Friday 31 March 2017

On The Verge Of Extinction?

What's your name? How many other people do you know who share your name? A recent survey by BabyCentre shows three dozen formerly 'popular' names which have yet to be registered in the UK this year. They believe that within a few years, these Monikers will be extinct. Seeing my name headed the list [Ok, it is alphabetical] I thought I'd look and see if I know anyone who has one of these names. I could find a link to all but 3 of them. I've tried to work out the decades when my friends were born. 
Are you on the list below?
Here are the names yet to be registered in 2017:
Angela – well there’s me, and I can think of at least 6 others I know personally, plus famous ones like Frau Merkel and Ms Rippon. 1940-1970
Bertram – I don’t recall ever meeting a Bertram.
Beverley – the Rector’s wife in Kirby Muxloe - 1960s
Cecil –I had 2 friends from Norfolk – 1920s
Carol[e] – loads,1940 – 1970  At least 2 reading this blog
Clarence – I can only think of the cross-eyed lion
Clive – quite a few 1950-1970
Cyril – another – deceased - Leicester friend, 1920s
Debra – my NZ friend called her daughter this in 1982
Diane – loads of these, mostly pre 1960
Donna – some, mostly pre 1960
Dean – I taught some of these, born in the 1970s
Doris – all the ones I know were born before WW2
Dennis – some, all born before 1960
Derek - some, all born before 1960 [one married to a Dianne]
Duncan - some,  born before 1960
Elaine - some,  born before 1960
Ernest - some, born before 1960
Geoffrey - some, born before 1970
Horace – The ones I knew were born in the 1920s
Joanne – lots, born between 1940 and 1980
Leonard - some, born before 1960
Maureen - some, born before 1960
Malcolm - some, born before 1960
Nigel - some, born before 1960
Neville - some, born before 1960
Paula - I can’t think of any I know personally
Roy - some, born before 1980
Sally – lots of these, I have taught some born since 2000
Sandra -some, born before 1970
Sharon - some, born before 1970
Sheila - some, born before 1970
Tracey -some, born before 1970
Wendy - some, born before 1970
Yvonne - some, born before 1980
Wayne - I taught some of these, born in the 1970s

Do you recognise these famous people?

So yes, most of these names do belong to people who are now aged 50 or older.
But I am not convinced BabyCentre is right about the extinction thing. Names come back into fashion again.
Look at all those 'parlourmaid' names, Annie, Daisy, May, Mollie, etc and the 'Trad English' boys names like Stanley, Henry, Tristram, Julian, Arthur. I have encountered all of these in the classroom in the last few years - but can remember when people told me those would soon be gone and forgotten.
Here's another list of the most popular UK names last year [this list varies depending on its source]

As a supply teacher, I find it especially hard when there are names on the register which can be boy or girl...
Robin, Drew, Ali,  Rowan, Alex, Jules, Andy, Brook, Harley, Jordan, Charlie, Jamie, Sydney and Stevie. I have taught all of these!

Most unusual - I once knew a lady in Kent called Euphemia [it means 'well spoken']
You can always name your offspring after the place they were born, it might start a trend. Mr and Mrs Nightingale were travelling in Italy - so child number 2 was called Florence. 
 She made her name in nursing, the name became a lasting favourite, and even today you may know a Florence, Flo or Floss. Her sister was born in Naples, so received the old name for that fine city. 

Somehow Parthenope has never caught on in the same way!
I checked out the old names for our birth locations. Bob and I would have been Addelam and Romfort. I am sure my girls were glad not to be saddled with Cetham and Becceham.

One of my most embarrassing moments - I once met someone and asked her name. The reply -  "I'm ---. My real name is Angela but that is so ugly I changed it."  Fortunately she never actually asked what my name was!
Susan Weaver decided to become Sigourney when she was about 14
Do you have an unusual name?  Have you changed your name? 

UPDATE - today I taught Charlie, Alex and Gabriel!

Thursday 30 March 2017

Big Bang Theory

I know very little about weaponry, and really want to keep it that way. This article really bothered me - that my country is the 2nd biggest arms dealer in the world. Britain has made ten times as much money profiting from weapons supplied to the conflict in Yemen than we have given in aid...
Pictured on the left is a fuse [frequently spelled fuze] for a mortar. Why have I put this here? Well...
...The other Saturday morning, ridiculously early, I went with Bob to our local industrial estate, where a motorbike repair place was advertising a relocation sale, with 'lots of tools, large and small'
While Bob poked around in the plastic bins of planes and hammers and wrenches, I spotted a wooden box, upended on a heap of rubbish in the corner. We came away with two woodworking tools - and a box to carry them in [in lieu of a 5p plastic carrier] The label on the box made it clear that it was of military origin - and once held fuzes. They would have been the detonators for mortars- making a very big bang!
But the the box was incredibly dirty - I have no idea how long it had been kicking around the workshop, or why it came to be there.
The wood looked dry and inside was dirt and dust. I took it into the garden and brushed it thoroughly with a stiff brush. A few nails needed hammering back in, and the lock plate was a little bent. Those faults were soon fixed. I wanted to make it look clean - but retain the labels. I made up some wood cleaning solution and went all over the box with it, using ultra fine wire wool. To protect the labels, I held a piece of scrap card over them so I could clean right to the edge.
It didn't take long to make a really different to the dull grey appearance.
You can see here the difference that just a few minutes of cleaning brings out the colour of the wood.
Finally I gave it a light coat of beeswax and buffed it up to a shine.

I haven't quite decided yet what to put into my box. It's strong and the rope handles make it easy to carry - maybe it will be good for carrying crockery and cutlery and condiments outside for BBQs. But whatever goes in it, I can guarantee it will not be weaponry - this is my equivalent of "beating swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks"

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb

It is believed that the name ‘rhubarb’ comes from the Greek,  rha and barbarum —meaning “the plant of the barbarians”.  And ‘barbarians’ got their name from the words barbara and barbarous, meaning ‘to stammer’ and ‘strange and ignorant’.

In the 1850s, actors in crowd scenes on stage were instructed to mutter ‘rhubarb, rhubarb’ because it was unintelligible to the audience, and the custom has continued since . In other parts of Europe they say rabarber [In the USA, bizarrely they say walla walla]
My rhubarb crown in the back garden seems to have died over the winter, but a generous friend brought some from her garden and gave it to me at church on Sunday. She also gave me some crystallized ginger. I plan to make a rhubarb and ginger pudding - but I've already had a go at this cake [another recipe from Bronte at the Scandikitchen]

Danish rhubarb cake with cardamom and custard
A very moist vanilla sponge with a fresh, tart rhubarb topping, spiced with vanilla and cardamom. The custard adds a lovely creamy texture, but can be left out if you prefer a firmer cake. Serve hot or cold, with or without cream.
Serves 6
150g butter
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
200g plain flour
1½ tsp vanilla sugar
½ tsp salt
1½ tsp baking powder
Crushed sugar cubes, to decorate
100-150 ml ready-made custard, heated and thickened with 1 tbsp cornflour, then cooled
For the topping
25g butter
50g golden caster sugar
The seeds from 2 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tsp vanilla sugar or extract
4-5 sticks (400g) rhubarb, cut into 12cm lengths

  1. First, make the topping. In a saucepan, heat the butter, sugar and spice for the rhubarb mixture. When bubbling slightly, add the rhubarb and stew for a few minutes until completely coated. Take off the heat and leave to cool. This stage can be done the day before you want to eat it.
  2. To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each one is incorporated before adding the next.
  3. In a bowl, sift the flour, salt, vanilla sugar and baking powder and fold in with the wet mixture. Line a 23cm-diameter baking dish with high sides (minimum 5cm) with baking paper (or grease it well). Add the batter and spread evenly. If using custard, spoon it thinly over the batter. Carefully and evenly add the rhubarb mixture on top. Reserve a little bit of the syrup (a few tablespoons).
  4. Bake in the oven at 180C/350F/gas mark 4 – this can take anything from 35-45 minutes. Check with a skewer: if it comes out clean, it's done. Leave to cool, drizzle with the remaining syrup and scatter with the crushed sugar cubes.
I decided I was going to make a cake half the size, so halved the quantities and baked it in a 16cm diameter tin**. I used some custard from a tin, which was pretty thick already, so did not add extra cornflour. This cake will cut into 4 decent sized wedges. I cut my rhubarb to 6cm lengths, and when the cake was done, I drizzled it with the lovely cardamom and vanilla syrup - but omitted the crushed sugar cubes [A very small attempt at carb reduction!] It will be served with low fat crème fraiche
[**if you want to make a cake half the size of a 23cm diameter one, 16cm tin and half quantities is the right way to go. Trust me on this, I'm a better mathematician than I am a cook!]

Tuesday 28 March 2017

'Eads Or Tails?

"His shoes were so thin, that if he stood on a thrup'ny bit, he could tell you if it was 'eads or tails" said my Grandad, describing some impoverished character or other. I loved thrup'ny [threepenny - 3d] pieces. I was so fascinated by these quaint dodecahedrons - other nations had round coins, but we had ones with twelve sides
These two are as old as me! The 12-sided 3d design was first planned in the mid 1930s. Just twelve were struck in 1936, with Edward VIIIs head on, as test pieces. But there were never any more minted, because of the abdication. Only 6 of this original dozen Edward VIII 3d coins have been accounted for - if you have one tucked away, it is worth in excess of £30K!! The coin only came into common use when his brother ascended the throne. 
When decimalisation happened, in 1971, these little babies vanished, but we did get the heptagonal 50p piece, and then in 1982 the smaller 7-sided 20p coins appeared in our purses. And the Pound Note went, and we got round £1 coins with "Decus Et Tutamen" engraved round their edges. This Latin phrase means "an ornament and a safeguard" and refers to the earlier practice of 'coin clipping' where criminals nipped off the edges of the coins in order to glean the precious metals. Back in 1971, cynics were saying it meant "Ten-and-tuppence, cos that's all a pound is worth nowadays"
In 1998, along came the round £2 coin. This was a first, being made of two metals.
The Royal Mint continually strives to beat the counterfeiters.
And today we are getting another 12-sided coin again, the new £1. Her Maj on one side, and a design of rose, leek, shamrock and thistle on the other. Designed by a sixth former in Staffordshire, it represents the four countries in our "United Kingdom". Which all seems a bit ironic, when you look at the rows over Brexit, Indyref in Scotland, and the troubles of the Northern Ireland Parliament right now...
Anyway, here it is. You have until 15th October to spend the old round ones. The Royal Mint have produced an informative little video.

If you really cannot wait to get your hands on a twelve sided coin, the RM have also issued a map showing the location of the banks which will be issuing them into circulation. I wonder how long they will take to roll into Dorset?

Monday 27 March 2017

Resting From His Endeavour...

.-.  ..  .--.
Many of you will recognise that line of dots and dashes - it is RIP written in Morse Code. 

Last week, the great Colin Dexter, writer, cruciverbalist, Archers Addict and lover of fine ales, died at the age of 86. 
I started reading the Morse stories as a student in Oxford, and loved them - and then really enjoyed the subsequent TV adaptations. I was not alone in this - Dexter deftly combined the intellectual rigour of the Golden Age Detectives [like Wimsey]with the contemporary policework of shows like Taggart. It is just 30 years since John Thaw, and a fresh faced Kevin Whateley brought the books to our screens in January 1987. The TV adaptation, in their turn, have led to many hitherto overlooked literary police personnel becoming Sunday night viewing.
There have been many fine tributes - many newspaper obituaries, a Guardian Crossword last week with a detective theme, and calls for a memorial statue to be put up in Oxford [my goodness, I am sure Dexter must have done so much to broaden the demographic of the tourist traffic in the city of dreaming spires]
On Saturday afternoon, the Radio 4 Drama was "A House Of Ghosts"  - a drama written by Alma Cullen about one of Morse's earlier cases with Lewis. Cullen was involved in writing some of the screen plays for Morse episodes, and I listened with interest to the production. It is still available on iPlayer, and the stellar cast were superb. More here
I thought that the triumvirate of Morse/Lewis/Strange was portrayed excellently by Neil Pearson [Between the Lines] Lee Ingleby [George Gently] and Pip Torrens [Poldark]. They were not seeking to recreate the original actors exactly- but somehow it felt 'authentic' The plot was good, with nods to a number of Morse memes [the car, the crossword, the booze, Lewis' domestic arrangements etc] which felt plausible rather than contrived. It was almost up to Dexter's standard- perhaps I am being picky. Certainly rated*****

I am sorry that ITV have not shown any evidence of marking either 30 years of Morse, or Dexter's death, and glad the BBC picked this one up. Having made a lot of money out of the sequel [Lewis] and the prequel [Endeavour] ... and maybe they have a Hathaway planned, who knows... you would have thought the commercial channel might at least have acknowledged the contribution of this truly gentle-man. 

He loved playing cameo parts in the Morse productions, walking or sitting in the background, not speaking, like Alfred Hitchcock [Dexter acknowledged he was not a brilliant actor, suffering from deafness which ended his teaching career in his 30s]. He always said his favourite crossword clue was "Nothing squared is a cube" - which is simple, but so clever. Like Endeavour Morse, he kept his first name fairly quiet [it was Norman, Colin was his middle name] 
Here he is in a cameo role, sitting behind Sir John Gielgud!

RIP Colin Dexter, and thank you. .-.  ..  .--.
[in case you are still scratching your head, nothing squared for a mathematician is 0 x 0 , i.e. OXO, a cube]

Sunday 26 March 2017

Pause In Lent #4 - Being The Light

Yesterday morning I was sitting in bed enjoying the day's first cup of tea [thanks Bob] when I looked across to the black trousers hanging over the chair. 
There was a line of bright light. I described it as an oval, Bob said it was a rectangle with rounded ends. In fact it was a whole line of overlapping circles [think Audi logo] 
It was created by the sunlight shining through the slit in the curtains. But that slit isn't a perfectly rounded shape. How does that happen? In the 4th Century BC, Aristotle asked how it was that light passing through quadrilateral holes, like woven fabric, produced circles not rectangles. 

As a child I looked at the light streaming through the leaves on the trees and asked my Dad the same question. Why can I see lots of little circles? Dad explained that these were solar images, and it was all about the way the light creates a diffraction pattern. Each little circle is an image of the sun. He told me about pinhole cameras, and why we can safely observe an eclipse by holding one piece of card with a tiny hole in the middle and looking at the image of the sun produced on the second card below it. [full explanation here
As I looked at the bright light yesterday, I remembered my early physics lessons from Dad, and then thought about my responsibility as a Christian to be the light in this dark world. My life should shine for Jesus. There are many times when I am not a good reflection of God's image. But that doesn't mean I should give up.[And I  realise how much brighter the light when I am alongside my church family, and we shine together] Matthew 5:16 says Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven

May His beauty rest upon me, as I seek to make Him known
So that all may look to JESUS, seeing him alone.

Saturday 25 March 2017

Home, Sweet Home

In the middle of all the bad news stories this week, here's something good to pass on. Back in 2010, on one of our visits to London, Liz took Bob and me to the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton. [That's East London, not too far from Moorfields Eye Hospital]
This is the 'Museum of the Home' Very cleverly laid out, in a row of old 18thC Almshouses, you walk from one end to the other, seeing eleven different 'domestic' room scenes. Then you can visit the café and the shop, and sit outside in the beautiful gardens [also laid out in different historical settings]. 

The very comprehensive website is here.
However, the Museum have been concerned for some time that they need to upgrade their facilities, in a carefully planned way - adding more study space, a better-laid out café etc. and open up the treasures to a wider audience.

They've just announced that the "Unlocking The Geffrye" Project has obtained almost all the funding needed. The Museum will close at the start of 2018, for around 18 months, and re-open in Autumn 2019.
The visitor space will be increased by 75%, a really significant change. The original architects for this scheme had their somewhat controversial plans refused by Hackney Council in 2013, but now architects Wright&Wright have come up with some more acceptable ideas. Look at these
This new development will benefit the local community and help retain the Museum as an asset for all visitors, for many years to come.
I look forward to visiting again in 2020, ten years after my original trip, just to see how it looks! But maybe I will manage another peek before then, who knows?
The Geffrye Museum is about domestic home life - unlike so many National Trust properties. NT houses often have the upstairs/downstairs feel about them - Lords and Ladies and their elegant rooms, contrasted with the basic bedrooms of manservants and maids. At the Geffrye, you get to see the 'ordinary' rooms, where people lived, worked, ate and slept. 
Thank you to everyone who read my post about the Whitechapel Foundry and signed the petition. I know lots of you have done this, and shared it in your corner of social media. In a bad week,let's focus on some good stuff...Some words from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4 
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. 

Friday 24 March 2017

Going Crackers About Easter

Years ago, with time to waste waiting for a train I wandered round WHSmiths at the station, and idly looked through their display of Easter cards. "Oh! These are no good, they're all religious" said the woman next to me. "But I'm celebrating the resurrection of Jesus!What do you celebrate at Easter then?" I said [Perhaps a little too brightly] Poor woman scuttled off towards the platform!! 
I thought of her this week, when I read in various places that "Easter is the new Christmas". 
Carole Middleton, MIL to a future Defender of the Faith, advises chocolate eggs and mini meringues, and bunny hop races in your bunting-hung garden. 

Krispy Kreme have a special range of Easter themed donuts, including the Lucky Strawberry Ladybug. 
Meanwhile, another company has brought out a Cheester Egg, for those who dislike chocolate. £14 for this egg - or more if you get the whole hamper.

Waitrose report an increase in 'the demand for Easter Crackers' [people go into Waitrose and demand them?] It's a bit crazy if you ask me. My children enjoyed a few  Easter Eggs, and we had a Treasure Hunt round the house and garden involving dreadful doggerel clues with rhyming couplets. 
"The next egg is a little higher
It's on top of the____________"
[ tumble dryer, deep fat fire, electric wire, funeral pyre, bicycle tyre, Cathedral spire...] 
But the main reason for celebrating Easter was, and is, the joy of the resurrection and the New Life and hope which Jesus brings. 
I loathe the fact that the Christian season has been hijacked for commercial gain. I am sorry that Good Friday is just another working day for so many people. But I suppose the upside is that I have an opportunity to share my faith with people. 
[BTW if you ARE planning to post any Easter cards, Christian-themed or otherwise] buy your stamps NOW as they go up in price at the Weekend! 

Thursday 23 March 2017

An In-Convenience Truth

I was at Waterloo Station yesterday morning, about to return home after 2 days of WWDP intense committee stuff. I needed the loo [ the WaterLooLoo?] but remembered that you have to pay. Dived into WHSmith and bought a chocolate bar. Made my way to the stairs

First Sign - Oh bother, I thought it was 20p. And I have one 20p coin, and no 10p coins,. Maybe someone downstairs will have change.

Second Sign - That's irritating - they want 30p but admit that there is a fault with their loos.
I continued down the stairs.
The fault? the turnstiles have broken 

- so there is no barrier needing 30p, ladies can move in and out quite freely.
Third Sign Well, I hope the engineer takes her time in arriving, and I happily accept the apologies of the Station Manager!

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Pictures, Picnics, Paddling And A Postbox

Our Tuesdays have been crazily busy lately - I am in London this week for WWDP - but last Tuesday Bob and I had a whole day off together. We packed it full of enjoyable activities.
In the morning we went to The Pictures, following Steph's recommendation, to see The Lego Batman Movie. We got 'Senior' tickets, and took in a bag of cheap sweets and thermal mugs of coffee, in order to keep our costs down.
We really enjoyed it. The film had loads of references to other films and earlier incarnations of the caped crusader. We both watched the B&W Adam West TV Batman in the 60s and chuckled at some of links there.
Clearly aiming at audiences both sides of the pond, there were "English Robots" [aka Daleks] in evidence.
I think this will appeal to all ages - so if your kids or grandkids are pestering you to take them, then do go. I am sure you will have fun too *****
After the cinema, we drove on into Bournemouth and parked up on the East Cliff near the Red Arrows Memorial. The area remains fenced off, following the huge cliff fall last April. We walked down to the Russell Cotes Museum, and ate our picnic lunch sitting in the garden near the grotto. We first visited RCM in September 2015, and have always intended to go again.
 Bob was keen to look at the current exhibition "Meeting Modernism"  and I wanted to look at the drawings by Violet, Countess of Rutland. When we lived in Leicestershire, the "Kathleen Rutland Home for the Blind" was just up the road from where we lived. Violet was Kathleen's mother-in-law. She belonged to a group of aristocratic intellectuals who called themselves "The Souls" and drew portraits of many of them.
We spent a couple of hours looking at these two special exhibitions and generally enjoying looking at many of the other paintings and sculptures on display in this lovely house.
At one point I looked out of a bedroom window down to the beach below - it was a cool spring day and a little breezy.One or two people were walking on the sands.
RCM has loads of pictures and sculptures of bathers - not surprising given its location.
I thought these two, with mothers persuading their sons to have a paddle in the sea were great.
One is holding her son as he gingerly steps in the water [he's naked and she's in a diaphanous robe] The other, on the left, has her son in her arms- he looks a little more anxious. 
On closer inspection, she appeared more modest, wearing a finely knitted swimming costume. I have always believed knitted costumes are OK as long as they never get wet [at which point they sag uncontrollably]

I also looked at Dante Gabriel Rossetti's 'Venus Verticordia' [Venus, the turner of hearts] This is an oil painting - but the artist subsequently painted it again as a watercolour. The watercolour sold at Sotheby's in December 2014 for £2.8 million pounds!![Unlike Bob, I am fond of the Pre Raphaelites]
We walked back to the car, and I saw a lovely bed of golden spring daffodils, planted up with purple hyacinths and gold and purple pansies at their feet. Such lovely colours together.
The motto of Bournemouth Borough Council [I was confused by all the 'BBC' signs when we first moved] is Pulchritudo et Salubritas, which means 'beauty and health'.
The crest was on the street sign just beside the daffodils. 
I had to take a picture of the Victorian Pillar Box - one of the 'Penfold' design. There aren't many genuine Penfolds still in use!
Then after such a lovely day out, we returned home for a pleasant evening in with TV and a curry. 
There are more bulbs blossoming in our garden. These daffs are "Narcissus Sunny Girlfriend". Bob's sister and her husband gave them to us for Christmas- all planted up in the tub. There are 2 other sorts of bulbs in there as well - it will be exciting to see which ones bloom next.
Fine Art is wonderful - but the design and colours of nature are even more stunning.

Tuesday 21 March 2017

The Manchester "T" Cosy

One of Steph's early comments about her new company was that she loved the fact that the team drank plenty of tea during the working day. However, they did not have a teacosy. So she volunteered me to provide one [well, not many Mums can say their they have had teacosies exhibited in Norwich Cathedral] Things sort of spiralled out of hand - Tangible Branding is a consumer research company specialising in improving brand performance through discovering insight, making connections and generating ideas. 
They thought they'd like one with a 'Manchester' theme. That ruled out a simple knitted one. Unfortunately the office teapot is not a regular round Brown Betty, but the 'coupe' shape. So here's what I came up with...
The brief—to make a tea cosy for the team at Tangible Branding. This was to fit the existing white china teapot, which is not the traditional round ‘brown betty’ shape.
The cosy should have a ‘Manchester theme’. I decided to avoid football, music and TV links, and consider instead the architecture of the city.
1; because of the shape of the pot, I opted for a cuboid cosy—this reflects the idea of bricks and building
2; my base colour is grey—to reflect the rain for which Manchester is famous, but more importantly, the steely determination of the industrialists and entrepreneurs who built this city.
 3; I chose 7 landmarks, recognisable by their silhouette—the Town Hall, the City Library, Beetham Tower, Urbis, IWM North, the Hulme Arch, and the Lowry Millennium Bridge. These were created in felt with machine stitched embellishments. These were then handstitched to the base.

4; Then I picked 8 streets—Deansgate [of course!] Corporation Street, Canal Street, Quay Street, Albert Square, King Street, Piccadilly and Exchange Square. These names were embroidered on evenweave linen and attached to the base.
5; The top was decorated with a spiral of machine stitching—which leads into [or maybe out from?] the centre– where there is a button with the Tangible logo.
6; Finally the cosy fastens underneath the handle with a button and loop closure. Again I stitched a T for tangible
I stitched a label with all the details, and put that on the inside. And then I posted off their Manchester T cosy

[I have to say thankyou to Bob, who provided lots of encouragement during the process - including the name]