Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Snoopy Talks About Santa Ant

I compiled this years ago and it appears every Christmas with our decorations - a cartoon of Snoopy discussing so-called Santa Ant. Always a favourite.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

UK Lollipop Lady banned from wearing Christmas costume

For the past 20 years, lollipop lady Margaret Russell, 54, has delighted pupils, parents and motorists in Millbrook, Southampton by wearing Christmas costumes, while at her crossing, to raise money for charity. Previously she has helped children cross the road dressed as a turkey, reindeer, a star and even a Christmas tree.

But after a complaint by two parents, the Scrooge-like council chiefs at the city council said she could not take children across the road unless she wore her reflective coat. Mrs Russell, who prepared this golden bell costume for the current holiday season, has been banned from wearing the fancy dress for safety reasons

Mrs Russell, a grandmother who is collecting for the mayor of Southampton's appeal fund, said:
"I was pretty cheesed off when they told me because I'd spent a lot of time and effort on this year's costume. Why am I suddenly a health and safety risk? When they used the expression I thought they were saying 'elf and safety' for a joke."

View Margaret's previous Christmas costumes (slide show)
A council spokesman said,
"If a crossing patrol supervisor does not wear a reflective jacket they are not insured and if hit, the motorist could not be prosecuted."

A mother hit back at the decision. Sandy McCarthy said,
"It's absolutely terrible. We've been living here for about 10 years and she's made a new costume every year."

Parents and councillors have joined to attack the move branding it "political correctness gone mad". Two people complained so everyone loses out. A typical reaction of Britain bowing down to the minority and ignoring the wishes of the majority.

Read here about the Belgian who tried to make zebra crossings more colourful and interesting.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

3 Books for Her This Christmas

- Mary Portas
RRP £14.99 - buy for £8.99 on Amazon
What Mary Portas doesn't know about shopping isn't worth knowing. Here, she shares her tips on how to be a cannier shopper, from how to read a shop window to when to bag a bargain. Don't hit the sales without it.

- Nigella Lawson
RRP £25 - buy for £11.25 on Amazon
Busy women everywhere will appreciate a copy of the Domestic Goddess's latest offering. It's full of practical recipes for real food, but faster, with clever shortcuts and nifty time-saving ideas to enable you to create home-made meals that fit in with hectic lives.

For any woman in 40s or early 50s, this Jackie annual will bring hilarious nostalgic gems, to pore over and enjoy. With compulsive quizzes, such as 'Are You Nice or Nasty?', great advice, including 'A Jackie Guide to Kissing', super fashion stories, pop and TV news, plus a cautionary Reader's True Experience photo story 'I Tried to Change Him', nobody is going to want to miss out on this.
RRP £12.99 buy on Amazon for £9.09

You are Special and Unique

This should probably be taped to your bathroom mirror where one could read it everyday. You may not realize it, but it's 100% true.

1. There are at least two people in this world that you would die for.
2. At least 15 people in this world love you in some way.
3. The only reason anyone would ever hate you is because they want to be just like you.
4. A smile from you can bring happiness to anyone, even if they don't like you.
5. Every night, SOMEONE thinks about you before they go to sleep.
6. You mean the world to someone.
7. You are special and unique.
8. Someone that you don't even know exists loves you.
9. When you make the biggest mistake ever, something good comes from it.
10. When you think the world has turned its back on you take another look.
11. Always remember the compliments you received. Forget about the rude remarks.

So..........If you are a loving friend, send this to everyone, including the one that sent it to you. If you get it back, then they really do love you.

And always remember....when life hands you Lemons, ask for tequila and salt and call a friend over!

Good friends are like stars.......You don't always see them, but you know they are always there.

'Whenever God closes one door He always opens another, even though sometimes it's Hell in the hallway'

I would rather have one rose and a kind word from a friend while I'm here than a whole truck load when I'm gone.

Forward to all your friends and don't tell me you're too busy for this. Don't you know the phrase 'stop and smell the flowers'? See how many 'bouquets' you end up with!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

The Holocaust removed from UK School Curriculum

It is a matter of history that when Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims of the death camps, he ordered all possible photographs to be taken and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead.

He did this because he said in words to this effect: 'Get it all on record now - get the films - get the witnesses - because somewhere down the track of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.'

In Memorial

This week, the UK removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it 'offended' the Muslim population which claims it never occurred.

This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.

It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended.

This message is being posted as a memorial chain, in memory of the:
- 6 million Jews,
- 20 million Russians,
- 10 million Christians
- and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated while the German and Russian peoples looked the other way.

Now, more than ever, with Iran, among others, claiming the Holocaust to be a `myth`, it is imperative to make sure the world NEVER forgets.

This message is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide.

Be a link in the memorial chain and help distribute this around the world. Comment on this blog posting. Copy the message and send it by email.

Don't just ignore this. It will take a minute to pass this along.

'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing'.
- Edmund Burke

Monday, 10 December 2007

The Girls - a story of conjoined twins

I have always been fascinated by conjoined or Siamese twins so read with interest Lori Lansens' novel 'The Girls' about Rose and Ruby Darlen, the world's oldest craniopagus twins (=joined at the head).

Known simply as 'The Girls' they obviously go everywhere together, share everything but are quite different characters.

They make friends, fall in love, have jobs, love their parents and follow their dreams. But the Darlens are special. Now nearing their 30th birthday, they are history's oldest craniopagus twins.

When Rose, the bookish sister, sets out to write her autobiography, it inevitably becomes the story of her short but extraordinary life with Ruby, the beautiful one. From their awkward first steps — Ruby's arm curled around Rose's neck, her foreshortened legs wrapped around Rose's hips — to the friendships they gradually build for themselves in the small town of Leaford, this is the profoundly affecting chronicle of an incomparable life journey. As Rose and Ruby's story builds to an unforgettable conclusion, Lansens aims at the heart of human experience — the hardship of loss and struggles for independence and the fundamental joy of simply living a life. This is a breath taking novel, one that no reader will soon forget, a heartrending story of love between sisters.

Rose writes their story beginning, "I have never looked into my sister's eyes. I have never looked into my sister's eyes. I have never bathed alone.". She describes the events surrounding their birth, who raised them, life in Canadian countryside and what life is like, knowing you can never be separated.

The Girls was included in the Richard and Judy book club and shortlisted in the British Book Awards 2007. I recommend this book "I promise you will never forget this extraordinary story" (Isabel Allende).

Friday, 7 December 2007


Heard on Stephen Fry's QI:

"If God was a woman, sperm would taste of chocolate."

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Wembley under Tarmac for Race of Champions

I was astonished to hear that the hallowed turf of Wembley Stadium in London will be covered in 1,800 tonnes of tarmac for a motor racing 'Race of Champions' on 16 December.

Retired seven times Formula One champion Michael Schumacher has confirmed his participation while organisers said Lewis Hamilton, the 22-year-old rookie leading the standings for McLaren, had expressed an interest. "I hope that my participation can help the event organisers raise even more funds and awareness for the Institute for Cerebral and Medullary Disorders," Schumacher said in a statement. Drivers include David Coulthard and Jenson Button.

"It could be a unique occasion, the only occasion to see him compete against Michael Schumacher," said Fredrik Johnsson, founder of the event which brings together champions and leading drivers from across the world of motorsport.

The Race of Champions, previously held at the Stade de France in Paris, will have a rally-style format with knockout heats on a two-lane asphalt track inside the new Wembley Stadium.

"Transforming Wembley Stadium into a proper tarmac race track in five days is a huge and costly project," said Fredrik Johnsson. "Just to re-lay the famous football pitch after The Race of Champions costs over £150,000, but the result is spectacular!" Tickets from £35 at Ticketmaster.

The Race of Champions site

After seeing the state of the pitch when they sacreligiously allowed American Football - a factor I am sure in England's defeat against Croatia - I am surprised that the powers to be of Wembley are continuing in their money-making ideas. Granted, this time, they will relay the pitch.

I heard that Russia has a stadium with a football pitch on a sort of tray which is wheeled away to reveal an ice skating rink. That makes more sense.

Monday, 3 December 2007


I'm told these were Tommy Cooper's jokes:

1. Man goes to the doctor, with a strawberry growing out of his head. Doc says, "I'll give you some cream to put on it."

2. 'Doc I can't stop singing The Green, Green Grass of Home' "That sounds like Tom Jones syndrome. 'Is it common?' "It's not unusual."

3. A man takes his Rotteweiller to the vet. "My dog is cross-eyed, is there anything you can do for him?" "Well," said the vet, "let's have a look at him" So he picks the dog up and examines his eyes, then he checks his teeth. Finally, he says, "I'm going to have to put him down." "What? Because he's cross-eyed?" "No, because he's really heavy".

4. Guy goes into the doctor's. "Doc, I've got a cricket ball stuck up my backside." "How's that?" "Don't you start."

5. So I was getting into my car, and this bloke says to me "Can you give me a lift?" I said "Sure, you look great, the world's your oyster, go for it.'

6. Two fat blokes in a pub, one says to the other "Your round." The other one says "So are you, you fat ba*tard!"

7. Police arrested two kids yesterday, one was drinking battery acid, and the other was eating fireworks. They charged one and let the other one off.

8. "You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen. It said, 'Parking Fine.' So that was nice."

9. A man walked into the doctors, he said, "I've hurt my arm in several places".
The doctor said, "Well don't go there anymore"

10. Ireland 's worst air disaster occurred early this morning when a small
two-seater Cessna plane crashed into a cemetery. Irish search and rescue workers have recovered 1826 bodies so far and expect that number to climb as digging continues into the night!

Friday, 30 November 2007

News: Chocolate lorry goes to Timbuktu

Two British adventurers are setting off on a journey across Europe to west Africa in a lorry powered by chocolate.

Andy Pag, of London, and his co-driver John Grimshaw, of Poole in Dorset, were leaving Mr Grimshaw's home town on a cross channel ferry on Friday. They are travelling in a Ford Iveco Cargo lorry powered by fuel that began life as chocolate, in a bid to raise awareness of green fuels.

The 4,500 mile (7250km) trip across the Sahara should take about three weeks.

The pair will take a small processing unit with them to convert waste oil products into fuel, which they will then donate to an African charity, along with the lorry.
"If we can make it [to Timbuktu] with bio-fuel there's no reason why motorists can't use it on the school run or on their commute to work" said Andy Pag.

They are taking 2,000 litres (454 gallons) of bio-diesel made from 4,000kg (8,818lb) of chocolate misshapes, the equivalent of 80,000 chocolate bars, to fuel their adventure. But they will not be able to dip into their tank if they feel peckish as the bio-diesel does not look or smell like chocolate. The fuel is made from cocoa butter, which has been extracted from the waste chocolate.

The pair will begin their journey by driving through France and Spain and then catch another ferry to Morocco. Mr Pag, who is 34 and from Croydon, and 39-year-old Mr Grimshaw, an electrician, will then cross the length of the country to Mauritania.
From there they will cross the desert until they reach the city of Timbuktu, in the west African country of Mali.

The journey is expected to take about three weeks

Both men are keen environmentalists and want to raise awareness of the benefits of bio-diesel, which produces lower carbon emissions than fossil fuels and is made from renewable resources.

Mr Pag, an engineer-turned journalist, has already been to Africa several times but said he wanted to make this trip carbon-neutral. He approached Ecotec, a firm in north-west England which makes fuel from renewable resources and had been in talks with a large chocolate manufacturer about recycling chocolate into green fuel.

Mr Pag said: "Timbuktu is a city which is being eaten away by the encroaching desert. It's at the sharp end of climate change. "Timbuktu is renowned as being the back of beyond, the furthest place away that you can possibly imagine and if we can make it there with bio-fuel there's no reason why motorists can't use it on the school run or on their commute to work.

"I have made many expeditions and visited these amazing landscapes but to get there I have contributed to their destruction by driving a guzzling diesel engine.

"I wanted to do something that's carbon neutral. What we have actually done is carbon negative."

Source: BBC News

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Bill Gates' Life Rules for the Real World

I saw this on a blog today and wanted to share it. Even if Bill Gates did not really say these things, they are true.

Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a high school about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talked about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for the failure in the real world.

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were, So before you save the rain forest from parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES ass you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Which Sports Car are you?

You're sporty, yet practical, and you have a style of your own. You like to have fun, and you like to bring friends along for the ride, but when it comes time for everyday chores, you're willing to do your part.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Christmas Spending in the UK

According to Stephen Fry's source on "QI",

* we spend £20 billion each Christmas
* 1/3 of all books, clothes and toys are sold in the 8 weeks before Christmas
* 150 million Christmas cards are sold
* we decorate 7.5 million Christmas trees
* we use enough wrapping paper to giftwrap the island of Guernsey

That is ridiculous. Consumerism gone mad but we love it.

Harrods excel in beautiful displays and extravagance. If you can, visit Harrods during the Christmas season. Book ahead for Santa's Grotto in the Toy Kingdom.

Visit EuroTravel for travel to and within Europe.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

England exit Euro 2008

Well people are certainly passionate about English football. As Bill Shankly said, "Football is not a matter of life and death. It's more important than that."
McLaren is a nobody who was trained by Sven and that should have set warning bells ringing. I blame the FA for appointing him when the choice was obviously made because preferred choices said no.

Sven played a disasterous 4-5-1 with Rooney on his own which cost us the World Cup. What made McLaren think it would work with talented but non-speedy Crouchie on his own? Where was support on the left? Look at the film. Time and time again, there was no one on the left.

Yes, he was unlucky with injuries but England failed to qualify over 12 games, not just 1.

Choosing a new inexperienced goalie? Please. My 9 year old could have done better. This was no time to drop experienced Robinson. All credit to Scott Carson for trying and pulling off two very good saves but the pressure of the night was too much to ask.

The injured Owen and other first choices should not have played in the Austria friendly. Friendlies are designed to test new players. Owen and Crouch together up front would have been formidable.

Frank Lampard should have been dropped ages ago. I could not believe he was selected to take the penalty but thankfully he did not miss - this time.

Why was Wembley's roof not closed to keep out the rain? Taking the financial and sacreligious decision to play American Football on the hallowed turf certainly backfired. I do not know how much the FA earned from that game, but they will now lose plenty more from England failing to qualify. The UK economy in general will suffer.

I fail to see why El Tel (aka Terry Venables) should be chopped. Surely he never supported McLaren's decisions? I thought they should consider him for Head Coach - again. Mourinho, Scolari, O'Neill are all excellent choices but still foreigners and the FA are talking about making the English football game English again.

Here is my suggestion - Vinnie Jones. He would lick the boys into shape and cut down some egos. Did you see him in "Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels"? (Oh, I have just been told he is Welsh).

PS When Peter Crouch starts a game, he often scores. When he is brought on as sub, he doesn't. When will the England coach and Rafa Benitez notice that link? At least he was our hero briefly.

More comments on

My Domain Names for Sale

I have a couple of domain names for sale:

so I checked on ebay to see whether they offer such items and of course they do. Some start at just 99pence whilst others run into thousands of pounds.

One is being very optimistic is for sale. The price is a cool 8 million pounds...yes, £8,000,000

We can all live in hope.

If you are interested in either of my domain names at a very reasonable price, just send me a comment with your email address.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Men at Work

I could not resist posting this one.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

What's So Wrong With TV?

I am fed up with people decrying TV as a bad thing to be avoided.

What is wrong with TV? I watch wonderful documentary programmes on history, art, travel, National Geographic programs on animals, natural wonders, building megastructures and biographies to learn about other people's lives.

My husband also watches programmes on cars which he enjoys. It is better than wasting thousands of pounds buying them and polluting the atmosphere more.

We watch all sorts of films to amuse us, challenge us or just entertain. It is healthy to laugh at comedy and much British TV comedy is excellent.

Our children watch their favourite characters then play with those toys and recreate stories. My son has even created his own Doctor Who site

We watch intelligent quizzes like Stephen Fry's "QI", topical satire like "Have I Got News for You?" and learn new facts. We watch channels in other languages.

We watch football matches if England or Liverpool are playing, rugby if South Africa or England are playing.

We never watch soaps, limit watching the news, do not buy from TV shopping nor watch anything which is an insult to our intelligence.

We also read books, including personal development, novels and non-fiction. I do SuDoku and brain training. We all play chess, in fact our 9 year old wants to be world chess champion. He watched a fascinating programme on a female grand master which inspired him. We play family board games, read with the children, go on country walks, visit interesting places, art galleries and museums.

Oh, and I watch many programmes which stimulate ideas and discussions for blog postings on my 10 different blogs and 11 Squidoos.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Don't Take Your Man Shopping If He Doesn't Want to Go

This is why women should not take men shopping against their will.

After Mr. And Mrs. Fenton retired, Mrs.Fenton insisted her husband accompany her on her trips to Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, Mr. Fenton was like most men - he found shopping boring and preferred to get in and get out. Equally unfortunately, Mrs. Fenton was like most women - she loved to browse.

One day Mrs. Fenton received the following letter from her local Wal-Mart.

Dear Mrs. Fenton,
Over the past six months, your husband has been causing quite a commotion in our store. We cannot tolerate this behavior and may be forced to ban both of you from the store. Our complaints against Mr. Fenton are listed below and are documented by our video surveillance cameras.

1. June 15: Took 24 boxes of condoms and randomly put them in people's carts when they weren't looking.
2. July 2: Set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at 5-minute intervals.
3. July 7: Made a trail of tomato juice on the floor leading to the women's restroom.
4. July 19: Walked up to an employee and told her in an official voice,
"Code 3 in Housewares. Get on it right away."
5. August 4: Went to the Service Desk and tried to put a bag of M&M's on layaway.
6. September 14: Moved a "CAUTION - WET FLOOR" sign to a carpeted area.
7. September 15: Set up a tent in the camping department and told other shoppers he'd invite them in if they would bring pillows and blankets from the bedding department ..
8. September 23: When a clerk asked if they could help him he began crying and
screamed, "Why can't you people just leave me alone?"
9. October 4: Looked right into the security camera and used it as a mirror while he picked his nose.
10. November 10: While handling guns in the hunting department, he asked the
clerk where the antidepressants were.
11. December 3: Darted around the store suspiciously while loudly humming the
"Mission Impossible" theme.
12. December 6: In the auto department, he practiced his "Madonna look" by using different sizes of funnels.
13. December 18: Hid in a clothing rack and when people browsed through,yelled
14. December 21: When an announcement came over the loud speaker, he assumed a fetal position and screamed "OH NO! IT'S THOSE VOICES AGAIN!"

And last, but not least.
15. December 23: Went into a fitting room, shut the door, waited awhile,then yelled very loudly, "Hey! There's no toilet paper in here!"

Regards, Wal Mart

Wanda Jenkins
"Blessed Are The Cracked, For It Is They Who Let In The Light"

Tuesday, 13 November 2007


I was told these were Tommy Cooper's jokes but I cannot say that for sure.

1. Two blondes walk into a'd think at least one of them would have seen it.
2. Phone answering machine message - "...If you want to buy marijuana, press the hash key..."
3. A guy walks into the psychiatrist wearing only Clingfilm for shorts. The shrink says, "Well, I can clearly see you're nuts."
4. I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day but I couldn't find any
5. I went to the butchers the other day and I bet him 50 quid that he couldn't reach the meat off the top shelf. He said, "No, the steaks are too high."
6. My friend drowned in a bowl of muesli. A strong currant pulled him in.
7. A man came round in hospital after a serious accident. He shouted,
"Doctor, doctor, I can't feel my legs!" The doctor replied, "I know you can't, I've cut your arms off."
8. I went to a seafood disco last week...and pulled a muscle.
9. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly. They lit a fire in the craft,it sank, proving once and for all that you can't have your kayak and heat it.
10. Our ice cream man was found lying on the floor of his van covered with hundreds and thousands. Police say that he topped himself.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Stick Your Chewing Gum Here

I saw this board adjacent to a traffic light crossing in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey. What a good idea!

Friday, 9 November 2007

Absolutely Priceless re House Title

Part of rebuilding New Orleans causes residents to often be challenged with the task of tracing home titles back potentially hundreds of years. With a community rich in history stretching back over two centuries, houses have been passed along through generations of family, sometimes making it quite difficult to establish ownership. Here's a great letter an attorney wrote to the FHA on behalf of a client that is absolutely priceless.

You've got to love this lawyer and it is good enough to share.

A New Orleans lawyer sought an FHA loan for a client. He was told the loan would be granted if he could prove satisfactory title to a parcel of property being offered as collateral. The title to the property dated back to 1803, which took the lawyer three months to track down. After sending the information to the FHA, he received the following reply (actual letter):

'Upon review of your letter adjoining your client's loan application, we note that the request is supported by an Abstract of Title. While we compliment the able manner in which you have prepared and presented the application, we must point out that you have only cleared title to the proposed collateral property back to
1803. Before final approval can be accorded, it will be necessary to clear the title back to its origin.'

Annoyed, the lawyer responded as follows (actual letter):

'Your letter regarding title in Case No. 189156 has been received. I note that you wish to have title extended further than the 194 years covered by the present application. I was unaware that any educated person in this country, particularly those working in the property area, would not know that Louisiana was purchased by the U.S. from France in 1803, the year of origin identified in our application.

For the edification of uninformed FHA bureaucrats, the title to the land prior to U.S. ownership was obtained from France, which had acquired it by Right of Conquest from Spain. The land came into the possession of Spain by Right of Discovery made in the year 1492 by a sea captain named Christopher Columbus, who had been granted the privilege of seeking a new route to India by the Spanish monarch, Isabella. The good queen, Isabella, being a pious woman and almost as careful about titles as the FHA, took the precaution of securing the blessing of the Pope before she sold her
jewels to finance Columbus's expedition. Now the Pope, as I'm sure you may know, is the emissary of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and God, it is commonly accepted, created this world. Therefore, I believe it is safe to presume that God also made that part of the world called Louisiana. God, therefore, would be the owner of origin and His origins date back to before the beginning of time, the world as we know it AND the FHA.

I hope you find God's original claim to be satisfactory. Now, may we have our damn loan?'

The loan was approved.

Source: received in an email

Laughter Videos on-line

A new page of comedy videos has been added to the Laughtershare website and there is a huge selection of free gifts at the bottom of the page.

The free gifts include hundreds of ebooks, MP3 tracks, product samples and vouchers (the last two are US only). To collect your gift simply visit the link below:

Click here for Laughtershare

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Another Death from a Brain Tumour

I have just heard that Sarah Wattyn, daughter of a work acquaintance Christian Vermeire, died from a brain tumour on 6 November. She was just 26. Christian had sought help from every neurosurgeon in Belgium then found someone in Munich who said he might be able to help. A fund raising benefit was organised but it was all too late.

I have had two brain tumours removed, each time saved by a life-threatening operation.

My heart goes out to Christian and his family.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Book Recommendation - "Stars and Bars"

I just read a fun book by William Boyd called "Stars and Bars". It is the story of Henderson Dores, an English art historian who has been transferred to a Manhattan auctioneers. He is still feeling out of place in America and desperately wants to make his mark. His chance arises with the prospect of the sale of a private art collection. All he has to do is pop down to Georgia and make arrangements.

Is it that simple and straightforward?

The book is very funny and you must feel sympathy for Henderson who is only trying to do his job despite most unusual circumstances.

ISBN 0-14-007596-8

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Russell Watson

As someone who has had two brain tumours removed, I was very sorry to hear that the classical tenor Russell Watson is in hospital after an emergency operation to removed a benign brain tumour. He is "in good spirits" after the five-hour operation. The tumour was pressing on his optical nerve and would "almost certainly" have ruined his sight had it been left any longer. He had been developing severe headaches and impaired vision.

The tumour, called a pituitary adenoma, was removed through Watson's nose. "They had to be very careful the way they did it, because of his vocal cords, we had to ensure that there'd be no damage," said his spokeswoman.

"Russell wishes to pay his sincere thanks and appreciation to the entire medical team at St George's Hospital who successfully carried out the operation," she said.
"He is obviously very relieved that the operation has been a success and is in good spirits. He is now resting and we are told by the doctor he will make a complete recovery," she added.

Russell Watson is one of my favourite singers.
Russell Watson on amazon

Some One-liner Jokes

I met this bloke with a didgeridoo and he was playing Dancing Queen on it. I thought, "That's Aboriginal."

This lorry full of tortoises collided with a van full of terrapins. It was a turtle disaster.

I told my girlfriend I had a job in a bowling alley. She said "Tenpin?" I said, "No, permanent."

I went in to a pet shop. I said, "Can I buy a goldfish?" The guy said, "Do you want an aquarium?" I said, "I don't care what star sign it is."

I went to the local video shop and I said "Can I borrow Batman Forever?" He said, "No, you'll have to bring it back tomorrow"

Batman came up to me and he hit me over the head with a vase and he went T'PAU! I said "Don't you mean KAPOW?? He said "No, I've got china in my hand."

I bought some Armageddon cheese today, and it said on the packet. 'Best Before End'

I went to buy a watch and the man in the shop said "Analogue." I said "No, just a watch."

I went into a shop and I said, "Can someone sell me a kettle." The bloke said "Kenwood" I said, "Where is he then?"

I met the bloke who invented crosswords today. I can't remember his name, it's P something T something R.

I was reading this book today, "The History of Glue". I couldn't put it down.

I phoned the local ramblers club today, but the bloke who answered just went on and on.

The recruitment consultant asked me "What do you think of voluntary work? I said "I wouldn't do it if you paid me."

I was in the jungle and there was this monkey with a tin opener. I said, "You don't need a tin opener to peel a banana." He said, "No, this is for the custard."

This policeman came up to me with a pencil and a piece of very thin paper. He said, "I want you to trace someone for me."

I told my mum that I'd opened a theatre. She said, "Are you having me on?" I said, "Well I'll give you an audition, but I'm not promising you anything."

I phoned the local builders today. I said to them "Can I have a skip outside my house?" He replied, "I'm not stopping you!"

This cowboy walks in to a German car showroom and he says "Audi!"

I was driving up the motorway and my boss phoned me and he told me I'd been promoted. I was so shocked I swerved the car. He phoned me again to say I'd been promoted even higher and I swerved again. He then made me managing director and I went right off into a tree. The police came and asked me what had happened. I said "I careered off the road"

I visited the offices of the RSPCA today. It's tiny: you couldn't swing a cat in there.

I was stealing things in the supermarket today while balanced on the shoulders of a couple of vampires. I was charged with shoplifting on two counts.

I bought a train ticket to France and the ticket seller said "Eurostar". I said "Well, I've been on telly but I'm no Robbie Williams.

I phoned the local gym and I asked if they could teach me how to do the splits. He said, "How flexible are you?" I said, "I can't make Tuesdays or Thursdays."

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Speaking the Queen's English

Speaking English with accents, dialects, dropping the 'h' and 't' all seem to be the norm these days - unfortunately.

I do not claim to speak with a plum in my mouth, far from it, but I do appreciate English spoken well. Poshly, some would say.

I was therefore amused to see the elocution lessons on this year's Big Brother. The housemates had to read lists of words, many of which are of French origin eg.
Chablis, dauphinois, croquet, canapés, rendez-vous, au pair, faux pas, cloche and some names which are not obvious eg Shrewsbury, Waldegrave, Fenwich, Chomlendely, Bicester, Leicester, St John, Cockburn and Featherstonhaugh.

They also had to practice their 'h's in:
"In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen" and the old favourite,
"The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plane".

It is not very PC to say so but I am all for it.

Friday, 5 October 2007

IQ Test On-line

I was invited to take an IQ test online when I was on Facebook. Here are the results:

"Your IQ score is 124.
This number is based on a scientific formula that compares how many questions you answered correctly on the Classic IQ Test relative to others.

Your Intellectual Type is Visual Mathematician. This means you are gifted at spotting patterns — both in pictures and in numbers. These talents combined with your overall high intelligence make you good at understanding the big picture, which is why people trust your instincts and turn to you for direction — especially in the workplace."

I then had the option to download a full 15 page report and a 7 days trial membership with tests such as The Brain Test, The Career Makeover, Is Your Coworker Crazy?, The Social Networking Test and What's Your Summer Dream Job?

It's all a bit of fun.

You can take the tests here.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Cows Around the World

I just received this tongue-in-cheek summary of international business in an email.

SOCIALISM: You have 2 cows; you give one to your neighbour.

COMMUNISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and gives you some milk.

FASCISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and sells you some milk.

NAZISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and shoots you.

BUREAUCRACY: You have 2 cows. The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away...

SURREALISM: You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons

TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.

AN AMERICAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You sell one and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.

A FRENCH CORPORATION: You have two cows. You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.

A JAPANESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create a clever cow cartoon image called 'cowkimon' and market it worldwide.

A GERMAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.

AN ITALIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows, but you don't know where they are. You decide to have lunch.

A RUSSIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 2 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

A SWISS CORPORATION: You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you. You charge the owners for storing them.

CHINESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity, and execute the newsman who reported the real situation.

AN INDIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You worship them.

IRAQI CORPORATION: Everyone thinks you have lots of cows. You tell them that you have one. No-one believes you, so they bomb you and invade your country. You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of a Democracy... .

WELSH CORPORATION: You have two cows. The one on the left looks very attractive.

AUSTRALIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. Business seems pretty good. You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

A BRITISH CORPORATION: You have two cows. The Government says you have to buy a licence to milk them, but first you have to do a risk assessment, which only the government Quango is allowed to carry out. They charge you 5 times the cost of doing it. They find that the three legged stool is a risk under health and safety. You have to buy the EC approved 5 legged stool that is designed to support a milk
maid of up to 250 kilos. It is too heavy to carry. The stool exceeds EC weight lifting limits for workers by 4 kilos, which just happens to be the weight of the fifth leg. To shift the stool from one cow to the other you therefore need a special (EC approved) trolley. The new stool and trolley are so expensive that you have to mortgage one of the cows to pay for them and pay for the mandatory training course
you must take to get your licence to milk the cows. You sell your milk to the supermarket chain that pays you next to nothing for it and then they sell it to their customers for four times what they paid you. Then they release a press statement about how wonderful they are to support British Cows. The rest of the world thinks your cows are mad but you and your cows know that it is not true and
Anyway the rest of the world, have no intention of identifying and counting their mad cows so people in other countries don't know their cows are really, really barmy do they. You sell your cows to a Polish Migrant worker and your farm to a Russian 'investment bank' and then you leave to buy a villa by the sea in a country where it is sunny and the cost of milk is a tenth the cost of milk at home. They
don't have a National Health Service..... ..but you are so happy and relaxed your health improves and you live to be 100.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

My Favourite Toys Catalogue

This is just a plug for one of my favourite mail order companies who will ship worldwide.

Hawkin's Bazaar offer a bizarre selection of toys and curiousities, from pocket money toys for pennies to more substantial items. Just receiving the brochure is a delight as there are so many items from days gone by and funny joke items.

At Hawkin’s Bazaar they source unusual toys, gifts, gadgets and curiosities that appeal to all ages and tastes. There is something for everyone, even the most difficult to buy for: from retro space hoppers, wooden toys, clockwork toys and musical instruments, to games, puzzles, science kits, party paraphernalia and grown-up gifts/gadgets… the list is endless!

Christmas is 89 days away!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Largest Indoor Skipiste in Europe

Last weekend, Snow Valley in Peer, Limburg, Belgium held an open-door weekend when children and adults could enjoy one hour FREE ski-ing including hire of equipment. This was an offer too good to resist.

Apparently the indoor skipiste in Snow Valley, Peer has a piste of 235 m long by 30m wide served by 3 poma style lifts and a kids' piste of 100m with a conveyor belt.

For snowboarders, there are kicks with rails, big air, fun box and quarterpipes.

Visit the site of SnowValley, Belgium

My photos of Snow Valley on Flickr

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Kids and Advertising

In case anyone doubts the effect of advertising on kids, mine can be heard chanting,

"L'Oreal Kids Shampoo, because we're worth it too".

My 6 year old also asks me why I am not interested in Sheila's Wheels car Insurance, the one with all the women in the stretch pink limo.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Scots Weekend in Alden Biesen, Belgium

I was astonished that over 20,000 people visited for the 21st annual Scots Weekend (7-9 September 2007) in Alden Biesen, a sort of castle in Limburg, Belgium. Even the lousy weather we are having did not put people off.

We visited on Saturday and heard various pipe bands (bagpipes), shopped for Scottish produce on the market, drank Gordon beer, sampled Scotch whiskies and the children tried their hand at archery before burning off energy on the proverbial bouncy castle.

My photos of the Scots Weekend on Flickr

I met a group of young men in matching T-shirts and kilts, one of whom was dressed up with toy armour. I asked them where they were from and discovered they were Belgians on a stag party weekend. Apparently it is traditional for Belgians to do this! I saw a group of women in matching costume when we were leaving so maybe they were on a hen party.

I was pleased to hear that the Belgian group of monitors at my fitness club, Olympia in Hasselt, won first prize in the Highland Games. The trophy is proudly on display.

Antonia Stuart-James is an English Hypnotherapist in Belgium.

Economist Pocket World in Figures 2008

This is the new edition of this annual bestseller of fascinating facts and figures about the world we live in. The 2008 edition has been completely updated, revised, refreshed and expanded. It contains rankings on more than 200 topics in subject areas as wide-ranging as geography, population, business, the economy, trade, transport, finance, industry, demographics, the environment, society, culture and crime. This annual bestseller has the answers to all these questions and more. It contains data on 182 countries and profiles of more than 65 of the world's major economies, together with special profiles on the Euro Zone and the World.

The best level of human development and quality of life overall is to be found in:
1. Norway
2. Iceland
3. Australia
4. Ireland
5. Sweden
6. Canada
7. Japan
8. USA
9. Netherlands, Finland & Switzerland
12.Belgium & Luxembourg
17. UK
Worst quality of life:
Bottom 5: Niger, Sierra Leone, Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau.

Standard of living
1. Luxembourg
2. Bermuda
3. Norway
4. Iceland
5. Switzerland
6. Ireland

The Economist uses the Human Development Report 2006 that looks beyond GDP to a broader definition of well-being. The HDI provides a composite measure of three dimensions of human development: living a long and healthy life (measured by life expectancy), being educated (measured by adult literacy and enrolment at the primary, secondary and tertiary level) and having a decent standard of living measured by purchasing power parity, PPP, income).

If you want to know:
- the highest mountain or longest river
- where economic growth is fastest or inflation is highest
- who consumes the most energy
- where innovation is highest
- where computer and mobile phone ownership is highest
- which countries have the most asylum seekers
- who spends most, and who the least, on healthcare
- the heaviest drinkers and smokers
- who recycles most
- facts about obesity

Besides quality of life, South Africa has the highest house price inflation and Ecuador the most murders per capita.

Australians drink the most alcohol, Greeks smoke the most cigarettes, Japan reads the most newspapers. Japan also has the world's largest proportion of elderly people with 26% of its population over 60, while European country Luxembourg has the highest GDP per capita - because part of its workforce lives in neighbouring countries.

While the USA and Japan remain the biggest economies, they come in at 8th and 7th respectively on the quality of life stakes. The UK which is the world's fifth biggest economy, has a 17th ranking in the "human development" index.

The United States heads the rankings of the world's biggest producers of carbon emissions with about 4,800 million tonnes, followed by China on 4,140 million. Russia comes in third place on 1,500 million tonnes.

The book, which is put together by the influential British magazine, also reveals a string of interesting facts about lifestyle trends:

* Crime, Ecuador has 18.3 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Swaziland on 13.6 and Mongolia on 12.8.
* The USA has by far the biggest prison population with 2.2 million behind bars, while China carries out by the far the most executions - 3,400 in 2004.
* Belgium scores best for children's schooling.

Some of the economic figures could raise eyebrows, especially in the Economist's home country:
* House price inflation is highest in South Africa, where prices rose 351% from 1997-2006, followed by Ireland on 253% and the UK on 191%.

The publication also includes an update of the Economist's so-called Big Mac Index, which attempts to reflect purchasing power by the cost of a McDonald's burger.
* The cheapest BigMac can be found in China at US$1.41, with Hong Kong on US$1.54 and Malaysia on $US1.57, while the most expensive Big Mac in the world is to be found in Iceland, at nearly US$7.5.

Some figures:
Alcohol consumption (litres per head of population per year)
Most: 1. Australia 99.2; 2. Czech Republic 98.2; 3. Germany 96.2; 4. Finland 92; 5 Austria 87.8.

Life expectancy (years)
Highest: Andorra 83.5; Japan 82.6; Hong Kong 82.2; Iceland 81.8; Switzerland 81.7.

Newspaper readership (copies read per thousand of population)
Most: 1. Japan, 546; 2. Norway 514; Sweden 488; Finland 436; Singapore 380.

Music sales (dollars spent per head on music)
Most: UK 36.2; Japan 29; Norway 28.9; Switzerland 28.2; United States 23.5.

No well-informed person can afford to be without it.

Schooling in Belgium

From 1 September 2007, junior schools in Belgium are to be "kosteloos", ie without costs.

Children receive the following items from the school:
- books, atlases, dictionaries, notebooks, diary
- reading books,picture books
- pencils, ballpoint pens, rubbers (erasers in US)
- paint, art paper
- glue, scissors, ruler
- compasses, set square, protractor, calculator, compass
- photocopies
- balls, rope, tricycles, climbing equipment
- cardboard, wood, tools, building blocks, puzzles
- computers, internet, software
- musical instruments.

What is not free ie for what must parents pay?
- Swimming costs (except first years who receive free lessons, the 6 year olds)
- Trips out such as theatre, walks in the wood, sports activities, school journeys.
- Sport clothing, newspapers (if necessary).
The school may ask a maximum annual contribution of 20€ in nursery and 60€ in the junior school.

The school may also request payment for activities and services outside normal school hours but children are not obliged to take part:
- drinks, midday lunch, surveillance before and after school, bus transport, new year letters, T-shirt and class photos.

Parents must provide:
- books bag, lunch box, pencil case, outdoor clothing, gym shoes.

In the recently published "Pocket World in Figures 2008" recently published by The Economist, Belgium scored the highest ranking for children's schooling.

I am very happy with the schooling that my boys, aged 6 and 9, receive in the local Flemish school and can compare this with both state and private schools in the UK and Spain.

Antonia Stuart-James is an English Hypnotherapist in Belgium helping people to make positive change.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Are You Blessed?

- If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the people of this world!

- If you have money in the bank and in the purse, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy persons!

- If you wake up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than one million who will not survive this week!

- If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you are more blessed than three billion people in the world!

- If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are more blessed because you can offer healing touch!

- If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all!

Count your blessings and pass this message to remind everyone else how blessed they are.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Some Blonde Jokes

Two blondes living in Oklahoma were sitting on a bench talking, and one blonde says to the other, 'Which do you think is farther away...Florida or the moon?'
The other blonde turns and says 'Helloooooooooo, can you see Florida?????'

A blonde pushes her BMW into a gas station. She tells the mechanic it died. After he works on it for a few minutes, it is idling smoothly.
She says, 'What's the story?'
He replies, 'Just crap in the carburetor'
She asks, 'How often do I have to do that?'

A police officer stops a blonde for speeding and asks her very nicely if he could see her license.
She replied in a huff, 'I wish you guys would get your act together. Just yesterday you take away my license and then today you expect me to show it to you!'

There's this blonde out for a walk. She comes to a river and sees another blonde on the opposite bank. 'Yoo-hoo!' she shouts, 'How can I get to the other side?'
The second blonde looks up the river then down the river and shouts back,
'You ARE on the other side.'

A gorgeous young redhead goes into the doctor's office and says that her body hurt wherever she touched it.
'Impossible!' says the doctor. 'Show me.'
The redhead took her finger, pushed on her left shoulder and screamed,then she pushed her elbow and screamed even more. She pushed her knee and screamed; likewise she pushed her ankle and screamed. Everywhere she touched made her scream.
The doctor said, 'You're not really a redhead, are you?
'Well, no' she said, 'I'm actually a blonde.'
'I thought so,' the doctor said. 'Your finger is broken.'

A highway patrolman pulled alongside a speeding car on the freeway. Glancing at the car, he was astounded to see that the blonde behind the wheel was knitting! Realizing that she was oblivious to his flashing lights and siren, the trooper cranked down his window, turned on his bullhorn and yelled,
'NO!' the blonde yelled back, 'IT'S A SCARF!'

A Russian, an American, and a Blonde were talking one day. The Russian said, 'We were the first in space!'
The American said, 'We were the first on the moon!'
The Blonde said, 'So what? We're going to be the first on the sun!'
The Russian and the American looked at each other and shook their heads. 'You can't land on the sun, you idiot! You'll burn up!' said the Russian.
To which the Blonde replied, 'We're not stupid, you know. We're going at night!'

A blonde was playing Trivial Pursuit one night. It was her turn. She rolled the dice and she landed on Science & Nature. Her question was,
'If you are in a vacuum and someone calls your name, can you hear it?'
She thought for a time and then asked, 'Is it on or off?'

A girl was visiting her blonde friend, who had acquired two new dogs, and asked her what their names were. The blonde responded by saying that one was named Rolex and one was named Timex.
Her friend said, 'Whoever heard of someone naming dogs like that?'
'HELLLOOOOOOO......,' answered the blond. 'They're watch dogs.'

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Belgian Summer 2007

It is official. According to an article I read today in 'Het Belang Van Limburg', we have had 11 days of summer this year in Belgium when the temperature rose over 25ºC: 4 in June, 4 in July and 3 in August. 2 days were considered tropical as the temperature rose over 30ºC: 15 July and 5 August. I was away on the second day so missed that.

July 2006 was the hottest on record with the highest ever temperature recorded here in Limburg on 20 July - the day we arrived from Spain - 36.7ºC.

The Proud Leonidas Belgian Chocolates

Belgian chocolates are legendary. Whilst Neuhaus and Godiva probably offer the most exquisite and decadent chocolates in beautiful packaging, my favourite Belgian chocolates are from Leonidas.

Leonidas Kesdekidis, an ordinary Greek citizen was the founder of Leonidas Belgian Chocolates. His company bears his name as the founder of the company who make wonderful delights like pralines, truffles and other heavenly chocolate assortments. Mr. Kesdekidis arrived in Brussels in 1910 and married a local so decided to settle. He made a large array of pralines in his place close to Rempart de Moines.

Mr. Kesdikidis and his descendants’ goal was to bring his home-made wonderful delights of pralines as close as possible to as many consumers, not to mention every creator’s dream to let the rest of the world know of their chocolate concoctions. His strategy of combining world-class quality and the best price is still unbeatable. Leonidas’ products are far different from the chocolates of other brands. The fact that only Leonidas has such concern for the freshness of its chocolates makes it unique and unbeatable. Meanwhile other brands’ strategy is to make their products fresh so they repackage the product but what about the product itself? Yes, the package is fresh but the content is still the same. Whereas at Leonidas, the chocolates will only be boxed on the day that the customer’s order is received. Other chocolates’ quality of freshness may be risked for the necessity of longevity. They are likely to be pre-packed ready to be on a shelf in department stores or supermarkets, but not Leonidas.

At Leonidas, longevity is not a problem because of the packing strategy; instead the main concern is not to compromise the quality of the produce in other terms. The same applies to the ingredients. Most chocolate makers use vegetable fats in their chocolates but Leonidas prefer to use genuine cocoa butter. Their very high standards meant that Leonidas were able to obtain an ISO 9001 certificate for the produce’s quality, which is much over the minimum requirement for the production of chocolates.

Leonidas deliver only where there are Leonidas outlets like Hollywood and all over United Kingdom and Belgium. However, they refuse to export for the reason that they do not want to risk the freshness of every chocolate that goes out of their stores. To date there is only a small number of sellers of Leonidas chocolates because of the high standard requirement that every seller has to comply with for the very cautious storing and freshness concerns.

The chocolates are wrapped in 500grams, 750grams, and 1kg boxes. There are different sorts of gift wrapping, as well as the standard wrap, luxury and seasonal choices.

These chocolates are supposed to be consumed within 21 days from purchase. They should not be kept too long otherwise the freshness and or the quality will not be the same as is expected, although keeping them refrigerated will prolong the shelf life. If storing in the fridge, you must keep them away from other foods with a prominent smell, otherwise the chocolate will be ruined because it may absorb the odour of that affect the taste and quality.

Leonidas chocolates online in the UK
Leonidas chocolates online in the USA

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Blotevoetenpad in Vlaanderen - Barefootpath in Flanders

Today we did something we have never done before. We walked on a specially prepared 2km long barefoot path in Zutendaal, Belgian Limburg. This is the first such path in Belgian Flanders. We walked over wooden logs, wooden planks, small stones, gravel, rocks, grass, squelchy mud, in knee-deep muddy water and sand. We felt cold and warm underfoot, wet and dry, hard and soft. We climbed up and down log steps and a four storey lookout tower. We balanced on treestumps of different heights, walked across a wibbly-wobbly wooden logs bridge and attempted stilt-walking on logs.

My children squealed with delight as they experienced all the textures and knowing they were allowed to get dirty.

My photos of the Barefoot Walk on Flickr

It is also peaceful, well apart from people's screams in the freezing puddles, and far from traffic and everyday noises. Walking over the different surfaces gives a chance to heighten other senses, just like a baby learns about the world through its mouth.

Walking barefoot is healthy. It stimulates the heart, blood circulation and regulates blood pressure. Paddling and gymnastic balancing promotes the vascular system particularly in the limbs. True contact with the earth is relaxing and works on the mind and spirit. Walking barefoot is said to stimulate all the zones of the body just as in a reflexology massage.

"The theory behind barefoot walking/running is that the nerve endings on the bottom of the foot when stimulated cause reflex muscle contraction to avoid the irritation. Stepping on a something sharp or rough is painful; the muscles in the foot and leg contract in order to get off the irritation. This constant cycle of sensory stimulation and reflex muscle contraction is thought to improve the strength of the foot and leg muscles." (Source:

"Barefoot walking is associated with decreased dynamic knee loading compared to walking in normal footwear."

Foot showers and scrubbing brushes were provided next to the lockers for our shoes.

Blotevoetenpad in Vlaanderen

Some other sites about barefoot walking:
Engage Gluteus maximus
Happy Feet (not the film about penguins!)
Parents for Barefoot Children
article on barefoot walking/running - barefoot walking FAQ
walking barefoot on dew

By the way, in Belgium, the driving code does not explicitly ban barefoot driving, but article 8.3 requires drivers to be "constantly able to perform any maneuver". According to the federal police, this implicitly bans barefoot driving. (However, barefoot drivers dispute that lack of shoes impairs their ability to perform maneuvers. It is not known whether this dispute has been tried in Belgian courts).

© Antonia Stuart-James 2007

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Nordic Walking

Whilst in Austria, I enjoyed Nordic Walking seven times so looked up the following information about this sport:

"Originating from summer training for cross-country skiers, Nordic Walking works your upper and lower body at the same time, strengthening your back, legs and arms, and reducing neck and shoulder tension - all this while improving the health of your heart and lungs. You can gain all these health benefits, and more, while Nordic Walking with your friends; exercise intensity is determined by upper body effort so people of differing fitness levels can walk and talk together, while working to their own level with Nordic Walking.

With a little bit of Nordic Walking practice you will find that even though your heart, lungs and body are working harder Nordic Walking can feel easier and less tiring than normal walking.

Developed in 1997 in Finland, where 12 per cent of the adult population engage in it every week, Nordic walking is sometimes described as cross-country skiing without the skis and it is quietly winning over an army of outdoor enthusiasts. It is estimated that about 3.5 million across Europe now do it regularly, urged on by some 3,000 trained instructors.

The activity's ability to boost fitness levels has been recognised by politicians and business. In Germany, the government refunds the cost of attending a certified course for hospital outpatients. Two health insurance firms in Switzerland offer policyholders financial bonuses if they attend Nordic walking courses.

Nordic walking's chief attraction is that, unlike normal walking, it exercises the whole of a person's body, rather than just their legs. As participants use their arms to push off from their flexible poles, the whole range of upper-body muscles are used, helping to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles. Enthusiasts say it uses 90 per cent of the body's skeletal muscles. With more muscles being used, energy consumption increases, allowing the average Nordic walker to burn off up to 46 per cent more calories than a normal walker. And because the arms take more of the strain, a lighter load is placed on the knees and other lower body joints, which has made the activity popular with elderly outdoor enthusiasts. Among claims made for Nordic walking is that it can strengthen bones, combat the effects of osteoporosis, reduce neck and shoulder tension and alleviate symptoms of repetitive strain injury."

me Nordic Walking to the Krimml Waterfalls in the Tirol, Austria

So, I am glad I bought my own poles and have a local Nordic Walking instructor here in Ham, Limburg, Belgium. We go walking on Sunday with my instructor, An Caelen, who can be reached on

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Summer Holiday in Austria

I so appreciate being in Austria again. This is such a beautiful country with awe-inspiring mountains, friendly people, simple but hearty food and clean air. We are fortunate to stay in a Kinderhotel where they care for our children from 9am to 9pm six days a week if so required. They offer an interesting programme of activities and there is always time for the children to paint a picture, play table football, bounce on the trampoline or bouncy castle or whatever they wish. They go pony riding, nordic walking, play games in the pool, walk in the mountains, paint stones to remind them of their stay here. Sometimes they spend time with us such as when we visit somewhere.

Today we went to Europe's highest waterfalls in Krimml. I had bought new nordic walking boots and sticks yesterday so was glad to try them out on the steep climb. The waterfalls are so dramatic.

On Sunday we enjoyed the annual dorffest with a marching band, traditional dress, gun salute and plenty of eating and drinking schnaps.

Photos of the Dorffest in Gerlos

Back at the Almhof hotel in Gerlos, we enjoy the wellness area with beauty and massage treatments and an area with sauna, steam room, tepidarium, special showers, a Tiroler Schlafstübe for relaxing and a deck in the fresh alpine air where we can just gaze at the beauty of the scenery.

My husband has been suffering with leg pain for years and lower back pain recently. He has had two sessions of Tui Na Chinese massage with the Austrian masseur, Claus, who studied for 18 months in a Chinese hospital. The first session included moxibustion with cups containing burning candles being moved up and down his back and today gave him his first experience of acupuncture in his legs. He feels wonderful and is confident that all discomfort will be gone completely by tomoorow. Today he walked with us to the waterfalls which he could never do on previous visits here as he just could not walk.

With the same Austrian I went nordic walking for two hours and today tried Qi Gong at 8am on the grass as the sun warmed us up. We started by wiping the ball of our foot in one direction nine times then in the other direction nine times which wakes up the Kidney 1 point so helping the kidneys to perform well. I already practice Tai Chi so this useful extra information which I can use for preserving my health and achieving optimum energy. Klaus is very enthusiastic about China and reinforced my desire to visit that country on an extended trip at some point in my life. I would love to practice Tai Chi at dawn with the Chinese. I am not so keen on the food though.

The food in this hotel is wonderful with many choices at the buffet breakfast, salads and a choice of two dishes at lunch then up to six courses at dinner with a starter, soup, salad, main course,dessert and cheese. Soft drinks, choice of teas and coffee are available all the time and there is a bar with a choice of cocktails, selection of malt whiskies for some unknown reason and plenty of board games, chess, draughts etc. so families can relax together.

Photos of the Hotel Almhof

The adjacent hotel owned by the same family has a cowboy bar open three nights a week which our children love because there is a train which runs round rails all around the bar. We were once here on my husband's birthday and they sent round drinks on the house delivered in a wagon of the train!

Tonight the grandfather will play his zither, a sort of harpsichord as background music for our entertainment.

For alternative entertainment, we always enjoy visiting De Singende Wirt in the Hotel Gerloserhof with his evening of Austrian fun.

Photos of an evening with the Singende Wirt

For ways of travelling to Austria, visit Eurotravel.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Hasselt Beach

We live in East Belgium, about 250km from the Belgian coast but every year for two weeks, the beach comes to us. Or more precisely to Hasselt, our nearest big town and the capital of Limburg Province.

Hasselt Beach website

* 20 July - 4 August 2007
* 4000m2 of sand, a stage, food and drink, huge bicycle parking area.
* Free entry every day from 11.30, evening price 2-5 €.
* Beach football and beach volleyball tournaments
* Kids Karaoke
* Cocktail parties, after work parties
* Hippie Night
* Pirate Island for the kids
* Latin Dance Night
* Erotic foam party (don't even ask).

On the Beach??
Alongside the Hasselt Kanaalkom (canal): real living palmtrees, beachbars, various tents, a large sun terrace with chairs, showers, a waterbed, sandpit, bouncy castles...

In 2006, Belgium experienced abnormally high temperatures reaching the all-time high of 36.7ºC on 20 July. Unfortunately, this year we have had far too much rain and even cool weather. However, not to be beaten by a spot of rain, the Hasselt Beach organizers just erected a massive cover over the 300m2 dance floor so that the party could go on. The children's party was postponed until Saturday 4 August.

Now where is my bucket and spade...

Hasselt Beach photos on Flickr

Sunday, 29 July 2007

"Would I Lie to You"

Angus Deaton is back on BBC with a new team quiz programme in which three celebs on each side have to make statements and the other team decide whether it is true or a lie.

It is a good light-hearted comedy and it is a pleasure to have Angus back as host with the same level of humour and sarcasm he was known for on "Have I Got News for You."

Wendy Richards ran a launderette in "EastEnders" for 20 years but claimed that in real life, she does not know how to use the machines. The other team could not believe this. Someone quipped, "William Shatner does not know how to pilot a spaceship". Wendy was telling the truth.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Big Brother - Charley has gone

Thank goodness Charley has gone.

The girl is deluded believing that the public love her. She heard cries of support and love whilst the rest of us heard boos. 85% of the public vote evicted her rather than Tracey.

It is interesting to note that she is employing a Freudian defence mechanism in refusing to acknowledge the truth. She has such a high opinion of herself that she cannot admit any variation from that image or else risk the fragility of her self-esteem.

She attacked to the last. When she heard the boos from inside the house, she told Tracey that they were also booing her. When interviewed by Davina and shown the argument with Brian, she blamed him for attacking her and being pathetic when in fact he had considered her as his friend and was hurt by her unprompted attack. Charley was more concerned with how she looked in a clown costume.

Davina asked her what was next for Charley. She replied, "Maybe anger management". A very good idea but only the start of what she needs unless she wants to go through life being known as a "super bitch".

The press love a baddie so no doubt the publicity will start, the interviews will be never-ending and she may well make the first million pounds (as predicted in a poll this week) from this season's Big Brother, simply from the initial press. Someone predicted a regular column in Heat magazine. What a perverse society where money is paid to someone to keep reminding us what an unlikeable person they are. Personally, I would rather read stories of people who are making a positive contribution to the world, people we can emulate and use as role models.

Big Brother T-shirts, caps and other merchandise

Fun Big Brother items for sale on

Antonia Stuart-James is an English Hypnotherapist in Belgium helping people make positive change.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Today was a good day

Today was a good day.

First, my son had his friend to sleepover which was the first sleepover here.

Secondly, my son and I worked on his Doctor Who site. He plans to be an Internet Millionaire and this is his first venture.

Thirdly, we anticipate that Charley will be evicted from the Big Brother house.

Antonia Stuart-James

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Thoughts for the Day

1. Money will buy a fine dog, but only kindness will make him wag his tail.
2. If you don't have a sense of humor, you probably don't have any sense at all.
3. Seat belts are not as confining as wheelchairs.
4. A good time to keep your mouth shut is when you're in deep water.
5. How come it takes so little time for a child who is afraid of the dark to become a teenager who wants to stay out all night?
6. Business conventions are important because they demonstrate how many people a company can operate without.
7. No one has more driving ambition than the boy who wants to buy a car.
8. There are worse things than getting a call for a wrong number at 4 AM. It could be a right number.
9. No one ever says "It's only a game" when his team is winning.
10. I've reached the age where the happy hour is a nap.
11. Be careful reading the fine print. There's no way you're going to like it.
12. Do you realize that in about 40 years, we'll have thousands of old ladies running around with tattoos and perky silicone filled breasts? (And RAP music will be the Golden Oldies!)
13. Money can't buy happiness -- but somehow it's more comfortable to cry in a Corvette than in a Yugo.
14. After a certain age, if you don't wake up aching in every joint, you are probably dead.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Big Brother - Charley must go

Charley might make interesting TV viewing but her volatile and rude nature is insulting to other housemates who also have to cope with homesickness, boredom, sharing limited space with strangers and constant filming.

Charley might think she is an "It Girl" but quite honestly, I cannot see why anyone would want to spend time in her company, unless of course she is quite a different person with her friends.

She seems unable to avoid confrontation and deliberately picks arguments about nothing. Instead of a few cross words, it becomes a slanging match where she refuses to listen to the other person and must have the last word. She picks on Chanelle decrying her appearance when in fact the girl is very attractive, both to look at and in her personality. Charley is making Chanelle doubt herself. She must be centre of attention showing how insecure she really is. She accused Gay Gerry of having sex with young boys which made him explode and I thought he was going to lay charges of slander.

Big Brother have repeatedly had to warn her to cool her behaviour and consider the effect of her words on her housemates. Little arguments and differences of opinion are inevitable amongst a group of strangers forced to live in the same enclosed space for weeks on end but while debate and discussion is healthy, with Charley it always becomes personal. She made Brian cry the other day because he considered her his friend until she attacked him. She has taken to calling everyone "pathetic". Actually, the shoe of pathos fits her.

A couple of times she has shown remorse after the argument but never apologises. We even saw tears the other day but I think this was just a tactic ahead of Monday's nominations and it did not work.

In this week's nominations for eviction, 6 out of 10 nominated her and also her friend, Tracey. Given that they did not nominate each other, that means that 6 out of 8 want both of them out.

She faced fake eviction two weeks ago. Now she must really go and I hope the media humiliate her, not make her into the star which she so craves. The crowd booed her when she enterd the house, there was no reaction when she was fake evicted (crowd held up signs saying "This is a fake audience") although she later lied to the housemates saying they had cheered her and there were several boards in her favour. She contributes nothing in the house, does not work and name drops continually. Who really cares?

Read the latest news from Big Brother on the Channel 4 website.

Antonia Stuart-James is an English Hypnotherapist in Belgium.

"Guarding the Queen" - The Grenadier Guards

Last night we were treated by ITV to the second of three parts of a programme "Guarding the Queen" showcasing the Grenadier Guards whose job it is to guard the Queen and her palaces whilst at the same time being fit and ready to enter into battle wherever they may be required. At the moment that means active tours in Afghanistan. The Grenadier Guards are the most senior infantry regiment in the British Army and they are also one of the oldest, celebrating their 350th anniversary last year, during which time there have been ten kings and three queens.

We saw the Guards parading in their bearskins and winter dress of thick blue coats which are exchanged for scarlet red jackets in the summer. The then Home Secretary David Blunkett chose a slight change of colour for the jackets requiring an expense of £300,000 to hand-tailor new jackets. Question: How does a blind man choose a new shade of red? The difference between the old and new was certainly not obvious on our TV.

The Guards prepared for the State Visit of the Prime Minister of Ghana and also for the Queen's Birthday Parade. The new musical director prepared the playing of both anthems to finish at precisely the same moment as the Queen's carriage came to a halt. Such precision and such attention to detail is admirable. There is no sloppiness in the British Army. It must be right and it must be perfect. The Queen is the first to notice anyone slightly out of step or with a poor fitting uniform.

Regimental Adjutant Conway Seymour, a Grenadier for 46 years, says: "Of all the great heroes, there's none that can compare with the British Grenadiers." He reluctantly retired after being the fourth generation Guard in his family. The men put on a special musical march for him including "Auld Lang Syne" which nearly brought a tear to his eye. Although band musicians, these soldiers must also be fit and took part in the same drills as the soldiers preparing for active duty.

The Changing of the Guard continues to be one of Britain's top tourist attractions. As the Guards prepared, their Commander told them their orders would be obstructed by cheers of tourists and their sight by camera flashes.

For those chosen for active service in Afghanistan, it was a period of intense training and preparation. We saw them in a mock battle against the Taliban. The aim of their mission will be to assist the Afghan National Army in defeating the Taliban. By stabilising the country they hope to win over hearts and minds and reconstruct a nation ravaged by war. Over 50 British soldiers have lost their lives there with hundreds seriously injured so the stakes are high.

The message was that they had a job to do although privately the troops must have mixed emotions, especially at the point of no return when they collect their battle uniform and supplies.

My friend's daughter is joining the Guards shortly with an anticipated tour in Afghanistan so the programme was of personal interest.

Antonia Stuart-James is an English Hypnotherapist in Belgium helping people make positive change in their lives.

LBC Radio - London's Brightest Conversation

Whilst in the London area last week, I listened to LBC Radio in the car on 97.3. It was interesting to listen to stimulating conversation on a wide range of topics including:

- Words or expressions you mistakenly believed to have a different meaning.
- Sharing names with famous people.
- Should parents work to demonstrate work ethic to their children, even if better off on benefits?
- Scams.
- If you can see the sun and the moon at the same time, does that mean that parts of the world cannot see either?
- If planets were formed by explosions, how come they are pretty round and smooth rather than odd-shaped and jagged?
- Books you have read even though you did not enjoy them and considered them a waste of time but having started, felt you had to finish.
- The DaVinci Code.
- The UK and Russia tit-for-tat over diplomats.
- Lee Mead's debut as Joseph in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat".
- Boris Johnson standing for Mayor of London.

I am delighted to find that I can listen to LBC 97.3 on-line at, on Sky TV and on Digital Radio in various parts of the UK.