Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Animal Magic [A Costume Tutorial]

Having a number of animal costumes to make, I wanted to find an easy an adaptable method which would look good, be quick to produce, and fits 'the average' Year 4 child [8/9 years] I came up with this system. You need three rectangles - two approx 17" x 26", and one 8½" x 26"- give or take a bit. Using recycled fabrics means sometimes they weren't always precise.
Where possible, I cut a strip 17" x 52" meaning I didn't need to do a shoulder seam.
My other key piece of equipment is this plate which measures 7" across. This is exactly the right size for a "head hole".
Begin by sewing the shoulder seam [or marking the middle of your strip], then place your plate in the middle of that, draw round and cut out a 'head hole'. Mark the centre back of the hole.
Now fold your narrow strip in half to make a hood. Round off the corner, and sew the back seam.
Stitch the hood to the head hole, matching the seam with the centre back [you will have a gap in the front of about 5"] Folding the tunic at the shoulder seam, mark 8" down the side, and pin together. Sew up the side seams from the bottom to that 8"mark.
This gives you a simple hooded tunic.
Modify as appropriate for your animals. Add tails to the back, triangular or round ears to the sides of the hood, and any other details.
Now draw a simple mask shape on a piece of paper. Look for animal masks on the net, to get some ideas of how to do the different animals. Draw round a pair of spectacles to get the right size!
I sewed mine with two layers of felt, and put elastic round the back.
Here's horse, rooster, chicken, goose, duck, pig and cow.
And here are some of my tunics with the masks laid on them

Hen, rooster,cow, pig, duck, horse. I've turned the head sideways on hen and rooster so you can see their 'combs'. The rooster hood is separate, with a feathered neck, because he has to change his head and become a stork halfway through the play [?!]
Baa-baa-ra the sheep was a little more challenging. She needed a Marie Antoinette 'mouton' wig. But a white hood with little black ears would have looked just as good.
I blogged about her, and the Harp costume last week.
But these were all relatively quick to make, and this pattern is easily adaptable.

I hope this tutorial is helpful to any of you out there needing to produce animal costumes for nativity plays! Feel free to share it!

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

A Baker Boy, And Some Early Spice Girls

Over the weekend, the death was announced of Richard Baker, who was the newsreader of my childhood on the BBC. He was born in 1925, the son of a plasterer - but academically gifted, he won a scholarship to Grammar School and later, a place at Cambridge. The war got in the way, and he interrupted his studies to serve in the Navy on the Russian convoys.
But afterwards, he wrote to the BBC and got a job, presenting classical music programmes on radio, on "The Third Programme" [forerunner of Radio 3] It was a dream job for a bright young man who loved classical music. Then the BBC started planning News Bulletins on TV. Richard introduced the first bulletin in 1954 [altho it was John Snagge who read the news - altho he was not seen, just pictures were shown] But then they decided to allow the readers to be pictured, by 1957, Richard was the 'face' of BBC news. He did this job for 25 years. 
I vividly remember coming home from school in 1966, and the house was empty. I switched on children's TV - and it was interrupted by RB announcing, with deep sadness, the Aberfan Disaster.  He was a consummate professional, and delivered the news, good, bad, and amusing, with just the right touch of solemnity or levity as appropriate. 
Even after leaving the newsdesk, he continued to appear on other TV programmes, and presented These You Have Loved, and Your Hundred Best Tunes on the radio. Her was also involved in the BBC Proms.Many people will remember his appearance in the amazing Morecambe and Wise Christmas 1977 Newsreaders song and dance routine [here]
He was always considered a kind, witty and generous man. My parents and I used to watch him on "Face the Music" -  a classical music quiz programme - with Joyce Grenfell [there she is again!] In his latter years, he lived in a retirement home- and used to spend his days cutting clippings from the newspapers, and reading them to his fellow residents over dinner!
RIP to a man whose voice I can still hear in my head  "This is the six o'clock news from the BBC"
Also last week, we heard of the death at 89 of Babs Beverley. Along with twin sister Teddie, and elder sister Joy, she belonged to "The Beverley Sisters". This trio, popular through the 50's and 60's were almost the original Spice Girls.
They began their career when they were evacuated to Nottingham, and a photographer heard them singing [a hymn] but decided these teenagers would be great advertising Ovaltine. They could harmonise beautifully, and their career took off. 
Their hits included "Little Donkey", and "I saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus" - and their signature tune "Sisters!" written especially for them by Irving Berlin. They sang at the London Palladium, and for twenty years had great success. Some people complained that their songs were sometimes a little too racy [the girls usually protested their innocence!] They did Panto regularly [often having the scripts re-written to include three principle boys] They also covered hits from the US group The Andrews Sisters [eg Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Don't sit Under the Apple Tree etc] Joy died 3 years ago, and Teddie remains. Here's one of their seasonal pieces

Monday, 19 November 2018

Chicken Run!

This school play has both a hen and a rooster in it. The issue of chicken feet was raised. I looked on the net. Helpfully Martha Stewart was in her ITT Halloween mode, and there on her website was a DIY chicken costume.
I can do this! I thought and got some rubber gloves from the poundshop. 
As per Martha's instructions, I stuffed the fingers, and hot-glued the gloves to some slippers. Here they are being tested on my feet. Martha's model is a very small child, I don't know if she can walk in her yellow feet. I really struggled in my pink ones- and so did the 2 young actors. Useless!!
For health and safety reasons, we abandoned that idea. Instead I made shapes out of wadding and felt, with an elasticated hole for the ankle. These slip on over the top of  plimsolls. Much safer. I made a pair of yellow webbed duck feet too.

We had our first rehearsal in costume on Friday afternoon. All went well - but the producer decided that perhaps the cow should have a set of udders. I promptly extricated one of the useless pink rubber gloves from its slipper and safety-pinned it to the back of the Cow Costume. Creative recycling!
One line in the play refers to "These ridiculous costumes!" - and the 8 year old who had to say this came to me afterwards, very apologetically. "Please, when I say that about the ridiculous costumes, I'm not being rude to you, Mrs Almond. We are really grateful for the costumes and think they are lovely"
I assured him that I understood- and that I thought it was extremely kind of him to say it to me. Such politeness makes it worth doing!

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Hit The Pause Button!

Just two weeks from today, it will be the first Sunday of Advent.
Once again I'm going to be doing "Pause in Advent" posts for the first  4 Sundays in December.[Explanation here]
If you are interested in joining in, then please leave a comment so I can add your name to the list on my sidebar.
I know people are busy - and you may only manage one or two Advent posts [and possibly not on the Sundays] but this tradition, started by Floss a long time ago, has been appreciated by many bloggers. Posts can be on any relevant stop-the-Christmas-madness-and-just-take-a-breath theme [so not specifically Christian if you have other thoughts to share]
This is my 5th year of hosting, and you'll see I have changed our logo.
Do join us if you can- even if you're reading but not posting!

Saturday, 17 November 2018

A Photograph And A Prayer

My friend Richard, retired Baptist minister, and gifted photographer, posted this on Facebook.
In the current political turmoil swirling round us I felt it was worth sharing...
 [I have no idea who else will have resigned by the time you read this]

The photograph:  the beautiful dry-stone walls that enhance the Peak District. They are strong, but need to be kept in good repair. A farmer told me of the problem of itchy cows. To relieve their torment, the cows lean and scratch themselves on the stones. Cows are heavy and strong - and can push the walls over. What follows? Chaos!
The prayer: Lord God, we see the confusion and anger in our society. The boundaries have been broken, and injustice and poverty afflict many frightened, lonely and angry people. Lord, please act in grace and mercy to bring healing and restored hope in our land.
Stir up our hearts to seek righteousness, humility, and kindness; to choose to be good neighbours and good Samaritans, helping and loving each other. Teach us again right from wrong, teach us to care and not to be judgemental. Help us to be forgiving, and be willing to receive forgiveness too.
Raise up men and women of courage and wisdom to guide us forward.
Renew our hope: turn the hearts of children to the parents, and the parents to the children, and turn all of our hearts toward You.
In your mercy and faithfulness, hear our prayer- 
in Jesus' Name. Amen.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Happy Birthday, Brother!

Today is my brother Adrian's birthday. I've been so busy that I completely forgot about sending his card. Sorry, Adrian.
He is the best brother a woman could wish for. He is thoughtful, generous and incredibly hard working. 
One of the best things about getting Cornerstones has been that we can see much more of each other than we used to. 
I feel very blessed to belong to a loving family. Happy birthday Adrian - have a great day - looking forward to seeing you again at Christmas 

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Phone Home!

I was using my little wordbags with my new pupil on Tuesday morning. He really enjoys this activity - I cannot believe it is nearly six years since I made these - they have proved so popular with lots of pupils.
He put down 'et'. "What's that?" I said [we'd already established that foreign words are not allowed]

"Miss, you know  E T - Phone Home! " After a discussion about capital letters, Initials and abbreviations, I allowed it. But confessed I have never seen the film. He was amazed, and concerned.
"I probably should watch it" I said "I am quite fond of bicycles"
"There isn't much about bicycles in it, Miss!"
he informed me.
"Then why do they put one on the film poster?" I asked.
He wasn't sure...
I said that  'phoning home' was fraught with difficulties anyway, as my phonehas been on the blink for some time now. Just trivial things, you know ...

  • the touch screen not responding at all to my finger
  • so people call and swipe as I might, I cannot answer them
  • the camera doesn't respond promptly, so lots of photos are of the pavement
  • text messages have been even more random than usual with full. Stops appearing in quite. The wrong places, turning my. Messages into utter. Gibberish. Like that!
But the worst thing was on Sunday at 6.15am, when the alarm went off. And would not  be silenced. Poor Steph, sharing a double bed with me at Liz's mutterly sleepily "Can't you turn that off, Mum?" I was holding it under the duvet [not wanting to wake the entire household. It would not go off. In the end, Steph managed to switch off the phone for me. [Thank you Steph, apologies again for disturbing your sleep]
Bob did some research and on Tuesday afternoon I went and purchased a new phone. At least I am earning regularly so I can afford it now!]
It is a Motorola Moto G6 Play, very similar to Bob's phone [Argos were doing the best deal]
My old SIM card has transferred quite happily and I can do all the things I want to do [mostly texts, calls and WhatsApp messages - plus the camera]
I shall remain with my GiffGaff pay-as-you-go deal. It is only £5 a month, and that's a good deal for me. 
Last time I got a new phone was May 2010 - and that was a very basic little model. Every phone since has been a hand-me-down from someone else in the family. It is quite exciting to have one I have picked out for myself.
It may take a while to work out all the different features - so if you are a friend I communicate with by phone, please bear with me if I get it wrong occasionally.
What is strange though, is that although it is years since people had telephones like this in their homes, you often see this icon. It's started me wondering which other icons are still in use, even though technology has moved on? Any suggestions

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

A Chorus Line

A colourful rail of garments on hangers - skirts, shawls and mob caps for the two dozen girls in the play who are in the chorus. As well as singing all the songs, they also have to bustle along in the market scene.
Originally I had hoped these 8 year olds would be able to bring in an adult's skirt from home which could be pinned at the waist to make them an ankle length skirt. But so many said "my Mum and my Gran wear trousers all the time" it proved easier to just make them all.
It's a wonderful stash buster ; a rectangle 30" x 45". Seam the short sides, hem the bottom, and thread elastic through a simple casing at the top. 
I've recycled all sorts of fabric - curtains, dress lengths, sheets, tablecloths. 90% of these play costumes are made from repurposed fabric. The OED may have declared "single-use" the Word of the Year, but it's not a concept I encourage.
I'm really enjoying the sewing, especially since my overlocker was serviced. But when I took the project on I didn't expect to be teaching every morning. I couldn't have got so much done without Bob's support. 
The performance is next Wednesday - but I need to get everything finished by tonight for final fittings tomorrow afternoon.
Domestic chores will just have to wait! 

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Time After Time

A recent blogpost by a dear friend, about how the pattern of her life has changed over the years, reminded me of a poem by the wonderful, warm, and witty, late great Joyce Grenfell. JG was a brilliant writer, raconteur, performer and actor. Many will remember her as the hapless WPC Ruby Gates in the original proper St Trinians films. Others think of her 'nursery teacher' monologues [George, don't do that!] She was a woman who had a deep faith, combined with a great sense of fun. 
This is her poem "Time". Written for a generation that knew nothing of feminism, where a wife probably gave up work on marriage - or at least once babies came along. And so there is no verse about online shopping, Slimming World, saving the planet or blogging, blogging, blogging...[and she does jump alarmingly from 'young' straight to 'elderly' !]
But the poem is a gentle reminder of how we can so easily waste time, forget to enjoy time, or take time to stop and think...and I love her ending
...there is just this minute, and I am in it thank the Lord!
Right now I have slightly less time than usual- I have just started a new part-time job. More on that later. But I am grateful for the busy-ness, and the opportunity to teach regularly. 
I hope you enjoy the poem as much as I do

When I was a girl there was always time,
There was always time to spare.
There was always time to sit in the sun;
And we were never done
With lazing and flirting,
And doing our embroidery,
And keeping up our memory books,
And brushing our hair,
And writing little notes,
And going on picnics,
And dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing--
When I was a girl there was always time to waste.
Thank the Lord.

When I was a young woman there was always time,
There was always time to spare.
There was always time to walk in the sun,
And we were never done
With going to weddings,
Our own and our friends',
And going to parties,
Away at weekends,
And having our children
And bringing them up,
And talking, talking, talking, talking--
When I was a young woman there was always time to enjoy things.
Thank the Lord.

And when I was an elderly woman there was no more time,
There was no more time to spare.
There was no more time to sit in the sun,
For we were never done
With answering the telephone,
And looking at the TV,
And doing baby-sitting,
And talking to our friends,
And shopping, shopping, shopping, shopping,
And washing-up, washing-up, washing-up,
Writing letters, writing letters
Rushing, rushing, rushing,
And we were always hurried,
And we were never bored.
When I was an elderly woman
There was never time to think.
Thank the Lord.

But now I'm an old old woman,
So I want the last word:
There is no such thing as time--
Only this very minute
And I'm in it.
Thank the Lord.

Monday, 12 November 2018

The Man In The White Hat

People, passion, poverty, power, politics and protests... These are the key themes of Mike Leigh's "Peterloo". 
It begins on the battlefield in Belgium - Wellington's army may have won, but the ground is littered with the injured and dying. 
We focus on one confused soldier, stumbling along [today he'd be diagnosed with PTSD] Jacob is played by David Moorst [top picture; shown here on set with Mike Leigh] He finally staggers all the way home, still in his red uniform jacket, to Manchester, and collapses in the arms of his mother (the redoubtable Maxine Peake) She's matriarch of a hardworking family, who are employed at the cotton mill... Down in London, Parliament is awarding Wellington £750,000 for saving the nation from Bonaparte. But up north, due to the Corn Laws, people are starving, barely able to buy a small loaf to feed an entire family. The film is shot on Saddleworth Moor, outside Manchester - and for city scenes, today's Lincoln stands in for Georgian Manchester.
Fast forward 4 years...the people want to make their voices heard - but the growing city of Manchester has only 1 MP. There is no proper proportional representation across the country. Orator Henry Hunt, is called up from London to speak to the people.
The people gather from all over the place, and march from the moor into St Peter's Fields, where they plan to have a peaceful rally, a "family day out" and listen to this important reformer, in his trademark white hat.
But the powers that be panic, convinced that there will be a bloody revolution [like those dreadful Frenchies] and send in the troops.

And they ride into the crowd, waving sabres -Men, women, children mown down where they stand. Including Jacob, who remains bewildered to the last by the carnage that continues to surround him, then crumples into a dead heap for his distraught mother to find.
The horrified reporters from the London Times and other papers, walk round the deserted square, looking at the bloody, broken bodies- struggling to find the words to send back to their editors. "St Peter's is Peterloo" says one, and the name remains with us to this day. Hunt went to prison for his part in the affair [his hat, but not his head, stove in by a sabre!] Some ordinary people were punished by the courts, and others lost their jobs, at least one man died because the doctor refused to treat any of those at the rally.
Good points- a tale well told, with [from what I have read] a fair deal of historical accuracy. Stellar cast, with some of the best of our nations actors playing significant roles. Great costumes - but I did wonder if Philip Jackson's buttons were a just a bit too modern for the period? Peake portrayed a frustrated mother really well - torn between stoically accepting her awful lot in life, and supporting her family's desire to rise up and bring reform. The contrast between the cheery atmosphere as they march to the assembly, with singing and pipes and drums - and the violence that ensued - coupled with the bloated, selfish officials making foolish decisions was very effective.
Less good - Leigh's concern for using every fact he has unearthed means he seems to have thrown in every historical character connected with the event. Alastair McKenzie [from Monarch of the Glen] plays General John Byng- one of Wellington's officers at the battle,deployed to organise the militia 'up in the north'. Except on the day in question he is away at the Races. Considering his major contribution to the story is to be AWOL, he got an awful lot of screen time. Tim McInerney is the odious Prince Regent. Not sure if he wasn't just a little too OTT. In an effort to include everyone, Leigh did end up with some characters not being properly 'rounded'. Having fewer significant people might have helped a little. Bob felt it was a bit 'wordy' in places. Did they really talk in such high falutin terms? ["Just a light repast, my dear" requests Hunt of a baffled Mancunian servant girl]
Because it is how such historical films often end, we both expected a few facts to come up at the end - you know "15 were killed and estimates of up to 700 injured. The dreaded Corn Laws were later repealed. The incident led to the founding of the Manchester Guardian newspaper"...but nothing like that. Just the [extremely long] credits.
Despite my reservations, I would still rate it *****
Do go and see it if you have the chance - I'd be particularly keen to hear what current Manchester residents [like Steph and Gary] and any former Northerners now in the south [LH/Martha] think of it.
"Give me liberty or give me death!" shouts the young reformer at their preparation meeting up on the moor. I'm reminded of the line in Ward Howe's great Battle Hymn written 40 years later "As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free!" 
This is the week for remembering - and reminding ourselves that the price of freedom is a high one.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Remembrance Sunday 2018

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth… And I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared and ready, like a bride dressed to meet her husband. 
I heard a loud voice speaking from the throne: 
“Now God's home is with people! He will live with them, and they shall be his people. God himself will be with them, and he will be their God. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes. 
There will be no more death, no more grief or crying or pain."
Look back - and remember with gratitude the sacrifice made by others for our freedom.
Look around - and see where we have an opportunity to work today for peace and freedom in our world.
Look forward- to that glorious hope, the promise of a new heaven and a new earth, and no more death, or crying, or pain.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

A Bit Of An Enigma

I saw an old friend recently and we were talking about the 1980s "Do you ever hear from X?" I asked. "Only at Christmas - a long screed listing the children's achievements" came the reply.
Most parents are proud of their kids. But as I said to Bob, I know my girls have done well academically, achieved good jobs and generally they're doing OK by most people's standards. But what makes me really proud is that they are good and generous women. They share their time and resources to help others, helping with charity appeals, volunteering for things, and they're really thoughtful.
I cannot post much today - I'm in London briefly. My two wonderful daughters are taking me out for the evening. All I know is that it is something about Bletchley Park and very hush hush! But I'm so looking forward to whatever they have got planned, and being able to spend time with them. 

Friday, 9 November 2018

Ang's Anagrams

I've just earned the Old English Word tracen which means , among other things, to be on a set course, or following somebody. Well I was on set course, queuing behind others on Saturday evening.
I was attempting to reset a password for an online issue, and thought I could canter through the process, but got stuck in a loop

I went to the chatline, and discovered I was #81 in the queue, and the average time of waiting was 18 minutes. It was 4.24, and the chatline closed at 5. 
Should I go and put the kettle on, do some sudoku, or practise my cretan stitch whilst I waited? Instead I doodled anagrams.
By 4.43 [you are #19, average waiting time 15 minutes] I began to recant of my decision to attempt the exercise.
At 4.56 I had almost fallen into a trance, when ping! up popped a message- "hello, you are through to Rahul, how can I help?" I explained the problem, and after giving him two letters from a significant word, he said things were unlocked and I would get a code to my phone.
Goodbye! [it was 5pm, presumably he'd gone home to bake more cakes]
So I went back to the Nectar website. And still got nowhere - but the chatline was closed.
Fortunately my account is shared with Bob - he managed to get in and order our double-up points vouchers. 

But what a performance, just to turn £10 into £20!

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Had Your Flu Jab Yet?

The one-L lama, he's a priest
The two-L llama, he's a beast
But I will bet a silk pajama
There isn't any three-L llama!
I have always been fond of this little Ogden Nash poem* [the poet is from the US, so I respect his spelling of the p-word]
I found a particularly heart-warming little story on the BBC News website last week, about scientists at the Scripps Institute in California, who have made an amazing discovery about the blood of the llama[that's the beast not the priest]
Every winter, people across the world become ill, and some die, from various strains of influenza. And scientists seek to find an inoculation to prevent people catching the virus [the word actually comes from the Italian for 'epidemic']  But this virus is a shape-shifter, constantly mutating, in ways which evade our immune systems. However South American llamas [which are bigger than their cousins, the alpacas, less timid, and with coarser coats - in case you were wondering] may have the answer. 
Proteins stick out from the surface of the virus, and antibodies in our blood bind to the tips of these proteins. The clever viruses are constantly changing those tips, so the antibodies are ineffective. Research shows that llama blood contains antibodies which are much smaller than those in human blood - so they can burrow deeper and affect the part of the virus which are not mutating.
Scientists have found antibodies in the llama blood which protected against 59 out of 60 flu strains [and the 60th didn't affect humans anyway] Furthermore they have been able to synthesise these antibodies in the lab.
"The goals is to find something which works from season to season, and  protect you from pandemics should they emerge" said Professor Ian Wilson. It's all in the early stages at the moment, but offers hope for future winters. 
I think is is quite amazing that this discovery has been made- who started the research? what prompted it? Is there less flu in Peru?
And how wonderful that the answer appears to lie within Creation itself. It makes you wonder how many other cures for our ills have already been lost along the path of extinction - killing off some animals may expedite the demise of some humans.
*Ogden Nash was contacted by a Firefighter from New York who said that there was a classification system for the size of fires. Nash appended this footnote to his poem...
"The author's attention has been drawn to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer. Pooh"

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Date Night!

Or more accurately, date afternoon. Tuesday is Bob's day off- and we try and keep that one day each week to be together, away from other responsibilities. But this week, I was teaching on Tuesday morning, and he was at a School Governor's meeting in the evening. So we decided we would squeeze in a 'date' in the afternoon. 
With our Meerkat Movie Pass, and our 'seniors' status, we were able to get BOGOF cheap tickets for the Odeon BH2 in Bournemouth. The new multiplex opened last year, but we'd not been before.

I got in from school, and we drove over to the cinema. We went into Prezzo, where they were doing a lunchtime meal deal. Bob had a pizza, which he said was pleasant and quite spicy. I had the "Beetroot, puy lentil and butternut squash salad, with garlic bread". That was utterly delicious. I was a little disappointed that the 'soft drink' which went with the deal had to be a cold drink, I fancied a cup of tea [which was actually cheaper than the soft drinks on  the menu] but the waitress said if I had that I would have to pay full price. But otherwise it was a good meal.
Then into the cinema. We were in Screen One. I was a little overwhelmed by this. There were only about 40 seats, and Bob had prebooked our places [there weren't above a dozen other people in there!]
Just look at this! Huge double seats, with individual electrically operated reclining position and footrests. Plus a proper little table beside my right arm-rest for my bag, and a cup holder for my coffee!
[and yes I am wearing purple tights!]
We went to see Peterloo [In August, I blogged about the film here] It was exciting to realise some of it was actually filmed in Manchester!
It was a great film - and at the end a number of the cinemagoers applauded [how frightfully British!]
But I'm busy with school prep etc right now. A proper review will follow later.
I consider myself so blessed to have had an uninterrupted afternoon with Bob in the middle of his very busy week.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

FOB-bed Off - Profits v. Prophets

I know very little about betting. I don't participate in the Lottery, buy raffle tickets, back the horses, or know how to fill in a pools coupon [do paper coupons still even exist?] Even if I didn't reject such activities because of my Christian principles, I wouldn't bother because I have studied enough statistics to know that the biggest winners are the bookies, Camelot and that Government Department which collects the excise.
But I do know that gambling has become a massive problem in this country. I am aware of people who have been quite caught up in this dreadful addiction. For some it is an online problem - in the privacy of their homes, they tap away blithely losing their income, their earnings, their futures. But for many the activity takes place in betting shops, using the "FOBT" - fixed odds betting terminals.
I read of teenagers going out of school in the lunch hour, to the FOBTs in betting shops- and spending their lunch money in the vain hope of winning a fortune. They get a small win, and then plough it all back in, in the hopes of a bigger payout. And it doesn't come - but they are hooked -so they beg, borrow and steal, in the hopes that the next try will be the winning one. And often end up losing everything. University students are doing it in attempt to clear their student debts- but falling into deeper holes.
It is a fast activity, people at the terminals click away almost in a trance, unaware if the money they are committing. And many people have found themselves homeless, on the streets, cut off from families, out of work, caught up in a debt spiral...and the suicide statistics are horrifying.
Isn't that awful? YES IT IS! Charities, pressure groups, bereaved parents, MPs, clergy...many people have lobbied our Government for a long time to limit the maximum stake every 20 seconds to £2, not £100. And yet when last week's Budget Statement was read out, the chancellor said this could not be implemented till next October. THAT'S A WHOLE YEAR AWAY. Statistics show that there are likely to be more than 300 FOBT-related suicides in that time - people who are addicted and see no other way out.
There were statements in the budget about putting money into Mental Health Issues. But because of lobbying by the Gambling Agencies, and MPs whose income derives not just from their £77K Parliamentary Salary, but also from investments in the Gambling Industry, Philip Hammond backtracked and deferred this much needed change in the regulations, even though it is a cause of so much mental distress.
This is Tracey Crouch - formerly "Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage". She has resigned over this issue. She couldn't stomach the thought of the number of young men and women dying because the change in regulations has been deferred. 
The support she has received from so many of her colleagues in both houses of Parliament and elsewhere has been quite overwhelming. But Mrs May accepted the resignation letter with waffly weasel words about the delay is to ensure the changes are implemented properly.
I've waited a few days before posting this rant in the hopes that there might be some sort of back-tracking, and the stake regulations would be altered more quickly. No sign of it yet. Just an announcement from Paddy Power that they have had a signoificant increase in revenue from FOBT - but will lose £46M a year when the changes do finally [if ever] come into force.
I am so conscious that as I get older I am standing up to injustice, shouting more loudly, speaking out more often, and following the lead of the Old Testament Prophets - even if it sometimes makes me unpopular with my hearers. If FOBT gambling leads to poverty, and addiction is a form of imprisonment for those trapped in its grip, then the words of Isaiah 61 are more important than ever
The Sovereign Lord has … sent me
To bring good news to the poor,
To heal the broken-hearted,
To announce release to captives
And freedom to those in prison.
May God bless this young woman, and send more principled-people like her to serve at Westminster. People seeking to serve their constituents and their nation, not to benefit the rich and selfish. Rant over...

Monday, 5 November 2018

Wimborne Wow!

On Saturday morning, I was in Wimborne. The poppy sellers were everywhere, and the local Town Crier looking stunning in scarlet and black. 
I discovered this is the weekend of the Wimborne GREEN Festival, and there was a programme of activities celebrating the town's "greening" and giving opportunities to develop environmental understanding.
All good stuff.
In the Minster, various groups had set out their stalls- including Friends of the Earth,The Allotment Group,  Stop Ocean Plastic!, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Hilfield Friary Retreat Centre, and WOW! the Wimborne War on Waste group, who have spearheaded this initiative in the town.

Here's the local WOW committee, 'saving the planet 'one coffee cup at a time' [I am not altogether sure why they wear them on their heads]
I couldn't stop long, as the Car Park Ticket was close to expiring. So I was unable to listen to the any of the talks, taking place under the rainbow canopy of origami butterflies. I did manage to be photographed as a mermaid, lying on a plastic littered ocean bed.
The Friends of the Earth rep gave me a large disc protesting about Fracking. I shall have to consider where best to display that. I wish I didn't feel that Cuadrilla will not be persuaded to stop their desecration of Lancashire until Blackpool Tower falls down.
That lady bottom right is Charlie, and she managed to answer a question I posed back in April - what should I do with my plastic straws? Wimborne are taking part in a massive straw collection, as there is a company [Terra Cycle] which will take large quantities. Charlie is going to email me the details so I can hand mine in. What a committed campaigner!
I'm very pleased that this little town is working so hard - they've already been awarded the 'Plastic Free Community' Status.
But one tiny [plastic] fly in the ointment - I went to Wimborne specifically to collect something I had ordered from the Minster Bookshop. My purchase was waiting for me, already packaged in a single use flimsy plastic bag ! The poor gift shop assistant was in a state about her till not working properly, so I didn't have the heart to point out the irony of this. 
Keep going Charlie! You are doing a great job with WOW - but it is going to be one small step at a time.
I got back to the Car Park with one minute to spare - which was very satisfying, as the Warden was at the other end of the row, working towards my car with her little penalty-printed machine. Better a 70p ticket than a £30 fine!