Friday, 30 September 2016

Spouse's September Stuff

My September crafting has not been very photogenic- mending jeans and tops for the girls, organising the Christmas Tree Festival with women and church, and lotsof wood polishing. Bob, on the other hand, has been relaxing with all sorts of little projects and produced some lovely items.
Before we went to Cornerstones in August, he dismantled his trolley BBQ and took the top part and installed it on the concrete shelf next to his smoker.

This left him with a black trolley [well, four uprights and a set of wheels] he put a top on this, made from an old piece of wood, and polished it. Then added a handle at one end, and a row of black painted hooks at the other [my tea towel rack from Kirby]. That is now a useful addition to the kettle BBQ here.
I have been struggling with my die-cut activities, with little bits of paper stuck in the dies "I need a proper pokey tool!" I said, as I wrestled with a pin. Bob took the pin, and fitted it into a handle [free chopstick which came with a takeaway, painted black] and then found an old syringe cover to make a safety cap. That's £4 I shan't need to spend at Hobbycraft. 
His final craft activity this month has been a hat rack in the hall. Four out of five of these hats are his, and they look so much better on hooks. It is easier to grab the right hat on his way out of the front door!

Well done Bob! Thanks for all the DIY. By the way, did you see that in Sweden they plan to give tax breaks to people who make-do-and-mend. If you get your white goods, or bike, or clothes repaired, you can claim half the tax back on the cost. Mind you, that's not going to benefit people like Bob and myself who usually do our own repairs!

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Integrity And Entrapment

I know almost NOTHING about football. I am rather glad that my spouse doesn't feel the need to watch Match of the Day every week, or spend £400 p.a. for a season ticket. As far as I can recall, I have watched only two games in their entirety in my entire life.
The first was the World Cup in 1966. We were invited as a family to the Archers Farm for tea [not not them, this was a real family who belonged to our church] so we could view the game on their big TV. I can only remember that England won, the cakes were good, and someone taught my little brother to whistle.
Ten years later I watched the FA Cup. Second Division Southampton were playing the mighty Man United. I was at Uni, and I seem to recall it was some sort of student get together. I can only remember that the underdogs won, and their manager was a Geordie called Lawrie McMenemy.
I think the commentator hadn't got much background on this man - he kept saying "Lawrie McMenemy, a man of great integrity" over and over. It was as if there was no other interesting fact he could share with us.
I later discovered he was an ex-Coldstream Guard, and had been a professional footballer till injury ended that career and he became a coach. 
A few months ago, he published his autobiography "A Lifetime's Obsession" 
Sitting for an hour in a traffic jam on the M3 on Tuesday night, I listened to interminable sports 'pundits' on the BBC discussing Sam Allardyce and his fall from grace. This man was earning THREE MILLION POUNDS A YEAR - that's £8000 a DAY - in one week, his salary was the equivalent to that of the average Brit working for two years. That's a lot of money. But clearly not enough - because Mr A was caught trying to earn another £400,000 by nefarious means.
I wouldn't recognise SA if I met him in the street. His comment following his departure from the job of managing the England Football Team was "Entrapment has won". No I don't think so. Decency, honesty and integrity have beaten cheating and greed. He is probably feeling 'totally gutted' and 'sick as a parrot' at being found out, and losing his high paid job. Well, tough!
According to the BBC, it has been his lifetime's ambition to be England Manager - and he will go down in history as the man who held the post for the shortest time, and who threw it away in a moment of naive avarice.
Lawrie McMenemy has called his book 'A Lifetime's Obsession' - he too has devoted his career to 'the beautiful game', and was at one point assistant manager of the England team. But how different their paths have been.
And as I sat in the traffic queue, I found myself wondering this - 40 years ago, when the BBC chap kept referring to his 'great integrity', may be it wasn't that LM was such a colourless guy that they couldn't find any trivia to report. Perhaps it was that when the researcher prepared the notes beforehand, everyone who was asked said things like "He's a good bloke""You can always trust him""Real integrity" "Honest as the day is long" etc. It seems that the key thing about his character was that he was a man of good character.
I found an article online, written in the Independent, 20 years after Lawrie's golden day at Wembley. 
In an age when football is fast losing touch with its traditional roots there is still a place for big characters who know about life beyond the corner flags and try to instil a sense of perspective in young players. McMenemy feels there is a moral dimension to the job as well. "All clubs are an integral part of society," he said. "I was struck by aerial shots of St James' Park ,surrounded by streets. Now it's not as if the stadium was just plonked down in the middle of them. It arrived with the houses... It was a place where people came to get away from the drudgery of daily life. That's always been the message I've tried to hammer home to players, that they're privileged to be able to do what they do."

When McMenemy was manager of Grimsby Town in the early 1970s he took the team to the docks one morning to give them a taste of the trawlermen's lives. At Southampton, the players were on a rota for visits to local organisations and charities. McMenemy is heavily involved in such causes. "I'm a great believer that if you've been in a town a long time and you're invited to do something for the community then you should do it. It's not a question of being a do-gooder. But if someone thinks it would help their cause to stick my name on it then who am I to say no?"
If English football is going to have a part on the world stage, we need more like McMenemy, people of great integrity - and fewer who are motivated by personal ambition and greed. 

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Sew Busy Today

I  have lots to do today so not much time for blogging 

These lovely paintings by French impressionist Henri Martin, painted just over a century ago 

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Duke And The Dons

This is the fourth Wimsey which was written by Jill Paton Walsh, donning the mantle of the late Dorothy Leigh Sayers. And this one is all JPW's own work  - she has not referred to any of the DLS notes and manuscripts used in previous books.
It is set in Oxford around 1954.
Peter is summoned back to the dreaming spires to oversee a decision being made at a small college of which he is The Visitor.
This is an ancient honour, bestowed on the Dukes of Denver [Peter has now succeeded to the title, following the death of his brother] and much of the plot centres on the arcane practices of this College, and decision making by the Dons.
One review I read [afterwards - I try not to read them beforehand!] said "Wimsey-purists will not be too happy" and I can see what is meant.
Good things - there are some interesting characters, and the plot hangs together. She has managed to get the tone of conversations between Harriet and Peter - what DLS always called "piffling" -just about right [although I am not sure we needed those coy references to their sex life] Her attention to detail is meticulous, and there are plenty of allusions to current events and real people [Tolkein, C S Lewis, Harold Macmillan etc] to help fix the date. 
However, I would quibble with her about Victor Gollancz being the originator of the Italian term for crime fiction being "Giallo" because VG used yellow dust jackets [giallo is the Italian word for yellow]. I understood it to have come from the Italian publishers Mondadori, who published a series of lutein crime novels Il Giallo Mondadori. But as VG published DLS's works, I suppose JPW wants to put in a mention [I wish the copy I was reading had been proof read properly. It was irritating to see Gollancz spelled incorrectly]
But on the whole it was fun, I like the way she brings in other family members [children, the Dowager Duchess, brother in law Charles etc] but I am not quite convinced by her depiction of Peter - he is in his early sixties, and she describes him 'skipping down the stairs like an elderly Fred Astaire'. Fred himself would have been in his late 50s at this point. 
I am giving away nothing about the plot, as I do not want to spoil it for anyone. But I am a little concerned that a senior member of the College has been missing for three months, and nobody appears to have done anything much about finding him, until Peter arrives and organises a [fruitless] search of the College. In the real world, people usually look for missing people long before that, if they don't turn up for work! I have long suspected that the rarefied atmosphere of Oxford Colleges is not the real world!
There is still plenty of good food, produced by Bunter and others [but no comments about the gradual end of rationing, unless I missed them] which led me onto my research into Ploughman's Lunches. 
I'm not as much of a Wimsey-Purist as others, so I will give this ****
[my favourite TV adaptations were the Edward Petherbridge/Harriet Walters ones. They would be of the right age now to play this latest story]

Monday, 26 September 2016

Discovering A Local Hero

Ever since Bob gave me a Tablet [that is the computer, not the medication, or the Catholic periodical!] I have got into the habit of keeping it beside me when I am reading, so I can quickly look up words or investigate background to something in the book. Thus it was that I ended up on a little diversion into the history of the term 'Ploughman's Lunch'.
I knew it was dreamed up as a Marketing Strategy, but thought it was from the 60s [and the book I was enjoying was firmly set mid-50s] It appears that a farmer, Richard Trehane, of the Cheese Bureau declared in 1956: "English cheese and beer have for centuries formed a perfect combination enjoyed as the Ploughman’s Lunch.” So my book was quite accurate!
Richard Trehane then went on to be chairman of the Milk Marketing Board [his farming father had been a founder member of the MMB in 1933] and was involved in promoting the phrase Drinka Pinta Milka Day.
What an insightful chap - in postwar Britain, still getting over rationing, to come up with two clever ideas to encourage the public to eat more of our dairy products and assist the farming industry to get back on its feet.
What else did this thoughtful guy do? [he looks very pensive in this photo from the National Portrait Gallery. Perhaps he is contemplating his knighthood] Well - Sir Richard continued working at his father's family farm, in the little village of Hampreston. You may not have heard of this place- but it is less than 10 minutes on my bicycle from home, just the other side of the A31. The village church goes back more than six centuries - and although St Mary's Ferndown is now the main CofE church in the area, this is still considered to be 'The Parish of Hampreston.
I cycled up there in the sunshine yesterday  afternoon [Bob was busy getting ready for Evening Service at church]
The church has a very large churchyard, with row upon row of tombstones. I walked round looking at inscriptions - some recent [the late wife of Jim, my dear next door neighbour] others much older. Many sad ones for sons killed in the wars - WW2, WW1, the Boer Wars, and even before that, fighting in India in the mid 19th C. I watched a little rabbit waiting against the wall - he didn't move till he heard the click of the camera!
And against the wall, looking across fields to the farm, was the tombstone of Sir Richard and his wife Elizabeth.
His inscription reads "An inspiration to farmers throughout the world" [Hers reads 'a friend to the arts']
The Trehanes still farm locally - and have a nursery specialising in camellias and azaleas. It was also the Trehanes [if I understood correctly, Richard's brother David] who was the first to cultivate blueberries commercially in the UK. He responded to an ad from a man in British Columbia in 1952, offering free blueberry plants to anyone willing to grow them.
Only four people responded! Initially Sainsburys stocked them, then M&S, then it really took off.
They do PYO and also sell berries at the shop. Bob bought me a punnet in July - I must say they are particularly fine, juicy blueberries!
But having discovered all this in Hampreston [the church itself was locked, that will have to be explored another day] I cycled home, stopping en route to pick a few free blackberries from the hedgerows.
I froze half, and spooned the remainder into sponge mix to make fruity little fairy cakes.
So here's another Ferndown Fact - the marketing concept of the Ploughman's Lunch started right here! I wonder how many of the residents know that? 

I think I shall go and have a drink of milk, and raise a toast in honour of Sir Richard...

Sunday, 25 September 2016

A Prayer For Coffee Time

On Tuesday at the WWDP Committee,  we all received a gift from Nola, who had finished her term of service.  It was a handmade patchwork coaster,  each one different,  but all with a little slip inside the bag.
As  you drink your morning coffee :
LOOK at your coffee cup and pray:-
Lord,  please POUR out your Holy Spirit into my life today.  STIR  within me the wish to do your will.
HOLD  your cup with both hands :-
Lord,  I know I need your forgiveness  for the wrong things I have done and the things I have been doing.  FILTER from me all that doesn't please you.
TASTE - drink and pray :-
Thank you Lord for the reminder to pause and reflect on all you have done for me.
SMELL  - take a long deep breath : give me willingness to share my faith with others as easily as I would share a cup of coffee with a friend.

Thank you,  Nola,  for a lovely gift.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Grylls Grilled [Bear With Me On This!]

As promised, the review of this book which I borrowed from the library last week. A few initial comments- yes, I think he is a Jolly Nice Chap, and an excellent Chief Scout, husband and father. I am glad that he and his wife are Christians, and people of integrity. He appears to have done some amazing things, surviving in the craziest situations [by choice!] and helping other people to be more confident about what they can achieve, and he is a great encourager, and competent teacher. All round Good Guy.
BUT I am not altogether sure about THIS book!
The basic premise - which I go along with, is that food is primarily the fuel that keeps our bodies going, and it provides us with the building blocks which our bodies need to be maintained and kept strong and healthy. Bear suggests that we must eat the right sort of healthy food, rather than poor substitutes.
He has a fondness for analogies, which make for good reading [if not pressed too far]  He talks about a house - you can either repair the walls with bricks and cement, and burn firewood in the grate - or bung up cracks with sand and dirty water, and burn old plastic on the fire. The former approach keeps the house solid, and warm - the latter repairs do not last long and look ugly whilst the burning plastic makes smelly soot and smoke. But it is so much cheaper you just keep doing it...
Similarly, he says, if we fail to eat healthy food and eat rubbish, we will not heal when we are sick, and what we eat may even contribute to our ill-health.
So far so good. More stories about protein [think Lego - the different coloured bricks fit together to build a solid structure. We need different proteins to build strong bodies] and cholesterol [more complicated stories about lorries carrying little tubs of butter round your system]

I can go along with the 'if you eat meat or fish, make sure it is farmed in an ethical, sustainable way - better to eat less of the 'good' sort than more of the factory fed chickens and depleted fish stocks.
But his diet is dairy, wheat and sugar free. Not for any personal allergy reasons, or even for conscience [he is not a vegan] just by choice, he believes this is the best way. 
  1. I am not convinced by his arguments about cow's milk. He points out that most human babies are fed mother's milk [almost exclusively] till about 6 months, but they don't usually go on much after that. Maybe not in the UK - but in other times and cultures, breast feeding continued for 4 or 5 years [see Isaiah and other Bible passages about the 'suckling child'] So he maintains we should stop drinking cow's milk [which is very similar] as we don't need it. He says we can get our calcium from broccoli, and protein from soy milk. But I don't want broccoli with my porridge or my coffee!!
  2. Sugar - I don't deny we all need to cut back - but I am not convinced that replacing it with stevia is the way forward [there are very few long term studies into side effects available at present] . And if you buy the pure stevia, as he suggests, it is very expensive. Dates and maple syrup are his other alternatives - but he admits these are high in fruit sugars. Perhaps we should learn to reduce our desire for sweet things?
  3. Water - drink more [I agree] but Bear says NEVER tap water. What??!! Why? well, says Bear, "chances are it's been recycled more than may have already passed through someone elses body, or a sewer" Bear drinks "artesian water...from a mineral rich underground aquifer" in top quality recycled plastic or glass bottles. That comes in at around £20 a week if you are drinking 2 litres a day. Install a reverse osmosis filter in your tap, and you can reduce your costs [but you need £250 upfront to do it] Can I just point out that many of the bottled waters on the supermarket shelf may have come from natural springs - but that water got there by filtering through the rocks, and before that it was urine, drainage, seawater, rain ...
  4. Microwaves. These work by electromagnetic radiation. ALL radiation is dangerous, says Bear. Therefore they are dangerous, don't use them. That's a bit simplistic I feel.
  5. Gluten. BAD. At one point he suggests that our grandparents didn't have gluten allergies because they didn't eat as much bread. But I remember [check it out sometime, Mags] at the Titanic Exhibition in Belfast, a notice explaining that the main diet of the men who built that mighty ship was simply bread and tea [with gluten, sugar, caffeine and milk]
So, these are some of his arguments about his healthy eating regime, and I do feel that a lot of it is cod-science, not fully borne out by research. I wonder how much of the 'eating principles' section was written by Kay Van Beersum, his co-author and nutritional therapist. Furthermore, whilst his recipes are chock full of healthy ingredients - salads, fruits, seeds etc, many are not cheap ingredients. His recipes do seem delicious when you read them - but sadly not everything is pictured in the book.[I suppose a pretty pink beetroot soup is more photogenic than a grated Brussels sprout salad]  
The first 40% of the book is theorising, the remainder is recipes - but out of 250 pages, an awful lot were just pictures of Bear [Grilling, or liquidising or just looking thoughtful in a field] I would not spend £15 on this in a bookshop. 
He does stress it is important not to get too 'preachy' about your wonderful diet, and also says that if you cannot eat like this all the time, then just go 80/20, or 70/30. Bear drinks the occasional glass of wine [organic, good quality,premium wine] and has a bowl of chips on 'cheat' days. I feel sorry for the catering team at his church - it must be a nightmare preparing his Alpha Supper.
Summary of the book - Drink more water, eat more veg, beans and seeds, limit meats and fish, get your sweetness from fruit. Avoid sugar, dairy and protein. I think I knew that already.
Oh dear, it was all a bit disappointing! I had hoped for something a little more realistic which the average family could take on board - and fit into their budget. I so wanted to like this book. 
Sorry, Bear, only ** here  

Friday, 23 September 2016

Friday Fall Facts

As well as bringing all the news of world events, the BBC website is an absolute mine of trivial information. Now we have passed the autumnal equinox, and are technically in Autumn, I found these Fall Facts...
1. Falling out  - Women lose more hair in Autumn: they hold on to it in summer to protect their scalps against the midday sun.

2. Take heart - Heart attacks decrease after the Autumn equinox: researchers at the University of Michigan believe it is because we get an extra hour of sleep and are therefore less stressed.

3. Northern Lights - The aurora borealis is visible in Autumn because geomagnetic storms are twice as likely.

4. The word "Autumn" is believed to come from the Etruscan word "autu", meaning change of season. Until 1500, Autumn was called "harvest" in Britain. After that it was ‘Fall’. Britons only adopted the French word "automne" in the 18th century.

5. Making a century - Babies born during the Autumn months are more likely to live to 100 than those born during the rest of the year.

6. And the winner is...No film with Autumn in its title has ever won an Oscar; all the other seasons have

7. Shine on...The full moon closest to the Autumn equinox is a "harvest moon" [this year it was 16th September] . In China, the Autumn equinox is a moon festival. Chinese families eat moon cakes and round foods like watermelons, oranges and green soybeans.

8. Changing face of Autumn. Tree leaf colours have been arriving later across Europe since the 1980s, and in Britain oak leaves are falling a week later than 30 years ago. Red and purple leaves are caused by the presence of sugars in sap trapped inside leaves.

9. The longest journey - In Autumn, birds prepare for winter migration. One of the longest migrations is the 11,000 mile journey by the Arctic Tern.

10. "Mists and mellow fruitfulness" - The famous Keats quotation from his poem "To Autumn", was inspired by a walk in the water meadows behind Winchester College – a walk he only took to escape the racket of his landlady’s daughter practising her violin.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

To Sell, Or Not To Sell, That Is The Question...

In the ongoing programme of decluttering my home, with considerations of recycling and Zero Waste, I find myself frequently asking the question "Should I sell this or give it to a Charity Shop?" That might appear a selfish question - but I am not simply saying "Shall I give this away to benefit others, or sell it to benefit myself?"
Books are a case in point. We both love books, and over the years have accumulated [literally] thousands. At one point we decided in a fit of madness to try and catalogue them all. There were over 3000. But the collection must diminish in the next 5 years, we cannot take them all into retirement. But will not be of much use to the local CS if we just box them up and give them away. Some of our tomes are a specialist and of little interest to the majority of readers, so they are unlikely to sell.
When we left Kirby, we packed up 6 large boxes of the theology books and passed them on to someone who could give them to other ministers in training. That felt good!
But for the last few months, I have been spending the occasional afternoon looking at the shelves and taking out a pile of volumes which neither of us want to keep. Fiction, non fiction, classics, modern stuff, craft and cookbooks...Then I use the Ziffit website to determine quickly if these books have value. Some do, some don't. The books are sorted into saleable and nonsaleable. When I get to the magic £5 minimum, I stop - parcel up the books and send them off. The reject pile goes to the CS. The bizarre thing is that the most surprising books are accepted, and others not worth a penny. Recent literature and TV linked cookbooks are valueless [Sorry - we are currently not accepting this item] so all those paperback crime fiction ones end up in the CS. Which is usually where I purchased them in the first place.
This purchased 15 years ago, paid £3.14. and a huge volume called "Leicester and Its Regions" was £2.38 - but a paperback of Frankenstein was only worth 30p. The Leicester book was one I was given as a 6th former, when I went to a Conference in Leicester. I kept the book for 23 years - just in case I ever lived in Leicestershire. Then I finally did, and read it just twice in the last 20 years [when I moved, and when I left] It seems that these two contain useful information for writing PhD theses. They seem dead boring to me!! I have made about £50 selling 50 books over the last 18months - and given away the same number, if not more, to CS. 

I am less good with online auctions - but when I was given a die cutter, I sold my Fiskars Shape Boss to finance the purchase of some dies. And I did sell my entire Martha Stewart Living Magazine collection this way - but only made a few pounds. Some income - but not much.
As for Car Boot Sales, they have never proved that brilliant. I only take things which I think are of decent quality - and the leftovers go to a CS rather than coming home. But unlike other bloggers [who seem to make £100s] I have not had much success. I am told that this is because the best and most profitable sales are on Sundays - and I have better things to do on Sundays than stand in the rain behind a wallpaper table loaded with items I don't need anymore!
I picked up a leaflet about cash for clothes - but the conditions were so rigorous, and the amount offered so pathetic, that I decided it was not a good idea. Any clothes we no longer need, but which remain in good condition can go to the CS.
So on the whole, if things can be useful to someone else, then Charity Shops are my preferred destination for them. That way four groups benefit - we get the space, others get items they want at a fair price, the charities make some money, and the binman has less to put into landfill.

And could somebody please tell me how Ross and Demelza managed to make all that money selling a rug, a chair and a few other bits off the back of their cart on Sunday evening?

Do you sell stuff on for money? or give it to CS - or do you use sites like Streetlife and Freecycle to pass items directly to people who can use them?

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Let There Be Peace On Earth...

At our WWDP Committee yesterday, Elizabeth reminded us that the UN marks 21st September each year as 'International Day of Peace' - and that the World Council of Churches has therefore designated it as 'International Day of PRAYER FOR Peace' [it was first observed in 1982 - but I confess I had not really been aware of it] The Day’s theme for 2016 is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.”

Below is a prayer for the day, written by someone from the Philippines

Grant Us Peace 

Grant us peace that will
BREAK our silence in the midst of violence
then prophetic voices shall resonate

Grant us peace that will
PULL US DOWN from the steeple of our pride
then we'll learn to wash each other's feet

Grant us peace that will
EMPTY us of hate and intolerance
then we'll turn guns into guitars and sing

Grant us peace that will
SHUT our mouths up when we speak too much
then we'll learn to listen and understand what others are saying

Grant us peace that will
DISTURB us in our apathy
then we'll dance together under the sun

Grant us peace that will
BURN our lethargic hearts
then we'll endure burning and let love and justice glow

Whilst I recognise the importance of the UN's Goals [below] I personally believe that we need God's help most of all to bring peace in our world. Let us pray especially for the situation in Syria right now.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Put It In The Pantry With Your Cupcakes...

It is amazing to think that it is 48 years since a fresh faced young Dustin Hoffman appeared on screen as The Graduate. 

It was a film with the most fantastic soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel. I loved these songs - even if I couldn't always work out the lyrics. I was aware that Mrs Robinson really needed to know that Jesus loved her - and that she had a pantry full of cupcakes. Back in those days, we had 'fairy cakes' - and cupcakes were an American mystery, along with McDonalds, Oreos and Pizza Hut. These were food items I had heard of, but never seen in reality.
I was humming the tunes on Sunday afternoon - I decided to make some cakes - for Sunday tea and also to leave in the tin for Bob to eat whilst I was away at WWDP committee. I found this recipe in my Rachel Allen 'Food for Living' cookbook. It was unusual in that [a] it had a very small amount of butter- and that was melted into warm milk, and [b] the method involved whisking the eggs to great volume, for about 10 minutes. I decided to give it a go...
Rachel specifies that these are 'pretty little cakes' so I decided I should use some pretty little paper cake cases.
A friend in Leicester, who has long since given up baking, gave them to me - I think they must be 1960s vintage, they are so retro and sweet.
Rachel does warn that the cakes come out flat on top, so that was useful to know.
My   cakes looked fine - I didn't have any sugared almonds or crystallised flowers, so I just put sugar sprinkles on top. 
But here's the thing. I have three packets of paper cases in my cupboard.
One is a pack of Sainsbury's Cupcases [bought cheaply after the Queen's Jubilee in 2012] One is a pack of Supercook cases - 100 for 45p from the Co-op, no idea when that was, and the last one is the amazing pack of floral ones from my friend. Here they are

The thing is, they are clearly different sizes.
The capacity of the newer Sainsbury's ones is at least twice that of the other two.
The oldest, floral ones are slightly shallower than the plain white paper ones. Here is how they line up.

The experts are always telling us that portion sizes are getting larger- this seems to bear that out.
No wonder we are all getting fatter!

Monday, 19 September 2016

Gregg's Gal Or Bear's Babe?

I have finally caught up with the last programme in the BBC's Eat Well For Less series. The irrepressibly cheerful Gregg Wallace and Chris Bavin have worked with six families to help them cut their food budget and eat better. [I blogged about an earlier series here]
Episode 6 dealt with a single Mum and her young daughter - the latter, quite a fussy eater, and the former obsessed with taste [she maintained that organic always tastes better] Each day Mum prepared two different evening meals, despite time pressure and added cost. Her Mum was appalled by the grocery bills, but seemed unable to help.
As with the earlier programmes, I admired Chris and Gregg's patience. They genuinely wanted to help, and clearly got a kick out of passing on the simplest of cooking and budgeting skills. I genuinely found the ones where they taught knife skills to the disabled girl, and 'family friendly' recipes to the coeliac dad quite moving. 
They are currently seeking applicants for the next series. I checked it out to see if we would qualify.
  • Do you despair at your family's poor eating habits? [YES the two of us ate a whole bag of leftover donuts from a church event last week]
  • Have your financial circumstances changed and you need to reduce your food bill? [YES still no supply teaching, trying to reduce all bills]
  • Are you trying to improve your diet and eat healthily but you simply can't afford it? [YES have you seen the price of chia seeds, amaranth and coconut oil?***]
  • Are you wasting food each week? [actually, NO I rarely waste anything]
Bob says he thinks I am keeping our food budget so low anyway that they would struggle to pare any more pence from the total, we're well below the national average already. But I still found their website fun and their tips and recipes interesting. Best tip - I keep a bag of 'basics' frozen fruits in the freezer now, and use it with fruit I already have to pep up smoothies and desserts.
But if I can't do it 'For Less' what about 'Eating Well'? I have borrowed Bear's book and I am working through it thoughtfully. I confess I have never watched any of BG's programmes - unless you count the video he made for the Alpha Course. He does seem a Jolly Nice Chap [and he is Chief Scout] I'll review his book on food later!! [***these ingredients seem to feature highly in it]

But I am in total agreement with BG about faith in Jesus. [check out an Alpha course near you if you want to know more]

Sunday, 18 September 2016

A Shore Thing...

Anne Morrow Lindbergh said "one cannot collect all the shells on the beach-one can only collect a few."This is true  - but how lovely to bring a few back from a lovely family outing to Southbourne. They are in a bowl on the table, where I can feel their shapes and look at their colours.
They are in Liz's old Peter Rabbit dish - I cannot use it for food anymore, as it appears to have got cracked when we moved house, but it is just the right size to display last Sunday's collection. I found two useful identification guides to British shells here and here

When we were young, people told us to hold a whelk or conch shell to our ear and listen to the sound of the oceans. It was such fun, imagining where that shell had come from, what distances it may have travelled. Here's 'Seashell' by G L Lindsay
I stopped and picked it up: a little curled seashell,
Warm to a gentle touch; light to an open palm.
There was a ghost of a whisper silent, begging
To be heard – and I smiled, for I knew its secret
It carried the ocean within it; in it; breathing
A storm from far away, or the lap of a tide
From an early morning, grey, misty, and silent
I held it up to hear its own little story
The soft memories that came from long ago and
How they were carried in its small heart for so long
It whispered the story to my heart, and I put
The little seashell back on the sandy shoreline
And although every shell sounds the same, remember
That each remembers its own story, once upon
A long, long ago time
And carries it in its heart, and whispers it out
Like the tides of the sea
Then cynical people tried to destroy the magic by saying what we were listening to was simply the blood flow round our ears. Now scientists have done some more physics, and realise what we hear is the echo of the noise in the air around us. They call this ambient noise. The seashell captures the ambient noise, which then resonates inside the shell. I am OK with that explanation. Not the distant oceans, not the pulses in my head - but a distillation of the noises all around me, whether I am on the shore, or in my home.
Our world is a busy, noisy place, and sometimes it is good to stand back and just listen quietly, letting those gentler sounds come through. In the midst of a society where so many are clamouring to be heard, and get their point across, there is also the voice of God speaking to us, telling us He cares, He loves us, and we are worth something to Him. 
An extract from Wordsworth's 'The Sea Shell'
Even in such a shell the Universe itself 
Is to the ear of Faith: and there are times,
I doubt not, when to you it doth impart 
Authentic tidings of invisible things; 
Of ebb and flow and ever-during power; 
And central peace, subsisting at the heart 
Of endless agitation
The still, small voice of Calm. Even the winds and waves obey Him. 

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Pedal Power and People Power

Burning hot weather and biblical rain notwithstanding, I am endeavouring to cycle more. The journey planners on We Are Cycling are proving really useful.
I have joined the Bournemouth Libraries, and initially borrowed books from the branch next to the big Castlepoint Shopping Centre. However, I decided I should try and visit some of the branches slightly nearer to home [Ferndown itself is in the Dorset Libraries group] Three weeks ago I rode off to the Kinson Hub, and took out a few books [I did try the Balkan Trilogy, Athene, but couldn't seem to get into it. I'll have another go in the winter evenings]  Yesterday afternoon I returned them to Ensbury Park, which is a little further away. I thought I must be lost, because I kept pedalling down a longish road, with no sign of the Library - so stopped and asked at the Post Office. The kind lady looked at my red face [I was quite out of breath] and said "It's only a bit further, dear, the next corner but one" She was right - but I think that if I'd been in a car, I might have sped past not realising it was the library - it looks like a little corner shop!

That's because it once was a shop - but for many, many years, it has been the smallest library in the borough. 
But what a hidden gem!
I locked my bike to the rack outside, and went in to be greeted by Emma and Elaine, the librarians.
They explained that Friday was always a tea&chat afternoon - and invited me to join the crowd round the table. A fresh pot of tea was fetched, and I was offered custard tarts, and cakes and biscuits.
"We want to make people feel welcome, and encourage the neighbourhood to use the Library." It is incredibly active - children's storytimes, Macmillan Coffee Mornings, Santa visits at Christmas...all sorts of events. And when the Bournemouth Borough Council [BBC!]decided to move the Library into a space half the size at the back of the "Learning Centre" [which is a bit out of the way - unlike this one on the main road] they found they had a fight on their hands.
These good people, led by Geoff ["I have been using Bournemouth libraries for over 60 years" he told me, between sips of tea] formed a campaign group  called EPLUG [Ensbury Park Library Users' Group]

The BBC realised they couldn't pull the plug on EPLUG - and the library survives. Whilst I was there, a Mum came in and mentioned she was trying to decide on a secondary school for her son - the librarian immediately called over another Mum, and introduced her - because her child was at the school under discussion. Paul, sitting next to me, said that the librarians know everyone who comes in, and are always being helpful, putting folk in touch with others who can answer questions and problems. Next weekend the EPLUG volunteers are repainting the interior. It is a real community - and I was treated as a friend straightaway.[apart from one dear soul, who whispered to her friend 'are you sure she isn't a spy from the Council?']
Yes, it is a tiny library - a mere 420 square feet but has a good selection of books. I even found the Wimsey I haven't read yet. There are seats for older folk, stools for children. Yes, it was a bit of a squash [I couldn't check out the cookbooks till the tea time had finished, due to ladies sitting in the corner in front of them] but everyone was so polite. Quite how BBC expected to fit so many readers and bookshelves into 240 sq ft, I have no idea. 
I am really pleased that People Power won a stay of execution on such a valued local amenity. All age groups were there, OAPs, Mums with children fresh from school, teenagers choosing books...This is what public community facilities should be like. 
I borrowed four books
2 fiction, 2 foodie [I will let you know how I get on with them.]

And I pedalled home again, hot and tired, but feeling happy!

Long Live The Free Public Library!

Friday, 16 September 2016

After-comers Cannot Guess The Beauty Been.

The beautiful old oak tree has gone forever from next door's garden. I shall miss looking at it from my bedroom window in the mornings- watching the birds flying amongst its branches, hearing the wind rustling the leaves. I keep remembering Gerard Manley Hopkin's poem "Binsey Poplars" [but great though his verses are, I do agree with the sentiment that 'I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree'] 

My  aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one
That dandled a sandalled
Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.
O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew—
Hack and rack the growing green!
Since country is so tender
To touch, her being so slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball
But a prick will make no eye at all,
Where we, even where we mean
To mend her we end her,
When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc unselve
The sweet especial scene,
Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene. 

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Throwaway Lines

 I  can't keep up with this! Last week was  "Zero Waste Week". Next week is "Waste Less, Live More Week"  (details here) and this week is "Recycle Week" (see here) What comes after that? Repair Week, Refusal Week, Rotting Down Week...? 
I am suffering with information overload,  and not at all sure that it's helping me save the planet.

However I did read a very thought provoking blog post yesterday here.  Jen, at "My Make Do and Mend Life" argues that recycling comes way down the list after refusing, reusing, reducing, refilling and repairing.   It seems a great idea to recycle your old plastic bottles into a new fleece - until you realise that each time you wash that fleece, you are releasing more plastic micro particles into the oceans.
How much of the paper which went into my recycle bin yesterday was paper I didn't really want anyway, but yet it still found its way into my home?  
Jen says, and I agree, that we should stop acquiring the stuff in the first place.  It's all about changing our mindset about these things.  I have been taking note of the things we did as a family which are working towards ZW 

  • On Friday, Liz and I bought veg on the market, and it went straight into our cotton shoppers, not into plastic carriers.
  • On Saturday, I repaired some jeans and a top for the girls. 
  • On Sunday we had some leftover green veg - Liz pureed these to make food for Rosie. [If she hadn't, I'd have frozen them to go into a soup]
  • Monday morning at 6.30am, I took Steph to catch her train to work in Surrey. She had her coffee in the insulated travel mug to drink en route to the station whilst I drove, then I brought it home.
  • Monday night we had left over potato - Liz made a batch of potato cakes [adding flour and egg, but NO salt] Rosie had one for Tuesday breakfast, and we ate the rest at lunchtime with some other leftover meat [adding our own condiments]
  • Liz borrowed the travel mug on Tuesday afternoon.  Bob filled it with coffee for her so she could have a cuppa on the train. Cheaper than buying one from the trolley, and no need for a disposable cup. I'll collect it next week, when I stay over with them for my WWDP meeting.
  • Bob spent time Tuesday evening turning some leftover wood into a top for the old BBQ stand. 
I don't think we are particularly noble, and we're nowhere near as efficient at this as many of the other bloggers I read. Hugh F-W has pointed out that most of the 'recyclable coffee cups' still end up in landfill. I suspect that many items bearing the recycling arrows logo do likewise. 

It is hard to change habits.  I want to learn to start at the place where I question the merit of obtaining that item at all. We need to stop using "it's OK, I can recycle it afterwards" as our default position. Instead I need to ask myself "is this the best solution to the problem -not just now, but in the long term?" I have a responsibility to be a good steward of the earth - that hasn't changed since Genesis Chapter 1 - not just for myself, but for subsequent generations yet to come.