Phew! It’s a scorcher!

Deckchairs2I am always amused at the British enthusiasm for talking about ‘The Weather’ – it is always either too wet or too dry or too cold or too hot! The trains can’t run for leaves on the line, the wrong kind of snow, or as a few days ago, rails buckled due to the heat! In among all these weather stories online are pages and pages of hints and tips about how to manage this roaring British summer weather… But what is true and what is false? What is fact and what is fiction? We know the common advice for coping with the warm weather – stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, drink plenty of water, use sunscreen when you’re outside. But what about all those other tips?

Wearing white cotton clothing is best

It is true that natural fabrics like linen and cotton absorb sweat and allow it to breathe. They’re much better than man-made fibres like polyester, which can trap the moisture against your skin, leaving you hot and uncomfortable. But when it comes to colour, things are a bit more complicated. White is good if you’re out in direct sunlight a lot – it will reflect the heat better than any other colour. But if you’re spending time in the shade, black is a more effective colour to wear as it radiates out heat into your environment, cooling you down.

ColdWaterDrinking hot drinks actually lowers your body temperature

Staying hydrated is very important. If you don’t drink lots of water and beverages like fruit juice, you can start to become unwell, with symptoms of headache and tiredness. It can lead to heat exhaustion and heatstroke. But can hot drinks help cool you down? I’m afraid we are back to sweat again… The thinking is, drinking a hot drink raises your body temperature, causing you to sweat. Sweating cools you down because as the moisture evaporates it takes away some of the heat of your body. But sweating also means that you are losing liquid from your body, meaning you need to take on more to stay hydrated! Why is life so complicated?!

Keep the curtains closed as they block out the sun

This is another one where there is no straight answer. If you have thick dark curtains then keep them open otherwise, the fabric can keep the heat trapped in the room. However, lighter curtains can help reflect the sun’s rays back out of the room, so keep them closed.


HotDogKeep windows open during summer to circulate the air

Surprisingly, this is another instance where there is no hard and fast rule. If the room you are in is actually cooler than the temperature outside (as in my old farmhouse) then keep the windows closed otherwise, all you are doing is letting hot air in. But if the room is warmer – and this is much more likely to be the case at night – then opening the windows will help cool your home down. Always consider home security and safety when it comes to leaving windows and doors open though.

There’s lots of advice online (some of it very strange) but to be sure you get sound advice, always go to an ‘official’ site. The NHS website has lots of useful advice on how to cope in hot weather. If all else fails, wear a knotted hanky on your head, and stick your feet in a bowl of cold water – always works for me!

 

 

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Packing it in!

Ah yes! The days before luggage restrictions!Packing is a bit of an art form. You’re either a natural, or you’re not. I confess to not being the world’s best packer. I start off with my empty suitcase yawning in front of me, huge and cavernous – loads of room! With careless ease, I place clothes and shoes inside – and then suddenly… it’s full! At which point I discover I haven’t got in half of what I need to take, so pull it all out and start again… after about the fourth attempt I am hot and bothered and end up cramming everything in and have to ask Richard to lean on the suitcase lid as I battle to secure it! Oh dear, Joanna, must try harder.

Like a lot of art forms you can, of course, train yourself to improve your skills and I was intrigued to read a How it should be done…list of ‘top packing tips’ online. Some of them are so very sensible (and obvious!) I can’t think why I hadn’t used them before! Anyway, here’s my selection of the best ones that I hope you might find useful…

  • If you can manage with a carry-on, do it. Try taking half of the things you need and twice the money. You can make buying a few new items a fun part of the adventure.
  • Pack a sleeping mask and earplugs. These can be very handy on a plane, train or in your hotel room.
  • Capitalise on empty suitcase space and roll your clothes, instead of folding them. Stuff socks, underwear, and accessories inside your shoes.
  • Keep a sarong or pashmina in your carry-on. They can be used as a blanket on the plane, a scarf, or a shawl on an evening out.
  • … how it is more often done!Kitchen sandwich bags can be used to hold your accessories, vacuum pack bags can be space savers, and bin bags have multiple uses (laundry bag, shoe covers).
  • If you are travelling as a couple, it is a good idea to split your clothes between two suitcases on the off chance one of them gets lost during the flight.
  • Bring a multi-socket extension lead. Although newer hotels have USB ports in rooms, it’s best to have an extra outlet to charge all of your electronics at once. This is very important if you need to work on your laptop or phone, as I often do, and (thankfully!) one of the tasks I leave to Richard!
  • Make photocopies before leaving home. If you’re travelling out of the country, make two photocopies of your passport.
  • Use your smartphone to take pictures of your car in the airport’s car park and do the same for your luggage and its contents in case it gets lost. So simple – and something I will definitely be doing… no more wandering around Bristol airport car parks at 3am wondering where we left the car!
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Easter time

So it’s Easter time again… But it’s a different date to last year. So why is it that the date of Easter can vary by up to a month? The problem is that Easter is one of the festivals that tries to harmonise the solar and lunar calendars. As a general rule, Easter falls on the first Sunday, following the first full moon after 21 March. But not always…

The problem comes because a solar year (the length of time it takes the earth to move round the sun) is 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds whereas a lunar year is 354.37 days. Calculating one against another is seriously complicated! There are literally dozens of permutations that are way beyond me to explain, but take my word for it – it’s complicated!

Having got the peculiarities of the date out of the way, what about the various traditions we associate with Easter? Two of the most popular are the Easter egg and the good old Easter Bunny!

A lot of us may chomp on chocolate eggs at Easter but originally eating eggs was not allowed by the church during the week leading up to Easter, known as Holy Week. Any eggs laid that week were saved and decorated to make them ‘Holy Week eggs’ that were then given to children as gifts.

The first chocolate eggs appeared in France and Germany in the 19th century but were bitter and hard. As chocolate-making techniques improved, hollow eggs like the ones we have today, were developed. Unsurprisingly, they very quickly became popular and remain so!

As with so many ‘traditions’ that we hold dear today, we only need to go back as far as the Victorians to establish how the Easter egg as a decorated gift developed. They adapted the traditional egg and, with their customary lavishness, created satin covered cardboard eggs filled with Easter gifts.

So finally, where does that fluffy little character the Easter Bunny fit in? The story of the Easter Bunny is thought to have become popular in the 19th century. Rabbits usually give birth to a big litter of babies, or kittens, so they became a symbol of new life. Legend has it that the terribly industrious Easter bunny lays, decorates and hides eggs as they are also a symbol of new life. But she doesn’t do all the work alone though – in Switzerland, Easter eggs are delivered by a cuckoo, and by a fox in parts of Germany.

Happy Easter to one and all – and don’t eat too much chocolate!

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Lost and found…

I do like coming across quirky stories in the press. My eye was caught this week by a story that said more than 300,000 items of lost property were handed into Transport for London in 2015. “So what?”, you may think…

It was the next paragraph that made me laugh. Apart from the items you’d expect, like keys and umbrellas and wallets… lost items also included a prosthetic leg, a full drum kit and a large fitted carpet! I mean, how could you possibly forget or lose such things? I have left a carrier bag on a bus (many, many years ago!) and lost the odd key… but a fitted carpet? I think I’d notice that.

In another life, a job in a lost property office might be rather interesting, there would certainly be lots of material for a novel. The percentage of items restored to their rightful owners is only just over 20%, so that’s an awful lot of items that go unclaimed.

After three months, all the unclaimed items have any personal data removed before they are either donated to charities including The Salvation Army and the British Red Cross, or recycled, or sold at auction… and the income received from selling unclaimed property last year was a whopping £257,176.16!

I have visions of an enormous cupboard tucked away in some Dickensian back alley near one of the main train stations in London with shelf upon shelf stacked with weird and wonderful items. I don’t suppose it’s anything like that at all, but it sounds fascinating.

Tracking down something you have lost at an airport or on an aeroplane however is, by the sound of it, a much more hi-tech process. There is a website where passengers sadly parted from their goods and chattels can post the details, or ‘claim’ for the missing item. The list for just London Heathrow is extensive, as you can imagine, and ranges from some poor soul who has lost a Jo Malone candle, to a stuffed animal (not just a stuffed toy, which worried me a bit!) and loads and loads of mobiles, laptops and pieces of clothing.

The internet has also come into its own when it comes to lost pets. I see so many posts online (many of them heart-breaking) detailing where the family pet dog was last seen… Years ago, all you could do was put up ‘lost’ posters on lampposts and ask all your neighbours to keep their eyes peeled. Now, the chances of finding your beloved pet are much higher as you can so quickly pass on the details to so many people. I often follow posts through just to be see if there is a happy ending… and very often, there is.

I’m still worried about that person who got home and found they’d mislaid their lounge carpet though…

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Happy Christmas!

Joanna, right, with her sister Kate, left with Father Christmas.Can I wish each and every one of you the happiest of Christmas Days – happy times around the festive period and just plain happy times!

Memories are precious jewels to be collected and treasured. Then they can be brought out to look at and remember fondly when you need them most. I have had a tough year with all my family, and I’ve no doubt they would agree that the family has been tested in 2015. However the upside of this is that my brothers and sister and I are closer than we were a year ago, and that is something to celebrate.

It’s hard when sad times overwrite the happy memories of the past, and I think it’s really important to try and get past the sad memories and hang on to all the happiness that has been around you over the years.

I am planning a super happy day today with my much loved daughters and little two year old Grace who has a collection of Play-doh coming her way and a cuddly Winnie-the-Pooh so maybe we can make some Play-doh food for the bear – who knows. That’s the fun of being two – anything can happen and her innocence and naiveté sum up what matters about the Christmas message. Love, happiness and trust in the future.

Happy Christmas everyone!