One day….

Just over two weeks ago I performed a first – the first time I trimmed our goats’ hooves. Usually this is a job for the husband but he was away and the job needed doing. With my father on hand to advise (he has had plenty of experience at this task but at 85 finds goat wrestling a little difficult) we set to.

Luring the six nannies (or does as they seem to call these Boer goats) out of their field and into a pair of connected goat houses was easier than I had expected, even if it did present a funny picture as I ran ahead rattling a small white bucket, quarter full of sugar-beet pellets and calling, ‘come on then’ followed by galloping goats, ears all a-flapping, until I dived in through one door, ducked through the connecting door between the houses and led them right through (to where I had placed a trough of cut-up veg to stop them in their tracks) then I slipped out through the other pen gate and round to close the connecting door between the houses. I was exhausted but we had only just started!

One by one we brought the goats out to the stand. Now these goats are smaller than the ones we were used to and I took a small wooden stool to sit on so that I didn’t have to kneel on the damp concrete. With my legs stuck out under the goat I tipped a goat foot up and started working, paring away the outer hoof and then the inner, carefully so as not to go too far. When it came to Peggy, the oldest and heaviest, she decided to fold up her legs and sit her whole weight on my legs! And as for the youngest, Nougat, no way was she going to be led anywhere… I had to pick her up and carry her out! Not only did this process take me nearly three hours start to finish but the hard wooden stool left my rear-end bruised for days!!

Today, prior to their sharing their field with the Billy (or buck as they call the male Boer goats) we did the whole process again, but with the husband doing the honours trimming the hooves and me just doing the herding, catching and fussing (to keep them peaceful) while he worked. Six females and one male goat done in a hour and a half!

Just as well because (after a good hot shower to de-goatify myself) I had an appointment to take a selection of new slate based products to a shop in a local market town, to see if they wished to stock these items. This is a shop that specialises in things grown or made in Cornwall so I had made some of my usual designs (salt and pepper pinch-pots, tea-light stand, heart-shaped coasters and hang-ups) but used reclaimed Delabole slate to base them on. Delabole, for those of you outside Cornwall, is a famous slate quarry on the north Cornish coast producing a beautiful soft-grey slate (colour not hardness). However, as it ages and the weather affects it, as lichens grow on it and the sun bleaches, it mutates to the most delicate shades of colours, with browns and gold from traces of iron pyrites, shiny sparkles of mica and silica and the original soft grey all intermingled. Of course to find this you have to scrape and rub off all the grime, and not every reclaimed slate responds the same, but it is well worth it when you find the pretty ones.

This evening I finished off and packaged up thirty Cornish slate fridge magnets that I have been making on and off over the weekend, then chaired a WI committee meeting, ‘cooked’ twenty slate cheeseboards and olive-oil conditioned them and wrote this blog….

 

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Belly Dance? What on earth should I wear?

Think of it like going to a fancy dress party, on a weekly basis, permission to dress up outlandishly in bright swishing colours and fabrics with rings, anklets, bracelets, and bells, and jingly coins – such fun, and that’s before the dancing. Oh, and if you think that this is normal for me, I need to explain that my usual wardrobe consists of, black (black and black) burgundy, cream and a little summer turquoise, jewellery: one wedding ring, one watch.

I know some dance groups are more focussed on a ‘look’ than ours, but the eclectic look we have suits us well All sorts of colours and a lots of ‘bling’ and everything from purpose made kit to the opportunistic find at a charity shop or a bric-a-brac stall at the village fair. And it’s ‘Oooo that’s lovely, where did you find it? Or. ‘You been hitting ebay again?’ Or ‘How did you make that?’ when new items turn up in our friends attire.just a few of my coin belts

For me, note – not for everyone, but for me the real essential is a coin belt, and for me, again, the jingle-jangly the better. I have amassed a fair number over the years, and my lovely daughter-in-law brought me a stunning range of new coin belts as a gift the last time they came over. Look for a belt that has plenty of overlapping coins on mesh-fabric or tassels that can move easily. Without the coin belt I am never sure of my shimmy, with it I know exactly how it is going!
two sarongs and a coin belt
These I usually wear over swishing long skirts or similar, with other layers of gauzy, sparkly or shiny materials tied around the hips. An interesting way to get a good look is to tie two sarongs (we all have those around don’t we?) one over the other in opposite directions, knotted on the hip (emphasising the hips is good!). Thus, movement on one sarong flashes the colour of the other and gives plenty of room for leg movement. Over this tie a gauzy layer, or just top with a coin-belt in contrasting colour.

Handkerchief style skirts, double layers with lots of points and in pretty fabrics can work well over black leggings, again topped with a contrasting belt.

My favourite, a two-tier silk skirt bought in a French street market, with contrasting coin belt, often with gauzy layer over too.silk skirt

I tend to wear simple black tee-shirts with ¾ sleeves and add bracelets and anklets for any further decoration. Others have finds of sparkly shrugs, tops, and tee-shirts, ear-rings, necklaces and hair-clips.

So, there you have my guide to what to you can wear… easy to put together stuff or specialist. If you are attending your first belly dance evening your teacher will probably have coin belts or even swishy scarves you can borrow, or other members of the group – their bags stuffed with their extras – may offer to lend you the basics for the evening. Beware, collecting interesting belly dance clothes and bits and pieces can get addictive!

Are you a belly dancer – what are your essentials?

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FLY GOOGLE – an aid to authors?

In the Summer I was nearing the end of the first draft of my most recent book when one of my main characters had to deliver something to a prison facility in Louisiana. I had already researched the sort of place I wanted him to be going to and found one listed that seemed to fit. I could have winged it, making up the scenery he drove through, but if I was even to mention the name of the State I knew I had to get it right. Not yet being a writer who can just hop on a plane to go and visit the place for my research (and put it down as expenses) I flew Google!

I took in the aerial view, dropping lower and lower, noting the town to the north east of the prison, the expanse of empty fields around it. Google landed me on the stretch of road that led up to the prison gateway, I went as far as I could, peered left and right along the boundary fence, then turned around and drove back down Prison Road and on towards the town. I sped through the town until it petered out, then turned back and slowly, glancing left and right, drove back through, noting the types of houses, the few large red-brick buildings, the empty stretch of road before the Prison Road turning. I took in this road, its features to either side and its length. Finally I lifted off again, looking down on the whole scene. I had what I needed. I think the information from my Google street-view and satellite journey that I used will feel authentic enough, they describe the right type of countryside, the right type of town.

“After two hours drive I hit the small community that bore the same name as the jail, drove past the red-brick elementary school and library, through the streets lined with white painted clapboard homes and out the other side to the junction where Prison road joined the highway through town. I turned in, the fields stretched out bare and flat on either side between stumpy hedges that led off left and right in long straight lines, the ploughed soil red, the grass sparse. About a mile along the road was a dark clump of fir trees but after that nothing to give shelter or a hiding place for miles, only the gate to the prison way up ahead of me, blocking the road like a toll-booth, and as I neared, the miles of fencing which could be seen stretching away on either side.”

I already feel someone beginning to object, saying that there’s nothing like ‘being there’ to get the things right. I agree, if you need in-depth understanding and a verifiable atmosphere, but I think that for this background-filling work flying Google is a useful aid for the modern author, with back-up research needed if there are any queries in what you see.

On the other hand, I clearly remember reading a book in the 1980s by an American author who liked to set her stories in Britain, and who, the info claimed ‘spent a lot of time in Britain researching her novels’. She had set one on the edge of Dartmoor, an area I know well, in a key role it involved a Chalk quarry and a muffin shop. The muffins in question were cranberry, chocolate and carrot and orange, not the sort of muffin you would have found in the UK back then, and I can only assume she had seen the white china-clay pits on the edge of Dartmoor and thought they must be chalk but not completed her research. So ‘being there’ isn’t always foolproof either.

What do you think? Anyone else been flying to plot destinations by Google?

 

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Belly Dancing – for fitness, friendship and fun – not to entertain men

Ok, so I love belly dancing! It always leaves me feeling so good. Your whole body gets a really good workout without you even realising, as you are just having fun.

Let’s put a few myths to bed, 1, Belly dance was not created to entertain men, nor is it lascivious or meant to be sexually alluring. It probably originated in the women’s tents, the women entertaining each other, dancing to express themselves in times of joy and in times of sorrow. There are traditional dances for the harvest safely gathered in, for the loved one leaving, or coming home, for any major happening in the community or life. There are those that believe that the dance actually originated as a fertility dance, the movements representing stages of giving birth. Whichever it was certainly a folk dance and as such, when it left the tents, it was a dance shared with the community, where men also danced and it wasn’t called ‘Belly Dance’ then, it was probably just ‘dancing’ known as Raqs Baladi (folk dance) it was probably thought of as about erotic as Barn Dancing or Morris Dancing in the UK (incidentally also believed to have started as a fertility dance). The ‘sexy belly dance’ (and its costume) it seems, we can blame, first on the romantic Victorians and then on Hollywood

2, Belly Dancing is not just shaking it all about. Belly dance is about control, about isolation. Isolation is where you focus on moving one part of the body but keeping the rest still, to circle hips and keep your whole top half still is no mean feat, but try circling your top half and keeping your hips still – so still that the coins on your coin belt don’t even shiver, that’s hard! To shimmy your hips and keep shoulders still, to circle one hip and keep the other leg still, the arms and upper body still… it all takes practice…but it is fun and strengthens core muscles in a weight bearing low impact exercise – so is good for you too.

So, every Thursday in term time you’ll find me, and a lovely group of women, all ages from teens to sixties being guided through our paces by the beautiful and graceful Jules in Gunnislake, where we take over the primary school hall for the evening, dressed in our finery with barely a belly on view (what to wear is a whole other blog) and having fun getting fit and flexible. I took a snap-shot of Jules for this blog .. but as I didn’t have the camera set to ‘sport’ it came out blurred… so I may add one later.

Obviously I am just a participant and an amateur at belly dancing, though I calculate that I have been learning it for ten years or so, what aspects would people like to know more about? Speak now or I shall just blog on in my own sweet way.

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