Sunday, 22 July 2018

The Psalmist Was Right

Psalm 127 says "Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a real blessing."
I was sorting out some old photos from the 1980's [The girls are going to be very annoyed with for posting these] These were taken in 1985 when we were living in Orpington. I know the top right was Liz's first Official Playgroup Photo, she was just 3. The bottom one shows the three of us singing a favourite song ["Stick your finger in your ear and Tinga-Linga-Loo"]
The photos below were taken this year - Rosie is looking so much like Liz did - and her hair is gradually getting thicker, and has the same gorgeous colour as her Mum's [inherited from Bob's Mum] 
Yesterday would have been my Mum's 94th birthday - she died in 1991. I am so glad she lived to see my daughters. I know they brought her as much joy as Rosie brings to me. 
Children are precious, but they grow up so fast- treasure the good moments, and cherish the happy memories.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

The OTHER Bob Almond

I know about "The Other Boleyn Girl" - but who is this chap?
This parcel arrived for him last Sunday afternoon as we were just going out to church.
You remember my great excitement when we went to Worcester and saw the giraffes, and then found ourselves on the Gtech video clip (here)
Well, the story didn't end there. Bob had a message from Gtech to say he'd won a prize in their selfie competition. 
So now he is the proud of a Gtech Multi handheld vacuum cleaner!
It is a lovely little thing. Full description here. It has extra heads, a flexible extension tube and a neat crevice tool which stores in the handle.
It's not too heavy to use, appears to hold a charge well, and is excellent for doing stairs and the car. 
Years ago we had a Black and Decker DustBuster [always referred to as the Bust Duster in our family] Technology has clearly moved on a lot since then.
The suction power is greater, the time it stays charged is longer, and the accessories are better. Also the dust reservoir is easy to empty and the foam filter washes efficiently and dries quickly.
It is over twenty years since I purchased my Sebo upright vac. That's still going strong, and I love it - but it's one drawback is that it is hard to manipulate on the stairs. This little gadget fills that gap. It has similar specs to the Dyson handheld and retails at around £150. Personally I prefer the design of the Gtech [made in the UK] 
I'm thrilled Bob has won this - he is delighted to be able to keep the interior of his new Skoda sparkling clean, and equally impressed with the staircarpet! Thank you Gtech. 
The other Bob Almond? 
That must be the one with a sudden enthusiasm for house cleaning! 

Friday, 20 July 2018

All Up!

The rowing skiff, crewed by men in red uniforms glides serenely along the Thames. Someone spots a fluffy brown cygnet. The cry is heard "All Up!" and the oars go up out of the  water. 
The boatmen then go about their ancient task of catching, and counting, the swans. 
This annual task has been carried out since the twelfth century - when swans were a delicacy at the royal dinner table. 
Back then, all unmarked swans were the property of the Crown - and a few wealthy people were entitled to mark their own swans, for future consumption.
Now just two of the London livery companies- the Vintners and the Dyers have the right to mark swans on the Thames.  Nowadays the census is not about menus, but about conservation and education. The Swan Markers weigh and measure each cygnet, and check for good health [those showing signs of illness are taken away to receive treatmet and returned to the river later] 
Those belonging to the Livery Companies are ringed, the Queen's swans remain unmarked. Traditionally at least one member of the royal family attends the counting- this year Princess Anne [the Queen herself attended until about ten years ago] 
Today is the final day of this year's Upping. You can find out more on the Royal Family Website [click here
Schools send groups of children to observe, and members of the public are allowed to watch too.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

My Life Might Have Been So Different!

Back in the early 1970s when I was a student, I came home for the long summer vac and found a temporary job with a 'secretarial services' firm.  During that time, they sent me out to work for a local construction company. No not on the building site- but in their tiny Dereham Office where there were two avuncular chaps in their forties, and the boss's eldest son [a year or two older than me]  I was covering for the receptionist/typist who had gone for a three week holiday "somewhere abroad"
I answered the phone, greeted visitors, typed letters, did basic book-keeping - and mid-morning and mid-afternoon, made the refreshments [there were strict rules about which biscuits should be served to whom]
The company was RGCarter - they'd just had their 50th anniversary, having been founded in 1921 by Robert George Carter. When I went there, his son Robert was running the business, and his son "Young Mr Robert" and been sent to our little outpost to 'learn the rope"s [we were by to the fish and chip shop in Norwich Street] He was a very pleasant young man, and always extremely appreciative of my typing and teamaking skills. "Play your cards right, and you might end up being the next Mrs Carter" said one of the chaps. I seriously doubted it ...he was the boss and I was the temp. There was no question of anything else, and I couldn't play cards anyway [and still can't] I have to say that unlike some other temp jobs I had in those years, all the men in the office were perfect gentlemen. No #MeToo problems there, for which I am very grateful.
Fast forward 45 years or so, and now Young Mr Robert has grown up and is the managing director himself, and on East Anglias "Top Twenty Rich List". The company now operates from a new 'hub' in central Norfolk and is building stuff all over the place - but committed to keeping the HQ in Norfolk.
And why do I mention this now? well, there's a new "Young Mr Robert" - and he and his wife Hannah have been in the news recently. They're great friends with those another couple also Norfolk landowners, called William and Kate. Hannah was a close friend of the Duchess at school, and was chosen to be one of the Godparents for baby Price Louis at his recent Christening.
YMR's sister, Sophie Carter is also a great friend of Kate, another good friend from school days - they regularly go to Wimbledon together. She is a Godparent to Princess Charlotte.
Two questions;
1. Would my life have been as happy if I had flirted with him, and somehow ended up as wife of a millionaire Norfolk landowner [one of the 'Turnip Toffs' as the Daily Mail calls them] ??  NO, I WOULDN'T CHANGE ANY OF IT !!
2. If Hannah's new baby is a boy, will he be the next Young Mr Robert?  YES, I SUSPECT HE WILL!!

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Art Works

I have just come across the work of artist Pete McGee. Born and bred in Sheffield [born in 1966 - our World Cup Year] he paints pictures depicting the life of the ordinary working class people around him. Using pots of ordinary Trade Paint! 
But he didn't study at St Martins or anywhere like that, and isn't really on the radar of the formal artworld. 
Growing up in a family of steel workers, Pete was actually working in Tesco, aged 40, when he became very ill and needed a liver transplant [he had an undiagnosed liver complaint since birth]. After that, he quite Tesco, quit drinking and took up art full time. That was 12 years ago.
Now his work is popular across the board, designing posters, tee shirts and more for Oasis, Arctic Monkey, Disney...But he still lives close to his roots. He's really concerned about the way the media has portrayed northern working class people who voted for Brexit  [he voted Remain- but understands their despair, and their reasons for what they did] He is really angry about the increase in the number of Foodbanks in this country [declaring that ONE would be too many!] So last month he came up with an idea...
He gave away artworks. Specifically an empty can - with more than a nod to Andy Warhols's soup - decorated with one of his trademark style pieces, an old lady balancing a tray on her lap, eating supper whilst her dog looks on.
To qualify for the 'free', limited edition, artwork, people had to donate something to the foodbank.
The queue snaked around the block. People did not just bring odd tins- they brought carrier bags full of goods- 3 weeks later, the Foodbank Team are still sorting these donations out! 
Last Saturday, he opened an exhibition "This Class Works" displaying many of his populist pieces.
I quite like his quirky style, and his clever titles. Look at these
Threepenny Bit Opera, 
It's Coming H..., 
Who Needs a Fancy Holiday Abroad, When You Can Have All This For Nowt On Your Doorstep?
National Hug Service
Let Them Eat Crisps

National Hug Service appeared all round Sheffield recently as part of the NHS70 celebrations - Pete owes his life to the NHS.
I shall be looking out for more of this man's pictures. As well as Sheffield, he has a fondness for Manchester too - I wonder if Gary and Steph have come across his "Great Moments in Manchester Music" collection?
I doubt he will become as world famous as Da Vinci, or even L S Lowry - but I wholeheartedly approve of someone who uses his talents to do good and bless others.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Manchester Menus

We certainly dined well last weekend. 
An excellent lunch with Frank and Barbara en route, Tuna Ni├žoise, and then fresh strawberries with home-made vanilla ice cream.
Then we arrived at Steph and Gary's place, and once Adrian and Marion turned up from Norfolk, we went out for dinner at Artisans. This is where S&G had a wedding party the week before.
It was so good to get together and relax, enjoying great food and good company. 

I had an amazing Hibiscus Martini to drink - an alco-free cocktail, comprising apple, cranberry, lemon and red berry hibiscus syrup with egg white. Delicious

My main course was Moules Mariniere baked in a pizza crust. Bob had one of these too- they were remarkable- and very tasty

For dessert I had Chocolate meringue, which came with banana, chantilly cream and salted caramel sauce.
After that we walked round to Sam's Chop House- which was L S Lowry's favourite pub [my SIL's clever suggestion - he knows I like LSL] I had a sparkling mineral water alongside the man himself, who was perched at the bar.
On Saturday it was the Family Wedding BBQ at Steph and Gary's - usual BBQ fare, with football on the TV [outside in the garden] and a small wedding cake, sliced with a huge sword!
Sunday breakfast was bagels in town at Bagel Nash - a new experience for Marion. The freshly cooked ones taste so much better than the ones in a plastic bag from the supermarket!
In the evening we ate at Mackie Mayor, in the trendy Northern Quarter, formerly a meat market, now an interesting eaterie serving World Cuisines from counters all round the outside walls
We both opted for Sicilian. I had a rich, unctuous Caponata, Bob had Fennel-stuffed-sausage ragu with pasta.
Our last great meal of the weekend was in Worcester - we went into the St Richard's Hospice Shop and ate in their Snowdrops Cafe. I had a beetroot and pepper puff pastry tart, Bob enjoyed meatballs with a rice timbale. The staff were so friendly and helpful too.
All washed down with San Pellegrino over ice [his blood orange, mine pomegranate and orange] If you want lunch in Worcester, I would strongly recommend this place!

And for the remainder of the month, I think I had better go on a diet!!

Monday, 16 July 2018

Liz Sent Me A Poem

Friday's march was a joyous carnival event - full of happy people, families,friends and strangers, who were united in their anger and sadness over the activities of one narcissistic man. Liz and I were marching with Jenna, originally from Michigan - 
  • We commented on the diversity of issues represented [racism, misogyny, nuclear weapons, global warming, mistreatment of refugees, Islamophobia, imprisonment of asylum seekers, homophobia, separation of children from parents...and more] 
  • We marvelled at the erudition of many of the placards  - words like 'venality' and 'dotard', quotes from John Quincy Adams,Santayana, and Martin Luther King. 
  • We admired the tenacity of the elderly, the disabled, and the children, who kept marching in the blistering heat. 
  • We sang, we cheered, we clapped, we blew whistles [well, I didn't -I'd left mine in my teacher's bag!]
Trump subsequently arrived late to meet the Queen, divulged the content of her private conversation and was rude enough to walk in front of her. She is a 92 year old lady - that is rude behaviour even if she was not the Queen.
I was proud of these two young women beside me who shared my feelings about the arrival of this man on our shores.

Steph couldn't be with us, but supported us on her Facebook page. I thank God for two daughters who care about what happens to other people. Liz sent me Brian Bilston's poem. I shall endeavour to live up to it as I grow older!

As I grow old
I will not shuffle to the beat
of self-interest
and make that slow retreat
​​​to the right.
I will be a septuagenarian insurrectionist
marching with the kids.
I shall sing ‘La Marseillaise’, whilst brandishing
homemade placards that proclaim

I will be an octogenarian obstructionist,
and build unscalable barricades
from bottles of flat lemonade,
tartan blankets and chicken wire.

I will hurl prejudice upon the brazier’s fire.

I will be a nonagenarian nonconformist,
armed with a ballpoint pen
and a hand that shakes with rage not age
at politicians’ latest crimes,
in strongly-worded letters to The Times.

I will be a centenarian centurion
and allow injustice no admittance.

I will stage longstanding sit-ins.
My mobility scooter and I
will move for no-one.

And when I die
I will be the scattered ashes
that attach themselves to the lashes
and blind the eyes
of racists and fascists.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Coming Home

Belonging to a loving family is such a precious blessing. I think I will treasure forever the memory of last Sunday morning when Rosie ran into the room and saw her grandfather sitting on the sofa. Her face lit up, and she shouted "Grandad Bob! I missed you today!"
In the last couple of weeks, I've been moved to tears of joy by the news from Thailand of the cave rescue - pictures of parents waiting anxiously, and news reports about the difficulty of the rescue. All 12 boys, and their coach are now out of the cave. The oxygen supplies ran out as the operation ended. What a great story!

I have also wept to see videos of children taken from their parents at the US border, being reunited with their families.
Spare half a minute to watch this clip

But I also shed tears of anger and frustration that there are hundreds of families separated by this cruel US policy and inefficient administration. For many reasons - but especially this one, I went to the protest on Friday.
I find this sculpture by Charlie Mackesy depicting the return of the lost son to his loving father deeply moving.
This is what I believe - that God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son - to restore that relationship, to bring us home...
...and I believe that I should work to bring children home - by speaking out against the unjust separation of children and families,  by praying for those who are lost - to help reunite families by whatever means I can.
The Thai cave rescue was not easy - and one brave man lost his life. If every person who reads this post sent just £2 to the British Cave Rescue Council, it would make such a difference. 

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Going MAD In West Moors

West Moors is just up the road. Our Church is part of the local Churches Together group there [and since January I have been Chair of the local CT committee] The WM Parish Council asked us if we would like to have a stand at the MAD event [that's Multi Activity Day] Of course, we said we would - but that means a bit of organising.
Ruth the Curate suggested a 'Living Room' - just a simple space under the gazebo, where people could sit, and rest and enjoy a drink of water. So I made the bunting. We are also going to give a way decorate cards, and Hope Stones. I have used the stones at similar events in the past and they have always proved popular.

I suspect I shall be very tired tonight!
Update on yesterday's Protest - it was utterly brilliant, if rather hot. Thanks so much for all the supportive comments both on the blog and on Facebook.Liz wisely left Rosie in the UCL Nursery. I am SO glad I went- and will post pictures next week. This morning I am up early [yet again] and will be busy all day!