I was recently lucky enough to win a £100 voucher from DotComGiftShop.  I’ve got no intention of turning this into an advertorial (or one of those smug “look what I won this month” posts) but as it’s a shop I’ve been using for a few years I figured I’d share a few of the stand out items.

Legal bit first: I wasn’t paid to produce this post. I won a comp, that prize was not conditional on writing 100 words on similar.  I do not blog for food or prizes. Although if people want to send me anything to test the theory then feel free!

Ok, so as I say I won £100.  I added about £10  and ended up with a massive 47 items!  I will not be writing about them all, that would be silly.  And in case you’re wondering, if you spend over £50 you get free postage. Which I sort of did, if you ignore that £100 of it they paid for….


Weekend bag
First and foremost I got this bag.  I love it!  The sixties design is very now (if that makes sense) and with those colours they clash with everything.  Which in my mind means it goes with anything!  It’s pretty big, you’d have no problem getting ring binders in there. It’s not massively deep though so for me it’s not ideal as a weekend bag (although a kid would love it) but as a large handbag, which I firmly believe a girl can never have too many of, it’s perfect.


Shopper bags
Speaking of bags, DotComGiftShop usually have some of their shopper bags going at £1.  They really are fantastic value.  They are lovely and strong and as well as being great for shopping I find them really useful for storage.  I have all sorts in them.  Perfect!


Nail Books
I got a whole load of these nail books to use as stocking fillers, they come in several different designs.  Similar to old style match books these pretty little books six removable files which appear to do a pretty job good.  Not much more that I can say other than they are well worth having in your giant handbag!

DoComGiftShop have made an art out of lunch.  They have bento boxes, crockery and a wide range of samdwich bags.  It’s just a case of picking what you want.

I can’t give too much away with the next couple as they are planned as Christmas pressies but have a look at  both mugs and the teatowels.  They are really good quality and with a wide range of designs there is something for most people.

The designs really are DotComGiftShop’s strength.  They change periodically and there are a whole load that appeal to me.  There’s also a load that I really dislike – always a good sign of a wide range!  I would imagine there is something for most people and as the quality is always good I’d strongly suggest having a look.  As you can see the prices are fantastic. And it’s always worth having a look at the sales items – there are bargains to be had!


A few bits to look out for:

Notebooks- a really good range in lots of sizes.
Cards – good range of designs at a good price
Ceramics- there are a couple of stunningly beautiful designs
Bags – bags bags and more bags!  They have handbags and satchels, shopping bags, wash bags and new designs always coming in.
Stocking fillers- this is my favourite place for stocking fillers as there is such a range of  random.  I would imagine useful for kids party packs too although not my area of expertise!

Many thanks to DotComGiftShop for the prize and the use of the images, all of which they own.  Now go trawl their website!


Nostalgia For What Never Was

Steampunk has been described as “nostalgia for what never was”. Picture, if you will, the Victorian era continued.  Instead of electricity cogs and clockwork rules.  Rather well actually as space flight is pretty common and somewhat unregulated – Space Fighter Pilots are required to deal with the pirates around Mars.  More than anything though Steampunk is friendly.  About the only thing you can do wrong is call an outfit a costume – a costume suggests play whereas embracing Victorian values (the good ones!) are seen as a way of life.

At the weekend I visited The Asylum; an event where upper Lincoln is taken over by Steampunkers.  A lot of it was open to the public and it certainly made the picturesque Castle and Cathedral area more colourful. People were without fail incredibly friendly and willing to answer questions and pose for photos. 

I think next year I might even go in costume an outfit!



Two incredible costumes – the gentleman’s clockwork magnifying glasses rotate automatically


A clockwork motorbike


Space pirates!


Photographer Jon, who is in his Royal Dragon Corps uniform, was raising money for Refuge with naughty photos!


I love this lady’s outfit


Hazel made her parasol and takes commisions


Tom and friend in front of Lincoln Castle

If you get a chance to go to a Steampunk meeting I thoroughly recommend it – colourful and friendly.  You may end up a convert!

Eye mask- easy make!

Yesterday I had a splitting headache.  Nothing I did would get rid of it – not the usual drink, food, sleep, no sleep etc.  I remembered, eventually, an eye mask that I used to have.  I had made a few of them for other people in the past and still had some leftovers.  It took about 15 minutes all told to make and while it didn’t cure the headache it helped.  And I had a nice glow of achievement!

This isn’t a sleep mask – it will fall off if you turn your head to the side and adding straps will change the pressure points which defeats the object.  I’m afraid there aren’t sew-along pics but it really is a very simple make so I don’t think a pics are really needed.  And it is a very appreciated present- no-one need know how easy it is!


Soft fabric (I used a cut off from a pillowcase.  I have previously used satin which is good but harder to sew)
Linseeds (these are apparently the perfect weight and size)
Sewing machine (not essential but I wouldn’t like to do it by hand)
A funnel
Template (I haven’t provided one but you can see easily the shape)


Essential oil



1]    Cut out two pieces of the material, using the template
2]    Pin together the fabric, right side together (the side you see)
3] Sew around the material using a straight stitch, about one centimetre in. Leave a two centimetre space. 
4]    Use zig-zag stitch around the edge of the fabric, leaving a space in the same place
5]    Using the whole that has been left turn the fabric the right way out. If you’re using velcro (so you can empty it to wash) then sew into the space
6]    Fill with linseed using the funnel.  If you lift it by one end there should be a couple of centimetres of space left at the top. Add essential oils if using. DO NOT USE MUCH!
7]   Sew up the opening/close the velcro
8]  Lie on your back, hood both side and put mask on your face. Allow it to settle and relax

I said it was easy, didn’t I?

Goodbye Grandad



When I wrote the alzheimers post a month or so ago I didn’t realise I  was inviting you into my life.  But with the responses I received I realised that I had, that what I said connected with a lot of people.  So now there is a follow up to that.  There will be another, better thought out one soon, but for now this is it.  Don’t expect any great insight or wisdom – it won’t be here.

Grandad is dead.  He died at quarter to four Friday morning (it’s Sunday night as I write this).  He died sleeping, of kidney failure.  From the moment we were told it was the end he was not alone for a minute (although occasionally it was hospital staff changing bedding rather than family).  As per his usual style he was later than had been said.  It turns out that it really is hard to predict when people will go, although doctors can tell when someone is past the point of no return.

The staff that I met in the hospital – nursing and healthcare- showed how the job should be done. They were a credit to The Caring Profession. They were kind and considerate but not obtrusive, looking after grandad’s family as if we were patients too.  I cannot praise them highly enough.  (For those interested it was Lincoln NHS hospital with both EAU wards [we were moved from one to the other as it had a private room available] and Burton Ward). If you are going in there breath easy).  We had tea and grandad had morphine and another drug to clear his throat when we felt he needed it.  At the very end he was put on his side and for the last few hours was at utter peace.  He had not woken since I got there Wednesday morning.

I am sharing this because so many people told me they were in, or knew of, similar situations to the one I wrote about.  This is something they will face,  be it sooner or later.  I want them to know not to fear it.  It hurts of course, and I will miss him. Both the person he was and the person he became who, although deeply annoying on occasion, was also the sweetest, most generous man, imaginable.  So often he told me how happy he was, how comfortable and how much he loved us.  That he had never been happier.

I am not worried for him now.  I don’t know what comes next but I know if there is something he is among people who love him and if there is not then he is not suffering.  There is no longer the worry on how to cope – or how to afford it.  It feels mercenary to think like that but it is true, a weight has been lifted.  I will cry and be unhappy, and reminisce and smile.  I will grieve, because however it sounded in the other post he was, and is, very well loved.  But I will not worry for him any more.

One thing that will not wait is for all you carers out there.  You know the person you care for and you know when something is wrong,  just like a parent with a child.  It turns out all the signs for kidney failure were there.  But we didn’t know to connect the symptoms and the doctor brushed off our concerns.  We should have insisted but didn’t realise there was anything to insist about.  In this case it would have made no difference other than to give us more time to prepare.  That wouldn’t have changed anything for him but might have given my aunt a chance to say goodbye in person. Don’t be brushed off.

Thank you for your time in reading this.

Death Before Dying

I’m sorry.  I never intended to post to a schedule but I had hoped to post a little more frequently.  The truth is I have found this one, for which the blog was largely created, incredibly hard.  I knew it would be of course but I didn’t expect that I would have to bribe myself (with maltesers) to get the sentences written in my head pinned down to a screen.  It just makes the truth a little more real.

This won’t be overly pleasant to read.  It it is less pleasant to write.  But it is worse, far worse, to live.

I have lost my grandad.  What I have now is a confused, snotty shell of a man.  Leaking from every orifice, knowing no-one but wanting to cuddle us all.  He is not yet at the stage where he has withdrawn completely within himself, instead he wants so desperately to be with others constantly.  He needs the reassurance of others but he is a contradiction, he will accept anyone but is scared of all but a select few.  He fights everything, on occasion physical violence (although his body is so weakened for someone younger this is no threat) but mainly by having strops like a three year old.  He objects to everything – if you serve up salad he wants it on a warm plate.  He argues; about if he’s eaten, if he’s been out, about everything.  He still wants to help but doesn’t know how.  His organs are slowly failing on him.  He can be the nicest, sweetest person around or reduce you to tears by his cruelty.  He has forgotten everything but the buttons to press.

The cause is pretty obvious.  In his case it is a mixture of Alzheimers and Vascular Dementia.  There are various versions but the chances are one of them will come to you and your loved ones.  As we live longer we have more and more of these problems and right now we don’t know how to solve them.  Here’s a few stats for you (source: Alzheimers’s Society). There are currently 800 000 people living with dementia, 17000 of whom are younger (under 65) people.  The proportion of people with dementia doubles for every five year age group. There will be over a million people living with dementia in the UK by 2021.   In the UK there are 670 000 carers for dementia sufferers, saving the UK economy 8 BILLION pounds a year.

Only 44% of people living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who have dementia receive a diagnosis meaning these stats are based on guesswork.  The reality could be much, much higher.

I, and others who know her, believe that my gran is also succumbing.  She’s not far enough gone for the doctors to see it but it’s there.  Her health is failing but her mind is too,  even without the strains on her body she really wouldn’t be fit to leave on her own.  Her sense of judgement has gone.  She certainly can’t look after her husband who goes a little further from our world each day.  The result is my mum has become one of those 670 000 saving the NHS £8billion; she has become a live-in carer.  She wipes his bum and clears the mess (which is considerable as he tries to clean himself with everything).  She cooks and cleans.  She keeps the diary, arranges and fits incontinence pads, liases with the various agencies.  And she sits in silence for hours on end while they sleep to too loud TVs, unable to change channel or leave as it will wake them and cause resentment.  Or listens to the same story for the fortieth or fiftieth time.  She is meant to be retired but while at her age my grandparents were going on holidays abroad her life is on hold so she can wipe up snot and shit. Myself and my family help where we can but ultimately it falls to mum as she is living there.  I do not know how to help her but I fear for her health.

I have seen several times recently articles on carers,; on each it glosses over the messy reality and says that although it is hard it is worth it.  It isn’t.  No-one is happy about the situation.  My grandad is far enough gone that he will be happy anywhere and in a care home the carers would at least be trained on how to deal.  And they would be able to go home and put it to the back of their minds, instead of being on call all day.  My gran hates what she is reduced to.  She has admitted that she wishes she was dead but she is a committed Christian who would never consider suicide and she is determined enough that she will hold her body together until grandad no longer needs her.  She resents that my mum is often better at dealing with grandad, because mum reads (and uses!) the advice and because she is strong enough and stable enough that she can do things like change his pads with ease.  And my mum, my mum is in hell.

I do not pretend to know the solution.  I do know that if grandad were to go into a care home he would have to pay some costs, over £100 a week.  I know that my gran, who can barely walk, who cannot climb stairs, who can only lift with one arm and who recently made a single meal and could barely move the next day, is eligible for all costs, which can easily be over £500 a week.  I know that on the news most days there are care home abuses reported.  And I know that 99.9% of the people involved in care and provisions for the elderly hate the system but continue in the hope that they can make a tiny difference.

We have developed to a stage where we live long enough to suffer from previously rarely seen illnesses.  Dementia and arthritis are just two examples of illnesses that were present previously but rarely had a chance to take such a cruel hold.   We have this but we don’t have the ways to properly treat them and we don’t have the systems in place to care for the sufferers.  The current system is cruel, adding financial worries to everything else at a time when people are just worn out.

Two elderly people were hit by a train near me yesterday.  It was described by police as “non-suspicious”.  There has been no inquest: I do not know what happened. My thoughts are with their families and with the train driver who will live with this forever.  But my immediate thought at seeing the news was; were they going through this hell too?

Thank you for reading this.

The Age Of Eternal Youth

Are you a grown up?  I don’t mean an adult, which is only a legal number, I mean a proper head-on-straight, capable grown up.

I’m not.

Please don’t misunderstand me, if there is an emergency then I deal with it (and cry into a large drink afterwards).  But as I’m there, putting out the flames, I’m busy thinking “I’m too young for this!”.  At 28 I suspect that isn’t strictly true but that is what my subconscious brain keeps screaming.  How can I be a grown up?  I still panic at the thought of bad hair, I still have to ask mum/google how to defrost a freezer. Those are not signs of maturity.  And it is everywhere around me.

I won’t pretend that I am the first to have noticed this.  You will have seen reports about the growing number of comic-con attendees, heard about the Bronies, noticed the silly t-shirts being warn.  The term man-child came into being recently (stolen from The Jungle Book) to explain this embracing of a second youth.

It may be something to do with society.  In developing countries where your time is spent fetching water and trying to grow crops in arid conditions you don’t really have time to think about if the new version of Thundercats is as good as the old, even if you were able to watch them.  You don’t have the energy to waste.  But I would imagine that the people there still, in their moments of thought, wonder what they did to deserve this and how the hell they are going to manage.  They may not think they are too young, though sadly they often are (although can anyone really be old enough?) But the feeling of not coping will likely still be there, even if the means to put it aside aren’t.

That, I think, is what it comes down to.  We are in a world that we feel we can’t change.  You look around and you see poverty, you see yourself stuck in a job you hate, you see elderly uncared for, the NHS falling to pieces.  You see so much and you know that any protest you make will be ignored.  So we go back in ourselves to a happier time, to childhood, and the cares there.  The interests may have moved on, alongside cartoons and comics there are action films and computer games but it is still immersing yourself in a world that you don’t need to influence.  It is a more innocent world that you don’t need to worry about because it will take care of itself.

So when you come out of it you panic at dealing.  You wonder just how you will cope.  But you do of course. 

One more sour note with this – I’m afraid it isn’t something you grow out of.  I feel I’m too young, my mum wonders “why her?”.  The only reason my gran doesn’t is she has children and grandchildren quite happy to tell her what she should be doing!

This was meant to be a light hearted entry but it evolved.  Sorry about that.  However to sooth you after this I suggest you watch Old Jack’s Boat on CBeebie or the iPlayer.  It’s aimed at 3-5 year olds.  Enjoy!

The Bad Samaritan

I recently watched The Departed.  For those of you not familiar with it the basic premise is a cop undercover as a bad guy and a bad guy undercover as a cop.  It works, and they are successful, because they dress and act the part.  The one pretending to be a cop has the full button-down, deferential attitude required while the cop-come-criminal plays the angry man to a tee.  Everyone there believes them; they have no reason not to.  Although the audience know the truth the plot works because people see what they want to see.

Dr Harold Shipman was able to become Britain’s worst serial killer because he gave the impression of the caring doctor – one who even went out to see his patients unasked for when they were dying.  It was no wonder people apparently put him in their wills!  No one suspected him for so long simply because he played his part so well.

We hear sometimes of the most unlikely people helping out – bikers doing toy collections for example.  They make the news because we are surprised, although why should they be less human simply because they dress in a certain way and like different things?

What really shocks us to the core though are those people who are meant to be doing good but aren’t.  Cleaners who steal from vulnerable employees, careers who abuse their charges, nurses who leave patients begging for water.  These cases are incredibly rare but when we hear of them we are rightly appalled.  It is not simply that they are paid to do a job – by accepting that role they have agreed to take on a persona, even if it doesn’t come naturally, and to be honest and fulfill it. We start to fear that if these few people are able to disregard this moral contract it might be widespread.  It’s not, but the fear has entered our hearts and we lose trust in image dictating behaviour.

In some ways this is actually a good thing.  I don’t mean people abusing their position (there’s a special place in Hell for them as far as I’m concerned!) but maybe we shouldn’t think that an image dictates a personality.  The heavily tattooed man could spend his time helping at a hospice, the sweet looking little old lady could be a right cow.  The point is we don’t know until we have spent time in their company.

And the Bad Samaritan of the title?  Once again there has been an accident victim robbed by someone supposedly helping him.  They have a seat in Hell right next to the others.

The emotion of the written word

With all this fuss about Michael Gove apparently banning To Kill A Mockingbird I thought that I had really better read it.  And I can certainly see why people fight for it.  It’s annoying when things really are as good as people say but I think this is one of those cases.  It is a book that evokes emotions, that makes you look again at your own actions and prejudices.

I think we all have a book like that, one that is powerful and that makes you think.  They are, of course, the ones most likely to be banned (and yes, I do know that Gove has denied that was ever the intention).  But for something, anything, to create emotion it must have a victim.  Think of jokes that you know; are any of them without one?  The Englishman, the Irishman and the Scotsman.  All are about stereotypes.  Dumb blonde jokes,  ditto.  Think of any half funny joke and it will have its victims and stereotypes.

Books are the same.  There will be someone having a bad time in them.  In films there is a bad guy (usually English!) due to get his comeuppance but until he does will be making someone else suffer, whether physically or emotionally, and be his victim.  Because of this people will take offence and in some cases want to ban it (totally different situation to the Gove thing but it set me off thinking.)  A really good book to demonstrate this is The Day They Came To Arrest The Book.  I won’t spoil it by saying how it ends but it is one I would recommend to everyone because it says a lot about how the world is viewed.

I am somewhat late to the party but a book that truly did evoke emotions was A Thousand Splendid Suns.  Based in Afghanistan (which has a few name changes) the story takes place over about forty years.   It manages to not have this drag by being somewhat episodic, although (mainly) in date order.  Despite this it flows beautifully, each leads on from the last in such a way as to be completely natural.  You are led on, ever deeper, into the lives involved.

I learnt a lot from what should have been a deeply depressing book.  Like I imagine many, I had assumed that Afghanistan had been consumed by the Taliban long ago, that the people there had not known freedom within living memory.  In fact it is quite the opposite and the oppression is very new and all for the harder for it.  How do you go from laughing in university to not being allowed out without a man and covered head to toe in a burqa,  with only a mesh to see out of?  Music banned, tv banned, books banned. Although life had become restricted and bomb dodging required due to civil war these changes literally came overnight.  I cannot imagine how I would cope.

One of the themes of the book is lack of knowledge.  For me this came through most strongly in Laila’s mother who believed with all her heart that the next leader who came in would be the one who would save them all.  She did not know them, could not see in their hearts or know the choices they would face, and yet she still believed, only to be disappointed.  Hope can be very cruel.

And yet hope is what I take away with me.  As I said before this should have been depressing.  Parts, large parts, were certainly cheerless.  This is in no way light reading.  But even when the characters have no hope you cannot help but carry it for them,  to prey that somehow they will get through.  I strongly suggest you read the book to find out if they did.