Wednesday 31 January 2018


Last weekend the death was announced of Ingvar Kamprad [aged 91] Aged just 17, he set up his own furniture business- naming it with his own initials, plus the initials of his family farm, Elmtaryd, and the nearby village, Agunnaryd. And that gave the world IKEA
Ignoring all the criticisms [and there are many] the fact remains that in almost every street in the UK, you will find a home containing a piece of IKEA merchandise. The idea of inexpensive flatpack self-assembly furniture has proved very popular- with students, first time buyers, landlords, parents of growing children...
The Guardian carried an article about the 'top ten' products.
I decided to see how many of the ten are in our home.
#1 The Frakta Bag - oh definitely. Very useful - flexible, waterproof, long lasting, easy to carry, and packs away neatly.
But I decluttered on of the larger versions last week - by filling it with goods for the CS..

#2 The Malm bed. We have four - one here, and three at Cornerstones [where they have matching bedside tables] It is estimated that 10% of children in Europe were conceived on an Ikea bed. Ours are all very comfortable and practical. 

Our first Malm bed was a birthday gift from Liz and Steph in 2005, when Bob was being treated for sleep apnoea. 
#3 Poang chairs- we have the brown leather one, with footstool [Bob's 55th birthday gift from Liz and Steph]

#4 Ribba picture frames- we have a dozen of these in a box in the loft - in Kirby, they were displayed artistically on the lounge wall, as they show all the members of the family, dating back to great grandparents.
#5 Billy Bookcases - counting the narrow CD/DVD units I think we have five of these. So strong, so sensible for bibliophiles like us.
#6 Frosta stools - two of these in Cornerstones- extra seating, temporary coffee tables, sspace-saving stackable design
#7 Meatballs. Great product- serve them with potatoes and lingonberry sauce, sling them in a casserole, poke them on skewers to make kebabs, cut in half and stuff into a burger bun...Thank you Rachel, for pointing out that you can microwave them straight from the freezer, when there is a hungry family demanding food in a hurry.
#8 Fargrik Mug. No, we don't have any of these at home. But we have lots in the kitchen cupboard at church. They stack safely too and they are a cheap way of buying crockery in bulk. But I am old enough to remember Ovaltine Mugs with that sinister face on the side, so I don't really like them.
#9 Klippan Sofa - again, not at home, but two at the back of the church so parents can sit in comfort with children and babies and there is an area for them to play safely and happily during the service.
#10 Lack Table. Never had one of these- but I did have the very similar Habitat Parson tables back in the 1970s. They were plastic, not wooden. Other family members have no lack of Lack though.
We are clearly an IKEA family. But we are not "buy it cheap and then chuck it" people. We love sites like IKEA hackers which give great ideas for personalising and rebuilding the products. My pantry is shelved with a repurposed Gorm unit, and Bob turned a piece of Expedit shelving on its side to create a great DJ desk for Jon. 
With hygge and lagom still remaining the buzzwords in the lifestyle section, and Scandi-crime on BBC4, I suspect that Ingvar's influence will be around for many years yet...
But talking to friends, it is a bit like Marmite - do you love or loathe IKEA?

Tuesday 30 January 2018

Strip Tease!

Jenny has sewn all her squares and sent me a  photo.
All her blanket needs now is a crochet edging and it's done.
My squares have remained in neat stacks on the sideboard for weeks. 
As Bob was away all day at a committee in Didcot [6am alarm] I decided I would spend the day sewing strips. 
I set myself up with yarn, needle and scissors... 
At the start of the morning, I had just two strips already sewn.
With over 150 more squares to go, I needed to find something to occupy my brain whilst I stitched. Something long and interesting... 

I worked away diligently for hours.
I am still not finished, but I am getting there.

And I have really enjoyed binge-watching The Crown [thanks Steph] Once I have reached the end of that, I will review it.

Monday 29 January 2018

Well Played, Mr Christiansen!

Lego is known and loved everywhere - its name comes from the Danish leg godt - play well. This week marks the 60th birthday of the iconic Lego brick, first made by Ole Kirk Christiansen a toy maker in Denmark.

I think this toy is brilliant and beautiful, inspiring girls and boys [and adults] the world over to create amazing things.

There's a good piece on the BBC Newsround page here
Less encouraging is this article which appeared over the weekend. I suspect unusually careless reporting of facts by BBC's Katie Silver. Lego have worked very hard to ensure their toys are safe, and the presence of Cadmium [one of the chemicals cited] was certainly phased out by the 1980s - they used cadmium free plastic from 1973 onwards. What the article does not make clear is the fact that many of the older plastic bricks containing the suspicious chemicals are "Lego-compatible" and not the pukka Danish bricks. I woudn't be surprised if we see some come-back from the Danes on this one! I am certainly hanging on to my Duplo [all post 1983] for the time being. 

Sunday 28 January 2018

I've Got To Tell It To The World...

On Thursday and Friday I did some supply work in a local C of E Primary School. That meant I got to attend "hymn practice assembly". It was delightful to watch the classes all walking in, silently, whilst one teacher played the piano. Then we sang a mixture of pieces old, and new - including Colours of Day [Light up the Fire] and Hallelu, Hallelujah! and this one, which I have not sung for years  - I think I first came across it in the "Junior Praise" hymnbook in the 1980s. The children sang it beautifully
He gave me eyes so I could see 
The wonders of the world
Without my eyes I could not see
The other boys and girls.
He gave me ears so I could hear
The wind and rain and sea,
I've got to tell it to the world
He made me. 

He gave me lips so I could speak 
And say what's in my mind,
Without my lips I could not speak 
A single word or line, 
He made my mind so I could think 
And choose what I should be, 
I've got to tell it to the world 
He made me. 

He gave me hands so I could touch
And hold a thousand things
I need my hands to help me write
To help me fetch and bring,
These feet he made so I could run
He meant me to be free
I've got to tell it to the world
He made me.

The lyrics are so simple, as is the melody - but the truths behind the song are profound. Thank you children- listening to your bright voices made my afternoon really special!
Can you remember any favourite School Assembly songs?

Saturday 27 January 2018

Battered And Bruised

Just to make you smile... 
Liz sent me this photo of a chalkboard menu she spotted
She added the caption "Yachts that all about?"
I am sure there are plenty of other puns, but cannot think of anything right now. 
This is a bottle of Original Source Tingling Mint and TeaTree Shower Gel. We both like this, so there's usually some in the bathroom. There has been discussion on the interwebs about... too much tingling [Google it if you want to know more]
I'd just like to say that I'm sure the discomfort experienced by some people using the product does not compare with the pain of dropping a full bottle of shower gel onto your foot!

Just look at my poor bruised toe! 

Friday 26 January 2018

Food In Fashion

Gretchen Roëhrs is an artist based in San Francisco. A while back, her friends on the US east coast were snowed in. She decided to tease them by sending pictures of colourful Californian fruit and vegetables. She took fresh produce, on white paper, and added a few deft lines with fine Japanese brush pens. She has turned ordinary food items into stunning fashions. “I find that women reflect the curves and lines in nature,” she says. “Fashion is all about emphasising those lines, so organic shapes make for the perfect faux outfits.”
These banana dungarees are amazing 
What about a frilly cress skirt, or a kale cocktail dress [are those pink things beetroot slices?]

Chard, tenderstem broccoli and lobster make rather unconventional evening gowns. The peachy coat looks warm - but I particularly love the mango strips turned into mini dress- it reminds me of Twiggy in the 1960s!
 Which outfit is your favourite?
...and did your mother tell you off if you played with your food?

Thursday 25 January 2018

A Cuppa And A Hobnob

That was what I enjoyed on Tuesday when we visited Salisbury. But you would be completely wrong if you imagined it was something like this picture...

No, we were in Salisbury Museum. Bob visited last year for the Terry Pratchett Exhibition and said I ought to go too, as they had a great costume section. There wasn't time that day- but we joined up for the year. That gives unlimited visits, and Bob got his TP entrance refunded.
On a wet windy Tuesday we set off and used the Park and Ride into the City. We dropped off lots of stuff at a CS en route to Cathedral Close and arrived soon after the Museum opened.
It is well worth a visit. We began on the ground floor, where there were lots of exhibits about old Salisbury. Here I found out about the Giant - a huge model, which has been paraded around at major city events for centuries. 

You can see how big he is here, around 12 feet high. The structure is extremely old., it is believed that the Giant [aka St Christopher] dates back to the 15th century. His frame was rebuilt around 1850, and his complexion was recently restored, having been obscured by layers of brown paint.
In the Museum are photographs of the Giant in processions for the Coronation of Edward VII and George V.
There is also a woodcut of the Giant's Procession entering Cathedral Close in 1808.
He is always preceded by a strange creature known as [you guessed it] "Hobnob"
He is constructed on a light wooden frame, and like the Giant, is carried by just one man.
A leather cap, and netting, protected the carrier as he was taunted by the crowds as he sought to clear the way for the giant's arrival.
Like the Giant, his leather coat is decorated with the coat of arms of the Tailor's Guild.
This current coat was made in 1935.
The Giant and the Hobnob were purchased by Salisbury Museum in 1873 for thirty shillings [£1.50!]
We went upstairs in the Museum and looked at the costume gallery. That was fabulous. Smocking, stumpwork, lacework, quilting, patchwork, embroidery. I was in seventh heaven, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the fabulous stitchery.
BUT this gallery is kept in extremely dim lighting to preserve the artefacts, and I couldn't take flash photos. I should like to go back sometime armed with a sketch book.
On the other side of the top floor was the room which had originally been the Dining Room of the house. Built in 1599, this room was frequently used to entertain King James I in the first decade of the 17th century. It has a magnificent ceiling - and fabulous views across the Close towards the Cathedral with its magnificent spire. A harpsichord is in the window- with a lovely picture of Salisbury on the inside of its lid.
Here is Bob at one window - the Cathedral view at the other.
In this room there is the collection of pottery from Salisbury and district.
Here there were dozens of cups. The ones that interested me were the tygs. I had not come across this word before. A tyg is a drinking vessel with handles, large ones with many handles were intended as 'loving cups' for festive occasions [like the Scottish Quaich, perhaps?]
I took photos of a pair of three handled tygs.
Downstairs again, to the archaeology section. This is Stonehenge country, and there was a lot of stuff dating back thousands of years. I was amused to see an information board explaining that hoarding has been a problem for centuries!
I'm sure I shall write another post about this excellent place. We walked back to the market Square and enjoyed Carrot and Lentil Soup. with sourdough bread, in Henderson's Bakery.

Wednesday 24 January 2018

All Washed Up!

David Attenborough's recent call to take care of the oceans has really touched a chord with so many people. Some great initiatives caught my eye last week.
Two very local to me - Jo and Ron, who run the lovely Beach Hut Café at Christchurch have stopped using plastic cups, straws and bags, as a direct response to watching Blue Planet. They also give 20p discount to those bringing in refillable cups.
We love stopping in here for a beverage when we have been walking along by Steamer Point.
Meanwhile, a little further along the coast, Peter Hayward, owner of the Noisy Lobster has launched another idea in direct response to watching Blue Planet.
Collect a bucket of beach litter, and you get your coffee free!
I think these two cafés deserve good publicity and patronage, for their efforts.

The third story concerns a family living in Cornwall, the Godbees from PadstowValerie, who describes herself as a 'creative mum' said "I love ...sharing life's experiences with my children, including educating them about the importance of recycling and keeping our beaches clean for the sake of nature." 
The family, includingJensen [6] and Joshua [9] found 'a tidal wave of waste' when they went walking on the nearby beaches.So they regularly collect bin bags of the waste, but select some of it to recycle into pieces of artwork.
They donate these to a local restaurant, who sell them in order to raise money for a Beach Cleaning Project. What a lovely idea...and what a great example to set the younger generation!

Tuesday 23 January 2018

That's Shallot

I had some banana shallots, and there are always apples in the fruit bowl. I made this tart for our meal last Friday [and kept the remaining 66% for another day]. This is NS's picture- by the time I came to turn mine out  it was raining heavily and I didn't want to go outside in the high winds to pick thyme sprigs to festoon the top of my tart! I omitted the Parmesan, but gave Bob a bowl of grated mature Cheddar cheese to sprinkle over his slice, which worked equally well. It was very quick and easy, I would make this one again I think. 

Nigel Slater's Shallot and Apple Tart
Serves 6
plain flour 225g
butter 120g
egg yolk 1
thyme leaves 2 tsp
Parmesan 4 tbsp, finely grated
apples 2
banana shallots 4, medium
butter 30g
olive oil 2 tbsp
You will need a tarte tatin tin or a metal-handled frying pan measuring 24cm in diameter.
Put the flour into the bowl of food processor, add the butter in small pieces and process to the texture of fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk, thyme leaves and 3 tbsp grated Parmesan, process briefly, then transfer to a lightly floured board and bring together into a ball. Wrap in clingfilm or greaseproof paper and leave to rest.

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Peel the shallots, then halve each lengthways. Melt the butter with the oil in the tatin tin or frying pan over a moderate heat, then add the shallots, cut side down. Let the shallots brown lightly then turn them to let the other side colour. Meanwhile, halve, core and slice each apple into 8 segments. Remove the shallots from the pan, then add the apples, letting them soften and turn lightly gold. Scatter a heaped tablespoon of grated Parmesan over the pan, then return the shallots.

Roll the pastry out to a good 3cm larger than the tin or frying pan. Lay the pastry over the shallots and apples, tucking in the overhanging dough. Bake for 25 minutes until the pastry is pale biscuit-coloured and the butter is bubbling round the edges. Remove from the oven, leave to settle for 10 minutes then turn out on to a serving plate.

This was from last week's Guardian where NS was extolling the joys of apples. His food writing really does make my mouth water. The shallots which Bob's Dad grew were quite different in shape - it seems that banana shallots have only been around in the UK for just over 10 years [details here] I do like their mild taste though...

Monday 22 January 2018

Plenty Of Stuffed Birds - But This Is Definitely No Turkey!

"I think you'll enjoy this one" said Bob, and he was right. This is a well written story - most of the action takes place over just three days in April 1912. It centres around 17 year old Connie Gifford- the TD of the title. It is set in a village in Sussex, not far from Chichester.
It is beautifully crafted, with a helpful map at the front, and between chapters, lovely illustrations of birds and feathers, and quotes from Mrs R Lee's "Bible" of Taxidermy, first printed in 1820.
Did you know that the word 'taxidermy' comes from two Greek words, taxis and derma, meaning to move skin ? No, me neither 
Or that Shakespeare makes reference to taxidermy in Romeo and Juliet?
I do remember an apothecary— and hereabouts he dwells…Meagre were his looks, sharp misery had worn him to the bones, and in his needy shop a tortoise hung, an alligator stuffed, and other skins of ill-shaped fishes. [R&J Act 5]
I really enjoy books that not only tell a good story, but also feed me with lots of wonderful trivia.
Here's the plot - the TD lives with Dad and a servant girl fro the village comes in daily. Connie has had a sad life- her Mum died giving birth, and aged 12, Connie fell downstairs and injured her head badly. She survived [just] but now suffers from petit mal, and has no memory of the time 'before' . Her father went bankrupt, and had to sell his amazing museum of stuffed animals. At the beginning of the story, late at night, Connie is lurking in the churchyard. Her Dad drinks heavily, and so she often has to go out at night to ensure he stumbles home safely after his regular jaunt to the pub, and does not end up in the creek, or drowned out on the marsh. 
On this night, there are many men outside - and a woman ends up murdered...
The plot is very clever, with interesting twists and turns. There is amazing detail about the craft of the 'stuffers' [as taxidermists were formerly called]. In Victorian times, they felt the word 'taxidermist' sounded more professional. 
Connie has a vague memory of visiting a Museum of Curiosities in Sussex as a child, and seeing many stuffed animals, including a tableau of The Death and Burial of Cock Robin

Kate Mosse knew about Steyning Museum and the eccentric stuffer, Walter Potter, and has cleverly woven her plot round this. Do check him out!
I was impressed to discover that KM actually studied taxidermy to make sure she wrote about it accurately.
I love crafting, and also miniature things [doll's clothes, doll's house, tiny pieces of stitching] but I am not sure I would be as diligent as to learn how to slice, scrape,stuff and sew a dead jackdaw
There's a murder, and gruesome bits, and unanswered questions - finally resolved. There are amusing, perceptive passages. There is love, and commitment, and doubt. There is a lot of weather. I read this over a old, damp, very windy weekend - which certainly added to the atmosphere. There is sadness, and also surprising moments of joy.
Definitely ***** - but I warn you, you may not handle a packet of Paxo 'Sage and Onion' in the same way ever again!

Sunday 21 January 2018

1,2,3, Wheeee!

It’s January, the start of a new year. People like to bring some appropriate words to this season. Perhaps remind you of the King’s Christmas Broadcast of 1939, where he famously quoted that passage by Minnie Louise Hastings “I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year ‘give me a light’... But he told me ‘put your hand in the hand of God’ etc..” But whilst that was an apposite and well chosen piece as our nation stood trembling on the brink of WW2, it didn’t feel quite what I want to say now. 
One of my delights over Christmas was time with all my family. We enjoyed a whole week with our darling Rosie, and on New Year’s Day, we all drove up to the Norfolk coast and walked along the beach. We took lots of photos!

For part of the walk, Liz and Jon played the game which our family call “1,2,3,wheee!” You know it I’m sure. The child walks along between her parents, holding hands, and then they count and start to run, lift her up and swing her in the air, then let her down again, and the walk continues. Rosie adores this activity.It struck me that if I am honest about the year ahead of me, I don’t really think my journey will be like that of Miss Haskins, tentatively stepping forward into the darkness, hanging on bravely. It will be more like Rosie's walk on the sand at Holkham – sometimes walking, sometimes running, sometimes my feet will leave the ground, but always with my loving Father beside me.
I watched Rosie, she was happy, and confident, then anxious, screaming with excitement, exhilarated... Overcome with joy, giggling with happiness. But above all, confident and secure in the knowledge that Mum and Dad would keep her safe.

If you visit Spurgeons College, where Bob trained, you will see, above the main staircase, a lovely stained glass window bearing the college’s Latin motto “Teneo et Teneor” – I both hold and am held. 
Like Rosie, we can be sure that as we enter this new year, with its ups and downs, uneventful days, or scary nights, joyful times, unexpected blessings or disappointments, and those moments of breathless excitement when our feet don’t touch the ground... Whatever 2018 brings, we can be confident that just as we hold the hand of our Loving Father, so He has us firmly in his grasp. And Scripture promises that none shall pluck us from His Hand. 
So let’s move on, confident that He is beside us, let us be faithful and fearless. As Rosie says, 1,2,3... Wheeee !