Saturday 30 November 2013

Why I Love Teaching…

well, one reason is because children say such wonderful things. Four and five year olds are particularly good at coming out with comments which brighten my day. Yesterday was a long tiring Friday  But there were two high spots.

question mark

We were doing a “Guided Read” – and I pointed to a question mark and said “Does anyone know what this is?”

“Oh yes, Mrs Almond, That is one of those Mystery Marks isn’t it?”

I think Mystery Marks is a fabulous name for them, don’t you?

owlsLast week the children were looking at the story of the Owl Babies, so we asked them to find out some owl facts. Yesterday I was talking to one child about this.

ME: And do you know when owls do most of their flying?

PUPIL; Yes, at night time. And they are called noct…noct…noct….

ME; [very patiently]…Yes?

PUPIL; Noct – over !

I was particularly impressed by another child who asked me if I knew that the cassowary bird attacked humans ‘and if he kicks you it might break your leg’ I said that I did not know this fact [and did not point out that it has  nothing to do with owls – I was so pleased with his obvious thirst for knowledge] I do, however, know this poem by Samuel Wilberforce [1805-1873]

If I were a cassowary
On the plains of Timbuctoo
I would eat a missionary,
Cassock, bands, and hymn-book too.

Friday 29 November 2013

Feeling Sheepish

ValkyrieI sat up Very Late on Sunday night, all by myself at Cornerstones**, watching Tom Cruise & Co in Valkyrie. He plays Claus von Stauffenberg, the Wehrmacht colonel who spearheaded the 20 July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler and save the fatherland. The film was…ridiculous!

However I was keeping myself  busy throughout, stirring home-made marmalade and also knitting sheep. I felt that I was being productive even if the film was not very convincing.IMG_1146

These two will soon join the rest of the flock at the church.


We are having a Sheep Nativity Trail around the village next month. Many thanks to Debs for being the Ovine Outing Organiser!

IMG_1149**This was a lightning trip, I arrived 7.30pm Sunday and left 12 hours later.

I had tea and a chat with my lovely neighbour, fixed the faulty door lock, put up the Christmas decorations, made marmalade, sewed up the sheep, vacuumed everywhere, sorted out the beds and more. The boiler is working beautifully now [thank you Chris, who kindly house-sat for us last week when the man came to service it!] Won’t be back there now till Christmas. Only 27 sheeps sleeps

Thursday 28 November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving


Wherever you are, may you have much for which you can give thanks today!

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Starting This Sunday…

…yet again, Floss is organising her annual Pause In Advent

Pause in Advent Logo from Floss

If you haven’t encountered this before, it is an opportunity on the four Sundays of Advent to step aside from the Christmas-Roller-Coaster and take a moment to reflect on what we are really  preparing for.

I have found this blog-fest very inspirational over the years- I love reading other peoples posts, which have been challenging, amusing, thought-provoking [but almost never ‘dull and worthy’!!] and find it is a good discipline for myself too. Check out Floss’s explanatory post – and read some of the other contributions [and maybe even write your own if you’re a blogger] Thanks again, Floss for this idea.

The first Sunday in Advent this year is December 1st

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Men [And Women] Of Letters

The Paston family were an amazing crowd who went from ‘ordinary family in Norfolk’ to ‘friends of the King in London’ in a relatively short space of time during the 15th century. More than that, they were enthusiastic letter writers, and much of their correspondence survives, nearly six hundred years later. You can read all about the ‘Paston Letters’ here and here. This is the largest collection of ‘private correspondence’ from this period in British history

Earlier this year, the Norwich Records Office acquired another one of the letters – from Sir John Falstoff to John Paston, written in 1455. Falstoff was a famous Norfolk landowner- and he is the chap on who the Bard based his “Falstaff” character. Here is the letter, and a copy written in Modern English [click on the image to see larger]



During half term, Christine and I pootled off to the NRO to have a look at the [free] exhibition [Bob said he ‘had other things to do’ so we left him at Cornerstones!]. It is on till the end of January and well worth a visit.

IMG_0929All the letters which are on display have corresponding modern translations.

All the family seem to have written – wives, husbands, sons, lovers – with comments on the battles, requests for fabric from London, complaints about weather

Not all the requests were carried out, as this note showsIMG_0940

The family gained enough wealth [usually through careful marriage of women with substantial dowries] to live in luxury – they inherited Caister Castle [now a ruin] from Falstoffe


The second John Paston in the dynasty served under William , Lord Hastings [the fellow who built Kirby Muxloe Castle, and then was executed by Richard III]

The exhibition is extremely informative about the comings and goings of the family. At one point, when they were very wealthy, they commissioned this painting


“The Paston Treasures” shows their wealth – musical instruments, exotic animals, a black manservant, fine tableware…but within a few years, they had lost it all, and sunk back into insignificance.


Another thing I learned at the exhibition… on the battlefield,the knights in armour were indistinguishable – so they put richly decorated coats over the top, so their supporters could pick them out – hence a “Coat Of Arms”

This tabard – a modern replica – bears the Paston-Bedingfield Coat Of Arms [they married into the Bedingfield lot, of Oxburgh Hall, a few hundred years later]

The letters in the collection were written between 1422 and 1509 – a period of history I feel I need to study in more detail. I don’t feel this post does full justice to the exhibition. There is so much to read and discover – if you are in Norwich over the next couple of months and have an interest in history, please do check it out. [More info here] The NRO is next to County Hall, with entrance and parking both free. It isn’t a huge show – allow 45 minutes or so to look at everything. I was certainly fascinated, and glad I went.

Monday 25 November 2013

You SHALL Go To The Ball, Cinderella

My friend Gemma, as I mentioned, has a new children’s party business and I have made her some Snow White aprons.

dream parties 


Her daughter has a pukka “Cinderella” frock, all blue gauze and satin and velvet, in shimmering iridescent fabrics.

I think she would sleep in it, if she were allowed to. Such are the dreams of some little girls!

However, the dress is not that strong, being mostly made of fantasy fabric.


All round the waist, the gauze is shredding and the fabric is coming away.

“Help!” said Gemma.

There is very little seam allowance, and it is so hard to repair this sort of thing both ‘invisibly’ and ‘firmly’. Conclusion, repair the skirt with strong, firm stitches, then hide the stitches.


An additional peplum of white lace [retrieved from the great Stash] covered a multitude of sins. I hope her Royal Highness is happy with the repair!

I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion -having repaired quite a lot of “Dressing Up Outfits” in recent months – that shops make these items assuming they’ll be worn only once.

Birthday Party, Halloween or Christmas Day – just the one outing and then don’t expect it to hang together for much longer after that. We had Dressing Up Clothes that went on for years. I am turning into a Grumpy Old Woman again… oh dear!

Sunday 24 November 2013

Reflecting On The Sun

In the corner of Bob’s Studio [formerly known as Liz’s Bedroom] there is a Rank Strand Mirror Ball


On Friday, the rays of the early morning sun hit the mirrors in exactly the right place. As Bob spun the ball, a wonderful pattern of reflections danced round the walls, ceiling and floor


And around the man himself when he sat in his chair


I love the fact that although the little mirrors are squares, the reflections are always sun-shaped circles. It is the same in the summer when you stand under a leafy tree- the sun’s rays shining through the foliage make bright round points of light.

If we are Christians, we are challenged to reflect the Light of the Son – and we need to pray for His Spirit’s power and grace so that we do not distort the image. As it says in the Gospel

Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.

It is Sunday, so here’s part of a favourite hymn too [sorry Christine, I have used the updated words!]

May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek to make Him known,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing Him alone

Saturday 23 November 2013

No Business Like Snow Business

Looking forward to December 12th at Kirby Muxloe Free Church! Check this out…more details here2013 flyer

Shifting Sands

At the Women’s World Day of Prayer Residential Conference, we were planning for the 2015 service. This year I was allocated to the Children’s Group – we had to use the material sent from the Host Country [The Bahamas] to plan a children’s service, and also come up with some ideas for crafts. If possible these needed to have a Bahamian Theme. Here’s the table of stuff we produced


There is the undersea diorama [made by Wendy], some flowers and shell sculptures [made by Saundra] our Junkanoo Masks [we did one each] lizards and beads [collaborative effort!] Junkanoo is the festival held around Christmas time.  The masks were quite simply made using cheap paper plates which we decorated with ribbons, feathers, wool and sequins. The diorama has sand and shells on the bottom, and fishes cut from paper.



The beads are Bahamian Sand Beads. It seems that the children of the islands make these quite cheaply from materials they have to hand, and sell them to the tourists from the Cruise Ships [presumably for a good price!] I’d not come across this craft before, and made samples last Saturday to show my friends – then we all made more at the conference.


You need

1 cup of sand

1 cup of flour [I had SR but plain is fine]

1 tbsp PVA glue

1 tbsp poster/acrylic paint


Put all these into a large bowl. Important step put a spoonful of cooking oil into your palm and massage round both hands till they are well oiled. Now mix all the ingredients together and knead until you have a smooth lump of dough.IMG_1100

Break off small lumps of dough and roll them into balls. Place the balls onto a sheet of greaseproof paper.

Use a skewer or cocktail stick to make a hole through each bead [wiggle the stick about to make a largish hole!]IMG_1102IMG_1106

Leave to dry overnight [or bake for 25minutes in a low oven, then leave to cool for a couple of hours] Paint the dry, cool beads with a 50/50 mixture of PVA and water and leave on a sheet of plastic [eg opened out bin-bag] to dry.


You can see here that the varnished bead on the right has a shinier, smoother surface. Use a needle or skewer to make the hole again if it has closed up! Now thread the beads on a string IMG_1110

Here are my beads and below some of the ones we made at the conference.

I liked this craft, it was relatively quick, simple and cheap, and I think children will enjoy the mess!


The cooking oil step is important- it helps to keep your hands clean. The beads are quite heavy [bracelets on elastic might be better than necklaces] I only had green and yellow paint to hand – some red and blue beads would have looked good too.

Friday 22 November 2013

That Was The Year That Was

Much will be made over this weekend about two significant 50th anniversaries- the assassination of JFK and the arrival on British TV of Dr Who [#1 being played by William Hartnell]


dr who hartnell

People ask “Where were you when you heard about JFK being shot?” In the 60s we had no internet, no mobile phones [not even colour tv!] so news took a little longer to arrive. I remember though – Dad had gone down to the church to sort out a Boys’ Brigade matter, and one of the deacons rushed in and told them all. So Dad came straight home to tell Mum. I was eight years old at the time. The following night, I cowered behind the sofa, watching the new scary science fiction programme about a man in a Police Call Box!

But I have been thinking about 1962/1963 - I think that it is fair to say that those two events marked the end of a significant year in my life- that was the time when I first really became aware of “World Events” and “What Other Grown Ups Were Doing” In October 1962, our family was shaken by my Grandfather's death. Then the whole world was shaken by had the Cuban Missile Crisis- and while my Dad was leading a prayer meeting, my Mum taught me to make up packet custard [not sure why, but it is a useful skill]

In the November 1962 my brother Adrian was born and a week later, That Was The Week That Was came onto the television. My Dad loved TW3. I would hear him laughing his head off, and I’d sneak out of bed to go downstairs and find out what was so funny.


January 1963, the family were involved in a minor RTA- our car skidded off the road on black ice and went into a ditch. We were all OK, but a chauffeur driven Bentley stopped to help – Mum, baby bro and I were invited to sit in the back whilst Dad, chauffeur and a passing farmer with a tractor got the car back onto the road. I encountered a mink coat and drank my first cup of ‘real’ coffee from the lady’s [Lady’s?] thermos flask. It would be years before I tasted real coffee again. We never found out who the Lady was.

A couple of months later, there was the Profumo affair. Newspapers had pictures of a sad-looking MP, and a poor lady who appeared to have mislaid her clothes. Dad got into serious trouble with Mum because I asked what all the fuss was about. “Sex - and you will understand more when you are older” Dad replied. Mum said he shouldn’t say that word to an 8 year old! To misquote Mandy Rice Davies, another of the protagonists “Well, she would say that, wouldn’t she?” [I wanted a chair like that]



Beatlemania was spreading around the world. My friend Dorothy was obsessed and spent all her money on packets of the little picture cards. There were 48 cards in the set and she had all but one. She kept buying more and more packets in the hopes of finding it [we suspected they hadn’t ever printed it and it was a marketing ploy]

martin-luther-kingIn the summer was the Great Train Robbery, and Martin Luther King made his “I have a Dream” speech in Washington.

That summer, my parents began reading me the wonderful Narnia stories.


Just a few months later, their author, C S Lewis, died at the age of 65. I remember that I learned the word “obituary” and my Dad showed me CSL’s obit. in the Daily Telegraph. The word comes from the Latin obitus meaning death. My own life was happy, and surrounded by joy and love, but I learned that wasn’t everybody’s experience

And as the summer faded into autumn and winter, there was JFK’s death and Dr Who on TV

I know that I was heavily influenced by my parents – their fondness for great oratory, loathing of greed and immorality, concern for those who were suffering, and good sense of humour…and my interest in the world outside our cosy little family home has continued to this day.

But realising this was all happening half a century ago makes me feel incredibly old right now!!

Thursday 21 November 2013

Wonderful Willersley

Our WWDP conference this week has been at the splendid Willersley Castle Hotel. It is a stunning building, built for the industrialist Richard Arkwright, in Cromford, Derbyshire.


We were rather busy [it was a working trip after all] so I didn’t get many photos taken – but I did manage a shot of the dining room on the first evening.When we went inside for dinner, I sat with Gary and Julie at dinner [he’s a Pentecostal Pastor from Yorkshire. I think]



One of the waiters was Alvaro from Barcelona. Here he is about to enjoy some time off on Tuesday morning, going out on his Suzuki.


I asked him on Tuesday evening how the bike was “Kaput” he said [not very Spanish!] He’d had problems with the electrics, he said. He was confident he could fix it. I have just realised my shadow is quite clear in the picture above – I’ll never be a good photographer.

In the middle of the building is an amazing Oval Gallery on three floors [plus ground level] under a glass dome. The building was bought by some Methodists in the 1920s as a Holiday Centre, and in WW2, the Salvation Army Maternity Hospital in London relocated here. Imagine being one of the 4000 babies who had “Place of Birth – Willersley Castle” on their birth certificate!

willersley oval

I have to say that the general ambience, the helpfulness of the staff and the quality of the meals could not be faulted. My only complaint was the WiFi – the reception was variable within the Main House, and nothing at all if your bedroom was in the Mews Annexe [as mine was] Sitting behind the sofa in the TV lounge wasn’t the ideal place to try and catch up with my emails!

I should like to return sometime for a proper holiday – to try out the pool, and visit the nearby places of interest and look at the stunning scenery of the Derbyshire Dales. I feel very privileged to have been able to spend time in these lovely surroundings for a few days.

But I am very glad to be home again…

My First Christmas Card Of The Year!

IMG_1011This week at the Women’s World Day Of Prayer Residential, our final activity is to exchange  Christmas Cards. We each put one envelope in the basket and take another out! Last year I created a handmade cross-stitched one [pictures here] and wanted to do something similar this year.

I decided to make a Christmas ornament.  Firstly I did two motifs- a nativity scene and the WWDP logo with 2013 underneath.

I mounted the circles and bound them with some Christmas fabric, and also attached a hanging loop. I made the binding with my ancient bias binding maker, [pictured here] and a scrap of Christmas print fabric. I cut a circular hole in the card, and also a small slit for the loop - so both images are visible. By sewing a small button on one side, I was able to hang the ornament in place.IMG_1009IMG_1010

I hope my friend on Committee [whoever receives it] likes her card!

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Lucky Old Cecil!!!

Are you knitting any of your Christmas presents this year? I have just found this wonderful little song [on the Southwark Libraries website – where you can hear it being sung] It is quite the thing to sing as you are purling away!

"... So I'm Knitting a singlet for Cecil,
    a nice woolly singlet for Cecil.
    It will keep him as snug as a bug in a rug.
    As in its embrace he will nestle,
    It's fancy where it should be plain,
    but I can't pull it back again.
    It's low at the the back, and the front is a V,
    And the armholes are not where they are meant to be,
    But it's soft, so it's sure to remind him of me..."