Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Earring Aid

I mentioned on Monday that it's Dementia Action Week. Here's a small action which can help - declutter your jewellery box.
The Alzheimer's Society can make use of unwanted items, top quality stuff or less expensive pieces even broken or unmatched pieces! That's right, even odd earrings and cufflinks can be recycled and repurposed to provide funds for this worthwhile charity.
I've a few tinsful of baubles  bangles and beads, that I've kept meaning to incorporate into other projects. Lots of favourite, but widowed, earrings. I shall never get round to using them all. So l shall be sending the bulk to the AS. 
If you want to do the same you can go to the website and they'll send you a prepaid Jiffy Bag [Click here for link] Start sorting now, they say that lots of people have requested them so you may have a week or two to wait for your envelope to arrive.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Blooming Marvellous!

I got up early on Friday, hoping to get called in for teaching. No call came.
By 8.15 I decided all the schools must be doing Royal Wedding Events, and wouldn't need supply staff. So Bob went to work on his bike, and I took the car to Wimborne Market. A whole trolley load of fruit and veg at excellent prices- without any plastic bags needed. Stall holders were quite happy to put stuff into my cotton bags [although I did have to accept a recyclable punnet for my strawberries]
Then I went into Wimborne itself - and spotted the Library was open. For the whole of May they are running the "Blooming Marvellous" exhibition. This has been travelling round the Bournemouth and Dorset libraries for a while - an amazing collection of knitted and crocheted flowers, plants and animals. Well worth a visit if you can - the detail is amazing. I couldn't resist adding suitable Librarian Captions to the pictures. Click on them for a larger view

Monday, 21 May 2018

Forget Me Not

Today marks the start of Dementia Action Week, organised by the Alzheimer's Society [details here] Their logo is a Forget-me-not flower
In recent years, I've met more and more people who suffer with this condition, and their amazing carers. 
Once a month, a group of us take a worship service in a local dementia care home. I am always so moved when we sing an old hymn, or say the Lord's Prayer, to see people who seem quite unaware of their surroundings suddenly start mumbling the words with us. Verses learned by heart so many years ago surface again, and bring comfort and peace of mind for a few moments 
This year the AS theme is "Small Actions, Big Impact" - simple ideas and deeds which can make a huge difference.
Do take a moment to look at the website. 
When we lived in London, I remember meeting a recently bereaved friend and saying "I was sorry to hear you lost your Mum on Friday" She replied "Thank you Angela, but I really lost my Mum a few years ago"
Alzheimer's is a cruel disease affecting the whole family. If there are little things that we can do to help those affected, then we certainly should  Suggestions include
  • Will you talk to people? 
  • Will you make the time to listen? 
  • Will you ask if you can help if someone looks confused? 
  • Will you be there for carers and lived ones too? 
  • Will you ask questions and learn about dementia? 
  • Will you carry on inviting people out? 
  • Will you be patient? 

Sunday, 20 May 2018

A Friend In Need...

Today is the Feast of Pentecost - when Christians remember God's gift of his Holy Spirit, the birth of the Church , the family of God's people.[read the story here]
Something that has really been important for me in recent weeks is the fact that God doesn't send us out alone - we have a faith-family. Friends who care for us and help us - and for whom we should be caring too.
I know I have spoken about Paul's words in Galatians before "Help carry one another's burdens, and so fulfill Christ's law"
I love Annie Valloton's picture, showing this line of people, each with their own burden, but each helping to carry the load of the one in front.
But what has struck me just lately is that sometimes people struggle on, and are unwilling to be helped, or to share their troubles with anyone else. Maybe they do not want o appear weak, maybe they do not want to be a nuisance, maybe they are embarrassed to admit they have a problem...whatever the reason, they bottle it up and persevere alone, and in silence. I saw this great label on a large box in B&Q this week.
There is no need to cope by yourself "Do not carry alone" Is a wonderful instruction.
There is always someone willing to help.
And God is always there too - even if you don't 'do church' you can always try praying [check out the helpful Try Praying website!]

Saturday, 19 May 2018

A Right Royal Soap Opera

I'm rather old-fashioned, I like 'real' soap. Most of my family prefer a pump dispense with the liquid stuff in it. That's fine, I have those by the sinks for them to use. But honestly I prefer the 'hard stuff'! But bars of soap need a dish, so they can drain and dry properly. 
Our little downstairs loo in the Manse has a minuscule basin [set surprisingly low on the wall - fine for me, not terribly comfortable for taller folk]
There's a little place on the edge of the basin just big enough for a miniature 'hotel/guest soap' but nowhere for the liquid soap to stand. Bob's fitted a neat glass shelf. My soap dispenser stands there, tidily.
Then I saw a rather grubby soap dish for 50p in a CS. A bit of 'Royal' china which is actually useful! My DIL gave me a lovely egg-shaped cake of soap which fits beautifully.
Only after I cleaned up the dish and put it into the cloakroom, did I research the Buckingham Palace online gift shop...

Style your bathroom with chinaware and bathing essentials inspired by objects and works of art on display at official royal residences. Made entirely by hand by our skilled artisans in Stoke-on-Trent using traditional methods unchanged for over 250 years, using English fine bone china, highly regarded around the world for its whiteness, fineness and delicacy. Finished with 22 carat gold. £29.00 [P&P £4.95]

Before you ask, no I will not be spending a further £40 to acquire the matching hand towel and toothbrush mug.
I pray that Harry and Meghan, plus their families and friends, have a truly happy day - and a strong and lasting marriage. I admire these young people for inviting their 'special people', and not the 'State Officials' to the event, and even more, for their decision to ask for financial gifts to charity and not wedding gifts for themselves. I hope that this raises a significant amount to help others.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Amo, Amas, Amattress

Poor Bob! The demise of the Skoda a month ago means he has been shoe-horning himself into my little Aygo rather a lot lately. Long journeys are particularly comfortable. He has been suffering quite a bit with backache [a brief aside - the Latin word for backache is lumbago but that's quite unconnected with the word for lead, which is plumbago ]
We've been planning on replacing our 13 year old mattresses for some time, but deferred the idea till we'd sorted out a car and I'd had more teaching. 
But on Tuesday we were in IKEA and I suggested we had a look in the bedding department anyway. The plan was to replace our two side-by-side mattresses with just one. They didn't have any of the correct size in stock.
We meandered round the store, and I picked up a pack of baby bibs to embroider. At £3 for three, this is a bargain.
Then we found the two light fitments we need for the Futility Room project - reduced to just £1 each!
Finally we got to the checkouts, and diverted to the bargain area.
And there was our mattress- the exact one, the right size- greatly reduced as it was a display model.
Even with the delivery charge [we just couldn't fit it in the Aygo!] it was less than 70% of the usual cost. What a bargain! Of course I had to buy a couple of bottom sheets to fit - but they were reduced too.

I'm hoping that a decent mattress will go some way to easing the backache. 
I did make one tiny mistake- I was wearing a yellow teeshirt and a navy gilet on Tuesday, and I got mistaken for a member of IKEA staff!

Very happy to report that our total spend for the day still came to less than we had expected to pay for a replacement mattress [including the bag of mini Daim bars]

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Bee Blessed

My friend ended his email with the words “Be blessed, be a blessing”. Still thinking about the importance of this week, I realised that I am truly bee-blessed.
  • I light candles at the dinner table, 
  • and the furniture gleams because of the polish I’ve used on that table. 
  • I waxed some thread before sewing the buttons back on my winter coat
  • I spread honey on my toast. 
  • And the glowing red apples in my fruit bowl only grew because a bee pollinated the blossom on the tree.

So I wrote a prayer about being bee-blessed

Father God, 
you made these tiny creatures, as part of your wonderful creation, 
and they are a blessing to me, 
and we need them if humans are to survive on our planet. 
Scientists have studied their colonies 
and are still learning more about them 
  • the way they serve their queen, 
  • the way they work in the hive, 
  • their construction of the beautiful hexagonal waxen cells, 
  • all the properties of their honey to nourish and to heal, 
  • their amazing flying dances which tell other bees where to find the nectar,

Help me to learn from the bees – 
  • to serve you, my King, 
  • to work alongside my brothers and sisters, 
  • to build your Kingdom, 
  • to feed the hungry, 
  • and to help others to find your love.

As I am bee-blessed, so may I be a blessing


Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Two Bees Or Not Two Bees

Apologies for the awful pun, but tomorrow marks the start of the 2018 British Bee Count. Sunday will be World Bee Day. I have already discovered that you have to be careful how you tell people about this. This is not promotion of global sanitaryware [World Bidet] It is about our little buzzing friends. I am mentioning it in advance for two reasons- so that you know, and can promote it too, and also because Sunday is also Pentecost, and that's a very significant day in the Christian Calendar. 
But back to the bees...
The country of Slovenia regards itself as the 'Cradle of World Beekeeping' This land of lush mixed forests, colourful meadows of flowers, a clean environment, hard-working people has many, many, bees. Not only that but 1 in 200 people have their own hives! They make diverse products from the honey - special honey chocolate, honey pastry and honey beers and brandies. 
The old records testify that beekeeping was already known by the immigrant Slavs in the 6th century. At the time of Maria Theresa, Slovenian beekeepers were highly renowned, and as the first teacher of beekeeping, the Slovenian Anton Janša, [1734-1773]who is considered the founder of modern apiculture, established himself in Vienna. He studied bees, and visited all the crowned heads of Europe, to encourage them and to teach different nations the skills in maintaining happy, healthy, productive bee colonies. The people of Slovenia regard May 20th, Anton's birthday, as a national holiday. But why should we make this a world event? This is their argument...
In addition to being one of the major pollinators, thus ensuring food and food security, sustainable agriculture and biodiversity, bees significantly contribute to the mitigation of climate change and environmental conservation. In the long-term, the protection of bees and the beekeeping sector can help reduce poverty and hunger, as well as preserve a healthy environment and biodiversity. Scientific studies have proven that bees have become increasingly endangered.  It is only through joint efforts that we can ensure the protection of bees and their habitats.
The Slovenians petitioned the UN and now May 20th has been recognised - humans cannot survive without bees! Here in Britain we too understand the value of bees.  Since 1900, Britain has lost 13 species of bee, and a further 35 species are under threat of extinction. Tomorrow is the start of the Great British Bee Count organised by Friends of the Earth. Details here. Will you join me and bee buzzy busy in this cause?

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Is It Just Me ?

When I was a small child, there was always a little girl standing outside the newsagents who made me feel sad.  She was wearing an ugly calliper on her leg, and held a collection box for the Spastics Society [now called Scope]. I'd beg Mum for a farthing [I knew we were poor!] to put in the slot. It wasn't her leg that bothered me, it was her sad expression,  the chipped paint,  and the fact she stood alone and miserable,  day in, day out,  outside the shop. I felt a bit scared. Those papier maché figures are rightly deemed politically incorrect now, and you don't see them anymore. 
But here in Dorset they've got other spooky children standing around,  outside the school gates. 
Billy and Belinda Bollard are designed to make drivers aware that they are near a school, and slow down. But I really don't like them - and anyway,  by the time you notice them flanking the school gates,  you've already passed 20mph sign,  a school sign,  and a flashing speed sign and more.  

And now my town is filling up with more creepy figures. This time they are life size metal silhouettes of WW1 soldiers. These are the army of Silent Soldiers representing the men who survived the war and came home again in 1918. Two outside the British Legion and elsewhere.
These seem equally disturbing to me - especially at night. The middle of the War Memorial has a red poppy which glows red at night. Cycling home down this empty road at night, it reminded me of a railway nightwatchman with his lantern. Similarly, approaching the roundabout, it looked as though there was someone crouching behind the bushes on the other side. I find it all rather sinister.
Is it just me? or do these figures make you feel a little bit uneasy too?

Monday, 14 May 2018

Shut the Box!

Isn't it weird how you discover something for the first time - and then a few days later, encounter it again? 
Whilst helping Jim declutter, I found a little wooden tray, about 12" square, lined with green baize - with numbered tiles at one end. These were on a spindle so they could be flipped over to show the blank underside. Jim could not recall what it was, he thought it might have been part of a family game.
Bob didn't know what it was, and went of to research the internet. He came back and said it was called "Shut the Box" and you needed a pair of dice in order to play the game.
Bob had found out that the basic premise of the game is that you have to throw the dice, and then flip over tiles equivalent to the total of the two numbers. e.g. if you throw 6 + 5, that's 11. Sp you can flip 9 +2, 8+3, 7+ 4 or 6+5. You throw again, and flip some more. Once the total of the remaining tiles is 6 or less, you just throw one die. If at any point you cannot flip your score, you are out - and your final score is the total of the remaining visible tiles. If you can flip all the tiles, then you have 'shut the box' and you've won [full instructions here] We left the tray in the kitchen - then went to Norfolk.
And would you believe it? There at the village fete, one of the stalls had the usual try-your-luck stuff, a tombola, a treasure map...and a Shut the Box game. I think it was 50p a go, and if you managed to shut the box, you'd get £2.50 back. I don't gamble, and I decided there was no likelihood of winning, so I smiled and walked by. But Bob and I were quite astonished by the coincidence of seeing it being played only a day or two after discovering the game's existence.
When we got home to Dorset I stood in the kitchen playing the game whilst waiting for the tea to cook. In 18 games, I shut the box only once! My final scores ranged from 3 to 32. It is great fun, and there are clearly strategies for choosing the optimum tiles to flip. It also has the advantage of being quick to play. [Maximum of 9 throws per round - usually far fewer]
We're keeping it, as it is the sort of easy game which might be useful for Church Events [without the gambling element, naturally!]
It is believed to date back over 700 years, to Normandy, and also been played in the Channel Islands. It has other names too, like TricTrac and Canoga. In the 60s it was apparently popular in pubs in the Manchester area.
Has anyone else played this game? Did you have one when you were a child?

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Sing To The Lord A New Song

I'm out preaching again this morning, from Psalm 96 - it's a great Psalm, and I've found all the verses within it have been illustrated beautifully.

Sad News; some of you may follow Sue's delightful blog Cottage at the end of a Lane. Her husband Colin died yesterday, after a long battle with cancer. Please remember her and her family in your thoughts and prayers at this time.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Is This The Spy Who Didn't Come In From The Cold?

Back in March, I read "The Conscience of The King" - a novel set in Stuart times, the hero being one Henry Gresham - a spy working for Robert Cecil [Elizabeth 1's spymaster] involving a conspiracy involving William Shakespeare. [for my review, click here] I really enjoyed this. 
So I checked out the library and was able to borrow Rebel Heart - this time Gresham is working to prevent the overthrow of the Queen by the Earl of Essex. 
This was not quite as good - but I enjoyed the 'background' story, telling more about Henry and Jane, and the relationship with his servant Mannion.
I ordered the other two Greshams from the library - they arrived in fairly short order.
My third Gresham was Desperate Remedy
This one centres on the Gunpowder Plot. Yet again, Stephen takes actual historical events, real people, and established facts, but adds his own twists and somehow makes this fictional spy a central character in the action.
It took a while to get into this one - I was a little more au fait with the facts, and the names of the conspirators, and the business of the Monteagle Letter. But Gresham's role in the affair felt a little too contrived.

Finally I tackled Galleon's Grave - Gresham and the Spanish Armada. This one I found a real struggle. Admittedly I was trying to read it whilst fighting the soporific effects of my antihistamine pills, but I kept dozing off, then having to go back and re-read passages to make sure I knew where I was.
Gresham is a double agent - except at one point it felt like he was a 'spy working for England pretending to be a spy for Spain who is pretending to spy for England' [I think...but I was rather confused] Didn't enjoy it at all.
But here is a further complication - the order in which I read them, and when they were written, compared to the date in which they were set

Conscience of the King -2004 - set 1612 [James 1]
Rebel Heart - 2007 - set 1598 [Elizabeth 1, but getting old]
Desperate Remedy - 2002 - set 1605 [James 1]
Galleons Grave - 2005 - set 1588 [Elizabeth 1]

The Armada business is alluded to in the other books, yet was the last to be written. Was Stephen trying to tie up the ends, and write the backstory? and is this why it seemed so convoluted? I didn't actually warm to Gresham at all in GG. I suspect if I had read this one first, I'd not have bothered with the rest. But I am glad I did.
And I thought that was that. Until I came to write this review - when I discovered there is now a fifth book in the series! 
Having churned out four novels between 2002-2007, MS retired from being a Headteacher in 2011, and wrote The coming of the King in 2012 [set in 1603 and the accession of James 1] This one is set right in the middle of the other four. Apart from the review/sample on Amazon I cannot find the paperback on sale. Neither Dorset nor Bournemouth libraries have it in their catalogue. Amazon only have the Kindle version, and the usually reliable Abebooks don't have any copies in stock. In the 'sample' I notice there is yet another gruesome description of the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots. So I shall be giving this one a miss for the time being.
Maybe this one just didn't sell very well - perhaps this particular spy remains out in the cold?
Has anyone out there seen it/read it/got a copy ? 

Friday, 11 May 2018

Utterly Decluttered

I've been very busy decluttering. No, not for myself, but for my neighbour. Jim is a delightful gentleman, and will be 92 next month. He's decided that it is the right time to sell his house and move into a care home. But he has been in his home for over 40 years. 
To go from a 3-bedroomed detached property into one room [with en suite] is quite a change. It's 20 years since his wife died, and she was a great collector of china and glassware. I have helped Jim clear the cupboards and boxed it all up for the local charity shops.
But much of the stuff we have found has no purpose anymore. The recycling bin was filled with old cards and papers. A small selection of clothes set aside for the home - and 10 good quality suits to the CS. Jim's been very generous, offering his friends any items that they might find useful, and he is glad that charities will benefit from the donations. "I don't need it, it can go!" has been his mantra all week. 
The glasses and China have all been through my dishwasher, and I've sat with the Brasso whilst watching TV. It isn't fair to take dirty/dusty items into the CS. 
Bob is hoping this attitude may rub off on me." I see Jim has a mug like ours" he remarked, pointing to one of the boxes. "That is ours" I said "I have donated that one from my cupboard, but replaced it with one of Jim's!"

Some CS have parking - others you need to borrow a trolley! These items will be sold to bless the sick, the elderly, the disabled and the hungry.
I cannot deny the sense of satisfaction when the cupboards were clear, and the car full of donations. I need to start following Jim's example and Let It Go! 
I shall really miss having him next door, but I am so glad he has found a beautiful new home. It is only a mile up the road, so I can visit him often. I wish him every happiness in the days ahead.