Friday 31 October 2014

Hostess With The Mostest


I am still not sure about this expression – I thought it was ‘Hostess with the Mostest’ but the jury seems to be undecided as to whether it ends with S or T. The title was originally given to American Diplomat Perle Mesta, who inspired Irving Berlin’s musical “Call Me Madam”

For various reasons, I have enjoyed hospitality in lots of different homes in the past few weeks – my WWDP travels have found me snatching overnight stops, or eating meals here and there, all over the country, and I have stayed with family, friends – and even with people I hadn’t met before- who have rapidly become friends. And every one of these occasions as honestly been a pleasure.

Tonight I will be with Steph – and really looking forward to that. Staying with family is a slightly different matter, one can be more relaxed, and I don’t expect her to go overboard with preparations for my visit. We will have fun! But next weekend, I have a guest coming. Someone I have not met before – I suspect we will get on fine, but what things are important when you have visitors?


I like to make sure there is a glass of water by the bed. And an alarm clock, and a radio. But not a clock that ticks loudly [confession; one place recently, I hid the clock under a pillow as its tick was keeping me awake!] A selection of magazines and books, and a bedside lamp which is easy to operate. A spare pillow, blanket, and hot water bottle are also useful in the bedroom.

hostess mostess 2

Towels – it’s no fun packing damp towels in a suitcase. A hairdryer is useful too [I try to make sure I tell guests about these two things beforehand – especially if they are coming by train and want to limit their luggage]e prepa

I like to show guests where the tea/coffee/kettle/cups are, in case they get the urge have have a cuppa.

I think that guests who are staying for a few days might like to have a spare front door key – in case they want to go for a walk or their programme means they may get home before me. Information about access to the wifi network is always welcome. It is always good to check if your guests are OK with pets, and if they have any special dietary needs.

I found a really well thought out list here – but I will not be hanging a wreath on the front door [and I cannot afford to change my drapes in the guest bedroom either] I was talking with somebody recently who said he was a little surprised a few years ago when he stayed overnight with a family, and had to sleep in the top bunk in their son’s bedroom [the little boy snoring on the lower bunk!] He had not met the family before, and on reflection felt he should have said “If it’s OK with you, I’d prefer to kip on the sofa”. If at all possible, I think overnight guests should have their own room.

good-guestAnd if you are the guest? Some good tips here. If people are trying to  accommodate you, then it is important to do your best to fit in with them. “Hostess gifts” should never be expected –but are always welcome – flowers, a tin of biscuits, a jar of fancy preserves or a bottle of wine are good choices [do check that your hosts are not diabetic or teetotal first!!]

And I do hope the person reading this who is arriving in KM next weekend has not changed her mind and booked into the Travelodge!

Thursday 30 October 2014

Once Upon A Time…

…a  little old lady left her fine village in the middle of the land, and travelled to the great Capital City. It took many hours on the wide  highway known as the  Emmwunn, and it was very late, and quite dark when her silver carriage drew up in a street near the Castle of the Elephant. She was to stay with two charming young people who lived in an upstairs flat a dusty garret. She had hoped that they would have a grand supper prepared, for she was so tired and hungry. She longed to eat a hot meal and climb into a warm bed.

ikea-croydon-towers-2322319-oBut no – the table was bare. “Oh take us to the blue and yellow towers in Croi-Donne” they chorused “For we want to see the wonders from over the sea, from the land of Scandiwegia, and eat their strange foods” [and we cannot carry a flatpack chest of drawers on our bicycles]

So the three of them climbed into the little silver carriage and travelled to Eye-Key-Arr, where they ate globes of beef, garnished with jam. And while the young people opened and closed drawers, and debated colours, the little old lady pottered down to the children’s department. For she was young at heart, and spent her days working with children, and was continually seeking new ways to help them learn to read, and count, and be creative.

And her heart sang, as she saw the display of new things they were selling. For in November, she was to be teaching “Traditional Tales” and there, spread on shelves,and dangling from streamers, she found a panoply of storybook characters – soft toys, puppets, and even creatures who metamorphosed into other things

dragon and horse

Owls, badgers, hedgehogs, rabbits, fairies, princesses and princes. A set of finger puppets with a castle theatre, Red Riding Hood, plus a huge wolf, which had a tiny grandma halfway down its throat [sinister] and a frog who turned into a prince [strangely gruesome] A stack of animals [the Musicians of Bremen] and lots of mice and rats


frog prince

She looked in wonder and amazement. Oh the stories she could tell…



There were even dressing up crowns and pixie boots with curled up toes. The little old lady tried on the crowns, and the blue slippers. They were a teeny bit too small [Oh Cinderella, you shall not go to the ball after all] The little old lady had a conversation with the owl glove puppet – to the amusement of children nearby, and she turned the frog/prince inside out and back again, and felt quite queasy, she mused on the lack of Pied Piper to entertain the rats. And she looked at the price tags, and counted the gold pieces in her purse. Sadly, she concluded that maybe just two little finger puppets would have to suffice. She chose a flying green dragon and a piebald pony – which together cost even less than a jar of the mysterious red jam.


Just then, Princess Elizabeth, and her Prince Charming rode up on their trolley, with a treasure chest, and a clock that told both the time and how hot the room was, and soft pillows, and bendy spatulas…and other wondrous things to decorate their castle flat.

They paid for their treasures, and loaded up the little silver carriage, and went back towards the Castle Of The Elephant. And the little old lady managed [for once!] to make her new little black magic box work properly, so she was able to say Goodnight to her Handsome Prince, who was miles away, and tell him what a wonderful family they had and how she had enjoyed her evening.

She forgot the sad things of the day – preparation for SATs tests, mysterious pools of vomit on the classroom carpet, variable speed limits, diversions due to roadworks…Finally she fell asleep and dreamed of her class – 29 bright faces smiling at her, as the children sat round on the carpet for their story, full of flying dragons, and beautiful princesses. 

…and they all lived happily ever after!

[but the little old lady is still thinking about making herself some pointy toed boots and a colourful crown to wear at storytime…]

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Killer Kestrels In Kirby?

Now I am no ornithologist – but I am a little concerned about these strange red footprints which have appeared along the pavement opposite the chapel. They are quite large [compare them with my little red clogs…]


What do they mean?


Where are they going?


bigbirdIs the the yellow diamond grid significant?

Maybe Sesame Street’s Big Bird was here for a Half term Holiday.

If he was, we would have certainly invited him along to have some fun at our Messy Church.

Can anyone enlighten me about these mysterious markings?

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Rapunzel And The Rodent

I spent a couple of happy days during half term with the sewing machines. I churned out some fairly boring stuff

  • covers for a friend’s bench seat,
  • alterations to the bag for some church PA gear
  • some gifts [I cannot blog about them yet]
  • altered garments [for my friend Kathryn who has done brilliantly on her diet and lost well over 2 stone in weight]

and finally I got to make some more exciting things -the fun stuff included a second Rapunzel dress [for the friend of the child who received the first one] Very similar but not identical

rapunzel may 2014



And for the Reception class that I teach on a Friday, I made a tee shirt for their squirrel [he is a puppet, and I believe he is quite good at phonics!]When I had finished my sewing, I looked despairingly at the chaotic Dining Room, and realised that I would have to do some Serious Tidying Up very soon. I’m away this weekend, staying with Steph [another WWDP Day] and the following weekend we have company.


I should say that is not a large tub of Celebrations chocolates- it is my bead store. I do not hoard nuts like the Nutsy, but I certainly have a vast store of beads, lace and threads ‘squirrelled away’ and they frequently come in useful.

I have enjoyed myself enormously working away – and was particularly pleased that I could listen to the serialisation of “Pilgrim’s Progress” on Radio 4 Extra as I sewed. That book is utterly brilliant! John Bunyan was a Roundhead soldier in the Civil War, and came to Leicester. It was here that another man stepped up to take over his duties, and was immediately shot dead – this affected JB greatly “He died in my place”

All in all, a very productive half term!

Monday 27 October 2014

Poncho Poppy

gchq poppy 2014

The British Legion have already launched this year’s Poppy Appeal – and GCHQ at Cheltenham have marked this by creating one humongous scarlet poppy in the middle of their doughnut shaped building. 1308 civilian staff formed the red petals [in scarlet rain ponchos] and were joined by more than 100 members of the armed forces - RAF personnel in black uniforms making the centre, and Army Personnel in khaki/camo creating the stem.

gchq poppy 2014 B

These pictures, and more info, on the BBC News website

gchq poppy 2014 C

Creating the image took them about an hour. I do hope that whilst they were doing this, that MI5 and MI6 were still at work keeping us safe from foreign espionage activities! Looking at this carmine coloured crowd, one wonders what happened to all those “Reds under the bed” who were allegedly around during the Cold War!

Sunday 26 October 2014

See The Light, Be The Light

I was doing one of my WWDP Preparation Days, and as I sat down to have lunch, one of the ladies from the church suddenly said “I must put the Christ-Light on, or nobody will see Him” and she jumped up and walked swiftly to the side of the church.

I had no idea what she meant – but a little while later I went to speak to a friend and as I sat down next to her, she looked up and said “Oh look! there’s a crucifix up there, I hadn’t noticed that before” A tiny light had been switched on which shone directly onto the crucifix making it much more visible.


If you look carefully at this photo of that church, you can just about make out the cross which is in the centre of the window, and the figure of Christ upon it. He had been there all the time, but as the lady had said, without the light turned on, nobody would see Him.

A number of my friends have been sharing this photo on Facebook recently – I think it originated in the USA where prayers are banned in the state schools.


My comment when I saw it was “I wasn’t aware He had left them – I have certainly seen Him at work in the schools I visit”

Just three comments about the apparently ‘invisible’ Jesus, and the allegedly ‘absent’ Father.

  1. Scripture reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of God [Romans 8] and Jesus promised “"I am with you always” [Matthew 28] He is there – even if not recognised.
  2. If we are the Kingdom of God on earth, then wherever we are, then surely we are establishing a part of His Kingdom in that place, being the light for Him.
  3. But we are called to let our light shine so that so that all may look to Jesus, not at us.

Saturday 25 October 2014

This Is A Stick-Up!

P1000172I’ve been doing lots of craft and sewing jobs this week, and at one point I needed to glue something. Bob immediately got out one of his hot glue guns and did the deed for me.

Then he decided he needed a proper stand – the guns drip molten glue when in use, and the little plastic stands that come with them are pretty flimsy.

P1000173He cut two pieces from a bit of scrap chipboard, and stuck them together [using a hot glue gun, of course]

The stand fits both guns, and will hold them safely and catch any drips of hot glue.P1000174

A quick, cheap and easy project – but one which will prove so useful  Well done, Bob.[why did you not think of this years ago?]

Is anyone else watching the new series of Big Bang Theory? On Thursday night, just as we settled down to enjoy BBT together, the phone rang

"Hello Mrs Almond, this is the University of Warwick Graduates Association. Is this a good time to talk?"
"No it isn't - the new series of Big Bang Theory has just started and I am married to a physicist. Sorry. Goodnight"

I hung up before she could respond. I am not usually that abrupt, but for once I was too tired to explain that I did not want to send money to my old Uni – and I did want to watch a programme I enjoy.

Friday 24 October 2014

Face Values

Did you ever see Renee Zellwegger, In Bridget Jones’ Diary?

RZ bridget

The film was made in 2001, and chronicled the life of the eponymous ditsy blonde girl.

The book was written by Helen Fielding in 1996 – and the passage below is quoted in the film as BJ endures her ‘beauty regimen’

Being a woman is worse than being a farmer – there are so many areas to be cultivated and maintained: legs to be waxed, underarms shaved, eyebrows plucked, feet pumiced, skin exfoliated and moisturised, spots cleansed, roots dyed, eyelashes tinted, nails filed, cellulite massaged, stomach muscles exercised. The whole performance is so highly tuned that you only need to neglect it for a few days for the whole thing to go to seed. Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if left to revert to nature – with a full beard and handlebar moustache on each shin, Denis Healey eyebrows, face a graveyard of dead skin cells, spots erupting, long curly fingernails like Struwwelpeter, flabby body flobbering around. Ugh, ugh. Is it any wonder girls have no confidence?

I suspect Ms Zellwegger may have overdone her maintenance of late – on the left, in autumn 2013 – and on the right, this month


I couldn’t see anything wrong with her original face- but it does seem that she’s had ‘work done’. I just find it incredibly sad that women spend fortunes on treatments and surgery in order to feel good about themselves. I realise that in the film industry ‘your face is your fortune’, and many female stars are concerned they will not be offered roles as they age – but nevertheless…

I don’t think that crowsfeet, grey hairs and arthritis have held back these British women very much in their acting careers



Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Phyllida Law continue to delight us with their performances, and revel in the wisdom of their years.

Finty Williams [Dench]and Emma Thompson [Law] seem to be following in their mother’s footsteps with a similarly sensible approach to age&stage.

I think that I am with the apostle Peter on this on – he writes in chapter 3 of his epistle

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Thursday 23 October 2014

Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red

logoThis exhibition at the Tower started on August 5th, and continues until November 11th. Princes Harry and William, the Duchess of Cambridge, the Queen, Prince Philip, and hundreds of others have been to see it. And last Saturday afternoon, Liz and I were able to go as well.yeoman warder

It was around 5pm and there were hundreds of people there.


We liked the way the stems were different lengths, which made the surface look like waves across the sea, and the way the flowers appear to flow out of the building down to the ground



The archer was there on the roof, ready to repel invaders


Liz insisted on taking a photo of me – she argued that there are very rarely pictures of me on the blog, just the places I visit and things I make. That’s because I am not given to taking ‘selfies’!


But here is proof that I was there, and did get to see this amazing installation. All the poppies have been sold already, and will raise an awful lot of money for some service charities. Read all about it here.  We both felt too tired, and Liz was full of cold, I had a sore throat, so we went home  early.

We did not stay for the Roll Call and Last Post at sunset. But I am glad I went. It was very moving – and although I had seen pictures, it was nothing like the impact of being there. Thanks Liz!

Wednesday 22 October 2014

A “Heads Up” About Hats

age-ukJust a reminder that once again AgeUk and Innocent Smoothies are working together to raise awareness, and to raise funds for the elderly this autumn.

You still have time to knit a bobble hat or two for a drinks bottle. Hats must be sent in by November 14th. It took me just a few evenings whilst watching TV, to make a dozen woolly titfers. I used up some odds and ends of wool and a few pompoms from the stash.


You can find some patterns here – I always use the   simplest “Doddle” pattern because I find it is quickest. Knitting in stripes helps make the hats look more interesting and also makes row counting easier. I can knit and stitch up a couple of hats in under an hour [that’s one episode of Downton or Grantchester**!] 

Full details of where to send finished hats is here. For every hat-on-a-bottle, AgeUK gets 25p. The wool for these were tiny scrap balls – and none of it was in sufficient quantity to make anything else I would consider usable or wearable, and the postage was minimal. But that is £3 which might help towards providing a pensioner with a hot meal, or much-needed money advice, or an afternoon at an OAP social club, or transport to an appointment.

innocent hatsAnd if you buy the smoothies, you are helping too – and getting a pleasant drink and a useful egg cosy!

**I do think the 1950’s knitwear in Grantchester is excellent, don’t you?

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Happy Birthday, Steph


Is it really thirty years since you were born? Can that tiny baby have really grown into a beautiful woman? And this coming year is full of special events for you – I am so proud of you for being fit and healthy enough to run in the London Marathon in the spring- so thrilled that in June you will marry your beloved Mark.

May the Lord bless you and take good care of you.  May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.  May the Lord look on you with favour and give you his peace.

Wherever you are, what ever you are doing, I will always hold you in my heart.

Monday 20 October 2014

Pretty Flamingo!

Next years Women’s World Day of Prayer has been planned by the women of the Bahamas, as regular readers will have gathered. A piece of artwork, based on the theme [Jesus’ words in John 13 “Do you know what I have done to you”] and featuring Bahamian images has been especially commissioned for the event. It’s called Blessed.


Can you see the feet of Jesus at the bottom? – the artist wanted to represent  the birds bowing in adoration, service and sacrifice. I was incredibly impressed when I visited Folkestone for their Preparation Day on Saturday – they had a 3-dimensional  representation of this painting which was created by one of the ladies there.


That was my 4th such day this autumn – I have two more to deliver before Christmas [Lewisham and Norwich] My Aygo is certainly clocking up the miles.

I was pretty exhausted when I got back to Liz and Jon Saturday night with a very sore throat too. I fell asleep during Dr Who – woke at 9.45pm, went promptly to bed, and slept right through till the morning. I never got back to Kirby in time for church – but rolled up at 11.45am for the after service coffee, and a slice of Gwen and Ken’s Ruby Wedding Cake.

I did go out with Liz late on Saturday afternoon, to the Tower. Photos of those amazing poppies will follow later!

Sunday 19 October 2014


I am setting up this post in advance - as I am not sure where I shall be on Sunday morning. Friday I leave for London, to stay with Liz, then Saturday down to Folkestone for another WWDP Preparation Day, and at some point I shall return to Kirby Muxloe. Depending on various factors [weather, fatigue, traffic etc] I shall make my decision later as to when I return to the Midlands. But I so want to be in church on Sunday morning. Bob is preaching through the book of Nehemiah – this week is chapter 2. Last week’s sermon was great [find the podcast on the KMFC website] But there are 6 words in ch2 v6 which always challenge me. Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?”

Lewis chess king and queen

I am not going to write a whole theology based on those six words – but I often wonder about them.

  • Why does it tell us she was beside him?
  • Was she involved in the discussion – plying Artaxerxes with questions - Ask him how long he’ll be gone for, when is he coming back? Who will be cupbearer while he’s away?…
  • Was she happy and encouraging about the planned trip – or full of anxieties?
  • Was she just there in the Throne Room to look pretty – or did her husband value her thoughts and ideas, even though she was a ‘mere woman’ in a male dominated society?

But the very fact that the passage mentions her presence is important for me – it reminds me that marriage is a partnership. It works best if we work at it together. That doesn’t mean we have to do everything together, or like exactly the same things [he has Star Trek, I have Downton – he likes modern art, I prefer the Pre-Raphaelites – he has cheese on toast, I have Marmite…] but I think it does mean we make space for each other to enjoy different things, as well as sharing time doing things we both like.

I have been stupidly busy this term. I choose that word carefully – all my supply teaching and WWDP commitments have come together and not left me much space to breathe. I know it will ease up by early November, but I have seen an awful lot of motorways in the past few weeks, and slept in beds all over the country. Bob has been patient as ever, and tolerant of the neglected ironing basket [even more neglected than usual] On Monday night he cooked a wonderfully romantic candlelit dinner, all ready for me on my return from Somerset. That was totally unexpected, and such a lovely thought. I hope to return the kindness once my schedule lightens [about the time his workload changes up a gear, as Advent approaches]

Nehemiah’s story shows how everyone gets involved in rebuilding Jerusalem, and together the work gets done. Whether it is marriage, family, friendship, church fellowship, workplace or community, if we see it as a partnership and work together tpo support and encourage, then we will achieve more. Annie Valloton’s image of ‘bearing one another’s burdens’ is brilliant


I am not sure how long my Kent-Leicestershire journey will take – or when I will get back. But I’d like to be back in time to be sitting in my pew for the sermon if I can.