Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Clever marketing

I have been quite a big fan of SAS - Who Dares Wins in which exceptionally fit people, usually with some kind of interesting back story. They are subjected to physical and mental challenges and the original number is whittled down to a small, brave few who are then subject to the interrogation phase. The interrogation section involves putting candidates in stress positions and when I watch it I'm amazed at how long people stay in what must be painfully uncomfortable positions where the body has given up, but the mind is forcing the body to comply. I'm also a bit of a yoga fan, if turning up once a week and looking forward to the corpse (shavasana) pose counts. I'm the only one in the family that gets involved and I don't know anyone else in the class, except the teacher. For me it's a bit of escapism. I run there, walk home and try my best during the in-between bits. This week, after doing some of the yoga poses and thinking "Flipping heck, this doesn't look difficult but it doesn't half hurt" I had a further thought: "Yoga is simply stress positions with clever marketing."

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

I'm angry, not broken

I wrote to Mr Burghart, the Right Honourable Member for Brentwood and Ongar, on January 17th, with the following message:

Dear Mr Burghart

I am disappointed to discover that Brentwood Mind has closed. 

The cited reason for closure is NHS cuts of £200,000 per annum, leaving the organisation reliant on reserves, clearly an unsustainable position. 

In light of the very public declarations by the Conservative Party concerning increased funding for mental health services, please can you explain the disparity between rhetoric and the reality at a local level. 

Yours sincerely

Ann Cardus (Mrs) 

My MP's reply covered the following: an apology for the delay in replying and a passing of the buck with a proxy response from the local Clinical Commissioning Group.

Effectively, my take-out is that mental health provision will now be outsourced to a private provider, the Vita Health Group with an "effective increase in investment in mental health."  The CCG is also currently sourcing a Mental Health and Wellbeing hub which will be based in Basildon.  The use of the word effective before the word investment isn't confidence-inspiring and the establishment of a hub in Basildon doesn't seem to be as convenient for Brentwood-dwellers.

Apparently the CCG was unaware that Brentwood Mind was closing and it seemed to have come as a surprise.  The explanation of how and what happened was very opaque.

Burghart then added that he had been aware of the funding cuts after a review of block funding, and "its service users were offered the opportunity to use their newly introduced personal payments with other providers or services."  I don't quite know what this means but it indicates that the removal of block funding was directly responsible for the closure of the local Mind provision.

Burghart reiterated that there had been an increase in investment in local mental health provision which we have established earlier will be going to a (newly-formed) private company rather than a well established and experienced charity.

Finally, Mr Burghart hoped I would be able to "access the help I needed."

Please feel free to re-read my email to my MP.  At no point did I indicate I needed any help and I'm not happy that he chose to assume I needed mental health support.  How dare he assume that people who care about mental health provision are in need of mental health support?  I care about a lot of things, it doesn't mean I'm directly affected, and, even if I were affected, it's deeply inappropriate to assume anything about my health.

The thing that makes it worse, is that a friend, who wrote to Burghart expressing similar concerns, received a carbon copy of his response.

Ctrl C, Ctrl V sums up the caring nature of UK politics today.  It sickens and depresses me.  I just hope I never need to travel to Basildon for mental health services instead of using a local provider on my doorstep.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

This running malarky

I started running in 2015.

It was a slow and painful progression through the Couch to 5k app.

I had assumed, once I'd graduated from the app (running continuously for 30 mins but in no way achieving 5k) that my running would go from strength to strength. 

After several years, I can confirm that this isn't really the case.  I completed our local Parkrun today in just over 40 minutes which is a pretty pathetic time for someone that's been running for years.

My heart rate was at 152 bpm on average and hit 168 at its max.  It's not as though I'm not trying.  I've run faster times with a lower heart rate.  I think my body is just weird and my original assertion that I'm not built for running, is probably true.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Keep it up

Hannah has been trawling my old posts when I could be bothered to post every day.

Maybe I should have maintained my musings about life in general, or maybe not.  I used to enjoy blogging but the pressure to blog daily became too much, and that's when the children had fewer evening commitments and when I was working fewer days in the week. 

Maybe I'll try a few more blogs in 2019 than I achieved in 2018, which isn't exactly difficult as 2018 was a bit of a drought.

No promises but if something tickles or irritates me, then I'll share it here.

Friday, 18 May 2018

It doesn't take much

I was out for a run this morning, about one kilometre in, and I was just going through the motions with one step in front of the other. I'll be honest, it was a plodding jog but it makes me feel I'm keeping fit.

I approached an elderly lady and I recognised her. I'm used to smiling at people I pass when I run so that they think I'm friendly. I also feel I'm somewhat apologising for being a bit rubbish.

As I got close to the lady she smiled a lovely gentle smile, have me a thumbs up and said "Well done."

She'd done the same the lady time I saw her and both times it made my day.

It made my smile broader and just lifted my mood. Every time I think about it, it makes me happy.

It was such a small gesture but so kind and generous.

It doesn't take much to lift someone's mood and make someone feel better about themselves.

I was only going out for a 5k run but ended up running 10k.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

One of those days

I'd agreed to get up silly early.  Ethan and his mates needed to get to Chelmsford for 5:00am.  I had lots of work to do and one early morning wouldn't kill me.  If I dropped the boys off I could be at my desk for 6:00am giving me a good couple of hours of head down thinking time.

The boys were all ready when they needed to be, they got to school as required and I got my early start at work.

I'd packed breakfast in my handbag to eat at work which had decided to leak all over my handbag and its contents.  So the first job at work was washing everything and cleaning it of my "overnight oats" (not a euphemism).

Head down, thinking and doing happening very efficiently.  Meeting at 9:00 and then straight into another meeting.  Just as I come up for air I get a call.  The people due to fix my front door tell me they'll arrive at 11:30.  They were scheduled between 12 and 5.  I hop in the car and race home (as much as one can race across town).

On the way home husband calls and tells me his car is parked at the front and the gas company have dug up the entire street and decided to put barriers up at the back of our house.  I have nowhere to park off street, our cleaner is due and has nowhere to park and the door idiots have nowhere to park.

I park down the street passing my cleaner's car struggling to find space.  i phone Dave and tell him the cleaner is out back.  He can't do anything about it because he's immobilised with a bad back.  

I need to put a parking permit in the car but I'm parked a way away from my house.  I can't get in through the front door thanks to scumbag burglars and their August visit.  I fight my way into the back of the house going through the gas company barriers.  I express my annoyance to the gas company folk because blocking my drive was not something we'd been told about.  They tell me they'd tried to knock on the door earlier in the day but there wasn't an answer.  "Yep, because we were both at work, but I need four vehicles parked on the property now, or in the next half hour."  They'd seen my husband's car leave the house but not my "blue" car.  "Yes, that's because I left home before 5am and then, because I was up, dressed and functioning I went straight to work!!!"

They made it possible to get to the back of the house.  I'd parked elsewhere, my cleaner had parked elsewhere, but it left a big space for the door idiots.

I grabbed a visitor permit and went back to my car to protect it from the traffic wardens (bearing in mind I'd paid a penalty charge notice for Dart Charge earlier in the day - that really annoyed me).

I got in checked in with the cleaner who I hadn't seen for months.  Checked husband's state of disability, and decided that the gas workers had been very accommodating so I went to offer tea and coffee.

Five teas and coffees later, plus one for the cleaner and one for me, I plugged in laptop and started work.

Door idiots arrived.  I told them there was a lovely big space at the back of the house that I'd arranged especially for them.

They opted to park on double yellow lines across the road.  They were cutting me a temporary front door from a lump of wood and thought doing that on a Black and Decker Workmate in the middle of the road opposite the house was preferable to a safe space behind the house.  Whatevs.  I offered them tea and coffee and they declined.

Back to work.

"Can I use the loo?"  It's like having toddlers.

"Here are your mugs back."  It's really like having toddlers.

I go to check on husband.  He wants drugs and wants to know how to get them.  I ensure he has phone and doctor's phone number.

Back downstairs I notice that post includes card to collect package to collect from Post Office.

Back to work.

Questions come from door idiots on regular basis.  Do I want a letterbox, a lock etc. etc.  

I knew I would have be at home accommodating door idiots at this time so I'd booked supermarket delivery.  Just as everyone and everything is in the house, the Tesco delivery guy is avoiding the extension lead in the hall to pop the shopping in the kitchen.

I decide door idiots tea and coffee again.  They're in the market this time.  I check husband.  He wants lunch and tea, and drugs.

Cleaner leaves, I make tea, coffee, and lunch for me and hubby and then deliver, including crossing the road to deliver teas to the Black and Decker workmate in the middle of the road.

I need to get back to work but door idiots think they need more time to cut holes in wood.  I tell husband as I deliver tea and lunch, no drugs.

I know I need a quick exit and my car is parked too far away to support that so I move it to the back of the house, in the space that the door idiots didn't want.

I go back to the laptop.  Just as time is evaporating husband emerges hunched in pain to tell me to go back to work.

I jump in the car and get to work in the nick of time.

Meeting done I prepare to leave, and then I bump into a couple of people I need to catch up with.  An hour later I'm finally walking out of the door.

I have the card for the undelivered parcel so stop off at the sorting office.  It's the monthly gin delivery - "Wahay!"   I called Dave - do I need to visit the surgery to collect drug order aka prescription?

Dave advises that prescriptions for mega drugs available for me to collect.  This gives me a good excuse to collect the referral letter that's been sat at the surgery for several weeks.  I really don't want to have to see a specialist and leaving the referral letter sitting at the doctor's surgery gave me the perfect excuse not to do the sensible thing.

Home, and Hannah makes me a cup of tea.  Husband is vertical albeit it a bit crooked.

I decide that I cannot be arsed to cook.  I propose fish and chips and there are smiles all round.

Dave decides to attempt a careful walk with Hannah to collect drugs from pharmacy while I collect fish and chips.

At home later I enjoy fish and chips and gin and tonic.  I'm broken, but decide I still have the energy to type a blog post.  

Thursday, 19 October 2017

My first Harvey

I was probably eight or nine years old.  I'd been quite good at learning the recorder and my reward was violin lessons.  I don't know what sadist made that link, but that's the way it worked at my primary school.

My parents played along and bought me a violin (which was an utter waste of money).

I think my violin teacher was called Mr Comely, a misnomer if ever there were one.  He was short, portly and had the complexion of a sweaty vampire.

I can't recall whether the lessons were one to one, but I remember I didn't enjoy them.  I didn't complain because mum and dad had bought me a violin which hadn't been cheap.  I mean it was a cheap violin but, apart from my bicycle, it might have been my most expensive possession.

I think the violin lessons took place in Miss Tilney's class.  I liked Miss Tilney and I think she liked me; she used to teach the Year 2 class and I used to pepper my writing with long words I'd selected from the dictionary in an attempt to appear intelligent.  She was strict but I never incurred her wrath.  

Mr Comely used to make me sit on his lap.  I can't recall why; why he insisted, why I complied, why I didn't tell anyone... but I can remember my reticence and my discomfort.  And I think that was the extent of it.  Thankfully I've never done any hypnosis and I'm OK with not remembering anything else. 

I could try and argue that this experience soaked into my psyche and is the reason I have failed at all future musical endeavours but, in truth, I've just never had any talent. 

The Weinstein thing has got my goat, it really has.  It's made me remember so many things that were just plain wrong, and it started very early.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Sexism in the forces? Surely not!

Hannah joined the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) through school a couple of years ago.

The meetings took place at the boys' school across the road and it all worked, until recently.

Last year, the teacher from Hannah's school who supported CCF, stopped his involvement to spend more time with his family.  The boys' school response was swift.

  • No new girls were allowed to join.
  • Girls had to pay a fee, and so did the boys, but the girls had to pay more.
  • The start time was brought forward making it impossible for the girls to arrive in time meaning they miss "fall in" and "parade" every week.  They could still register, but they couldn't participate fully.
  • All meetings about camps happened at the boys' school, during the school day making it impossible for the girls to attend.  The consequence of this is that they don't know camps are happening and don't participate.

Promotions were handed out recently and, in Hannah's year, none of the girls received a promotion.  With the number of promotions dished out, the girls didn't get their fair proportion, and Hannah believes the girls are far more attentive and capable than many of the boys.  Additionally, one of the boys promoted has very poor attendance.

This sounds like sex discrimination, and she's only 15.  I don't want to say "Suck it up, that's life." because it shouldn't be like this, but the Army won't listen to one whiny mother.  I'd like them to be forced to recognise their whole attitude is in no way encouraging girls into the armed forces.  I'd like equality.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

An ordinary day in which I go out

I remembered to get some food out of the freezer the night before and pop it in the fridge.  Dave would need something when he got in and the children could have a snack because they'd had a main meal at lunchtime.

I remembered to take the homemade brownies out of the freezer the night before and cut them into slices and pop them in a cake tin.  It's much easier to get sharp edges when cutting gooey things before they've completely defrosted.

I remembered to check with Dave "You're OK to take Ethan to Scouts and Hannah to Explorers?" and I took the time to make sure he knew exactly which children needed to be where and when.  I offered to take Ethan to Scouts, in case it helped, but was told firmly that "No, I plan to get back in time to do that."

I woke up early at six and decided that getting out of the house and into work early would allow me to plan and feel happier about the "big meeting".

I remembered to take the brownies out to the car and when I got to work, I set up the meeting room (including moving the furniture around and checking the IT equipment), remembering to leave instructions about the WiFi, the teas and coffees and allergens in the brownies.

I remembered to get money from the cashpoint and collect some keys that had been cut for our desk drawers.

I spent the next couple of hours trying to talk to as many of the meeting presenters as possible trying to ensure everyone knew what they were going to be talking about or discussing.

Before the meeting I remembered to set up a Webex, and dialled in.  

The meeting didn't go to plan, but that's life.  All through the five and a half hours I could sense the notifications on my phone.  WhatsApp and Facebook going "ping" every few minutes with things I clearly needed to know.

After the meeting I tried to get to some of the presenters to provide reassurance or clarity or just to say "Thank you."

As I left work I checked my phone.  Lots of messages and not enough time, but somebody wanted to park at my house for the evening.

I drove home remembering to stop at the Post Office to send Dave's erroneously ordered Amazon purchase back from whence it came, because I'm nice like that.

Before I got back in the car I checked messages and said "Yes" to the friend that wanted a parking space.  Then I spotted another message; a different friend with the same request.  I needed to think about that before replying.

When I got home I remembered that Ethan was going to be late home because he was attending a meeting about cadet camps.  It transpires these were: two in Romania at £800 a pop and one in Morocco for £900 a pop.  I remembered I hadn't yet paid the deposits for the Scout Camp to Ireland.  

Assessing the parking situation once I was home, I reasoned that if I allowed one of my friends to block me in (that's OK, I didn't need my car) then both friends could park at the house and there would still be room for Dave.  I sent a second affirmative message re parking.

I checked my voicemail - someone at the insurance company wanting a call back.  I called and provided details over the phone about the stolen laptop and then followed up with an email.  And then there was a phone call.  Another agent appointed by the insurance company wanted to come and assess the damage to the front door and alarm system.  Appointment made for Friday afternoon.

I caught my reflection and tried to call the hairdresser several times with no reply.

I then remembered I was a bad friend to someone who could do with support right now.  On World Mental Health Day, the one thing I could do was make a call and plan to meet up.  Meeting for breakfast on a Friday, plan made.

I checked I hadn't booked a supermarket delivery, and I hadn't, so I realised I might just have time for a run.  Just as I was changed into running gear, Ethan arrived home.  We had a quick catch up and I closed the door with the instructions for him to do his saxophone practice, make a sandwich, eat it, get ready for Scouts.  I should have added tidy the bedroom but that's permanently on the to-do list.

On my first lap Ethan called.  I'm not a good runner, and expecting me to think, talk and run, is a stretch.  He told me my car was blocked in and that we would need extra time to get to Scouts.  I told him that "Dad was planning to get back in time."  We checked Dave's location, he was still at work but there was plenty of time for him to return.

On my second lap, Dave called.  Could I take Ethan to Scouts?

Amid a string of expletives, I confirmed that I could because, technically, I could.  And when I'm asked to do something like that, generally, I try and help.  Yes, my car was blocked in, but yes, Scouts is within walking distance if you have 60 minutes spare (30 there and 30 back).
I cut my run short and went home to find Ethan listening to music at full volume and eating a sandwich.  I sent him up to his room to change and popped the second half of his sandwich in a bag.

When he came down I said, "Right, we're running to Scouts."

I had a bit of an issue with Ethan running and trying to finish his sandwich at the same time.  As we passed the ambulance station I was yelling about the Heimlich manoeuvre and telling him that choking and suffocating is not a nice way to die.

Ethan arrived at Scouts early and I turned and ran and walked home.

Dave was at home when I got back.  He'd actually arrived home with plenty of time to have driven Ethan to Scouts.  And my car was no longer blocked in which made it look bizarre that I'd chosen to run to Scouts.

While I showered and dressed Hannah returned home from her weekly "revision" session at a friend's house.

Dave drove me and Hannah to Abi's house where we collected her and then I was dropped at the curry house for curry and beer, which I felt I'd earned.

I didn't sleep for long enough, I never do.  There's always something to be done, like a blog post.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Not so dirty pot noodle

A post shared by Ann Cardus (@a4ann) on

Do you hanker after Pot Noodle but deny yourself because you know they're full of things you shouldn't really be eating?

Here's a solution, a homemade pot noodle that's only a little bit dirty.

I don't think these should be made precisely so I'm going to give you a guide rather than exact measurements.

You will need:

  • A pot of sorts with a lid, I use Kilner 500ml pots
  • Ramen noodles
  • Cooked meat - I use chicken
  • Any old veg chopped up small - think red pepper, spring onion, peas and sweetcorn from the freezer, beans (green or otherwise)
  • Flavourings.  I add a smidgen of the following: light soy sauce, Thai chilli sauce, fish sauce, rice wine
  • Some leafy green stuff - I've used spinach and kale and preferred the former
If you can, prep in advance and store in the fridge.  Ideally, if you've used any frozen veg, you want it to have defrosted when you add the boiling water.  If you are preparing just before eating then ensure frozen veg is cooked.

In the bottom of the pot place half a pack of ramen noodles.  These are the ones I used: chicken flavour.  There are plenty of similar products and they often contain a packet of powder and sachet of oil.  Open these and sprinkle/drizzle half of these over noodles.  

  • Add meat so that there's a rough layer on top of the noodles.  
  • Add veg.
  • Add whatever flavourings you fancy - don't overdo it.
  • Add leafy green stuff until your pot is bursting.
  • Store in the fridge until required.
  • Five minutes before serving, add boiling water to near the top of the pot.  
  • Seal the pot and leave for five mins
  • Turn pot upside down a few times to mix all the flavours
  • Serve in the pot or, if you're feeling a little more sophisticated, in a bowl

A post shared by Ann Cardus (@a4ann) on

Friday, 29 September 2017

"Yeah, and..."

I parked the car in a tight space today.

I didn't use the self-parking thingy but my car does have parking sensors and a rear view camera.  I was also parking next to shop windows so there were some reflections to show me how far I was from the car in front and behind the car.

When I stepped out of the car there was an inch between the car and the kerb, and I hadn't hit the kerb once.

My parking efforts had been observed by a man who was sat in his car with the window down.  As I stood up, he called across with "I wouldn't have attempted that.  I'm impressed."

There are two ways to interpret this comment:

1.  "Wow!  Those are some seriously amazing parking skills.  I'm impressed."
2.  "Wow!  You're a woman, and you managed to park in a space that I, as a man, wouldn't have attempted.  I am comparing your efforts with mine because I don't expect a woman to be good at parking and, as a man, clearly, I am good at parking."

I'm sure he meant the first of these...

Friday, 21 July 2017

Lemon or limoncello (poppy seed) drizzle muffins

Ian said he had some limoncello going spare at home and, as a recent convert to baking, he was looking for a recipe to use it up.

I have tried a lemon and poppy seed muffin recipe in the past but it wasn't the greatest, so I experimented.

I think this recipe should do the trick.  And if you don't have limoncello, then just use lemon juice from a bottle to make up the difference.

You will need a 12 hole muffin tin and 12 muffin cases.

  • 230g plain flour
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 4 tbsp poppy seed (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 250g yoghurt or buttermilk (if you have neither of these, make buttermilk by adding a tsp of lemon juice to milk)
  • 85ml corn oil
  • Zest of one lemon

For the drizzle, which is a crunchy drizzle:
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 40ml limoncello (or lemon juice from a bottle)
  • 175g ish granulated sugar

  • Put muffin cases in the muffin tin
  • Turn oven on to 160 degrees C fan oven
  • Zest the lemon and set to one side
  • Stir flour, sugar, baking powder and bicarb together with poppy seed if using
  • In a separate bowl mix (barely more than a stir) the egg, yoghurt or buttermilk, corn oil and lemon zest
  • Combine the dry and wet ingredients by stirring - not mixing, not beating, not whisking, but stirring.  Stir until no dry flour visible (scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spoon)
  • Pop into muffin cases and pop into the oven for 20-24 mins until they are nicely browned on top. 
  • Feel free to use the skewer test to see if they are done (inserted skewer should emerge mixture free)
  • Whilst muffins are in the oven, juice the lemon, add the limoncello or lemon juice and granulated sugar and stir
  • Do the washing up and have a cup of tea, or slug from the limoncello bottle
  • When the muffins come out of the oven, give them a few minutes before skewering the tops about six times per muffin
  • Then you need to spoon on the drizzle mixture.  This is best done with a teaspoon and you need to mix as you spoon the drizzle mixture so that you have a decent amount of sugar mixed in.  The drizzle shouldn't be too runny so you may need to adjust the sugar content until it's appropriately spoonable for you
  • You could dust with poppy seeds but they'll just go everywhere
  • Leave to cool
  • Eat, with tea, coffee or bubbly
  • These are freezable.  When defrosting give them an hour or so, or a quick 30 second blast in the microwave.  I prefer defrosting these naturally as I like these muffins cool rather than oven warm

Friday, 16 June 2017


I am, at heart, an optimist.

But there are times when having a positive outlook, and maintaining it, is a challenge.

With Brexit, Trump's appointment, the recent election, terror attacks and now the terrible fire in the Grenfell tower block, I'm struggling.

The fire has just made me so sad.  I keep saying I can't imagine what the victims, their families, the firefighters went through, and it's true, I can't.  But it hasn't stopped me trying, and that's what's making me sad.

I look at the responses of some of our politicians and it's all so cold.  I wonder if they are so far removed that they can't even try to imagine what it must have been like, or whether there's an emotional barrier they're maintaining to prevent the thoughts from entering their consciousness.

The raw anger and hurt makes complete sense and the contrasting, composed demeanour feels alien.

This should hurt and it should make us sit up and listen.  Sometimes, being sad is an appropriate response.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Fried head

So, today was the day I went for my very first MRI scan.

I wasn't worried.  I'd watched enough medical dramas to know that I'd be OK providing  didn't have metal embedded in my brain or eye.

It always seems like such a peaceful experience in TV shows like House; all is peace and quiet until the patient is discovered to have ingested metal and then all hell breaks loose.

I took the completely unnecessary precaution of removing my necklace and wedding ring; they were imaging my head so anything below the chin was irrelevant as far as the magnets were concerned.

I was told the machine would be noisy which didn't make sense because it's always silent on the telly.  They provided me with headphones to protect my ears (the reason for the scan) and asked me if there was a radio station I'd like to listen to.  It was just after Archers time in the afternoon so I asked for Radio 4.  I thought I might concentrate a bit more and keep still if I listened to the spoken word rather than music.

Well the machine was flipping loud but I managed to catch most of the Radio 4 Drama.  I should have chosen a music station because I found myself listening to a drama called "What will survive?" described thus:

"Kate and Ash are grieving the loss of their mothers. Ash lost his mum six months ago and is struggling to come to terms with her death. When Kate's mum Ruth is rushed to hospital and abruptly snatched away from them the family are thrown into the turmoil of grief all over again..."

The show included a scene in which Ruth is in the Intensive Care Unit attached to some life support machine that beeped a lot. Ruth dies when the beeping flatlines.

I listened to this, in a hospital whilst lying inside a noisy machine.  I survived.

They didn't tell me whether they found anything so I have the joy of going back to the crazy torture ENT guy in about 10 days.

The point of all of this is to recommend that for an MRI scan I recommend listening to joyful, happy music, not the death throws of an elderly lady in a radio drama.