Thursday 31 January 2019

Saying Goodbye To A Good Friend

Today I am in Norfolk for the Thanksgiving Service for the life of my friend Jean. She was a few years short of 90 when she died a couple of weeks ago. We visited her in the Autumn, and she was cheerful as ever, despite her increasing poor health.
A friend for over 50 years, she was always caring, wise and had a great sense of humour. A single lady with a strong faith she lived a very full life. Norfolk born and bred, she had not always lived in Dereham. When much younger she'd worked in early years childcare down in Kent, in a place called Green Street Green, near Orpington.
We lived in Orpington from 1985-1986, and I was invited to the GSG Baptist Church to speak to their ladies' meeting. I said "my friend Jean Bennett lived here over 20 years ago" - and immediately folk shared many memories of this good woman. Jean could not believe it when I told her! 
In the 60s I remember our family being invited to spend the afternoon with Jean and her mum Vida, in their little cottage. Vida's shortbread was legendary. 
Jean was an encourager, and wrote to me regularly when I was away as a student. She came to visit or the weekend when I began teaching. We had such fun going up to London to see the musical Kismet. 
Jean was a good friend to my Mum. Of a similar generation,  they shared a love of "The People's Friend" magazine.
If Mum and Dad were away, Jean and Vida always gave Adrian his evening meal after work. We shared an interest in knitting and card making. Just 6 weeks ago we received a handmade Christmas card from her. 
I know the church will be filled today with people of all generations to whom Jean was a good friend, to thank God for all she meant to us. Her life was filled with the love of Jesus and the joy of his Spirit. Jean will be missed by many. 
Rest in peace, rise in Glory, dear friend. 

Wednesday 30 January 2019

It's A Shoe-In

I checked out this phrase, it was originally shoo-in - when a corrupt jockey held back his horse, to shoo another one ahead of him to win the race. Nowadays it just means an easy win and there's no suggestion of dishonesty. But it is frequently misspelt shoe-in.
I keep my shoes in the ottoman in the bedroom. But it's become untidy of late, and I developed a lazy habit of dropping shoes into a purple trug in front of the wardrobe instead of putting them away properly. A footwear audit was necessary.
I emptied all my shoes and vacuumed the storage unit. Then sorted three heaps. OK shoes, Shoes-that-need-attention, Shoes-to-go. "Attention" was either cleaning, stretching or heeling. 
Sadly the to-go box were all signicantly beyond repair, not fit for the CS. 

I did remove a couple of sweet buckles, but binned the other shoes. I was rather sad that when I tried to polish my ancient ankle boots [pre 2005] the "leather" disintegrated. Reluctantly they too were discarded. 
One success story was the shoe stretching. I bought my kit in Poole recently. It worked far better than I could have hoped. Some leather sandals and black stilettos now fit much more comfortably. The nifty little screw devices are easy to operate, and the results were impressive. I was careful not to overstretch, so did the sandals in two stages. 
I think I'm getting my money's worth with this little kit  Very pleased that my ottoman is tidy now. Two pairs have yet to have new heels but otherwise everything is polished and ready-to-wear. Best foot forward... 

Tuesday 29 January 2019

Art, Albumen and Aeroplanes

One consequence of being overtired is the inability to concentrate for long periods. If I lounge on the sofa, intending to listen to The Archers after the 7pm news, I am usually asleep before Front Row starts - then have to use catchup facilities later to find out what has happened [plotlines are all a bit silly at the minute anyway imho]
And I cannot manage to read a book properly either. 
So my reading is all short articles, mostly informative non fiction stuff, or cryptic crossword clues. This week I have learned three new words.
baren - this comes from the art world- it is a flat round device used for ensuring a crisp application of iink when you are printing/making linocuts etc. If you haven't got a traditional oriental one, or a modern plastic device, you can use a wooden spoon. Not to be confused with baron - a member of the aristocracy.
glair- this is the artists word for albumen, or for the preparation they make from the eggwhite- it is used for binding paint, and also as a size, when applying gold. It can be stored, but may start to smell. Not to be confused with glare - fierce stare, or dazzling light [nouns or verbs]
flygskam - a Swedish word meaning fly-shame. This is the guilt travellers experience, when they board a plane and realise how much they are contributing to climate change. In Germany, they called it flugscham. In Holland it is vliegschaamte. This strikes me as a good thing, people ought to think about the impact of their actions on the planet. Not to be confused with flycam - which is a device for stabilising your camera tripod.  
What I find really sad is that there is no equivalent word for flygskam, this conscience-pricking-emotion, in English!

Monday 28 January 2019

Fabulous Fern Frost In Ferndown

Friends here have been really creative in helping me to relax. One friend invited me out to share a late, leisurely breakfast at a local cafĂ© on her day off. She lives nearby, so I strolled round to her house. I just had to stop and photograph a parked car I passed en route. 
Since I learned about the different types of frost last month, I now know this frost on windows is often called fern frost. 
How beautiful! When I came home after breakfast, it had disappeared in the morning sunshine. I saw a number of Facebook posts that same day from other local friends who had seen equally beautiful windscreens.
Later in the week I sat with three friends in our local theatre to see an excellent amateur production of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads. [ Well done especially to my teenage friend Ruth, the Stage Manager] 
I got out of the car when I was dropped off at home that evening, I looked up and saw a lovely starry sky. Morning and evening, I am constantly struck by the beauty of Creation. I love this passage from Job 38 [here in The Message translation] where God challenges Job...
And who do you think is the father of rain and dew,
    the mother of ice and frost?
You don’t for a minute imagine
    these marvels of weather just happen, do you?
 Can you catch the eye of the beautiful Pleiades sisters,
    or distract Orion from his hunt?
Can you get Venus to look your way,
    or get the Great Bear and her cubs to come out and play?
Do you know the first thing about the sky’s constellations
    and how they affect things on Earth?
and I'm reminded too of the old hymn [here with slightly updated lyrics]
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to your great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is your faithfulness! Great is your faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed  your hand has provided;
Great is  your faithfulness, Lord God, to me!

Sunday 27 January 2019

Focussing On The Father

I love this verse from Isaiah ch 40. It reminds me to wait - and not to expect instant recovery. And I like the bicycle picture [we don't get many eagles here in Ferndown] 

Saturday 26 January 2019

The Family Found Some Photos For Me...

Steph sent me a picture from Christmas 2008, and then Bob found a family shot from April 2018.
My glasses have darker frames - but my nose is still rather pink. I'm not wearing make-up in either picture, this is the unretouched me [apart from the hair, courtesy L'Oreal Excellence Golden Brown]
Thank you everybody for all your lovely comments yesterday. I'm being as sensible as I can, and resting lots. I'm spending a lot of time lazing around in my fancy new Cath Kidston pjs, reading craft books and dozing off on the sofa.

Friday 25 January 2019

Sick Note

I thought my work with my Special Needs pupil would end at Christmas, but I did the first week of term with him as well. I struggled with the early morning starts, and I seemed to have busy afternoons/evenings too, my sleep patterns were all over the place. I even got out a library book called Learn to Sleep Well.
I finished my teaching on Jan 11th and spent the weekend being very busy, at home and church - I never actually talked to Steph on the phone - just a text  'looking forward to seeing you soon'. [Rosie and co were visiting, so they were all very busy too] Monday 14th, I sent another text "On train, be with you shortly" - and she instantly replied "I thought you were coming on 28th!". We'd been talking at cross-purposes about the date of my visit! [note to self- don't just say "Arriving Monday afternoon @..." specify which Monday!] 
It seemed the best thing would be to continue my journey [with nesting tables etc] stay overnight, and  come back Tuesday [on my open return ticket] We had a great evening, and next day she went into work late, after  breakfast together at The Anthologist. I got back to Salisbury early afternoon. 
On Wednesday I was up early, did some admin, dealt with emails, did photocopying at Church, helped with Register at Tiddlers Group, and went off to Sainsburys. Then around 11.45am it all went pear-shaped. As I went to get my trolley, I suddenly had this terrible head pain- as if I'd been hit with a hammer. I staggered into the store, and collapsed on the bench in the entrance. Two staff members asked if I was OK. "I feel dreadful, my head is exploding!" I said. [Thank you Ann, Sadie, and FirstAider Sarah] Bob was fetched and I ended up in Bournemouth A&E [thank you Clinician at NHS 111, and Mim who helped with retrieval of my Toyota from store car park]
The acute pains had subsided relatively quickly, but they suspected a brain bleed. I had a CT scan and a Lumbar Puncture, and other tests. [Thank you A&E, AMU, Rosie the Radiologist, and lovely Dr Rahul who did a painless and fast LP] The night was somewhat disturbed- there were some very sick people in my Bay, at midnight, I was moved to another Bay. As my bed was wheeled out, we passed another patient coming in "There we are Christine, you won't have to spend the remainder of the night on this trolley, we have a proper bed for you now" I heard them say to her. On Thursday at 6.30am, the nurse told me all results were clear, they could find nothing wrong and I could leave. So Bob fetched me home, where I spent the rest of the day, and much of Friday doing nothing.And in the week since, I have felt better with every passing day [and night]. Thank you to all of you who have sent kind messages, both on and off the blog. I really appreciate your love and concern.[Thank you Bob, you've been amazing throughout]
  • Gratitude to God that there was nothing seriously wrong
  • I was much more tired than I realised, and this was a rather knockout 'wake-up call'
  • So grateful I was at home, and not away in Manchester, or on a train when it happened.
  • I do need to be more careful about sleep, and not overdoing things.
  • I no longer have the stamina I had 40 years ago, I need to listen to my body
  • Grateful to be surrounded by loving family and friends who have supported me, and prayed for me through all this rather scary experience.
  • I've told the Teaching Agency I am not available for supply work till after half term
  • Manchester trip to be rescheduled [Steph will be at Cornerstones with me in 4 weeks time anyway] 
  • I'm saying "No" much more when people ask me to do things.
  • The alarm clock is not set, so I sleep till I wake naturally [currently around 7.30am]
  • I'm cutting down on late night screen-time, and avoid caffeine after 6pm
  • Less activity, more rest
  • Less stress
  • Better sleep
  • Peace of mind
So now you know!

Thursday 24 January 2019

Ten Years On

Have you come across this Ten Year Challenge thing? You're supposed to post pictures of yourself now, and ten years ago. Steph put this one on Instagram - she doesn't appear to have changed much [apart from the eyebrows]
I found one of Liz taken at Christmas 2008, and another from last summer. Considering she now has a very energetic toddler to cope with, and is always so busy, I think she still looks amazing too.

I managed to find the original picture of Bob, having breakfast in Kirby Muxloe- with my red French china, and the Bonne Maman tablecloth. We repeat this every couple of months or so. I think he looks better now than he did then! Both he and Liz have changed their glasses- but kept to very similar frames.
And now you are wondering where my photo is. Sorry to disappoint you, I just cannot find any photographs of myself in 2008/9. Back then I took all the photos from behind my camera, so no selfies. I will try and find a couple of old/new pictures to post sometime... 

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Turned Out Nice Again!

It is so satisfying to make a recipe, and have it 'turn out well' - both in the sense of working as a recipe, and in the sense of 'turning out of the bowl without sticking/breaking/disintegrating'.
I like reading Felicity Cloake's recipes in the Guardian. She published one at the weekend for a marmalade steamed pudding. I followed the instructions to the letter- but steamed it for 3 hours in my slowcooker- much more efficient than using a pan on the stove. Look at this! Perfectly turned out.
This will serve 6, so I've portioned it and frozen it [otherwise we'd be tempted to it the whole thing in one go]
I also made Tom Kerridge's butternut squash and chickpea curry. A very satisfying dish for a cold winter's day. I couldn't find black mustard seeds, but Liz suggested Nigella [black onion] seeds instead. They worked equally well.
I'm enjoying his current series, and admire the families who are genuinely wanting to learn to cook from scratch and eat more healthily. He's amazingly patient [and good with involving the children too]
I also made some "Sunday-lunch-minestrone", using stock from Sundays chicken plus a blitzed can of tomatoes as the base- then I cubed leftover carrots, parsnips and potatoes and chopped the cabbage- and threw in a handful of macaroni. With a ham sandwich, that turned out to be a satisfying lunch. I froze half for another day. Notice the 'headspace' in the box. When I froze my carrot soup the other week I foolishly filled one screwtop container to the top. The freezing soup expanded and the plastic top cracked all round in a neat circle. 
One more picture 
These are four Bonne Maman jars from my fridge. They show the importance of labelling, it would be so easy to hurriedly grab the wrong one...chicken stock - vegetable gravy - fig conserve-St Clements Marmalade
That list is almost bizarre enough to be from a Farrow and Ball Paint chart.
Are you making any nourishing, ribsticking meals in this cold weather?

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Tiny Happy People On My Hands [A Finger Puppet Tutorial]

[apologies to REM for that awful pun] I did go up to Manchester last Monday, and deliver the tables to Steph and Gary. Then I returned to Dorset on Tuesday [nothing wrong, we just changed our plans] I had 9 hours of train travel - so took my finger puppets to sew. We've restructured our Sunday morning children's activities, so teach week, the adult has a bag containing the pre-prepared story script, props, crafts and worksheets. [it's a bit like supply teaching - everything is ready in advance]
Experience has shown that 3 year olds listen better if they are involved in the story- so finger puppets are very popular. They are cheap and easy to make, and so it's not difficult to construct a set of characters for the Bible Stories.
Here are a few hints and tips if you want to make any FPs yourself...

  • Prepare the puppet shapes first- either cut them out of felt, or buy a pack of 10 precut shapes for £1.50 from The Range.
  • Make a template from a bit of scrap card. I prefer to have front and back separate and sew them together, rather than a fold [as in the kit]
  • Make sure it will fit an adult finger - my  puppets are about 3cm x 6cm, and I round off the corners using an eggcup.
  • Sketch out on paper a few ideas for the characters - eg hair/beard, jewellery and crowns, hands holding things...
  • there are plenty of ideas online, including ones for animal puppets
  • Stitch the face first, then apply it to the body. Keep stitches on the inside small - however tempting it is to run a long stitch across from eye-to-eye, remember that you do not want little fingernails to get caught!
  • Felt is cheap and easy to work with, but you can add beads, sequins, lace, ribbons, buttons, pipecleaner shepherd crooks, goggle eyes etc.
  • If you want 'fluffiness' for sheep or beards, use wadding rather than cotton wool - it looks just as good but is much more durable.
  • A bit of Punchinella [sequin waste] will make a fabulous golden crown.
  • Best stitches- faces and details - usually french knots, back stitch, and running stitch. Chain stitch makes good hair [see Naaman's wife]
  • Sew front to back with blanket stitch.
Here are the ones I have made for our story bags thus far
The Lost Sheep story, and Elijah plus ravens [made back in September
Naaman, his wife, the little maid and Elisha [2 Kings ch 5]
Daniel, King Darius and the lions [Daniel ch 6]
Notice Naaman has a medal on his chest [he was a mighty army commander] and Daniel has his hands clasped in prayer.
Where characters have headdresses, or a lot of hair, I add something to the back of their heads too.
I made the lions on the journey up to Steph [the train had brown tables] and Naaman etc on the way back.
One of the train staff came and sat opposite me towards the end of my journey. "Excuse me" she said "I've been going up and down and I'm intrigued by what you are doing. I'm on my break now, so I thought I'd be nosy and come and ask" So I told her they were finger puppets for telling Bible Stories, and then she wanted to know the story...we had a really good conversation!
It takes me around 45 minutes on average to make a puppet, so it is not really a commercial enterprise. At £8.21 an hour minimum wage, plus cost of materials, I don't think you could sell them at £9 each. But they are fun to make, and a good little 'travelling project' to keep in my bag to work on at odd moments.

Monday 21 January 2019

First Attempts - Separated By Four Centuries

A belated review of a couple of books I've recently read;
First up, The Strength Of Wills by Allen Walker is set in WW2, and is based on a true story. Jedrek, a stroppy Polish teenager has been orphaned, and decides to go and find a better life in a safer place. He meets Viktor, a cantankerous old man, and thus unlikely pair become travelling companions. 
I should sat straightaway that this is not a book I would normally read, but it was written by a friend, here in Dorset, and is his debut novel. So we all bought a copy! 
It's the best part of 500 pages, so quite a long read. But it has a complex plot, and a lot of detail, which justifies the length. It's clear that the author has done meticulous research. I'm not an expert on German weaponry, but in a book like this you need to be accurate. I hate it when I spot something careless in a historical novel [eg if the churchgoers sing a hymn which had yet to be written] I imagine fans of this genre are equally fussy about the finer points of militaria.
I felt it was a "bloke's book", both in style and storyline, not my cup of tea at all. The graphic depictions of the Nazis were a bit strong for me. Bob's not read it yet, so I cannot share his thoughts. I know a number of friends who've greatly enjoyed it [not all of them male] It would be unfair to mark it down just because "I don't like this sort of novel" and it's a creditable first novel. If you check the link above, you can read a sizeable chunk which gives a good flavour of the book. ***
Secondly, another debut novel, set 400 years earlier, in the 1540s - all about Katherine Parr. I selected this from the charity book trolley at Bournemouth Hospital because I was desperate for something to read and it was the only one I liked the look of [I will explain about my unexpected stay in hospital on another day] 
"Queen's Gambit"  is set in the same time as CJ Sansom's "Lamentations". I really enjoyed this one, it is an interesting take on KP - the last of Henry's wives, and the one of whom we know the least.
The plot was clever, the period setting was described well. The author [who is a fashion editor, so already a professional writer] put in some interesting and unexpected twists whilst retaining a clear link to known historical events. My only reservation was that there were some aspects of KPs character which I didn't quite feel comfortable with. But who knows what she was really like anyway? Fremantle, Sansom and all the other authors are just speculating - aren't they? But this tale kept me entertained and distracted just when I needed it. ****
Both these books were first novels by their authors. AW is working on other writing, Queen's Gambit has become the first book in EFs Tudor Trilogy.  Both score highly in terms of research and detail - both have well-written passages, and some slightly weaker sections. But I say well done to anyone who finishes their book and gets to see it in print! 

Sunday 20 January 2019

It's That Word Again!

Thank you to my dear friend Sarah-the-Pastor's-Wife, who shared this prayer with me recently.  It comes from -  an excellent free resource for anyone who is looking for prayers to use personally or in a worship service. 
I love the fact that it is based on my blogword365

Saturday 19 January 2019

Great Grandmas?

I said I'd explain more about mottainai. 
Mottainai is a Buddhist term from Japan meaning "to have respect for the resources around you, to not waste resources, and to use them with a sense of gratitude"

It has become closely associated with the environmentalist mantra reduce, reuse, recycle with the additional term respect.
This concept has been around in Japan for centuries, but a Kenyan environmentalist, Wangari Maathai, introduced it to her own country and worked hard to make it known globally. For this, she was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2004.
Prof Maathai's work has made a significant difference across Africa, helping people change their attitude to waste.
One significant aspect of mottainai in Japan is that it has been handed down the generations, and particularly that older women teach their grandchildren.
Grannies chant the mantras to the children... Every grain of rice, every drop of water must be used with care and respect. Don't leave food in the bowl. Don't leave the tap running when you clean your teeth. Et ceter, et cetera. Mottainai Basan [Mottainai Grandma] is a Japanese children's heroine - with books and videos to teach the concepts. 
 Don't waste pencil stubs, tie them together to make rainbow crayons. 
 Eat every grain of rice in your bowl
 Use citrus peels to perfume your bathwater
[...or be like Kirstie Allsopp and make potpourri or Christmas decorations ] 
Many of these ideas seem reasonable, and I like the idea of being a mottainai-grandma for Rosie.
But I do draw the line at "if you get food on your face, I'll lick it off"  

[passing thought - if people stop using wetwipes, will we see a return to the traditional maternal custom of "spit on your Hankie and rub it off"?]
Those of us whose grannies came through the war years remember their "Waste not, Want not" philosophy. If we ourselves are in the granny generation, surely we can encourage the children in their efforts to go Plastic-Free/Zero-Waste? 
If you have 5 minutes to spare, look at these crazily enthusiastic grans getting their message across! 

AFTER SOME OF YESTERDAY'S COMMENTS, you may find this information about Charity Shops useful. Oxfam has its own recycling systems so UNSOLD donations are not wasted [see here] and many other CS [such as the Salvation Army] also use textile recycling companies. However there is a genuine concern that much of the clothing ends up abroad on 2nd hand clothes markets in the third world - impacting their own native clothing industries. Maybe the main problem is changing our attitudes to avoid over-purchasing in the first place?

Friday 18 January 2019

Marmite, Marie, Mottainai

"It's a Marmite thing" we say, when we want to convey that you are either utterly for or totally against something, and there is no middle ground. My picture illustrates my personal view of this great product. But sometimes, on some issues, there is a middle path, selecting the best points from both sides. For instance,  Marie Kondo and her KonMari home organisation methods.
With the release of her TV Series on Netflix, discussion has re-ignited about her theories. I'm aware of friends and family members who have followed her example and seriously reduced their possessions, and happily folded their teeshirts... 
I know others who have watched and laughed as she thanks the socks for being useful, prior to dropping them in a bin bag. When I touched Bob on the shoulder and said "Kerching!", he was relieved to know he still sparks joy and I'm keeping him.
Bob got quite annoyed with this picture "The word is fewer not less!"  expostulated my beloved grammarian [is Terry Pratchett collection alone probably exceeds 30] The KonMari method does have some merits, but I'm not completely sold on her ideas. 
Three years down the line, are these families still in blissful Minimalist heaven, or has the tee-shirt mountain grown again, and are there fresh surplus gadgets in the kitchen? 
As some reviews are suggesting, maybe this is a quick fix for some people - but doesn't really deal with the root cause: the need to accumulate stuff. Furthermore, as they celebrate the growing pile of binbags, have they thought about their contribution to landfill? If a tee-shirt is too torn&worn to go to a CS, could it be repurposed into cleaning cloths? 
Cue another Japanese concept - mottainai - this term is usually translated what a waste! or don't be wasteful! 
I've been reading up on mottainai and will be saying more about it tomorrow. Watch this space. 

Thursday 17 January 2019

Circus A To Z - From Anamorphosis To Zoetrope

After our meander round the historical sites of Norwich, we wandered through the beautiful light tunnel and up into The Forum. We went to the exhibition which is part of the Circus250 celebrations.
This celebration in 2018 passed me by completely I'm afraid. Last year saw the 250th anniversary of the circus in England, and six cities, including Norwich were venues for special circus themed events. The year was ending with an exhibition in The Forum run in collaboration with the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre and the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave. 
When the girls were small, we often visited the CMT in Covent Garden and marvelled at Tim Hunkin's automata and wonderful displays. 
It was just as much fun in Norwich. Lots of exhibits around the themes of circus, illusion and automata.

Bob is looking at a zoetrope- where the cylinder spins, and through the slit, the eye sees a series of changing pictures [eg a horse galloping, or a ship sailing across the waves] and it gives the impression of movement.
Other machines showed flapping pecking birds, and dancing girls [sadly that one was broken!] Here the use of cams, cogs and pulleys enables the sailors to row as the boat rocks on the waves. 
Electricity, technology and 'awfully wild animals' brought delight to previous generations.
Anamorphosis is where a picture viewed from a different angle, or reflected in a distorting mirror, gives a whole new perspective on things. Sometimes anamorphosis included in another artwork [such as the skull in Holbein's painting 'The Ambassadors'] or it can be a horizontal picture which is reflected in a cylindrical mirror, such as the dog, chair and galleon here [Check out these ones!]

It was all good fun, and free entry too. The show runs till January 27 so do look in if you're in Norwich and feeling brave