Friday 29 November 2013

The joy of pets

    I have to warn guests before they visit for the first time that they’d better like animals. My roof currently conceals one dog, two cats and two degus. For those who aren’t keen on pets it can seem a little overwhelming – too many tails in one space. However, I am a pet person and, for me, a house isn’t a home until I’m moaning that the sofa’s covered in fur.
    It’s the degus that usually cause furrowed brows as they’re not as commonplace as your average hamster. Degus look like big gerbils and people are usually surprised by how friendly they are. Sociable creatures, they need to be kept in pairs or trios. We keep ours in the living room, they need a large cage and have become quite an imposing centrepiece to the room. Their chatter sounds like birdsong, and as diurnal pets (rather than being nocturnal like many little rodents) it’s great to watch them run around their cage, groom each other and snuggle up to sleep together. Watching the degus is like watching a little microcosm of life, the soap opera of Casa del Rodent.
My 'Doris' Degu
    Contrasting with the frenetic behaviour of the degus is the absolute laziness of my cats. Both adopted long-haired beasts, my cats are their own men – they aren’t those obedient purring lap cats from the cat food adverts. Every outfit I own comes with a side order of fur. I try to remove the worst of it before I leave the house but that’s it, I’ve learnt to accept my furry fate. I love the calming effect a cat has on a household. Cats make brilliant companions, and their independent nature means that they’re ideal for those who’d find a dog too demanding. Despite the naysayers, cats can be just as loyal and loving as a dog, and often pick one person as a favourite.
    There is no denying of course that a well-loved dog will be loyal to the entire family. A barking buddy is the best friend anybody can have, and I certainly don’t think I’ll ever live in a dog-less house again. I’ve gotten so used to having my shadow follow me round, the house would seem very quiet without him. I’ve also become acutely aware of how much I rely on the dog as a mini vacuum cleaner to snuffle up every tiny dropped crumb. When I go to a house without a dog it now annoys me that I have to pick up every stray crumb myself, whereas at home the crumbs are caught before they hit the floor!
    Considering I grew up without a cat or a dog I can’t imagine being without them now, and although I dream of fur-free furniture and clothes it’s a small price to pay for the benefit of never being lonely, even when I’m home alone. The grooming, the vet bills, the food, the inability to dash off for a spontaneous weekend away without planning a petsitter, it’s all worth it. And I hope my spoilt pets enjoy sharing our company as much as we do  – and our guests do too.

    All blog content and photos are Copyright of Charisse Sayers Proofreader & Copywriter I welcome all feedback and would love to know your thoughts so please get in touch, comment, share, like and generally get involved!

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Time for tea

    Apart from the prevalence of grey skies, the love of dismal soap operas, and a fickle attitude towards the monarchy, one thing that is commonly acknowledged as a binding ingredient of British culture is the amber nectar: tea. So I thought I’d give a quick rundown of my top tea destinations.
    1. Coombe Abbey was founded in 1150 and serves a slice of history with your afternoon tea. Served in the ornate Garden Room Restaurant, be sure to explore the rest of the grounds before heading home:grandiose tea at its best.
     2. Fletchers Family Garden Centre. This is great for families as behind the tea room there’s an animal sanctuary specialising in rescued birds. It always amazes me how many people take an animal as a pet without researching the proper way to care for them. A trip here teaches kids that pets really are for life, they aren’t fancy toys.
    3. Swinfen Hall. I had a particularly delicious panna cotta here, although it was the view of the deer roaming the grounds that I loved most. A relaxing cup of tea is always enhanced by a beautiful view, and despite the unusual neighbours (a young offender institution) the views
Portmeirion's shining example
 here are nice.
     4. Portmeirion Hotel. I’ve been to Portmeirion many times, and I love the atmosphere. I’ve also undertaken a very thorough (if not official) survey of all the restaurants and cafes on the ground and can confirm that I’ve yet to be disappointed. The recently restored Art Deco hotel has hosted many celebrities so you’re in good company.
     5. In bed. The exact opposite of posh afternoon tea, there’s nothing as good as waking up to find a freshly brewed cuppa next to the bed. The rule in my house is whoever’s awake first puts the kettle on. End the day with a pint of beer perhaps but always begin it with a pint of tea.
All blog content and photos are Copyright of Charisse Sayers Proofreader & Copywriter I welcome all feedback and would love to know your thoughts so please get in touch, comment, share, like and generally get involved!

Your first job matters

     Much like where you went to school, or if you got kicked out of Brownies, your first job can have a major impact on the person you will grow to become. I’ve seen plenty of enthusiastic graduates swiftly and unfortunately flounder once they finish university if they attempt to start a career with absolutely no working experience behind them. That first job – as poorly paid and exploitative as it may seem – provides more than just experience in that specific role.
    My first job was in a pharmacy as a medicine counter assistant, I worked for the princely sum of £2.25 per hour. I did Saturdays and fitted weekday shifts around my college studies. I worked there for three years and learnt far more than the safe daily doses of paracetamol. Despite spending many of the Friday nights beforehand up until the sun rose, I knew that my colleagues would be in real trouble if I didn’t show up, so I never missed a shift unless I was genuinely unwell. There were many Saturdays I dragged myself off the bus with a stonking hangover but I made sure I made it in. My colleagues had become my friends – despite all being on average 30 years older than me – and I didn’t want to let them down.

Ok, so the pharmacy where I worked wasn't quite as Victorian
as this gem at Blists Hill in Shropshire
    It wasn’t just my workmates who helped me learn to appreciate the importance of communicating with people you wouldn’t necessarily normally deal with. Being a small local pharmacy the core customer base were elderly ladies and gents who’d come in for their massive carrier bags of medicine, and often wanted a chat just as much as their treatments.
    Discretion and kindness were essential, if someone’s asking advice for an embarrassing ailment the least you can do is try to help them with dignity, and reassure them that you’re not going behind the counter and having a good giggle about them. Many of our older customers specifically said they came to our little store as the bigger chain pharmacy had untrained staff who didn’t respect their privacy, shouting across the store for help from another colleague drawing attention to their condition.
     I’ve never been big into gambling but if I ever took up poker I can’t help but think my poker face will be exceptional due to this. I will never forget the young guy who asked for medication to treat crabs for his ‘friend’, it was painfully obvious it was for himself but I had to keep up the charade so as not to embarrass him: I could have earnt an Oscar for that performance.
    However, the most important thing it taught me was budgeting. Different from pocket money, once you’re earning your own money it becomes so much more precious. For someone who’s never earned a penny on their own, leaving university and having to accept a lower wage than they might desire can seem cutting, but to someone who has worked before a lower wage might be more palatable as they know pay rises and career progression opportunities are often worth waiting for.
    Although I had no idea at the time, that first job shaped me both as an employee and also as a person. So whether it’s slogging long hours flipping burgers, cycling round your neighbours delivering papers, or selling dozens of tubes of haemorrhoid treatment a day like I was, get that first job long before you’re looking for a ‘career’: it’ll help you more than you’ll realise.

All blog content and photos are Copyright of Charisse Sayers Proofreader & Copywriter I welcome all feedback and would love to know your thoughts so please get in touch, comment, share, like and generally get involved!

#SaveTheDay Doctor Who 50th Anniversary

    There’s one day on my calendar currently free and staying free and that’s Saturday 23rd November. For anyone familiar with the madman in the blue box it’s a special day as the 50th anniversary episode airs.
     I should preface this by making it clear I’m not a hardcore fan. I may have decorated my shed so it resembles a Tardis but it does still function fully as a shed, I don’t dress up in a brown pinstripe suit and run around in it discussing transmats with myself. Our screwdrivers are all non-sonic. Likewise, I’ll be watching the episode at home. I’m not dedicated enough to go to the cinema; although I can appreciate it’ll be great on the big screen in 3D, I like my own sofa.
Shame my shed doesn't have a real David Tennant in it...
     However, I’m not going to act coy and pretend I’m not excited. I’ve been rewatching old episodes trying to work out if any of the old storylines and characters will pop up. ‘Silence in the Library’ was a great double parter that saw the introduction, and demise, of River Song. Given the importance of the term ‘silence’ in further episodes I’m really hoping there will be some type of reference back to this story.
    One thing I’m very pleased about is the return of David Tennant (or ‘the Tennant’ as he’s referred to with reverence in our house). We love the Tennant, his return is a great idea and very warmly welcomed. I’m also hoping this means a cameo from Captain Jack might be on the cards, although there are mixed reports in the press about this (yes, I have been guilty of Googling ‘spoilers doctor who’, I am aware this basically makes me a confirmed geek). A return of ‘Mickey the idiot’ and Donna Noble would also be great – and Wilfred Mott if possible!
     I’m only familiar with the revamped series, but I hope the hardcore Who fans are rewarded too. With 50 years to draw from not everything can be included, but even if the nods to nostalgia are subtle they should be there. I’m trusting the BBC to tread the fine line between pleasing the serious fanatics and keeping the episode enjoyable for casual watchers too. It was casually watching a Christmas special at a friend’s house one year that got me hooked: my reluctant husband got drawn in after watching ‘Blink’, and who could blame him.
    Talking of the Weeping Angels I’m pretty sure they won’t be making an appearance, but I have a feeling the Silence definitely will, and maybe the Great Intelligence. We never did find out what was controlling the Tardis when the Pandorica exploded (unless I missed something, in which case please let me know!) and since the Great Intelligence is later shown to be good with technology hacking (‘The Bells of Saint John’) it wouldn’t surprise me if he was behind it. This might tie back to ‘Silence in the Library’ – every book in existence, wouldn’t he love that knowledge?
    Finally, if there’s one thing I want the anniversary episode to clear up it’s what was that freaky ‘clown’ picture in the hallway of ‘The Lodger’ episode?! It literally gave me nightmares that thing. Never mind that the Tardis ‘upstairs’ (similar to the second staircase in Amy's house...) seemed to be the one seen later with the Silence round it in ‘Day of the Moon’, was that strange picture of Dr Simeon? Or just to make sure that nobody gets any sleep before the anniversary airs? Either way, I hope it doesn’t make a repeat appearance so I end up watching the episode through my clasped fingers, cosy on my sofa, poised for some long overdue answers.
All blog content and photos are Copyright of Charisse Sayers Proofreader & Copywriter I welcome all feedback and would love to know your thoughts so please get in touch, comment, share, like and generally get involved!

What's on my Christmas list

     After a remarkably mild October I have a sneaky feeling November's going to turn very cold very quickly. The 1st of November usually signals a remarkable change in shops to 90% Christmas stock, which normally I'm against but I'm feeling uncharacteristically keen to watch Home Alone, eat mince pies and make a vat of mulled wine.
     I'm generally easy to buy for; that anyone is generous enough to get me a gift in the first place warms my cockles like chestnuts on an open fire, so I'll pretty much be pleased with anything. However, just in case anyone is unsure of what to get me, here are a few ideas:
A previous batch of my Lush
pots ready for recycling
    1. Lush toiletries. You can never go wrong with a Lush gift voucher. Their shampoos and conditioners are brilliant and everything else is basically magical so if you desire my eternal gratitude start here.
    2. A magazine subscription. I love reading and will happily spend hours reading (almost) anything. Magazines through the post super excite me so make sure it’s a topic I like (lads mags no, literary reviews yes) and I’ll have a year of joy via the letter box.
    3. Food. Homemade food gifts in particular. Make a voucher inviting me to your house for dinner and I’ll be quick to cash it in. If there’s anything I like more than nice food it’s nice food I don’t have to cook myself.
     4. Interesting alcohol. Four cans of Special Brew isn’t what I have in mind here. Chocolate vodka or coconut rum however would be a wise offering. Vom Fass Marzipan Cream Liquer for example looks divine, and every Christmas cake needs a healthy dose of marzipan.
     5. A special photo of a loved one. This is a really simple gift but one I’m always happy to receive, especially when it’s cute nieces and nephews in the pictures. If it’s in a gorgeous frame even better. To me interior design means having as many lovely photos on display as possible.
    Looking at my top five now I’m thinking I should perhaps have added diamonds or Art Deco furniture to the list but in reality I’m not entirely sure that come the big day opening a bling bundle will be as fun as opening an extra large box of Ferrero Rocher – chocolate for breakfast is a festive tradition in my house. Ditto admiring a mahogany Art Deco drinks cabinet isn’t quite as enjoyable as opening a drinks cabinet and getting a winter warmer.
    Generally, I like a lazy Christmas surrounded by the people I love, which I guess is what my dream list reflects: an indulgent morning bath, good food and drink, and then doing not very much at all with my favourite people around. And best of all, seeing people’s smiles when they open the gifts I got them.

All blog content and photos are Copyright of Charisse Sayers Proofreader & Copywriter I welcome all feedback and would love to know your thoughts so please get in touch, comment, share, like and generally get involved!

Why I love Harry Potter

    JK Rowling often gets a bad press. Not all the time obviously – I do believe her books have, generally, sold rather well – but for every good review praising her achievements out come the Rowling bashers too.
    Let's not forget that the Harry Potter series is aimed at children, which immediately seems to annoy people when adults enjoy reading them too. I never really understood this opinion, as if any adults who enjoy the stories are therefore missing out on great 'grownup' literature (not to be confused with 'adult' literature, which deserves a blog of its own probably judging by the popularity of Mills & Boon).
A truly shabby waxwork in Prague
that had blue eyes and no wand
    My main irk however are those who say it hasn't encouraged children to read more, as if Harry Potter isn't real literature, and all children should be snuggled in bed with a first edition of The Pilgrim's Progress instead. Snobbery around what is the 'right' type of book to read is what holds many people back from reading. Not everyone is a natural reader and getting children to read anything that they enjoy will encourage more reading in the future.
     As a child I loved the Beano and Dandy and looked forward to reading them every week, as well as my fortnightly Animals of Farthing Wood magazine, which cost over a pound per issue so was a special treat. I seriously believe that reading these as a child helped me learn to appreciate how nice it is to put time aside to read. Hence, I bristle when people sneer at readers of graphic novels – if people enjoy reading them then what's the problem!
Dangerous wizard on the prowl
     Literacy, or more accurately a lack of, can impact hugely on someone's ability to live their life. It's my job to correct spelling and grammar, but I'd never ever judge the people who I help. I proofread a thesis for an engineering PhD candidate in the summer, their English was poor but their knowledge in their field was outstanding, so does an inability to position an apostrophe correctly make them an idiot – obviously not.
    I recently did some online searches for insurance provider reviews, looking on forums for people's experiences to help me decide who to go with. I was perhaps a bit na├»ve as I'm not a forum user myself but the abuse people received for simple typos shocked me. Ostracising someone who either just made a mistake or who genuinely has trouble with their spelling will only isolate them further. I didn't like the online bullying as I saw it, it was nasty and the electronic equivalent of sticking a dunce hat on someone.
    So why do I love JK so much? Because it became more acceptable for adults to read children's books, it also made reading cool again for a generation of kids who've grown up with technology sweeping around them at a heady pace. So forget the snobs I say, a real reading advocate will appreciate the value of all literature: especially Harry Potter.

All blog content and photos are Copyright of Charisse Sayers Proofreader & Copywriter I welcome all feedback and would love to know your thoughts so please get in touch, comment, share, like and generally get involved!