Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Picture Perfect

It is sometimes hard to find the right gifts for people. I knew my aunt and my cousin liked seeing photos of the family, especially as we are unable to visit them very often. I found a 'snow globe' and a 'photocube' and used them to display some favourite photos from 2018.
You remove the central section of the globe and slip in two pictures back to back, then replace it, and shake the snowstorm.
I put Steph and Bob at her wedding in April on one side, and Liz with me at the Trump Protest in the summer. 

In the cube went three recent Rosie pictures. This is a very clever mirrored device, which holds three photos in place with a magnetic catch - and you get different images depending on which face you look at. It is heavy acrylic, with a solid feel to it [not like those lightweight 6-picture ones] It proved almost impossible to photograph the cube. I did try!

It was good to find small, personalised, easy-to-post gifts which have brought a smile to the faces of the recipients.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

The Right To Repair

Use it up
Wear it out
Make it do
Or do without
During WW2, everyone was encouraged to  fix, darn, stick, or whatever was needed to repair their items. That way they lasted longer, and precious resources did not need to be used making new items needlessly.

This is a good principle IMHO, and one I have long adhered to. Socks darned, zips replaced, screws tightened, buttons sewn back on...and we have haberdashery, adhesives and tools galore in this house to fix things when and where we can.
Bob has been struggling with computer printer issues recently. He's a clever chap and started his working life as an electronics whizzkid - so can often get the IT doing what he wants. But he was very frustrated to find not only was the printer unfixable - the spare inkjet cartridges are no use to him anymxore."That model is 4 years old - the new printers take a different spec" said the helpful chap at the company.
We are so accustomed to throwing away things the moment they go wrong, often because the manufacturers don't make repairing these easy or cost effective. But the EU hopes to change that with its planned "Right to Repair" Legislation [OK we will ignore the B word for a minute] Read the details here. A number of states in the USA are looking at similar legislation.
It is wrong that manufacturers make it hard for us to buy spares, or seal the mechanism in inaccessible plastic cases. But it is not just enough for the products to be fixable, we need to change our own mindsets about regarding repair rather replacement as the default position - and we must teach the younger generations to do the same. 
It was reported in the press last week that the Queen has been using the same handbags for 50 years. Now I'm sure she has lots of bags and plenty of wardrobe space so one bag will last ages. But the principle is a good one. Use it for as long as you can, if there's nothing wrong with it, and if there is a fault then try to fix it. 

Monday, 14 January 2019

Two TimesTable

Having finished my stint of teaching, I am off to stay with Steph and Gary in Manchester for a few days. I've only stayed overnight with them a couple of times, and I confess to having a little grumble about their lack of bedside tables. It's cos I'm old you see, and also my arms are short [in keeping with the rest of my frame] . I need to be able to put my watch and spectacles and drink of water close to hand, I don't like having them way down on the carpet.
Then in the autumn, I found a pair for £5 in a charity shop. Retro Habitat nesting tables, in need of some TLC. They were grubby, dry and dull, and a bit scratched- but structurally sound. I used the walnut trick on the scratches, and my salad dressing solution all over. Here's a picture from halfway through the process- you can see how the wood on the left already looks brighter and 'revived'

Here's before and after pictures
I'm really pleased that they are restored to their original golden sheen, and the marks and scratched on the top have almost disappeared completely.
My only issue now is how I will negotiate transporting a small suitcase and a pair of tables to Manchester via the railways [including a change of trains at Bristol] At least I will have somewhere to park my glasses tonight. I'll finish by sharing my favourite Table Joke [courtesy Lenny Henry]
"Occasional tables - what are they doing the rest of the time?" "They're dining or nesting...."

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Fresh Thoughts About An Old Prayer

Having visited the Old Meeting House in Norwich, I looked at their website. They have a Church "Prayer for the Year" . The one on the site at the minute is still for 2018. I'll forgive them that, it's always hard keeping websites up to date, and maybe their administrator is only just back from her Christmas Holiday.
But I was rather surprised that it was such an old prayer, written by the congregational Theologian P T Forsyth [1848 -1921] around a century ago. And the language was archaic - almost arcane - in places. But I thought I would share it, and some thoughts about it, this morning. Here it is - just four brief stanzas

Almighty Father, who knowest our downsitting and our uprising and art acquainted with all our ways, make us ever to be glad and rejoice before Thee.

Give us the tractable spirit of hope and love and of a sound mind. Take away from us all ungodly fear and all inhuman hate, all fretful temper and all dark self-will.

Clothe our lives with modest mirth and our age with the beauty of holiness. May our life begin, continue, and end with Thee.

Help us to take Jesus for our close companion and make men and women out of us in Him. Make us Thy blessed texts and write us like verses in Thy great Book of Life, for ever and ever. Amen

1- my computer autocorrected this first sentence "Father, who knowest our downsizing and our uprising" Maybe the Lord is reminding me that I do need to let go of more stuff. But also that sometimes I need to focus more on the spiritual and less on the stuff in my life.

2-when did you last use [or hear someone else use] the word tractable? I am aware that I can sometimes be quite intractable and stubborn about things. [ e.g. gentle inquiry from Bob - "Do you need help with opening that jar, Ang?" immediate response as I wrestle with stubborn lid "NO! I can manage!"] Less stubbornness and self-will, more hope, love and courage.

3-my favourite line in the whole prayer "Clothe our lives with modest mirth, and our age with the beauty of holiness". A good balance between humour and holiness ius needed at all times, if one is to maintain 'a sound mind' in this crazy world.

4- 'write us like verses in Thy great Book of Life' Spoken words are quickly forgotten- but when they are written down, they have a lasting quality. My Mum used to quote these lines 'Only one life, t'will soon be past, only what's done for Jesus will last'. At this new year begins, I am eager to focus on using my days wisely and well.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Mysteries In Ministry

I've blogged before about the number of priests who end up as amateur detectives in works of popular fiction. Mostly celibate Roman Catholics, so they are not hindered by their wives, I notice! Just look at this list who have popped up on Radio and TV
Brother Cadfael [Derek Jacobi] 
Father Brown [Mark Williams] 
Rev Sidney Chambers [Grantchester]
Father Baldi [David Threlfall, on Radio 4]
Father Dowling [Tom Bosley, an American TV series]  
I'll add Harry Kemelman's "Rabbi Small" for good measure.

It has been fun watching Mark Williams return this past week for another series of Father Brown "inspired" by the works of GK Chesterton. The 1950's settings are excellent - all that 'green beryl' crockery, and twinsets, and women in hats. I'd thought the fans of this would be mainly my generation and older - but discovered two bright young teenagers of my acquaintance really enjoy this programme.

Sydney Chambers is coming back, briefly, to Grantchester - in order to hand over the vicarage to a new incumbent. Tom Brittney, billed as 'the hot new vicar' Rev William Davenport, will be taking over for series four. 
I suppose James Norton is busy doing other stuff like McMafia.

I watched the new Agatha Christie over Christmas, but I wasn't at all convinced by Jon Malkovich as Poirot, sorry. I just didn't believe in his previous priestly past. 
I enjoy mysteries/detective fiction, and I suppose the added dimension of a main character who takes the spiritual side of life seriously is an added bonus. A peaceful change from all those angst ridden policemen with dysfunctional families. But it's hardly true to life, is it? Bob was involved in solving the "Mystery of the Disappearing Overcoat" last Sunday - however there were no bodies, and no crimes committed. 
That episode won't make a TV script, will it?
Do you have a favourite Saintly Sleuth?

Friday, 11 January 2019

History On Holiday

On the one day of our Christmas holiday when we had no family events planned, Bob and I decided to stroll through some of the historic parts of Norwich. Reading 'Tombland' had made us realise just how much of the City we had never really explored. We parked the car in the St Andrews Multi-Storey, then made our way to Colegate.
Here we stopped first at St Georges Church, with its beautiful old drinking fountain outside [a tradition which Norwich ought to consider reviving, perhaps?]

Wayfaring man for thee this faucet was given, a channel to impart the boon of heaven. Drink and thank God! and in this water trace an earnest of His love and emblem of His Grace
[interesting use of the word faucet for tap back in 1860. We tend to think of it as an |American term now]

Inside the chapel was a memorial to John Crome, Norfolk landscape artist, and information about his 250th anniversary, which had been celebrated the week before.
St George is the patron saint of Norwich and this chapel dates back in part to the 13th Century.
Further in up the street, more places of worship; 
The Octagon Chapel- formerly Presbyterian, now Unitarian. It is a fascinating shape [but sadly was not open to visitors] This was built in 1756

We then walked on to the Old Meeting House Congregational Chapel. This is old - built in 1693, just after the Act Of Toleration [very important for those of us who are Nonconformists] Again, we were unable to go inside, but I found some useful information and a panoramic gallery online [click here]

The Old Martineau Sunday School Rooms nearby have a fabulous curved window. Also on Colegate is Henry Bacon's House, he was a wealthy merchant from Worstead who became Mayor of Norwich twice- but at the time of Kett's Rebellion he was Sheriff of Norwich. We crossed the River Wensum, over the Fye Bridge - passing the old Norwich Quayside- so pretty
Here's The Maid's Head - where everybody who is anybody seems to have stayed at some point. My in-laws stopped here once. And in Tombland, the hero, Matthew Shardlake stops here both before and after Kett's rebellion.
Into the Cathedral area - so beautiful on a frosty winter morning. Inside, men were diligently polishing the copper font - outside, by the Light Of The World Sculpture was a tree, decorated with prayers for loved ones.
Up Queen Street, past "St Michael-at-Plea" - the 14th church where the Archdeacon's Court was once held. The clock [put up in 1827] has a lovely "Forget-me-not" message on its dial.

Our historic walk was almost over, lunch beckoned! Past the ancient Guildhall - mentioned frequently in Tombland, and then on up past City Hall and the Market to the Forum. But that deserves a blogpost of its own.
One final sad picture- in 1938, sculptor James Woodford produced bronze panels depicting the historic characters and trades of the City. One of these depicts the execution of Robert Kett.
This is the picture Sansom has on the front of his book.

A lovely stroll round this fine city, so much to see and to learn and to enjoy. I cannot believe it was only a fortnight ago, I seem to have been so busy since that gloriously relaxed morning!

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Poole Of Resources

When I got home from school at lunchtime on Tuesday, we got in Bob's car and I drove straight back to Poole again! Our first stop was Roger's Warehouse.
I'd heard about this store, and planned a visit in the New Year - other friends beat me to it and said it was worth checking out.
It calls itself "The south's Biggest gone past best before warehouse" I'm sure that title should be better punctuated - but you get the drift. It's like Approved Foods - only you go in person, and drift round with your trolley, rather than order on line.
This was a fact-finding trip, so we didn't plan on buying loads. We did come away with drinking chocolate, udon noodles, nut butter and Kelloggs Granola. Prices were good- and displayed sensibly [VAT included, unit prices clearly marked - and individual packets on display on the top of the sealed boxes] It is a bulk buy arrangement - so you do have to buy 6 jars of nut butter, or 8 packs of cereal etc.
Friendly staff and lots of things I would perhaps buy on a future visit. But does anybody, ever, buy Loyd Grosman Sauces at full price? They always seemed to be reduced or in the clearance bins...
Into Poole and after a quick and inexpensive [but nonetheless filling, and very tasty]lunch in the Dolphin Centre, we checked out some CS. I splashed out £1 on a brand new dress pattern for a summer frock.
Then into Robert Dyas. This chain seems confined to London and the South East. The Poole store has a 'clearance section' upstairs. Bob found me some Kilner jamjar tongs only £2 [£10 in Amazon and John Lewis] These will help make my chutney and marmalade-making activities much safer [far better than my current 'oven-glove-and-fish-slice' retrieval system]
I also got a spray-and-stretch kit. A couple of pairs of my shoes have been rubbing on my right foot. I hope this is not a sign of an incipient bunion. 
I shall try stretching the shoes a little to see if it eases things.  The spray is isopropyl alcohol [which we have already] but I really wanted the stretchers. Again this was less than half the price of Amazon.
I did not buy a toaster in their sale - but I just had to take a photo of the box. I love the idea of  a "patented climate-sensing toasting cycle" I feel that the brilliant Geraint Thomas should have one of these to prepare his snacks when he is cycling in the Tour De France.
My final acquisitions cost nothing. I exchanged the Grape Tree voucher I won last year for a large bag of dates and some malt extract. All in all a fun afternoon out, very little money spent, but lots to show for it.
Poole is a strange mixture- at one end, the exceedingly affluent folk of Sandbanks... and then there's the rather rundown high street full of CS, and poundshops - and all points in between. But the people are friendly and I find the shop assistants helpful. And parking is not exorbitant.
This town is, after all, the home of Ryvita, the Mathmos Lava Lamp and the Sunseeker Yacht Company. They certainly try to cater for everybody! I definitely like going to Poole.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Loving Those Leftovers!

We didn't have a turkey on Christmas Day this year. But we are very grateful to Jon and Liz for the delicious roast beef dinner and those splendid Yorkshire Puds - and the Boxing Day feast which Bob and Liz put together with the remaining beef.  We continued to have meals during the remainder of the week which produced leftovers. I have enjoyed using up the food in creative ways.
The chicken and ham went into a batch of pies - I'd bought some frozen pastry in November, when it was on offer.
The end of the loaf formed the basis of a Queen of Puddings - but with cranberry sauce in place of jam. 
And the mince pies became Poor Man's Panforte. That's been portioned into elegant triangles, and frozen for special teatime treats.

I had a glut of carrots, so I've made a huge quantity of carrot soup [don't tell Bob, I sneaked in a couple of leftover parsnips] which has gone into the freezer for comforting lunches on cold days...
Leftover cream has been whipped and frozen, and the unopened box of fancy biscuits will remain unopened for a while [I hope] until other goodies have been finished up.
As you will see, I am not participating in Veganuary, or A Post-Christmas diet. These leftovers will form perfectly good meals, and my food-focus is definitely on more economy, less waste.
I have just borrowed this book from the library. I'll let you know how I get on with the ideas in it!
Do you have a favourite Christmas Leftovers Recipe?

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Ploughshares And Puddings

Yesterday was Plough Monday. I only discovered this when reading Sue's superb blog in the afternoon - but the first Monday after Twelfth Night has been regarded for centuries as the start of the agricultural year. 
There are many traditions surrounding this day - like the ploughs being taken into church the day before in order to be blessed, and the ploughboys getting up to all sorts of tricks in the week before, when there was no work for them.
The main thing seems to have been 'Molly Dancing' - mostly done in East Anglia [and bizarrely, Manchester] which was a form of Morris Dancing, and often involved the men having blackened faces.
In 2012, some enthusiastic guys tried to recreate this activity in Dorset, here they are dancing along Poole Quayside. I'd spent the morning teaching in Poole, and had no desire to go back and dance!
Sue linked to another blog [Lavender and Lovage] where the author gives a recipe for Norfolk Plough Pudding 
- a dish traditionally served on Plough Monday. I confess that despite growing up in Norfolk, I'd not come across this one before [although I am aware of that county's fondness for dumplings and other comforting, stodgy, rib-sticking dishes]
I'm on a Leftovers Campaign and had already intended something involving three sausages in the freezer, and some veg not eaten up at Sunday lunch, this recipe was ideal. 
I cooked it in the microwave so it took 9 minutes. [On reflection I think 7½ might have been long enough, the pastry was slightly tougher than I'd have liked] I didn't get an artistic photo with the gravy poured over, sorry!

Monday, 7 January 2019

Almonds And Walnuts

I just cannot believe I have never tried this one before. I'm ridiculously pleased with the discovery, so here's a useful tip to share.
Bob wants to sell a pair of very large speakers and replace them with some smaller ones. So he prepared to take a photo- and discovered a row of nasty scratches where one had been bumping against the rough brick edge of the fireplace.

"Walnuts!" I said - "all the old books say you can repair scratches on wood if you rub them with a walnut." I had to admit I'd never tried it, but I did have some walnuts in a jar in the pantry. I bit one in half and rubbed it over the scratches.With instant, superb results!

I cannot believe how effective it is - the scuffs and scratches disappeared like magic. Those are genuine photographs. My first Top Tip of 2019. Now let us hope Bob can find a buyer quickly.