Friday 30 June 2017

Firmly Attached

Like many of my friends and family, I have a great fondness for stationery. The paperless office will never take over the world, whilst we are acquiring notebooks, purchasing pens, stashing our Sharpies and hoarding hole punches.
Currently I am fascinated by paperclips. It is 5 years since I did a school assembly about paperclips.
I found a lovely image of the different clips used in the 19th and early 20th century.
Nowadays there are hundreds of different styles available.
I think these bicycle clips are great!
The trouble is, the fancy ones are often really overpriced- I am not going to pay 75p for a clip which might easily come adrift and get lost.
I'm amused by the fact that the French word for paperclip is trombone.

During WW2, the Norwegians [who claim their own Johan Vaaler as the inventor of the paperclip] wore a paperclip in their lapel as a symbol of resistance against the Germans.
His clip was rectangular in design  - I don't think it has quite enough turns to be secure. Bizarrely, the sculpture in Oslo which commemorates him is a massive 'Gem' paperclip [that's the shape we are most familiar with, and Gem was a British company]

This week I purchased a jar of paperclips in Sainsburys as a gift for Steph. 
She is very fond of things made of rose gold - so these seemed rather appropriate.

I cannot for the life of me work out why they have been described as ethereal though.

The dictionary gives 5 definitions

  1. light, airy, or tenuous
  2. extremely delicate or refined
  3. heavenly or celestial
  4. of or relating to the upper regions of space.
  5. Chemistry. pertaining to, containing, or resembling ethyl ether
I like my paper clips to be strong, and firmly attached - anything but airy and tenuous! And no, I am not shelling out £140 for the paperclip which Prada is currently selling! 

Thursday 29 June 2017

VCOP Not VSOP, And SPaG without Bolognaise

Today I shall be in school. Part of that will involve teaching a Literacy Class to 7 and 8 year olds. Among other things, it will be important that I mention VCOP and SPaG. I feel it incumbent upon me to explain these initials to any readers who are not teachers or parents-of-primary-school-children. 
This is VSOP
VSOP stands for Very Superior Old Pale: VSOP cognacs are created from eaux-de-vie aged for at least four years. The VSOP category includes designations such as "Old" or "Reserve". XO stands for "Extra Old": XO cognacs are made only from eaux-de-vie at least six years old.

This must not be confused with VCOP which is one of those dreadful initialisms created by the powers-that-be in the belief that it raises standards in education.
VCOP stands for Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and PunctuationAs well as focusing on the genre-specific writing features, pupils are encouraged to always focus on four core targets - Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and Punctuation as a way of improving all of the writing they do.

SPaG means Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar And yes, you will see these pseudo wartime posters displayed in many schools. 
Personally I am with Michael Rosen on this matter - I am not convinced you can teach good writing by applying formulae. Furthermore I suspect that under the current system, if you applied the current criteria for passing SATS, then many of our greatest authors would fail miserably. I doubt that Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare and others would pass. Mind you, we all know that the Bard varied his spellings frequently.
THIS is the poster in the series that winds me up the most! How does a company have the effrontery to sell it for £6? What sort of teacher would buy it? I did cover a class in Leicester where it was on the wall and was so tempted to correct it with a Sharpie.

But today I shall do my very best, and keep to the rules, and hope that my lesson [which is being observed] comes up to scratch.
Coincidentally, this sentence begins with a 'fronted adverbial'.
And perhaps later on, we will have Spag Bol for tea [I doubt it will be followed by a glass of VSOP though]

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Why Was The Cross-Eyed Teacher Failed By Ofsted?

...they said she couldn't control her pupils.

Apologies for the old joke, but eyes have been the topic of the week round here.
On Saturday Bob suddenly found his left eye was full of 'floaters' - and as this situation did not get better of its own accord, he sought medical advice.
Sunday evening he saw an out-of-hours GP, and yesterday had an early morning appointment at the Eye Clinic at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital.
He was told to allow at least two hours. I took a library book and some knitting. They looked, and said the retina had a small tear - so he'd need laser surgery.

We went down to the Coffee Shop, and I purchased a newspaper in WHSmiths [the i, partly for the name, mainly because it is cheap and has a huge puzzles section]
I got into conversation with another patient, and she recommended someone local who does sewing machine servicing. Useful to know that.
I'm not sure how the laser thing works - but by 12.30 it was all done, and out he came, wearing his sunglasses.

We are Very Grateful to the NHS for their efficiency and the way things worked so smoothly.Afterwards I drove to Steamer Point at Christchurch, and we had lunch in the Beach Hut Cafe. 
Speaking of pupils, there is a possibility I may have some regular teaching work next term ... which will be brilliant. More about that later.

Tuesday 27 June 2017

What's In Wimborne?

I am continuing to discover little corners of this delightful town just a few miles up the road. On Sunday I preached at the Wimborne URC church.
This building dates back to the 1840s-  but the original Congregational Chapel on this site was built in the 17th Century. Some of the existing walls date back to that time.
Inside it is standard Victorian Nonconformist style - lots of dark wood, an imposing organ - and a gallery across the back of the church. And of course, pews and a pulpit. 

I love the fact that on the ends of alternate pews, they still have retaining hoops and drip-trays for worshippers to park their damp umbrellas.
This little wooden cross, on the table beside the flowers was pointed out to me before the service. This was apparently carved from wood salvaged from the original Congregational Chapel in Ferndown. That was destroyed by fire in 1905 [believed to have been caused by a stray firework on Bonfire night]

This is the best picture I have been able to find of the old chapel. Quite why Wimborne URC possess this cross, and not our place, I don't know. Maybe some enterprising person in Ferndown produced these as a fund raiser to help finance our new chapel. 
Who knows? and there will not be anyone left now who can remember.

To the side of the Wimborne Chapel is an extensive area formerly the Church Garden - but in recent years, it has been let as allotments at a Peppercorn Rent to the neighbours [many of who have little or no garden space of their own]
They certainly keep their plots well tended - there were some impressive crops growing on Sunday morning when I looked through the window.

Originally this was called Green Lane - then Meeting House Lane - and nowadays it is Chapel Lane. A very narrow one-way street, the occupants have all decorated their frontages with hanging baskets, tuns of flowers and window boxes.
It was a charming little walk from the chapel, after the service, back to where I had parked my car.
Quite why there was a French Fire and Rescue truck parked alongside, I am not sure.
Finally a picture of Robert Fripp, from the band King Crimson. He's also the husband of Toyah Wilcox. This gifted musican and composer has been named among the world's top 100 guitarists.
No I did not see him on my visit to Wimborne on Sunday - but this is the town where he was born, 71 years ago.
Fripp once declared that "Wimborne is the centre of the Universe"
I can't agree with that - but I do think it is a lovely place, and there's plenty more excloring to do...

Monday 26 June 2017

Reliable Retro Recipes

Last Tuesday evening we enjoyed a visit from one of my WWDP committee friends, and her husband. They were down here camping and came over for a meal. Then on Wednesday the Alpha group were here again. I didn't want to spend a lot of time in a hot kitchen, but I did want to provide something a bit special. I decided to go retro, and use 'old faithful' recipes.
Tuesday's starter was Prawn Cocktail. I used some fancy glasses which Steph gave Bob. The greenery is shredded little gem lettuce, with cucumber crescents. A mixture of two sorts of prawns- regular and kingsize [from Lidl] A very simple Marie Rose Sauce [mayo and ketchup] A sprinkling of paprika and some cress to garnish - with a king prawn and slice of lemon hooked over the glass. 

On Tuesday, and again on Wednesday, I served Jamie Oliver's Mediterranean Chicken - a really easy traybake. This photo is his - I forgot both times to take pictures. I substituted a big bag of chicken pieces for the legs when I doubled up to serve 8 on Wednesday night. Accompanied with a green salad. Lemony and fresh for a summer's evening.
1 lemon
4 free-range chicken legs
1 kg new potatoes
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 bunch of fresh thyme
olive oil
100 g pitted green olives
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4.
Slice the lemon lengthways into quarters and place in a large roasting tin with the chicken legs, new potatoes and all of the herbs. Toss in 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil, season well and roast for 45 minutes.
Remove the tray from the oven. Carefully squeeze the roasted lemon wedges over everything, squashing down some of the potatoes so they burst – this gives you a bigger surface area so they soak up lots of flavour and get nice and crispy. Add the olives, give everything a stir and roast for another 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are golden.
Tuesday's dessert was Delia Smith's Chocolate Mousse.
You can find her recipe here. I served mine in coffee cups, with a strawberry fan in each saucer.
It is very rich, you don't need much.
Wednesday's dessert was Martha Stewart's Strawberry Tart. I have known this recipe for years, and it is so simple - I love the ease with which you make the pastry base. It was actually featured in the Guardian recently as the perfect example of this dish.
I made mine in a long rectangular loose based tin [much easier to serve 8 portions] and ignored the instruction to stand the strawberry wedges up - I laid mine in pretty rows. The orange slices and mint sprigs were there to prettify the space. because I couldn't find a narrower serving tray!
The perfect strawberry tart (Serves 8)
For the pastry:
200g plain flour
110g cold butter, cut into cubes
65g caster sugar
¼ tsp fine salt
For the filling:
200ml whipping cream
2 tsp icing sugar
1½ tsp rose water
200g thick whole milk yogurt
About 500g ripe strawberries
To make the pastry, put all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz until they look like damp ground almonds – this will probably take a minute or so. Tip into a loose-bottomed shallow tart tin about 25cm wide, spread out and press with a mug or glass until you have a pastry case. Put in the freezer for 15 minutes until firm. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180C.
Prick the base all over with a fork, then bake for about 20-25 minutes until lightly golden (overcook it and it will be crumbly). Allow to cool in the tin, then gently transfer to a serving plate. When the shell is cool, whip cream to soft peaks, then whip in the sugar and rose water, and fold in the yogurt. Spoon into the tart shell and smooth. Hull the strawberries and cut into quarters, or sixths if large, and then arrange, point upwards, in concentric circles. [Or lay down in rows!]
I really had fun making these meals for my friends, and using my best dinner service and cutlery [retro wedding gifts from 1979] 
What would be on your dinner party menu for a warm summer evening? 
Do you have a tried-and-true recipe?

Sunday 25 June 2017

Fete Accomplit!

Yesterday was our town fete. Bob was in charge of the sound system, and I was on the Churches Stand, storytelling [just like KM all over again!] 
We hired a van on Friday night and loaded it up with gazebos and speakers and more [thankyou to Geoff who helped load, and to Jim our neighbour, who let us park my car on his drive]
Saturday morning we were up very early, and took the van off to St Mary's to collect tables and chairs, and then on to the field.
An incredible team of helpers turned up to help unload vans and cars, erect gazebos, moved loudspeakers and general prepare things.
That lovely lady in the middle is Tracey, the administrator from St M's, who was brilliant at keeping things in order, and ensuring all ran smoothly.
We worked so hard all day. I cannot begin to thank all the folk from both the churches who contributed to making our stand [3 gazebos in a row] so successful.
We told stories to children, sat and chatted to people, gave away free refreshments, engaged the children with making fruit kebabs and decorating cupcakes, we provided hairbraiding and temporary tattoos, publicised our summer Kids Club, and generally just shared our faith with people.
I was so busy with all that that I didn't really get to see the other stands. I did have to dash home briefly as Bob was "two cables short of a complete sound system."  [thanks Mike C. for giving me a lift there and back, when I discovered my car was locked in] But I did get to take a few pictures during the course of the day
Mike W, Bob and Geoff - two deacons and a pastor - three Very Sound Guys in the Sound Tent.
This amazing little traction engine with trailer was giving families rides round the site. The weather was lovely and I did manage to get a 99 Ice Cream
One other fascinating vehicle was the bicycle-with-wood-burning-pizza-oven
They told me this is one of only four such bikes in the whole of Britain. An interesting concept, but something of a gimmick, I thought. 
I was prepared to overlook the American spelling of pedaling [I prefer the British way with the double l] until I noticed the alternative spelling of streched.

We had a great day, and came home exhausted [collecting a Chinese takeaway en route - neither of us had the energy to put a meal together]
As I took off my teeshirt at the end of the evening, I realised that in a relatively short time, I really have come to love this place, and my friends and neighbours here.
It is a privilege to live and work in this town,  feel greatly blessed.

Saturday 24 June 2017

Double Deckers, Double Gussets

You wait all day for a bus and then two come along at once, or so the saying goes.
Well, I've not had much sewing lately, and then in the space of a couple of days the dining room has been taken over by fabric and projects.
A young friend needed a cool school summer dress - and the ones in the shops don't fit her proportions. What was needed was a simple sleeveless frock, which could have a white polo shirt underneath on cooler days.
Her Mum provided the gingham, and I dug out a dress pattern - this was from about 1991. Liz chose this for a party dress, in an emerald green fabric. Back then, I made the style on the right, with a longer skirt and sleeves - this week it was the shorter, sleeveless version.
It took about two hours from start to finish.
Next was altering a Disney Princess Costume. Jasmine from Aladdin. It was a little too tight for the female lead in a school play. I thought I could simply insert a gusset in each side to give a few extra centimetres of wriggle room. Only when I got the outfit on the table and prepared to cut, did I discover it is reversible. In the end, I had to put a double gusset on each side, to hide all the raw edges.
Why, oh why, when they charge so much for these outfits, do they make them out of such cheap fabric? It shreds, and frays all over the place!

My final project - and I'd been expecting this one, is to recover a set of 12 caravan cushions. They form the sofa, and dining area seating - but then can be rearranged to make mattresses for the sleeping areas.
The fabric is a lovely striped sort of deckchair ticking. I have made a good start on the simple rectangular cushions, but I am leaving the complex curved corner ones till last.
I love beavering away at the sewing machine on projects like this - but Bob did come home at one point and find me weeping, as I stood at the ironing board, pressing some seams.
Once I had recovered my composure, I explained that I had just been listening to an incredibly powerful drama on Radio 4 Extra [A Soldier's Debt] which moved me to tears. If you have 45 minutes then check it out [make your cup of tea first]  
The dining table is completely out of action - at least the weather has been fine so we can sit at the table in the garden for meals.

Friday 23 June 2017

Small Miracles

This is Tatsuya Tanaka. He is an art director, and he collects 'diorama dolls' - These tiny little people are the ones used by architects when creating models of buildings they are planning, to give a better impression of the finished structure, they also use model trees too.
Tanaka's skill lies in the fact that he takes a regular sized object [e.g. a brush] and re-envisions it as a shower. He creates a miniature tableau with little figures in a tiny bathroom.

Earbuds become hotplates, and a kitchen sponge is a climbing wall.

A Starbucks mug becomes the whole shop, and some memory cards provide grand pianos for a duet

A family picnic under the broccoli, or a school sports day, hurdling over the staples

I love the idea of vacuuming up the icons for the iPhone. And the onion makes a fabulous little pizza oven

A swimming gala in a grill pan, and a child hiding under the tablecloth in the restaurant.

Finally that kitchen sponge again- this time horizontally as a desert compete with camel and palm trees...

...and to cool you down in this sweltering heat, a man waiting for his train in a snowy landscape, created with a white jacket with a metal zip.

This guy is an utter genius imho. He has been posting these miniatures daily since 2011. You can find them all here