Sunday, 19 November 2017

The Bottom Line

A short video, worth watching to introduce the Toilet Twinning Charity, because today is World Toilet Day.

And here is a link to a BBC story about a creative way of solving the problem of sanitation in India, organised by SHRI [Sanitation and Health Rights India]
Finally, another charity concerned about people's basic needs, and the needs of the environment.
I know that it's Sunday, and usually on a Sunday I post about something connected with my faith - an old hymn, or a Bible passage, or a story about someone who has done a good deed which has challenged me. 
I make no apologies for posting about this topic today. 
If we got up this morning, and used a clean, flushing loo, and were able to wash our hands afterwards in a pleasant bathroom - with privacy and decent loo paper, then it is a good thing for us to be reminded of the millions throughout the world who are denied this basic human right. James 1:27 says
This is what God the Father wants. It is clean and right. Go and help those who have no father and mother. Go and help widow women whose husbands are dead. These people have troubles. And keep yourself clean from the wrong things in the world.
So go and spend a penny or two, in support of the organisations that make decent sanitation possible for the people who have troubles.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Are You Listening?

I am really dense sometimes - there I was looking at the 'Christmas Shop' section of John Lewis, and at the end of one display unit I saw these...I thought they were some sort of ecclesiastical themed Christmas pillar candles
But on closer inspection, I discovered they are bluetooth speakers.
I presume the design I took to be a cross is actually +- and refers to the volume control?
They are called Ultimate Ears, and that Alexa woman is hiding inside them! She was inspired by the conversational computer system used in Star Trek, and named after the ancient library at Alexandria. 
There are many models in the UE series- collectively called the Ultimate Family. That just reminded me of the importance of my own ecclesiastical church family, and the need to be listening carefully, and responding thoughtfully, whenever I am spoken to.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Tickled Pink - A Carnation Tutorial

I am always amused by the derivation of the work pink.  Originally it meant to cut a zig-zag edge, and goes right back to the 1500s. There's a similar German word pinken.

I am very fond of my pinking shears - and when Nadia asked to borrow them for her craft last week, she was surprised when I asked "For paper or fabric?" - they are impossible to sharpen, so when I inherited my Mum's I immediately designated their specific use.
The colour pink is believed to have got its name from the dianthus flowers, aka pinks- which have pinked edges
I needed my [paper] pinking shears this week to make some carnations [red ones]

  • These are really quick to put together, and look surprisingly effective. 
  • One 33cm 2-ply napkin makes 2 blooms.
  • You don't have to bind the stalks with stem tape - especially if you are putting them into an arrangement, but it does give a neater finish. 
  • Green garden wire will work, at a pinch, or a pipecleaner
  • And if you haven't got pinking shears, you can still make the flowers with 'clean cut' edges. But they won't be 'proper' pinks
  • for larger blooms, you can use the same method, but firmer paper like tissue or crepe will work better.

I've put a photo tutorial together - click on it to enlarge

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Yule Never Believe It!

That was the title of the event last Saturday Night- it was our Girls' Night In
 We decorated the church hall in festive fashion, and set out coffee, cakes and cocktails.

The various Christmas themed crafts proved very popular - Nadia's table worked hard to produce felt gingerbread men and figgy puddings

On other tables, people made bags, and decorated fir cones, created tiny twiggy tree decorations, and folded pyramid table favours. As well as this hive of industry, there was plenty of time to chat with friends new and old.

Over thirty chatty females turned up, which was lovely. You never know, the first time that you try something, what the attendance will be. Thank you to everyone who provided cakes and crafts, and all those who came along.

We did have some cake left over to serve with Sunday's After-Church Coffee though!
LanniesMum commented on the blog last week that she is looking forward to seeing what I'm doing and making in the Christmas Run Up- well this was the first Christmas Event of the year.
I provided the cocktails again - check out my lovely new stand for the drinks dispensers. Bob made this for me a couple of months ago - it is so useful. My contribution to the crafts was the pyramid table favours. I shall post a proper tutorial for these soon. I notice there is something similar in last week's Waitrose Weekend newspaper. Mine don't need you to glue fiddly flaps though.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Here We Go Again...

On Saturday week, the Ferndown Christmas Lights wil be switched on. And the Church Stand will be doing the "Get In The Picture" Experience. The ultimate Christmas Photobooth! However, I realised a few days ago that I only have adult costumes here. I am fairly certain that I left the children's ones in the Sunday School Cupboard at Kirby.
So on Monday afternoon, out came the overlocker 
I fetched fabrics down from the loft. [Why is the Great Stash not getting any smaller?]

I made seventeen outfits- Mary, Joseph, shepherds, kings and five angels.
I must be getting better at it- it took less than 5 hours. 
As usual I used this tutorial.
I am fascinated to see the tutorial continues to do the rounds on Pinterest - and every year since I first posted in 2010, I get emails from parents, teachers and Sunday School staff thanking me for it.
I am so glad it's proving useful.
Two other comments
Fiirst - notice the plastic carrier bag, tucked under the edge of the overlocker in the top picture. That is supposed to catch threads and trimmings, making the clear-up easier. It works about 75% of the time.
Second - the bottom picture showing the clothes rail in the hall. That's our lovely new laminate floor- replacing the moth eaten carpet. I am ridiculously excited by this. Very grateful to our landlords [ie UCF] for arranging this, and Scott and Jimmy for efficiently getting it in place last week.
Now I am hoping that Saturday 25th is warmer than last year's Switch On event, when I stood all day on the Church Stand and froze [despite wearing my motorbike thermals] 

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Enthusiasm For Embroidery

For the first time in weeks, I managed to get to the library on Friday.  I picked up a couple of books about embroidery. I haven't really had the opportunity to do any proper embroidery since the tea-cosies [Norwich and Manchester]  but I do like seeing other people's work, and admiring their skills. A favourite blog is Jenny of Elefantz - an Australian designer who is particularly good at interpreting Bible verses in stitchery. I've yet to do any of her designs although I have downloaded a few freebies, and maybe one day...
But back to my library books. The first was Stitch and Sew Home, by Eline Pellinkhof. Eline is Dutch, and the book says that she too has a blog [hereI had not come across her work before.
This book is full of over 45 little projects to sew, embroider or cross stitch. If I have a complaint, it is that many of the projects involve fabrics Eline has specially designed - or mention ribbons, buttons, stamps and other haberdashery from her online store. But I am confident that most people would be able to find appropriate equivalents if they hunted around.
Having said that, there are a lot of fun ideas in the book - some I have seen before [eg displaying fabric in embroidery hoops] whilst others were new to me. I would never have thought of embroidering on a chinese ricepaper lampshade!
The fabrics tend to be of the Cath Kidston variety - red, pink and blue, floral and polka-dot. Or they are from the ecru, lace and burlap fold. 
But I found the book pretty, and fun to read through - and I particularly liked her style of mixing different techniques in one piece - the keyfob on the cover is stitched- with a stamped birdcage, a crocheted ribbon, and patched fabric.
I did not know about of 'soap chains' and had to look them up on the Internet. Basically, you cut out a shape from a thin slice of soap, and then suspend it on a ribbon, lace and beads and buttons.
They are meant to be decorative and perfume the bathroom or bedroom -you don't actually wash with the soap! I suspect they would get tired and dusty after a while. 
The book certainly has diverse ideas, and good templates and instructions. ****
The second book is by an American, Aimee Ray. Doodle Stitching [fresh and fun embroidery for beginners]
Now this was fun- I am by no means a beginner, but I thought Aimee's approach was good. Clear instructions, and again, lots of different projects. A bit less 'twee' than Eline. Also, more items you might actually use, not just ornamental pieces, and ideas for decorating garments [skirt, shoes, shorts]
I think that because she is aiming at beginners, she has kept her stitching techniques simple- and everything uses all six plies [strands] of floss. But she does point out that you can always combine plies from different colours to make different shades. She also suggests variations - eg she shows three different ways to interpret one bird 'doodle'

I liked this book, there are others by the same author which I shall check out. Here is the back cover...

Here's the old man of the hill 
One odd thing - that girl in the headband appears, smiling, throughout the book, and I thought she must be Aimee. But she isn't, she's just a model! 
I'd give this one **** as well. But at the moment, I have other projects on hand, and decorative stitchery will have to wait!

Monday, 13 November 2017

Bah Humbug!

Feeling slightly annoyed with Hearst Magazines, and also a bit cross with myself. I have said before how much I enjoy my annual subscription to Country Living, a gift from the in-laws. The December issue advertised something new
So last weekend, en route to Norfolk, when I stopped at a motorway services I bought it [£4.99] in WHSmith, as a weekend treat. The weekend was rather busy, and it was only this weekend I finally got round to looking inside.
As I flicked through the pages, I had this amazing sense of déja vu.
I leapt out of bed, and retrieved and older copy of CL from the bookshelf. December 2014
...same crafts...
...same recipes...
I just passed a boxful of old CL magazines to Marion, and I am sure that some of the other ideas came from my previous December issues now in Norfolk.
I am annoyed with CL. It's not new it's cut-and-paste
I have let them know that I think this is wrong. Other magazines I know [eg Real Simple, and Martha Stewart Living, in the USA] say things like "We have collected some of our most popular recipes and ideas and put them together in a special Christmas issue" - so you know what to expect.

I am also annoyed with myself for not checking through the magazine in the shop [it was 10pm, and I was concerned to get up to Cornerstones] As usual, it is a case of caveat emptor.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Still On The Phone...

It's been one of those weeks. Lots has happened, some good stuff, some less so...and much of it has involved phone calls. I have already apologised to Sameela who rang Bob's phone [just as he was driving to a funeral] When I answered it for him, she said it was about his traffic accident. I thought it was a scam and said "He hasn't had an accident!" and promptly hung up...later realising it was regarding my accident. Our policy is joint, so his name and number had come up on her screen. 
Insurance companies, and other big organisations so often 'put you on hold' while you wait to be connected to the person you really need to speak to about your case. "Die to a high volume of calls, there may be a delay before we can get to you" So I put the handset on speakerphone, and leave it on the dressing table whilst I put away laundry. Eventually - after many recorded messages - I get through and we start to get things sorted.

But the repeated recorded messages are so ...impersonal and synthetic  sounding, and interspersed with dreadful music
'your call may be recorded for training purposes'
'please do not hang up, we will get to you as soon as possible'
'your call is important to us'
'we apologise for the delay and will be with you as soon as possible'
'it may take up to 20 minutes for your call to be answered'
I spoke to Muriel, briefly, gave her my reference number [I got that from James last week] - and she said she could put me straight through to the relevant section. Seventeen and a half minutes later Terry spoke to me. And so often, one has no option, but to sit there, like Debbie Harry, "hanging on the telephone"
My Nana used to go about her chores singing hymns, and one I enjoyed as a child was a definite Mondegreen. I was convinced she was singing that "God is still on the phone".  But even though I had misunderstood the first line of the hymn, the principle holds true - God doesn't 'put us on hold', and when we pray, we can get straight through to him straightaway.  He will never leave us, alone and unloved. 
The language may be a little archaic, but the promises are true. 
God is still on the throne,
And He will remember His own;
Tho’ trials may press us and burdens distress us,
He never will leave us alone;
God is still on the throne,
He never forsaketh His own;
His promise is true, He will not forget you,
God is still on the throne..

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Waxing Eloquent

I have been far too busy lately. Definitely "Burning the candle at both ends". Except that phrase does not mean what is shown in the picture. It means getting up to work before dawn, and then working late into the evening. 

Which, in the days before electric light, meant you had to burn the candle at both ends of the day.
I am sincerely hoping things will settle down a little now. I have completed all my WWDP Preparation Days, and I have also finished my 2 day a week teaching job [Long story, and I'm not saying anymore here]
But I have been thinking quite a bit about candles - Christmas is approaching, and I do like the glow of a candle or two in the festive season!
At the end of the 17th Century, Queen Anne insisted that they had fresh candles every day in the Royal household. Which meant an awful lot of stubs! One enterprising footman got permission to dispose of these for Her Maj. He promptly resold them for a tidy profit . William Fortnum set up a sideline business as a grocer. He convinced his landlord, Hugh Mason, to be his associate, and they founded the first Fortnum & Mason store in Mason's small shop in St James's Market in 1707. In 1761, William Fortnum's grandson Charles went into the service of Queen Charlotte and the Royal Court affiliation led to an increase in business. Fortnum & Mason claims to have invented the Scotch Egg in 1738. The store began to stock speciality items, namely ready-to-eat luxury meals such as fresh poultry or game. And now F&M are the most upmarket grocers in the country. And it all started with candle stubs!
According to Nigel Slater, that pool of wax which forms round the wick of your candle is called a 'Bishop'. I cannot discover why this is. This article stresses the importance of the wax pool, but doesn't mention the ecclesiastical name.
Originally candles were made from tallow [smelly animal fat] then beeswax [lovely but expensive to make] then spermaceti [a by-product of whaling industry] and finally from other natural oils and then paraffin wax . Much of the developmental work was done by William Wilson in Victorian times - he set up his company under the name of Edward Price- and Price's Candles became the market leaders. It is a fascinating story [but rather long- read it here if you want]
Long before the classic Two Ronnies Sketch in 1976, and before IKEA arrived in the UK with a plethora of wax products, I remember a friend asking if I knew about about Tea Candles. Her grandmother had declared that what she wanted for her Golden Wedding was one of those Stainless Steel Sets on a tray, with a pot, and jug and sugar bowl. But it must have tea candles, she didn't want an ordinary one. Eventually we worked out what she meant... Teak 'andles!

Bob has been talking about Advent Candles recently- and debating the merits of the pink and purple versus the red ones... Which has reminded me, should we do the Pause In Advent thing again this year? anybody interested ?

Friday, 10 November 2017

Remember, Remember

November is the month for remembering:
for centuries, throughout Europe, 11th November has been marked as Martinmas - St Martin's Day. The story goes that St Martin was a Roman soldier, in Tours, France, who encountered a beggar on a very dark night, dying of cold in a snowstorm. He cut his cloak in half with his sword, and gave one half to the beggar...who turned out to be Jesus. That night he dreamed that he heard Jesus say "This is Martin, the Roman Soldier who gave me his cloak" He became a Christian priest, and later when they wanted him to be the Bishop, he hid among the geese [but they got him out and made him Bishop anyway] He is credited with helping the viticulture and wine industry in that area of France. 
Consequently on his feast day, throughout much of Europe, people celebrate with roast goose, and much wine, and 'lantern walks' through the dark cold night.
Of course, here in Britain, November 11th is Armistice Day- and we wear our poppies [red - or perhaps white 'peace poppies'] to remember those who gave their lives for their country. It is desperately sad that even since 1945, men and women have continued to be killed as they serve in the Armed Forces. Sunday will be "Remembrance Sunday". Bob always arranges for the BBC coverage of the wreath laying at the Cenotaph to be on the screen in church, so we can join with the Queen, and the nation, in this act of remembrance. It will seem strange this year to see the Queen on the balcony, and not laying her own wreath [but she is 91 after all - and walking backwards down the steps is a challenge at any age]
And last weekend was 5th November- Bonfire Night.  I love fireworks, and greatly enjoyed watching "The Big Boom" with Liz, Jon and Rosie on Friday night. A fabulous display, organised by Norwich City Council, launched from the top of the Castle and visible from vantage points all round the city. I've always felt it was important to remember and celebrate that the plan to kill the KIng and the Parliament failed - and that we still have a Monarchy and a democratically elected Parliament, more than 400 years later. I don't really want to burn effigies of Guido Fawkes or anyone else. [I found the recent 'Gunpowder' series quite unnecessarily violent, and reviews suggest it wasn't that accurate anyway] 
Those who do not remember the past will not learn from it, so...
  • I will remember the importance of caring for those in need [especially as the winter nights grow dark and cold]
  • I will remember that my Saviour called us to be willing to serve - and he sacrificed himself for us
  • I will remember that for all its faults, I live in a country where suffrage, and freedom to worship, other important things are enshrined in law. 
  • I will remember, and be thankful.

Thursday, 9 November 2017


Due to circumstances beyond my control, I am not able to post today. We're all OK but have issues with phone line and Internet connectivity. Thank you Peter and Jenny for use of their WiFi on Wednesday evening to prepare this. Back soon...

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

And We'll All Be Merry And Bright...

I always thought merry was an adjective 
The dictionary offers 

  • cheerful and lively
  • characterized by festivity and enjoyment.
  • [informal] slightly and good-humouredly drunk.
So what did this sign in House of Fraser mean?
Is seems to imply that MERRY is a noun 

I've got it! It must refer to Merry the Hobbit, aka Meriadoc Brandybuck. 
Maybe he has been kidnapped
Poor best friend Pippin.
Then I went into Starbucks
 Oh no! Merry has clearly been liquidated!
I suspect the Hobbit is OK. I am slightly more concerned about the casual way in which we are murdering the English language! 
Similarly I have discovered that uplevel - a word I understood to be an adjective relating to a higher version number in computing [a technical term] - is now used as a verb for doing it better [You need to uplevel your writing]
And that magpie is no longer just a noun meaning a black and white bird, it is also a verb meaning to steal ideas. [You must magpie some words from your classmates' work]
I am all for developing people's vocabulary - but is it necessary to do it with made-up words? And it isn't just in schools that we seem to casually turn nouns into verbs - it happens in church too. This evening I shall be busy fellowshipping with my friends!! 

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Do Not Go, Gently, Into That Good Night...

We really enjoyed the finale of the George Gently detective series, with the wonderful Martin Shaw. The plots were good, and the choice of costumes and the cars were very carefully chosen, accurate to the period. 
I understand why it was time for GG to go... 
But I think there's plenty of room for more from John Bacchus [played by Lee Ingleby] and Rachel Coles [Lisa McGrillis]
After all, Taggart ran from 1983 to 2010, and the eponymous detective died in 1994. They kept his name for another 16 years. And Morse had his Lewis spin-off. Barnaby's cousin was wheeled in to keep Midsomer going. 
"Bacchus and Cole" would make a great series [if only their names didn't sound like a firm of upmarket producers of emulsion paint]
Did others enjoy GG as much as I did? 
[I must thank Bob for suggesting the title of this post] 

Monday, 6 November 2017

Crash, Bang, Wallop!

On Saturday, Liz, Rosie and I planned to go to a sale of babystuff in Norwich at the City Academy. Almost at our destination, we had to stop for temporary traffic lights at roadworks. Cars coming the other way were also stationary, for the regular lights at the junction.
Then there was a loud bang, on the offside of the car, by Rosie's car seat. She screamed and sobbed. Someone was trying to pass between the two queues. I looked across- my door was blocked, and I could not see in to the Honda [an automatic].

Liz got out and went to the driver's window, and found a very confused elderly lady, 'wanting to turn right', with every window of her car steamed up, no visibility at all. Liz explained what had happened and said she needed to wait and then when there was a space the cars must be moved.
Liz stepped back to take this photo - and the poor confused soul suddenly took her foot of the brake and drove the car at Liz. It was slightly terrifying to see someone apparently driving straight at my daughter, whilst my granddaughter was sobbing in her car seat! Liz jumped out of the way - the car careered into three other vehicles ending up across the road, slamming into a Renault in the other queue.

  • we had to spend over an hour and a half in the pouring rain, exchanging details, waiting for police etc, and 5 cars are pretty badly damaged. 


  • in the two cars in front there were First Aiders, who assessed the woman [physically unhurt] and gently helped her to sit and wait in another car, whilst her own car was moved to the verge. And the ambulance arrived promptly, and paramedics agreed she needed to be hospitalised.
  • everyone was incredibly kind, three people came forward, prepared to be witnesses if needed
  • nobody got into a Road Rage situation, or went and shouted at the old lady
  • people were so concerned for Liz's wellbeing
  • the Police were excellent, efficient and sensitive
  • despite damage, my car was perfectly drivable, apart from smashed wing mirror 
Yes there was some! As we stood in the pouring rain exchanging details and answering police questions, a chap had a call from his wife, telling him to avoid the area because there had been a bad crash. 
Afterwards Liz, Rosie and I went to the nearby Waitrose for a hot drink, and the woman behind me was talking to her husband. She was hoping nobody had been hurt in what had clearly caused a lot of traffic disruption. I turned round and said 'nobody hurt, but the elderly driver was taken to hospital' She asked how I knew, and I said "Mine was the first car hit!" at which point she nearly dropped her tea tray.
And for the first time in over 40 years of driving, I was breathalysed! [The reading was ZERO] I thought Liz would photo that, but she said she was being considerate. There was me thinking I could post it on the UCF Facebook page "Pastor's wife breathalysed in Norwich". When I told the officer that it was my first experience of this test, he said "Oh, do you want to keep the tube?" Now I am trying to find something else to do with this piece of'single use plastic'
I am so grateful for my family
  • Liz, for leaping out of the way [I am so proud of the way she handled the whole situation]
  • Rosie, for remaining cheerful, clearly enjoying the pretty flashing lights!
  • Jon, for getting a new wing mirror from Halfords so I was OK for the drive back to Dorset
  • Adrian and Marion, I had a lovely time, and great meal with them in the evening
  • Bob, who sent me necessary insurance contact details [thanks James-at-Aviva for being helpful on the phone] 
  • Steph and Gary for encouraging text messages
It could all have been so much we just have the hassle of the insurance claim and organising repairs. I do hope the old lady is OK - I suspect she will not be driving again.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Stewards Of The Planet

One of the hymns in the coming year's WWDP Order of Service is by Fred Pratt Green. he was a Methodist hymnwriter and minister. The Preparation Day I led on Saturday was at the Methodist Church in Norwich, where he was a member in his retirement until his death in 2000. The ladies there were pleased this hymn was in the booklet, and proud to tell us of their connection with Fred. It fits in well with the 'stewards of creation' theme planned by the women of Suriname
God in his love for us lent us this planet,
Gave it a purpose in time and in space;
Small as a spark from the fire of creation,
Cradle of life and the home of our race.

Thanks be to God for its bounty and beauty,
Life that sustains us in body and mind:
Plenty for all, if we learn how to share it,
Riches undreamed of to fathom and find.

Long have our human wars ruined its harvest;
Long has earth bowed to the terror of force;
Long have we wasted what others have need of,
Poisoned the fountain of life at its source.

Earth is the Lord's; it is ours to enjoy it,
Ours, as his stewards, to farm and defend.
From its pollution, misuse, and destruction,
Good Lord deliver us, world without end!

I watched the first programme in the latest series of Blue Planet, and marvelled at the wonders of creation - but felt so sad to see the mother walrus struggling to find a safe place for her young, because rising temperatures are melting the ice at the poles.

Lord, help us to be good stewards of this wonderful planet we call home...