Thursday, 2 April 2020

Little And Large

In one sense, my world is very little now we are all in lockdown. The furthest I have been from the house in recent days is to wheel the bin to the end of the path. About 25 feet! And yet my world is so large- I'm getting regular messages from friends and family across the globe. Physically isolated, in a tiny bubble - but through technology I am in a huge community.
I've knitted a second shawl collar cardi for the Baby. The colour of the picture is all wrong- it is navy, on my dark green tablecloth! I spent an afternoon doing complex calculations with the original pattern, and reduced it from a 9month size to a newborn. This time I did a rib button band and cuffs. 
I don't expect we shall see the baby when he is a newborn - but he can still have a gift from Grandma. A little cardi to go with the large one.
The gift of yeast means I can continue to produce fresh bread. A couple of days back, I used some einkhorn flour in the mix. I bought this on a whim [and a yellow sticker] a while back.
The first loaf came out well - but the next one, I upped the quantities. Not quite the domed loaf I'd expected, more of a sunken treasure...
It will be edible, even if a little dense. I need to work through my older flours, I think and have proper 'stock rotation'
By the end of all this, I could do a collage of my "lockdown loaves"
Liz sends me encouraging pictures of her lovely  'rye bread rolls' and I feel slightly guilty that I just load up the breadmaker and leave it, whilst she daily does the full on kneading/proving/rising thing, with stunning results.
Bob was able to read Rosie a bedtime story - greatly enjoyed by all of us. The Sendak tale is a true classic, and Rosie joined in with claws and roars as appropriate. 
Thank you for all the kind wishes, we are getting there...slowly...

Update : I posted this earlier today, and have just heard that Eddie Large, one half of the duo "Little and Large" has just died. He'd been ill with heart problems, and contracted the virus in hospital. So sad to read this. He brought joy and laughter to so many. RIP

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

A Fool's Errand?

The blog is twelve years old this week - can you believe it? In my first post I wrote "Whether or not I am disciplined enough to maintain the thing remains to be seen" I am as surprised as anyone that it has lasted this long - and that 1500 people checked it out last Monday! I've kept to the same basic format - sharing God's everyday blessings in my life - with church, children, craft, family, food, friends, thrifty tips and life generally. 
But on April 1st I have been guilty of publishing spoof posts. There was "Faralla Sponge Oil" [Angela's April Fool] "Oslo Lap Fir" fencing, and Hardy's girlfriend Flora Polian...and others. 
This year, I just haven't got the heart for spoof April Fool posts - the world is full of enough 'fake news' as it is. A friend's kind message "Do you need any errands?" started me thinking about the expression "A Fool's Errand" - where does it come from?
There is a long tradition of teasing the new apprentice on their first day at work by sending them on a Fool's Errand. Older blokes [it does seem to have been a masculine habit] despatched the innocent boys down to the stores to collect some of these...

  • a can of striped paint
  • a box of holes
  • a packet of skyhooks
  • a left handed screwdriver
  • a tin of elbow grease
  • a verbal agreement form
  • a long weight
The phrase first started being recorded around 1700 - but before that the Tudor's referred to it as "A sleeveless errand" -the word sleeveless used to be used back then to mean futile or trifling. I've yet to ascertain where lack of sleeves and foolishness are connected! [Unless you look at those hapless teenage lads who will insist on going out in all weathers without putting on a proper coat.] 
We've technically got through the 14 days of self-isolation in The Manse today. I would like to run a few errands myself today. I have a small stack of parcels which need to get to the Post Office, and some fresh milk would be useful. 
A Wise Woman from the Yeast left a packet in the porch yesterday, so the Pastor will not be eating unleavened bread after all. Another friend deposited a beautiful bag of fresh fruit and veg - so I don't have to do any supermarket shop trips yet. I continue to produce meals from my pantry reserves. It was lovely to have an email from SueH saying that she made her husband a birthday cake with the mayo recipe and it turned out well! Glad to have been helpful there!
Health Report; Things are a little more complicated than I would have hoped. Despite displaying all the typical covid19 symptoms just after I did, Bob never really stopped working. By Sunday night he was unbelievably tired, and his temperature went up again. I went to the NHS Online site, and that was incredibly helpful. Having filled in the questionnaire, the doctor rang back. Bob is now fully 'off work' for a full week, because he is completely exhausted, and on meds to keep the temperature down.His breathing is OK. Our lovely Deacons have taken everything off his shoulders, and he is just sleeping most of the time. I'm really grateful for kind words, and the support of friends right now. If you are the praying type, then please would you pray for him?
Let us all hope that by the 1st of MAY we are beginning to see an improvement in the national situation...

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

From My Windows

Do you remember the brilliant Hitchcock film "Rear Window" ? James Stewart plays a professional photographer, with a broken leg, who is housebound in his upstairs New York apartment.
He spends his time looking out of the window watching the activities of his neighbours opposite - and has two regular visitors, his no-nonsense nurse [Thelma Ritter] and his stunningly attractive girlfriend [Grace Kelly]
It's summer, the windows are open- he hears snatches of conversation, he watches his neighbours, gives them nicknames and creates stories about them.
...he becomes convinced that one has murdered his wife.
Fantastic story, clever, typical Hitchcock thriller. Many regard it as his best - check it out if you have never seen it.
It's a bit like that round here [watching the nighbours, not suspecting murder]
When did someone come out with chalk and draw the hopscotch grid outside that house? It's great exercise - but were they playing alone, or with a parent, or a sibling? I haven't seen [or heard] it being used yet.
Being at the top of a hill, opposite a side turning means I can see lots of houses in all directions.
Over the weekend, the family next door put up the most humongous tent, similar to this one. It covered a high proportion of their back garden. Plans for a family holiday with the cousins have been abandoned, but they thought they'd check out the tent anyway.  Sadly the wind became quite strong, and it had to come down again.
I had a good conversation from my rear window with Mum, and she said that at 4pm every day her son plays a game of chess online with his Grandad. How good is that?
Lots of neighbours on all sides are gardening. Including our neighbour next door [the other side] who knew we'd been isolating and trimmed our front lawn as well as his own. 
Dorset Waste have announced they are suspending garden bin collection for the foreseeable future.
Some people are going a bit crazy though - cousin Gill in Wilko said one of their customers bought a 2 foot high garden gnome last week, and toddled off back to the car park with it standing proudly in her trolley.
Is this essential shopping ? Wilko remains open because they sell cleaning products, loorolls and pet food. Not sure about the gnomes. I love watching families going for a walk together, toddlers struggling to master their bicycles, older children on scooters and skateboards, etc. Often they look up and wave and smile when they see me at the front window. That's lovely. At the end of the side turning is a tiny gap between the houses and you can see flashes of colour as the busy Ringwood Road traffic passes. Not as busy as it was last month! 
If I go to the extreme end of my window, and lean close to the glass, I can see the houses to the East which back on to Ringwood Road. One is where my friend Angela lives. But I cannot work out which [it is quite away off] Perhaps she and I should stand and wave flags at 4pm, so we can each work out the other's location? I wish I had kept practising the semaphore I learned in the Brownies. It could prove very useful when 'social distancing' But it does depend on the other person knowing it too, of course.

Monday, 30 March 2020

For Emma

It is almost nine years since my good friend Gladys died. As I type this, her little Bakelite Box is on the desk beside me. I said in the post I wrote back then just how proud she was of her family. Here's that family now.
Her granddaughter Emma has just finished all her training as a doctor. 
I have watched Emma grow up - being a Supply Teacher for her class in primary school, making crafts at Holiday Club with her, then having her working alongside me in various church activities.
She is bright, and witty and generous and kind. She has always had a caring nature, patient with all generations - both fussy little children and nervous older folk. It is a privilege to count her [and her parents] amongst my friends.
But this is not how it was meant to be - the years of study have all come to a rather abrupt end, and she is waiting to see where she is needed. Everyone knows that medical training is extremely hard work, with long hours - and at the end of it, there is meant to be a moment to celebrate and have fun with friends, before going off to work in a world of sickness and pain. 
Her parents have loved and supported her through all these years, and I know they are rightly proud of their daughter and her achievements. But it must be hard for them not to feel anxious about the genuinely dangerous world in which she finds herself working now. 
It is right that we acknowledge all our NHS staff right now, and thank God for the sacrifices they are making.
But this morning I specially want to think of Emma, and all her young friends who are beginning their careers in a way nobody could have envisaged a few months ago. And also remember their families who are anxious for them.  
Keep well, keep safe, Emma...and thank you.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

More Virtual Church

Things are improving as we get into the swing of this. The Norfolk Service had a bigger congregation this week. After we finished the service at Ferndown, we had a Zoom after-church coffee session. That was fun, seeing the smiling faces of our friends and catching up on news. Here are some links. [why does YouTube always freeze on terrible facial expressions?]
A short sermon
And prayers
Jesus said "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them". That includes gathering round our screens in this strange new world. If you are feeling isolated, remember that you can still join with others to worship and pray. 
God bless you all

Lent Inspirations #4 - A Sabbath Rest

For almost a fortnight now, Bob has posted a 'Thought for the Day' on our Church WhatsApp group. This one received so many positive comments, I asked if I could use it as a Guest Post today. May it bless you as it has blessed others. Thanks Bob! He says...
"Like many of you, I’m taking advantage of this beautiful weather and the encouragement to get some exercise each day to go for a (carefully distanced) walk. We’re privileged to be just a little distance from Poor Common. Called that because back in the 19th century, when wealthy landowners enclosed more and more land that had previously been free to access, land was sometimes left so that the poor could gather wood for fuel (though not graze animals). It’s now full of beautifully surfaced paths through Scots Pine trees.
And I’m conscious as I walk of the quietness. Far less traffic noise, far fewer planes overhead. Intentional or not, desired or not, the world is getting just a short Sabbatical - a rest it desperately needed, in order to recover. 
Maybe we all need to see this enforced break as a Sabbatical - and embrace the ‘doing less’ as a moment to be renewed. How often have we told ourselves of the things we would do if only we had time? Just now we do have time - to talk to each other; to pray; to bake bread; to write that novel; to study scripture. Maybe we should be less anxious to get back to where we were, and a little more ready to see today’s blessing. For make no mistake - we are still in a place of privilege. Here’s what one writer from India reminds us:
“Social distancing is a privilege. It means you live in a house large enough to practise it. Hand washing is a privilege too. It means you have access to running water. Hand sanitisers are a privilege. It means you have money to buy them. Lockdowns are a privilege. It means you can afford to be at home. Most of the ways to ward the Corona off are accessible only to the affluent. In essence, a disease that was spread by the rich as they flew around the globe will now kill millions of the poor. All of us who are practising social distancing and have imposed a lockdown on ourselves must appreciate how privileged we are.”
Let us not waste this Sabbath, but recognise the blessing it offers us. Leviticus 25 reminds us: In the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.  Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.  Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you,  as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land.”
Enjoy a Sabbath rest today!"

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Lockdown Larder

Three easy ideas to share with you for recipes which are mostly storecupboard ingredients. 
Steph was talking about making some snacks - she's doing ORCS - Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, based on an Anna Olsen recipe. Steph always has porridge oats in the house! You can leave these plain, which is my preferred option, or you can sandwich them together with a peanut butter filling. That's altogether too rich for me!
It is a a very forgiving recipe, if you don't have the spices, leave them out, or use mixed spice instead. My original post about them, including the recipe, is here.
Next up, homemade soup. This is from the original Cranks Recipe book - a gift from Bob 35 years ago, just after Steph was born. It is called Armenian Soup, and is a lentil based soup, but it is pleasant and light - as the weather gets warmer, I don't want heavy, creamy soups quite so much. A very simple recipe, quick too. Swap and change as you need too. I served mine with some chives from my herb patch.


50g red lentils, 
50g dried apricots, 
2 medium potatoes 
[unpeeled, but diced]
2 pints of stock, 
2 tsp lemon juice, 
1tsp ground cumin, 
3 tbsp chopped parsley. 
Salt and pepper to taste.
Place everything in large pan. 
Bring to boil.
Cover, simmer 30 minutes
Liquidise and Serve!
Finally my cake. Squeamish readers in Plymouth look away now - you know who you are! This uses a 200g jar of mayo as its base. Yes, I know that is utterly weird - but think about it, it is just oil and eggs. Using this means I can reserve my fresh eggs and butter for making comforting scrambled egg on toast. I got some jars of mayo in Roger's Best Before Warehouse, for less than 25p a jar. It is a very strange recipe. But all store cupboard ingredients
I made half the suggested quantity of frosting, and a spoonful of Camp Essence for the icing [I don't have instant coffee in the house!] And I found some Christmas sprinkles. The finished cake was portioned and frozen. All treats are rationed these days.
So here's my Chocolate Mayo Cake, with exuberant sprinkles.
Have you got a favourite store cupboard standby? 
And have you found an unconventional but creative use for any of your supplies?

Friday, 27 March 2020

We'll Meet Again - And We'll Eat Again

I am so glad that yesterday's clip of Mrs Beamish made so many of you laugh! I've had comments on the blog and messages off the blog. Don't forget to support the Orpheus Trust if you decide to share it.
Happy Birthday to Dame Vera, 103 last week. She has urged us all to 'keep smiling and singing'
I was talking to Liz and she said "I am using my Marguerite Patten cookbook"
I think she has this one. I've felt reassured to realise that both my girls are eating sensibly and making good use of their resources in these bizarre times. I've dug out my collection of Wartime Cookbooks as well. 
Useful ideas for nourishing meals from limited supplies.
Sorry Jamie, your current show isn't hitting the spot for me. There was so much fresh produce in those recipes. And for families who do not usually cook from scratch, there's unlikely to be yeast in the cupboard, or a pot of fresh basil on the windowsill**. And personally I do not like chili in everything.
I'm enjoying Jack Monroe's daily 5pm tweets though - she's ace![#JackMonroesLockdownLarder] and my TCC book is also useful at the moment. Check out her soup recipe [here] JM really gets it when it comes to making tasty meals with random ingredients
Liz is producing a sourdough loaf and homemade soup every day.
Here is one of Liz's loaves. It looks like it will taste delicious. She says she uses this recipe from Breadmaker Par Excellence, Dan Lepard. I cannot believe that it is eleven years since the girls met Dan Lepard at a Guardian Cookery Event. I may have a try at that loaf sometime. The breadmaker is useful, but the exercise of mixing and kneading would be good for me! 
Here's my Marguerite Patten cookbook, a rather special edition, as you can see! 
I've made a cake, as a special treat, and will post pictures once it is iced. We've cut right back on desserts, biscuits and cake since last week. Both losing weight and feeling better for it - hoping to get back to a size 12 again very soon!
I do hope that wherever you are, you are able to get the foodstuffs you need. 
Kind friends who are doing deliveries- don't forget that rather than saying "Let me know if you need anything" it is more helpful to say "I'm just going shopping, is there anything you need?" Many people are hesitant to ask someone to go out just for them - but feel more comfortable asking when they know the person is going to the shops anyway.