Thursday, 15 February 2018

5 Must See True Crime Docs on Netflix

5 Must See True Crime Docs on Netflix

I make no secret of my love of true crime.  I read books, listen to podcasts, read news stories and, love being tucked up in bed, scaring the pants off myself by watching Netflix.  Since the dawn of Making a Murderer (and indeed even before), Netflix has been at the forefront of churning out incredible stories - many little known - and asking questions about some pretty offbeat crimes.  All of them deserve more attention and are all shocking in their own ways.  These are the most jaw dropping documentaries and series I've been watching lately:

Oklahoma City
Chronicling the early life and influences on the mind of Timothy McVeigh, this documentary takes you to places you didn't necessarily think it would.  As opposed to concentrating on the crimes of McVeigh, it spends a great deal of time going through the impact that the Waco disaster had upon him and how his already impressionable mind was further warped by these events in Texas.  There's nothing overly surprising in the timeline of McVeigh's life or crimes; he was anti establishment and heavily influenced by propaganda from the far right, but the fact that he committed the worst act of domestic terrorism the US has ever experienced, in April 1995, is still wholly shocking, even by today's standards.  Interestingly, the use of fertilizer in the bomb he concocted that blew apart the FBI building in Oklahoma City, led to far more stringent restrictions on being able to obtain the substance.  Conversely, there's very rarely any tighter regulations after each instance of mass shooting they experience.  The right to bear fertiliser isn't in the constitution, right enough.      

The Keepers
Following the case of the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik back in 1969, this 7 part documentary takes you through the mysterious happenings at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore.  Sister Cathy was a very popular student and, later in life, an equally popular school teacher.  When she disappeared in 1969, her body was not found for almost 2 months.  For many years, rumours of sexual abuse swirled around the school and, in particular, its Chaplain, Father Joseph Maskell.  From testimony from other student, who detail their own allegations of the abuse they suffered whilst at the school, to the sensational story about one woman being shown the corpse of Cesnik.  The docuseries is a quite shocking look at a 26 year old life, which was deliberately snuffed out, and a crime which remains unsolved to this day.

The Confession Tapes
Each of the six episodes in this series focusses on a different crime. Each individual case tries to show both sides of the story; from the point of view of the authorities, as well as the position of the accused or suspected.  It kicks off with the brutal slaying of three members of the same family and the suspicion that surrounded the son and his friend, both of whom lived in the property where the murders occurred but were absent when the attack took place. Despite some fairly sneaky police work and tenuous confessions, you're genuinely left wondering who is responsible and whether the authorities were even in the right ball park when looking for suspects.  The series will either leave you shaking your head or genuinely scared about ever being interviewed by police - even when you're entirely innocent.

Manhunt: Unabomber
Granted, this is a very famous and well covered case, but the new dramatisation of the hunt for the Unabomber is one of the best things I've seen for a long time.  Starring Sam Worthington as FBI profiler, Jim Fitzgerald; Chris 'Mr Big' Noth as his SSA, and the brilliant Paul Bettany as the wonderfully odd and very dangerous, Ted Kaczynski, the show concentrates mainly on the use of forensic linguistics and their role in how the Unabomber was eventually brought to justice. I found it fascinating - not least due to the length of time it took for Kaczynski to be apprehended and who it was that finally led to his downfall.  There are 8 episodes in total and the tension builds throughout as you follow the FBI investigation and watch them closing the net around their man. 

The Witness
This documentary tells the story of Kitty Genovese, who was murdered in Queens, New York city in 1964.  Recounted through the words of her brother, Bill, the tale uncovers the shocking fact of an attack that took place in a heavily populated area and was allegedly witness by numerous people; none of whom did anything to stop it. This will make you put yourself in a similar position and think about how you would react to witnessing a serious crime. It will also make you seriously consider whether to believe what you read in the press and just how many people take newspaper reports as fact. How many people actually did witness the murder of Kitty Genovese? No one really knows. However, the whole concept of the apathy of society as a whole has long overshadowed a brutal murder and the needless loss of a young woman's life. 

What have you been watching on Netflix recently?

Suz xx

Saturday, 10 February 2018

6 More Amazing Podcasts for True Crime Junkies

I discovered the podcast world in the middle of The Great Audio Book Drought of March 2017 and don't think I'm being too over-dramatic when I say I've been obsessed ever since.  As someone who loves anything to do with true crime (as well as fictional crime), discovering a whole slew of people with the same interests as me was like all my Christmases had come at once.  Even though they haven't, obviously, and I don't even like Christmas so having them all at once would be a total nightmare.  Anyway,  I digress.  Since I discovered my first few podcasts, I've been thrilled to see the charts positively teeming with them.  These are some of the amazing stories I've been binge-listening to over the past few months

Missing Maura Murray:
This was the first time I've tuned in to a podcast in which every episode is about the same case.  I wasn't sure I would like it but, as it turns out, I really did.  I can't listen to episodes too far apart as I have absolutely no memory, but as long as I listen continuously, I can usually keep up with the story. 

Maura Murray was a 21 year old student from New Hampshire with convictions for credit card fraud and a dismissal (possibly...) from schoolOne day, she packed up her things, told her Uni lecturers there'd been a death in her family, and drove up towards the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  She crashed her car into a snow bank on remote highway (we *think*...) and has literally never been seen since.  Her car had no clues in it, aside from alcohol and her school stuff, and she left no messages about where she was going. She's been missing for more than a decade and, as her body has never been recovered, this had led to all sorts of theories about whether she was trying to disappear, or whether she was just drunk and ended up dying of exposure in the woods.  There are some really bizarre facts about this case, which make you suspicious that the disappearance wasn't an accident, but an equal number of facts that make you think it was.  All in all, her sudden disappearance remains shrouded in mystery.

Dirty John
Produced by the LA Times, this is a six part partial-dramatisation of the horrendous story of John Michael Meehan, a low-life scum bag of a man whose arrogance and sheer balls are a warning to all women who pass off their new boyfriend's shortcomings as 'quirky'.  No, ladies! NEVER brush off the excuses your new partner makes when he tells you he's a surgeon and then never seems to go to work.  If you challenge them from the start, maybe they won't come back to bite you on the ass and eventually put your life, and that of your closest family, in danger.  This is a true tale of complete horror that ruined the life of a wealthy, successful, smart woman who just wanted to be loved.  

In The Dark
I never listen to 'casts about missing children and even shy away from the episodes of my favourite podcasts when they discuss missing or murdered kids.  It's simply not something I can bear tuning in to.  I was extremely wary of this series, which covered the 27 year old abduction of Jacob Wetterling as he biked back home after visiting the video store with his brother and friend.  It was recommended to me in a fb discussion group for Minds of Madness podcast and from the first few minutes, I was hooked.  It wasn't so much the aching pain that accompanied his family in a search for answers that lasted more than a quarter of a century, but the seeming ineptitude of the local police department in linking together Jacob's disappearance with a whole raft of other assaults in a nearby town.  It was, quite frankly, jaw dropping.  I have never sworn at the radio in my car quite so many times in utter disbelief as I did when listening to this podcast.  It's by far my standout of 2017.  

Martinis and Murder
This show is produced by Oxygen in the US (the channel that brings me Snapped: Women Who Kill), and the basic premise of the show is that, each week,  hosts John and Daryn talk through a different case while their producer, Matt, makes them drinks.  Sounds odd, I know, but it really works.  The cases are well researched and the stories told with compassion and more than a little tongue in check sass aimed at perpetrators.  The hosts have a great to-and-fro and the whole combination just works really well.  I've heard so many cases on this 'cast that would otherwise never have entered my consciousness.  And that can never be a bad thing.

True Crime Enthusiast 
I initially found TCE through the WordPress blog and it progressed into a podcast from there.  I was pleased to find a 'cast covering some largely unknown cases from across the U.K. and was delighted to find one written and produced in my wee home of North Wales. Host Paul has a real distaste for the criminals he covers, which comes through loud and clear, but shows real empathy for the victims.  The 'cast has a bit of (appropriate) humour thrown in and he never indulges in superfluous details or gory descriptions unless they're absolutely necessary for him to recount the story.  Some of the crimes are quite unbelievable; all of them horrific, and it's made me wary (if not totally paranoid...) about some of the people I pass on British streets.  

Southern Fried True Crime
Anyone that knows me, or knows of my extensive travels through the Southern US will not at all be surprised to find me combining my love of the Deep South and my love of true crime. I would be lying if I said I didn't squeal a little in delight when I found this podcast and subscribed before I'd even heard the first episode.  I see no possible way that crimes from the South couldn't be a complete winner with me.  And I was right.  I love the accent, the bizarre aspect of many of the crimes, and softly spoken narrator who leads me, effortlessly, through some horrendous crimes, both solved and unsolved.  

Do you have any recommendations for what I should be listening to next??

Suz x


Thursday, 1 February 2018

What I'm Watching: January 2018

What I'm Watching: January 2018

I've had the pleasure of flu this month and had a lot more time to tune in to various shows.  These are my favourites from Jan 2018...

Manhunt: Unabomber
I binged watched this baby on a bed-ridden flu day and absolutely adored it.  I knew of the case because it happened within my life time, but I had no idea of the use of forensic linguistics that enabled the Unabomber to be traced and eventually brought to justice.  I also had very little insight into the man behind the bombing campaign.  The multi-episode show takes you through the entire story of Ted Kaczynski's 17 year reign of domestic terror in the US and, for the first few episodes, concentrates solely on the FBI's attempts to work out who he was, and their internal infighting about the best way to apprehend him.  It's not until the latter episodes that Paul Bettany's portrayal of Kaczynski is even shown on screen, so it very much feels like it's split into two parts before the inevitable merge towards the end.  It's a brilliantly acted and written show and was truly compelling from start to finish.  

The Jinx
I have to admit to knowing very little about Robert Durst, bar the odd news story I picked up online from the US, when I decided to give this a shot.  I fully admit to sitting with my mouth open for quite a portion of this, not just because I wanted to punch his current wife in the throat for being such a rude and arrogant pain in the backside while being interviewed by investigators.  This is documentary that starts with the finding of a human torso in Galveston, Texas, and then ends up winding back to other suspicious disappearances; notably Durst's first wife, Kathie. The series also highlights the role that having money plays in getting you acquitted of chopping someone up and dumping their body parts in a river and calling it self defence.   

Peaky Blinders
If I'm being completely honest, the thought of a show about a 1920s gang in Birmingham didn't really do it for me, so I pretty much avoided this for years.  When Season 4 was airing at the end of 2017, I read SO much about how brilliant it was on social media, that I knew I had to at least watch one episode before I could say that the accents were driving me insane.  Turns out, it's fabulous.  Like, really, really fabulous.  I rarely find box sets that keep my attention for any length of time (Criminal Minds and Breaking Bad being the only ones I've gotten all the way through), and Les and I find it impossible to find something we both want to watch as our tastes differ completely.  We made a deal that we'd watch a couple of episodes and then see how we felt.  We're now on Season 2 and really enjoying it.  Cillian Murphy is immense as Tommy Shelby and, when I grow up, I want to be just like Aunt Pol.  I didn't think it was possible to make a Brummie accent attractive (I feel the same about my own broad Scottish accent), but I was wrong.   I am now often found speaking in Brummie, shouting instructions across my house.  

Rick Stein's Road to Mexico
OK, so this one wasn't actually my idea, but as my husband has been regularly tuning in, I've managed to catch the entire thing.  I love Mexico; its food, culture and people, so I enjoyed seeing Rick travel down through California and over the border, checking out a range of local fare.  However, as I'm really not a fan of seafood, there's quite a lot of this that I wouldn't dream of eating.  The scenery was spectacular though and certainly gave me some travel inspiration and reminded me of my trip to the Yucatan Peninsula.  

What have you been watching this January?

Suz x

Sunday, 28 January 2018

10 Great Movies to Curl Up With On a Winter Day

10 Great Movies To Curl Up With on a Winter Day

Les and I often debate which movies to watch as we have vastly different tastes. I will watch most thrillers, action movies and some comedies, and Les? Well, he likes to watch something that doesn’t require him paying to much attention to the storyline. This means while he often opts for a romcom, or anything with Adam Sandler in it, I want to watch people being chased by the Police and murdered in remote farm houses in the country. There are a few films that we agree on, and theses are my picks for the best underrated flicks to chill out with:

I watched this movie through sheer boredom on a flight once and am so glad I did. It’s not the kind of film I would ever have selected, but it’s a brilliant story and the entire cast (led by Ellen Page and Michael Cera) takes you through the unplanned teenage pregnancy of the main character, Juno, and the way she and her family work through the process of finding a suitable couple to adopt the baby.  

Big Business:
This is my favourite film of all time.  I know all the words and, despite having watched this countless times in the past 25 years, it always, always makes me laugh. These days, I laugh before the jokes because I know they’re coming, but that makes no difference to the brilliance of this movie.  Involving two sets of twins who are switched at birth, the story leads you through the lives of very mismatched sisters; one set flying high in Manhattan, and the other living a peaceful country life in the South. When the company headed by one set of sisters threatens the livelihood of the other, all hell breaks loose in New York and some of the best movies lines every are employed. Starring Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin as both sets of sisters, this movie is *owned* by them both.  

The Italian Job (original and remake):
I have to admit to seeing the 2003 remake of this movie before I saw the Michael Cane original. Don’t judge me…  I’m sure there are plenty of strong opinions on the merits of both, but in particular, the fact that many people consider that the original version of any film is usually the best.  In this instance, there’s something about the cast and the stunts in the newer version that make it appeal to me more.  Plus, the advances in technology and the modern Italian setting are difficult to argue with, IMO. Plus, Edward Norton makes an excellent baddie. 

Out of Sight:
I am not a fan of Jennifer Lopez movies. Like, at ALL. I am, however, a fan of George Clooney and Ving Rhames. Based around Clooney and Rhames’ botched bank robberies, the story follows Lopez trying to infiltrate plans for a diamond heist in her role as US Marshall. Unfortunately, after a chance meeting with Clooney (in which she’s held hostage in the back of a car with him, she falls completely under his spell. She is only human, after all. Not only is the story good fun and often humorous, it’s also partially set in Miami, which means it has a fabulous backdrop. 

8 Great Movies to Curl Up With On A Cold Sunday

Bad Boys:
This is another Miami based movie, filled with robberies, death, comedy and people jumping off the roof of the Biltmore Hotel. Starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as cops, and Tea Leoni as the witness to a crime that they have to keep alive, the story revolves around trying to smash a drug smuggling ring and the boys having to swap lives.  It’s a sharp film, with a great soundtrack and another beautiful, palm tree framed backdrop.

Rear Window:
I love anything by Alfred Hitchcock and this is my favourite movie of them all. James Stewart is the handsome invalid, sitting in his apartment, recuperating after injuring his leg.  He spends his time absently staring out his apartment window, watching the world go by until he sees a murder in the courtyard beyond his window. And then he has to work out exactly what went on...

Silence of the Lambs:
OK, so this might not be everyone’s choice for a relaxing Saturday night feature, but it is undoubtedly one of the best thrillers ever. It doesn’t matter how many times I watch this, it’s always shocking. The relationship between Starling and Lecter is fraught at the start, but begins to develop to something almost fatherly by the end. I’m always left wondering whether Lecter would kill Starling if he ever had the chance. The first couple of follow ups to the original were always going to struggle to match this, but Red Dragon, with Edward Norton, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ralph Feinnes, finally managed to get near the original. Maybe just miss out Hannibal and jump from the first instalment to the last. 

Runaway Jury:
This is one of those movie, both because of the brilliant manipulative ways of the leading character, Nick - played by John Cusack - and the sultry New Orleans setting. The book is by John Grisham, and the cast is amazing.  Starring Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman as two very different lawyers; a young Jeremy Piven as a jury consultant, and Rachel Weiss as Cusack's quite literal partner in crime, there's nothing I don't love about the whole story and the sheer sneakiness of what goes on behind the scenes at a trial. 

The Lost Boys:
It's hard to believe that this movie was 30 in 2017, but there you go. I recall watching it for the first time waaaaay back when and absolutely loved it. I've lost count of how many times I've watched it since, but I know quite a lot of the dialogue, so too many would be my first guess. It's just creepy and magical and is still the best vampire movie of all time.  If you haven't seen it - you're seriously missing out.  

So I Married An Axe Murderer
Being Scottish, I generally cringe when watching movies where non Scottish people pretend they *are* Scottish, but Mike Myers is a rare exception to this rule.  This is mainly because his accent isn't actually that bad.  This movie has spawned so many classic lines that sound not too dissimilar to things Scottish people actually say that it's impossible not to find the whole concept of the film childishly amusing.  

What are your favourite movies to curl up with on a wintery day?

Suz x


Friday, 26 January 2018

5 Round the World Cocktails for Special Occasions

5 Round the World Cocktails for Special Occasions

I like a cocktail as much as the next 39 year old woman who likes cocktails, but I *really* like a cocktail that transports me back to some far flung destination I've travelled to.  As the inevitable approach to my 40th Birthday continues, I've been thinking of my favourite places and trying to conjure up some appropriate party cocktails to celebrate with.  Not that I need an excuse for a cocktail, you understand...particularly not when it's my birthday. 

For a few of the cocktails, you'll need a simple sugar syrup and I find it best to mix this up in advance so I have it ready. The basic recipe uses a 2:1 ratio of water to sugar and this is brought to the boil in pan and then left to cool.  The longer you boil the mixture, the thicker is will become, so it's a matter of taste, really.  

Santa Fe Susanita
I got married in September 2016 at the historic Santa Fe courthouse in New Mexico. Santa Fe is famous for its margaritas and, therefore, its tequila. Green chilli is also in every amazing meal I ate there.  In honour of the state and its beautiful abode city, this is my Santa Fe inspired cocktail. For this, your basic sugar syrup recipe includes a chopped up jalapeño chilli, which is then strained from the syrup before use.  

2 parts tequila 
1 part jalapeño sugar syrup 
1 part sparkling tonic water 
A squeeze of fresh lime juice

For a professional twist, mix in a cocktail shaker with ice and pour. 

Tam's Texas Tea
I recently spent a fantastic two weeks road tripping around the Lone Star State and had discovered their love of Texas Tea (alcoholic and non).  Add some freshly squeezed lemon juice to your sugar syrup in the first instance and then mix together the rest

1 part tequila
1 part rum
1 part triple sec (I sometimes use Cointreau) 
1 part bourbon (whisky will do just fine)

This can be very strong, so watch your measures and adjust it to your taste.  

Milano Spritz
This cocktail was made famous in Galleria Vittoria, just next to the fabulous Duomo, where Les and I spent a chilly few days exploring one March.  No sugar syrup was harmed in the making of this drink.

3 parts Campari or Aperol
2 parts tonic water 
1 large slice of orange
Fill with Prosecco (roughly 5 parts, but I just fill up my glass...)

Pour into a tall glass with some ice.  

Agua de Valencia
Valencia is famous for being the home of paella, but it's also also well known for its 'Valencian Water' cocktail. This is generally served in a pitcher (who am I to argue with tradition??) and served on the main plaza, preferably after hiking the many, many stairs to visit the view from the top of the city's Cathedral, but this isn't absolutely necessary.  The cocktail obviously depends on your taste, but I generally stick 3 shots of everything in and then fill up the empty space between OJ and some fizz. 

3 parts vodka
3 parts gin
10 parts fresh orange juice
Fill up with Prosecco or Champagne

Leslie's Turkish Delight
This is the perfect fruity pick-me-up and is inspired by the amazing freshly squeezed pomegranate and orange juice that we enjoyed in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

1 part vodka
1 part Triple Sec 
1 Tablespoon of Raki
Fill with pomegranate juice (you can sub for orange if you can't get hold of pomegrante)
A squeeze of fresh lime juice

I don't use Raki in this, mainly because it has a really powerful taste and I prefer it without. Pernod can be used as an alternative, or just leave out all together for a smoother taste. 

What cocktails remind you of your travels?

Suz x

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Flu, Funeral Plans and Speeding Fines

Flu, Funeral Plans and Speeding Fines
vroom vroom.... 
To celebrate my final two weeks as an official 30-something (I say 'official' as I'll still be telling everyone I'm 39 after Jan 26th has come and gone), I managed to come down with a nasty cold.  It's been in the background for most of the week and has now decided its time to come out and really show me what it's made of.

This week started off horribly when my phone pinged on Monday afternoon telling me that Dolores O'Riordan had been found dead, at 46.  I was completely stunned and immediately found myself thinking back to my late teens when I had her voice in my ears constantly.  I spent a fabulously hot day at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, way back in July 1995, when The Cranberries supported R.E.M's Monster tour; and they were immense.  Her voice was so haunting, but so powerful and I felt like I'd lost a part of my youth in her passing.   

The subsequent days passed fairly uneventfully, before I was consigned to bed all day Friday when I felt too awful to do anything else.  I managed to cheer myself up indulging in a bit of Netflixin' and started watching the bizarre story of Robert Durst in The Jinx, in between naps, obviously.  

And so, the weekend started slowly, with a trip out to the local town, in the incessant rain, to stock up on groceries.  When we arrived home, Les made a run down the mailbox to collect the usual junk we seem to constantly receive and I was surprised to find that I had a leaflet and a letter.  Mostly, the mail that comes to our house is for Les.  This is mainly because I haven't bothered to change my address with many people in the two years I've lived in Wales.  

Upon closer inspection of aforementioned mail, I discovered the leaflet was for funeral plans.   It was positively *imploring* me to sort out my life (or death, rather) so that I didn't have to worry about it later on.  To be honest, I hadn't really been worried about it at ALL until I received the leaflet, but now I really started to wonder whether I should have been.  The glossy colour leaflet shows a smiling woman (undoubtedly one who's relieved at having picked out a plot and paid for a coffin) and told me all about how to fix the cost of my funeral director's plans.  I didn't even know that was a thing.  It was also offering me a £200 discount if I contact them before April 1st.  If that wasn't tempting enough for me, they would also throw in a free pen just for enquiring.  Now, I like a free pen as much as the next girl, but I'm not entirely sure using a pen advertising funeral plans wouldn't make me feel a touch odd.  

As I was busy complaining to Les about the leaflet and being horrified that it should have been sent to me (from Glasgow, no less. Thanks Scotland: I love you too....), I started to open my other piece of mail.   Any feelings I had about the whole funeral thing were quickly replaced by the shock of a notice from North Wales Police informing me that they intended to prosecute me for speeding on 2nd December 2017.  The irony of receiving both pieces of mail on the same day didn't escape me and I decided to get myself that funeral plan pen after all, so that I could complete the Police form and let Heddlu issue me with a large fine and a few penalty points.  Silver linings, and all that. 

Part of me is all like: 'FFS!!...I've never had points or a fine in the UK in my LIFE!', while the other half is like: 'It's pretty impressive that I made it to 40 without ever having been caught speeding...'.   I'm unsure quite how to feel about it but, as I'm assured my driving will become increasingly slower as I get older, we can only hope that I won't repeat the offence *after* I'm 40.  I'll certainly be on constant alert for cameras on my way to work, I can tell you that for free.   

Suz x

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Help! I'm Not Adequately Equipped to be 40...

Help! I'm Not Adequately Equipped to be 40...

In exactly 10 days time, I'll turn 40.  I don't know how this happened, but I'm led to believe it an unavoidable consequence for everyone lucky enough to live this long. After losing a lovely school friend a couple of months ago, I've quickly realised that being 40 isn't really a big deal and that I should be thankful;  and I am. However, it doesn't escape my mind for a second that I'm not entirely sure I'm up to the job. 

I'm not sure what it is that 40 year olds do, but I'm absolutely certain I'm not doing it. When I was, like, 20 or something, and 40 seemed so unbelievably old and distant, I assumed you had to have a steady job, house, husband, kids, and maybe a dog and a decent car thrown in.  Looking back, I've had a few houses, a few jobs, two husbands (one current), one step-kid, several dogs, and quite a few cars. On the surface, I look like I'm fairly responsible. However, lurking just beneath that calm exterior of seeming togetherness is thinly veiled chaos.  

Twisted (Non) Fire Starter
I can't start a fire. I've been on the earth for 40 years and I can't do it.  I've tried - God knows I've tried - but the knack escapes me.  Not only can't I properly start a fire (to heat my home, you understand; not just to randomly set the middle of the woods ablaze or anything), I can't even do it with assistance. Granted, for most of my adult life, this has never been an issue.  Now that I live in the middle of nowhere, and have a stove in my lounge, it's a skill that would be useful in keeping me alive during the long, cold, Welsh winters.  I have attempted to build pyramids; use coal; firelighters; wood; paper and, dare I admit it, a miniature bottle of schnapps that, when tossed into the fire, caused a moment of sheer panic as an alarmingly large and rather angry looking flame flew out of the stove before pathetically dying out as quickly as it came.  I am, people, simply incapable of starting a fire.   

Washing Machine
I can operate the washing machine, you'll be pleased to hear.  However, I can only operate it on a single setting.  I tell myself it's all I'll ever need and have, therefore, stuck to that rule for actual YEARS.  I know nothing of RPMs in terms of the spin cycle and have never, ever messed with the myriad of buttons that my machine seems to be furnished with.  I wash everything I own at 40 degrees on a 30 minute cycle (also known as a Number 3).  This drives my husband crazy because, unfortunately for me, he's fully aware that there's more than one setting.  He has, on those infrequent occasions he's allowed me to go near it, told me to: 'put the load on 1600 rpm for 40 minutes at 43.25 degrees and then put it on a secondary mega-fast spin programme for 12 minutes', to which I've responded: 'Okaaaaay' before immediately going back to do the only thing I know how.  If that wasn't bad enough - and I can't believe my husband might actually read this (I'm sorry, please don't divorce me) - I don't even know which tray is for the powder and which is for the softener.  I'm not even kidding.  I never haveFor my entire existence, I've just chucked stuff in and hoped for the best.  

Since I passed my driving test way back in Ye Olde Times gone by, I have pretty much constantly owned a car.  Not the same one, mind, but various models.  I know how to make my car go forward and, if I'm feeling particularly confident, how to make it go backwards.  I also have experience of making my car roll forward, seemingly of its own accord, into the next door's neighbour's brick wall, but that's a story for another time. What I'm trying to point out is this: I will get a new car and do nothing, *nothing* to work out how to use any of its features apart from the basic essential of how to get it started. This means that I work out where my lights are the first time I drive in the dark and where my washers are the first time it rains.  I live in Wales, so those two things often occur simultaneously and then I really have to be on the ball.  I, Suzanne No Middle Name Tam, at almost 40 years old, have never known how to check oil, barely know how to fill water, and am constantly surprised at finding secret little compartments to store loose change in.   

Don't get me wrong, I own a smart phone, iPad, and smart TV, and I can operate them all.  I don't profess knowing everything they're capable of, but I don't need to.  However, what I appear incapable of doing is making Netflix cast on to my bedroom TV and understanding how the whole thing actually works.  I know it has something to do with the Chromecast, and I bought a wireless extender (go me, right?) so that I have a stronger signal on the second floor, but I'm just not sure how they all fit together.  I've been watching Les fiddle with his phone for years and making stuff happen on the TV, but I've never quite managed to get to the bottom of what kind of black magic he's involved in.  This means that, when I'm on my own at home (which is often), I am fairly clueless about which buttons to press and in which order they should be pressed.  I find it sad that a woman of my age (who expertly made Alexa bark at her friend's cat recently), can't project episodes of Criminal Minds from her iPad to her TV without lots of swearing and some level of husbandly intervention.

Sense of Direction
It's a long standing joke in my life that I have no - absolutely zero - sense of direction.  When I was employed by VisitScotland, it wasn't uncommon for me to check into a hotel room,  leave it to go for a run, and then have no idea how to get back to it. It's not that I'm incapable of working it out, it's just that I'm so absent minded, I don't think about it until it's too late.  My ability to get lost is legendary.  I am an avid traveller, so you can only guess at the situations I've gotten myself into over the years.  I also have the uncanny ability to get lost while in control of a satnav or a map.  Sometimes both.  I can get lost in places I know fairly well; like my home village.  I can go for a run, take a wrong turn and end up somewhere I've never seen beforeWhen I watch movies about people getting lost in the woods and dying *just* before they find a trail to lead them home, it makes me feel better, because this would never happen to me. There's no chance in Hell I'd be anywhere near an exit when I took my last breath.  

I guess I always thought that, as I got older, these were all skills I'd pick up. You know the way you learn processes when you do them repeatedly?? Yes?  Well, I don't.  Much of my life has been spent learning how to sing harmonies along with Chris Stapleton, reading true crime books and understanding how to avoid becoming the victim of a serial killer, and petting as many canine friends as humanly possible.  It might not seem as important as knowing how operate the numerous cycles on my washing machine, but at least I can say I've never been murdered while walking my dog and singing along to country tunes.  If nothing else, that's possibly what's contributed to me living long enough to see my 40th birthday, no? 

Suz  x