Wednesday 21 February 2024

Just To Say Thank You

So many people have been kind and helpful in the last week or so. I cannot possibly them all, but here are a few...

The guy at North Tuddenham Garage  As I turned off the A47, about 3 miles from home, an orange warning light flashed up "Tyre pressure low, check asap". Bearing in mind that another blogger had recently mentioned an incident where this happened, then the tyre exploded, I was a little anxious. I was nearly home but passing the garage. I pulled in and went inside "Hello, are you OK?" said the woman at the desk "Yeah, I'm fine - but I'm not sure about my tyres" I said. She fetched a young chap from the workshop, who checked all the tyres, and two were rather low, so he pumped them all up to the correct setting, "Do you know how to reset the warning message?" I said I didn't, the car is new to me. He showed me and wished me a safe journey home. "What do I owe you?" I said, and he grinned "Nothing!" 
Then my church friends- so many have volunteered help in one way or another with the club, which starts this morning. Yesterday at noon I posted in the WhatsApp group that we would be getting everything ready at 2.30pm, and would appreciate help chair shifting etc. Nick, the pastor, and five others turned up. All the furniture was sorted by 3pm.  
Bob was there till 5pm working on the technical stuff. [thanks Bob] Do you like the coat-of-many-colours? I made that about 25 years ago. It's been used loads of times since in plays and holiday clubs etc.
Thank you to Karen, at Sew Creative in Norwich. After 20+ years, the time has come to upgrade my machine and she was so helpful, answering all my questions. I went in with 2 models in mind, and she suggested a third [between the two in price] I was able to try everything out, and take my time, and finally reached a decision. There will be more about this later.
Thank you to Rosie for a lovely time last week. We did so much, and learned so much, and read lots of fun books...and her visit was top-and-tailed by seeing the rest of her family. Jess is a proper little character too. What fun we all had together.
Thank you to my neighbour Justine, and her daughter Brooke - good friends in the everyday ups and downs of life.
Thank you Kirsten - the collaborative stitching continues to prove both a challenge and a joy -and I am sure I have learned much more than I would have done without it.
Thank you to Nina [and her Mum] at the Flow Craft Cafe in Dereham - in the last four months you have become such a good friend, a kindred spirit in the craft world - and provider of the best teacakes too.
Thank you to you, my blogfriends, who have posted such encouraging comments- and some sent lovely private email messages. And I see those same people posting on other blogs with kind words too. I know some regard the internet as a dark and sinister space- but there are wonderful corners of love and light and friendship too. 
The kids at one Leicester school where I did lots of supply work loved the song which had the chorus "So I mustn't forget, to say a great big thankyou - no, I mustn't forget"  
Thank you Lord for all these good people
What are you thankful for this week?


Tuesday 20 February 2024

Crazy Costumes In The Close

Everybody round here is dressing up, it seems. Last week was crazy. Monday - Jess was at the Ice Palace. 
Tuesday Bob in his chef's whites. Wednesday Rosie was Egyptian King Tut in Swaffham. Thursday Saxon King Raenwald at Sutton Hoo. 

Then as we were driving home on Thursday afternoon, Brooke's mum messaged me for help. Brooke needed a Superhero costume for Friday. Did I have a Batman mask and cape she could borrow? 
No. But I did have an old black sheet and a sewing machine. I've made so many capes that I can rustle them up really quickly. I found a hood pattern on the net. Brooke was very pleased with the outfit. They've had a lot going on this week, and had completely forgotten about Superheroes Day. I was glad I provide something. 
At Kirby we always had a Dress Up Day during Holiday Club - I'm rather relieved we aren't doing that here. Last time we did Pyramid Rock I dressed up as Cleopatra, in a long white floaty dress. But that was in a warm July, not a wet February. 

Monday 19 February 2024

The Train Standing At Platform One Is ...

..for Stratford [or maybe Romford]
On Saturday I wrote about TfL's decision to rename the Overground lines at the end of the Underground system. The first four I mentioned all had great names, chosen by the public, which I fully agree with. But two had names which were extra special for me. And I think that possibly their names will be the least well known outside of the London area. So here  is a fuller explanation of the last two newly named lines

The Mildmay Line , from Richmond to Stratford - named for a small hospital very dear to my family. The Mildmay Mission Hospital was founded in 1866 by Rev William Pennefather to provide care for local people during the terrible cholera outbreak. Just twenty seven beds in three wards. 
The Christian hospital trained nurses, particularly those who wished to work abroad as Missionaries - but patients came from all parts of the local community, including many of the Jewish immigrants. At the end of the Victorian era, slum clearances threatened its existence- but a new site was found. The new building had 50 beds.The hospital was extended again - and in 1948, incorporated into the NHS. 
In the early 1970s, my friend Joy - a member of my Dad's church here in Norfolk - came back from Zaire, where she had been a missionary, and stayed here for many weeks receiving treatment, till her death. Dad drove down to London regularly to visit her. When Bob started at College in 1982, Dad came to visit. Another student's wife asked me "Who is that man?" I said it was my father. "But I know him!" - and Abigail then said "I was a nurse at Mildmay, the Christian Hospital. He was Joy's pastor. I remember, he came so often to visit - and we would stand by the bed as he prayed with her. I remember his wonderful prayers" She told us more about the work being done at Mildmay
A few months later, we heard that the NHS wanted to close Mildmay, it was too small, they said. The local community, and the many Christian supporters across the world were not happy. They planned a big rally in Trafalgar Square - but they needed someone to provide good PA. Bob loaded up our little Datsun, and set up his gear. I followed with baby Liz in the buggy. We all thronged round Nelsons column and cheered and shouted for the preservation of this Hospital. The redoubtable Helen Taylor Thompson spearheaded the campaign to keep it open. 
And so it became Britain's first and foremost HIV/AIDS Hospice. When many people [sadly including some Christian groups] were regarding all those suffering with HIV as evil men who deserved to be sick, Mildmay opened its doors and showed love and compassion.  Princess Diana was a frequent visitor, often arriving quietly, without the press photographers behind her. In 2011 the old building was demolished, replaced by a modern hospital. Harry has been a great supporter. So I am utterly thrilled it has been recognised in this way. I hope this generates more support for the charitable work it continues to do.
The Liberty Line from Romford to Upminster. Oh how I wish Dad, Mum, Gill and Auntie Peggy were here for this! This one is named for The Royal Liberty of Havering. In 1465, a royal charter established this manor as a "Royal Liberty" which gave the people special privileges in the way they were tried in court. The name has continued through the centuries [admittedly at the start of the 20th century, the privileges were revoked, but the name stayed]. The full name iis Havering-atte- Bower. Atte-Bower referred to a royal residence [ the monarch owned a property from the 11th to 16th centuries] 
A hundred years ago, the Royal Liberty School was established - a fee paying boys' grammar school. In the 1930s my Dad won a scholarship to study there. Gill's Dad, Uncle Ron went there too. [It's now a boys' comprehensive] 
The shopping centre in Romford is known as The Liberty. I was born in Oldchurch Hospital, Romford in 1955, at the time, the main hospital for the Royal Liberty of Havering. Liberty is such a precious thing, and I'm proud to have been born in a place which, for five centuries, recognised the importance of the ordinary people, and their right to fair trial by their peers.
These two newly named lines are therefore my favourites. 
Do you have any connections with any of the six? 

Sunday 18 February 2024

Feasting And Fasting

On Ash Wednesday we used up the leftover batter from Tuesday night and feasted on Pancakes for breakfast.

Another member of the family teased us,  suggesting that we should be fasting now that Lent has started. 
I'm enjoying Delia's Lent notes. On Friday she began with a passage from Isaiah 58 which reminded me of true "fasting" I looked up the passage in The Message 
This is the kind of fast day I'm after
To break the chains of injustice 
Get rid of exploitation in the workplace 
Free the oppressed 
Cancel debts
What I'm interested I seeing you do is
Sharing your food with the hungry 
Inviting the homeless poor into your homes
Putting clothes on the shivering ill clad
Being available to your own families 
Do this and the lights will turn on
Your lives will turn around 
... Righteousness will pave your way
... The God of glory will secure you
... When you pray, God will answer. 
Delia says that Lenten fasting should help us break free from those things that enslave us [bad habits, attitudes etc] but also should be a time when we help other to be freed from the things that enslave them. 
I love the fact that Isaiah lists activities which make for social justice - but also "being available to your own families". Don't be so busy doing good for strangers that you neglect your nearest and dearest! 

Saturday 17 February 2024

Train Of Thought

I am ridiculously excited about Transport for London's decision to rename parts of the Tube Map - six of the overground routes will be added. And the names have been chosen by popular vote. All of them are excellent names- two of them especially important to me for personal reasons. I shall mention four here, and give a fuller explanation of the other two on Monday.
 I was talking to Rosie about this, and was pleased how much she knew about many of the reasons behind these names.
The Lioness Line - from Watford to Euston - through Wembley- reflecting the success of the English Women's Football Team. Rosie is pleased, she got to go with her Dad to see the women play at Wembley last year.
The Windrush line - through areas with strong ties to West Indian communities, honouring the Windrush generation. Rosie knew about Windrush [Dame Floella Benjamin is one of her heroes]

The Suffragette Line -Gospel Oak to Barking, celebrating the ordinary, working class East End women like Annie Huggett who fought for women's rights. She was a Barking woman, and the last surviving Suffragette. She lived in Barking until she died in 1996. And yes, of course Rosie knows all about Mrs Pankhurst!
The Weaver Line -Liverpool St to Enfield Town - through Spitalfields, Bethnal Green etc - so important in the textile trade. Still working on this one with her - but Rosie knows how important crafts and textiles are to me. And she has been to this part of London often.
The Mildmay Line , and the Liberty Line will get a much fuller mention here on Monday. Rosie has been with us all week, and I've not had as much as usual to plan and write my posts!

Friday 16 February 2024

Subterranean Shoebox

Back in 1976 I went to see The Mousetrap on stage in London, with a friend. "We ought to go, because it might close sometime and we'll have missed it" she said. Agatha Christie had died that year, and the play had been going for 25 years, approaching it's 10,000th performance. We were sure the run was about to end.... but almost fifty years later, it is still going strong! So yes, I have seen it now [and no, I will not tell you whodunit]
Around about 2017, I saw that something new was opening in Norwich - the opportunity to go on a underground tour of a medieval shopping street near the Castle. "When we retire, I shall explore that" I said. During the Pandemic, it closed temporarily [as did The Mousetrap] but reopened again after Lockdown. Then there was an article in the paper - saying it was closing for good at Easter. I immediately looked at their bookings calendar to see if there was any way I could get there before I missed my opportunity. I got two tickets for Thursday February 8th, at 5pm. We got there, through delays because of rain and roadworks, at 5.01pm! 
I was a little anxious, Bob wasn't really sure where I was taking him - we parked in the Castle Mall Underground carpark, crossed the road, and entered what looked like a 1950s shoe shop. 
About a dozen others, also in thick coats and woolly hats sat round the edge of the room as our enthusiastic guide, Max, explained that was exactly what it was. James Pond opened his business in 1861 - and it ran till 2004. It was legendary in the city - supplying quality shoes to the wealthy, and keeping meticulous records of customers. One chap had his first pair of shoes from there at 5 months...and all the rest of his shoes from Ponds, till his last pair, bought on his 100th birthday. There was even a controversial Foot X-Ray Machine.
But we were not there for that - Max led us up some stairs at the back of the shop, and floor levels changed, "through that window is the old street". We peered out into the darkness, couldn't see much! But we learned about the history of the castle. How the Normans arrived, and burned down the wooden dwelling of the settlers who lived on the small hill.  Then they made those homeless guys dig a huge, 400 foot wide, very deep trench, all round the base of the hill and put the earth onto the top - making the Castle Mound. This massive ditch was there for centuries- originally meant to repel invaders. But after a while, people started living in this ditch, building homes, and at the foot of the castle. 
500 years later, there were weavers. Not allowed to have candles or other naked flames [a great fire risk in closely built wooden houses] They put in long rows of high windows to allow maximum light at their looms. We stood in an upstairs room with such windows. Max told us to look out for weavers windows, they are all over the city! [this one on St Andrews Hill - grade 2 listed house] But then we went down, 
and down
and down - into the 'undercroft' area. We stood in a cramped area, many feet below busy the road outside - in what was previously called "Castle Ditch Street" [imaginative name!] 
Here were rooms which had been shops - and then shelters during the Blitz [hence bedstead] and storage rooms for Mr Ponds Shoeboxes. Utterly fascinating - dating back to pre Tudor times. 
We came round a corner and facing us, was a strange conical "lump" - whatever was it? One member of the team knew - an AUD [anti urination device!] There are many of these built into walks in Norwich. They were developed in Victorian times. If a bloke comes out of the pub and is desperate to relieve himself, he may look for a quiet corner like this. But this oddly curved conical structure will deflect his flow, splashing it back onto his clothes and shoes. 
Max told us so many anecdotes about Norwich and its past history.
Down another corridor Through a door, and suddenly we were under the stars, light rain coming down - this was one of the slum courtyards of the Victorians- 100 people linkved round this tiny area. Between the wars, the council demolished many of these - and tried to move the residents out to newer developments [like Mile Cross] it was an ill conceived plan, and caused much unrest. 
Down another corridor, and this one ended with a gateway into the main street, at ground level - but not I  the street where we began our journey - we had travelled some distance under the city. 
What a great evening. 
And the best bit - the project has had its lease renewed - and will be around at least three more years. They do so much more than just this tour, check them out here. I'd recommend it to anyone [providing they can manage steep, narrow stairs and low ceilings] I hope the Shoebox Experience has the longevity of The Mousetrap. 

Thursday 15 February 2024

Perfect Pancake Party

We got to the Chapel at 2pm. Rosie was a brilliant helper, and particularly enjoyed helping string up the bunting [really there for the Holiday Club - but it added to the party atmosphere] We put out the plates, cutlery and toppings - as well as leaflets about Hope Now. This is a charity which has been working in Ukraine for over 25 years. When we did our first Norfolk pancake party in 2022, the war had only just started. We knew this group already had the infrastructure, and workers in place, to provide the relief needed. So we put out a donations jar then, it's been our "Pancake Party Charity" ever since.
Here are 'beforehand' photos. Sorry, no pictures of the event itself. The chapel was full of cheerful children having fun, and I was busy chatting to visitors. It was a lovely atmosphere. Bob reckoned he flipped around 70 pancakes. Donations came to £50. The rain was teeming down as we left [too wet to stop and remove the big banner outside] 
We were home around 6.45 and watched Leo. An animated musical comedy about a lively children, their class pet [Leo the Lizard ] and their teacher. A very funny film. 
We all enjoyed it***** 
[please note - not all supply/substitute teachers are as awful as Ms Malkin]