Shade 50 Beige



This photo illustrates my current problem quite well, I think. It’s got to the time of year where I’m at my palest (and least interesting.) My skin hasn’t encountered any meaningful sun for so long that I have faded past the lightest of my foundations. Even the splendidly colour-matched Hourglass Veil Fluid Makeup in shade Beige has made my face take on an orangey look, which means that it is too dark.

I am, by the way, quite embarrassed at how wrinkly my hand appears on this photo. Obviously my hands are not HD ready.

As the Veil Fluid is so expensive, (and I want to go darker later in the year if necessary rather than lighter with that) I cast around looking for options from the dozens of bottles of very similarly hued foundations that I currently own. I settled on Chanel’s shade 50 Beige. I have this shade in three different Chanel foundations. In the photo from left to right observe the Chanel Vitalumière Loose Powder Foundation; Chanel Vitalumière Aqua and Chanel Perfection Lumière. We’ve already established that the Chanel Vitalumière (not Aqua) was too dark or rosy for me, which is why I looked for the Hourglass in the first place. Are you keeping up?

They are all supposed to be the same shade but observe the difference in them! How annoying. You’d expect that foundations marked with the same shade would be the same actual colour! And the wrong shade of foundation can make the difference between carefully matched natural colour and the story of orange tan that one sees on a reality show.

In the end I’ve settled on the Vitalumière Aqua for the time being. I’m making a big fuss of a triviality, I know, and it matters not a jot in the scheme of things but I actually removed my make up in the middle of the day yesterday because I was so self conscious about resembling a satsuma in my fruit bowl. This stuff matters to me, at least.


How nice it was that we sang Happy Birthday to our lovely Choirmaster, Simon, last night at the end of choir practice. He has a Big Birthday coming up in the holidays apparently. 40! I’m amazed that he’s still so young. Goodness. I remember when I was so apprehensive about hitting 40 and it’s nothing. In fact I’m sure that my fifth decade has been the best one yet. He wants to try facing the NEXT Big Birthday.

Speaking of which I’ve finally acknowledged that our joint birthday party, planned for July, is not going to happen until later in the year. Our builder, bless him, was trying so hard to get it all done for us, but he was really working up to the wire, besides which the kitchen would not have been finished in time. Better to do it a few months later at our leisure and hope that the early autumn rain will hold off.


h dear.

How true it is that the stories most interesting to the reader are those most excruciating to write.

Oscar the dog is now nearly seven years old. I’ve assiduously trained him since he was a puppy: first at home; then at a general basic obedience class and subsequently almost every week since he was about nine months old. He’s achieved the Kennel Club’s Good Citizen test at levels Bronze, Silver and Gold but, because he is a flatcoated retriever and a particularly random one at that, sometimes you wouldn’t know.

People are often surprised when I say that I spend my Mondays at dog training. They wonder why I still train my dogs. Largely because they enjoy it. Dogs naturally want to be shown what to do. They need leadership and to be shown our expectations of their behaviour. A reasonably trainable dog will be only too happy to follow your lead as it will take the stress away from him or her to take responsibility for the behaviour of his/her pack.

Even Raffles, the supposedly untrainable beagle, really seems to love going to training class. I’ve been so surprised at how readily he seems to respond to gentle commands; his heelwork is excellent and only getting better and and some friends have even suggested that I take competitive obedience classes with him. That’s a whole other world.

I walk my carefully trained dogs for at least an hour and a half every day. Having a dog is a lovely way of ensuring daily time in the fresh air and generally I enjoy spending this time with Oscar and Raffles. I’ve learned that I must always keep the beagle on a lead when we’re near woods lest he goes off hunting. He usually finds his way back to the car, or is found by a sympathetic passer-by, but he does this according to his timetable, and not mine.

Oscar is usually a pleasure to walk. A true mummy’s boy, he stays close to me and shows impeccable manners with other dogs. If anything, he’s a little over friendly and still doesn’t seem to realise that not everyone loves him as much as he obviously loves them, which is a pity.

Each spring, however, and to a lesser extent in the autumn, a certain sort of madness overtakes him. He stops listening or paying even lip service to obeying commands and starts to be friendly, VERY FRIENDLY, with other dogs.

Now, people who don’t know much about dogs will say mounting behaviour is sexual. It isn’t. It’s dominance. And in the spring, Oscar feels the need to fluff out his feathers and dominate.

It could be that the air, to dogs, is overwhelmingly fragrant with the scent of bitches in season, it could be that everyone’s sap is rising with the advent of warm days and the mating season, but Oscar feels the need to be out there.

I promise that I’ll explain one day why I haven’t had my dog neutered but this post is already quite long. Not that I should have to justify my actions, but there you go. I’ll just explain here that castrating a dog does not necessarily suppress or stop mounting behaviours, which appear to be a learned antisocial habit. I know plenty of castrated dogs who have a good go at my entire dog every time they meet. Tiny, castrated Raffles routinely mounts Oscar, who is at least five times his size.

Generally Oscar’s doggie manners are good. When he was puppy, he hardly mounted any dogs at all, but one day, as I stood being talked at by the dullest man ever in the history of the world his dog steadily mounted my puppy from all angles for 20 minutes. It was at this point, I reckon, that Oscar decided enough was enough and decided forthwith to get his retaliation in first.

Being such a coward, he never goes for dogs who look fit and strong and as if they will tell him off. No. Oscar goes for the old and infirm dogs; the ones who limp along almost on their last legs. Which, in my eyes, makes him a bully. You can imagine how well this behaviour goes down with the owners of these frail, unstable pooches.

I have tried everything I can think of to stop this behaviour and a sharp “No!” at the right moment will normally stop him in his tracks but, as I said, it’s spring and in spring good behaviour goes out of the window.

Today I took the dog to Petts Wood, a local National Trust beauty spot. We were trundling along quite happily when Oscar came upon a placid black labrador and immediately got on top and started thrusting. I yelled and manhandled him and eventually got on top of my dog myself and manoeuvred him between my legs to remove him from the dog and its horrified owner.

If the owner knows dogs well a profuse and repeated apology will usually elicit a cheery wave because this is what dogs do, especially in spring. This didn’t happen today. Today the horrified owner dragged her dog away having given me a look of sheer contempt and my apology fell on deaf ears. Actually the labrador didn’t look that elderly or disabled and I’m left wondering if she was actually a bitch in season, in which case she should not have been off the lead. Dogs can tie very quickly.

Catastrophe avoided but I’ve been increasingly exasperated with this spring fever. Oscar was promptly put back on a lead, with an extra eight loop of shame over his nose and I didn’t talk to him for the rest of his walk. The humiliation.

Some “before” pictures

I’ve been to quiz  – we came fourth in a quiz that seemed to feature the quizmaster’s knowledge of US sports – and it’s late so not much tonight.

Here are some “before” photos of my garden. Before the onslaught of diggers, bulldozers and cranes and noise and clay soil and workmen. These are photos of one of the last peaceful afternoons in the garden for a good few months to come.

We’d been out for our walk and just missed a shower of rain. The sunlight of a rather chilly late March afternoon is making the raindrops on the red dwarf acer sparkle like briolette diamonds.

The dramatic middle photo is of our magnolia tree that now finds itself too close to the house. Look! It’s got buds on it, ready to spring forth with beautiful white flowers that in most years are washed away by April showers and yet it persists in flowering with second and third flushes deep into September. If you look carefully, you can even see a bird high in his branches. Alas for our friend, he’ll be one of the first casualties of the diggers next week.

We’re in a conservation area so all of our trees automatically have Tree Protection Orders on them and Council permission has to be sought before felling them (for a good reason) or we would incur a fine of thousands of pounds for loss of amenity in the local area. The Council came and took photos of the back of our garden and they even have arial photos which they check from time to time to make sure all is in order. As we have full planning permission for our extension work, and the extension would irrevocably damage this poor tree, then it follows that the tree will have to go.

Can you tell how sad I am to lose it? I find it hard to contemplate losing any of these guardians of our oxygen supply. I am wondering whether we could transplant it to another site further back in the garden but I’m told that, unlike our two Japanese dwarf acers that have moved around with us for years, the magnolia is unlikely to survive transplantation. Perhaps we can make sure we plant a new one to take his place, but it won’t be the same.

And then there’s the photo of Oscar with the swing seat, semi dismantled and ready to be taken to the garden of my mother-in-law’s house on Saturday. I’d always wanted a swing seat, since holidaying as a child on a farm that had one in its garden. When I finally had a garden that could accommodate one, I bought it with the proceeds of my consultancy work and we put it up on a freezing cold evening in 2003 just in time for the start of that long, hot summer.

Ah, the huge amount of time we’ve spent on this seat in the summer placed, as it is, in the sun trap of the garden where temperatures are several degrees higher than at the front of the house. Since we lost our shady Sumac tree a few years ago, the swing seat provides the only shade near the house. Oscar crawls under it on a hot day to shelter from the sun before slinking back inside, defeated, in his thick, black fur coat.

The new garden will have a shady awning that will make life in the summer much more pleasant for Oscar and I hope the swing seat will find a new home near our new pond. We shall see.


Waitrose has gone bananas



ave you ever seen so many bananas in all your life?

They look lovely and fresh this afternoon but maybe by the end of the week this will be a display unit full of brown mush. I expect that recipe cards for smoothies and banana bread and banana muffins and banana pancakes are being printed as I type.

It’s all very odd.



t’s not been a great day, emotionally. It feels odd sharing those sorts of feelings in public on this blog. I’ve done it before and brought a shower of concerned comments from very kind people down in a sort of warm, rose-scented rain. It almost feels like attention seeking to be less than relentlessly cheery but we all have our less than cheery days, don’t we? It’s a normal part of life.

I am listless, dear reader, melancholy and vulnerable. The day started with a FaceTime argument with Boywonder. It would be really unfair of me to list all those arguments again in a public forum to which he is unable to reply and one which will make you think less of him but goodness, we’ve been over this ground so many times before and I’m so tired of it all. I feel rattled, defeated, my head like a watermelon shattering on brick. Just understand and empathise quietly please. I don’t want any advice, not even of the well-meaning sort. That only exposes my helplessness or idiocy and I really can’t take that at the moment. No-one on the outside really understands the whole situation. Well-meaning advice will make me defensive.

Maybe I’m hormonal but I’m feeling vulnerable too. The enormity of this kitchen project is dawning on us. I’m trying to ensure that all the details are included but again I feel like a mere cost centre acting on a whim, every penny of extra expenditure questioned on, say, limescale filters (in this area of spectacularly hard über chlorinated water,) or integrated knife racks. And the reasonably-priced slate I’ve found, that will save 20% on the cost of the flooring? Not mentioned.

It’s just passing nerves, I’m sure. When the work starts as planned next week, I imagine the jitters will dissolve.


The Bromley Youth Concert Band gave a concert tonight and I had offered to help with interval refreshments. One of the fundraising committee had very kindly whipped up a few dozen cupcakes at the last minute but despite looking fabulous, they didn’t sell well. It would have been good to have offered tea and coffee. I don’t think the audience associated cupcakes with wine or beer.

I’m feeling conflicted having let a member of staff have a complementary beer. Now I’m feeling guilty about that. This is all redoubled fundraising to try and redress the shortfall of having lost half of our funding from Bromley Council and it feels wrong to let people have things for free. We are, after all, having to pay £1 a time for the privilege of a small slice of cake. We parents are having to pay increased ensemble and tuition fees as well as stumping up for raffle tickets (and prizes) at every available opportunity. Mr B shouldn’t have had the temerity to ask, especially since I demanded £1 from a poor 1st trumpet mate of the Boywonder’s for a glass of interval apple juice (I feel equally bad about this), but managed to get around me quite easily and now I’m kicking myself for my embarrassment. Perhaps I’m not cut out for retail. Here is a picture of the beautiful but intimidating cupcakes, anyway:



I’ve finally put my Phillips RéAura up for sale on Gumtree. If you click on the tag down there on the right, you’ll see all the review posts I did where I was happy about the effect on the texture of my skin but deeply underwhelmed at the hyper-pigmentation caused by my skin’s melanin stress response. Here’s a picture of the RéAura. This one, a replacement for the faulty original, was only used once. I’ve been quite honest on my Gumtree ad about not recommending this for those with darker skins but I hope I get a buyer to at least pay some of the huge initial cost of the machine. If you fancy buying it, just message me.

This is my problem: sadly I’m not one of those people who is sent huge amounts of free review stuff, largely because I insist on absolute honesty rather than spinning a product. I’m happy to talk up a product if I like it. It’s so much easier to be honest when one is outside patronage or sponsorship deals. Of course, this means I have to buy all those products myself and I am now completely broke. Poor woman.


Fine tuning

have little to say on my blog today. It’s been a nondescript day with no noteworthy happenings. A sort of day-in-waiting for something to happen. We’re busy finalising the financing and contract for the kitchen project but fiddling with small details such as whether the boiling water tap will also have a filtered drinking water option; whether we can have a matching soap dispenser; whether there will be a limescale filter thingy, that sort of thing. It’s the sort of detail that, in the scheme of things, matters not a jot but has the potential to carry a lot of annoyances in its omission. It’s my intention to prevent a constant wistful sighing over what might have been.

The OH is playing in a concert tonight but I have been out all day and then fiddled with my blog for much of the evening. Do you like the new format? I’ve been eyeing it for a little while. It’s my new best thing until my low boredom threshold inevitably gets the better of me and I’m desperate for more novelty again.




Hm. Even though I used the so-called “macro” option of my camera, it simply couldn’t focus at close enough quarters to show the fluffiness of this brush. Perhaps it’s a macro lens for my birthday.


Now, you know how my continuing quest for the perfect concealer had remained largely unsatisfactorily unresolved? Well I recently had an epiphanic moment at the Hourglass counter in John Lewis. I was complaining that the texture of their Hidden Corrective Concealer was far too heavy to wear under the eyes. The sales assistant wondered whether I was using the right sort of brush. Perhaps it would be better if I applied the concealer with a fluffier brush instead of a flat one?

She demonstrated this on me and the effect was instantaneous and better. I bought the Hourglass No3 All Over Shadow Brush and have not looked back. I was advised that I could apply the Veil Fluid Makeup right up to my lower eyelid – I’m not sure about this. It might be the sunscreen in it or it could just be the biting March wind, but my eyes have watered thius negating the so called anti-ageing effects of their foundation’s Matrix Regeneration Complex that is, if you please, supposed to address collagen production.

The concealer, however, has stayed on all day, when used with a primer, obviously, and has not caked or flaked or curdled unlike all of the other concealers I have tried. In order to cover discolouration and blemishes on the rest of the face, I could still use a flat brush but the fluffy brush makes the concealer easy to blend, especially when applied over foundation.

Sadly, no makeup is ever going to make me look like I’m in my twenties again, but this seems to be the best of the bunch and I shall henceforth be using only this, and changing to a darker shade if necessary whenever we see enough sun for it to change the colour of my skin. I’m utterly delighted with it.


I took this picture just after MsDD returned home from school yesterday. She’d been giving Oscar a cuddle and I wanted to capture the look of sheer bliss on his face as he closed his eyes, head bowed and leaned in towards his Puppy. Sadly, I captured only the moment a few seconds later when he’d opened his eyes and moved bis head away slightly and it looks a little like he’s not enjoying MsDD’s close proximity. It’s still an evocative photo, I think, illuminated by the afternoon sun, but it goes to show that timing is crucial in life.



On the slate



Now that we have decided a start date (say it quietly) for our kitchen project, there are all sorts of decisions to make about the fixtures and fittings. I am aware I am about to bore some of you rigid with all of this, and still others will be gnashing their teeth at this middle class display of entitlement but hey ho, it’s my blog, MY refuge and no-one’s forcing you to read it. What a pity that innocuous self expression requires such a defensive disclaimer.

Our flooring for the interior, the kitchen and sitting room, is intended to match the flooring for the exterior terrace. If there are ever any sunny and warm days in summer – and at this point I consider the 6 or 7 degrees we’ve had lately and the overcast sky rendering viewing of today’s total eclipse completely impossible for us – we’ll fold and slide back our bifold doors and create a large in and out room.

But which flooring to use? The possibilities and budgets are infinite of course. I fancy slate, a natural material that is quite warm to the touch for stone. I’ve considered porcelain and granite tiles, and even polished concrete. My first choice was Yorkshire stone but that and a lot of these options seemed impossibly expensive, especially when compared with the Cbinese slate that was about a quarter of their price. I have become aware that my price expectations for floor coverings are at the level of about £90-£100 per square meter and that these expectations are unrealistic for people like us.

So begin the fretting and worrying. I don’t like ever buying the cheapest of anything. My parents always used to do this and, put it like this, there is always a reason why something is cheap. Considering the large floor area to be covered, about 120 sq meters, I did not want to buy cheap and ruin what is set to be a fabulous kitchen with a substandard floor.

How does China produce slate a quarter of the price of that prodcuced in Wales? Let us speculate: lower labour costs. Forced labour? Child labour? Poor Health and Safety practices? Extraction by unsustainable methods? Complete lack of human rights? Of course, this is speculation but, given my history with China, it makes me rueful and concerned.

Of course the price differential makes the Chinese slate tempting but at what cost? The OH quite rightly points out that many of the goods we take for granted are produced under questionable employment practices in China and if we boycotted these, we’d have to forgo most of the things in our house. iPhone, anyone? But the thought is still there, rankling away.

Not to mention the worry that so much of the cost of any product imported from China must be taken up with transportation costs. To me, it’s the same as buying wine from Australia and New Zealand: exactly how much of that £7.99 bottle pays for the ship that brings it half way around the world? And how can what is left be of a decent quality?

I’d love to set an example and use environmentally-friendly Welsh or Cumbrian or Yorkshire stone but I simply cannot justify the extra expense. Surely there had to be a reasonably priced alternative half way between the Chinese slate and the Yorkshire stone?

I took to Twitter and my local tweep @HazyGray recommended a stone dealer, whom I visited today, driving down into the rural idyll in sunshine that had appeared hours too late for the eclipse. On entering the yard it was clear that every expense had been spared to bring us competitively priced stone and bingo! I found the slate I was looking for at a reasonable price. It’s from Brazil which is, apparently a very good quality slate. The yard in question stock neither Chinese nor Welsh slate. Apparently they chip. That might be just sales patter. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to know.

If I Googled Brazilian slate, my fear is that they are cutting down the Amazonian rainforest to get at it. I don’t know but, being endlessly inquisitive, I’m sure I shall find out. To me at present, Brazil is about Samba and Bossa Nova, the statue of Bom Jesus, Rio, Ipanema, football, about complex jazz rhythms and therefore can’t be all bad. Hm. In the end we see what we want to see. You can see how a little information can be a dangerous thing.

This slate is, however, perfect. It is priced at the low mid point and exactly the right shade to tone nicely with our worktops and kitchen units. I think I’ve found my floor.



This is the dog…



…who started it all.

He’s my cousin Vivien’s dog, Spice. He was originally called Brice and left to roam outside all day until they rehomed him aged 7 months. Spice is the most innocuous dog ever in the history of the world and at the very bottom of the pecking order of all dogdom. Vivien was telling me today how he came to her wild and untrained and mounting everything, so her vet advised her to have him castrated as soon as possible.

While this, and probably being in a home with a family, helped the puppy’s behaviour, it’s sadly made him a sitting target for all dogs to mount. I have heard that castrated chocolate labradors must smell of available female (or irresistible mounting cushion) to other dogs. I thought it was just Oscar who did this to him every time they met. On our walk today, however, it would appear that all our townie dogs, large and small, castrated, entire, female,  wanted to have a go at our friendly country bumpkin.

Spicy was about a year old when I first met him. He came up and jumped all over me in a friendly puppy way. I did not grow up with dogs and knew nothing about them but the way Spicy sat empathetically watching over the flu-addled, 7 year old MsDD and keeping her company made me realise exactly why they are called Man’s Best Friend. I began to crave this sort of devotion and, two years later, we found Oscar. Had there been no Spice, there would have been no Oscar. Thanks mate!

Spice always looks slightly put-upon to me

Spice always looks slightly put-upon to me




These two together remind me of the Muppet Show for some reason



Romanesco cauliflowers are a true work of art, aren’t they? Whenever I receive one in my veg box, I’m always struck by their beauty. I’m never quite sure whether they have been bred to look like this or whether the fractals are purely natural.

We had a contractors’ meeting with our architect and builder this evening so I made cauliflower and pasta cheese for supper, which was, of course, ready and on the table at exactly the right time for the OH to come in from work, 15 minutes before the meeting. Sadly I needn’t have bothered as by the time he had changed into his jeans, the builder had arrived and so most of his carefully-prepared meal has gone to waste for a second evening running.

This utterly drives me mad: either yoga on Mondays or band on Tuesdays require a 10 minute turnaround of supper which I find especially stressful on Tuesdays when I have to take MsDD to ballet at 7 and go and pick her up at 8. But I manage it. The food is inevitably only half eaten as he runs out of time, though. Grrr.

Happily, though, we managed to clear up a lot of outstanding stuff related to our kitchen extension tonight in our value engineering exercise, and we’ve agreed a START DATE! How exciting!

Mar 18, 2015 - Daily journal, Dogs, Food, naughty dog    7 Comments

Toad in the hole

I made this Toad in the Hole tonight at MsDD’s special request. I very rarely make it because it’s not the healthiest thing in the world but it makes a change now and then. I am fasting today so I wasn’t every going to have any of the blousy batter so soft yet so crisp.

Sadly, it’s that time in the term where MsDD is always exhausted. She seems to be coming down with a cold too so in the end she wasn’t hungry. And the OH, who has been leaving home at 6.30 for the last week or so, was just to tired to appreciate it. “It’s a bit rich,” he opined. So the lovely batter ended up the dogs. I wonder why I bothered now.


Following last week’s running off debacle with Raffles, it was decided that he should perhaps have some extra outdoors training so that Inger our trainer could see how he behaves outside the village hall. I had to walk the dogs anyway so I agreed to go along at lunchtime today.

Imagine my amazement when Raffles seemed to enjoy the training and the controlled direction work so much that he was top of the class! Not bad for a naughty beagle.

In for a penny, in for a pound, I decided that I’d join the advanced class with Oscar rather than walking him around a recreation ground where he was likely to go and say hello to dogs he already knew and disrupt their training class. Oscar was, sadly, not as well behaved as Raffles today. He went overboard in his enthusiasm for this new sort of class, not realising that he is required to exercise similar self-disclipline outdoors to that which he exhibits in our weekly indoor class.

An enthusiastic disaster. He ran in everywhere and picked up everyone else’s dummy. In the end I had to put him on a lead like a baby because he refused to behave properly like a big man gundog.

We have been proper gundog training before but it was a while ago before he had that terribly nose complaint and we haven’t done it since. Seems that Ocar has forgotten what’s expected of him.

I too, had forgotten what it’s like spending hours out in the cold standing around waiting for people to have their retrieve. It’s no wonder I don’t often find the time to do extra training.

A change of images

I have been an occasional contributor to Blipfoto for a few months. I originally heard about this photoblogging community from a Dotty, a tweep, who spoke highly of it as a source of inspiration and education in photography.

The idea is that you contribute a photo every day for comment and appraisal by the community. People can sign up and follow you or just view your photos. I didn’t do it every day but I found the stylish black, friendly, community-oriented site quite appealing.

Blipfoto “merged” with Polaroid a couple of months ago and, almost immediately, the widget link to my blog stopped working. It was unclear to me exactly why Polaroid were interested in Blipfoto but immediately the site went from a stylish, nicely-designed dark to a “minimalist” white background. When I say minimalist it’s in the sense that there was obviously not much effort expended in making the site look nice.

And now Blipfoto have gone into liquidation. People are worried about the photo journals they’ve built on the site and about money they’ve paid for products suich as books and calendars of their photography.

I quite liked having a little photo down their to right of my blog so I looked around for a different app. Instagram was the obvious first choice but I really can’t be doing with all that hashtaggery. My iPhoto seems to have a Flickr interface so I’ve chosen that.

Here, then, is the first Flickr photo, taken on our walk this morning. Ravensbourne station is obviously having some work done but it seemed to me as I approached it reminiscent of some wild west ghost town thing. So that’s why I’ve tinted it a bit sepia.

One day, I shall actually read the book on digital photography and post beautiful poictures like the ones they feature on the blog themes. Until then I have my camera, my ophone and my finger. They’ll just have to do for the time being.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: