Sunday, 31 July 2016

What's Occurrin' - July

What's Occurrin' - July

Welcome to my monthly update of what I've been watching, reading and generally getting up to in July. 

TV: Beck:
I love a good Scandinavian crime book and I'm a huge fan of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo's Martin Beck series. The couple's books were written in the 1960's and are often seen as the inspiration for the fabulous crime writers and characters that followed them.  

I've read the series several times over and always loved how the stories unwound around Beck, his colleagues and the office politics that were always present.   Martin was never your stereotypical heavy drinking, problem addled Inspector on the edge of disaster.  He was perfectly normal.  And for that, I loved him.  

I don't watch much TV, but recently caught an ad for a dramatisation of Beck which was showing on BBC Four.   As soon as I realise it was Swedish made and not an English interpretation, I had to watch it.  I also ha to make sure I had no distractions and I don't speak Swedish and am unable to move my eyes from the screen for fear of missing something important.   Like the identity of the murderer, for example.  

I tuned into BBC iPlayer and caught an episode called 'The Weakest Link'.   I recognised it very loosely from one of the books and thought it was well made and Beck was exactly as I expected him to be.   He's not jolly, but hardly morose, either.   Gunvald Larsson, the arrogant colleague from the novels was also brilliantly cast and portrayed.    I'll definitely be tuning in to more.   

What's Occurrin' - July - A Scot in North Wales
Book of the Month, courtesy of Agatha Christie.  
Books: Death in the Clouds - Agatha Christie:
I bought this gorgeous little book second hand in my local charity store in Dolgellau and it's so old that the price listed on it is 2 and 6.  I've no idea what that actually means in terms of value, but it cost me 50p in 2016, so I'm good with that. 

Death in the Clouds basically tells the story of a sudden death on a flight between England and France, which is caused by someone spitting a poisonous dart into some posh lady's neck.  I do wish someone could come up with something a bit different every so often... 

None of the passengers admit to seeing anything flying through the air; all of them flatly deny any involvement, and it's left to Hercule Poirot who, also happened to also be on the flight, to work with the Police and figure out whodunnit.   

The book is a pretty slim volume, which always please me as I have the attention span of  someone with a very short attention span.   Anyway, it proved to be a great dead and, as always, I failed completely to work out who the murderer was.   

What's Occurrin' - July - A Scot in North Wales
If you need me, I'll be where my reputation don't precede me... 
Music: Miranda Lambert - Vice:
It might only be a new single, with the eternal hope of a new album on the way, but despite it only having been released a few days ago, I've already got it on constant repeat and know all the words.   

There's nothing by ML that I don't love, so the sudden drop of a new song made my month.  The song is the first to be released following her divorce from fellow country superstar, Blake Shelton, so it was always going to be a melancholy affair.   And it didn't disappoint.    Her lyrics are so honest and raw that you can immediately relate to every line.   

If you haven't discovered Miranda Lambert yet, you're missing out.    

What's Occurrin' - July - A Scot in North Wales
Good Time and Engaged....and a big stuffed Bee.  
Cosmetics: The Essence Gel Nail Polish:
I picked up two of these little bottles during my weekly shop last week in 'Good Times' (pretty much lime green) and 'Engaged' (a pearly pink).   Each was priced at £1.60, so I wasn't really expecting too much from them.

The polish was really easy to use and I applied two coats.   Unfortunately, by the time the evening was through, it had already started to peel.   I wasn't doing anything more strenuous than pouring wine (obviously...), so it's not as if I was giving them a rigorous testing.    The only upside (if you can call it that) was that at least the polish came off in strips, with it being gel and all...        

I doubt very much whether I'll buy any more as I'm far too lazy to apply nail polish only to have to repeat the process the next day.    I would merely end up with chipped gel polish which would make me look like I didn't care.   I really don't, but I'd prefer it if it didn't show.     Still, I got what I paid for and the colours are really pretty.   

What's Occurrin' - July - A Scot in North Wales
This makes Monday mornings a little more bearable.

Food and Drinks: Tim Hortons French Vanilla Cappuccino Powder:
This tin of joy came all the way from Canada as a gift for Les from his uncle.  I'm generally not a massive fan of vanilla coffee, but I am a cappuccino addict, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.   The instructions call for 2 heaped tablespoons of the powder in your mug, but it was so sweet that I couldn't actually drink it.    I use one teaspoon of regular coffee and one teaspoon of the powder and it's just perfect.  

It's been in the cupboard for two weeks and it's already half empty.   I'm not even sure if I can get it in the UK.   There;s every chance my next holiday might be to Canada.

What's been occurrin' in your world this July?

Suz x 

Saturday, 30 July 2016

My Favourite Literary Characters

My Favourite Literary Characters

Do you ever read a book and fall in love with the main character?  No?  Just me then?  Moving on...

I'm not a massive reader, although I am a prolific 'listener' of books as they help to ease me through my worst bouts of insomnia.

On the occasion I actually DO pick up a book, it's nearly always something crime related.   I'm a huge fan of books that feature the same characters in a series as I love to follow their personal stories as well as their professional ones.  

If you thought this list might be all Mr Darcy or Atticus Finch, then you've definitely come to the wrong place.  Also: you clearly haven't read my blog before.   

These are my favourite literary characters:

Lucas Davenport: John Sandford's 'Prey' series.
There are more than 20 books telling the story of Lucas Davenport, all based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul in Minnesota, USA.  

Lucas is a stereotypical tough guy cop, who doesn't always play by the rules.   However, as the series progresses, you see the sensitive side of Lucas and the battle with bouts of depression that impact on his life and work.

I already loved the character before his mental health issues but, suffering from depression myself, I can relate to the way that Det. Davenport deals with his condition.

The books are so well written with twists and turns at every page, and the depression is so well described that I have often nodded my head whilst reading passages that I can completely sympathise with.

The fact that this tough talking, street wise cop suffers from depressive episodes is what makes me love him, and root for him, even more.

Virgil Flowers - John Sandford:
Virgil is a handsome, flirty, cowboy type character, who works for the Minnesota Bureau Of Criminal Apprehension and just happens to be under the watchful gaze of Lucas Davenport.

Virgil is armed with a fabulous sense of humour, a wandering eye and several ex-wives.   He also loves fishing on his boat and his hobbies are often the source of some tension between him and his Boss.

Flowers features in quite a few books, with Davenport floating in and out of the stories at various junctures; generally when Flowers requires some advice.

Again, as the books are by Sandford, they're superbly written and filled with suspense.    I'm usually the first to complain when authors create new characters (I get quite attached to  he old ones), but John Sandford is a rare exception.   

My Favourite Literary Characters
Dark and spooky - just how I like it

Kay Scarpetta - Patricia Cornwell:
Way back in the olden days when I were a lass, I discovered the first Scapetta novels and absolutely devoured them.

I love crime books set in the US and I have a particular affection for the South, which is an area I've explored widely over the years.

In the first few books, Scarpetta is based in Richmond, Virginia, and is a fairly straight laced workaholic Chief Medical Examiner.  Her sidekick is the rather annoying Pete Marino, an overweight, hard drinking, chain smoking homicide cop with a dodgy marriage and very thoroughly reprehensible views on homosexuals. 

The first half dozen books are outstanding but, unfortunately, the story lines start to get a bit too far fetched in the more recent publications. I eventually couldn't take the disappointment and stopped reading them. 

Body of Evidence, one of the very first releases in the Scarpetta series, remains one of my favourite books of all time.   I doesn't matter how many times I read it, the twist at the end gets me every time.

Harry Bosch - Michael Connelly:
I've read every single Harry Bosch novel (to date) and have enjoyed moving through the stages of his life with him; from a single man with no kids to single man with a dead wife and one kid.     

Well, when I say 'enjoyed', you know what I mean.  No one likes reading about people losing their wives.   Unless their wife is really evil.   Anyway, Bosch isn't the happiest of characters, but I do love his moral code, even if I'm not the biggest fan of L.A as the setting for the novels.   That doesn't put me off too much, though.    

Connelly has been writing about Bosch since 1992 and the Police detective is still going strong today, after racking up 20 titles.   That gives some idea of the measure of Connelly's writing, as well as the depth of his leading man.

My Favourite Literary Characters

Agatha Christie - Miss Marple:
I'm unable to separate Joan Hicks' face from any vision I have of Miss Marple.   No matter which book I read, she's always the face I see.   She plays the character so brilliantly that I can't imagine anyone else doing it.

Anyway, no self respecting crime novel reader can really miss out the wonder that is Jane Marple.  From her unassuming air and her sharp mind, she has been the curse of many a sneaky murderer.   

Her attention to detail (which is obviously Christie's) and her gentle way make her a quite unexpected problem solver; the complete opposite from Poirot's arrogant and rather abrupt manner.   It's this frail, elderly lady appearance that lulls people into a false sense of security and gives MM her edge.

There's nothing I don't love about a Miss Marple book; not least the language and aristocratic settings.  I'm always amused by characters called Miss Venetia or Lady Trumpington-Smythe and it just reflects a time I've never known and a life I've never been part of.  

It's no surprise that Christie's books are outsold by only Shakespeare and The Bible.   There's not a single thing not to love about the twists and turns of the stories and seeing if you can't pick the most unsuspecting person in the book as the murderer as, nine times out of ten; it's them.

Who are your favourite literary characters?

Suz x

Thursday, 28 July 2016

8 Great FREE Things To Do in Edinburgh

8 Great FREE Things To Do in Edinburgh
During my work with VisitScotland, I lost count of how many Edinburgh bus and walking tours I had to go on.   After the tenth one, it starts getting a bit old but, if nothing else, it gave me such an appreciation for the history and people of the city.    After writing a similar post on Glasgow, I felt I had to even things up and do the same for Edinburgh.

These are some fantastic free things to do in Scotland’s beautiful capital:

8 Great FREE Things To Do in Edinburgh
Edinburgh's Old Town from Greyfriars Kirkyard.
National Galleries of Scotland:
These take into account the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, The National Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art (1 and 2).   As well as a plethora of temporary exhibitions from around the globe, the permanent collections house some of the world’s great art, including Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Annie Leibowtiz and ‘The Weight’ by Fife artist, Jack Vettriano.

As the National Galleries comprise separate buildings, they helpfully put on a free bus to help you travel between them all.  All galleries are free of charge.

Greyfriars Kirk and Greyfriars Bobby:
If you haven’t heard the sad tale of Bobby and his Master, where have you been?  Certainly not Scotland, that’s for sure.   We get it drilled in to us from an early age.   Basically, Bobby is a wee dug (small dog) who lived in the city and is famous for lying on his master’s grave for a very long time after he died.   14 years, apparently.   Basically, he’s a very loyal Skye terrier and possibly the most loved canine in Scotland, apart from my dog, Jake.  No chance Jake will spend years on my grave, though, as he’s far too fond of snuffling for biscuits.   

Greyfriars Bobby is so popular he has his own statue.   His master doesn’t have one, though, but don’t let that colour your opinion of how Scottish people treat each other.   Anyway, his statue can be found in Candlemakers Row, just a short walk from the Royal Mile.  Directly across the road from Bobby is Greyfriars Kirk, where Bobby’s grave is also found.   The grave is perpetually covered in sticks that people leave for him.   The Kirk is a beautiful building and entry is free here.  It is only open on a seasonal basis, though, but you can access the graveyard and Bobby’s statue all year round.

8 Great FREE Things To Do in Edinburgh
Greyfriars' Kirk
8 Great FREE Things To Do in Edinburgh
Greyfriars' Bobby
8 Great FREE Things To Do in Edinburgh
Bobby's Grave...complete with sticks
National Museum of Scotland: 
This. Is. Massive.   Seriously, it’s HUGE and it’s got tons of stuff in it.   It’s also a very popular attraction for families as it’s free of charge and can keep children occupied for a very long time.   Honestly…even the really naughty ones.  

The museum covers everything from the age of dinosaurs to what technology will look like in the future, as well as everything in between.    From galleries dedicated to Natural Science, Scottish History and World Cultures, there really is something to interest everyone.   I’m particularly fond of looking at dinosaurs and the interactivity available throughout the museum ensures it keeps the whole family amused.  

There’s nothing quite like pushing buttons on exhibits to see what they do, right?  The fascination lies somewhere between having spent your own childhood being told not to touch ANYTHING in a museum and now knowing that you can pretty much touch anything that doesn’t have one of Those Signs on it.   And they actively encourage you to get involved these days.  It’s often more than I can deal with.    

8 Great FREE Things To Do in Edinburgh
NMS has a terrible problem with dinosaur infestation.
8 Great FREE Things To Do in Edinburgh
The main hall in the Museum of Scotland
St Giles Cathedral:
Located in the High Street portion of the Royal Mile, this 900-year-old Cathedral, which is also known as The High Kirk, is easily recognisable by its crown shaped spires.  The Cathedral is vast and the interior is really wonderful.   Volunteer guides work within the Cathedral and provide guided tours and to answer any questions.   

One of the highlights of a visit is the Great West Window, which was designed by an Icelandic architect and celebrates the works of Scottish bard, Robert Burns.   There is also a lovely memorial to fellow Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson.  

Although visiting St. Giles is free of charge, there is a suggested donation of £3 per person.  However, this isn’t enforceable, but monies collected are used towards the upkeep of the building.  

Writers Museum and Makars’ Court:
Run by the city Council, the Writers’ Museum occupies a small space in Lady Stair’s Close in the Lawnmarket portion of the Royal Mile.  As the name suggests the museum celebrates the life and works of Scottish writing talent and has permanent exhibits dedicated to Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Sir Walter Scott.  

My favourite part of the museum is actually outside in the courtyard at Lady Stair’s Close, where there are numerous flagstones dedicated to a wealth of Scottish writing talent, with some of their famous quotes carved in.   Here, you can find Muriel Spark, Author of ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’, Ian Rankin, who writes the Inspector Rebus novels, and John Buchan, who penned ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’.  There are many, many others and it’s a really pretty little spot to walk around.   

8 Great FREE Things To Do in Edinburgh
Muriel Spark's flagstone in Makars' Court
City Arts Centre:
This venue is run by the city council and is tucked away just a few minutes’ walk from the main shopping areas, in Market Street.  It is home to Edinburgh’s fine art collection and has a focus on Scottish art, as well as showcasing works from around the world, in their collection of more than 4,500 pieces.   CAC is a lovely, peaceful space and is well designed and presented.    It also has a beautiful shop on the ground floor and a very popular cafe, with a very eye catching mural adorning its walls.

8 Great FREE Things To Do in Edinburgh
City Art Centre upper floor display.
The Royal Mile:
Firstly, it’s not actually a mile.   Despite being longer than its title suggests, the name ‘Royal Mile’ sounds so much better than ‘Royal Mile and a Third’ and, well…that’s that, really.    It’s actually based on an old Scots mile and we didn’t feel the need to amend it just because units changed, or whatever.   We’re stubborn like that.

Anyway, The Royal Mile is made up of various streets, running from the west to the east (and helpfully downhill…) and are:  Castlehill (from the foot of Edinburgh Castle), Lawnmarket, High Street, Cannongate and Abbey Strand.    It is a beautiful walk and, while wandering, you can indulge in shopping for some famous Scottish ‘tat’ (cheap souvenirs), which is available in many of the shops here.   You can’t miss it unless you don’t know what tartan looks like…

I quite like all the stuff they sell and it obviously attracts tourists or there probably wouldn’t be as much of it around, would there?   What right-minded individual would go home from their travels to Scotland without a stuffed Loch Ness Monster?  Exactly.

Following the streets down the Royal Mile, there are also lots of quality cafes and bars and, should you make it all the way to the bottom, you can gaze in quiet amazement at what we built as a Scottish Parliament.   It’s a bit of a marmite one, this.   I’m not a fan of it myself (the building, I mean, I quite like the Parliament).  However, it divides opinions, but is impossible to miss, which can’t be all bad, can it?    Oh, and the Queen’s Holyrood Palace is also located across the street, which also divides opinions, but for totally different reasons.  

8 Great FREE Things To Do in Edinburgh
The Royal Mile (or part of it, at least)
Relaxing in Princes Street Gardens:
PSG is a public park, right in the heart of the new town.   Within the gorgeous green space are many statues and monuments, including the largest, Sir Walter Scott’s Monument, and smaller statues and memorials dedicated to David Livingstone and Allan Ramsey, amongst others.  There are also numerous war memorials within the gardens, paying homage to those who lost their lives in the Spanish Civil War and commemorating the work of the famous Royal Scots.   

At the eastern entrance to the Gardens lies the world’s first floral clock.   During the winter, the Gardens are famous for hosting Winter Wonderland, where an ice rink and Ferris wheel are put in place and the Gardens are beautifully lit.  The German Christmas markets are also a huge draw for locals and tourists alike, when you can wander round, drinking hot cider to keep yourself warm during the fabulous Scottish winter weather!

8 Great FREE Things To Do in Edinburgh
View of Princes Street and the Christmas Markets.

 What are your recommendations for free things to do in Edinburgh?

Suz x 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The (Very) Long and Winding Road

The (Very) Long and Winding Road Title

Now that we live in a very rural area in North Wales, we thought we’d make the most of the glorious weather we’ve been having and head out for a long walk (ok, so the weather lasted about 3 days, but that’s longer than the average Scottish summer).  We’d been flirting with the idea (definitely just the ‘idea’) of climbing Snowdon at some point, but both figured we’d need some training before we’d be fit enough to attempt it.

We pinched an OS map from one of LT’s colleagues and we poured over potential routes in our local area.  I say ‘we’, but I really mean LT.  Maps are not my friends and I have absolutely no idea how to use them, or how to follow them, so I sloped off for a cup of tea and left him to it.  

We now reside within the confines of Snowdonia National Park and I see finger posts for walking everywhere I go.   I knew there were many roads we could take and was happy when LT spotted a path from our home that lead to Llyn Cwm Bychan (Llyn is Welsh for Lake).  He confidently informed me it was a 6-mile walk and so off we trotted.

The (Very) Long and Winding Road - Irish Sea

I was feeling quite enthusiastic about the whole thing as we realised the route would take us right off the beaten path and away from the coastline we’ve become accustomed to seeing every day.  We first headed into the centre of Harlech, which is up a hill of Ben Nevis proportions*.   

It was only after arriving into town, flushed and sweaty, we realised that the path we’d chosen just kept on climbing.  I told myself it would probably level off soon and we carried on.  Boy, was I wrong.  

After 40 minutes of constant ascent and wondering how close we were getting to the sun, the road finally started to straighten out.  By that point my legs were burning and my enthusiasm had abandoned me.  

I asked LT to check the map for more hills and he stated that we were over the worst of them. Thinking that it would be flatter from there on in and, therefore, easier, we continued.  

The scenery was beautiful and it was amazing to see right out across the Irish Sea from such a height.  We passed by some gorgeous out-of-the-way houses and B&Bs and, as beautiful as they were, my over-riding thought was about how, if I lived there, I’d have to do a hill start every time I turned on my car ignition.  Hill starts aren’t really for me.   Neither is driving on tiny country lanes.    

*It absolutely isn't that steep.   

The (Very) Long and Winding Road - Signs
Which way to go?
After arriving at a crossroads, we had a quick debate about a longer and shorter route and decided on the longer one.  It would only be an extra mile each way, which, by my incredible calculations meant it would be an 8-mile walk instead of a 6 mile one.  What’s another 2 miles between friends??  Plus, the sun was shining and I was glad of the heat on my pasty skin.  

We walked and walked and walked some more.  Then my feet started to hurt.  I tried to ignore them by gazing at the hills along the route, as well as managing to have a quick rest when we were actually held up by what can only be referred to as a ‘sheep traffic jam’.  I’m not even kidding.   

The (Very) Long and Winding Road - Traffic Jam
Regular traffic jam in North Wales...
The (Very) Long and Winding Road - Waterfall
Waterfall near Llyn Bychan
When I finally got too tired to continue, I asked the age-old question – ‘are we there yet?’ and, to my complete dismay, was informed that we had walked almost 6 miles and were ‘half way’.   As it turns out, when LT said the walk was 6 miles, he meant to get there.  It doesn’t take a genius to work out that also meant it would also be 6 miles to get back.  

That little nugget, added to the fact that we were adding on an extra two miles by taking the longer route, meant that our pleasant walk had now blossomed into a hellish 14 mile trek.  I, perpetually disorganised and unprepared, was wearing a pair of Sainsbury’s tennis shoes which are, under no circumstances, designed for serious walking.  LT, who knew how far we were going, wasn’t any better equipped.

When we finally made it to the Lake, we had a quick scoot round, turned on our heels and made a start on the long journey home.  By the time we made it there, we were both knackered and a touch sunburnt.  Funnily enough, although I was miserable for a fair bit of the trip, when I sat down later with some wine (because, obviously), I looked back and realised it wasn’t so bad.  Funny how wine can do that, huh?   

The moral of the story is:  never agree to go for a walk unless you know EXACTLY how far it is.  There AND back.   Also, take sunscreen.  And decent shoes.  It looks like the ‘idea’ of climbing Snowdon will remain just that for the foreseeable future.

Suz x

Sunday, 24 July 2016

How To Be More Productive

There are weeks when I feel like I've achieved nothing more than successfully managing to go to work and back.  In an effort to maximise my productivity, I've been managing to set aside time (even just 10 mins) to do something productive.

Travel To Work:
For years, when my job involved travelling around Scotland for a living, I bought Spanish language CDs and stuck them on in the car.

I managed to learn another language just by driving a route that had to be done to make off to wherever I was visiting on a particular week.   

I downloaded mine from Audible and it's amazing how quickly I picked up the language AND how interesting it made an often slow and boring journey.

These days, I have a half hour drive to work, but I've already started with Welsh lessons.  It's a commute I have to make 10 times a week - I might as well get something useful from it.   

I also often blog in the car.   Only when I'm a passenger, mind.   This helps me edit posts and spell check before I schedule them while pretending to listen to whatever medical horror story Les is recalling on the way to Bangor.   

How To Be More Productive: Bike Blogging
My bike isn't nearly this cool.   Nor does it go anywhere.  
Bike Blogging:
If I go running, I obviously can't blog at the same time as that would be a recipe for complete disaster.   However, I also own an exercise bike and, over the past few months, I've started taking my iPhone and using the Blogger app to write posts; note down ideas; or even just do some scheduling.

It's amazing how much more I'm getting through and how the time flies when I'm not constantly looking at the clock on the display, desperate for it to move quicker.  

I am also known for doing a spot of step  aerobics during football games and am the master of the 15 minute half time cycle.   

Find a way to incorporate study, reading or ANYTHING into your exercise routine and you'll benefit twice as much.  Also: it makes the actual exercise way less horrifying.   

Buzzfeed is my bed companion, and I usually spend an hour chilling out and catching up with world events and the newest dog accounts across social media before I attempt to sleep (I just have to...).

I now set aside 10 minutes of this chill out time and write ideas for posts in my Evernote account; make a to do list for the following day; or just download that new album or book that I want.  

I then quickly check Twitter and FB notifications to see if I need to respond to anything before heading back to Buzzfeed or catching up with what Doug the Pug got up to that day.       

It's a tiny fraction of my day but it's interesting just how much I can get through if I focus and spend 10 minutes less smiling at dogs.

How To Be More Productive: Cooking
watch your fingers... 
Netflix and Cooking:
Yeah, so it's not *quite* Netflix and Chill, but it does make a sometimes boring nightly chore somewhat more interesting.

I stand up my iPad on the kitchen counter and delve into House of Cards or Silent Witness to catch up on the shows I don't usually have time to sit down and watch during the working week.

Do be careful with this one, though.  I have managed to burn a curry during a particularly tense episode of Homeland and gruesome episodes of Whitechapel aren't the best to watch when preparing raw meat.

Get up 10 Minutes Earlier:
OK, so this is not often something I actually do.   I have trouble getting out of bed at all, so moving earlier than absolutely necessary is a tough one for me.    However, I have managed it a few times recently, and it's amazing to find how it not only boosts my general mood for the day because I'm not running around like a crazy person, but it also gives me time to go out to the garden or have a coffee before I leave the house.  

Even if you don't actually want to get *out* of bed, just setting your alarm for 10 minutes earlier and, say, looking at dogs dressed as humans on Buzzfeed before you force yourself up will also do wonders for your mental health.    Trust me, I've tried.

Do Chores in Stages:

We all have chores that we hate.   Mine are...well, all of them.  If I know I've got a wardrobe to clear out, or some involved weeding to do, I will tackle it in increments.   The thought of coming home from work and spending several hours raking through old clothes; sorting out which one to keep and which ones are for charity, before keeping them ALL, doesn't appeal to me.   Therefore, it never gets done.  

If I dedicate 15 minutes a night a few nights a week and set about it bit by bit, I find it much more manageable.  I also don't hate it nearly as much.   Knowing that I only have a certain amount of time to dedicate to it makes it way less overwhelming.    I often find that once I've started, I end up going over my allotted time and getting way more done than I thought.

Do you have any productivity tips?

Suz x