Giving Blood

I made my 21st blood donation on the 8th August.

I was a late starter, and like a lot of people I thought about it for years but didn’t do anything. I made lots of excuses, when I was younger I told myself that my lifestyle (excessive drinking, hard partying etc) meant that they wouldn’t want my blood, then as I got older it was just something I never seemed to get around to.

My Father was a blood donor, I have no idea how many donations he racked up but I found an old donor card of his whilst sorting through some old boxes.


This Certificate is granted in recognition of the fact that Mr D Griffiths gave blood for the benefit of others. 

It seems obvious what the benefits are to other people when you donate blood, put simply you’re saving lives. The catalyst for me to stop thinking and start doing was when I started working for City Link (remember them?). As an Account Manager, on the road, I did a lot of miles in my car. The more I drove the more often I saw accidents on the road, and I remember looking at them as I drove past and thinking ‘there but for the grace of God….’

Like everyone else, the one thing I didn’t worry about was the availability of blood if I were ever to be in an accident – there’s always enough right? Wrong! The NHS needs  6,000 blood donations every day to treat patients in need across England. They need approximately 200,000 new donors every year, as some donors can no longer give blood and around half of current donors are over 45 (that’s me!), which means that the NHS need more young people (over the age of 17) to start giving blood, so they can make sure they have enough blood in the future.

Did you know that giving blood can also improve your own health? (text reproduced from here)


Donating blood improves your overall cardiovascular health. Increased level of iron in the blood raises the chance of heart disease. Regularly donating blood helps males in particular to reduce the amount of iron in the blood. This can reduce the chance of heart attack by 88%. Additionally, regular blood donation can lower the risk of severe cardiovascular events such as stroke by 33%.


When blood is withdrawn, the donor’s body immediately begins to replenish the lost blood. New cells are produced by marrow within 48 hours of donation, and all of the red blood cells the donor loses during donation are completely replaced within one to two months. Therefore, donating blood helps to stimulate the production of new blood cells. This process of replenishment can help your body stay healthy and work more efficiently.


Donating blood on a regular basis can also improve fitness. Donating one pint of blood (450 ml) burns 650 calories in donor’s body.


Many elderly people who are in good health have reported feeling invigorated and reenergized by giving blood on a regular basis.


Give blood to help lower your risk of cancer. According to the Miller-Keystone Blood Center, consistent blood donation is associated with lowered risks of cancers, including liver, lung, colon, stomach and throat cancers. Risk levels drop in correlation with how often participants donate blood.


In addition to all of these benefits, a donor receives a free prior health screening plus mini blood test. The NHS tests for Syphilis, Hepatitis B virus, Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Hepatitis C virus, Hepatitis E Virus and Human T-lymphotropic virus (this is on your first donation and then selected subsequent donations)


It doesn’t hurt, just a small prick, and it doesn’t take long. (I’m usually in and out within about 40 mins)

You get a text after every donation letting you know where you’re blood has gone, my blood has travelled around the UK more than I have.


And if all that wasn’t enough to convince you to sign up – I’ve saved the best for last.


Let me say that again



So get online/on the phone now and sign up, if you can give blood you should.



One of the things on the list for the Photographic Scavenger Hunt 101 was ‘My Camera’.

I have a few, quite a few, probably too many (can you have too many ?) cameras, film and digital, that I have collected over the years.


I was going to post a photograph of my usual weapon of choice my Canon 7D, it’s a great digital SLR and the camera that I use for all photoshoots and when I want to be sure of capturing the best quality I can.


If I have to choose one it’s always going to be my first. The camera that fired the passion, a gift from my parents in 1980, it still works, it still gets used and I still love it. My Zenith EM. Russian, tough and built to last (and with my track record with caring for technology that’s an essential quality).



Italy #3 Tiramisu

When in Italy…

Valdonica had a cantina which we could cook our own meals in of an evening, which was lovely, especially when you had the kitchen to yourself. Matt cooked a lovely pasta dish on one of the evenings we were there. Peace, quiet, lovely food, great company and the hills of Tuscany as a backdrop.

Most evenings we went into Sassofortino or one of the other near-by towns and ate out – who wants to do the washing-up when you’re on holiday?

One of our favourite restaurants from the week we were there was in Sassofortino, a short walk from Valdonica, called da Momo. Simple, traditional food, great value with a meal for two including wine costing just over €34.

I had to try the Tiramisu and it was delicious, the best I have ever tasted.


Your Mother Was A Hamster, And Your Father Smelt Of Elderberries.

I first thought about creating my Never Ending Life List back in 1999 when I had the chance to sleep in a Castle. The conversation went along the lines of ‘that’s something I can cross off my list’ even though I didn’t actually have a list at the time, just a few wishes and ideas that floated around in my head. I started to write them down in notebooks, things I wanted to do, places to go, things to try, I didn’t call it anything at the time, it was just a collection of long-term ‘to do’s’. I hadn’t heard the terms bucket list or life list back then so it was just my list. Technology has raced ahead since 1999 and now people all over the world (including me) are posting their bucket lists and life lists online.

There are a lot of sites that collate people’s lists and give you a chance to see what they are aiming for and what they have achieved.

Life Lists Of Cool People I Know
Day Zero (good if you want to set a deadline for completion)

Life lists have become a popular theme for bloggers, some people have even started to monetise them, publishing books and charging for coaching and advice on how to write your list and achieve your goals. I started blogging about my list so I could keep a diary of the things I’d done and when I’d done them and a blog seemed the best format. A blog doesn’t take up physical space like a pile of notebooks would, it’s easier to add photographs, I can add to it from anywhere in the world without having to remember to take a notebook with me, share it with friends and I never forget where I left it.

When I look at some people’s lists they are full of amazing things, grand quests like Chris Guillebeau whose goal was to visit every country in the world, which he achieved and wrote about in The Happiness Of Pursuit. My goals seem a little tame compared to some but I stopped comparing myself to anyone else a long time ago, or caring what others thought about me so I’m happy with my list, which is always being added to. I’m not setting deadlines, there’s enough stress and pressure in my working life without adding to it in my own time, just working my way through it and enjoying life.

Which brings me back to the wish that started the whole list. Sleep in a Castle.

Two friends of mine from New Zealand, Leslie and Randall, had been traveling Europe and we met when they came to the UK. They stayed with me in my flat in Tooting for a few months before landing a job as cook/housekeeper and general handyman at St Michael’s Mount in Marazion.


I have to admit I hadn’t heard of St. Michael’s Mount or its counterpart in France Mont Saint-Michel at the time and when they said it was a Castle I imagined it to be a very grand stately home but not an actual Castle. They moved to Cornwall and were allowed to have guests stay so a month or so after they started their new jobs I headed down to Cornwall for a weekend on the Mount.

I remember driving down to see them and getting to the first point where I could see it from the road and pulling over and parking, I got out of the car and stood there for a few minutes and just thought ‘wow – it’s a Castle, a real Castle’ I was in love with it before I ever stepped foot on the Mount itself.


We had some amazing times on the Mount and there were more than a few reanactments of The Holy Grail when we sat out on the top, near the turrets watching the tourists below. The St Aubyn family part owned the Castle and it was bequeathed entirely to the National Trust on the death of the 4th Lord St Levan in April 2013. Lord and Lady St Levan were lovely people and always made sure that Leslie, Randall and their guests were well looked after on The Mount, providing boats and an old WWII Amphibious Vehicle , to get us to and from the mainland when the causeway couldn’t be crossed.

(Lord St Levan c 1999 launching a new boat on the Mount)


(The Causeway – from the Mount)

I was even lucky enough to fly down in a helicopter owned by my boyfriend at the time and we spent the night in the Prince’s Room, in the beautiful four-poster bed, as ways to tick off a quest it doesn’t get much better than that.


All the photographs I took were taken on film (remember film) otherwise I’d probably have thousands of them but there are enough to be able to remind me of the many happy times  I spent with friends in one of my favourite places in the World.






Italy #2 Il Giardino dei Tarocchi

Whilst in Italy we visited Niki de Saint Phalle’s esoteric sculpture garden, Il Gardino dei Tarocchi,  based on the Tarot cards. This project started in the late seventies and ended when Niki passed away in 2002

It was a gloriously hot day and the garden is a fascinating place, the sculptures are tactile and most can be walked on, in and touched.

We met a man who was touring Italy with his Cat – Jake. Getting ours in a car is hard enough, getting him on a lead would result in blood loss for one of us but (eventually) Jake seemed keen to explore the gardens.


The sculptures are based on the Major Arcana the cards that reveal the big picture about our lives. (all photographs are mine, the cards are scans from a pack that I bought at Il Giardino dei Tarocchi and the descriptions are reproduced from

Continue reading “Italy #2 Il Giardino dei Tarocchi”

Italy #1

So.. we went to Italy 😀 (another  tick on my Never Ending Life List). We went to Tuscany, something we’ve both wanted to do for a long time, and if the small part of Italy that we saw on this visit was anything to judge the country by we will be back. We stayed in a vineyard, (coals and newcastle spring to mind) but more about Valdonica in another post.

We landed in Pisa and hired a car, it had to be a Fiat, not just because the Fiat 500 is an iconic Italian car but because neither of us had ever driven on the other side of the road before and a small automatic was definitely the easiest option (and because a long time ago, in another life I used to work for Fiat in the UK). In over thirty years of driving I have driven a few left-hand drives but always on the left-hand side of the road. This was my first attempt at driving a left-hand drive on the right-hand side of the road (just typing that has confused me, I’m amazed we survived the week)

We flew with Easyjet, cheap and cheerful and for a short flight (2 hours) we had no complaints. I did my good deed for the day on the outbound flight and swapped our seats with a couple who had the seats at the very front of the plane, next to the doors, but also had a toddler.  Their son was too young to be allowed to sit there – apparently he needed to be able to open the emergency doors to be able to stay in the front row – he seemed a really bright kid but I think that was asking a little too much of a three-year old. They were going to be spilt up as there weren’t three seats together anywhere else on the plane and we had three seats between the two of us in the row behind them it seemed the right thing to do to swap. Note to self – never sit in the front row again! I don’t regret doing it, it was the right thing to do and made a family very happy but we spent 2 hours downwind of the toilet which was not pleasant, on the upside if I had long legs I’d have been happy but I don’t so that was small consolation.

When we landed in Pisa the heat hit us, after what seemed like a never-ending winter in the UK sunshine was an alien concept but a very welcome change. The other observation at the airport was how cheap cigarettes are in Italy, not necessarily a good point but we indulged. We had smoked on and off for a few months, more off than on but fancied a packet so we could have one of two while we relaxed with a glass (bottle?) or two of wine when we arrived at Valdonica. At 5 euros a packet this very quickly became more than one or two over the week we were there.

We hired our little Fiat from Autoclick and they were brilliant, there was a shuttle bus from the airport to the office, the car was ready for us when we got there, the paperwork was hassle-free and there was even an option for additional insurance that meant we could trash the car and not pay anymore, it was so cheap we took it out, just in case, we didn’t need it but the peace of mind was worth it.

We set off in Remigio (cars always have to have a name and it seemed only right to name this one after my only Italian relative, my dearly departed Uncle (by marriage) – Remigio Montagnola)



We had a system. Matt (the map expert) navigated, using a combination of Sat Nav (which thankfully spoke English) and map and I aimed the car. We avoided the Autostrada and stuck to the scenic routes, along the coast. It seemed to work and we made it to Valdonica late afternoon, in one piece and already in love with Italy.

We settled into Valdonica, had a couple of glasses of their gorgeous wine (which you can buy in the UK from a distributer but it’s cheaper to buy direct as long as you spend at least 100 euros and then don’t have to pay for shipping – email them, they will send you bottles of joy, very well packed and less than you pay in the UK for it) then headed into Sassofortino for our first Pizza in Italy at The Pizzeria Fornaccio. I can’t bear the chain pizza restaurants we have in the Uk like Domino’s, Pizza Hut etc but there are a few independents that I know of that make Pizzas as I imagine they should be. This was the best I had tasted in a long time. They spoke little English, we spoke even less Italian but a smile says hello in any language.



Back in 2008, when my Never Ending Life List was just a few ideas scribbled on a post-it notes and scattered through notebooks, we ticked one of the quests off my list – to sleep in a windmill.

We travelled down to Rye, near the coast of East Sussex for a long weekend and stayed in The Rye Windmill B&B.


The white smock windmill is a grade II listed building and one of the most prominent landmarks in the town. There’s a bar and a lounge and a lovely cooked breakfast every morning. It’s a gorgeous building and there was a mix up with the booking so we couldn’t have the room we’d originally booked, to resolve the problem they upgraded us to one of the suites within the windmill itself, with a four-poster bed – we didn’t complain.



The centre of town is lined with cobbled streets, with medieval, half-timbered houses and an abundance of art galleries and independent artists.

Bodiam Castle is a short drive from Rye and it was one of the main reasons we originally decided to spend the weekend there. It was built in the 14th century, with battlements, spiral staircases and it’s original wooden portcullis still at the entrance to the gatehouse it’s a beautiful place to visit.