As book 4 will be released in the next month, I will be posting extracts of the first three books as a reminder of the journey so far beginning with the first novel which was released in 2007: The Dragon Realm Chronicles ‘Stefan Lowe’ The Devil, the Angel and the Carpenter’s Son. Please visit the Books and Art page to purchase the entire book.

CHAPTER 2 

Stefan returned to his apartment that Friday afternoon to find the light blinking on his fax machine.  Stefan occupied apartment six on the first floor of St John’s Tower. His family had been residents there for over seven generations.  He walked over to the fax machine and pressed the button whilst at the same time flitting through his post. The machine beeped and then played the only message recorded.“Mr Lowe, I am calling from Charlton & Co Solicitors concerning the offer to purchase St Towers Estate. Please could you call Carten Validine on 01 6578920 for an update, thank you”.  

“Blah blah blah,” said Stefan walking away from the machine and throwing the post onto a nearby chair. He rubbed his temples – he could feel the dull numbness return to his frontal lobe, glands and around the ears.  Stefan walked over to the fridge and opened the door. 

He peered in amongst the half eaten desserts and left over casserole that was next to an ever-greening cheese, and shrugged. He shut the door and began wandering around the apartment, which was very spacious holding a large living room, leading into an even larger dining area. From this there was a small kitchen off to one side (a wall with an arch separating the two), and two bedrooms one of which was his daughter’s Imogen. It catered for all of her toys, clothes everything a growing child could own (in Stefan’s interpretation several skips of junk), but he never had cause to complain when she was there. It was the only time he ever truly felt happy.  

With regards to material possessions, his apartment still held several articles of his mother’s. Up until her dying day she had been a traveller and must have circled the globe several times. 

Each wall in the apartment was covered in artefacts from her expeditions; hanging prints, tribal masks, weapons, wall ornaments, voodoo and dream dolls, and other antique mementos. 

An item that was by far Stefan’s favourite, was also one that had been in his family for generations. It was an antique medieval looking sword, mounted on the sideboard cabinet in his living room. The handle was made from pewter like material and displayed intricate carvings which were mimicked down the face of the blade, however these were covered by tarnish so they were virtually indistinguishable. There was an element of mystery to it, as the date of creation was unknown. 

Its rustic condition often led Stefan to assume it was either very old, or it had not been taken care of properly.  The blade was gloved by a soft velvet cover which looked newer than the sword itself. It was rather fragile and acted like a cloth skin as opposed to a protective casing. Stefan thought this odd but to his recollection there had never been an outer, more solid sheath.  

Hung on the wall above the sword was a giant print of a map of the earth with a pictorial timeline along the bottom, displaying all of the creatures of evolution. 

The map was another one of Stefan’s favourites, as it had been a gift from his mother from when they explored Africa over twenty years before. The map was more of a novelty piece and Stefan did not know if there was any fact behind it, he just found it intriguing.  Since his mother’s death the items Stefan did not want to keep were put up for auction. Half of the proceeds went to charity and the rest went on the co-purchase of St Luke’s Tower.   

The items which remained in the apartment segregated Stefan’s and his mother’s predilections. However, there were still many items with origins that could not be verified. In particular there was a key engraved with the letters DSS which hung in a frame next to Stefan’s wall map. Stefan’s mother had specified in her will to keep it close but she never mentioned what it unlocked. Stefan had his suspicions that there was a safety deposit box somewhere which contained hidden treasures – or rather that was more wishful thinking.  His mother had only left a solitary one-liner in her will about it, ‘…you will soon discover what the key is to. A companion will help you find your way…’ 

Even though this sounded cryptic, Stefan was confident in time the key would tell its tale.  In her will Stefan’s mother left the apartment to him but when she died he decided to purchase the whole of St John’s Tower (which was the same time he was looking at leaving law).  Stefan walked around the apartment feeling restless. He switched on the television using the remote, and started to flick through the channels. He wasn’t really paying any attention to the broadcasts it was just something he could apply his attention too. 

He continued to flick through the channels until a news bulletin caught his attention. He paused on the channel. The large print across the screen read ‘Britain’s largest snake abducted.’ Next to an overly large snake enclosure stood a reporter detailing the story.  

‘This morning Kensington Wildlife Park reported the loss of Gertrude, the largest recorded python in Britain. In the early hours of this morning, intruders broke into her enclosure and took her. Gertie, commonly referred to by her keepers, is a rare breed of python and quite valuable. It is thought this is what instigated her abduction.’ The camera showed damaged glass at the front of the enclosure with nothing inside but a few vines and branches over a small water feature in the centre. 

‘The wildlife park officials have yet to comment, but all wish for safe return. Police are treating this matter as very suspicious and are investigating within the park as well as outside.’  

‘Gertie was born in the park six years ago and has since been one of the park’s major attraction…’  

“That’s odd”, Stefan muttered. 

He switched off the television and strolled around the apartment again trying to find something to occupy himself. He looked through his large collection of books which were packed tightly on six large shelves dominating the width and height of one of his living room walls.  

The books varied different genres of fact and fiction but he could not decipher as to what mood he was in. Then something caught his eye.  He walked over to the large windows which curtained one of his living room walls, and peered out. The apartment in the tower opposite his had not been occupied for some time, but it looked as though a person, a woman to be more precise, had rented it. He stood there staring curiously until she came into view. She was young, very attractive with long golden blonde hair and soft porcelain features. She had an effervescence that captured Stefan instantly, he could not look away, and then she turned to see him. 

His heart skipped a beat, she too looked surprised as she was unaware that someone was watching her, but then she met his stare and smiled slightly. She then turned and walked into another room, out of Stefan’s sight. He shook his head and returned to reality, but the feeling did not subside. 

He felt the consumption of something he had not experienced in a long time, desire, attraction and the stirring of lust. It was a strange and dormant feeling. Stefan was young in years, and very attractive, but he had developed a ‘grumpy old man’ facade which repelled the opposite sex. 

Even though he had been divorced for nearly four years the concept of getting involved in another relationship was not the desired option he would choose at this point in time. On the contrary though, living at St Towers estate had suddenly become much more interesting. 

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I’ve been looking for a new phone for a while, and saving up for it, but at the same time trying to keep my BlackBerry Classic (which I love), going for as long as possible. This is not only to get my money’s worth, but because I have to vet the next phone to make sure it can deal with everything I throw at it. It has to deal with several email accounts, marketing apps, draft books and of course blog entries.  At the same time, I need to ensure that the phone will not slow me down (I type really fast), and having used an iPhone for business, I knew that that was definitely off of the cards, if only for data inputting reasons.

I was expecting to change my phone in December and had been looking at the Samsung S7 Edge, I didn’t expect to be buying it this week though.

My BlackBerry went terminal at the weekend, I am sure it had nothing to do with being at Oktoberfest, it was just a coincidence. We went on the Saturday in London, and that night when we got home, my phone started going crazy – of course this has to be the same month as the kitchen floor needing refurbishment, and I mean it needs work! Considering the kitchen was only fitted in March, taking on rectification work several months later was not what we had in mind. In addition, we are going away for a week and that always costs, then of course both cars needed £450 spent on them respectively (even after pre-MOT services were carried out a month ago). 

All in all, a busy and costly month!

Back to the BlackBerry, from Saturday night, it was unusable. The menus looked like they were being controlled by an outside source, and I couldn’t take control of the device. So I broke all connections, wrapped it up in tin foil, connected it to a non-networked computer and did a factory reset. 

This didn’t work! 48 hours and another £450 later, hello new Samsung S7 Edge. 

While for me it is not the end of the world not to have a phone, albeit incredibly inconvenient considering the amount of correspondence I carry out on a day to day basis, I have never, nor do I plan to, treat my mobile like it is a surgical attachment to my body, or some other form of life line. 

I know it is hard to believe, but up until 20 years ago, people got by without mobile phones, and social networking. I was 18 when I had my first phone, prior to this, they were not popular, if you had one in school, you (or your family) were doing very well.  

Having said this, I now know exactly how much I use my phone, for example, my time on the train is sometimes the only downtime in a day that I will get, so I will clear my mind by browsing general gossip on Facebook, or browse/purchase something off of Amazon (I purchase a lot of off of Amazon actually, normally Paw Patrol related items for the little human), I will Tweet and go on Instagram, or just listen to music. Well when I was without a mobile for nearly 48 hours, I couldn’t do any of this, and train journeys are so unbelievably boring, how did we every cope before. I have said it before and I will say it again, I think mobiles and MP3 players saved commuters lives!

As time has progressed with mobile devices, we have seen the benefits of productivity, for example, when BlackBerries were first introduced in the workplace, it was like a revelation. I still remember one of the associates at a law firm I worked at in 2006, showing a trainee, this is what you do with a Blackberry, and back then they even looked like flattened blackberries. I am still, and probably will alway be pro Blackberry but unfortunately, looking at predicted mobile device evolution, they may not be around for much longer. This meant that sooner or later I would have had to have moved on to a more competitive device, but the good thing is, I can attach a keyboard to the Samsung S7. I will see how I get on without one for the time being, and then perhaps get one in a month or so. 

The benefits of having severe dermatitis in a touchscreen world (yay me), on the face of it people think I’m anti-change regarding touchscreens, but when you have fingers that don’t work on touchscreens or biometric scanner, then your mobile device options are somewhat limited. But it is more than that, the advantages of a hard keyboard is that I can type and talk, I can walk and type, I can think about something else, while my fingers are typing out something completely different, and I don’t have to look at the screen. I don’t need to correct the text after I’ve typed it with a hard keyboard as I would need to with a touchscreen, because I know the keys I am touching are the right keys. Additionally, when people say, well you can dictate instead of type, when you deal with confidential information and you are walking from one floor of a building to another, you do not want to be saying certains things aloud, you never know who it listening and with the change in data privacy laws, keeping tabs on the information you are responsible for, has never been more crucial. 

So far I’m very impressed with the S7 but time will tell. I don’t feel like I’m slowed down by the device and I have access to far more apps on Android, so hopefully this might be a silver lining type situation.

As book 4 will be released in the next month, I will be posting extracts of the first three books as a reminder of the journey so far beginning with the first novel which was released in 2007: The Dragon Realm Chronicles ‘Stefan Lowe’ The Devil, the Angel and the Carpenter’s Son. Please visit the Books and Art page to purchase the entire book.

CHAPTER 1

“The park was so picturesque, and the night had turned into an incredibly beautiful clearness, it was like a new world, a new beginning, but all I could see was my murdered love … my murdered angel…”

“Murdered angel? That’s a rather sentimental portrayal,” said Joyce to Stefan. They were sitting opposite one another at a park bench playing chess directly outside of their apartment tower.

It was a very dry and humid summer’s day. Even though it was overcast, Stefan could feel a slight tingle to his skin that one would only receive when out in the sun. The two large oak trees they were sitting under provided little shade which was odd considering their size. Stefan only stayed outside because he knew Joyce liked the sunshine, or to ‘humour an old lady’ as she quite often put it.

Joyce moved her bishop diagonal to his King.

“Check,” she said with a triumph smile. He casually moved his King to the left out of the line of fire.

“I do love your stories Stefan. Please tell me that one again.” Stefan slightly smiled at her as for him it was not a story but a memory from the previous year. Now it felt more like an obscure fairytale or a distant nightmare rather than reality, and he knew it was something that would probably haunt him until his dying day.

Up until the previous year Stefan had never believed in superstitions such as angels, the devil or even God. This was ironic considering he was a lecturer in art history, and his classes were mostly based upon religious depictions of Christ, and surrounding theology. Stefan believed that a person made their own destiny and sometimes, if you weren’t careful, fate would play cruel tricks on you. His knowledge of this was first hand, because the previous year Stefan’s life had changed, but it was questionable whether it had changed for the better or for the worse.

It all began one Friday afternoon in early December 1985. Stefan had been walking his daily route back home when he passed the small chapel outside his apartment building. A falling hammer missed him by a ‘hairs-breath’ one onlooker said. There was no indication as to where it had come from either. Stefan just shrugged it off as bad luck, or maybe carelessness on his part for not paying enough attention to his surroundings – something his uncle used to frequently point out when he was growing up.

Stefan had often been described as a quiet man, a loner, and an outsider to the world. To most psychologists he hosted the symptoms of mild antisocial personality disorder, which could be attributed to growing up without a father. However, Stefan was not unfriendly per se, he would just not go out of his way to be sociable and he was content with his life. He was in his late twenties; he had a job he liked, a daughter he adored and the freedom to do whatever he wanted when he wanted. In his mind he had fulfilled more requirements and gained more achievements in his young life than someone who was double his age, therefore he felt his contentment was justified.

Stefan lived at a complex in Kensington called St Towers Estate. The Estate comprised of four towers, aptly named St Matthew’s, St Mark’s, St Luke’s and St John’s. Stefan resided and owned St John’s Tower and part of St Luke’s.

Each tower was identically square and divided into twenty floors that held ten apartments. The towers were also set out in the formation of a square with one at each corner of a small park. It was in this park where the two large oak trees stood and in the centre of the park was a chapel which had recently undergone some restoration work.

The refurbishments were almost complete – the only traces left were some scaffolding and brick dust but there shouldn’t have been any tools as the builders had vacated several days before. So it was a shock on that Friday afternoon for Stefan to find himself dodging a flying hammer.

“Damn incompetent builders,” he muttered. This he regretted shortly afterwards. He didn’t like making defamatory comments without knowing all of the details, in fact he normally didn’t comment at all.

Stefan had recently been suffering from severe headaches and erratic dreams which was disrupting his sleep. This contributing to an over active imagination made the pressure on his head almost unbearable at times. No one could deny that Stefan was a very attractive man, but he currently familiarised the obligatory features of what could only be described as the walking dead. He was pale with dark circles around his eyes; this was not a pleasant contrast considering how brown they were, and with the contribution of his olive skin, his dark features were even more blatant.

There was something indescribable about his dreams, but nothing that he could focus on. They were just powerful and overwhelming to a point where he would find himself sitting upright in bed, with cold sweat running down his face and breathing shallowly. They had begun a few months prior; around the time he started receiving letters from Charlton & Co Solicitors. They were a conveyancing firm who had a big client wishing to buy St Towers Estate at an obscene asking price. Their frequent correspondence was also the reason why Stefan had walked past the chapel that particular Friday afternoon.

Normally he would use this route as a shortcut to his favourite coffee shop, however on this particular day Stefan had gone to the bank to get some further information about buying out the other landlords of the estate. They had been warming up to the prospect of selling the towers at the above market value price on offer which was of no surprise as most would, but not Stefan. However, the bank had not been very accommodating.

It had always been his goal to own all of the towers but for now fate was not about to grant this, so he needed other options, and quickly, for he could not defer his contact with the solicitors much longer.

Stefan hated lawyers. In his mind they were arrogant, and inhuman. This again was ironic considering he used to be one. His short time in the city, working long hours, on commercial caseloads satisfied his loath for them and the corporate world.

He originally qualified when working for his uncle who was the owner of an established London law firm. By practice his uncle was a commercial conveyancing lawyer and as time went by, he expanded the practice to include other areas of law. Even though Stefan never revealed just how intelligent he was his uncle recognised it from an early age, and when ready he paid for his tuition at Oxford University. There Stefan received the highest commendation in his year, and despite the numerous job offers at many prestigious law firms (in the city and all over the world), Stefan completed his training contract at his uncle’s firm. He then qualified as a corporate commercial lawyer.

His uncle had high prospects for him, within a short time Stefan was working unsupervised on transactions, to then heading his own deals. His uncle even went as far to insinuate that one day Stefan would aspire to partner and then Managing Director of the whole company.

Stefan was appreciative to his uncle for all he had done, but thought the continuous attention was strange considering his uncle had two children. Though they were more interested in what could be earned from law (or more precisely what their father could earn from law), and they often spent it.

Shortly after qualifying Stefan married Katy who was now his ex-wife. She was also a lawyer at his uncle’s firm who had qualified a year before him.

Within two years of completing his contract, it seemed that Stefan had everything any prospective lawyer could dream of. He had a career most would envy, a wife who shared the same ambitions as he, and enough money to see him well to do for the foreseeable future. However he wasn’t happy, something was missing.

By the age of twenty-four he felt that he had lived the majority of his life, and he could see the rest of it flying past him in an array of late night transactions, mergers and signings. His social life was dissolving into nothing and the prospect of a family appeared even more obsolete. His home was his office and he wanted so much more from life.

He could not deny that working in London had served its purpose. It had given him a good foundation for basing his understanding of business on; it provided him with the money to retrain in something else as well as a substantial deposit on St John’s Tower.

Stefan left his uncle’s firm when a teaching position appeared at the local school for a lecturer in art and design. He was still a good artist, not as good as his O-Level years mind, but his continual efforts outside of work, was enough to secure him entry into the teaching profession.

Stefan sometimes thought that maybe if he had changed practice areas he would have stayed in law longer, probably the criminal sector, but he knew that his uncle would never have allowed that.

Stefan walked past the chapel in the direction of St John’s Tower. The formation of the towers was attractive and usually intrigued visitors and passers-by. It was often compared to some contemporary sculpture; however, the main topic of conversation was always the unusual plaque at the foot of the chapel steps.

The plaque, or seal as it was most commonly referred to, looked like a bronze circular disc secured in the ground. It was engraved with many unusual symbols, the most prominent of which was a six pointed star which covered the face. In the centre of the star was an angel with spread wings and placed across its centre was a key. Directly above the angel’s head were two more heads conjoined facing away from one another. In the south east corner was a bell, and in the south west corner was a double headed cross. Around the rim of the seal was etched scripture. Stefan recognised only a few words which he simulated to Hebrew but the others were intranscribable.

Most assumed the seal was also some sort of contemporary sculpture placed there by a local artist, but in actuality it had been there since before Stefan’s family had occupied St John’s Tower. As far as he was aware no one could find any feasible explanation as to why it was there at all. Neither could they explain the presence of a pewter statue which stood over five feet tall above it.

The statue was of a winged man dressed in armour with two large wings protruding from its back. It was stood upright with both hands clutching an empty sheath. The identity of the statue had never been established.

Over the years many archaeologists and historians from all over the world had visited to diagnose the seal. They all had their explanations but Stefan felt that these were to justify their journey rather than diagnosing the origin. Most of the time people left with very bewildered expressions and more baffled than when they first arrived.

Stefan never admitted it but he secretly found humour in their frustration. Even though he himself could be classed as an art historian, he knew there were no documents evidencing the seal and he certainly was not going to waste his time researching something which overall he was not particularly interested in. Maybe one day he would go on a quest but for now it could wait and be left in the capable hands of the post graduate theorists of this world.

I’m starting to think I am not as intelligent as my Monster. At 17 months old, they are regularly outsmarting me, but then again, they haven’t got to contend with over three decades of dormant knowledge and self-abuse (by over-doing things not by stimulants… ok perhaps coffee but that is it), and the continuous battle of fatigue due to not much sleep.

Any parent will tell you that as soon as you get up in the morning, or as soon as your small human alarm clock wakes you up, it is not over until you are back in your bed, and even then, there is no guarantee that you won’t have to get up out of your bed in the middle of the night.

Jack and I are woken up by a strong pair of lungs on a daily basis. Depending on who is going to work, they will get themselves ready while the other one deals with the small human. Given that Jack and I are both training for marathons, one of us may even be off to the lido, or out on the bike. We then all somehow get breakfast going, and manage to have something to eat. One or both of us will then go out to work while the other ones goes to the childminder first and then work or stays at home with Monster. Then the day begins.

Here is an excerpt of one of my Facebook status’:

My morning so far:
– Monster shot me with Calpol;
– I took Monster to the train station instead of the child minder;
– When finally got to the child minder’s, the back seat (including child) was covered in milk;
– Child refuses to walk up the road to the child minder so slung over shoulder like sack of potatoes; and
– a mini nearly side slams my car.

It’s not even 09:00am yet!

Jack and I are both in proactive, and rather sensitive positions which means that both come with high responsibility, and there is always the possibility that we will not finish work on time, so it is very much a tag-team event when dealing with childcare.

Though there are high points, for example, Monster may be intelligent but they let themselves down by reacting in a down right hysterical manner when being shown the little things. For example, peek-a-boo is still a good one, and then there is my ab-twister.

I no longer take offence the fact that every time I go into the kitchen Monster brings me my ab-twister, even though my husband narrates the scene with: “I’m not saying anything mummy, but I will just leave this here…” He is going to be really put out once Monster can speak for themselves.

The ab-twister, in all seriousness, is great if you are trying to tone up after having baby. It is fun to do, you can really get some speed on it, and for baby/toddler they find it hysterical to watch. Team it up with the track “You spin me right round,” or “Let’s twist again,” give the child either some maracas or a tambourine, and you have at least 30 minutes of exercise and entertainment.

Ideal!Another fitness trick I have added to the regime during pregnancy, and it is something I have continued to do nightly, is swats while cleaning my teeth. Gentle swats while pregnant is great for the pelvic floor muscles (if done in a particular way, and of course safely), you can vary it once you have had the baby and then when you are nearing the end of your recovery you can step it up if you want. It is also great if you are like me, and forget to charge up your toothbrush regularly. Once you know how many squats you can do in 2 minutes, then you can manually clean your teeth while exercising at the same time. Currently, I am up to 70.

If you work, then you can add to this by doing 10 squats every time you go to the toilets. They soon add up.

As above, you can incorporate it into your childcare regime. It is so funny watching a toddler copy you – those with little humans, try some yoga around them. Again, my Monster finds it hysterical when we do downward dog.

Finally, is it me or do Amazon use too much packaging when sending out items? I ordered a steamer mop and potty (for Monster, not myself) and look at the size of the box.

Blog 20170910

This is one of many of my Amazon delivery comments, overall, I can’t complain about their service, I think by myself I am putting most of the employees’ children through further education, but some of the deliveries do make me question the common sense used.

On an end-note, I watched an episode of Paw Patrol with Monster, and didn’t know there was such a thing as a Blue Footed Booby bird. I thought it was because they couldn’t say ‘tit’ (as in Bluetit), on a children’s programme, but there is such a species and don’t they look awesome. Here is a picture below from the folks at Wikimedia Commons.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASulaNebouxi.jpg

Recently I part took in jury service. It was not something I was particularly looking forward to, but you often find that with people who have a legal backgrounds. I still stand by that the exemption for legally trained individuals to be jurors should have never been lifted. It is not that we have an unfair advantage, far from it, but we do know what constitutes as evidence, and even after the Judge had given their instructions, there were still members of the jury who refused to believe that testimony was evidence and deliberations became heated.

Many will be scared and anxious about reaching a guilty verdict, you are determining the fate of other people, but this is how the English legal system works, or doesn’t work, as several of us on the panel decreed.

I cannot go into further details, but just when you think you have seen everything and nothing else could shock you, I wouldn’t say this experience has shocked me, but it has definitely opened my eyes.

During the service, I woke up one morning to find Monster standing over my bed playing with a foil wrapper of some sorts. I looked closer to see that it was a Kit Kat wrapper. I casually called out to my husband who was in the other room as to where Monster might have got it from. He came in and sheepishly took it from them, telling them that they were supposed to dispose of the evidence not play with it.

Yes, a 16 month old was going to dispose of a chocolate bar wrapper and not play with it!?!

Last weekend there was a dog show going on at Hever Castle, it was just Monster and I, Monster loves dogs, so why not.

My husband and I have been under the impression for several weeks now that Monster can walk, they are just choosing not to. Even the child-minder mentioned it. I have seen Monster walking across the room several times, but Jack hadn’t until that very same weekend. Our suspicions were confirmed when Monster made it up to the top of Hever Castle using the stone spiral stairs, and we managed to get out of there without Monster putting their own stamp on any of the artifacts found in one of history’s most renowned households.

So if you are planning on Monster rearing any time soon, there will be a book released hopefully by the end of the year called “The Perfect Brownie”. It is a comical true story, written by my mother Diane Foxhall about me. Pre-ordering will be available in the coming months so watch this space.

For now, I will leave you with a little rhyme called  ‘When you have a baby you become a ninja’

When babies sleep you know which floorboards squeak
You hide behind corners trying not to sneeze;
You try different methods to keep them sweet; and
being stealth is crucial if YOU want to sleep!

K J Foxhall

The fourth installment of the original (before anyone else named their books with the same title),The Dragon Realm Chronicles “Imogen Claire” is going to be released in 2017. To read books one-three, please see below.

A few months ago I was bitten by what I was told, during a diagnoses by my doctor, to be either an ant or spider bite. It was then followed up with “Did something get into your bed while you were sleeping?” This comforted me no end considering several years ago, one night, I actually shared the bed with a spider so big not only did it have a hair do like Elvis, but also I thought it was someone’s pet, or that it had escaped from a wildlife facility for giant animals, or a lab and so on.

What surprised me more than anything was the pain of the cluster of bites and how quickly they grew and expanded across my back. Just as quickly, they then reduced and slowly disappeared.

It took a month for me to be 90% healed, but that did not stop me from spraying Dettol around the bed along with anything citrus I could find (they hate citrus).

However, I am of the mindset that this particular critter got me while I was on the train doing my daily commute. I have read reports about the cleanliness of trains and what one would find if they really looked hard enough is shocking and unsurprising at the same time.

The same doctor responded to the train theory with “oh, are you going to get on the train again?” I don’t know how she thought I was going to get to and from work, but I suppose it was a valid question.

Needless to say, it is speculation as to what bit me, but if it was a spider *shudders at the thought*, that bit me, hopefully it is scared away never to return ever again.
I did demand for a while to be called Super Spider Woman, and I produced a sketch to that affect too, though it is part rendered so I will have to upload that another time.

Watch this space!

Caterpillars that code

I have been looking into coding toys for Monster recently. There are not many things we agree on nowadays, but one very beneficial thing my mother-in-law did for my husband and brother-in-law when they were children, was to put them through a touch typing course predicting that that was the way society and the world was going. It paid off, and I have the same theory about coding and programming.

It is something that has been introduced into the core curriculum in schools, apparently, and something that toy manufacturing companies seem to be getting on the band wagon to produce, so I did some research.

Here is what I found:

Learning Resources Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set

For ages 5 years and above, this game has 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon and it describes itself as an early introduction to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). It introduces hands-on coding skills, 10 activity cards and 30 coding cards. You can program the mouse to perform a sequence of steps to race through a variety of maze formations to get the cheese. Ummmm cheese!

Fisher-Price Code-a-pillar™ Toy

It’s Fisher Price so it has to be good right?

Well it has 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon, it develop skills like sequencing, critical thinking, reasoning, discovery, memory, problem solving and experimentation. The idea is to put the easy to connect segments of the caterpillar together and then send it on its way. Okay, so I was paraphrasing from the description above, but it looks like a sturdy educational toy for three years and above.

LEGO 17101 Boost Creative Toolbox Toy

You had me at LEGO!

This one is for the older kids (ages 7-12 years), and also has 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. It includes over 840 LEGO pieces, plus a LEGO move hub, interactive motor and a colour and distance sensor. You can rotate Vernie the robot’s head to activate its shoulder-mounted spring-loaded shooter. You can also learn how to play a song and rock out with the Guitar4000, build the M.T.R.4 (Multi-Tooled Rover 4) and try out the different tool and customisation attachments to prepare the vehicle for an array of exciting activities.

Move Hub features Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity, two encoded motors, activation button, internal tilt sensor and a light. You do need to have a bit more equipment for this one though, a tablet running iOS 10.3 and newer/Android 5.0 or above is required and if you are in any doubt, you can visit the Lego site to check compatibility LEGO.com/DeviceCheck.

And, for those of us born in the 80s, doesn’t the robot resemble “Johnny 5”

Which one I will opt for, I am not sure (Lego, Lego, Lego….). Given the age range above and that Monster is under 18 months, I still have some time.

At the moment I see Monster being more musical than anything, but if that is their chosen area they will still need to get through the other core subjects at school, so why not try and implant it in them young, and try and make it fun along the way.
My coding knowledge is “well to do”, in the sense that I can get by at work, so if I can learn something as well – bonus!

I’m starting to think my Monster is a speed freak, though with two petrol-headed parents it’s not surprising.

In a bid to wear out my over-active little energiser bunny, I took them to the park with their ride-on tou my mother bought them. Monster found a hill to go down, and decided to lift their legs up, gripped hold of the wheel and squeeled with excitement, leaving me to run behind to try and mitigate any near crashes, (which very nearly happened), and also left my mother trailing behind us roaring with laughter.

I have since purchased Monster another ride on which is Paw patrol themed from Amazon for £11.99. This is their favorite show and so I thought it would be nice for Monster to have one at our house and another at my mum’s. Monster is nearly walking and so it gives them the independence they need in the meantime.

Paw Patrol Ride On

Above is Larry the lemur showing off Monster’s Ride On. Larry is from Wingham Wildlife Park in Canterbury Kent.

Additionally, another sign that Monster enjoys speed, whenever I accelerate on the motorway I can hear Monster in the back giggling and throwing their arms up in the air. This child has no fear, and with that the car keys go in a locked draw at night.

Blackberry surprise!

I was in the process of upgrading my phone recently, when the sales representative on the call mentioned how surprised she was that I was still using Blackberry. In that last year we are seeing more of a diversion away from Blackberry now that Samsung have become a favorite in the workplace and they have the attached keyboard. In business this is quite a key factor as my colleagues and I measured the speed of emailing when using a Blackberry in comparison to a touch screen. One of my previous firms changed to iPhone and we noticed an increase in the time it took to to send a one lined email to a client.

The time increased from under a minute to 6 minutes. Granted there were other aspects to consider here such as connectivity, and the inexperience of not using a keyboard, but for me personally, given that I have such severe dermatitis, I cannot use a touch screen. The keys do not register, and I confess that there are times when I am walking from one meeting room to another and emailing. To do this efficiently and quickly, I need to have a raised keyboard so my fingers can feel the keys as I walk. Otherwise I will be knocking into things.

For me it is a shame that Blackberry look to be meeting their match, but if all other requirements for me (or even three quarters) are satisfied then I am happy. It is not about ‘how easy to use’ the phone is, I don’t know why but when I mention that I don’t like iPhones, people naturally say ‘but they are so easy to use’. I understand that, but I require a device that meets my needs, not something that is just simple to use.
I will stress that I do respect from an engineering process the brilliance of iPhone, it just doesn’t fit in with my needs.

Personally I hope Blackberry to continue. I am not an app person, I use my device to write blog posts, articles, fill in gaps on my books and so on, the only improvement I would like is a better camera.

Also you can still get groovy cases for the Blackberry Classic. This is the one I am using at the moment: