Monday, 25 May 2020

Memories of Pre-Lockdown Travel Experiences.

Along with the rest of humanity, we were forced to cancel our long-awaited travel plans.

Hotels were closed. Borders were closed. We were in lockdown along with everyone else but with the added  experience of quarantine until mid June (Wales) as we had the shielding letter. Unable to  go anywhere.
May was a difficult month as I descended into a 'what might have been' frame of mind. I am sure that many of you were battling with that as well.So for now, I am going to relive some of the places that we hoped to visit. 

This week, Portugal to see family.
Views from Monsanto.
Over the last few years we have spent short periods in Central Portugal. Central Portugal is on a level geographically with Central Spain and going eastwards Madrid and Zaragoza before crossing the Pyrenees. Unlike the Algarve in the south, we found ourselves among the mountains, valleys and some of the most beautiful scenery you can hope to find. 

We have visited some of the villages around. Indeed the first time we stayed on a Quinta or farm where the outbuildings had been converted into accommodation. This was near the village of Monsanto, which is built among ancient rocks. At the top  of the mountain there is a fort. The Internet signal from here that feeds the area is a bit hit and miss to say the least.
The village of Pena Garcia lies above the main road stretching from the Spanish border at Monfortinho to the city of Castelo Branco further west and below the mountain village of Penamacor high in the Estrela Mountains to the north. The ancient streets of Pena Garcia are so narrow that you could be forgiven for thinking that you were driving up someones driveway as you just avoided missing the thick stone walls of the huddle of buildings sheltering from the wind.The mission that day was to see the Barragem or lake among the trees where we could cool ourselves in the enervating June heat. 

The village of Monfortinho is famous for its health-giving spa waters. Hotels are many. We have stayed at a hundred year old hotel - the Hotel Boavista - with an outside glass lift to take you to your room and which had typical Portuguese entertainment from a local group one night. At the end of the village is a more modern one with the most fantastic views and peaceful air from the terrace.The Fonte Santa Hotel. A warm welcome awaits whichever we choose.

Memories have kept me going. No use crying over spilt milk as the saying goes. 
It will pass. Life will return to normality and we will appreciate it all the more for having experienced a loss of liberty and survived.

More on the hotels on Trip Advisor if you are thinking of a holiday with a difference.

Next week: Exploring Spain.

Rosalie xx

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Lockdown: Surviving Quarantine. A reflection.

After initialling battling the Covid-19 virus, lockdown started on March 23rd 2020. The effect of this was devastating as our liberty was curtailed.

Google Images - Guardian.
Lockdown means that most people are restricted to a one-hour slot of exercise per day; we have to stay home and only go out for essentials. People in the clinically vulnerable group are advised to self isolate. Our last social outing was on March 20th with friends for lunch. Just in time as it happened as the restaurant, along with others, closed that evening. We took advice to self-isolate, pulled up the drawbridge and didn't go out.

I can't remember how long the initial period was for -eight weeks? - as my husband then received a shielding letter  saying that he was in the clinically extremely vulnerable high-risk group and should stay inside for twelve weeks with no human contact; use separate food utensils, sleep in separate rooms/beds, eat in different rooms, use separate towels. These were not only restrictive they were impossible in the main to comply with but we did our best. And that applied to me as I am in the same household.Sanitising and hand-washing increased.

An earlier post covers the steps we have taken:  
We are now in our ninth week of Quarantine. Three more to go out of the twelve weeks.Extended lockdown has shortened the disparity in timescales.

How has it been? 

For an independent-minded person who likes to be in control of her life it has been hard in some respects. The measures that we put in place (see link above) to ensure that we had no human contact - apart from each other - have been a boon; a couple of weeks ago as our positive outlook and forbearance dipped it became increasingly hard to see people going for a daily walk or read of them going to the shops albeit having to queue. It has been hard to reflect that we should have been in Portugal seeing our family.We are over that now and can see an end to all this. Memories are comforting.

How have we survived mentally? The answer is Social Media.

Thinking back to the days not only before Social Media but before we had a telephone (yes, I remember it well) urgent communications and congratulatory messages were sent by a Post Office telegram. Are they still in existence? Thankfully, we have moved on.
The above post explains how we found links to local deliveries through Facebook In addition I have kept in touch with family and friends far and wide, home and abroad. My husband, the original IT dinosaur but now dragged into the 21st Century with his Kindle, has picked up snippets from me. Especially the hilarious jokes posted by some. (Thank you for the laughs Jinty.) The important outcome has been communication and a lessening of the isolation.
The people and organisations that I follow or see on Twitter have given me an up-to-date view on current affairs. Not least some raging arguments on political and social issues. Living in Wales, UK with its devolved administration and law-making powers in many areas such as health, education, police, plus increasingly different regulations to England UK relating to handling the Covid-19 virus, provided different and challenging points of view.
Instagram basically tells a story through pictures. Indeed you have to load a photo/image before you can post.I have kept in touch with other family members through this channel. As not a lot is happening I am limited to posting 'memories' as well as using it as a marketing tool. In some cases I can post to Twitter and Facebook at the same time. I haven't quite worked it out but I think that this feature only works when you post a fresh photo. Some lessons needed here!
Linkedin is more focused on business and professional topics. My use has been sporadic.

The most valuable and comforting thing in keeping in touch and chatting to family has been WattsApp.

With this tool we have had chats by messaging that go beyond a normal text message on the mobile phone. We have been able to share information and updates on projects coming through with a close family member living abroad which have resulted in detailed conversations of an engineering kind. This has been a lifeline for my husband mentally as he has discussed the finer points of construction, load-bearing materials etc. while drawing on a lifetime of experience. I have sent messages to one child and forwarded them to another. A video call brought our children and grandchildren a little bit closer in the arid desert of no human contact. It is hard to have your daughter bring essentials not on other orders and having to stay a good distance away; not give a hug and kiss; not being able to pop round to see grandson on his birthday. . . You can feel invisible strings pulling you together until you remember that touching is out of bounds as you strive to stay safe and alive. WattsApp goes a little way to making this manageable.

As we look down the virtual road to a release from our 'prison' I can only reflect on our good fortune to having a garden where I can sit in the Spring sunshine drawing peace and tranquillity from the blue skies, emerging plants, daisies in the lawn - soon to be chopped off by the lawnmower - and the birds twittering, chatting and singing as they built their nests high in the trees rapidly being clothed in new garments. Nature has compensated for the restrictions and loss of liberty by sending us a beautiful Spring with unusually warm weather. We are fortunate; being well aware of the necessity of this social exclusion we are thankful for our family and friends and the valuable interactions of social media. 

pink and white floweryellow flowers hanging over a wall

Hopefully as the general lockdown is eased we will be able to venture out and pop to the shops for a loaf of bread, pint of milk and some more plants for the
garden to pop into my trolley when diverted on my way into the store. As you
do! Do any of you set out to buy bread and milk and fill your trolley with plants before you get over the store threshold? Or is it just me?

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Re-generating the Grey Matter with New Software.

A new marketing tool with a 'BIBLET'

What is a biblet? I was as in the dark as you possibly are until I received a notification from Nielsen Book Services Limited that they had a special  offer at this difficult time. This new software is easy once you get things in the right order i.e. filling in all the settings before going to 'Create Biblet'. It certainly stretched my powers of deduction - with reference to the online user manual.

It contains:
  • a sample
  • all the metadata, which I was able 'fetch' from the Nielsen records where my books are registered for inclusion in their catalogue for retailers and libraries.
  • shoplinks - already pre-populated from previous information
  • a video
  • online reviews
  • icons for sharing.
What not to like? Click on the link and explore. Use the top left stack ... for more things to watch and do.


The other development this week has been the inclusion of an SSL certificate for the website so now it is fully secure. Look for the closed padlock at the left of the address bar. Also secured by SUCURI.

Stay Safe.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Surviving Four Weeks of Lockdown and Quarantine

Four weeks down. Eight more to go in Self-Isolation.

Life certainly has turned upside down. It has been quite traumatic to say the least.
We have adjusted to having all the little 'cushions' that hitherto have made our hectic life over the last twenty-five years possible. Life now is less hectic. Not least due to health issues on both sides which we have overcome to a large degree- and are thankful for the skill, expertise and care provided by our wonderful NHS.

Three years ago before all these issues, after publishing Island Interludes and formatting all the travel books into glossy hardback editions - with all the accompanying legalities of publishing - I had decided to take a step back from the writing and publishing projects of the previous ten years. It didn't quite work out as planned and the break was more prolonged than expected - batteries have been slow in recharging.

An unwelcome visitor.
The arrival of the killer virus this year has changed all our lives. In turning our lives upside down and inside out we have been forced to slow down. The positive to all this is that we have also been forced to review our lives and evaluate what is important - must have - and what is nice to have. We have had time and inclination to get our house in order both figuratively speaking and on a practical level.
With cleaning company closed, laundry closed, aqua classes and gym closed, hairdresser closed, church services closed, trips to the shops curtailed for twelve weeks as the high-risk group puts our household into self-isolation a new order has been established. We have established a routine for cleaning the house in a manageable way. It gives a much needed focus to the week. When your diary has dominated your life, having all the normal routines and pieces of life changed can leave you with a rudderless feeling. Not good.

Yes, the confinement has thrown us both together. 

After years of working hard and sometimes being 'ships that pass in the night' we had to learn to live together again when we retired and dovetail our routines. The current situation has taken it all to a new level.We are surviving. Watching the streamed Sunday Mass from our local cathedral via Facebook precedes the home delivery of a wonderful Sunday Carvery from Hayl'z Catering. Sundays are near normal. Light fittings have been washed in a mini spring clean. Routines of old have been revisited.
Outside jobs are slowly completed. 'Crikey Mikey' treatment has brought our paving up a treat and the front of the house looks to a degree as if it is all new. Pink paving flags have re-appeared. It looks lovely. The rear garden has taken on a new lease of life with the same treatment.Pre-virus I did manage to buy a couple of plants when I went to Lidl for a loaf of bread - as you do.
When my bedding plants which I ordered online arrive it will be almost complete. I have fed the existing plants and even fed an artificial plant! Just the garden seat to repaint before we sit back and enjoy. Nature has played its part by sending us early Spring sunshine. What a beautiful few weeks it has been.

The hard part? The downside?

  1. Without a doubt we miss our grandchildren who live only a few miles away. We will miss the youngest one's birthday. Becoming a teenager. Unbelievable.
  2. Harder still is not being able to not only invite our daughters into the house. but not being able to give them a hug when they bring us emergency supplies. They have to stay on the drive at a safe distance as we chat from the kitchen. They need a hug as much as we do. They are also coping with restrictions.
  3. We have finally cancelled our long-planned road trip through France and Spain to see family in Portugal. Originally booked for May and amended to September, we had planned to follow Portugal with a slow and leisurely trip around the south coast of Spain before
    Broom flowering in Central Spain.
    turning inland at Valencia to head towards France. We thought it might be now or never.  But. . .all the booking details and costings are on spreadsheets. It will be a small mater to rebook for next year once things settle. Might avoid France though if OH feels he can withstand the fast ferry in a comfortable cabin.

photo of a glass with a drink.
Rosalie. xx

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Navigating the Lockdown. Is Everyday a Duvet Day?

Working from Home. Self-Isolation. No need to make an effort. Or is there?

In the lockdown period of this killer virus - and make no mistake, we are fighting a war with the unseen enemy which can creep up and pounce with lethal results - working from home is the favoured option if it is feasible. 
No need to get up early to shower and get dressed smartly for the office you may decide. Well no, there is no need to put on office clothes but does that mean that you don't have to make an effort?

Making an effort.

I have always maintained that what you look like on the outside affects how you feel on the inside. It is part of our psychological make up.OK, so you don't need to wear your usual office clothes and can dress casually. But casual does not mean scruffy. 
I have never understood the term 'duvet day'. Does that mean that you take a day off to wallow under the duvet? 
Yes, nice to have a lie-in in the morning. You don't have to tell me that.  What a waste of a day to pad around unwashed, hair unbrushed and straggly, half dressed or still dressed in pyjamas or nightie and dressing gown. I have to admit that I am a culprit of spending too long in dressing gown if I have had a bad night and slept late. One of the 'joys' of getting older it seems. 

My husband. on the other hand, bounds - or struggles - out of bed and heads straight for the shower before getting dressed in his weekday casual but tidy clothes before breakfast. Moi? I need that first cup of strong tea, catch up with Facebook, Twitter, Mail Online and breakfast before I come into the day and shower, dress, do hair and put on make-up. Yes, you read correctly, I put on my foundation,eye make-up and lipstick. Oh, and a squirt of perfume. Instantly, I am transformed to someone who looks half-way human. I also feel better. There is something about hot water cascading over the skin as you give it a good scrub and wash all the nights cares away ready to face the day.

Staying positive.

The same routine applies if you are in self-isolation during this testing time (or even retired). And we have a twelve week stretch of confinement to get through regardless of lockdown or any lurking germs taking flight. So looking after your mental health is important by keeping to a routine like an anchor, keeping up standards and in turn focus on staying positive. This encourages decisions on activities you can do; look on this period as a bonus in a way as you have chance to draw breath and re-evaluate your life and priorities.

I find that if I wake at four am, my creative juices start to flow as my brain clicks into gear. I just have to get up and start tapping the keyboard. Which is why as I write this, I am still in my dressing gown, sipping that first mug of hot, strong tea and clearing my head of all the nonsense that flows through my fingers to the computer keypad. Time now to catch up with the news, and go forth into the  day - but not in my dressing gown I hasten to add.

We will get through this! One day at a time.

Rosalie. xx

Image courtesy Google Images.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

A Silent Killer Came to Visit.

We never know what is around the corner. 

February started well with a birthday visit to Stratford upon Avon and the excellent Swan's Nest Hotel on the River Avon. We met up with Gold Wing friends at a national meeting at the end of the month. 

Shakespeares Houseview of the River Avon at Stratford

And then our lives changed until who knows when. 

Monitoring the situation as the Coronavirus spread we took the decision to cancel our planned road trip due in May and would re-book for September. I have to say that made this fairly painless and many messages later through Booking Assistant and we had all the hotels sorted, all special requests sorted, all parking reserved where applicable. I think I deserve commission for being our own travel agent.
As the situation worsened, we took precautions as advised, only making short forays into the local shops to top up our weekly online supermarket delivery. With some foresight I booked my delivery for the following week well in advance. 
Thank goodness, as the following week was scary. Blood pressure rose during this frustrating period. And I mean scary, as all delivery slots were blanked out due to the situation, panic buying and prioritising over 70's, vulnerable and disabled. I was confident in this as we more than qualified on a few fronts both singly and jointly. I was devastated to find that, 'You have not been identified as being over 70 and a priority'. No slots available for the following week. Thankfully my foresight paid off in booking that week early and my order was listed as being an existing order. 

  • Many e-mails sought to make order out of chaos. We were both stressed and pushed to the edge. I was able to - reluctantly - add some very personal detail in the delivery section as advised. Wow! We now had a priority slot. 
  • And thanks to Facebook I found that a local AMPM convenience store was doing deliveries. Wow! Again. Top ups. We won't starve and my diet-controlled diabetic husband and recent surgery  would be stable. Plus he does love his food. 
  • Our girls have helped with other gaps for dietary/health foods in spite of their own family/business constraints. 
We began to feel less alone.

By now our lives had really closed in. 

  • Total Fitness closed. No Aqua for my arthritic joints. No exercise machines for general health and strength. OH in particular had been keeping up the programme that the physios set him, within his capabilities, in the Prehabilitation Programme pre-op in November. 
  • The nail/skin salon within Total Fitness also closed. Shaggy eyebrows and half-shellaced nails for now as it all grows. 
  • Barbers closed. May have to get out the scissors for OH - hair, eyebrows etc.
  • My hair designer closed but I can revert to home solutions as I have some competences but no match for the expertise of Nat Cargius
  • My cleaning company closed for the duration. Our lightweight vacuum, being as much use as a chocolate teapot had to be consigned to obscurity. A new and hopefully better lightweight machine is being delivered in the week. Mrs Mopp rises again. 
  • Garden Centres closed. No bedding plants and cant get to supermarkets for their selection. Solution? Order online. Essential to have plant and a thriving garden. Therapeutic.
  • Meetings cancelled.
  • Church services cancelled with churches subsequently closed.
  • Restaurants closed for Sunday lunch and a mid-week 'date day' to keep the fires burning.
  • A Facebook link took me to a local caterer - Hayl'z Catering  based in one of the Golf Clubs who was doing home deliveries. Sunday Carvery. Afternoon Tea. Cottage Pie in the week.
All these things make up the fabric of our lives but thanks to technology for online deliveries, local businesses  switching /adding home deliveries we are having a near normal Sunday. Dressed in our Sunday best, we have had our spirits refreshed with our local Bishop streaming streaming Mass into our home; once we get our Sunday Carvery our body will be replenished. OH is reading the Sunday paper from our AMPM convenience store emergency delivery which included wine and a card for husband for our wedding anniversary tomorrow. We will get dressed up and dine at home as if we were going out. 
#Supporting local businesses.

We will get through this.

Stay Safe!


Emerging from the Grip of a Virus

7th February 2020.
This year has started slowly on the writing front.

Recovering from the trauma of family health issues and thankful for our wonderful National Health Service and the skill of the surgical and support teams, we are once again feeling positive and looking forward to another year of jaunting around as we say " Lets go . . ."

Two items set into stone on our calendar are national meetings of the  Gold Wing Owner's Club of Great Britain (GWOCGB). There are two looming. I have a big birthday coming up on Valentine's Day and had thoughts of a sojurn in the sun. However the perceived clash with the 'set in stone' meeting has clipped my wings. A special day is on the horizon though and hoping that this pesky virus finally clears up in time.

I started having a deep tidy up in the study the other week. Writing, marketing and publishing has been full on since 2008 and more so since 2010 when l went independent into the publishing world.

These last few years have been very rewarding and I am still not sure if I am more proud of the content of the books in all their diversity or the production of the actual interiors and jackets themselves. A steep learning curve ensued in grasping new software, manufacturing requirements, publishing legalities and all the various social media platforms to 'get the word out there'. Those little grey cells in my brain must surely have re-generated massively. With ten books, two contrasting series, one stand-alone fiction/fantasy, ten paperbacks, ten digital in differing formats, and five glossy hard covers for the travel memoir books and fiction I have to admit that I was feeling somewhat burn out mid 2017 after I published Island Interludes and added glossy hardcovers to the others in the series.

As I took a step back, the good health fairy paid me a visit resulting in enforced rest and relaxation. Other domestic matters took precedent in protecting our home and no, I am not going into that but I certainly learned a lot about the finer points of building matters. My research skills and tenacity certainly came to the fore. The good health fairy also paid my husband a visit but his number isn't up just yet and will hopefully be around for a while longer. We Lancashire folks are made of tough stuff!

However, all the hard work produced a lot of files and felt forced to start on a general tidy up and archiving/shredding etc. More to do yet but as the sun peeps through I feel encouraged to get stuck in.

Happy reading.


PS. It is now the end of March and have just realised, as I return to my 'Rosalie's Chatter' that I haven't posted it. Better late than never. And what a lot has happened...

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Bills! Bills! Money out. Money in.

Manage your Money. How to Budget Spending.

Q.  You earn £20000 a year. Do you assume that you have £20,000 to spend?  If yes - wrong.

Q.Do you merrily pay for everything by card? If yes, how do you keep track of your spending? Do you know what you are spending?

Q. Do you have a sheet (budget) that lists all your expenses? ALL your expenses or a basic one?

Convenience of Card Payments versus Cash. 

I am not a fan of contactless payments as I prefer to consciously key in my number after confirming the amount on the screen and safely store my receipt for later recording.

In one grocery store where the counter was crowded, my card must have been too near the payment unit as it just 'snatched' my card details. Upon protesting, the customer behind - who possibly thought that I was not technically literate - casually calmed my startled surprise by reassuring me that 'it would show up on my statement'. I responded that I know it will but I didn't want to use contactless. I wanted to be in control. In any case I think there is a security risk. Someone else dismissed concerns by stating that the limit is low. Even so, I don't want a stranger running riot with my card.

This is by the by but illustrates the fundamental issue of managing personal money and is the  crux of this article. Most wages are paid directly to your bank account. You never actually see in hard cash what you are paid. You rarely hand hard cash over. The concept is different.

I included a chapter on Managing Your Money in Skills for Employability Part Two: Moving into Employment. 978-1-908302-20-5 

After all, avoiding debt makes for a happier employee and reduces temptation to solve problems in other ways.

Pay Slips.

Don't just glance at it and screw it up for the bin. Check it. Your  Income Tax deductions are your  responsibility, not your employer's responsibility. They simply have your Tax Code which determines how much tax you pay. Any queries should be directed to your Tax Office.
Every employee is subject to paying a certain amount of Income Tax and National Health Insurance.

Income Tax.
An example of  basic deductions for a single person who earns an average wage.
Before income tax is deducted, a personal allowance is deducted from your gross wage.
Figures below are for England and Wales. (Source
Personal AllowanceUp to £12,5000%
Basic rate£12,501 to £50,00020%

  • Earnings of £20.000 per year minus 12,500 allowance = tax due on £7,500 @ 20% 
  • This is £1500 per year.
  • If you are paid weekly this is divided by 52 = £28.85 per week income tax due.
  • If you earn £20,000 this is £385.62 per week before deductions.
  • £385.62 minus tax of £28.85=£355.76 per week after tax,.

National Health Insurance (NHI).  
Contrary to what some believe, our National Health Service is not free - only free at point of use (sometimes with a small charge e.g. Dentist). In addition to you as an employee paying National Insurance Contributions, your employer also pays on your behalf. How much you pay depends on your 'category letter'.
Our example will use someone in Category A (Source
Category letter£118 to £166 a week (£512 to £719 a month)£166.01 to £962 a week (£719.01 to £4,167 a month)Over £962 a week (£4,167 a month)

  • We have already established that our figures are based on earnings of  £385.62 per week before deductions. 
  • No payment is due on the first £166 a week. 
  • National Insurance in this example is due on £385.62 minus £166 = £219.62 @ 12%. 
  • This is £26.35 per week NHI contribution.

How will your average take home earnings look now?

  • Weekly Gross Earnings:  £385.62
  • Less Income Tax            -£28.85 = £356.77 
  • Less National Health Insurance     -£26.35
  • Basic Net Earnings(take home £'s) -£330.42

Total deductions to the Government before you even see your earnings =£55.20. Keeping track of spending is now even more important.
(You will also see that, based on the above figures extracted from the HMRC website,  someone on a very low wage - less than £166.00 per week will pay neither Income Tax or National Health Insurance contributions.)

A simple example of budgeting your expenses.

(Extract from Managing Your Money, Skills for Employability Part Two: Moving into Employment.) Feel free to print off and use.  Pay Slip image courtesy Google Images.

Rosalie Marsh.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Our Journey: Benefits of the NHS Prehabilitation Programme.

Enhanced  Recovery Programme works.

My amazing husband went through a gruelling 4-week exercise programme tailored to his limited heart/lung capacity - which was carefully measured beforehand in the Cardio-Respiratory Unit at the Wrexham Maelor Hospital. The three-weekly sessions were closely monitored by physiotherapists. Combined with group sessions for mindfulness run by the Occupational Therapist and course coordinator together with nutrition advice from the Dietitian to prepare the body for the oncoming onslaught, the aim was to raise fitness levels to enable him to cope with the operation and subsequent recovery.

He smashed all his targets in the gym, kept to the eating programme that I carefully designed to increase protein to the Dietitians advised 1.5g per kilo of body weight - without increasing sugar levels to keep with his diabetic programme - and kept up his home exercises with the 'Power Breathe' - purchased by the Shooting Star Cancer Unit - to train his diaphragm in deep breathing to aid him after anaesthetic.

Result? He not only survived the long operation but was ready to go home two days earlier that expected.

The BBC made a film of his journey and, due to 'early release' had left for home when they planned to film him post op. So Matthew and his cameraman came to us at home.

The clip  of the BBC Wales News item was videoed for me from iPlayer. We are so keen that this pilot programme in Wales is cascaded to other hospitals that we can't say enough about it. 
Best for a patient at high risk and it frees beds earlier than normal.
What not to like?