Monday, 28 July 2014

My Kingdom For A Norse!

We have been having problems with our energy supplier. We pay a fixed sum by monthly direct debit, then every quarter, we get a bill. That’s the theory. At Christmas, we changed to Company #2 which offered a better deal. Company #1 said “Why have you switched?” and offered us an even better deal to return. So we did. After the one month with #2, we then expected things to settle back into their old pattern. But for 7 months, we have paid up regularly – but had no bill, confirming energy usage and amount owed. Bob contacted them – and again – and again…After the letter saying “You will get a proper reply within 5 working days” proved incorrect, he contacted the Energy Ombudsman. Who promptly got things sorted out [he was a little surprised we didn’t want a refund, or compensation or anything except a bill – but he sorted it immediately] Thankyou EO!

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I am fascinated by the word ombudsman.It comes from the Old Norse umbodh, "charge/commission” made up of um, "regarding," and bodh, "command." In Old Norse an umbodhsmadhr was a "trusty manager." In Swedish an ombudsman looked after the interests and legal affairs of a group such as a trade union or business. In 1809 the office of riksdagensjustitieombudsman was created to act as an agent of justice, in affairs between the government and its citizens. [27 letters in one word!]

I feel that a proper ombudsman should look either wise and avuncular, or like he would fight for my rights against all evil.

lewis kingviking warrior

Bob refused to ask the nice gentleman on the telephone if he was [a] wearing a hornéd helmet or [b] having smoked elk sandwiches for his lunch. Surely the Energy Ombudsman has Viking forebears?

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Now an old joke - I am reminded of the late great Frank Muir, and his chum Denis Norden [now 92] on the radio programme “My Word”. There was a story about a visually impaired Viking who washed his hands in the builder’s brick-carrier, because he explained…

A hod's as good as a sink to a blind Norse

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Loudest Whisper

Last weekend, we heard of the death of the American actor James Garner at the ripe old age of 86. He was on TV often all through my childhood and teen years – as cowboy Bret Maverick, and Private Investigator Jim Rockford – both programmes I watched avidly

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moveover darlingIn 1963, he made two great films – with Doris Day in the ridiculous comedy “Move Over Darling”, and the unforgettable “Great Escape” alongside Attenborough, McQueen, McCallum, Pleasence, Jackson et al.

Just ten years ago, in his 70s, he was back on TV as granddad in the SitCom 8 Simple Rules

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But of all James Garner’s many roles, the one which sticks in my mind is the 1961 film he made with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine. Called “The Loudest Whisper” when released in the UK, in the States it was called “The Children’s Hour”

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This powerful MGM film was directed by William Wyler from a play [also called The C H ] by Lillian Hellman  based –rather loosely - on a true incident which happened in Scotland in 1810. The poster says it all “One simple lie destroyed everything they had”

Recently I was reading someone’s blogpost about gossip, and I thought of this film.

RIP James Garner – thanks for your legacy of entertainment. I wonder if your Mum named you after the biblical James, who wrote these wise words…

 A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Playing Around With Plastic

lego

Lego is known and loved round the world – but did you know the origin of its name? It comes from the Danish leg godt 'play well', from lege 'to play'. And now there is another product which got its name in a similar way – the Irish word for play is súgradh – from which we get sugru. Sugru is as versatile as Lego, and [dare I say it] it is even more useful. Do you know about this fabulous product?

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it is a wonderful malleable playdoh like substance which dries overnight into a silicon rubber. You can find out more here

Invented by this Irishwoman, called Jane

We have been using this product for a few years now. Bob has repaired tools, replaced knobs and handles…and now he has fixed my Filofax. I love my Filofax. It is my diary, address book, notebook, and more- it holds photos of Bob and the girls, a few postage stamps, business cards, mini Post-it notes…Keep your iPads and your Blackberries, my black leather treasure has been retaining vital information for me since the 1980s and I hope will go on doing so.

BUT the little metal cap on the press stud disappeared, leaving sharp edges. This is a common problem, it seems [there are geeky websites for Filofax nerds, lamenting this disaster] So Bob spent a few minutes with some black sugru – and now you wouldn’t know that the stud had been damaged. It looks like new. [thanks Bob]

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If you look at the sugru website, you will see all sorts of creative uses for this product – which was developed by people who share my redemption philosophy that something that has been damaged does not mean something that should be discarded.

sugru works – even if its name means play!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Eaten Crop

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All my other friends are posting wonderful pictures of bowls of beans, tranches of tomatoes and gluts of gooseberries. So here you see the entire output of my attempts at vegetable gardening this year.

Two pathetic little beanpods. We are hoping for some figs later [altho even the fig tree is looking sparse, just four figlets thus far…]

Following the broken clutch cable [July 4th], on July 22nd, returning from a Fenland Funeral, my speedo cable went ping. It was a good job I had already booked my haircut, or I’d have cancelled it in a misplaced Fit Of Frugality. It is much cooler with it short at the back.

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Yes that is my Kezzie-dress [story here]I get kind compliments every time I wear it – and the vintage buttons are a real talking point.

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Kezzie says that with my hair short, I remind her of Louise Brooks. I was thinking more Liza Minelli, Cabaretcabaret_liza_minnelli

Then I read that LM’s dad Vincente advised her to model herself on LB when playing the role of a glamorous 1930’s dancing girl. Don’t panic, I am only going for the Eton Crop- I don’t plan on doing the whole bowler hat/black stockings/garters/heavy mascara thing!!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Three Minute Thursdays–Or Not!

3-minutes [3]

I haven’t done any of these for a while – but I am feeling rather perverse this week, so I am going to post some tips which I think are ones which are WRONG and not good tips at all [feel free to disagree with me – they may work for you]

Steph started it all off- she said she was wearing a long necklace, and it reminded her of Julie Andrews in Thoroughly Modern Millie

TMM beads

And that reminded me of the evil Mrs Meers, who runs the hostel where these bright young things are staying. When caught out doing something wrong, she pretends to be cleaning a carpet stain by rubbing it with soy sauce. This ‘tip’ has disastrous results later on for an expensive Paris Gown

mrs meers soy sauce

Here are the tips I have seen recently which I consider pointlesscut flowers

1; Put a soluble aspirin in your flowers to keep them fresh Real Simple magazine debunked this one [here]– and anyway, most shop bought flowers have a sachet of food with them these days.

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2. Save time by sorting out your cutlery when you put it INTO the dishwasher. No, no, no!!! All the manufacturers recommend that you mix it up for a more efficient wash – handles up and down, forks in with spoons etc. This prevents ‘nesting’ and ‘spooning’ so they will come out cleaner.

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3. When you use perfume, never shake the bottle rub or rub your wrists together or you will damage the atoms and bruise the perfume. This is balderdash! It may evaporate faster if friction warms it up – but ‘damaged atoms’ – don’t be silly!

bin liner

4. Store your roll of new bin-liners in the bottom of the bin, then you will always know where they are. Well, yes, but you also run the risk of having to rinse and dry them all when some well meaning person punctures the bag currently in use, and soy sauce, chicken fat or old gravy escapes down the side! Keep your spares in a drawer or cupboard nearby.

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5. A lemon and some bicarb makes an inexpensive air freshener spray to deal with cooking smells. Well, I priced this up – and it is the same price as a Basics Spray from the supermarket – but that can will last ages, the lemon spray will only be effective for a week or so. I accept some people do not like putting unknown chemicals into the air – but a candle on the kitchen windowsill also works, is cheaper, and prettier, and lasts longer. Do not believe Anthea Turner who once said on TV ‘the acid in the lemon masks some smells, whilst the alkali in the soda deals with the others’ – no dear, when you mix them, they will be neutralised.

Have you ever been given a tip which subsequently proved to be worthless? Please tell us, so we can avoid it too!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Coupon Queen

I had a sheaf of vouchers in my little wallet, and so when I did my SelfScan at Sainsbury’s I put them all through at payment time

sainsburysvoucher

I’d bought a few extra non perishable essentials [tissues, shampoo, toothpaste etc] to push up my total, and therefore qualify for a money-off voucher – altogether, I managed to save £6, and get about 500 bonus points and use a double Nectar voucher. However the bonus points voucher for buying pickle didn’t work. I’d got some beetroot [on my list] and it was from the ‘pickles’ section. ‘That’s daft’, said the assistant, ‘take it to Customer Services, they will add on your points.’ I finished my transaction, and the machine spat out my receipt plus a new voucher - £6 off a £40 spend. But it was only valid for a week, and there was no way I would be spending £40 in the next week. I turned to the older couple at the next machine, who were coming to the end of their transaction.

“Can you use this?” I said “I hate to see it go to waste” The lady was astonished “But it is for £6 off!” I agreed it was, but explained I would not be spending that much again this week, and she might as well use it and get the saving. She thanked me, and took it.

beetrootI went off to Customer Services and got my Beetroot Bonus points – which meant another receipt showing my new Nectar Points total – along with yet another voucher – double Nectar Points on fuel. Which was wonderful, as I was just on my way to buy petrol. Unexpected bonus #1

As I pushed my trolley out of the store, a voice said “Excuse me – you are the lady who gave me the voucher, aren’t you?” There was the couple again. “Look, I’m feeling bad about this, I must give you the £6 for it” I smiled and said “No – it’s a gift. I cannot use it, and I don’t want it wasted. God’s blessed me, let me bless you” This was clearly a very complicated concept for her “Well, can we at least share it- can I give you £3 for it?” “OK – but you really don’t need to” There was no putting her off, she got three shiny pound coins from her purse. “I have never seen a voucher for that much before, and nobody has ever given me a voucher either” she said. I thanked her, and took the money. Unexpected bonus #2

We pushed our trolleys to the car park together and talked about sunshine and holidays. I filled the tank with petrol, and drove home with a big grin on my face. Every little helps! says Tesco. Our values make us different! say Sainsbury’s Amen to both! say I

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Going For A Spong!

I love our Spong mincer, my fiancé Bob purchased it in the 70’s in order to turn the leftovers of a Sunday roast into a cottage pie. At the time, I grumbled that this was extravagant- we were saving up for a wedding. I have had to apologise profusely down the years, every time I have used it [and that is quite often!]

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Here it is – ivory and orange plastic with a suction base. But the plastic is starting to disintegrate, and the part that holds the suction unit in place cracked badly, to the point where you really needed three hands to operate the device!

I checked out replacements from Lakeland- £55 for an attachment for my Kenwood, or £25 for a cast iron one [clamps to the table] or for a plastic one with suction base. The clamp doesn’t work with modern fitted kitchens, and reviewers said the suction wasn’t good [it looked like thin plastic too] I looked at eBay for a genuine Spong. Spong have been around over 150 years, the company was started by James Osborn Spong [son of a nonconformist minister] in 1856.

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Here is an ad from 1960 – Formice had become a popular material for kitchens in the UK in the postwar years, so the company modified its original screw clamp for a suction base. I bought this

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Just like the one on the ad, and I am guessing from the 1950s, as the address is London and the company moved out to Essex in 1962. But there was a problem when I opened it – all the parts were there, but…

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..that grey rubber seal suction unit was split and so didn’t work. And I still do not have three hands. I contacted eBay saying I was sorry this had not been mentioned in the ad, but I did not need a refund as I planned to keep the mincer anyway.However, the seller apologised, and generously refunded my 99p & postage costs. This made me very happy indeed.

design award 1979

Those clever people at Spong modified the design of the 601 in the late 60s, replacing the cast iron hopper with nylon fittings, and adding a shorter handle. The base and suction unit stayed a similar size, as you see in this photo.

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And underneath the square base of my original 1970’s model was also a round black disc – and it fits my new cast iron one perfectly! Both the red/white and the ivory/orange mincer won awards from the Design Council – but I love my new older one. We swapped the black suction disc for the split grey one and it works perfectly. I have successfully made a meatloaf using my new Spong to mince the meat, onion and crusts. Hoping this one lasts another 35 years! Here’s an ad from 1972 – he’ll really appreciate a wife with a Spong!

advertspong

This is very clearly pre-feminist advertising. I am not quite sure what is meant by ‘a meal in a mincer’ Close  scrutiny of the picture shows tomatoes and radishes that have been ‘Vandyked’ with a sharp knife. I think the brown sludge may be minced meat though. I think our first cost around £3.50 from Timothy Whites – and this one is a freebie!

Do you have a mincer? and what do you use it for?