The Liebster Award

It's been a while since an 'award' in the form of a meme has done the rounds - at least on my blog. So I was (pleasantly) surprised to be picked by Laura at Autumn's Mummy's Blog  for the Liebster Award. Thank you Laura for thinking of me!

Liebster Award logo

It's the usual malarkey - I answer questions and then ask a few of my own, so grab a cuppa and pop your feet up and have a read....

Laura wanted to know:

  •  Who is your hero?
Hmm interesting, what sort of person is a hero? Someone I admire? Someone that has saved me? Someone with amazing powers!? I think I'll go with 'my husband'. He is 20 years older than me and gave up work to look after our daughter when he was in his 50s, he has spent the years managing the house while I work full time, as well as raising her, he still managed to find time to look after a puppy and another dog! And now a new puppy again.
When I hear about hopeless men and how men can't multitask or do housework I think of him, quietly organised and managing the washing (light and dark separately), the cleaning, the day trips, school runs, homework, dog walks, floor mopping and so, so much more and  it all makes me rather angry!

  • Do you like cheese? If so, what cheese is your favourite?
I adore cheese. I love cheese almost more than I love my husband! I love all cheese (except blue cheese) Be it soft or hard, mild or mature, full of chives, apricots, nuts or even chilli! But If I had to choose only one type? Then it would be good old Mature English Cheddar, with plenty of bite.
  • What genre of music do you most enjoy?
I like a lot of musical styles, growing up in the 80s I was very much into new romantic styles, Adam and the Ants and even Soft Cell. Now though it seems I have moved into the love of Alternative Indie Folk (no I didn't have a clue it was a thing either) with bands like Stornoway (sadly recently disbanded)
  • Do you like surprises?
I like nice surprises. Wouldn't anyone? I'm quite spontaneous and terrible at planning so surprises are fine with me - though if you are about to spring a foreign holiday on me, I'll need notice as my passport is out of date.
  • What has been your favourite holiday?
I've had lots of great holiday all fabulous for various reasons, I love to rent a cottage in Wales, with dogs and family and cosy log fires after autumn walks, but I also adore hot climates and new foods and cultures such as my trip to Egypt. But my favourite trip was when DD and I had a Thelma and Louise style road trip in California (though with less death at the end) 

  • What was your first job?
I had a job as a waitress, the sort of job that really toughens you up and shows you what work is! And puts you off waitressing as a career! LOL
  • Big party or small gathering?
Small gathering. I'm terribly shy in real life, at blogging events I'm the quiet one in the corner. I am very friendly with friends though and love to drink, chat and laugh for hours.
  • What is your favourite mythical creature and why?
A dragon. No contest. They are huge, can fly, breathe fire and are generally gorgeous. I even have a tattoo of one on my arm. I think the sort of dragon I like best - and would love to be paired with, is a Pern dragon. Imagine flying a golden queen dragon across a new world.

  • What has been your biggest challenge?
Does getting up in the morning count? I have CMT and I'm permanently tired. But I don't think I've achieved anything particularly momentous, I haven't run marathons, got 1sts at Cambridge, won chess championships in Russia or walked the entire Great Wall of China. I did make a new person once, and have kept her alive for 17 years.
  • What was your favourite class at school and why?
Biology but only because I fancied the teacher. Later it was English literature, because I love to read and I love poetry and the meanings of words, the deeper meanings found in simple seeming phrases fascinate me. I studied haiku with the Open University because they are so beautiful.
  • If you could time-travel, what year would you go to and why?
Only time? Not time and place? Maybe the medieval times then, I rather enjoyed the Medieval festival we went to last year. The fashions were lovely then, even for poor people and while I wouldn't relish the diseases, the food and general lifestyle all seem to suit. I could learn to dye and spin wool, bake my own bread, drink mead and hunt with hawks (probably only a kestrel) at the weekend.

Thanks to Laura for the questions, and now 11 random facts, hmm, not sure they are all unknown to you if you visit here often, but here goes

  1. I have a Border Terrier addiction, LOL, we are currently on our third.
  2. I voted remain in the EU debate. I am a proud 'remoaner' and think the effect of leaving the EU will be a disaster for our children. I would love to be proved wrong, but only time will tell.
  3. I drive a white Fiat Panda. The car before this one, was a white Fiat Panda. I'm boring.
  4. I only have one tattoo
  5. I always wanted 6 children. Mr TM wanted none.
  6. I'm terribly faddy. I'd get a new book or hobby and be obsessed about it for weeks and then suddenly get bored with it and move on to something else. Pokemon Go falls into this category.
  7.  I really like sprouts. I am sad they are only eaten at Christmas, I sometimes buy them frozen so that I can have a few with my meals (cooked - I'm not so weird that I eat frozen sprouts) as no one else in the house really likes them.
  8. My favourite movie is Blade Runner. Possibly as I have a 'thing' for Rutger Hauer, but also because it's a brilliant look at the near future and the ethics of creation. I love the book it's based on too - but the two are very different in plot and tone.
  9. My favourite book is Life of Pi. I adore everything about it - from the plot (never ever give up before the end! Huge plot twist) to the gorgeous imagery to the religious discussions and ethical debates...hmm maybe ethics fascinate me more than I realised.
  10. I don't really have a sweet tooth. I like sweet things but I would almost always prefer a savoury option if there was one. Crisps before chocolate and cheese before ice cream. Twiglets, chilli peanuts, these are the snacks of my dreams.
  11. I like bright colours, my favourite changes from day to day depending on my mood but orange and green are always high on the list. I dislike pink usually, particularly when it is used to denote 'female'. Although there are exceptions to this, for example my ironic "You Can't Sit With Us" pink T shirt (from the movie Mean Girls)

And so now I need to nominate other bloggers I love to take part, and so I pick:

And they have to answer my 11 questions, which are:
  1. What is your favourite movie?
  2. What is your least favourite food?
  3. If you had to choose only one social media to use for the rest of your life which one would you pick?
  4. Why did you start a blog? And is that still why you blog?
  5. Are you a happy person?
  6. Can you sing?
  7. Which country that you have never visited would you most like to?
  8. What do you do to relax?
  9. Do you always take off your makeup at the end of the day?
  10. When was the last time you painted your nails, and what colour were they?
  11. Which book(s) are reading at the moment and are they paper or digital?

These are the rules:

Thank the person who nominated you – and display your award with pride

Answer the eleven questions put to you by the person who nominated you

List 11 random facts about yourself

Nominate and link to other bloggers that you think are deserving of this award

Give them 11 questions to answer and let them know they’ve been nominated!

I look forward to reading other bloggers answers.


Wordy Wednesday with Phil Swales

The world is pretty full of doom and gloom at the moment so I thought there was no better way to cheer you all up than to introduce you to Phil, Phil is...well I'll let Phil tell you about himself...

Hi I'm Phil Swales, I am a comedy writer.  I mainly write jokes for stand-up comedians across the UK, but I also write sketches, scripts, etc.  My first book, a joke book, is being published soon.

Do you have another job or are you a full time author? If you do something else (international spy?) what is it and do you like it?
I used to have a career working in admin, but various mental and physical health problems made it difficult for me to remain in a ‘proper’ job. I decided last year to become a professional freelance comedy writer and book editor.  It’s great as it allows me to work from home, doing the hours I choose. Plus I get to look after my dog all day!

When did you start writing?
Movies were my first passion, so I started writing short film scripts in my early twenties.  I then set up a film-making group with my friends and we took turns to write, produce and direct several short films.  Whilst I was doing this, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety which got worse over time, which affected my creative endeavours and I didn’t write for a long time.  I started up again back in 2009 when I joined Twitter and got interested in writing one-liners.   My jokes improved slowly over the years until I got to the stage where they were good enough to sell to other people.  I also had a brief foray into stand-up comedy, performing my jokes on stage in front of a crowd.  Although the few gigs I did went well, my anxiety and fear of public speaking meant I had to give it up, so I concentrated on the joke writing instead.

What 3 things are guaranteed to make you smile?
1.   A good joke.
2.  Some of the random things my wife comes out with.
3.  When good things happen my friends and family.

Do you have any pets? If yes, what, and do they help or hinder the writing process?
I have a Scorkie (Scottish Terrier crossed with a Yorkshire Terrier) dog who I love to bits but who can also drive me crazy at times!  He’s neither a help nor a hindrance, except when he demands to go for a walk.  Most of the time he keeps to himself and leaves me to my writing.

Who is your favourite author? Do they influence your writing or are they a total break from the sort of thing you write?
Bill Bryson, without a doubt.  I first discovered him about twenty years ago when his book “Notes From A Small Island” was adapted into a TV series.  I loved what I saw, so quickly read the book and found it hilarious.  I have devoured most of his work since then.  I love his sense of humour. I don’t really consider him an influence, but he showed me that there are some genuinely funny books out there. I love his books - I have the audio book of A Walk in the Woods and no matter how many times I hear it I always laugh!

Which book(s) are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just finished “Life-Abet” by Aaron Gillies, better known on Twitter as @technicallyron.  I’ve followed his account for years and love the stuff he comes out with.  Knowing a fellow Twitter user can get a funny book published had a big effect on me and my determination to become a published author.

Where do you do most of your writing?
I work from home and use the spare bedroom as my office.  It’s my little sanctuary away from distraction and noise.

What is your favourite biscuit?
A new type of chocolate biscuit called McVitie’s Deli-Choc recently hit the shops. They are Belgian Chocolate on crunchy biscuit and are very moreish.  They are the crystal meth of the biscuit world.

Tea or Coffee?
I don’t like coffee at all, so I’d have to say tea, although I don’t drink it very often.  Energy drinks are my go-to fuel source.  I have a condition called Hypersomnia which makes me tired all the time and sleep more than normal, so I drink them to keep me awake as long as possible!

In the film of your life who would play you? (why)
There aren’t that many short, fat, middle-aged actors on the Hollywood A-list, but if I was given free rein I’d choose Edward Norton.  He’s a brilliant actor with some great films on his CV.  As long as he can do a Hartlepool accent!

If you could genetically cross vegetables, what would you pick and why?
I’d cross a tomato with a zucchini with a tomato, so that I can have a Little Red Courgette!

To read new jokes daily, you can follow Phil on Twitter.
His joke book, “Swales of Laughter” is on sale paperback and E-book form.

Grab a copy here on Amazon UK 

and here on Amazon US 


Top Ten Tips for Checking Hotel Review Sites


Online holiday reviews, should you read them?

When you plan a fabulous getaway either with your family, lover, friend or even alone it's tempting, many would say sensible, to read the reviews of people that have gone before. But how to make sense of reviews of the same hotel that range from "it was appalling I would rather sleep under a railway arch, 1 star" to "amazing stay it was incredible in every respect, totally recommend, 5 stars!" ?

Here are my top ten tips on breaking down reviews, and making sense of them.

  • Check where the reviewer is from. With a global reach the internet has reviewers from all over the world. Pay more attention to reviewers from your own country as they will usually have similar expectations to you. Americans for example may mark down a hotel with no free ice machine, while the average Brit doesn't expect free ice as standard so may not mention it.
  • See if the reviewer has left lots of reviews or just this one. This is particularly relevant if the review is terrible as people are fast to complain but not so quick to praise. On TripAdvisor for example you can look back over other reviews from the same person. If they review a lot and the reviews vary, then it's safe to assume they are probably fairly honest and balanced.
  • Check who was in the reviewers party. Reviews for families will vary a lot from reviews for romantic getaways or adventure type holidays. Complaints of noise can be  relative and might be due to guests at the time of the visit and thus not an ongoing issue. Moans about a busy kids club on a romantic weekend might translate into the perfect child minding plan for a family with 3 young children.
  • Pay more attention if all of the reviews are similar. If everyone mention food poisoning and under cooked chicken over several months then it would raise alarm bells. Constant mentions of dirty rooms etc likewise. While one bad review among a lot of good ones probably just shows the hotel has a bad cleaner or a busy week.
  • Read the review not just the stars! Amazingly some people post a glowing review but only give 1 or 2 stars for the experience. I'm never sure if they are just holding back for the really fantastic hotels  (for example they may feel a 3 star hotel never deserves more than a 3 star review) , if they clicked the wrong button, or just have no clue how star ratings work! Likewise I've seen 5 star reviews that made the hotel sound awful!
  • Think about what you expect in a hotel. I like a clean room, a TV,wifi,  a fridge and a balcony. If reviews moaned about a tatty reception area I wouldn't be that fussed. If they said their TV was broken, the wifi didn't work in any of the rooms and the balcony had been unsafe I would be more interested!
  • Check the date on reviews. It is really easy to read reviews that are years old and be fooled into thinking the hotel is excellent or terrible based on very out of date information. Sort the reviews by date if you can and read the most recent ones. I have been caught out this way - turning up to discover the 'free' wifi was no longer free and the hot tub was no longer working - sad times.
  • Try and check more than one review site. TripAdvisor is a large site but there are others such as Oyster, Holiday Watchdog, and Travel Republic. Also google the hotel name to see if any bloggers have visited and written bigger reviews with extra pictures. Ask on social media too. 
  • Read plenty of reviews before you book, and avoid reading any more afterwards! Once you have booked, unless you are prepared to change or cancel your booking, don't torture yourself by reading more reviews.
  • When you get home be sure to add your own review. good, bad or in between all reviews are useful to the traveller. Be honest, try to be balanced, include facts and examples not just personal opinions, although a summing up of how you did or did not like the holiday can be useful. I always review the places I visit as I know how helpful reviews can be. On TripAdvisor it's not just the hotels you can review but the local attractions and restaurants too - you could even review those that are local to you at home.
hotel lobby

Do you write reviews online? Do you read them? I'd love to hear your experiences (good and bad) of using online review sites.

This post is (bizarrely) not sponsored ;-)