Thursday 31 May 2018

Happy And Helpful

Twenty four hours looking after Rosie is both delightful and exhausting! She is a cheerful little bundle of fun, but boy, does she keep us on our toes! 
We collected her from Liz and Jon at 1.45 and went into Costessey for the Bank Holiday  "Fete and Fayre." It was very well organised- parking was £2 per car for the whole day, and entrance was free. There was plenty to see and do. Older children and adults could go on the rides, or watch the show. Rosie wan't too sure about those things - but she loved meeting the owl. 
South Norfolk Council had good stall, with a huge deckchair, where you could be photographed for a donation to charity. She liked being up there with Grandad Bob.
The Norfolk Star Wars Group were all in costume, and again, for a small donation, you could be pictured with an Ewok or two.
Grandma was very pleased to find the church tent, run by the good folk of "Our Lady & St Wulstan's Roman Catholic Church" in Costessey. St W was bishop of Worcester in 1062, and is the patron saint of vegetarians and dieters. 
More relevant to us was the provision of lots of free craft activities. These paper plates could be decorated, and then you could flip up the frog/star/unicorn etc, to make a sort of hat/tiara. Rosie enjoyed that.
Inside the community centre were teams serving cups of tea and coffee for 50p, also icecream sundaes and mega sized cookies. I liked the fact it was clearly a community event. Plenty of local groups and charities on display - and not too much stress on making money.
We had our teas, and Rosie munched on treats from the snack box her Mum had given us. The Under 5s play Area at the edge of the field was open and we did lots of climbing and sliding and cheering. At one point, my little cherub went over to a small boy who was standing by himself "Hello little boy, how are you today? Are you feeling happy?" she asked him, and patted his arm. His mother and I were totally gobsmacked by this unexpected chat up line! He smiled and the spun the wheel on the pirate ship together.
Off to The Range to buy weedkiller for the garden path...and a special treat because it was so hot.

These two both take their ices very seriously!
Rosie had Nursery Teddy with her all weekend. Jon instructed us to take plenty of pictures. I confess to being a little paranoid about these 'have the class toy for the weekend' experiences. As a teacher I understand the benefits in terms of language development, being responsible, etc etc - as the temporary guardian of the child and the bear I am terrified! What if we lose the thing? what if it falls into some terrible staining puddle? what if a passing dog savages it to pieces? [and yes, I have known Barnaby Bear and his extended family to suffer all these perils and more].
I have done Supply in schools, where a child has brought in the bear and announced "We flew Barnaby to Disneyland for the weekend" or "I took Mr Bear to Lapland to meet Santa". We did our best, but Costessey Fete isn't quite in the same league!
Rosie slept beautifully in her cot, and on Tuesday morning, we took her to Cornerstones.
Then, whilst Bob dealt with weeds, I indulged in teaching Rosie about sewing. We measured the bear, made a paper pattern, cut out the pieces, and sewed a little teeshirt, decorated with a pink star...

This was fantastic fun, and I was pleased with the result, as was Rosie. We also learned to sing "One, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive"
Next time Rosie comes, perhaps I should initiate her in the mysteries of using an overlocker, and wrestle with some Pythagorean Triples...
But she is so happy, and ever eager to be helpful. 
On Tuesday evening, we left Norfolk and drove back down the A11. We diverted into Newmarket to get an evening meal. It had been sunny all day and we were both in shorts. By 6pm it was decidedly chilly. We both decided to change for dinner.
We parked outside the famous Jockey Club. There is a lovely statue of the racehorse Hyperion in the forecourt.  I know very little about the JC, but Dick Francis Novels lead me to believe that it is full of snooty upper class gentlemen. Bob was rather surprised when I stood on the pavement beside the car and stepped out of my shorts and slipped into my trousers. I pointed out that my tee shirt was long, my pants were respectable, and it took less than half a minute [as compared to his ungainly wriggling as he changed in the driver's seat]
Our meal in the White Hart was well cooked, with good sized portions, and a reasonable price. We were home to Dorset by 10.30. Two lovely days - but exhausting!

Wednesday 30 May 2018

Arch Enemies

Hold onto your hats, there's a long rant coming on...By August this year, Network Rail wants to sell off ALL of the 5,500 railway arches in its possession to the highest bidder. Network Rail have valued the arches at around £1bn, and already the sharks are circling. Some of the biggest names in property and financial speculation are lining up bids, from Goldman Sachs to Terra Firma. Many of us do not believe these companies have the people’s interests at heart.
Please forget all those black and white films of the 50s, where the railway arches were often portrayed as the haunts of petty criminals, or George Cole in Minder during the 80s, [my mate 'as a lock-up in 'Ackney', where we can stash all this stuff]
Most of the arches in use now are where people are running useful small business- bakers, brewers, craftspeople, mechanics, beauticians, caterers.... These are people who are contributing to the economy and helping to sustain trade in the local communities.
NR are putting up their rents by anything up to 400% which is driving these people out of business[and therefore freeing up the vacant premises ready for NR's sell-off]
It’s easy to forget this, but Network Rail is publicly owned. And the land it owns is public too. That means they have a responsibility to serve the public good. They say the Government is forcing them to balance the books, so they have to sell off their assets – including the arches. But how many small businesses will go under as a result? How many entrepreneurs will lose the will to carry on when they’re facing unpayable rent demands? And how many of the communities who rely on these businesspeople will suffer as a result? Is that really serving the public good?
Who is at the sharp end of this sell-off? What is the human cost of this approach?
·        A garage owner whose 92-year-old dad ran the business for 60 years but couldn’t carry on when faced with a 500% rent rise
·        A nationally renowned bakery concerned that the neighbourhood which sustains the business will collapse because nearby firms are being driven out one by one
·         A motorcycle repair shop facing a 300% in-year rent increase after Network Rail took away their security of tenure
These are not big businesses, with easy access to corporate lawyers to fight their case. These are simple, honest workers.
This is wrong!
I'm not alone in thinking this
Cat Hobbs, of the campaign group We Own It, said: “Railway land belongs to all of us – we don’t want it parcelled up and sold to the highest bidder. This is an asset which generates millions every year, money which should be returned to the public purse not disappear into private profits.”
Unions and campaigners have condemned the sale. Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT union, said: “This is the same old bunch of chancers, speculators and asset strippers queuing up to make another killing at the expense of our public services. These property assets make a decent income for Network Rail and once they are gone they are gone, smashing another gaping hole in the rail infrastructure budget.”
A campaigning group, Guardians of the Arches, has been set up, to fight for the rights of these people.
The government has already lost 4.2 billion pounds in a previous sell-off to Terra Firma [described as a rotten deal for taxpayers] and yet that are bidding for the arches.
The Gentle Author at Spitalfields Life has flagged up this issue, and I am grateful to him for doing so.
You can read more here- and sign a letter to the Secretary of State too.
These are the ordinary people, hardworking, not seeking to get rich quick, just men and women wanting to earn an honest wage and support their families. They are local people, part of their communities - and everyone locally will be the poorer if they are pushed out.
These are the arches near Liz, at Elephant and Castle. They've already pulled down The Heygate, the 1970s housing complex, as part of 'Urban Regeneration'. Opposite the arches now, you will see the new Elephant Park complex. It has been reported that every one of the new flats [not all completed yet] has been sold to overseas investors. It is bad enough that Southwark Council have screwed up people's homes - do not let Network Rail mess up their livelihoods too.
It isn't just Londoners- this NR sell off will affect those people up and down the country who rent property 'underneath the arches' - and in the end will affect all of us. 
Long rant over- thank you for reading to the end.
btw there is no truth in the rumour that I suggested Bob should apply for the post of chaplain to these people - and thereby become an Arch-Bishop!

Tuesday 29 May 2018


On those morning when I wait in vain for a call from the Supply Teaching Agency, I try had to be positive and apply Jenny's Rule. Recently I announced to Bob that if no work came on the Friday, I intended to set up the sewing machine. He was due to be out all day Saturday, so that meant I could take over the Dining Room.  I had great fun completing a little project that I've been planning for a few weeks. I cannot show you yet, but here's a teaser collage
I've been enjoying the craft books I borrowed from Wimborne Library - but I am not sure if I shall be creating any of the projects. 
Here's a quick round up...
Celebrate with a Stitch by Mandy Shaw was great fun. Well written, with really helpful sections on stitching and techniques. Under the headings bunting, new baby, wedding, Birthdays, Christmas, celebration quilt, and pennants there are around two dozen ideas for projects- quick-and-easy, and slow-and-special - for diverse events. I loved the 'seven more sleeps' wall hanging, where teddy moves into a different bed every night, until the doors open to reveal a birthday party. The felt crowns and tiaras were good too. You could make one for the Birthday Prince/Princess - or maybe one for every party guest. A great addition to any dressing-up box.
The templates are clear, and the ideas are adaptable.
Complete Leatherwork by Katherine Pogson. This is a well photographed book, and full of careful instructions for the 20+ projects inside. But It is soon clear that you need some specialist tools, and beautiful. but expensive hides, to create the projects [labelled easy, intermediate, advanced] The templates all need to be enlarged [some by up to 800%] I shall leave the single race grooving tools, and the lacing nippers, to other crafters! *** 
Origami Jewellery by Ayako Brodek. Now this was fun! I know this because I sat up in bed, ripped a page from my notebook, reduced it to a square of paper and starting folding a rabbit! Kezzie-I think you should check this one out- I can see you producing butterfly and frog brooches by the dozen! Old sheet music would make lovely fan brooches and angel pins. Fiddly but fun [and the materials are inexpensive]*****
Noah's Ark by Anne-Pia Godske Rasmussen  [I didn't realise it was yet another Scandi author till I got home] APGR is Danish and has designed a whole raft of crafts based around Noah and his floating menagerie*. Appliqué, patchwork, quilting and embroidery are used to create soft toys, wall-hangings, cushions, coasters and more. A quarter of the crafts are picnic items [blanket, sunhat, bottle bag etc] and have no obvious link to Mr & Mrs Noah, and the last two things in the book are a recipe for olive buns, and instructions for folding a simple paper boat.  The animals mostly have long spindly legs reminiscent of Tilda creations, or they are flat square cushions with attached feet and faces. 
The foreword explains that "APGR is Danish, and some designs include Danish words. These can be replaced with whatever words you choose. We hope this will not affect your enjoyment" No indeed, I greatly enjoyed checking out er i haven kommer straks- it means are you coming immediately. But why would I embroider that on a pair of ducks? I worked out noasark without the help of Google Translate! A fun book to read, clear instructions and good templates- but nothing that tempted me to get out my sewing machine ***
*perhaps there is actually a Danish word for this - arkraft ?

Monday 28 May 2018

A Clever Twist!

I love any craft ideas which is amazingly simple, but has a clever twist which produces a surprising outcome.
Like knitting the Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Surprise Jacket. One ball of yarn, one circular needle producing one weirdly shaped piece of fabric. And an ingenious method of assembly produces a cute little jacket. I've made a number of these now, and I'm in awe of the woman who wrote the brilliant pattern.

Watch this very brief clip showing how it works.
I've just found anothersimilarly ingenious craft idea, this time for a greetings card. It's called the 'hypercard' and is a variation of an old magician's trick. Basically you make 3 cuts in a simple rectangle of card and fold it with a twist. I showed Bob, and we agreed it was one of those 'how does that work?' Look...

I watched a few YouTube clips of what people describe as "The Impossible Card" and experimented with a piece of paper, then made a card for Liz's birthday. Personally, I do not like over-embellished cards- but the design of this one gives the option of decorating the front and back - and it folds flat to go in the envelope.
I added fancy papers to decorate the base, and a couple of strips of card across the gaps to add stability.
...and into the envelope
Happy birthday, Liz

Sunday 27 May 2018

People And Places

We have a great new picture on display at the Manse. A delightful, unexpected gift from our SIL Gary, on the morning of his wedding to Steph, back in April. It is a print of Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester. 
It was painted in 1954 by LSLowry, looking across the gardens towards the Rylands Building. There is so much to discover as I look at it...
John Rylands was the great entrepreneur and philanthropist, Manchester's first multi-millionaire. His elegant Art Deco warehouse became a department store in 1957, and the Grade 2 listed building still stands sentinel on the corner of Market Street overlooking the open space.
It is believed that LSL sat upstairs in the Lyons Tea Room, on the opposite corner, to sketch this view - presumably being fortified by cups of tea served by a 'Nippy'. This is an unusual LSL- he preferred to invent his own scenes, bringing different ideas together, and so this accurate depiction of real Manchester people is rather special.
For more than 250 years, this area in the heart of Manchester has been a place where the people met to trade, and do business...and to meet friends and spend time together. The view has not changed much since LSL's day - there are still flowerbeds, benches and fountains, people pushing babies in buggies, others walking dogs, lovers holding hands, pensioners sitting together chatting amiably. 
I know that this painting has lots of detail for me to discover and I shall have a great deal enjoyment from it. It shows Manchester as a hive of activity - since the industrial revolution, this has been a centre of work, production, co-operation and community - it is not surprising that the worker bee has long been the emblem of this proud city. This one is embedded on the tiles in the Town Hall, built 150 years ago.
It seems strange that last Sunday I was thinking about bees flying in the garden, and this week bees are in my thoughts again - but for as different reason. The Manchester bees have been buzzing around, reminding us all of the tragic  events of 22nd May last year. Piccadilly Gardens is just a short distance from the Manchester Arena, where 22 died, and many were scarred for life - physically and emotionally. 
Steph said that on Tuesday, she finished work, and as she came out of the building, it was very moving to hear all the people singing together in nearby Albert Square. A community sharing in the collective sadness, with a determination to move forward together.
I appreciated the thoughtful words of the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, at last week's Memorial Service. He pointed out that the majority of those caught up in the bombing were not from Manchester, they were visitors, who'd travelled many miles to be there. He said that they'd returned to their own communities where those around them would quickly forget and move on. But he believed that there would always be a place in Manchester for these hurting and bereaved people to come and remember. 
We are hanging our new picture in one corner of the lounge, opposite a favourite photo of London which Jon and Liz gave us. They remind me to pray for my daughters and their families, and for the two great cities where they have made their homes - and that however lovely places might be, it is important to love and care for the people who live there.
Thank you again, Gary, for the picture, it's really special. And to Liz, Happy Birthday -looking forward to seeing you, Jon and Rosie tonight!

Saturday 26 May 2018

Making Headway

"Where shall we go tomorrow?" I asked Bob on Monday evening. He immediately replied "I fancy climbing up Hengistbury Head" I packed coffee mugs, snacks and sunhats, and Bob made a couple of important phonecalls, then off we went.
HH is to the east of Bournemouth, south of Christchurch Harbour. It is an amazing area of heathland- and yet, thousands of years ago, it was believed to be Britain's busiest port! We parked [free for one hour] on the approach road [the Car Park is quite pricey] and walked up to the Visitor Centre. They encourage walkers, cyclists, and there is a Land Train, for people who cannot manage the climb. I liked the thoughtfully provided cyclists repair station.
The views were amazing, and the weather was lovely. The sheer diversity of wildflowers was overwhelming too - golden gorse and brilliant buttercups, stunning sea pinks, dainty daisies, furling ferns, green, green grass...I took dozens of pictures, I wanted to recreate a patchwork of shades and shapes.

The sculpture depicting the strata of the cliffs was striking. There were many attractively carved memorial benches showing just how popular this site is.

This is somewhere I would definitely like to visit again. We spent a useful 20 minutes or so in the Visitor Centre, which gave us a good idea about the place and its history - but another time, I'd like to spend more of our minutes outside, appreciating the surroundings, just being quiet, and looking, and listening...

Friday 25 May 2018

A Norse, A Norse, My Kingdom For...

A Norse! The new IKEA mattress, Steph and Gary's weekend in Copenhagen and the return of The Bridge to the TV has got me thinking about Scandinavia again. I borrowed this book from Liz recently [she'd asked for it for Christmas in 2016, and I'd not had the chance to read it properly]
According to the author, Signe Johansen, "Hygge [pronounced hue-gah] is the Danish/Norwegian concept of cosiness, kinship and conviviality. If mindfulness is about self, and looking inward, hygge is about being sociable and looking outward - taking pleasure in simple things, fellowship with kith and kin"
This idea appeals to me. Signe starts by pointing out all the tired clichés - Abba, Ikea, blonde people, the Muppets' Swedish chef, and meatballs...but goes on to talk about how the Nordic people have embraced their environment learned to make the most of life.
The book is over 200 pages of densely packed ideas, I shall try and condense them into a brief[ish] review. Here's How to Hygge at a Glance
  • She begins with Nature and the Seasons - it is important to get outside as much as you can, and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine [and wrap up well if it is winter!] Outdoors is preferable to the gym, be active, reconnect with nature and wildlife.
  • Self sufficiency is important, learn a few useful skills and use them. e.g. how to make a fire, paint a room, bake bread, cook a meal, mend a tear, chop an onion...
  • Fika, the daily act of collective restoration at work is a great practice. The Swedish coffee break, when everyone stops work and enjoys a drink and a cake - slowing down, and celebrating life together. Similar to the German tradition of Kaffee und Kuchen.
  • But don't feel guilty about food - eat a little of what you fancy, keep food simple, focus on healthy nourishing food. Savour your meals, eat slowly. And focus on economy of effort [as Ms Conran once said, "Life's to short to stuff a mushroom"]
  • Beauty starts in the home - aim for minimalist yet warm and cosy. Choose natural materials and timeless designs
  • Being kind isn't just about self, 'me-time' and solitude. Spend time with others, be sociable, take pleasure in enjoying simple things together.
  • Above all, all are welcome to share the hygge
All good advice. The book is beautifully illustrated - lots of calming greys and blues - and half the pages are devoted to tasty looking recipes; main courses, salads, cakes, desserts, drinks. Quite a few are flavoured with cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg...
I enjoyed this book, and found myself agreeing with many of her comments. 
I'm a little confused as to why the Nordic races have high suicide rates, if life is that cosy- and wonder why so many of their crime dramas are quite dark in tone. But on the whole, I like the principles of appreciating nature, practising self sufficiency, economy of effort, eating good food, and enjoying fellowship. I'd certainly recommend borrowing this from the library, and rate it *****
Two final comments- she says she doesn't like crunching raw kale, but discovered that if you massage it with a little oil, it wilts and becomes delicious. Liz made us her winter salad, [pictured] and I have to agree with that.,
Second thing- if a Dane runs around in a crazy fashion, has he gone hygge-mygge?

Thursday 24 May 2018

Throwaway Lines

I am trying really hard to declutter in a purposeful way.When we were doing garden work last Tuesday, we decided that the compost bin lurking under the shrubs in the corner is of no use to us whatsoever. So we cleaned it up and put it on the drive "Compost bin FREE" says the sign. It's still there- I do hope it gets taken soon. I offered it to one neighbour [thank you, we have three already] and to another [I have to confess to you, Ang, that when you were out at church, we carried it into our garden, realised there was nowhere we could put it, so we returned it to your drive..."] recycle
I needed a new clip frame [large 60x80] as someone has just given us a lovely poster. Driving past one afternoon, I spotted one at the bottom of the road - our neighbour down there is clearing his garage and has a constantly changing 'Free, help yourself' heap on his lawn. 

I walked down and collected it, to reuse with my poster - deciding that I would probably put the existing picture inside in the recycling bin. But then I discovered it was a jigsaw puzzle.
I know that another young neighbour likes doing puzzles with her Gran. So I took a photo of the picture before I dismantled the puzzle. I printed off the photo, and tucked that, plus the pieces, in a recycled biscuit tin, and delivered it immediately. She was very grateful. regift
Then, whilst rifling through the odd jewellery bits, I found a silk pocket square. I am not sure how Bob acquired this, there's no matching tie anywhere. He has never used it. But I know my SIL Gary occasionally pops one in his suit when he's attending a wedding**, and he and Steph have a few friends getting hitched this summer. So that's gone off to him. I ignored the Dry Clean Only label, and handwashed it first. WARNING - the colour didn't just run, it GALLOPED. So don't chuck one of these in with a general wash or everything will be pink. regift

There is still a box in the spare bedroom being gradually filled with stuff for the CS. But sometimes, it feels good to be able to pass something on directly to the person who can reuse it.
**no they didn't go to that wedding on Saturday, as they were busy preparing for the Great Manchester Run on Sunday. I am very proud of them for their commitment and achievement.

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Earring Aid

I mentioned on Monday that it's Dementia Action Week. Here's a small action which can help - declutter your jewellery box.
The Alzheimer's Society can make use of unwanted items, top quality stuff or less expensive pieces even broken or unmatched pieces! That's right, even odd earrings and cufflinks can be recycled and repurposed to provide funds for this worthwhile charity.
I've a few tinsful of baubles  bangles and beads, that I've kept meaning to incorporate into other projects. Lots of favourite, but widowed, earrings. I shall never get round to using them all. So l shall be sending the bulk to the AS. 
If you want to do the same you can go to the website and they'll send you a prepaid Jiffy Bag [Click here for link] Start sorting now, they say that lots of people have requested them so you may have a week or two to wait for your envelope to arrive.

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Blooming Marvellous!

I got up early on Friday, hoping to get called in for teaching. No call came.
By 8.15 I decided all the schools must be doing Royal Wedding Events, and wouldn't need supply staff. So Bob went to work on his bike, and I took the car to Wimborne Market. A whole trolley load of fruit and veg at excellent prices- without any plastic bags needed. Stall holders were quite happy to put stuff into my cotton bags [although I did have to accept a recyclable punnet for my strawberries]
Then I went into Wimborne itself - and spotted the Library was open. For the whole of May they are running the "Blooming Marvellous" exhibition. This has been travelling round the Bournemouth and Dorset libraries for a while - an amazing collection of knitted and crocheted flowers, plants and animals. Well worth a visit if you can - the detail is amazing. I couldn't resist adding suitable Librarian Captions to the pictures. Click on them for a larger view

Monday 21 May 2018

Forget Me Not

Today marks the start of Dementia Action Week, organised by the Alzheimer's Society [details here] Their logo is a Forget-me-not flower
In recent years, I've met more and more people who suffer with this condition, and their amazing carers. 
Once a month, a group of us take a worship service in a local dementia care home. I am always so moved when we sing an old hymn, or say the Lord's Prayer, to see people who seem quite unaware of their surroundings suddenly start mumbling the words with us. Verses learned by heart so many years ago surface again, and bring comfort and peace of mind for a few moments 
This year the AS theme is "Small Actions, Big Impact" - simple ideas and deeds which can make a huge difference.
Do take a moment to look at the website. 
When we lived in London, I remember meeting a recently bereaved friend and saying "I was sorry to hear you lost your Mum on Friday" She replied "Thank you Angela, but I really lost my Mum a few years ago"
Alzheimer's is a cruel disease affecting the whole family. If there are little things that we can do to help those affected, then we certainly should  Suggestions include
  • Will you talk to people? 
  • Will you make the time to listen? 
  • Will you ask if you can help if someone looks confused? 
  • Will you be there for carers and lived ones too? 
  • Will you ask questions and learn about dementia? 
  • Will you carry on inviting people out? 
  • Will you be patient? 

Sunday 20 May 2018

A Friend In Need...

Today is the Feast of Pentecost - when Christians remember God's gift of his Holy Spirit, the birth of the Church , the family of God's people.[read the story here]
Something that has really been important for me in recent weeks is the fact that God doesn't send us out alone - we have a faith-family. Friends who care for us and help us - and for whom we should be caring too.
I know I have spoken about Paul's words in Galatians before "Help carry one another's burdens, and so fulfill Christ's law"
I love Annie Valloton's picture, showing this line of people, each with their own burden, but each helping to carry the load of the one in front.
But what has struck me just lately is that sometimes people struggle on, and are unwilling to be helped, or to share their troubles with anyone else. Maybe they do not want o appear weak, maybe they do not want to be a nuisance, maybe they are embarrassed to admit they have a problem...whatever the reason, they bottle it up and persevere alone, and in silence. I saw this great label on a large box in B&Q this week.
There is no need to cope by yourself "Do not carry alone" Is a wonderful instruction.
There is always someone willing to help.
And God is always there too - even if you don't 'do church' you can always try praying [check out the helpful Try Praying website!]