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Friday, 27 January 2023

January in Review - #WBOYC

 Is This Mutton's Gail Hanlon has afternoon tea at the Berkeley Hotel in London with friends

Dear friends. Welcome to the first month in review of 2023, which has a different look and feel. I'm joining bloggers in the southern hemisphere for #WBOYC, what's been on your calendar. 

I didn't set any resolutions as such for 2023, but I did have a few goals:

  • To read 100 books and be active on Good Reads 
  • To have more relaxation via activities like yoga, massage, sound baths
  • To have at least one cultural experience a month
  • To go on or two MeetUps or walks with the Ramblers Association each month
  • To mix up my exercise and do more weights
  • To launch a new blogger link-up
  • To not buy any clothes in January but shop my wardrobe! 
So how am I doing?

Books

So far I've read 7 books so I'm ahead of my reading goal. Early days! You'll find my latest book reviews here. I'm getting advance reader copies from NetGalley and sharing my reviews to Good Reads NetGalley and Amazon.  So far I've enjoyed all the books I requested with one exception, which I declined to review. It's certainly saving me a lot of money as I had quite an expensive Amazon habit! 

Walks

Only one MeetUp so far this year. I joined a group for a new walk from Bond Street to King's Cross. Very enjoyable. After strolling through Regent's Park we arrived at Primrose Hill for our lunch stop, and enjoyed spectacular views of London. You can see all the landmark buildings including the Shard, St Paul's Cathedral, The Gherkin, the Walkie Talkie and the BT Tower. 

Parakeets are a common sight in a lot of London's parks.  I see - and hear them - in our local cemetery. But I was surprised to see red and blue coloured parrots in Primrose Hill park. I can only assume they have escaped from nearby London Zoo. 


I did my usual local walks in Epping Forest, including a couple where John and I drove to the start point to explore a different route. He knows the forest like the back of his hand. 

I like to follow a group of Longhorn cattle, who graze parts of the forest all year round. They move around quite a lot so it's hit and miss as to whether or not I see them. 

Sometimes they're on paths, and other walkers get very nervous about going near them.  No need as "The Girls" are very docile and don't take any notice if you walk near them. 

On our 8 January walk we saw the girls and also had a blue sky. It was very muddy. 

Cultural Experiences

I visited the Dulwich Picture Gallery today for the first time.  It was founded in 1811 and was the first purpose-built art gallery in Europe, designed by John Soane. The gallery houses a collection of Dutch, Flemish, Italian, Spanish and French Old Masters. I feasted over paintings from Rubens, Rembrandt and Canaletto. Two later gifts added important British paintings from the likes of Gainsborough (one of my favourites). 

I was fascinated to see several works from Sir Joshua Reynolds and James Northcote, who were both alumni at my old school in Plymouth. 

The exhibition featured a Lithuanian artist and composer called M.K. ─îiurlionis. Well, this was fascinating. He died at 36 but had a feverishly creative period between 1902 and 1909. A symbolist painter and pioneer, M.K ─îiurlionis explored early abstraction, spirituality, philosophy and our relationship to the universe. The Evening Standard described the exhibition as "Mystical and magical," which I would agree with. 

This is one of his early works 1903-4. The figure suggests a God-like character from the Bible, but the animal skull suggests pagan associations. If you want to see more pics and you're quick, head over to my Stories on Instagram:  @is_this_mutton_


I've booked to see the new David Hockney immersive exhibition in March.  I'm thinking a visit to Tate Modern in February might be good - haven't been there for a few years.

Relaxing

I've enjoyed a few massages in the past but I never used to seek out yin yoga or other relaxing activities because I was always racing around, and found them too tame. Now I'm retired, I can live at a more gentle pace, and I've discovered a very good yin yoga class at my gym, and a monthly gong bath.  If you're wondering what a gong bath is, here's the set-up for the one I attend.


We started with a taster of cacao, used in ceremonials and said to open our hearts for self renewal that keeps us centered.  (No sniggering please). 

We snuggle under a blanket in darkness and wait for the first sounds of the gong and other instruments played.  Initially these are quiet. The gong sound is changed frequently to avoid producing a fixed, monotonous rhythm. The auditory stimuli of the gong bath process lead to entrainment, a form of beneficially modified brainwave frequencies. The first brainwave state to be reached is alpha, which is defined by frequencies between 8 and 12 Hz. Alpha brainwaves are associated with creativity and feelings of relaxation. All I can say is it's quite addictive. 

Blog Activities

The new link-up was launched - "Tell Us About...Time" and the four posts from the co-hosts in Australia, the US and the UK were all very different and very interesting. This is going to be fun! Next month's theme is Play, and we will be adding a link-up for others who want to join in. My post described the mortification on being late on a few occasions, when I am an obsessively punctual person.

BBC Radio Devon Anniversary

It was the 40th anniversary of the launch of Radio Devon, where I worked as a reporter and then news producer for six happy years. There's a reunion every year in Devon, although I haven't been able to get to many. Lots of reminiscences on the day, and this original photo was shared.  I'm at the front, wearing cream, and looking very serious. I wrote about some of my memorable experiences in radio here


Afternoon Tea at The Berkeley Hotel

The Berkeley, in London, is one of those hotels that's too posh to have a sign. I met  Penny (Frugal Fashion Shopper) and Janice for the hotel's celebrated "Pret a Portea."  

After a selection of sandwiches, cakes are served in the shapes, colours and styles of the latest catwalk trends. These are changed every season.  They gave us a little leaflet explaining which designers were being featured. It's a brilliant unique selling proposition when afternoon teas in London are 10 a penny!  (Although much more expensive...).

It was a lovely relaxed occasion.  I am not normally an eater of cakes or desserts, but I have to say the cakes were not too sweet and had varied flavourings which kept me nibbling.  You can see the three of us at the top of the post. Penny is in the green beret.  She very kindly gifted me a Studio Preen purple coat which will soon be making an appearance on the blog.


Below: close-up of one of the cakes, shaped like a handbag. Everything is edible.


Mixing Up My Exercise

Well, you've got to give me credit here - I went on a bootcamp refresher!  It was in Derbyshire, a part of the Midlands I've never been to.  It was quite tough but also good fun.  Read more about my experience here

Back home, I had a session with a trainer at my gym who gave me some guidance on using the TRX  (which is a pulley based thing that uses your own body weight) for core and glutes/quads, and a couple of machines in the weights room for shoulders and hamstrings.

Not Shopping in January

I have been trying not to buy any clothes in January.  I've done quite well. I did buy a couple of sports bras and leggings, but I needed them for the boot camp.  I realised all my fitness gear is several years old. Apart from that, nothing.  I haven't found it too difficult and may carry on, at least until Kettlewell releases its new collection. I didn't do very well in my intention to try to wear "real clothes" every day, rather than athleisure. I typically go for a walk or to the gym in the morning, so I put on athleisure. It's easier to add a fleece or cardigan as the day goes on. It's been too cold to change clothes.  My Instagram bears testament to this - hardly any outfit shots in January! 

Also in January

It hasn't all been plain sailing. The hubster has been quite unwell for the last few days, but seems to be turning the corner.  As he's such an active and sporty person, it's a nightmare for him when he has take it easy for days.

My brother's cat Leo died, which was very sad. He was 11. 

What We Watched

We're currently engrossed in Happy Valley (BBC), The End of Us (Netflix) and Women at War (Netflix). All three are extremely good.  Happy Valley needs no introduction. Sarah Lancashire and James Norton are amazing.  I treasure each episode in the knowledge that this is the last series. 

The End of Us is a little ponderous but perfectly watchable. A fungal species called Cordyceps has taken over, invading the bodies of humans and turning them into some sort of zombie.  It stars Pedro Pascal from Game of Thrones. He's a drugs smuggler who becomes entrusted with taking the feisty 14 year old Elle  (Bella Ramsey, also from GoT) to a place where vaccines are being developed. It seems she is able to repel the bites of the Cordyceps.

Women at War is outstanding. It's a French drama about three women whose lives intertwine in World War One.  I knew it would be great when I saw it stars Audrey Fleurot, who was in Spiral amongst other things, and is such an expressive actor. 

We also enjoyed Woman of the Dead (Netflix), a curiously named German thriller about a female undertaker whose husband is run over in what police say is an accident.  She has misgivings and starts her own investigations, uncovering widespread corruption and abuse of female immigrants. She doesn't wait for police to catch up. This is one kick ass undertaker. 

The jury is out on Extraordinary Attorney Woo (Netflix). On the one hand, it's good to see a woman on the autism spectrum killing it as a lawyer in Korea. But it's packaged as a sickly sweet confection. Attorney Woo is adorable and cute, and we bristle against the other lawyers when they panic about her appearing in court, or roll their eyes as she tries to negotiate swinging doors. I like it but the hubster is less keen. The episodes are perhaps long at an hour. 

I treated myself to Mrs Harris Goes to Paris  (Prime), a delightful film about a cleaner (Lesley Manville) who craves a Dior gown.  Finally she has enough money and travels to Paris but things don't initially go very smoothly. It's a redemptive tale where Mrs Harris transforms the lives of workers at Dior and gets a happy ending. The atelier dresses! I was in heaven.

What I've Been Listening To 

I'm hooked on The Phenomenon, which would make a brilliant TV series.  Only 98% of the world's population is left after people were blinded and then destroyed by flashes in the sky (later named "the shards.").  Survivors are mostly people who had been entrusted to manage situations like this for governments, who fled to special bunkers. There are strict hierarchies for who can access certain information. And then another adversary appears.  Gripping, and extremely well done.

Sharing this post with: #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings, Rena at Fine WhateverTalent Sharing Tuesdays at Scribbling Boomer #SpreadTheKindness at Shelbee on the Edge,  Traffic Jam Weekend at Marsha in the Middle

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