Thursday 31 October 2019

No Thank You

So it isn't Brexit Day after all. But it is Hallowe'en. I'm not a big fan.
According to one article I read, the plastics used in the costumes sold this October in the UK are the equivalent of 85 million plastic bags. That's a lot of waste going to landfill
And do we really need displays like this when we go to buy groceries? 
I was at the checkout at one shop and as I paid for my stuff, the assistant asked "Would you like to buy a raffle ticket for our Halloween Hamper?" I replied, in a polite tone, "No thank you. I don't do raffles and I don't do Halloween"
"Oh" she said, clearly surprised "I'd rather have Hallowe'en than Christmas"
"But Halloween is all death, doom and darkness - and Christmas is celebrating love, joy and peace" "Depends on your family, doesn't it?" she retorted, and started serving the next customer. I felt incredibly sad. 
A friend [who shares my feelings about the ghosts and ghouls costumes]  asked on Facebook what she should wear to a party - she's a Baptist minister and has been invited by some teenage friends to their event. The invitation specified Hallowe'en Fancy Dress. I said that as it is All Hallows Eve [ie the night before All Saints Day] she should dress as a Saint. I suggested St Francis would be an easy one. She's got herself a habit and I think will carry a small animal [the stuffed toy sort] I hope she has a good evening

Wednesday 30 October 2019


 Look at these! We planted 3 fruit trees here at Cornerstones five years ago. We've never had any fruit until this year - Bob spotted over the weekend that some pears had dropped onto the grass. 
One had been eaten by wildlife, but three were intact. 
I decided to make a cake and found this recipe

I had 500g of pears, so made half the quantity, in a tin half the diameter (correction below, thanks Nana Gogo) . Things were looking good. I kept back a couple of pieces of pear, and we agreed they tasted juicy and sweet. I put it in the oven to bake, and set the timer. Then I got out my sewing machine. 
Then things "went pear-shaped" as they say. There was somebody knocking frantically at the door. It was our neighbour, asking for Bob's help. "We need a strong man" Another elderly resident of the close had tripped and fallen and could not get up. Bob and I both went over the road and found two other friends with the injured party. We helped her to her feet, and walked her home [only 3 doors away] Fortunately apart from a few bruises, and a sense of embarrassment, she was OK. I settled her into her armchair, whilst her friend made a cuppa Then I came home. . 
And remembered the cake! The timer had gone off whilst we were outside. I estimated the cake had been in the oven for 75 minutes instead of 50! 
It tasted OK, if a little dry. I served it with custard as a pudding. I must try it again and reduce baking time. But I'm glad our friend is OK and that we were on hand to help. 

Tuesday 29 October 2019

Cupboard Love

Growing up in Dereham in the 1960s, many of my schoolfriends had family members working at the local Jentique Furniture Factory. Set up in 1936 by Geoffrey Bowman Jenkins, the factory was bought out by another local businessman, Bernard Smart, just before WW2 [Smart owned "Metamec Clocks" - one of the other factories in the town] Both factories are gone now, housing estates where the works used to be. The name Metamec is still in use by a small firm in Derbyshire.
I liked Jentique furniture [not that my family could ever afford it] It had that sleek, Danish appearance, now often called "Mid-century styling " - and Jentique pieces of that era sell for high prices- apparently in the USA, people will pay $1000 dollars for a 1960s Jentique sideboard!

It was a little disappointing therefore to see a suite of furniture in The Range recently, bearing the name "Dereham"
It was so dull, and clunky, and not made with the craftsman's care of the original Dereham furniture. Mr Bowman Jenkins, and Mr Smart would be so disappointed, don't you think?

Monday 28 October 2019

Puzzle Pieces

I've been looking in the CS for a jigsaw to do here over half term. Specifically I wanted a picture of Paris including a pre-conflagration Notre Dame. No success, but my friend kindly offered to lend me one of her puzzles with an alternative Parisian scene. Then I found this [new and unopened] Puzzle Mat for £3.50 in the Cancer Research Shop.
I can do my puzzle on the felt sheet, then roll it up and put it away when Rosie arrives. Mary's Paris jigsaw came in a box of four [Paris, Berlin, Melbourne and San Francisco] There are four separate bags in the box. 
So I started Paris on Saturday and finished it yesterday. But here's the problem ... there appears to be one piece missing. I didn't open the box till I sat down here in the lounge. We've hunted and hunted but cannot find it on the floor, down the side of the chair, anywhere.
There's nothing for it, I shall have to complete all the other three just in case the missing piece is in one of the other bags. 
I do hope it turns up. Feeling guilty that I might have lost part of the puzzle which my generous friend so kindly lent me... 

Sunday 27 October 2019

Such Happy Girls

Last Sunday, our church hosted a visit by the Zozulenka Choir from Ukraine. Nine delightful teenage students, who are touring the UK, singing and dancing, to raise money for Hope Now.
This charity supports their school and other projects in their country. They sang in Ukrainian and English. Their handmade costumes were amazing--such stunning embroidery. 
This old peasant woman with her huge papier-mache head was great fun! 

They spoke of their homes, their school - and the fighting. But their bright smiles, and strong faith shone through every word spoken, every note sung. Before their "Benediction Hymn" they sang "Bless the Lord, O My Soul" [very popular at UCF] and we all joined in. 
I made a brief video on my phone, but I'm struggling to post it here. Their 2019 tour is almost over, but they promised to return in 2020. Do look out for them. Their music, poetry and dancing is SO professional, their story is moving, and the whole evening was an utter joy. 

We're relaxing at Cornerstones now. Our journey up on Friday was arduous. Four separate incidents/accidents slowed up the traffic. We left home at 10.30, had two stops at Motorway Services - and arrived at 7. That's over eight hours to do 200miles! Yesterday Liz, Jon and Rosie came over for lunch, and Rosie did some pretend cooking [no success with that video either] and we made a lion mask. 
Bob is enjoying reading storybooks with her. We feel so blessed to be able to spend time with this cheerful little girl. 

Saturday 26 October 2019

Look What Mama Made!

Friends were coming for a meal, and as one was celebrating her birthday, I decided to make a cake, instead of pud. So after a very retro starter of melon boats, and a main course [cottage pie, with sweet potato/regular potato topping plus veg] we had a cheese board with crackers and grapes. Then we retired to the lounge for tea and cake.
I made Rachel Roddy's Marmalade Cake which was in the Guardian earlier this week.
It's a basic sponge mix, with 2 tbsp marmalade stirred in. Then after baking, you brush it with a glaze [1 tbsp marmalade, thinned with water] and drizzle simple glace icing over the top.
Here's her recipe - she says
"This is a cake of four equal parts, plus marmalade (thick-cut or thin, you decide). It is a preference based on habit, but a loaf tin (lined with parchment) seems the best tin for this cake."
Prep 10 min
Cook 40 min
Makes 1 loaf
110g margarine or butter, at room temp
110g sugar
2 medium eggs
110g self-raising flour
4 heaped tbsp marmalade
50g icing sugar
Hot water
Beat together the butter and sugar until soft and creamy. Beat in the eggs, followed by the flour, before stirring in three tablespoons of marmalade.
Scrape the mixture into a loaf tin lined with parchment. Bake at 170C (150C)/335F/gas 3 for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top of the cake is puffed up and cracked, and a strand of spaghetti comes out clean.
Leave to cool for 30 minutes, then lift the cake from the tin.
To make the glaze, loosen the remaining tablespoon of marmalade with a little hot water, then brush the cake. Make a thick icing by mixing the icing sugar with just a little water, and zig-zag it over the cake, letting it dribble down the sides.
Verdict; very moist, and the marmalade gives a pleasant sharpness so the cake is not oversweet.

Friday 25 October 2019

Making Good Habits

The Good Book says in Proverbs 22 - "Train up a child in the way she should go, and when she is older,she will not depart from it" and this is wise advice. Good habits, learned young, usually stick with us throughout life. I hope my Mum would be pleased that I still brush my teeth morning and evening, write thank-you letters promptly, and say 'thank you' to the driver when I get off the bus. 
They say it takes just 21 days to form a habit. I'm not convinced- I accept that repetition helps. Certainly many friends who have done month-long challenges giving up booze, or sugar, or doing a specific daily challenge, say that by the end, 'it had become a habit'.
But it doesn't take much of a slip to 'fall off the wagon' either. "Old habits die hard" is certainly very true [especially when it comes to decluttering. A lifetime of "I'll keep it, just in case" is hard to change]
In "The Message" version, that verse says "Point your kids in the right direction, and when they're old, they won't be lost" I quite like that translation. Well done Liz, who has been taking Rosie to swimming lessons all week. That is teaching her a skill for life.
I too have been making good habits - 6 sets of monk's robes for the school production!
Once we get back from our half term break, I've got Robin Hood & co to equip in Lincoln Green and all the rest of the cast to sort out.
On the subject of Monks- have you been watching The Name of The Rose [BBC4 this evening]? We think it's an excellent production.
Even if you don't watch the programme, do at least watch the opening credits, which are absolutely wonderful.

Thursday 24 October 2019

Keep Taking The Tablets

Very Old Joke;
Why are there no aspirin in the jungle?
Because the parrots eat 'em all!

[Apologies to any friends across the Pond, who may not understand, as their name for paracetamol is acetaminophen]
But as we age, the contents of our medicine cabinet grows, and I was struck recently by the utter silliness of some of the names for the products, when you say them out loud. I mean, for starters, the main thing in aspirin is salicylic acid. Sally-Silly-Cassied
For years, we've had tubs of Sudocrem in the bathroom [great for sore skin, nappy rash etc] But if you say PseudoCeam, it sounds like one of those greasy synthetic products which lurks in the supermarket somewhere between 'dairy' and 'desserts'. You know, stuff like Elmlea, CoolWhip or Nestles TipTop.

Then there's Gaviscon. Which is how we always refer to it, even when the bottle is an own brand from Boots, Waitrose or another supermarket. But the trouble with Gaviscon is that it always reminds me of that old Glen Campbell song, Galveston.
Recently another arrival in the cabinet has been Omiprazole. I don't think I pronounce this correctly. I usually sing "O Mi Prazzo Li!" like an Italian Opera Singer. I'm sure it should be the third verse of O Sole Mio, and roughly translated O Mi Prazzo Li means "O, my guts are gurgling" [maybe this side effect is something only I struggle with]
The latest one from the pharmacist is Bob's Clopidogrel. I suspect that Cloppy-Doggerel is a poem by Pam Ayres, about carthorses.
Does your family have any pet names for medications?

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Once Upon A Time There Were Three Bears

Yes, I have finished making the three Memory Bears for my friend and her two siblings. Today my friend will be delivering them to her in Sussex. Each bear has his own little backpack. 
Under the flap, there is a label with the names of her dad, and those of the recipients. I'm hoping the family will be pleased with these ursine friends.

Tuesday 22 October 2019

Applauding Abi And Aimee, Adolescent Activists

Following last Friday's post, I want to show you a picture of a leaflet we received a week or two back. It was produced, and delivered by two local girls from Ferndown Middle School in year 8 [so they are aged 12 or 13] They definitely want to 'do their bit'

You could be picky, and correct some of their errors - but please don't. Just be grateful that these young people are doing what they can to make a difference. I shall always treasure the memory of walking up the street in London with Rosie, and she saw a coke can in the gutter. "We should recycle that, Mummy" she said to Liz. She is THREE and already she knows the right thing to do. 
Do you know what your MPs 'climate credentials' are? Abi and Aimee are too young to vote- but sadly the 72 yr old man who represents them in Parliament generally votes against any bills which include measures to prevent climate change. In the last 11 years, and out of 29 votes, he voted against 13 times, was absent 11 times, and voted for only 5 times - which is appalling in my opinion. Is he an "uncooperative crusty" do you think?

Monday 21 October 2019

Happy Birthday Steph!

You're a brilliant daughter, sister and auntie. And a wonderful wife. Have a happy birthday - confident that in the year ahead you will become a marvellous Mum too. God bless you today and always. 

Sunday 20 October 2019

Saturday 19 October 2019

Wizard In Oz!

Something is happening in Australia this weekend and it's absolutely wizard - they're having a Garage Sale. But not just any old Garage Sale- this is a National Event! 400,000 people participating, at over 24, 000 venues, with more than 5 million items on sale!
What a brilliant idea- across the nation, folk are invited to set up a garage sale in their yard - and they can register to be on The Trail. I enjoy the little Norfolk "Village Yard Sale Days" each summer, but this is truly mega.
"Put Secondhand First" is the mantra, and there is a helpful website for anyone who wishes to take part.
Declutter your home
Most of us have too much stuff, and it is a good idea to re-evaluate our accumulated possessions from time to time
Give things a second life
Maybe someone else could make good use of these things. Why not pass them on, and make some cash into the bargain?

Do it successfully
The first two points are self-explanatory, the third is all about being safe [no trip hazards on the pavement, stay hydrated, wear sun-screen - and keep your money in a bumbag] advertising your sale effectively, and avoiding hassles at point-of-sale. Plus a reminder to think about the environment- do you really need balloons, plastic bags, disposables?
People can hold a sale for themselves, for a charity, or for a community project. 
Storage Kingthe multinational storage & removals company offer six prizes for the "King of the Sale", and people can vote for their top venue. Doesn't this all sound like a great idea, and really good fun? These 2018 sellers think so.

Friday 18 October 2019

From Cradle To Crusty

The Prime Minister recently referred to protestors from the Extinction Rebellion group as "unco-operative crusties" sheltering in "hemp smelling bivouacs". George Monbiot acknowledges that many of those supergluing themselves to the pavement are white, middle class, healthy pensioners who can afford to take the time to protest. But as GM says "the costs of arrest are lower for me - I have a moral duty to use my privilege"
But at the other end of the scale, we have seen a huge upsurge in the number of younger people protesting recently. And people have complained about that too - why aren't they  in school? what do they know about life? how dare they presume to teach us how to live? etc.
I believe passionately in the right to peaceful protest against perceived injustice, whatever your age. And even if these children sometimes are naive, and not fully aware of all the facts, I applaud those who seek to make the world a better place. And I admire those who struggled against adversity, seeking to help others. 
How many of these girls can you name? Each one has been an 'influencer' since her teenage years
Top row - Greta Thunberg [b.2003]. A bright Swedish teenager, coping with all the difficulties of being on the autistic spectrum- but not afraid to 'speak truth to power' and tell the older generations that they are killing our planet.
Malala Yousafzai,[b.1997] a Pakistani teenager who became an activist for women's education, survived an assassination attempt 7 years ago, and now is studying at Oxford, and working to improve women's education the world over.
Second row- Anne Frank,[b.1929] a German born Dutch Jew. Hidden from the Nazis for 2 years, she kept a secret diary. In 1944 she was discovered, and sent to a concentration camp where she died. Her diary continues to inspire and challenge.
Amy Carmichael, [b.1867] this Irish girl had a passion for speaking of Jesus, she went to Manchester in her teens, to help the mill-girls - but then travelled to India and spent the rest of her life there, working to free women forced into prostitution, and helping orphaned and destitute children.
Third Row - Marie Curie [b.1867] a Polish woman, brilliant at science, in a time when girls were not encouraged to pursue higher education. She made great personal sacrifices in her teens to enable her to get to university. We still benefit from the discoveries she made. She won Nobel Prizes in two different fields.
Mary Jones[b. 1800] - a Welsh girl who, aged ten, desperately wanted to read the bible in her own language, so she could learn to be more like Jesus. She saved for 6 years, then walked 26 miles, barefoot across the hills, to buy her own copy. The bookseller did not have one- but Mary's determination led to the foundation of the Bible Society - which now provides bibles all round the world in hundreds of languages.
Six girls from six different nations, who all started working to make a different before they became adults. None from very wealthy backgrounds, all committed to caring for others. 
Their stories challenge me and inspire me. I'm definitely an old, crusty, unco-operative activist now [tho I have never had a hemp smelling bivouac] but I pray I never lose my passion for speaking out against injustice, or doing what I can to help others.

Thursday 17 October 2019

Cosy Toes

Last year a friend gave me a bag of sheepskin offcuts [thank you!]. Random pieces, with large foot-shaped holes cut out. The remaining bits were rather small, but this week I found a great use for them.

I wanted to make a gift for my new Great-Nephew James, and decided to make some Scandinavian Baby Boots from this book

I cut out the soles from the sheepskin, and the uppers from some thick, but soft, green felt. I was giving someone a lift on Monday and had an hour to kill, so I went into a nearby Costa, got a coffee, and sat stitching away happily whilst I waited for my passenger.

 I did the back seam and the embroidery, I followed Clare Youngs' suggestion and added little ribbon tabs to the back seam. Two young mums at an adjacent table admired the boots, and commented on the cute tabs! 
In the evening I pinned and sewed the sole. I'd trimmed the thick fur so it made a soft lining for the boots. Then I got out the embroidery machine to make a bib.
These little gifts are on their way to Scotland now. I imagine that little toes get very cold up there!

Just to add - a huge thank you to everyone who posted such lovely comments on yesterday's post. Bob and I have been very touched by all your good wishes, kind thoughts, and faithful prayers. God bless you all for your friendship 

Wednesday 16 October 2019


Scrambled #1 - confused, jumbled - M15 used scrambled the phone messages so enemy agents could not understand them
Scrambled #2-  ordered into immediate action. The RAF crews were scrambled, when the German warplanes approached
Scrambled #3- made one's way awkwardly over rough ground. The children scrambled over boulders and fallen trees as they went down the hill.
Everyone has been very kind, and now things are getting back to normality, here's a brief explanation of what happened last Wednesday night, after I went out to my church Homegroup, leaving Bob to prepare Sunday's sermon. 
Scrambled#1 Around 8.50pm, he found he couldn't spell properly or make sense of words. He's a bright, articulate bloke, and realised something was wrong.Somehow he managed to ring 111 and have a sort of conversation with the operator, who dispatched an ambulance. Bob also rang me and said "Please come home right now. I've sent a text. Don't worry. I love you" and hung up. The text just said "I rang 111 an ambulance is coming" What?? I was confused and afraid.
Scrambled #2. I immediately drove home [along with Steve, former police officer, and first aider]  Bob was able to tell us what had happened, and he seemed mostly OK. Within minutes, two paramedics arrived. They checked him over, and we were swiftly on our way to Royal Bournemouth Hospital [with full 'blues and twos' flashing and blaring] It was the busiest night so far this year in A&E. At 9.30, the line of wheelchairs and trolleys was down the corridor and round the corner. But Bob was fast-tracked, and quickly had a whole battery of tests [CT scan etc]. At midnight, they admitted him, and told me to go home. Jenny and Peter, my wonderful homegroup leaders, came to get me. 
Scrambled #3 Things felt rough, and confused, and it was pretty hard to sleep - but at 7.30 Thursday morning Bob rang, incredibly bright and cheerful, full of praise for the consultant and hospital staff. He'd suffered a minor TIA - probably connected to the ectopic heartbeat issue which started about 3 years ago. But there was no lasting damage from the episode. Resting now, then continuing medication should help prevent more problems. Steve kindly fetched Bob home just after lunch. 
David-the-Deacon came round in the afternoon and we cleared Bob's diary and assigned his church tasks to other people. Bob cannot drive until November 7th - so I am being determined, and practising driving The Big Skoda [it feels like a bus, compared to my Tiny Toyota] as we're due to go to Cornerstones for 10 days on 25th October. For the first time in 30 years, I couldn't go to my conference, which was sad, but friends sent lovely messages saying they missed me. 
...and a week on, things feel much calmer. The whole episode was emotionally draining, as many of you will understand if you have been through a similar experience. But we have been able to rest a lot and things are getting back to normal. Bob is his intelligent, witty self again, beating the teams to answer correctly the questions on Only Connect. He's not driving, and he's not drinking coffee, but otherwise he's fine - and he won't get back to 'full duties' until November.
We are so grateful - to the prompt, efficient and caring NHS personnel, to church friends who have supported us through it all, to our wonderful family who have kept in constant touch and been so encouraging, and to all you kind friends who've sent messages and prayed for us [even though most of you had no idea what was wrong] - and to our God who is in control, and who has helped us through. 
Thank you, everyone!

Tuesday 15 October 2019

The Bear Necessities

Making memory bears this summer has got me thinking about our own family bear collection. My own teddy is very old - in fact much older than me, he is pre WW2, and as yet has never appeared on the blog. The Bear which Liz had as a child was a "Prayer Bear". Although they were advertised in magazines in Spring 1982, when I was pregnant, I could not find them in any toyshops [this was pre-internet-searches, remember] So I contacted the company. They'd decided not to sell them in the UK after all - but kindly gave us one of the sample bears for our new baby. In 2016 I knitted a new sweater for Prayer Bear, who is now Rosie's bear.
Steph, on the other hand, had "Grumble Bear" - a gift from my Mum. He had a grumpy expression, and a growl to match. But Steph loved him. Two years ago, I got interested in smocking, so made Grumble Bear his own authentic, linen Dorset Smock
It was something of a learning curve, and I abandoned any idea of making a full size smock for Bob [although he would have looked good in one at last week's Barn Dance]
Grumble Bear currently sits on the spare bed. But...come next April, he will have to go and live in Manchester. Steph and Gaz are expecting a baby!! [Pause for excited cheering]
But I was concerned- his 'growl' hasn't worked for years. I unpicked his back seam and did a 'growlectomy'
The growl had come to bits - a plastic tube, sealed with a cardboard disc, containing a lump of concrete. As the concrete slides down the tube, it should force out the air, thus making the growling noise. but the seal was broken, and the
concrete was degrading into grey dust. 
New growls cost around £7 and I wasn't sure if I wanted to replace it anyway. I cannot remember how old Steph was when she got Bear - and did the growl frighten her at first? and I don't like the idea of plastic and concrete dust in a toy. 
And it is so heavy
So just I filled up the large hole in his back with fresh wadding and restitched the seam with some lovely Leicester Thread. He is much lighter and even more cuddly. He still looks grumpy though!
So I shall be busy crafting baby stuff again- my nephew Robin is now the proud father of a baby boy. Over the weekend, Gillian gave birth to James Geoffrey, so I am now a great-aunt twice over.