, I'm Laura from Move to Portugal.

Sharon recently wrote a post about Fear of Failure and I left a comment quoting something that I had once read, which has always held true to me, 'I have no fear of failure, only a fear of not trying'.

This is quite an apt quote for us considering the journey we are on.

When we first started out on our mission to pay off the mortgage and move to Portugal we didn't tell anyone, we thought that friends and family would think we lived in a dream world, so we decided to keep quiet. As time has gone on we've slowly let people in on the secret and nearly everyone has the same reaction, it's impossible, you'll never afford it.

I never quite know how to react to this. It's hard to talk to people about how living frugally, having a 'less is more attitude' and not wanting to own the biggest house on the block, means that you can achieve your dreams. It's hard to get people to realise that once you stop living a consumer lifestyle then life becomes so much easier. This is something you have to realise yourself.

My philosophy is to aim high, if you don't quite make it to the top then at least you might land somewhere near it.

Recommended reading: Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominquez and Vicki Robin.


Image Credit: Portugese Eyes


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Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Allotment Gardening Builds Community

My name is Gavin from the blog The Greening of Gavin. Sharon has asked me to write a post while she is away on holidays so here goes.

I live in a town called Melton West, Victoria, Australia. In our town you will be surprised to learn that there are no garden allotments like you have in the UK, which is quite a shame. I think the main reason behind it is that most houses are built on at least 500 square metres of land, and the local council sees no need in providing vegetable patch spaces when everyone has land to spare. The ironic thing is that at least 40% of the town folk rent their accommodation, so are loathed to develop a veggie patch in their landlords back yard for no compensation.

Now while I agree that they might not receive any form of monetary compensation for making a vegetable patch in the back yard, I really think that they are missing the point. I have found that you don't need to spend very much money at all to get a vegetable garden up and running. You only have to sheet mulch the area that you intend to plant out and then make some borders out of anything you can lay your hands on (there are heaps of old railway sleepers besides the railway tracks), and voila, you have a garden bed. Just whack on some manure from wherever you can get it (farmers will give it to you for $2 a bag over here), then add a mulch, even grass clippings will do, and bung in your seeds. They will grow with a bit of water and TLC, and before you know it, you have free food. Now if I was in a rental situation, free food sounds like a good proposition. Even growing vegetables in pots is a good idea. The money you save on healthy, organic produce can be put towards the deposit for your own home, or anything you like really. You could even buy a chook tractor, and keep chickens in the back yard. Free eggs from kitchen scraps and a bit of seed also is a good deal as far as I am concerned.

Earlier I said that it is a shame that we do not have allotments. The reason I say that is that this town lacks a community spirit outside of joining a sporting club. No everyone are sporting types, and most are armchair spectators (watch it on telly). For keen gardeners, it is hard to find like minded people, and I think that a community allotment would go a long way to achieving that. I believe that when gardeners get together, there is always a keen sense of competition about their how they grow their produce. Who can grow the biggest tomatoes, who's squash is the tastiest and largest, who can grow the most potatoes. You get the idea. By having this meeting place for gardeners, who all share ideas, and tips and tricks, growing your own food is a practice that is kept alive and well in the community. A great sense of pride is also kept alive and well. It is a sense of pride that also build a healthy and thriving local community.

Do you know how I know all of this? Well, I am married to Kim who originally comes from Southampton, Hampshire and that city has a huge allocation of allotments. When I lived in the UK for 6 months, I used to walk past them quite often, and there were always people tending their patches and talking to one another about this and that. It warmed my heart to see people who probably don't even know their neighbours, and taking the time to talk to fellow gardeners. That is how communities get built and towns with a sense of community thrive in troubled times like these and are much more resilient. People who talk to each other, learn more about each others lifestyle, and therefore look out for one and another.

So, don't let anyone take these wonderful meeting places away from you in the UK. If your council thinks they can get rid of the community allotment space, let them know that you care about your part of the world.



Image Credit: Catfunt


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Monday, 1 December 2008

Simply Spreading A Bit of Bloggy Love

Hi, I'm A Piece of Wood from the blog of the same name and I have to say I felt a bit like Stan Laurel when Sharon asked me to do a guest post, literally scratching my head wondering what to write about.

I've been blogging on and off for about 2 years. I spent the first year in relative isolation, with a private blog and then another one that no one read, which suited me fine at the time, but as my main focus for blogging changed earlier this year, so did my blog. I'm all about a green, simple and frugal life and as I started to blog about these things, within weeks I'd found others that were doing exactly the same.

If you think about the similarities between the blogging world and real life, blogging for me is like 'living' in a community. Everyone is similar in some aspects, but so different in others. It's like having neighbours in your computer, that will give you advice, share their experiences, offer opinions, help you out if they can and sometimes seriously put the world back into perspective for you. Bloggers seem to gravitate towards other bloggers that share like minded goals or whom have gone through similar experiences. Just click on blogrolls and you invariably find a whole host of other blogs similar to the writers. I spend way too many an hour surfing blogrolls, but have found some great blogs that way.

It's strange when you think about the different ways people come into your life, but blogging really made me stop and think about just that.

I find it pretty amazing how much kindness, friendship and warmth comes across the web. This is never more evident when for whatever reason, you have a day where life just isn't working out the way you planned, but when you get online, you find a comment from someone who probably doesn't know you, has never met you and probably never will, but whom has taken the time to read your post and comment back.

Many a time, I've read a comment that has cheered me up, made me giggle,or just made me beam from ear to ear. For me, you can't get much more simple than that.


Image Credit: Andy Piper


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Sunday, 30 November 2008

Living Au Naturelle

Thanks Sharon for allowing me a coveted spot as a guest blogger on your inspiring blog. I am honoured and humbled.

It’s been quite a year of discovery for me in so many aspects but one of the things I have taken on is trying to go ‘au naturelle’ when it comes to my beauty regime. I feel like an onion and over the last 12 months have shed so many layers of what I thought beauty was all about.

In my working ‘in an office’days, I wore make up every day, the hair was curled and perfect, the nails looked good, toenails painted – the works. I could not have dreamed to work in public in any other way. In fact, in the mornings when I saw myself without make up on I thought I looked ill.

And maybe I was.

When I think of the cocktail of chemicals I had put on my face, skin, nails and hair, I cringe. Have you ever noticed at the end of the day your foundation seems to disappear off your face? Well, it didn’t slide off, it absorbed and with it all the chemicals from the foundation as well – into your skin! Yuck. This is just one example but here is a list of what I used to do and what I am doing now to try to rid my own body of so many chemicals.

  • Wore make up – Go without make up except on very rare occasions
  • Wore lipstick – Switched to natural beeswax lip conditioner
  • Spray on deodorant – Use a natural crystal salt deodorant
  • Hair coloured at professional salon – Do it myself with organic herbal colouring
  • Used regular toothpaste – Switched to SLS and Fluoride free toothpaste
  • Wore nail polish – go without completely
  • Wore perfume – rub natural amber resin on my skin instead
  • Used shave gel for legs – use own homemade soap
  • Used shower gel – use own homemade soap
  • Used regular shampoo and conditioner – Use organic, SLS and parabens-free shampoo and conditioner
  • Deep conditioning hair treatments – Coconut oil or any other oil that’s around

I know I do feel better for it. I also know the air inside my own home is better for it. It is cheaper and I’ve even re-gained a natural glow on my face.

If you would like to find out just what kinds of potentially harmful chemicals are in your own products, you can go to the cosmetics safety database here:

Jennifer at HomeMattersMost


Image Credit: Indabelle


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Friday, 28 November 2008

Malta Tomorrow

For the first time this year, I’m going away ‘properly’. No jaunting down to London (anybody remember The Tomorrow People?) for a mad dash around what’s probably my most hated place on earth or a week or three courtesy of the NHS - oh no, this time I’m actually going on holiday!

Back in August I wrote a post outlining my financial goals, one of which was to save £500 for a bonding holiday with my younger daughter. Well I managed to get there (well, almost - after emptying the coin jar I was £20 off) so LM and I are off to Malta tomorrow for a whole week of doing nothing other than what we want to do. Bliss!

We booked it about a month ago. I found a cheap deal online through EasyJet that included flights, hotel accommodation and car hire for the week for just £200 so off we're jolly well going.

I’ve flown with EasyJet before and been really satisfied. They make no fuss about carrying my extra 30kgs of medical stuff free of charge and offer wheelchair assistance from the check-in desk to the gate. I still have to book parking and for an extra tenner I can have them meet us by the terminal to take the car to the car-park and then bring it back to the terminal again when we return. For me, who has difficulty walking and carrying anything heavy, it's more than worth the extra ten pounds.

Having a hire care for the week means I can easily get around. We both drive so if I’m having a bad day and just want to stay at the hotel, LM can still go out and do things on her own. She’ll also be able to take over the driving should I feel ill while we’re out and about. It’s just a little car but then that’s all we need and I certainly don’t want to be spitting out more co2 than necessary. It’s enough to have to take a plane and hire a car, without increasing the problem unnecessarily. Not that I could afford anything bigger, but that’s besides the point.

The hotel’s nothing spectacular but that doesn’t bother me. As long as the bed’s reasonably comfortable and the kettle works, I’ll be happy. It's just a base, after all :)

Anyway, I’ll catch up with you all when I get back. In the meantime I've been lucky enough to have some of my favourite bloggers write guest posts that are scheduled for publication while I'm gone. If there’s an Internet café nearby or the hotel has access, I may even pop in and post something myself, you just never know.

Oh, and I'll be borrowing one of LM's cameras so expect some photos when I get back.

Look after the place for me :)

Sharon J

UPDATE: Richard has kindly offered to drive us to the airport so that'll be both easier, and save a bit of money that can be better spent enjoying Malta. Thanks, Richard.

And thanks to Sam too for offering to look after my pets while we're away. What would I do without friends?


Image Credit: Kriskae


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Thursday, 27 November 2008

Completely Disorganised

Yesterday I spent several hours searching for three pillowcases that I bought about a month ago. They’re plain white, Egyptian cotton pillowcases that I’d planned to personalise with embroidery and give as Christmas gifts and if I’m to have any chance of getting everything finished in time for the big day, I need to get cracking on them.

Do you think I could find them? Not a snowball’s chance. I’d have stood a better chance of hitching a ride to Amsterdam on an ant’s back than finding those pillowcases. I asked others if they had any idea where they might be but nothing… they are missing.

This, my friends, is one reason why I really must press on with the great de-cluttering scheme. I’m sick to the back teeth (well, I would be if I had any) of having to spend so much time searching for things that should be easy enough to find. In the time I spent hunting in every place I could think of, I could have been half finished with one but instead have no pillowcases and I’m no closer to having my Christmas presents finished.

I have a craft drawer where I keep… yes, you guessed it, my craft supplies. You’d imagine they’d be in there wouldn’t you? Nope. Maybe the airing cupboard along with other bedding? Nope. In the cupboard where I put everything that can’t go anywhere else? Nope. In some other drawer then? Nope. Wardrobe? No, no, no.

I’ve run out of places to search.

This is very annoying. I was at hair pulling stage yesterday.

I’ve already got rid of quite a bit of clutter but there’s tons more to be done. From now on I am going to de-clutter one drawer, basket or cupboard (or just one shelf at least) every day that I have a reasonable amount of energy. I won’t live like this anymore! A place for everything and all that.

Sharon J xx


Image Source: Winged Photography


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Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Six Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Me

I’ve been tagged again. This time by two of my favourite bloggers, FT over at Notes From The Frugal Trenches (pop over and take a look at the awesome photos she’s put up on her tag post - they‘re truly beautiful) and A Piece of Wood.

This time the idea is to list six things that most people probably don’t know about me.

  1. I have very large feet. They’re a size 9 now but that’s because I’ve lost a lot of weight. They used to be a size 10. I’m tall so that helps them look at least a bit in proportion but it’s been a bugger getting shoes over the years. Evans wasn’t always there and although I’m not in the least bit bothered by them now, when I was a teenager they used to cause me endless embarrassment (and we all know how mean and immature teens can be so they were forever being made fun of).

  2. I know a lot about dogs and their psychology. I’ve always had a dog and have always trained them well. Unfortunately, the dog I have now is the dimmest I’ve ever come across - I swear she has learning difficulties (well if people can have them, why not dogs?)

  3. I’m really difficult to live with. I like things to be done my way and am really not too clever at sharing my space. Even my mum says she’d never want to live with me. Hell, even I find it difficult to live with me!

  4. I have a Max Bygraves CD. There are memories attached to it so I keep it. In fact, I have quite a bit of naff music simply because the songs mean something to me when I hear them.

  5. I once caused such a ruckus over a bloke who was a convicted paedophile (9 times he’d been inside for it) after I found out his wife was allowed to be a child minder that it hit the front pages of the national newspapers.

  6. I don’t like flying. I’m not afraid that the plane’s gonna fall out of the sky or anything, it’s just the thought of having to spend hours inside a capsule with no possibility of saying “bugger this, I’ve changed my mind so I'm getting off”. Once you’re in there, that’s it, your fate is out of your hands. Still, at least I won't be adding to the carbon problem too much by flying off to far away places, my trips are all short haul and even they're few and far between (although I do have one coming up in a few days).

I’ll drive people nuts if I keep tagging them so I’m not going to choose anybody this time. Instead, if you want to do this one, just consider yourself tagged.

Sharon J


Image Credit: Ombrelle


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Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Pavement Parking

One of the problems we have on this estate is that visitors often park their cars with two wheels on the pavements rather than use the dedicated parking spots which entail them walking between 25 and 100 yards to the house they’re visiting. Not a long walk by most healthy people’s standards, and even I can walk to my daughter’s car in the car-park, and my legs are well dodgy.

Luckily, not being able to pass on the pavement isn’t too much of a problem for most people here because there isn’t a whole lot of traffic. We live in a cul-de-sac so there’s no through traffic and the kids are always playing in the street, relatively safely. However, this isn’t the case on the myriad streets around our town where motorists do the same thing on far busier roads.

I for one wouldn’t want to have to negotiate a pushchair out into the traffic just to be able to pass a car belonging to somebody who obviously thinks his or her own selfish needs, like parking as close as possible to a shop because they can't be bothered to walk a few yards, are far more important than those of anybody else, and if I were in a wheelchair I’d be stuck. There’s no getting them up and down high kerbs and into traffic easily!

Unfortunately, there’s no law saying that motorists can’t park on pavements. Apparently government tried to pass a law back in 1974 but the police and local authorities opposed it as they had no way of enforcing it. Understandable from the police - they’re bogged down with more important things as it is (like pen pushing), and as far as local authorities go, they’d probably have to employ more traffic wardens which would increase council tax and everybody would be up in arms. It ended with government eventually telling each authority, in 1984, to act as they thought best.

But things have changed since the 80s. It isn’t unusual for a family to have two or three cars (when Richard still lived here, we had three - his, mine and LM’s) and without somewhere to park them, most end up on pavements. And let’s face it, if they were to park ‘properly’ along the sides of streets, no other cars would get through.

So what’s the answer? Do as they do in Japan? If you haven’t got somewhere to park, you don’t have a car? Or should local authorities prioritise more parking space? Or would people just ignore those spaces as they do on our estate? Or should we just leave things be and accept that young parents with prams have to push their babies out into traffic and wheelchair users and other disabled people will find it difficult to get around (and it’s difficult enough for them as it is)?

Anybody have any ideas?

Sharon J xx


Image Credit: Peter Ito


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