Fashion,beauty and jewellery for the non-invisible woman over 45

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Sentence a Day: May 2018

As you may remember, May was a Big Month for me because I was walking the 190-mile Coast to Coast route for 15 days with Mr Mutton (J) and his sister K. I had been training and buying suitable clothing for months. So the holiday mentions will be a bit longer than the usual sentence format.

May 1 Tues
Working at home. Published April SAD.

May 2 Weds
Received an invite to a Dove blogger retreat. Never been able to attend an event like this before because of working. Actually able to attend because it falls during time off! Exciting.

May 3 Thurs
At work; lunch walk became painful. Got home, voted in local council elections, then went to  see a GP about knee. Have a sports injury - me! Never thought the day would come. Too much walking apparently.

May 4
Had an ultrasound guided cortisone injection. Didn't hurt. Finished handover at work for holiday. Had a delivery from Dove - some of their "Summer Revived" and "Visible Glow" gradual tan products to try. Had a fish n chips supper.
May 5 Sat
Hot weather!! Gardening. Knee feels fine.

May 6
Walked to my gym class, four miles. First time I have walked since I had the injection 48 hours ago.  Told J it's a miracle. Leg fine! Read article about Charlie Puth. Big Instagram star. Never heard of him. Finished packing for the holiday.

May 7 bank (public) holiday
Set off on the holiday, Euston to St Bees via Carlisle on board a train called Matthew Flinders. Captain Flinders RN was an English navigator and cartographer, who was the leader of the first circumnavigation of Australia and identified it as a continent.

J had splashed out on First Class tickets. Free drinks and sandwiches. Wonderful sunny day. St Bees is a tiny village on the coast which does brisk business from Coast to Coast walkers. Our bed and breakfast (B&B) was very close to the station. We had dinner at a place called The Manor. Crispy batter fish n chips.

May 8: Day one - St Bees to Ennerdale, 14 miles (turned into 16)
High standard set at the St Bees B&B with a big breakfast, plus for our packed lunch, a plastic bag with our name on and home-made flapjack.  As is the tradition, picked up two pebbles on the beach to carry to Robin Hood's Bay (one to take home). The first few miles were along the St Bees coastal path. Saw a lighthouse and a bird hide to view gannets. Cloudy in the morning and became very overcast and misty in the afternoon.

First 10 miles were OK but soon we had to climb a horrendous fell, Dent hill, by which time visibility was very poor. K set off very fast and we couldn't see her after a while.  A local gave us a longer route to avoid a very muddy steep descent, which added another mile. Had to walk through about 12 wild horses who were in the middle of the path and refused to move.

Our farmhouse accommodation was reached via meadows. The lady owner rushed out to meet us and liberate us of wet clothes. Her husband drove us to a local pub, the Fox and Hounds, for dinner.  Long wait for the main course and we were very tired.
Three pictures showing St Bees at the start of the Wainwright Coast to Coast walk
Left: three pebbles; top right, setting off from St Bees; bottom right, striding out along the coast path
May 9 Day two - Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite, 16 miles
Set off at 8.20. Proprietor of the B&B drove us to the village. Saw cockerels on the road as we walked to Ennerdale lake. After walking round the lake, we had a long walk along a straightish road to Black Sail Youth Hostel, in the middle of nowhere. It seemed to take forever but then the isolated building appeared like a mirage.

Had sandwiches inside and tea with millionaires shortcake. Left money in the honesty box. Joined by other walkers. After lunch, which was poor  (slices of tasteless cheese in boring bread with crisps and a Mars bar and nothing home-made), had a very steep ascent followed by a worse descent as it had rocks and stones which jar my dodgy knees. Windy and cold.

Finally got to Honister slate mine. Ordered drinks but didn't get chance to have mine because I'd decided to catch the bus rather than walk another three miles. Aching with sore feet.  Got to our accommodation, the Langstrath, around 4. Had a cup of tea in bar. We've stayed in the Langstrath before so I knew there would be a bath. Bliss!

Dinner in their restaurant was delicious:  haggis/black pudding croquette followed by trout and then a cheese board. J was so tired he went to bed before the cheese and biscuits arrived. The first few days, in the Lake District, are tough.
May 10: day three, Rosthwaite to Grasmere, 9 miles
Better weather, sunny intervals. Long ascent up Borrowdale valley. Boggy beyond. J fell in the mud, up to knees. Lunch from the Langstrath was pleasant, smoked salmon bagette and wild thyme crisps, although there was no drink. The descent was long and hard on the knees but not too bad. Was excited to be going to Grasmere. A proper town, with shops! After just three days I'm missing retail therapy.

Got to Grasmere at 3. Had coffee in an art gallery coffee shop,  and did a little shopping. Dinner at The Jumble Room was excellent. Lively, crowded place. We all had something different. I had the "thriller from Manila" - spicey noodles with seafood -  and a starter of crab crostini. J had the dessert speciality, gingerbread sponge.

May 11: day four, Grasmere to Patterdale, 7 miles
The initial ascent was long but fairly gradual. K decided to walk a more challenging ridge route. J was anxious as he watched her in the distance, as it was getting very windy.
My feet are prepared every morning with plasters! Bottom left, setting off from Grasmere.
Arrived in Patterdale about 2.30. Tiny village with a general store, couple of pubs and a school. Walked to the next village, Glenridding, for coffee. Then back to our accommodation, the White Lion Inn. Dinner was good. I had beef chilli followed by syrup sponge. I'm eating the sort of calorific food I wouldn't normally have.

Noisy, busy pub full of walkers. Good atmosphere. Saw Michael from Herts and the 2 young Americans. We've been seeing them each day although the youngsters have a rest day so we won't finish at the same time.

J booked all the evening meals and it's becoming a hilarious trend that nearly every time our name is wrongly spelt, even though he insists he spells it out. Below, Hanlon has become "Landlen"

May 12: day five, Patterdale to Shap, 11 miles
J and I went off the official route, getting a steamer across Ullswater to Pooley Bridge and following a fairly benign mostly flat path. This took around 4 miles off the route, mostly for my benefit. Such beautiful views across the lake.
Ullswater Lake

The baguette from the White Lion was very good. Meals are extremely important on this type of holiday!

The weather was great until about 3.15 then clouded over a little and rained around 5. Unfortunately my feet were hurting very badly. Particularly left ankle. Became very weary. Then we had a long walk to the  B&B. I was lurching like a zombie. Margaret, the B&B owner, who's been doing this for 50 years, made scones for us presented with tea and served on Victoriana Roses crockery. How lovely.
Brookfield House B&B in Shap, Cumbria, presents walkers doing the Coast to Coast walk with delicious warm scones and lemon curd with tea

Had dinner in the Kings Arms. Scampi and chips.

I had been mulling over whether or not I could carry on, for a couple of days. Decided to go home tomorrow. While the walks may be flatter now, some are still very long. I would be fine if there were rest days, but we couldn't fit any in because I didn't want to use up too much of my holiday allowance.

Some of the walks are 19 -20 miles and I can't contemplate it. I knew everyone was going to try to talk me out of it so I quickly booked a one-way train ticket. No arguments. I figured it was best to leave at this point because from tomorrow the walk takes us into Yorkshire and a long way from train stations.

Sunday May 13
I took the usual "starting off" photo for J and K. They were already arguing about the route. Then I  waited for a taxi to take me to Penrith station. Home by 4pm. I felt irrationally happy to see dear old London.  I'm a city person when all's said and done. Those hills frighten me.

Meamwhile J and K have arrived in Kirkby Stephen, Yorkshire - looking cheerful!

May 14 Mon
So now I've got two weeks of holiday! I did think about going back to work but it was only a passing thought. Lovely weather. Went to garden centre and bought lots of plants. Spent most of day in garden. Called J around 5pm to see how he was doing.

Tues May 15
Still good weather so planted the rest of the plants I'd bought.

Weds May 16
Collected Molly from the cattery and took her straight to the next door vet to get her annual booster. This was handy, removing the need to catch her and pop her in the basket a second time. She doesn't like being handled by strangers so sometimes the annual visit to the vet is a nightmare. Fortunately she was OK this time.

K is now walking on her own doing more difficult routes. J had worked out easier routes for my benefit months ago, so he is happy to stick to the original plan. He's meeting other people along the route and isn't too perturbed.

Thurs May 17
Decided to surprise J by booking a train ticket from London to Scarborough for the last day of the walk. From Scarborough I will get the bus to Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire, the final destination.

Went into London to look round the shops, but couldn't find any clothes I liked. This is odd because when I look online, I find plenty.

May 18
Having some back end issues with the blog. Google is currently not indexing nearly half of my pages. Spent ages trying to find the problems. Installed a new template and started a new analytics account.

May 19
The royal wedding! Installed myself on sofa from 9am having been to the shops and made lunch early. By 10.30 had eaten lunch!
Is This Mutton blogger Gail Hanlon getting into the Royal Wedding spirit as she prepares to watch the nuptials of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
J hasn't had any company the last couple of nights. K decided to shorten her holiday by a day which meant doing extra miles during the day and  staying at different accommodation.  Normally J sees people he knows at the pubs for dinner, but the last couple of nights he hasn't. I feel sad for him.

May 20
Another hot day. Cooked the usual roast dinner for just me. Planted purple petunias and bright pink geraniums. Wrote a blog post with my thoughts on the Royal Wedding, here.

Tues May 22
Early start, train to Kings Cross then York followed by long wait for the Scarborough train and then a bus to Robin Hood's Bay.

I got there around 1.30 and had a toasted sandwich, having worked out J would get there around 3pm.  He messaged me to say he was coming into RHB, and I got into position and jumped out at him. He was so thrilled to see me. There were even a few tears.
Road sign showing a walker the mileage to Robin Hood's Bay on the final day of the Coast to Coast wak
J sees the first sign to Robin Hood's Bay 

We had a fun dinner at the Victoria Hotel, with two Aussies Sharon and Cliff from Perth (still no bath). J was amazed to learn how much I know about Australian cricket in the 1970s, having had a big crush on Jeff Thomson.

Lots of other walkers were there on their final night too. Had a pate starter (huge) and fish and chips (again!). The fish was from nearby Whitby and melted in the mouth. Sharon and Cliff were going to a Dire Straits tribute evening but we gave it a miss.
Arriving at Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire, the last day of the Coast to Coast walk
Final day: top, view of Robin Hood's Bay from our hotel. Bottom left, J at the finish. Right: we started with three pairs of feet in the sand. Just one pair at the end!
Weds May 23
We left RBH by taxi to Scarborough. Train on time, lovely to get complimentary food in 1st class. Hot when we got home. Exofoliated and applied Dove Summer Revived gradual tanner.

May 24 Thurs
To Bath for the Dove #SummerRevived event. Was stressing a bit about what to wear, and pack, as I knew I would be among "heavy hitter" fashion bloggers. Had a wonderful time. There were eight of us altogether, only one that I had met before (the lovely Laurie from Vanity and Me).

After brunch we enjoyed a massage and the spa facilities, followed by afternoon tea. There were gorgeous flowers in our room. After a class making cocktails we had a lovely dinner with a  tasting menu and matching wines. Then sank into the wonderfully comfortable bed!
Dove's gradual tanning products and beautiful flowers left in hotel room at Dove bloggers spa retreat

Fri May 25
Quite a challenge to get the huge bouquet safely home on the trains, with my case and bag! Went out for a drink with J in the evening. View my Dove post.

Sat May 26
Did usual shopping and picked up my new glasses: tortoiseshell frames. Then did some gardening.
Sun May 27
Power Plate and a walk. J has toothache. Pasta for him, roast chicken for me. Good weather. His daughter and her fiance are in the process of moving house so they didn't come round.

Mon May 28
Bank (public) holiday and day off. Cloudy morning, then sun came out. Our small garden teems with wildlife and we have seen a lot of blackbird activity in the hedge. The female is sitting on four eggs. J managed to get a photo when she left to find food. Just hope there will be a happy ending - last year magpies destroyed the nest and chicks. It was so upsetting.
Close up of blackbirds' nest in the UK with four blue green eggs, May 2018

Tues May 29
Back to work after 3 weeks holiday. A lot of emails to get through! Weather cloudy and cool.

Weds May 30
More reconciled to being back at work. Did a walk at lunchtime and PP abs class in the evening.

Thursday May 31
Worked from home.

Sharing this post with Weekend Blog Hop at Claire Justine, Saturday Share at Not Dressed as Lamb and FakeItTillYouMakeIt at Fake Fabulous


Sunday, 20 May 2018

Thoughts on the royal wedding

The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Image: USA Today
Image: USA Today

Thousands of column inches have been devoted to analysis of the royal wedding but undeterred, I'm going to give my two'pennorth  (or 10 cents, for US readers). Hold on to your hats ladies!

Thursday, 10 May 2018

200 mile walk ahead!

Preparing for the 200 mile Coast to Coast challenge which takes in the national parks in England. What to wear and what to take.
By the time you read this, I will be setting off on a massive challenge: the Wainwright Coast to Coast walk.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Miami, Mutton and bluebells: Sentence a Day, April

A table decorated for Easter in London, UK, April 2018. Includes an Easter wreath and an Easter tree decorated with glass birds and woolly sheep.
April 1, Easter Sunday
Easter seems such a long time ago! Had a lovely Easter table and roast rib of beef. The kids and their partners came for lunch and we played games afterwards.


Monday, 23 April 2018

What I Wore in the Bluebell Wood

Is This Mutton blogger and husband in a secret bluebell wood outside London, spring 2018
We're lucky to have a secret bluebell wood not too far away, in Epping Forest. At this time of year the wonderful delicate English bluebells are out and their sweet scent drenches the forest glade.

Friday, 6 April 2018

The Blended Blog asks: Spring

It's officially spring and finally the weather is co-operating. My favourite time of year! So much promise: beautiful flowers, long languid summer days, a glass of wine in the garden in the evenings, not having to wear coats, jumpers or tights.

The Blended Blog has set us some questions about April:

Friday, 23 March 2018

A Brief History of the Brassiere

Image showing a young woman wearing lace underwear on a sumptuous bed.
Our relationship with the brassiere is one of love / hate. Many women say it's the first thing they take off when they get home.

But like them or loathe them, our figures would be considerably worse without the support, particularly as we get older.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Sentence a Day, 02.18

Very pleased to be taking part for the first time in Sentence a Day, a monthly series where a number of bloggers share a review of our month written in one sentence a day. I made a few rookie errors, among them not taking enough photos! I promise to make it a bit more visual next month. Oh, and you'll have to humour me with the British obsession about the weather.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

You're never too young to have a heart attack

Image showing a woman over 45 in a bedroom holding her hands in a heart shape. The picture illustrates an article on blog Is This Mutton? about how to stay healthy and active to avoid heart disease in early middle age.
The tragic deaths of Indian film star Sridevi at just 54, and British comedy actress Emma Chambers, aged 53, have shone a light on heart attacks and how they are claiming more women at younger ages.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Ultra Violet: the 2018 Colour of the Year

Image showing the colour ultra violet, the colour of the year for 2018 recommended by the Pantone Institute
The Pantone Institute has chosen this colour, ultra violet, as its colour of the year.  Expect to see this variation of purple in home decor and fashion.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Christmas traditions from around the world

How different is a Christmas in Alaska from a Christmas in Stockholm? Or Canada? Or Spain or Germany?
As Is This Mutton? discovered, there are lots of similarities - but also some unique cultural traditions.

Friday, 1 December 2017

How a tailor discovered Tanzanite, one of the world's favourite gem stones

Image showing a tanzanite ring with diamond in 18K gold from Gemporia
There's a clue to where the gemstone Tanzanite comes from, and it's in the name. Tanzania is the only place on earth where this gorgeous deep blue / violet stone is mined.

In our continuing series on the birthstones, Is This Mutton? explores tanzanite -the birthstone for December, discovered just recently in the 1960s.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Pinterest for Bloggers

Image showing blogger Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton in an article on how bloggers can grow traffic with Pinterest
What I like about Pinterest is that unlike the other social media channels, it isn't all about big numbers. It doesn't matter how many people follow your boards. What matters is that people like your pins, and that your pins are correctly labelled so that Google and Pinterest can index them properly and they appear in searches. Here are my tips for bloggers on how to grow your traffic with Pinterest.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Red Bombshell dress and a night at Heston's

Image showing a 50 plus woman in the garden wearing a red Bombshell dress
I have always wanted a Bombshell dress. They never fail to make the wearer look curvaceous and confident, whether it's Nigella Lawson, who bought 12,  or blogger Nikki Garnett (scroll down to see her in a full-length gold Bombshell dress). So when I heard, three months ago, that I'd succeeded in getting a fab new job at my advanced age, I decided to treat myself to a red Bombshell dress.
Image showing a 50 plus woman in red figure flattering dress and quirky red and black shoes decorated with cherries
It got its first outing at the weekend when Mr Mutton and I went for dinner at the glamorous Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.  It was my post birthday treat. 

I find it hard to find the right shoes to go with occasion wear. If I was able to wear high heels, finding a fabulous pair wouldn't be a problem. But I literally can't walk in them so I have to find kitten heels or low block heels. They don't always look very fashionable. The model on the Bombshell website was wearing nude high heels with her red dress but that's a bit too "Middleton" for me. I found a suitably quirky and cute pair of shoes at one of my favourite brands, Poetic Licence. I teamed them with nude fishnets.
Image showing a woman in her 50s in a red dress standing by the bar of a luxurious London hotel
First stop, a glass of Champagne at the bar. 
Dinner by Heston is not to be confused with his eponymous restaurant The Fat Duck at Bray in Berkshire. I went there a few years ago and it's a fabulous experience, working your way through the experimental and stunning tasting menu.

The Dinner restaurant, overlooking Hyde Park, offers modern dishes, inspired by historic British gastronomy. The menu shows the year when each dish was originally to be found. We love this restaurant because it's got such a great vibe. The staff are very friendly and enthusiastic without being pompous or overbearing. I realised I was done with Michelin starred fine dining when, at another famous London restaurant, a waiter said snootily "I'll ask the water waiter" when asked for another bottle of water.
Image showing a man in his early 60s at a restaurant in London
Mr Mutton gets his close-up 
The last time we were here it was in June for our wedding anniversary. We had a table looking out at the park and the light was fantastic. Last night, it was dark outside and more atmospheric inside, but it didn't make for great photography so I won't share all the photos we took of our food (sorry Nancy!).  I was seated with a great view straight into the kitchen. One guy spent the evening grappling with the flames of an oven that was searing pork chops. Another was painstakingly cleaning and trimming mushrooms individually.
Image showing Meat Fruit starter where chicken liver pate is made to look like a mandarin with leaves. At Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Mr Mutton had the famous "Meat Fruit" (c.1300) which looks just like a mandarin but is in fact chicken liver pate. I had a starter called Salamagundy (c.1720): chicken oysters, salsify, marrowbone, horseradish cream & pickled walnuts. The combination of different textures, and the powerful flavours, were divine. We didn't choose Savoury Porridge (c. 1660) - snails, girolles, garlic, parsley & fennel - because neither of us like snails.
Image showing a dessert called sambocade at Dinner by Heston Blumental featuring a goats milk cheesecake lderflower & apple, perry poached pear & smoked candied walnuts
For the main course I had Powdered Duck Breast (c.1850), braised & grilled red cabbage, spiced umbles (whatever an umble is....!) and pickled cherries. Mr M had Cod in Cider (c.1940), with chard and flamed mussels. All tip top! I was too stuffed for pudding or cheese but Mr M managed to push down Sambocade (c.1390) which came with a goat alert: goats milk cheese cake, elderflower and apple, perry poached pear and smoked candied walnuts.

The final flourish was a sweetmeat presented to me on a plate with "Happy birthday Gail" in ganache.
Image showing a 50 plus woman in a white conservatory wearing a red Bombshell dress, nude fishnet tights and red and black Poetic Licence shoes

Image showing a close up of a woman wearing a Pandora rose gold bracelet with charms
I kept the jewellery simple with a rose gold circle necklace and rose gold charm bracelet 

Outfit Details

Red Bombshell dress from BombshellHQ;  Shake It shoes by Poetic Licence, Amazon

Sharing this post with Catherine at Not Dressed As Lamb Fake It Until You Make It at Fake Fabulous, Creative Mondays at Claire Justine, Spread the Kindness at Shelbee on the Edge, Emma at Stylesplash, Jess at Elegantly Dressed and Stylish,  Ashley and Laurie Link UpFabulous Friday at A Pocketful of Polka Dots,Fancy Friday at Nancy's Fashion Style and Top of the World Style at High Latitude Style


Don't miss a post -  follow my blog on Bloglovin or Feedspot (where Is This Mutton? is in the top 30 fashion blogs for the over-40s). You'll love "shoe of the day" on the Is This Mutton? Facebook page. And check out the Is This Mutton? Pinterest boards, including boards on other bloggers in fab outfits plus beauty, jewellery, hairstyles and fashion picks. Is This Mutton? is also on Twitter.  

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The perfect heirloom gift

Image showing a vintage style silver locket on a chain
An engraved silver locket makes a wonderful gift for virtually any occasion: christenings, first communion, bridesmaid's present, birthday. And of course Christmas, which is fast approaching.

It's a great heirloom to hand down through the generations because not only can it be engraved with a name, date or message, but it can also house a special photo.

Martha Jackson Jewellery is a British company specialising in premium sterling silver jewellery at affordable prices. I was invited to choose a locket on a chain, which I thought would make a lovely keepsake for my niece Isabel, 14.

I chose the silver vintage heart locket necklace which has a choice of different lengths and types of chain. Options include engraving for £5, with a choice of six fonts, and the opportunity to add a gold or silver charm.

Martha Jackson's engraving is done by Marco - nice personal touch -  and I opted to have Isabel's name engraved on the back in By Hand font. Other suggestions for engraving are initials, a special date, or a short message.
Image showing the engraving on the back of a silver vintage heart locket on a chain from Martha Jackson Jewellery
The necklace arrived very fast, packaged in a gift box. Martha Jackson will add a gift message too.

There are plenty of other items to choose from including cuff links, bangles, different lockets and a diamond set secret message ring.

Is This Mutton? has an extensive Pinterest board featuring more jewellery than shown in the blog. 

Sharing this post with Weekend Blog Hop at Claire Justine and Saturday Share at Not Dressed as Lamb.

*I was gifted the silver vintage heart locket necklace but as always my thoughts and opinions are my own


Don't miss a post -  follow Is This Mutton? on Bloglovin or Feedspotand receive a weekly email on new posts. You'll love "shoe of the day" on the Is This Mutton? Facebook page. And check out the Is This Mutton? Pinterest boards, including boards on other bloggers in fab outfits plus hairstyles and fashion picks.


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Where are the bodysuits? And no more Hygge or Ikigai!

Amusing image montage of over-40s blogger Gail Hanlon who fronts Is This Mutton

Mutton's Choice Cuts, October 2017

Shirts, blouses and a lot of other tops are very annoying when tucked into a skirt or trousers. There's either too much fabric, creating wrinkly bottoms and bunching, or not enough fabric, which means they constantly wriggle free.

So I can fully understand why bodysuits became a thing in the 80s: the all-in-one which gave a smooth line but had issues of its own around poppers on the undercarriage and sometimes a cheese wire (thong).

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Spectacular Opals, birthstone for October

Example of the spectacular colours of opals in this orange stone from Mexico

Opal, the birthstone for October, is one of the most spectacular gemstones. A single stone can flash every colour of the spectrum with an intensity and quality of color that can surpass the fire of diamond.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

It's National Fitness Day - and we're dancing, riding and rowing!

Today (Wednesday) is #NationalFitnessDay in the UK and Is This Mutton? has been talking to some vibrant over-40 women who have passions for many different sports and pastimes which give them joy, as well as improving their cardiovascular fitness.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Mutton's Choice Cuts

Monthly Miscellany from the Mind of Mutton

This month I'm ruminating on Middle Child Day and my blog anniversary (2006!).

You probably weren't aware dear reader but tomorrow (Saturday) has been deemed Middle Child Day. Hooray for the middle child, the stalwart of the family who learns very early to wheel and deal.

According to Frank Sulloway, PhD, author of Born to Rebel, "They are agreeable, diplomatic, and compromising, and they handle disappointment well. They have realistic expectations, are the least likely to be spoiled, and they tend to be the most independent."
Is This Mutton blogger Gail Hanlon with brothers Andrew and Robert as children

A good description, I fancy.

I was the middle child of three, with brothers on either side. In the photo above, I'm about six years old. There was a 10 year age gap between the eldest, Andrew, and the youngest, Robert. Andrew, who sadly died two years ago, was not a stereotypical eldest child. He was very self contained and independent. He could be quite bossy with me and Robert, who, when he was young, was very "naughty." Andrew would quite often slipper Robert up the stairs when he wouldn't go to bed.  Our dad was stationed in Singapore when Robert was a toddler, and Andrew took it upon himself to be the father in his absence.

He could also be a lot of fun. We spent hours playing "catch the gonk" which would be thrown up and down the landing, and used to fall about laughing at Carry On films. At Andrew's funeral service, we chose one of the trademark Carry On tunes to mark his exit.

My childhood was fairly idyllic. In those days kids were allowed to go out and play all day, and I did with gusto. I would be gone after breakfast and back in time for tea. My fun included going to the den or cave, fighting the children down "the enemy end,"creating plays, attempting to make films with a still camera and picking blackberrries or primroses in the fields near our home.

On Sundays we would pile into the car, usually wearing bizarrely named "car coats," and be driven somewhere for an airing. Tavistock perhaps, where Robert could play on Stumbles the steamroller, and fall into the pond in winter, so that he had to suffer the indignity of riding home naked behind a copy of the News of the World.

In addition to the freedom we had of being kids, we didn't suffer from over anxious parenting. We weren't forced to do any extra-curricular activities. I went to the Guides once but didn't like it (and my mum was relieved, because they couldn't have afforded the uniform). I did enjoy going to "Guild", a spin-off of Sunday school where we made baskets and got chips as a rare treat on the way home.

I don't remember my parents ever putting pressure on us to do well at school.  In my case, I had an inner determination to succeed and I spent hours revising and managed to get three A levels.

So if you're a middle child, let's raise a glass tomorrow and be thankful that our position in the pecking order made us resilient and determined.

That first blog post in 2006

A post written in 2016 about the death of David Bowie by life long fan Gail Hanlon
Back in 2006 I launched a blog called "A Curious Girl's Guide to Life." It still exists, out in the tumbleweed of deserted sites. I felt sure my pithy views and nostalgic glimpses of life in the 70s would make me a big celeb. So it was humbling to find that in those days, the likes of the Huffington Post were VERY rare, and I was lucky to get 200 page views a week from visitors searching for topics like "Does John Torode wear a wig?" (One of my more memorable posts).

Think back to 2006. We had Facebook (launched 2004)  and Twitter, just (launched March 2006). We also had Myspace, which was the largest social networking site in the world between 2005 and 2008. Blogging was nowhere near as popular as it is today. It was the preserve of a few people, mostly older, who wanted an outlet to write. I remember getting blank looks from my stepchildren when I asked them if they had ever read any blogs or knew where to look for them .

If you had a blog, you didn't have many options for promoting it. Social media was quite new and not everyone was using it. RSS feeds were niche.  I promoted my blog on Facebook and my call to action was always to bookmark my blog, but I could barely persuade my own family and friends to do it, let alone anyone else.  If I had a post I wanted to be seen, I would email my friends with the link.

The key thing was getting yourself into the directories that existed, and having a presence on sites like Technorati, and getting people to leave comments on your blog.  It was a tight knit community where bloggers whose subject matter was entirely unrelated to yours would visit and leave a comment, and vice versa.

I look back at the early posts and smile at some of the people who were my online friends then. "The Duchess," who posted beautiful pictures of tea cups and cakes. "The Frump Factor," a precursor of today's over-40s fashion blogger.

My old blog still exists, and the first post was not surprisingly about David Bowie. I wrote another in 2016 upon hearing of his death, shown in the screenshot.

I regard it very fondly now, as a record of my life between 2006 and 2016. I had a very long commute to work and would amuse myself by spotting the lorries operated by Bailey's Equine Feeds ("horse nutrition in the bag") and Norbert Dentressangle. This is all documented, along with my garden and my obsession about certain TV programmes - Strictly Come Dancing and The Apprentice. Plus accounts of our holidays, and explanations of why we celebrate bank holidays. Plus a few wood pigeons.

Sharing this post with the weekend blog hop at Claire Justine and Saturday Share at Not Dressed as Lamb.


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Saturday, 5 August 2017

Fit for a Pharoah: the Peridot

Peridot Oval Cluster Ring Vintage 14 carat Yellow,  Gold Estate Fine Jewelry Pre

Continuing Is This Mutton's series on the birthstones, we hone in on Peridot, the birthstone for August. The beautiful ring above is secondhand with six carats of Peridot set in 18CT gold. Image: Ruby Lane
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