Wednesday, 12 December 2018

All This And Change From A Tenner!

I try not to splash out on lots of Christmas kitsch. We have collected plenty of decorations in our 40 festive seasons together. But I do like to have a 'new' jigsaw to assemble during our post-Christmas break. I'd seen this Waterloo Station puzzle in a CS last summer, but didn't buy it. Then I saw it in the window of "Dorset Blind Association" shop one evening. I went back the next day after work and happily handed over £3.50. On my way back to the car, I dropped into the Cancer Research Shop. I was utterly smitten with the jug of white twigs and baubles. I asked my friend Sylvie who works there if the price tag was correct. She said that they'd had a load of baubles donated, so the shop stylist had prepared a number of 'arrangements', which were selling well at a just fiver each. My last Christmas buy was a ££1 book to read to Rosie. I made a little Mrs Pepperpot 4 years ago [ See here] I shall take the book and Mrs P to Norfolk with me in two week's time, along with the jigsaw. The jug will remain on the dining table here, just in case a photographer from Country Living Magazine calls by...
I think I've got my money's worth here. Have you bagged any CS Christmas bargains? 

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

I Blame Enid Blyton

It's all her fault! My student and I were reading this book last week. We discovered many things that annoyed us about the book - like EB's assumptions that the Five  [how exactly were they 'Famous' ?] cannot go more than a page without paying two shillings to a red-faced jovial farmer's wife to make them some sandwiches, and they all carry lengths of string in their pocket at all times. Oh, and even though they are camping out, sleeping on bundles of heather under rugs [no proper sleeping bags?] and in a hurry to solve the mystery, they still have to wash properly in the mornings [the girls at the kitchen sink, the boys go for a bathe in the lake, even though it is October]
And of course, the man eldest boy has to make all the decisions and boss everybody about. The youngest, a wimpish female called Ann, is despatched to do all the menial chores. I had quite forgotten why I disliked this author so much! The quality of writing just did not compare to the Michael Morpurgo stuff I had read the week before  
But it was the regular appearance of string that kept making us chuckle. The lady in the shoeshop had recently demonstrated a way of tying the laces on new school shoes that doesn't easily come undone. So this week, our 'study theme' is going to be based around 'knots'. I fetched this book from the shelf, and on Saturday, when I'd hoped to be putting marzipan on the Christmas Cake, I was planning numeracy and literacy work around that theme. I decided I could 'tie it all together'
The book was bought years ago - simply because I saw it in a sale and it looked interesting. It has history, terminology, and the instructions for dozens of knots and their uses. It recommends a couple of lengths of coloured rope or cord for practising. I found some lengths in my stash - then followed the suggestion for 'sealing' the ends so they do not fray. Useful tip - a Cook's Blowtorch is the ideal tool for this activity!
Archaeologists have found evidence of knots going back 300,000 years! The Incas used them for counting, the Egyptians for getting right angles on their Pyramids [using a 3-4-5 Pythagorean triangle of rope] the 18th Century Hawaiian taxmen used them for accounting, with different coloured ropes for their various clients. Various faiths have used knotted ropes as prayer aids - and there are so many professions who have their own special knots - such as sailors, fisherman, cowboys, soldiers - and surgeons!
There is a whole glossary of terms too - bights and bends, hitches and ends, loops and elbows...
I don't think Ms Blyton knew much about knots. "He tied the string to his torch" is a rather dull phrase. She could have made it much more interesting. The only knots I remember from the Brownies are a reef knot [we had to tie our ties at the back of our neck with a reef, not a Granny!] and a "round turn and two half hitches" [you use that for fixing a rope to a railing] Maybe by the end of the week I shall know more.
Did you learn about knots when you were younger? and do you use knots now?

Monday, 10 December 2018

Crown Jewels

When we were doing 'Get In The Picture' a couple of Saturday's ago, I got into conversation with a young Mum. We'd not really met properly before, even though we live in the same road, and her mum is one of my friends. 
She said that her daughter was a Kings in the school Nativity Play and she needed to sort out a costume. I suggested she might like to borrow one of mine  - and agreed to pop round with a few for the child to try on. "Will you want one of the turbans?" I said - "No, they have to have a crown" she replied.
Confession; I loathe the cardboard crowns worn in school plays. They get bent and damaged very quickly, and three years down the line when the Teaching Assistant drags out the costume box, they are often quite bedraggled. And they never quite fit - either springing off the bouncy curls, or slipping down over the ears and eyebrows. I prefer my Magi to have turban type hats.
But a crown was needed - so I made one out of some yellow fabric [left over from Daisy Duck last month] and a long strip of felt. [who wants to spend £15 to buy a crown from the Internet?]
Cut 2 strips of outer fabric, and one of felt, measuring 5" x 21". Pin the three strips together in this order- Two outers right sides together, then felt on the top. Mark the centre line, then draw 5 equal zigzags 4" wide and 2" high. Make the total height around 4½ or5"
Carefully machine all through three layers, close to the edge. Start bottom left, up and down the zigzags, and down the right hand side. Trim surplus fabric and turn inside out. Push the points up neatly [a biro, or large knitting needle is useful - but gently -don't push right through!] and give it a press with an iron.
Neaten the bottom edge [I used some purple binding I had to hand]. Attach two 1½" srtips of elastic neatly across the back. Then decorate your crown.
I raided my bead box for some fancy bits of broken jewellery and sparkly buttons. Sequins or a length of sparkly parcel ribbon would work just as well. 
The elastic means it will fit well - on different sized heads.
"Do you need a gift for Jesus?" I asked "Oh, no thankyou. There are eleven Kings, and only the three at the front get to give him a present"
I said that the Bible doesn't say how many magi came- just there were three sorts of gifts. It could have been two men, each with a couple of boxes - or eleven, where 6 had gold, 3 had frankincense and 2 had myrrh. But my young friend was happy anyway, and kept the crown on, even after she'd removed the royal robe!

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Pause In Advent #2 - Pause... And Pray

Mary's song of praise, after the angel told her she would be the mother of the Messiah include these lines...

The Lord's name is holy; from one generation to another, he shows mercy to those who honour him. He has stretched out his mighty arm and scattered the proud with all their plans. He has brought down mighty kings from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away with empty hands.

Lynn Green, who is the General Secretary of the Baptist Union, sent out a message last week to all of us in the Baptist Family,
"On 10 December 1940 King George VI called the nation to pray for the troops who were stranded on the Dunkirk beaches.  This was an act of spiritual leadership that had an amazing impact. Next Tuesday MPs will be voting on the Brexit proposals after their five days of debate.  Whatever our political views, this is undoubtedly a very significant moment for the UK.  I am calling to pray this weekend and in particular on Monday night (10 December) for our MPs and the parliamentary processes at work: that God’s love, righteousness and justice would prevail.
For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. 
He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord." 

Our nation, and our government, is in a mess right now. Whatever your political views, or your spiritual beliefs - if you are a person who prays, then I'd encourage you to make your Advent Pause this week a time to pray for our MPs and the outcome of the vote on Tuesday. Lynn also shared this prayer for lighting the second Advent candle, written by Baptists in NW England. [the artwork below is another of Martha's special UCF Christmas pictures]
Another flame announces its message of hope,
Amidst a world where thousands of voices demand to be heard,
Claiming that theirs is the way; that they have the solution,
That their truth is the right truth.

But this faithful flame invites us to listen for another voice;
One that may not choose to demand a hearing in every public square;
To tune our ears to the voice of our creator;
To listen out for God’s melodies of hope;
Despite the screams of despair,
That seek to drown their every note.

God can speak, and God is speaking;
Speaking in the midst of a nation’s anguish and struggle;
Speaking when hopes are dashed and spirits crushed;
Speaking where fear abounds, fuelled by uncertainty;
Speaking within and through every circumstance,
For in such ways and places, our God has always spoken.

And when our arguments are exhausted,
Our debates have run their cause,
Our media outlets have nothing left to say,
God’s word will stand; God’s truth will remain.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Feeling In The Pink?

Pantone have just announced their Colour of the Year for 2019 - called Living Coral
"Living Coral embraces us with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment," reads a release from the Pantone company, which describes the hue colour as "an animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energizes and enlivens with a softer edge." if Brexit proves to be as awful as they are predicting, we can just wrap ourselves in warm pink comfort blankets!
The release goes on to say " In reaction to the onslaught of digital technology and social media increasingly embedding into daily life, we are seeking authentic and immersive experiences that enable connection and intimacy"
No I'm not sure what that means either. I hope their immersive experiences don't include diving into the oceans and damaging these beautiful but fragile invertebrates. 

Friday, 7 December 2018

The Forest Is Growing!

This is the fourth year that our friends at St Martins URC Chapel in West Moors have organised a Christmas Tree Festival. The number of trees on display increases year on year. I could not get there to put up our tree till Monday after work - and the Chapel was already full - so our tree is in the Hall at the back. I returned on Wednesday afternoon to do a stint as a 'meeter and greeter'. I love the way that the first thing visitors see is the crib scene in the entranceway.
Muriel said they'd had lots of visitors again - and many said "Where is the knitted tree that you had last year?" [Here] She told them it had been made into blankets to bless the people of Romania! Many of this year's tree had a white/silver colour theme [but none of the blood-red ones beloved of Mrs Trump] and others were on the recycling theme.
Our tree is covered in 40 knitted angels, with accompanying angel messages [Great Joy, Good News, Do Not Be Afraid, etc] ...because, as I've said already,  our UCF Christmas them this year is Angels

The chapel and the hall look amazing. I am hoping it is fine weather this evening for "Carols On The Petwyn" - The main street in West Moors is closed to traffic from 5.30pm onwards, and a lantern procession makes its way down from St M's to 'The Petwyn" [a patch of grass at the far end of the street] There we will sing carols and listen to children reading the Christmas Story. After that there will be street food, a Wheelbarrow Race and more entertainments [and back at the chapel, the Gospel Choir will sing some more]
It is a lovely community event.
Here are more pictures of the trees. This post is especially for my blogfriend Pauline - who will be living here in Dorset next year, and I'm sure she will be involved in the Tree Festival along with the rest of us in our local Churches Together group. I'm really looking forward to her arrival [and already planning which coffee shops we should visit together]

Have you been involved in a tree festival? Or seen a CribFest like the one Sue found in Suffolk ?

Thursday, 6 December 2018


There's an interesting 'infographic' on the Zero Waste Website
Sadly I cannot get it to print any larger, so please click on the ZWW to see it in its full glory.
Basically the suggestions are that you give time or experiences, or consumables [preferably home-baked or home-grown] or make a charitable gift [I didn't buy a woolly jumper, I sponsored an African goat on your behalf] or buy your pre-loved gifts from Charity shops.
I do attempt to give gifts which will be appreciated by, and useful to the recipient, and I am sure that you do too.
I've been interested in the continuing conversations about real trees v. fake ones.
We had our big fake tree for around 25 years, and replaced it with a slimmer one when we came here. The old one had started to disintegrate. I was heartened to read various articles which claim that the carbon footprint of re-using an artificial tree is lower than that of using a fresh real tree annually after 10 years [this figure varies between 5 and 20 years depending on which website you look at] So I think I am probably ok on that one!
I am glad that it is easier to dispose of real trees now.
The Norfolk&Suffolk FoodSavvy website has ideas for Christmas leftovers, and the Eastern Daily Press published a brief article on having an Eco-friendly Xmas.
I think this year, more than ever before [thank you David Attenborough!] people are becoming more aware of waste, and the impact of our habits on the life of our planet.
I'm interested to know if there are any changes you are making, or good tips you've discovered for more eco-friendly festivities. Do share them with us!