Monthly Archives

June 2010

Desperately Seeking… Bear Bear

Posted on 29th June 2010 in birthday/ Colchester Zoo/ Keel Toys/ KidAround Magazine/ son

When my youngest was 6 months old we went for one of our regular walks round Colchester Zoo and out through the gift shop. My slightly older son had a habit at the time of collecting plastic animals – we had zillions of them – but youngest son had never really shown much interest.

On this day however, youngest son reached out and plucked a bear off the shelves.

From that day onwards, he and ‘Bear Bear’ were inseparable. Youngest son turns 9 in a couple of weeks and even now Bear Bear goes to bed with him every night.

When Bear Bear needed washing I went back to the Zoo and bought a second bear (Spare Bear) and for a while I got away with swopping the bears.

One weekend when my ex husband and his then girlfriend had the boys, they returned them home without Bear Bear. Youngest son was devastated. Ex husband claimed he was ‘lost in town’ and they had been back to every shop but the bear was no where to be seen.

The next morning I started phoning shops. I rang and continued ringing until I found a shop who said ‘yes, we had a bear left here yesterday’. And so I picked up the bear.

As time has gone on and other toys and computer games have competed for attention, it would seem that Spare Bear has been well and truly lost.

We do still have Bear Bear, but, youngest son has a few abandonment issues and he gets quite sad about the lost bear. He sometimes is tearful at bedtime because ‘he thinks Bear Bear is sad about missing his family’, it is quite heartbreaking.

I have appealed in the newspaper, via KidAround magazine, on a ‘toys reunited website’ and I’ve rung Keel Toys and I’ve been back to the Zoo. It would seem there are no more Bear Bears to be found! After the appeal in KidAround a very lovely lady did contact me and say she had a Bear Bear – I went straight round and it turned out to be a mini-Bear Bear. Youngest son was delighted but he was still sad that we hadn’t found ‘Bear Bears family’.

So this is a last ditch appeal. It would be just amazing if I could find a bear (in any condition) for him for his birthday. Can the power of twitter find that person who has a tatty old brown bear tucked away in a cupboard? Fingers crossed.

Kafka On The Shore – book review

Posted on 17th June 2010 in #bookclub/ Haruki Murakum/ Kafka On The Shore/ review

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakam

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, having never read this author before, but something drew me to it and I have long since learnt that when a book ‘talks’ to you, you need to pick it up!

The story gently pulls you in and before you know it your world is torn between the two main characters and their separate, but softly interwoven tales. The prose is at times breathtakingly beautiful and utterly spellbinding, if ever a page-turner could be also be gentle then this is it.

The first character is Kafka, a 15 year old boy who’s enigmatic yet apparently uncaring father seems to have filled his head with all manner of dark omens and seemingly bizarre facts and prophecies. A troubled childhood and a missing mother and sister leave Kafka being raised by a man who seems unfamiliar with children and their needs. Unsurprisingly Kafka runs away from home and his tale varies from being that of a 15 year old runaway to a deeper, prophetic tale of a much older soul on a mysterious quest.

Just when you are immersed in this tale and eager to read each new page, you encounter that most frustrating of all things, a chapter introducing a new character! Although the temptation is to rush through the pages until you can return to the original story, you quickly find yourself enchanted by the old man Nakata and his simple life.

Nakata lives life at a gentle pace. He lived through a world changing event and emerged from it alive yet mentally impaired and with the unprecedented ability to communicate with cats. Now this fact alone will make some love the book and some discount it, however it is surprising superfluous to the story itself and is one of the many obscure yet fascinating side arms to the main story. Nakata seems to be utterly defenseless and bewildered by the world and yet strange things happen when he doesn’t get his way and through a combination of vulnerability and the odd premonition of raining fishes he somehow always achieves his aims.

Haruki Murakam creates two very strong, very different yet believable characters for the reader to care about which is no mean feat in itself but in addition to this, you will find that you also care about the librarian (whether they are male or female matters not), about the truck driver, about the girl and even the rock!

Kafka On The Shore takes you from a simple love story, through to a journey of self-discovery, past a deep and thought provoking look at human nature and sandwiched in between each layer you will find a fantastical otherworldly experience, which for some reason doesn’t seem out of place. By the end of this book I cared deeply for Nakata and wasn’t sure whether I was half in love with Kafka or wanted to mother him – either way strong emotions had been evoked.

This book has it all, love, sex, relationships, danger, omens, prophecies, imaginary shelters in the woods, murder, intrigue and talking cats – really could you ask for any more?

The East of England

Posted on 17th June 2010 in Blog/ castle/ colchester/ east of england/ norwich/ roman/ smitten by britain/ visit colchester

Welcome one and all to the East of England – a guest blog for @smittnbybritain

The East of England is a beautiful and underrated part of the country. It isn’t especially well known and yet it contains both a wealth of beauty and a depth of history within its boundaries. If you ask someone from another country what comes to mind when they think of Britain, you often get the very stereotypical answer of ‘a london bank manager in a bowler hat’ or ‘a scotsman in a kilt’, I doubt anyone would ever say ‘an office worker from Peterborough’.

Yet Peterborough, Huntingdon, Ely, St Ives and Ramsey all have a lot to offer. As well as being close to Cambridge where you can immerse yourself in student life, shop till you drop or go punting along the river – these fenland towns offer a gloriously flat landscape, fabulous markets and an array of differing architectural styles.

Norfolk brings the beauty of the ‘The Broads’ a stunning network of canals where many a holiday maker can delight in being captain for the day (or week!) in a narrow boat – the fictional home of Swallows & Amazons that was so captivatingly brought to life by Arthur Ransome. Norwich is a busy, metropolitan town with everything you could need for a memorable city break – shops, shops and more shops plus exciting nightlife and all to the backdrop of an imposing Normal cathedral.

Although just over 100 miles apart, Great Yarmouth and Southend both offer an amazing family experience with exciting rides and attractions on the seafront and a multitude of reasonably priced B&Bs, caravan/camp sites and chalet parks to accommodate those wanting to stay for a few days.

Tiptree in Essex is a small town with several small holdings and a very special jam factory! Wilkin & Son make the most delicious jams and you can enjoy a visit to their museum, a tour of the factory and then of course it would be rude to leave with out a visit to the tea room! Just over 20 miles away, up the A12 you can find the Dedham Rose tearoom where they also serve Wilkin & Son jams with warm scones and clotted cream – a fantastic venue for a mother’s day treat! If the guilt of the scones gets to be too much you can take a stroll through Constable country – maybe you will even walk the same route that inspired John Constable in 1800?

Did you know that Colchester (Roman name Camulodunum) is Britains oldest recorded town? The earliest record of the town’s existence is a reference by the Roman writer, Pliny the Elder in AD77. When describing the location of the island of Anglesey, he wrote that ‘it is about 200 miles from Camulodunum, a town in Britain’. Colchester also boasts a stunning castle, in the beautifully kept (and aptly named), Castle Park where seasonal flowers seem to magically appear in breathtaking displays throughout the park.

Last, but by no means least, we come to ‘the Essex Sunshine Coast’. The East of England has an amazing shoreline, loved by families and responsible for many happy holiday memories. Clacton’s annual air show is an amazing event with exciting air displays that can be viewed from the comfort of a good old fashioned deck chair! Beach huts are synonymous with the great British summer and seaside resorts in the East are lined with rows of brightly painted, weathered and well loved ‘huts’ most of which have been in families for decades and are viewed of more as holidays homes than little wooden sheds.

If you haven’t been to the East of England before – it’s about time you did! The excellent road and rail links mean that once you’ve picked a town to use as a base, the rest of the towns and attractions are all within traveling distance. The only question is – where do you start?

P is for… Playdough

Posted on 13th June 2010 in play dough recipe

Just a quickie – in response to @redtedart who asked for a home made play dough recipe. A few years ago I used to work for a Toy Library and we made our own play dough every week using this recipe – I can honestly say it is fool proof *ducks and runs for cover* ish.

Home made play dough

2 cups plain flour
1 cup salt
2 cups water
2 table spoons of cooking oil
2 dessert spoons of cream of tartar
food colouring

Sift flour into a large old saucepan, then add all other ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon over a medium heat. You will know when it is done as after a short while it magically turns into playdough!
Turn out onto a lightly floured board and allow to cool for a few minutes before use. This playdough should keep for 2-3 weeks if stored in an airtight container.

S is for… Sensory Overload

Posted on 9th June 2010 in Blog/ cats/ writing workshop

For prompt 4 of porridge’s writing workshop.

I shouldn’t be here

Would he find out?

I’d promised ‘never again’

Could he find out?

It was so beautiful to look at

I’m just looking, looking can’t hurt can it?

My heart contracted

I looked around, had anyone noticed?

My eyes widened

There was no one here to see

My fingers reached out

Could I? Should I?

I could feel my pulse

Was this love?

I wanted it

Was it lust?

I wanted to touch it

I shouldn’t

I needed it

I know it’s irrational, but I DO NEED IT

I needed to feel it

Just for minute

I needed to hold it

Oh how much I needed to hold it

I tentatively extended a hand

It looked up at me

My fingers brushed it

Oh so soft, so so soft

Our eyes connected

Such intense blue eyes

It blinked at me and I melted

Had anything ever looked so cute?

I guiltily snatched it up

Had anyone seen? I didn’t care

I held it close

Just for minute

I smelt it and buried my face in it’s soft fur

Now I know I love it

It purred

It loves me too!

The object(s) of my desire can be seen here
Any of them obviously, but from a pure ‘kitten porn’ point of view it would have to be the little black one on the left hand side near the bottom or the oh so beautiful little grey bundle about half way down! Forgive me, I have never hidden my love of cats!
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