Tuesday 31 August 2010

Doing The Donkey Work

One morning last week at about 7.45am, the doorbell rang. I ran downstairs and opened the front door in my nightie [I just had to type that line, for the sheer silliness of it!]

The courier had two large boxes for me to sign for


Two of my sewing machines had been up to Bambers for a service while we had been on holiday. I opened the boxes and checked them out.


The overlocker had a couple of ribbons of fabric neatly stitched, and there was a wonderful test piece in the embroidery machine to show it was working well. Now what am I going to do with this? I shall have to find a good use for this patch somewhere!


All was well for a few days till I came to change the threads in the overlocker. At this point everything went pear-shaped. The machine would not stitch properly. I rethreaded again, and tried again…

In the end I gave up in despair – how could it have gone all wrong so quickly after the service? Next morning at 9.01 am I telephoned them

bambers logo

A pleasant voice answered, and I explained my problem. The gentleman talked me through the steps I needed to take to correct the problem [entirely my fault, I admit – but an error I will not make again] I thanked him for sharing his skill and knowledge, and his patience with me “I’ve been working on machines for most of my eighty years” he replied.[Is he Grandfather Bamber? I wondered]

Then he said “Can I ask you, my dear, have you got a donkey?” “A donkey? Err, no, why?” Then he explained that a donkey is the name given to a scrap of fabric left in a sewing machine when it is not in use. He said that too many people with overlockers waste yards of thread running off lengths of chain at the beginning/end of projects. “And then you cut them off and drop them on the floor and the dog eats them, so you end up with big vets bills too, as well as throwing away money on unusable thread”


“What you should do is have a donkey – a bit of scrap fabric a few inches square. When you finish your sewing, sew onto that. And leave it in the machine, with the needles through the fabric and the presser foot down.” He further explained this not only saved on waste thread, but also helped maintain tension, and would absorb any oil that might seep out during non-use. When you start sewing again, run a few stitches on the donkey before getting back to the main project. “People who make wedding dresses and other fancy garments don’t want to come in on a Monday and find that as they start stitching, they get oil on the white satin, do they?” I agreed they didn’t!

“We always know which machines come in for service from amateurs and which from professionals” he said “The professionals always send theirs back with a donkey!”

Well that’s that decided then – next time my machine goes back to Bambers…


No needlewoman likes to make an ass of herself, does she?

Monday 30 August 2010

Murder At the Manse ?

Lovely Sunny Bank Holiday, so Bob was off to B&Q at the crack of dawn for bits and pieces, and then we set about Serious Gardening. According to Bob, I am the Chief Shreddermeister, so I got the job of dealing with all the prunings. We inherited an Al-Ko garden shredder from my Dad and it is brilliant.


Other members of the community seemed to be enjoying themselves too – one large group of people walked past, obviously en route to the village pub.

I was still shredding on their return – and one of them smiled and spoke to me. “Sorry! can’t hear a word you are saying, I’m wearing earplugs!” I replied.

Motorbike earplugs are wonderfully useful when shredding!



But insulated from outside noises I get lost in a little world of my own and find myself having the most bizarre thoughts.

Like “Why does B&Q sell Ant Killer and Dec Cleaner?”

ant killer


Do you think these two know??


The ants have not come back into the house since the episode in July [here] but they have been all over the patio and front drive. Bob has been spraying them with a vengeance!

On the subject of killers, there was a reference on the radio this morning to an article in today’s Sun [here]

midsomer map

John Nettles returns on Wednesday 8th September for his final series of Midsomer Murders. Tonight, however, I shall watch Julia Mackenzie being Miss Marple

julia Mackenzie Marple

The Radio Times doesn’t give a particularly brilliant review to tonight’s star-studded production – I shall wait and see! It involves the murder of a clergyman apparently – played by Nicholas Parsons.

If you are on holiday today, I hope you have had a good day too!

In The Beauty Of The Lilies…

I received an unexpected gift of flowers from a friend last week – the lilies were in bud, but have gradually opened, and released their lovely perfume to fill the room. A fragrant reminder of the words of Jesus…

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes?

See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.


One thing I have never understood though – in the ‘Battle Hymn Of The Republic’ [Mine eyes have seen the glory etc] there’s a verse which begins “In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the sea”. What does that mean? Are there lots of lilies in Bethlehem? Anybody got any idea?

Sunday 29 August 2010

A Penny For Your Thoughts

For the last 18 years, our pennies have been made with copper plated steel.


There is hardly any part of life today where electrical and electronic equipment is not used. It is difficult to imagine a life without mobile phones, computers, video games, digital cameras, DVD players and flat screen TVs. Think of all the other electrical goods in your house.

None of the above could function without copper, which is the best electrical conductor of all the non-precious metals and used for the connectors, microprocessors, cables and printed circuit boards. PCB

A mobile phone contains about 16 grams of copper . In 2006, more than one billion mobile phones were sold; the equivalent of 16,000 tonnes of copper .

A computer contains about 0.7 kg of copper . In 2006, 240 million computers sold worldwide, which represents a total weight of 168,000 tonnes of copper .

Over the past few years electrical goods have become cheaper, rapid technological improvements have occurred and fashions have and will continue to change. How many people do you know with a mobile phone more than three years old? All these products need copper. Copper is a metal we take so easily for granted – yet is essential to our 21st century way of life.

Why am I telling you this today? To remind you of those thirty three men trapped in a copper mine in Chile. What unbelievable joy when they were discovered to be safe, and uninjured – but how hard to realise it may be 4 months before a large escape shaft can be drilled to enable them to be lifted to the surface.

A news report earlier this week, when the camera first went down the narrow bore hole included this quote from one of the men

"This is where we entertain ourselves, where we have a meeting every day, where we make plans. This is where we pray."


They knew that even in the depths of the earth, [even before they had a telephone link to those above ground] they could call on the Lord – and He heard their prayers. And they continue to pray.

Let us not forget to pray for them, their families, and all those working to bring them home.

Saturday 28 August 2010

Feeding the 5K

Did you watch “Great British Waste Menu” on BBC this week ?

waste menu

Four top chefs produced a stunning banquet – but their ingredients were all goods which would otherwise have been thrown away. By the producers [“the supermarkets won’t buy these courgettes, as they do not fit into the acceptable size range” “they won’t take this offal, the public won’t buy it” “these eggs are all too small to be sold”] and by the supermarkets [“these loaves are past their sell by date, so we have to bin them”]

There was nothing ‘nutritionally’ wrong with the food [they had a scientist check it out to see it was safe and edible] – just too small, too ‘strange’, or too ‘old’.

I can imagine that older people, who remember wartime rationing, would have been utterly horrified by what they saw on the programme.

In a month when we have watched news reports from the flood-devastated country of Pakistan, I find it utterly distressing that tons [imperial units here, as tons are heavier than tonnes!] of food is wasted like this. It is so utterly unnecessary, and it is WRONG.

I was very impressed with the guy on the programme from Fareshare


Check out their website and watch their video. They have a branch here in Leicester, working in partnership with the Diocese and about a dozen other outlets throughout the country.


In the book of James we read

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead

Yes it is important that we should try to avoid food waste on a small scale, daily, in our kitchens at home - but it is also important that our Government does not just encourage us to be less wasteful at home, but also works to decrease the phenomenal amount of waste which happens before the ordinary consumer even gets into the store – and also that food which is edible but unsaleable is somehow passed on to those who cannot afford to buy it, but need to eat it.

Friday 27 August 2010

Plum Crazy!

I visited a friend this morning to deliver a little bit of sewing she had asked me to do for her. She paid for the fabric – then kindly gave me some plums as well. I’ve put them in my lovely dish from Crail Pottery [here]


And I remembered this brilliant poem…

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
[by William Carlos Williams]

Helsinki Here I Come!

When Christine came for the weekend, I bought this wool in Bangles and Tat in Ashby de la Zouch for a holiday project

sirdar crofter

I am pleased to report that not only I have actually managed to finish the garment, but it even looks like the one on the pattern!


A policeman spots a woman driving and knitting at the same time. Driving up beside her, he shouts out of the window... "Pull over!"
"No," she shouts back, "a pair of socks!"

In case you are wondering about the title of the post, it is a couple of years since I posted this, in honour of my friend Lesley, who had a “Finnish Summer” in which she endeavoured to get all her half-done craft projects finished. This month I have managed to complete two quilts and this top. I must go and check if there are any other bits and pieces which need polishing up and polishing off.

Thursday 26 August 2010


Which used to mean Tender Loving Care


Now apparently means Tummy Loving Care according to Martine McCutcheon.

martine & activia

Last week, my SIL Marion brought some Activia Yogurt to the picnic. I’d not eaten one before, and when I’d finished, I sat looking at the empty plastic pot. I turned it round in my fingers, turned it upside down, and peered into it. “You’re working out what to make with it, aren’t you?” said Marion [they know me too well] “Hmm, Holiday Club Crafts…” I muttered “But you only just finished this year’s one!” said Lucy. “Yes, but if I need to collect about a hundred, that takes time” I explained.

So the pot has been properly washed and is sitting on the sideboard


I am still waiting for inspiration. I did Google a bit, and came up with this project

activia pincushion

A truly fabulous piece of creativity – but I am not sure that it is manageable for 5 year olds [who have no need of pincushions anyway]

And whilst it would do for making a lovely ‘cress head’ that isn’t very easy to achieve in the limited time space of the Club

I keep looking at the pot as I go past…after all, I do feel that

This Looks Craftable!!

Does anyone else have an idea for recycling these pots as a children’s craft activity?

Wednesday 25 August 2010

It’s Our Anniversary!

Thirty One Happy Years.


Yes we are going out together this evening – Bob’s chairing the Church Meeting! I wouldn’t have it any other way either – it may sound corny, but being with him through the ‘ordinary’ bits of life is far more important to me than eating expensive meals in fancy restaurants [and we shared one of those with the whole family last Saturday anyway]

There are lists of appropriate ‘anniversary gifts’ for each year – both the ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ [see here] Apparently for 31 years the gifts should be timepieces. Next year is conveyances [if he thinks he’s getting a new motorbike…] and bizarrely after 44 years, you get groceries. Who makes up this rubbish?

Next Easter we will have a cumulative score of 75 years of preaching. Wonder if there’s a designated gift for that anniversary? [new cushions for the pews, perhaps!]

Here’s to the next 31 years with my gorgeous bloke!

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Domestic Goddesses?

The holidays are over, and I am conscious that there’s a lot happening this autumn. So I have been trying to get more organised regarding general housekeeping before the start of the new school year.

To quote the blog of my friend Frances “Start the new year off with a clean slate and a clean toilet, I always say.” This seems a noble aim, and I want to add “and clean sheets on all beds and an empty ironing basket”

We had a charity carrier bag pushed through the letter box on Monday morning, so I resolved to fill it before Wednesday’s collection. I tidied a bookshelf and found a number of books to donate, and some other books I had mislaid, and I rearranged things a bit and dislodged a lot of dust. Then I discovered a clipframe [with an art postcard in it] was wedged between copies of “Eats,Shoots, and Leaves” and “Elegance”

This picture…

isabella & basil

It is Holman Hunt’s “Isabella and the Pot Of Basil” based on the poem by Keats [taken from Bocaccio’s Decameron] It is an utterly gruesome tale. Why did I buy this card – was it a mad Pre-Raphaelite moment ? I cannot for the life of me remember.

I do like the P-R’s - we have a print of ‘Mariana’, by Millais at Cornerstones [‘backache woman’ as we’ve nicknamed her]

mariana millais

Two other paintings I like are these -

Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s  Proserpine


And John William Waterhouse [associated with, but not strictly a member of, the PR ‘Brotherhood’] did The Lady Of Shallot

lady of shallot

But whilst I love their attention to detail and rich colours and textures, why did they often choose such miserable subjects? All these women seem to have been badly treated by men, thwarted in love, and given to moping about.

And all those lacy frocks and drooping shawls must have got really muddy and damp – not to mention the wildly flowing locks getting out of control [no Pantene or Frizz-Ease back then!]

See also Ophelia! [another one by Millais]


Are there any Pre Raphaelite pictures out there of a beautiful, happily married woman, smiling with joy because she knows that upstairs is a freshly made bed and a beautifully cleaned toilet?

vermeer jug


Perhaps that’s why I am also fond of the Flemish artists, with those graceful women working diligently in their kitchens

You just know this woman’s bedroom is tidy and her bathroom is spotless!


It must be possible to combine these two roles successfully – the romantic, beautiful woman  [floating about in pretty frocks, tending her garden and sewing her tapestries] with the domestic practical woman [efficient housekeeper, cordon bleu cook, capable mother] Isn’t that what that wife in Proverbs 31 achieved?

…and this is where everything falls down – I start off with noble intentions [tidy the bookshelf, fill the charity bag, then prepare a meal] and I get waylaid into dreaming about Great Art…and then that sends me down a side-track where I find the germ of an idea about a sermon I want to preach…and my beloved gets beans on toast again - when I probably ought to have been inspired instead to produce something exciting with fresh basil or shallots!

Oh dear – I am already beginning to despair about my housewifely failures, and we haven’t even started the new term yet!

Monday 23 August 2010

Bluebirds of Happiness

Just a few more wedding photos

the order of service


and inside the back cover


[I’m keeping Bob’s handkerchief – his earth-shattering sneezes are legendary, and he doesn’t go in for little embroidered hankies!]

The box marking my place at the reception


And inside


A stack of four cookies – and another bluebird.

The bride entered to “The Great Gate of Kiev” and they left the church to “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” and we sang “Praise my soul the King of Heaven” [Bob and I had that one too!] and “Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways” and the final hymn was a Stuart Townend composition which I think is great

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand


Sunday 22 August 2010

Congratulations, Kate and Jon

Just back from London – the wedding went off beautifully yesterday. I took quite a few pictures [many of random feet and unfocussed headless guests, as is my usual photography style!] but here are just a few of the better pictures.

The wedding was that of my niece Kate and her fiancĂ© Jon. Kate’s Dad is Bob’s brother, Frank. Also present was Bob’s sister Denise and her family. It was lovely to sit with her at the reception and catch up on things…

Denise and Liz


Steph and Bob


[OK, I’m biased, I think my girls are brilliant and beautiful !]

The bridesmaids


The happy couple leaving the church


Mother Of The Bride – my SIL Barbara, in her Armani outfit


Kate – and her Dad, Frank


Kate’s brother Robin – who lives and works in Scotland, in his kilt – with two more Uncles behind him


This is not the Almond tartan, which is apparently predominantly orange and rather unattractive!

In the gardens behind the church


The wedding took place at St Mary’s Islington [website] which is the church where Kate and Jon worship.

st marys islington

And we went to The Empress of India by Victoria Park for the reception [website here]

empress of india

There were amazing murals on the walls


As is usual at weddings, there was a lot of hanging around waiting in between the end of the ceremony and the start of the reception. I had some great conversations with the groom’s grannies  - and was thrilled to discover that one was from East Anglia, and remembered my Dad! [Bob says it is a bit like “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” – evangelicals can play “six degrees of Stanley Hall”]

As it was an Almond event, food was very much to the fore – from the appetisers [shot glasses of chilled mint and pea soup, duck canapĂ©s etc] through to the dessert [Eton Mess]

Our places were marked with little boxes containing cookies which Kate had made.


I am told that the cake was from the Hummingbird Bakery -  and the initial cut was made with the Samurai Sword which Bob’s father brought back from the Far East at the end of the War!



God bless Kate and Jon – may they have many happy years of love and laughter together.

Apart from the official pictures – which are obviously not available yet – there aren’t any photos of me in my outfit – or any of Bob and me together. Bob was in charge of the Official Video – so was busy much of the time, and as is usual at weddings, we never got to sit together in church because he was up the front [although this time behind a lens, not behind a lectern!]

Altogether a lovely day – and the weather held for the photos. Then back to Liz’s place for B&B, and finally home today. Our holiday is rapidly drawing to a close – but what a lovely summer we have enjoyed.