Monday, 6 July 2020

The Night Holt Came To A Halt

During the Foulsham church-conference-call a fortnight ago, my friend Jane was leading the prayers. She prayed for "the people of Holt, and all those affected by the fire at Budgens last night". On the previous evening [June 20th] this small market town in north Norfolk lost its only supermarket in a devastating fire. Fortunately nobody was injured in the blaze[cause as yet unknown] 
This town has 4000 residents, and nearly 50% of them are aged 65+.  The supermarket was really important for them - and also housed the town's Post Office. It stood just behind the main street for over 30 years.  An independent store, it stocked local produce[Cromer Crabs, fresh flowers etc] and also raised thousands of pounds for local charities. 
Holt may appear to be an upmarket well-heeled town  - Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall is fond of dining at Byfords], and Greshams the nearby boarding school has just had an £18.5m gift from for alumnus James Dyson to build a new science block. But not everyone is wealthy, there is a food bank, and a large area of social housing. Many people relied on Budgens for their good value food, because specialist local food stores were too expensive. 
During the lockdown, staff worked incredibly hard to get food delivered to their more vulnerable customers. There was genuine anxiety the day after the conflagration. 
But people have rallied round. There is a pop-up Post Office in one store, some of the independent specialist food shops are stocking basic items [B&J Seafood store currently sells fruit and veg too] and the townsfolk are doing their best to maintain food supplies to the elderly and those shielding. 
One in 50 of the residents was an employee - everybody knows somebody who worked there. In less than a fortnight £7000 was raised to support the 80+ workers who've lost their livelihood. There's a sense of sadness in the town. You don't expect that over the loss of a supermarket. But this was the biggest Budgens in the UK, "delivering local food to local people" and keeping food prices low [matching those in Tesco] and it benefitted so many people. 
I'm sure they will be up and running again as soon as they can. I wish them success. We've often called in on journeys to and from the coast, and staff were always friendly, and the shelves filled with good produce. 
There is a strong community spirit, and that's what's needed right now. Jane was right to remind us to pray for the people affected. [Read more about this story here.] 

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Praise The Lord

The service link for this morning is here. If you want to find any other broadcasts from UCF, check out our YouTube channel here

I'm Away From Here, With A Gondolier...

The BBC Sunday Worship programme last week was brilliant. It was led by John Bell of the Iona Community [learn more here] One of the hymns was based on the Magnificat, and set to an old Irish folk tune. Called "Canticle of the Turning" I was really taken with the words of the verses. Themes of justice and righteousness, and downfall of the rich and the uplifting of the poor. But as I listened on my kitchen radio, I could not make sense at all of one line of the chorus. Where did the Gondolier come from? And why would I want to leave with him? A true Mondegreen But I tracked down a YouTube version with lyrics and all became clearer. I've told our re:vive worship band about it and suggested they consider adding it to their repertoire. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do [with the correct words, naturally] 

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Independence Day?

So much alters today
Derek and Ros are getting married at St Marys in Ferndown
[but with the minimum of people present,and no big reception after]
The wedding should have happened in March - it will be the first one that Sarah, the Rector, has conducted for months
Another friend has got a haircut booked first thing in the morning
Some people have planned to meet at the pub.
The Ferndown Library phoned me to say my book was in, and I could make an appointment to collect [I had to decline, I explained why, and the book has gone back into circulation]
And two other friends had hoped to meet up with children and grandchildren - but as they live in Leicester, that family reunion has had to be cancelled for now.
Kirby Muxloe, where we lived for 20 years, is just outside the Leicester Lockdown Zone. I have no idea how they are going to manage things - will city people nip over the motorway bridge just to down a pint in the Royal Oak? Or drive to the KM library to change their books?
I hope the little playgrounds can re-open soon, Rosie does so enjoy them, and the two we usually visit here seem to have very few other children playing anyway[maybe they all have their own gardens with swings etc]
UCF will remain closed for the time being - the WhatsApp groups, YouTube services and Zoom events are working well, keeping people connected, and a number who wouldn't be able to come out anyway are still able to feel involved. I'm not sure I'd enjoy Sunday worship 'socially distanced' with no singing. 

How much difference are these changes going to make for you?

Friday, 3 July 2020

Short Changed

I keep two pairs of pjs at Cornerstones - a pink winter set - tee shirt and trousers, and a navy summer set -tee shirt and shorts. They are both really old - and when I got them I was a little lighter than I am now. Lockdown has left me 'broader in the beam' than I used to be. I was wearing the shorts the first week I was here - but found they were no longer easy to wear, they felt too short in the body. So then I switched to the winter trousers.  Same problem - I was wriggling about in bed tugging at them, trying to get comfy.
I have perfectly good nightwear in Dorset which fits. I refuse to buy anything new. "Borrow my trousers" said Bob in his usual generous way. But that would be a major trip hazard if I had a nocturnal trip to the loo. 
But reading Claire's blog here and here where she turned an old pair of linen trousers and two pairs of jeans into a top and a playsuit I felt inspired. She's a professional - and I couldn't begin to emulate her skill. But I just wanted a comfortable pair of shorts to sleep in, and I like her approach to recycling old gear into new stuff.
I took the old ones, and used them to draft a pattern in newspaper, adding extra cm where necessary. Then I carefully took the pink trousers apart, retaining the side seams. The legs were very flared. Maybe the hideous style and the bright colour was why IKEA only wanted £5 for them!
Being lazy, I cut off the waistband, so I could reuse it, unaltered [my waist is no bigger even if my thighs and bum are] And I cut off the back patch pocket and fixed with a zigzag stitch. I need somewhere for my hanky!
Ta-da! slightly more generous, considerably more comfortable. They wouldn't pass muster for the GBSB, or for wearing in public - but they'll be fine for wearing when I'm preparing breakfast or sitting in the evening watching TV in the hotter weather.
And before anyone asks - no, the remaining gazebo wall is totally unsuitable for fashioning into nightwear. 
Have you altered anything during lockdown, to make it into something fresh? 

Thursday, 2 July 2020

STEM, Stalks and Sticks

Like many others, I am increasingly concerned about the number of students involved in STEM subjects [Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths] particularly female students. Liz and Jon both did English degrees, but now work at UCL, [for almost 200 years, one of our top Universities for 'STEM' research projects]. I did a Maths degree, Bob's first degree was physics, and then he worked as an electronics design engineer.. so of course we're encouraging Rosie to experience a 'broad curriculum'-science and maths alongside English and art.
A couple of years ago, I bought this book in a sale for £2 [why was it so cheap? it had only just been published] Liz thought it was probably a bit advanced for Ro - but I was sure it would be useful eventually.
The blurb on the back was very encouraging, and I loved the fact that the engineer on the front looked to be female.
It was on the shelf in the lounge - not with the other children's books, and on Tuesday Rosie saw it and asked to look at it.
"Of course!" I said- "and maybe we can try one of the projects inside it in a science lesson sometime"
"We did this!" said Rosie, pointing out the air pressure activity with a cone and a paper straw which we had made together last autumn.
There are 16 projects in the book, involving taste, touch, sight, smell and hearing. Did she want the bridge building, parachute launching or gravity pendulums?
No...she opted for the magical woodland fairy den! [it deals with structural strength from triangles -but that's not exactly what attracted Ro]

We collected the materials on Monday afternoon, on Tuesday morning we painted a paper plate green, and painted our sticks in assorted colours [much pink] In the afternoon, we twirled ribbons and ricrac round them. Rosie arranged two playmobil people [reclothed as fairies, in sparkly ribbon, with cocktail stick wands] And together we tied three sticks into a tripod, talked about triangles, adding more sticks, and a leafy bed for the fairies to sleep on. Rosie was ecstatic about her creation - it was a pretty good likeness to the one in the book
I have to review this book as *****The illustrations and instructions are good, and the fact that what you make looks like the picture is a big plus. I think we will do more projects from this in the days ahead.[It is aimed at ages 3-6, and here is one of the cheaper sources]

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Tossing Coins?

Hold on to your hats, I am about to have a major rant. Why is it so difficult to use cash during this pandemic? Mainly because almost all retailers are insisting you use cards to make your purchases. "That's no problem for me" you say.
Well then, you are among the wealthier section of our society.
But think about the ones behind you in the queue...
Many older people distrust computers, or are genuinely unable to get to grips with the technology. They do not want to risk the loss of everything by clicking the wrong button.They draw their pension out in cash each week, and carefully allocate their expenditure.
Many people on benefits work in a similar way - if they know how much they have in their purse, they know what they can afford to buy.
People who have struggled their way out of debt [often with the help of CAP or similar groups] now avoid using cards because they know what a hole they fell into when they were waving their card at every purchase.
And right now these people are genuinely struggling to cope - because every shop has a sign saying "Cards only"
Why is this recent blanket insistence on card use during the pandemic? Well, mainly because of two newspaper articles in the Mail and the Telegraph.
The latter, on March 2nd said "Banknotes may be spreading the new coronavirus, so people should try to use contactless payments instead, the WHO has said"
And the former declared on March 8th "The WHO has advised public against using paper money"
These two statements were based on a conversation with a WHO spokesperson who was asked whether banknotes could spread the virus, and replied "It's's a good question. We know that money can pick up all sorts of's a good idea to use contactless"
But the WHO were quick to clarify this did not amount to an official warning about banknotes. 
They simply restated the advice to wash hands frequently particularly after engaging with other people/goods in shops etc.[I'm not aware of the Telegraph or Mail making their error clear.]
There have been loads of sad stories circulating about people taking their carefully saved cash reserves into the supermarket to buy food for the family only to be turned away at the checkout. Or other people, self-isolating due to the virus, whose 'neighbours' offer to buy their groceries, take their card [and PIN] and only later discover more has gone out than they have received goods for.
The banks do not want to do away with coinage, it is the credit card companies who do.
But why do we need coins? I've been asked. People tell me that in time we will all just wave cards at machines, even in church. Last year we had a visit from two enthusiastic chaps, demonstrating their quick-pay-contactless-Sunday-offering system for churches. Personally I sort out my giving before Sunday morning -it's all done by monthly direct debit. But many people - particularly OAPs feelt hat putting their gift in the plate or bag is part of their act of worship. And children love to add their pennies.
I do know of some occasions when I want to use coins
  • each November when I buy my poppy
  • when I use cash in a shop, and put my change in the charity box on the counter
  • when I am out for a meal, and want to ensure all my tip goes to the waiters who have been so helpful, and not into the company till - when it sometimes doesnt get back to them
  • on a coach trip, when there's a 'whip-round' for the driver
  • when I buy a Big Issue magazine
Most of the recipients of those pennies are charities, or lower paid workers. 

As Rosie and George get older, the Tooth Fairy will probably visit [and surely she won't leave an Amazon voucher under the pillow, or a BACS transfer slip?] Generations of children have loved the birthday cards from aunties, uncles and grandparents with the message 'please buy yourself something special with this' and a crisp banknote or two folded inside. Children love coins. 
Rosie has a small coin jar and uses it for playing shops with her Mum.
One science lesson last week involved putting her dirty old pennies into a bowl of salt and vinegar and watch them come up shining.
 We had a great chat about coins and money. Our coins of the realm have a great heritage - my Grandfather worked at the Royal Mint, so I admit I'm rather biased. Please resist the efforts of the wealthy credit card companies to deprive us of our pennies. Everyone in society would be the poorer for it. 

And how on earth will people 'win the toss' to start their sports matches?

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Winning The Transformation Challenge

I watched the Great British Sewing Bee with much less enthusiasm this time round - I recorded it, then watched it a day or two later, zizzing through the bits which didn't really interest me. But I was so pleased when Clare Bradley won - she was the contestant I'd liked best from the first episode
Like Bake-Off, the programme designers must have to work really hard to come up with different ideas for the three categories each week.
I really must email Patrick, and suggest a transformation challenge using old gazebos.
In the autumn I produced a microphone case and a set of dust covers for record decks using walls from our defunct gazebo.
On Saturday I turned another wall into a cover for our garden bench in Dorset. I'd measured it before I came away, and it wasn't a complicated job. Fortunately the two armchairs here, when pushed together are almost exactly the same dimensions, just a little higher. This will look much better than the current cover, which has totally disintegrated.
I mislaid my little blue Dorcas pin tin, so I'd picked up a box of pins [in Wilko I think]
They are just a plastic box of pins. But I have never in all my days come across pins which have instructions before!
I know many people are taking up sewing as a hobby at the moment, but this seems rather extreme! What next - "please put your thread through the hole in the needle before you start to stitch"? Or "Safety warning - these pins have points"


Monday, 29 June 2020

Just A Spoonful Of Sugar...

We're getting to the age where daily medication is the norm. Whilst here alone in my "Norfolk Bubble" Bob has phoned me morning and evening - and at some point in the conversation, one of us shouts "Pills!" as a reminder to keep taking the tablets.
But when did these thing get such silly names?
Take Omiprazole [I do, as it happens] The pharmacist calls it O-MIP-razole, but I prefer O-mee-praz-oli. You can sing that to the operatic aria O Sole Mio [aka Just One Cornetto]
I mentioned this to Liz, who said she sings it to a more British Tune "Let's all go down the Strand, Omee Prazolee"
Then there's the blood thinner - Clopidogrel, which sounds like awfully bad poetry written for carthorses.
Or the one for nursing Mums [I'm glad Steph's not on this one] called Domperidone. That sounds far too much like Dom Perignon  for me - what baby would want his Mum dosed up on best champagne? Those bubbles would definitely cause wind!
Apparently there's a drug for arthritis called Anakinra -presumably it helps you become a sky walker?
Who makes these names up? Still, I am daily grateful to the NHS, and free prescriptions for elderly women like me. I'd hate to be in the situation where I had to choose between buying my meds and buying my food, as many people are in other countries.
As Roy Castle didn't quite say on his fantastic "Record Breakers" programme
Medication's what you need

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Come To Dorset

No, not for Bournemouth Beach - but to join us at United Church Ferndown for Sunday Worship. The link is below

UPDATE Apologies if anyone has had problems with the link, try this one... (Link) 

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Get Off Of My Cloud!

Clouds are beautiful - I keep meaning to learn all the proper names, beyond cumulus, cirrus and stratus. I love looking at them - and the wide East Anglian skies are a wonderful place to do that [the WEAS are also brilliant at night, with less light pollution, for watching stars and meteor showers] I look up to the skies to see the wonders of nature - clouds, rainbows, stars, eclipses, skeins of geese, flocks of starlings etc.Not smoke clouds advertising or political slogans or religious messages.
Skywriting - using one or more aeroplanes to write messages with puffs of smoke - is very popular in the USA*. In this country it has been illegal since 1960. Until now. 
Kezzie has just alerted me to the fact that under cover of the covid19 pandemic, the Government has slipped through a piece of legislation making it no longer illegal in the UK.
Why? Living near Bournemouth Airport, I have so appreciated recently the massive drop in airplane noise, contrails in the sky and all the associated pollution. Who in their right mind thinks that allowing people to fill the skies with graffiti-producing air traffic is a good idea? Surely the incident in Manchester last weekend with an aeroplane banner ought to make people wary of enabling this sort of declaration in the sky.
*The Hooters sign was produced by Flysigns ,the USA leaders in this sort of thing. I despise Hooters - but I struggled to find any clear picture online which was not offensive in some way.
The Cloud Appreciation Society have set up a petition to reverse this change in our legislation [details here] I get the impression that this law was made with inadequate public consultation, allowing only TWO WEEKS for anyone to make any comment - March 14th--29th. Just when much of the nation was panic buying loo rolls, self isolating, and worrying about homeschooling [Bob and I were too
 ill with covid19]
The government minister concerned spoke about the need to revoke the 'antiquated law' and allow skywriting. Who exactly needs it? Not me...

Friday, 26 June 2020

I Can't Believe It's Toilet Cleaner!

I was reading the stuff on the side of the loo cleaner [as you do] II'd heard of  E-coli, Staphylococcus and enterococcus. But Pseudomonas aeruginosa was a new one. It's not quite as bad as the others - but its name means 'false unit, aged and wrinkled'. I do hope I don't turn into one of those. Then I got to the end of the description and giggled. Do Wilko have proof readers? I mean, who would want an unbelieving tank?
We have a dehumidifier here at Cornerstones - when the property is empty for long periods, we are concerned about damp building up. Its very efficient - but the drainage pipe is currently in need of attention. Consequently the water collects in a reservoir at the bottom. Mindful Use of Water came up in the Green Living Project - so I was speculating about what to do with it. I knew it was not safe to drink, but didn't want to throw it away. However, it is supposed to be Very Good for watering orchids. My orchids are currently in the tender care of orchid expert Jenny whilst I am away from Ferndown. I shall consult her on my return.
"We can always use it in the steam iron" said Bob - this distilled water is better than the local tapwater, which causes major limescale problems. I told him that next time he ironed [!]he could try it out. I've put it in this gorgeous bottle [Jon gave me this when he'd emptied it of the original contents - Orkney Single Malt] Do you like my label? I know it isn't technically accurate, and the chemists in the family will spot the error - but It says what it is...

Thursday, 25 June 2020

What We Did On Wednesday

On Tuesday we went for a walk, and picked up a few items - including pine cones. So we did some work on owls yesterday and made cone-owls. Rosie enjoyed that [but refused to have the felt pen mark wiped off her face before the photo] She already knew that owls are nocturnal, but I have yet to tell her that a group of owls is called a Parliament. [Presumably because it is a gathering of wise creatures...]
I've got myself organised about breadmaking and yogurt production now. These are the two loaves produced on Wednesday afternoon. I brushed these with milk, which has given a lovely golden crust. Liz made some amazing rolls, from her Dan Lepard recipe book, and posted a picture on Twitter. DL himself actually posted a really encouraging comment! What a nice bloke.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Will The Train Stop Here?

Here's the latest jigsaw which Mary and Richard lent me.
Entitled Corfe Crossing, it shows the 1954 Class 4 Tank Loco 80078, at a level crossing in Dorsdet, and in the background, historic Corfe Castle. There is no date on the jigsaw box - but that loco was sold in 2012 and went to Essex. 
So this picture is about 10-15 years old. The railway is the wonderful Swanage Railway, first opened 1885, then destined for destruction in the foolishly shortsighted Beeching Cuts of the 1960s. However in the late 1970s a group of enthusiasts started working to preserve the track, and amass a good collection of locos and rolling stock.
The Swanage Railway Trust [until the pandemic] was running trains between Wareham and Swanage every weekend and Bank Holiday - plus lots of 'specials'. When Bob and I had a day out at Corfe Castle, I was able to look down and take a picture of a steam loco chuffing past.

The Railway has, for many years, brought pleasure to so many people - even young children seem to know what a steam engine is [thanks to Thomas and his  friends] but this year the management said that they felt that after 40 years, the Railway might have to close. It costs an awful lot to maintain and operate these lovely pieces of machinery. An appeal was set up, to raise £360,000 and they have already raised over half that sum. 
The Railway usually costs £200,000 a month to maintain - and the bulk of the income is raised during the summer months. It is estimated that the Railway contributes around £15 million per annum to the economy of the Isle of Purbeck region. So many visitors come to see the railway, and then stay in the area, and hospitality, food outlets etc all benefit.
Nationally, so many businesses have collapsed, sadly, due to the pandemic. Years of work lost almost overnight, livelihoods and lifestyles ruined. If you list British counties in terms of wealth, Dorset is in the bottom two thirds. Tourism and heritage are its two major sources of revenue - so it is important to the locals that this attraction is maintained. It would be a shame if all we had left at the end of this was a jigsaw to remind us...
Corfe Castle is a ruin, shelled by Cromwell's army in 1643 - but it remains on the hill for all to see. A symbol of one woman's brave defiance. Lady Mary Bankes and her family were given a second chance, and built a new home at nearby Kingston
 Lacy.The people running the Railway Trust have maintained that indomitable spirit, and are determined that the trains will run again when all this is over. I hope they are successful in their efforts.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Corny Joke

Friday....Rosie and I were just about to go for a walk. We met our neighbour and said Hello. She and I chatted briefly and then Rosie pointed to something growing through the gravel.
"Grandma, this looks like cereal" she said.
Neighbour says it does indeed, and tells me how bright my granddaughter is.
"Actually Rosie, I think they might be weeds" I say
Monday... Rosie was talking with Liz about her day at Grandma School. "... and then we had snack time" "What was your snack?" "It was those biscuits with weeds on them"

Monday, 22 June 2020

Maybe I Smell Like Prince Charles...

Back in mid March when I contracted covid19, and Bob got it a day or so later, we both became aware that we'd lost our sense of taste. At that point, it hadn't been mentioned as a symptom in the media. It began with Bob saying the cheese wasn't very nice - I don't eat cheese, but I pointed out that this wasn't Basics Cheddar, it was fancy M&S stuff which a friend had kindly left in the porch for us. A day or so later he tasted it again, and said it was fine, and that his sense of taste had been faulty.
Then I was aware of an odd smell in the house. I kept trying to describe it to Bob (sort of soapy chemical - not particularly unpleasant but pervasive) but he said things seemed OK to him. Then I smelt it in the motorway services, and in Stephs garden... And I realised the smell was wherever I was. It was me! "Do I smell weird?" I asked him anxiously. Bob reassured me that I didn't, and that if I ever did, he would let me know in as tactful a way as possible.
The smell is still there, in my nostrils most of the time. Just occasionally I can smell things, if they are strong and close by. The oil leak from the boiler, a new pack of coffee, a beautiful rose from Liz's garden.
It does affect my sense of taste. I hope it's not forever. Perfume guru Jo Malone lost her sense of smell during treatment for breast cancer, but says it returned in a more powerful, different way. You never know... 
Prince Charles recently stated that his sense of smell left him while he was ill with covid19. I don't know how he smells now - maybe he smells like I do. 
Have you had the virus? has it had any longlasting effects? 

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Happy Fathers' Day

For all the truly great, loving, caring dads out there - especially Bob, Jon and Gary - have a great Fathers' Day

A Service For Fathers' Day

From United Church Ferndown. Click Here

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Grandma, You're One Crazy Girl!

Well, that's what Rosie said on Wednesday anyway. She does have a remarkable turn of phrase for a four year old. And an utterly irrepressible sense of fun. [That may be genetic - on both sides of her family] 
Week One of School With Grandma has gone OK - and today is My Day to myself, I shall be pottering around doing odd jobs here and there. But I will be chuckling to myself over little things Rosie has said in the past few days.
We made three Fathers' Day Cards [for her Dad and the two Grandads] I'd printed out a greeting in a grey font for her to go over with brightly coloured crayons, on a folded sheet to slip inside the frog-related card [OK I admit it, I was reusing some green frogs leftover from kids' club]
Rosie was slowly and deliberately doing her writing and sounding out the words as she did so. "Hopping along on fat...fat...fat.." I explained that the h changed the 't' to 'th' and that word was father.
Rosie was completely overcome with giggles when she realised that the word for father begins with fat
Then she got confused, and thought that these were some sort of birthday cards. She began singing "Happy Birthday to you,Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday Fat Grandad..."
I'm not quite sure what I did to gain the description 'One crazy girl' - but I'm certainly a happy one, having this little treasure to keep me occupied right now. 

Friday, 19 June 2020

Keep Smiling Through

The death has been announced of Dame Vera Lynn, aged 103 - the Forces' Sweetheart of WW2
The daughter of a dressmaker and a plumber, born in the East End of London during WW1, her humble background and wholesome demeanour meant she was someone the ordinary people felt they could identify with, during the dark days of WW2. The obituary in yesterday's Guardian ends with these words...

'Her songs spoke to people caught up in war, trying to respond to its emotional extremes as best they could. They encapsulate fellowship and battling through, not jingoism, for all the flag-waving that accompanied her appearances at commemorative events. “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when.” The lyrics could not be more banal, yet her genuine spirit invested them with deep humanity.'

When the Queen spoke to the nation at the beginning of lockdown, she quoted Vera's song - confident that the British people would come through this, and we would meet again. 

We'll meet again
Don't know where, don't know when
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day
Keep smiling through
Just like you always do
'Til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away
So will you please say "Hello" to the folks that I know
Tell them I won't be long
They'll be happy to know that as you saw me go
I was singing this song

We'll meet again…

During the war years she bravely travelled to support and entertain the troops - to India, Burma and Egypt - enduring difficulty, basic conditions, but believing that her encouragement was important to them, reminding them of home. And in the years after, she worked tirelessly for different charities [supporting sufferers of Breast Cancer, and Child Cerebral Palsy] In 1969 she was awarded an OBE, in 1975 she became a Dame in recognition of these activities. The status of "National Treasure" was hers. To the end, she was a caring woman- even writing to 99 year old Captain Tom congratulating him for his achievement supporting the NHS. He was amazed- having seen her back in Burma during the war

Her other wartime song was equally popular - I am include the often omitted 'thumbs up' lines here

I'll never forget the people I met
Braving those angry skies.
I remember well as the shadows fell
The light of hope in their eyes
And though I'm far away
I still can hear them say “Thumbs up”
For when the dawn comes up…

There'll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow, just you wait and see.
There'll be love and laughter
And peace ever after.
Tomorrow, when the world is free

The shepherd will tend his sheep
The valleys will bloom again
And Johnny will go to sleep
In his own little room again 
There'll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow, just you wait and see
Some people have objected that 'bluebirds' are American  thrushes - but actually 'bluebird' is an old country term for swallows and house martins - migrant birds which fly across the English Channel [and therefore the white cliffs] twice a year.

Like the Forces' Sweetheart, let us all retain "the light of hope" in our eyes, looking forward to, and working for, better days ahead. RIP Dame Vera - thank you for reminding us that fellowship, and 'battling through' is what we need right now -not flag waving and jingoism.


Thursday, 18 June 2020

The Little Shop on The Corner

This is the latest of the Gibson Jigsaws from Richard and Mary which I have completed. Called simply "The Corner Shop" it shows a sweet shop of the 1930s, in the winter time.
I love the posh lady's cloche hat, and all the nostalgic advertising slogans - Cadbury's and Fry's Chocolates, but also Ovaltine Tablets, Oxo and Bovril. So I think this shop sold more than just sweets
Of course Cadbury's and Fry's were the famous Quaker sweet manufacturers. Ovaltine, now still known as a milky drink in powder form, was sold in the first half of the twentieth century as tablets. They were included in RAF ration packs during WW2 - the eggs, milk and malt being concentrated energy "to build up the body and brain"
We used to live not far from the wonderful  Arts and Craft style factory in Kings Langley [now fredeveloped as luxury flats] where the Ovaltine was produced using barley, and fresh produce from local farms.
Oxo was developed around 1840, and called Liebig's Extract of Meat - a rich beef tea - but by 1899 it was too expensive for the ordinary family. So the cheaper 'one penny Oxo Cube' was produced - and we've been crumbling them into drinks, gravies and stews ever since. 
Bovril came along in 1870, developed by a Scotsman, James Johnston, living in Canada - to satisfy the order from Napoleon III for one million cans of beef to feed his armies. It is not easy to process and ship that amount of meat. So the canny Canadian developed Johnston's Fluid Beef - later known as Bovril - to satisfy the French Emperor. Bovril then became a staple military food in WW1. A viscous brown liquid, its name reflects the Latin bovinus, i.e. cow.[in 2004 Unilever removed all beef from it, citing BSE, vegetarianism and religious dietary requirements as a reason for falling sales. In 2006 they reversed their decision] Most people stir it into liquids- although some use Bovril in sandwiches [I prefer Marmite]
Bovril, Ovaltine and Oxo were all considered healthy, nourishing products - and in the 1930s were on everyone's shopping list. There was an Ovaltineys Chrildrens Club on the radio from 1935 through to the 1960s.

In the past few weeks, Corner Shops have come into their own again, as people have avoided the big supermarkets, and preferred the small local outlet. Often they have had goods in stock when Tesco et al have displayed empty shelves and apology signs. 
I enjoyed the recent series "Back in Time for the Corner Shop" with Sara Cox and the Ardern Family. I have a food friend who runs a small open-all-hours store. I hope that after the pandemic, the new customers who have discovered his shop will continue to support the business. He and his family work incredibly hard.
Have you been using Corner Shops lately?
Do you remember the days when chocolates were in cardboard boxes and paper wrappers? Much more eco friendly!
Did you have an Ovaltiney Mug with that strange sleepy face on the side?

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Full Of Beans

After two days of Grandma's Nursery, Rosie and I seem to be surviving. She was so excited by having her own desk, and she loves putting the name of the day and the weather details on the chart each morning. Having activities listed on the Velcro strip is useful too. 
On Monday afternoon we did role play, using the Sylvanian stable and ponies which belonged to Liz when she was in Early Years. Rosie had not seen these before, they have been in the loft. She was delighted with them and started making up stories and scenarios, including a flying pony. I introduced her to the idea of Pegasus - and we found a story online. I had already intended Tuesday to be Shapes Day - but I modified my plans a little...
We used the six pieces of pony fencing to make shapes - and Rosie made the square, triangle and rectangle with no problem. We arranged them in a ring, and I was informed "It's not a proper circle, it's a hexagon Grandma" [that's me told, then]
One item I don't have with me is a ball of any sort. I thought I would make a bean bag or two, then decided Rosie could help me at the sewing machine.
Making a bean bag is a brilliant activity for discussing shapes.
Quick tutorial [I tried to draw an instruction sheet tutorial, but it was taking too long]
  1. Cut out a piece of fabric 11cm x 22cm. This is a rectangle
  2. Fold it in half to make a piece 11cm x 11cm. This is a square
  3. Put the folded edge to the left, and sew down the right side with a narrow seam. Still a square.
  4. Open up and flatten with the seam now running down the centre front. Still a square
  5. Sew a seam along the bottom edge to make a bag. Still a square
  6. Open the top of the bag, flatten the other way, so that the 1st seam is to the left edge. Sew a seam along the top, stopping halfway.
  7. Turn the bag inside out through the hole, pushing out the corners with blunt end of a pencil.
  8. Flatten the bag, it will be a sort of triangle shape.
  9. Fill the bag with uncooked dried beans, sweetcorn or rice. Sew the hole up tightly.
  10. You have a pyramid shaped beanbag
Rosie is holding our two beanbags in the bottom left picture. They are really good for throwing practice, they do not bounce wildly. We threw to one another and into a plastic bowl. I impressed Rosie by juggling two bags at once. No, I cannot juggle three, perhaps I should make a third beanbag, and use lockdown time to learn a new skill. On second thoughts, I will follow everyone's instructions to rest in the evenings.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Family Matters

There's two ways to read that
"Family Matters" meaning matters pertaining to the family, news of what is happening
"Family Matters" meaning the family is important, it matters.
When you saw the title, how did you read it?
It doesn't really matter - this post concerns both meanings.
First news - I have left Bob. We are both in agreement about this decision. No, don't panic, this isn't 'conscious uncoupling' or anything like that. I still love him more than I can ever say.
But on Sunday I drove back from Dorset up to Cornerstones. Like many of you reading this, I am now a single-person household.
Second bit of news - I'm in a 'bubble' with Rosie, Liz, and Jon. She cannot go back to Nursery yet, and they are busy WFH. So it makes sense for me to be here, just round the corner, so that Rosie can come to Grandma's Garden School every day.
Most of my working life has been involved in 'Supply Teaching' - stepping in to cover when the regular educational personnel cannot be there. I have done Early Years Training, my Preschool Learning Alliance Diploma, managed a Nursery, been an Under-Eights Advisor for a London Borough, and my DBS Certificate [Police Check] is all up to date. This is what I do - and love doing. We got back to Dorset on Wednesday and I was soon able to pack the car with craft materials, lesson plans, worksheets, educational games...
At the moment I have no idea how long I shall be here - but it seems to be working. Rosie is enjoying having a different person to talk to, and a day which is structured to occupy her in a more purposeful way. Liz and Jon can work undisturbed 
via Zoom, the phone and the internet. 
Bob is managing fine on his own - although Church members have suggested that when I return I may find a lathe in the lounge, a new motorbike in the garage, and more 'luxury' foods in the fridge. We shall see...
A wise friend reminded me that I am not as young as I used to be, and I need to plan in some proper down-time, for rest and relaxation away from this bouncy 4 year old. I've brought knitting, and sewing, and more jigsaws to occupy the evenings, and I plan early nights with good books too.
I believe that family does matter - and when there is a need, and you have the opportunity to help, then you should. I am really glad that the current easing of lockdown means this is all possible. 
[I have just discovered that the keyboard on the Cornerstones computer is unusual. @ and " are interchanged, and there appears to be no exclamation mark. I use them too often anyway, so that is probably a good thing]

Monday, 15 June 2020

Blanket Coverage

Back in our youth, we had various student sweatshirts [Warwick University, Westminster College, Queen's College Boat Club, Spurgeon's College - and also Fight World Poverty] In the 1990 I decided to turn these into a large picnic blanket. The sort you could spread out on the grass, or wrap round yourself if it was chilly... unlike many friends, I had not been a Girl Guide, so didn't have a Camp Blanket, bestrewn with badges.
I cut large squares from the garments, and backed it with an old sheet which Mum gave me - and interlined it with an ancient pink woollen blanket. The only thing I purchased for the project was some binding [from the wonderful MacCullough&Wallis shop**, just off Oxford Street]
Over 30 years later, it is looking really the worse for wear
There was a really big hole at the edge, and many of the seams were coming undone, and the fabric was fraying and rather worn.
When I made it, in a bit of a hurry, with two little girls at my feet, I did not quilt it. I just stitched through here and there to hold the three layers together. I decided it would be a good lock-down project to renovate this blanket. Ideal for Cornerstones, Rosie could sit on it in the garden. I found a huge reel of pale blue cotton tape in my stash, and decided to sew over all the seams, to cover the splits and holes.
With hindsight, I should have unpicked the handstitched binding, and completely dismantled the quilt, and worked on the top layer alone, and then re-assembled. But I didn't.
And during the stitching I discovered the inner layer had shrunk and ruckled up.The machine didn't like all those layers.
I ended up using multiple lines of stitching, and varying the decorative machine stitches, in a pseudo-sashiko sort of style [sashiko is a form of mending and re-inforcement developed in Japan] And at the edges, which were very thick, I handstitched the tape down.
I made a label to show when it had been made and mended - and used it to patch the Very Big Hole. The roman numerals were easy to stitch too! 
Made 1990, mended 2020. The blanket will live in Norfolk now.The mending is a great improvement, don't you think?

**M&W has kept going online during lockdown, and "a valiant effort from dedicated cycling staff" has enabled them to maintain London deliveries. They reopen on Monday with all the usual distancing measures in place. Once this is all over, I can recommend a browse round this wonderful shop - haberdashery, millinery, trimmings, it is a real treasure trove! Check out their website