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) https://youtu.be/T0hYzX4hv2A. 

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  

Sunday 14 June 2020

Bread, Wine, and Worship

The YouTube link for the morning worship from United Church Ferndown is here. It will include a brief communion service, so you may wish to have bread and wine [or similar ] on hand, so you can share in that with us too. Whoever, wherever you are, we invite you to be part of our worship.

Black Lives Matter

Last weekend, my friend Clare posted a prayer on her blog. Written by Dominique Gilliard, It comes from the website "Red Letter Christians"
It seemed a good one to share, as the protests go on, and the injustice remains.

May God bless you with holy anger at white supremacy, police brutality, and racial oppression, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from systemic racism, xenophobia, and anti-blackness, so that you may sacrificially reach out to them in love, learn how to stand in solidarity with them, and work alongside them to transform broken systems and structures.

May God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we really CAN make a difference in this world, so that we are able, with God’s grace, to help the Church do what others claim cannot be done: truly become an interconnected Body, where when one part suffers, every part suffers with it.

Saturday 13 June 2020

Bobbin' Along...

Had you heard of National Sewing Machine Day? Each year on June 13th, National Sewing Machine Day honours this brilliant invention that’s kept us in stitches in Europe for over 200 years. Before that, professional tailors and amateur needleworkers created clothing by hand, stitch by single stitch. The invention of the sewing machine brought about revolutionary change. Not only did it boost an entire industry, but it changed the way we viewed the garments we wore. But the development of the sewing machine took time. 

Skilled cabinet-maker and English inventor, Thomas Saint, received the first patent for a design of a sewing machine in 1790. His design was intended for leather and canvas. However, he never advertised it and no evidence of the design, other than his drawings, could be found. In 1874, William Newton Wilson found Saint’s drawings in the London Patent Office. With some minor adjustments, Wilson built a working model. The London Science Museum currently owns Wilson’s model. 

In 1804, Thomas Stone and James Henderson built a working machine, and in 1814, with help from the Austrian Government, Josef Madersperger put a machine into production. In 1830 Barthelemy Thimonnier, a Frenchman, patented a chainstitch machine. Walter Hunt did not invent  the first American lockstitch sewing machine until 1832. John Greenough patented the first machine in the United States in 1842. Elias Howe developed a machine in the 1840s which contained the three features common to most modern machines: a needle with the eye at the point, a shuttle thread underneath, and an automatic fabric feed. He couldn’t get this funded in the States, so sent his brother Amasa to London. He sold the idea to a corset maker called William Thomas. In 1851, another inventor, Isaac Singer, developed a sewing machine model that would endure. Singer is the man whose name is now recognised the world over…

For the next 100 years, it was the dream of many housewives to own their own machine, and make clothing for their families. My gran, taught me to sew and use a machine at home – then I had 2 years of dressmaking lessons at Grammar School.  I borrowed Mum’s machine until Bob bought me my own Frister Rossman when we returned from honeymoon. I've been sewing for more than five decades. But I realised in the 80s that fewer of my friends used sewing machines than before. Clothes were cheap – why spend money on fabric, and hours at the worktable – when you could easily pick up a new outfit on the way home from work? I am glad home sewing has had a revival – the great British Sewing Bee has picked up on that, and more and more people [both women and men] are stitching again. So let’s celebrate this useful product, in all its forms [regular, embroidery, quilters, overlockers…] It's National Sewing Machine Day

As Jean Luc Picard often says in Star Trek…make it sew!

Friday 12 June 2020

A Guest Post - From HuffPost

You may or may not know about HuffPost  - but last week, Steph was asked to contribute an article about her experience of pregnancy during a pandemic - it went online on Wednesday. There has already been a lot of positive response to her honesty as she tells her story.  I've asked her if I can share it as a Guest Post - and she was happy for me to do so. You can also read it online [with added audio clip] here . Thank you Steph for this post

I was heavily pregnant with my first baby, with an induction planned for a Friday in early May – several weeks into the lockdown. Everything seemed to go fine. There were precautions, of course, and people wearing PPE, but, initially, the main difference was that my husband had to wait in the car outside. The later stages of my pregnancy had been strange. I’d had my baby shower the weekend before lockdown, then a few weeks working from home. But the first three weeks of maternity leave were sitting around with nothing to do.

Going into the hospital alone that day was a little unnerving. I didn’t want to make decisions on my own or answer questions I didn’t know. We had the attitude of: talk about everything we could beforehand. After the induction, they sent me home and I had contractions all that evening – which got increasingly painful. Late that night, I rang up and was told to go back in. As I was in labour by now, my husband was allowed to come in with me.

We were in a birthing centre in the hospital, which was relaxing. The midwife looking after us had a mask on, but everything otherwise was normal. She told me they’d need to test me for coronavirus – this was routine – and I had a swab test. That bit was horrendous, especially while also having contractions. The labour was progressing quickly. I spent time in the pool, then moved to the couch. I remember someone calling the midwife out of the room at one point and I could hear muttering. I was exhausted and in pain. My midwife came back in: “I need to let you know you’ve tested positive for Covid-19,” she said.

I looked at my husband with fear. What did it mean? I had no symptoms, no idea how I’d got it. I’d not left the house for a month. I worried what it meant for my baby, but most of all, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. Was everyone judging me? Did they think I was irresponsible? I assumed they were thinking it was my fault, so I kept apologising. They said it was fine, to not worry about it. From then on, anyone who came into the room had to be fully in PPE.

But after the initial shock, I forgot about it because it was such a difficult labour, pushing for hours with nothing happening. That was the only issue on my mind. I was moved into the delivery suite – with the idea that they might need to use forceps. They had to get the room ready – which was complicated – and decide how to move me safely. It all took quite a while.

In the end, it wasn’t even a forceps delivery. I just kept pushing and pushing. It was awful. The baby pooed inside me quite a lot – he was barely conscious when he came out and my husband was traumatised. My son was immediately given checks, then placed on top of me. I’d laboured through the night, so we were introduced to each other at 7.34am on the Saturday morning.

I’d been so focused on getting him out, I’d forgotten about coronavirus. I became more conscious of it after he was born. They had to keep us in that room; they couldn’t risk moving us on to the ward near anyone else. For the next 12 hours, anyone who came in was in full PPE, and they couldn’t leave to get something once they were in with us. Everything took longer. And I felt guilty the whole time, like it was a massive inconvenience. My husband eventually went home to get some rest, while I stayed in with my son for 12 hours of monitoring. This finished at midnight and they were satisfied we could go home. I had to call my husband to wake him to come get me, not realising I’d be going home in the early hours.

Getting home was strange, as we hadn’t been given much information on what to do about my positive test. We stayed indoors and self-isolated, of course. My midwife phoned to check me in the days that followed, but no one came to see us until day seven. Those first few days were hard. I struggled a lot. When the midwife visited, she was fantastic. She made me feel comfortable and checked over my son. But I was still quite nervous in those first few weeks. I was scared to tell anyone I knew about my positive test. It was embarrassment more than anything. There was definitely a sense of shame.

We’re doing well now. I still think about what I missed out on in terms of support but while I could’ve done with more help, I cannot speak highly enough of our local services. The community midwives have been amazing, letting me ring up and ask questions – even though I felt bad harassing people. It wasn’t how I expected my birth to go, by all means, but I’m so happy we’re all safe.

My birth advice? Don’t be afraid to hassle anyone with questions. That’s what I’m realising. If you’re not sure who to call, call the hospital and they will be able to signpost you to someone else if that’s needed. Don’t panic. This is the reality. Oh, and take lots of photos!

Steph Brotherton, June 2020


Thursday 11 June 2020

The Seat Of Learning

In 1959, I was four years old. I could already read and write, and so my Grandad, a carpenter, made me a school desk. In 1986, when Liz was four, her Grandad [is my Dad] renovated it. My Mum insisted that he added safety straps to the lid, and rubber buttons to prevent trapped fingers. Why she did not worry about me in earlier years, I never found out.
Both Liz and Steph sat at this little desk. In 1996, a local primary school was throwing out some chairs. I sanded down and repainted most of them, as gifts for my young nieces. And added little tie-on cushion pads. But one chair remained in the loft.
As you can see, Liz left her mark on the desk!
Now it is waiting at Cornerstones, for the next four year old to come along and do her reading and writing there. I am truly grateful for being in a family which has always valued education, and encouraged us to learn.

Wednesday 10 June 2020

Ups And Downs

It's been a strange week of ups and downs. Familywise [is that a word?] lots of "ups". I cannot tell you the joy of seeing Steph and Gary, and meeting George on Friday, and then on Saturday to meet up with Liz, Jon and Rosie for the first time since Christmas. Rosie has had virtually no "live" conversations with anyone, apart from her parents, since early March. She was bursting with enthusiasm to tell us everything. 
Having spent Friday in Manchester, we then drove to Cornerstones. Lots of issues needed sorting here. The fallen fence panels we stacked in our brief February visit [intending to shift at Easter] had become home to a colony of mice. The weeds were rampant. And there was a dreadful smell of oil from the CH boiler [no gas in the village] We smashed the panels to much  smaller pieces and Bob took them to the tip. He mowed and strimmed and sprayed. Philip the boiler guy kindly came at short notice to fix the leak.
Four and a half days at Cornerstones was a real treat. The journey here was shorter than the trip to Manchester, so less tiring in one day. [and both shorter than that infamous trip to Durham] 
I actually had a helpful conversation about my journey beforehand, with someone from Dorset police. I feel so sorry for them at the moment, they have a difficult job at the best of times, and this is the worst of times. 
Both my daughters are coping well, and I was grateful to see them properly, not just on-screen. But concerned that like many other couples both busily WFH whilst managing a child, Liz and Jon looked very tired. A seven year old will be getting activities from school, is safe left in an adjacent room while Mum has a work  Zoom meeting. A four year old  needs a lot more adult input. Trying to meet all the demands of work and family has been exhausting for them [and loads of other parents] In three months Rosie is due to start school. A whole new world, in a classroom of unknown faces, and no proper opportunity to have the preschool preparation which her excellent nursery would normally provide... We are all concerned - for children, parents and education professionals.
A friend died at the weekend. In her fifties, with children - a hard working, caring woman, and wife of a Pastor on the point of moving to a new church. She contracted the virus, then there were complications... It is really sad. My heart aches for the family, and two church fellowships unexpectedly bereft.
And then alongside personal ups and downs, there are all the global repercussions from the killing of George Floyd. Sir Keir Starmer was right, that wretched statue in Bristol should have been toppled years ago. It was never really wanted from the beginning [helpful historical notes here
Yes I am a privileged white female and so I cannot truly empathise with BAME groups - but I can recognise and acknowledge injustice, and do what I can to fight against it, and stand up for the weak, the poor, and the marginalised. 99.9% of the time I believe in peaceful protest - but just occasionally I realise I support "considered" vandalism, which does not hurt people [or animals] I cherish a tiny fragment of the Berlin Wall which Steph brought back from Germany some years ago. I watched the TV pictures of people tearing down that monstrosity of evil, and I cheered and I wept. 
I do hope they fish the statue out of the water. That much bronze surely has a good scrap value. Sell the metal, melt him down and make something worthy, and use the money to do good.
Life has its ups and downs. Today we will shut up Cornerstones again, and drive down the motorway back to Dorset. And trust the Lord to guide us through the days ahead. 
Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come
Tis grace has brought us safe thus far
And grace will lead us home 
[John Newton, who wrote "Amazing Grace" had himself been a slave trader, but God turned his life around from evil to good] 

Tuesday 9 June 2020

Reading Within Tent

Thank you to my friend Jenny for the loan of this one. I had reserved it at the library back at the beginning of the year, but who knows when that will come through!
The Salt Path [pub 2018] is a true story - which is widely known, so I don't think this counts as a spoiler. Raynor Winn had enjoyed the sort of life people write novels about...she'd fallen in love in her teens, married her childhood sweetheart [named Moth - nobody ever explains that] 
They bought a dilapidated Welsh farmhouse, and over the years, they restored it, raised a family, and had an apparently idyllic existence. They worked very hard, but they were happy. Then everything went pear-shaped. Having invested all their savings in a project run by Moth's "friend" which went catastrophically wrong, after a protracted legal case, they lost absolutely everything. The farm was repossessed, they had nothing left. The final judgement came days after Moth was diagnosed with a terminal illness.
So Ray and Moth decided that in his remaining months, now with nowhere to live, they would buy a tent - and walk the South West Coastal Path.630 miles from Minehead in Somerset, round Land's End, and on to Poole in Dorset. The Salt Path is the story of that journey - back in 2013.
Like Libby Purvis in her 1988 book "One Summer's Grace" this story is about discovery - of the British coastline, of relationships, and of self. And the writing is equally readable. There are poignant passages, beautifully descriptive sections, and laugh-out-loud anecdotes.
I really enjoyed the descriptions of the people they met, and the way this resilient couple coped with the setbacks. There is much love and laughter here, in amongst the bittersweet moments, when pain overrides everything else. I wanted them to succeed in their adventure. Having had 3 summers touring on the motorbike with a tent and minimal luggage ourselves [and a smaller budget] I could relate to much of what they experienced.
One really challenging part was the way that other people reacted to them. They looked like a pair of scruffy, homeless tramps [which in a sense, they were] Far too many others assumed they were addicts, down-an-outs, deserving of nothing but contempt, because they were literally 'in the gutter' [picking up precious coins they had dropped] 
It doesn't do to be too forensic as you read it. I think there are parts where things may have been slightly adjusted to fit the narrative. I mean, surely, a woman of her age, packing for a long journey by the sea in summer, would remember a hat and some sanpro? And their diet, if it was exactly as described, seems extremely bizarre and unhealthy. Dates are very vague - and there is a hiatus in their walk, when a friend offers accommodation so they can be inside "over the winter". Nine months disappear into one chapter. 
They then return to complete the path - and to work out where their lives will take them next. I won't spoil it for you. But you may wish to read this link to her follow-up book, due out this autumn, if you want to find out more.
I would rate this book at least  *** still dithering a little about giving it more. Bob, and another bloke I spoke to, didn't get on with it at all. I hesitate to suggest it's a "woman's book". Maybe I should revisit it again when times are less strange
However, I would give Ray and Moth themselves *****++
Their determination, endurance, and wonderfully strong marriage are truly inspirational.