Friday 31 July 2020

Time Stands Still

Big Ben is sadly silent at the moment, as extensive restoration work is being done on the "Elizabeth Tower". I was thinking about this on Monday, as I watched Robert Powell playing Richard Hannay, in the 1978 film "The Thirty Nine Steps".The denouement of the film is Hannay hanging on the minute hand of the clock, attempting to prevent it reaching the quarter hour and triggering the bomb.Trying to make time stand still.

I had always wondered if that was an accurate image of the clockface, or if the size had been altered for cinematic effect. Powell was actually dangling from a model of the dial in Pinewood Studios. Then I came across this picture. 
These are four trained abseilers, cleaning the clockface as part of the current restoration project.You can see that the film set was pretty accurate! I should point out that Buchan's original novel does not end in this way, probably the
2008 film with Rupert Penry Jones is closer to the book. The staircase has extensive damage, and much repair work is going on during the project. And no - the steps are not in multiples of 39 - there are 
334 steps from ground level to belfry and a further 65 to the Ayrton Light. This lantern was installed at the very top of the tower in 1885 - at the request of Queen Victoria. It shines whenever the House is sitting-
Her Majesty was able to see this light from Buckingham Palace, and know her chaps in Government were hard at work! Currently the Lantern, very rusty and in a right mess, is away for repair, and there are four temporary lights, one at each corner.
What started as idle speculation about the accuracy of the dangling Hannay ended up with lots of interesting discoveries about the  ongoing conservation at the "Mother Of Parliaments" - mostly gleaned from the Parliament Website. The great Bell, Big Ben, is 161 years old, and was cast at the wonderful Whitechapel Foundry. And if you are a UK citizen, you can go on a free tour of the Elizabeth Tower [at least you could, before it was closed for the renovations] It is hoped that tours will resume, after lockdown and once the building work is finished. You have to apply to your MP [check out this page for updates] How have I reached the age of 65 without knowing this? Have you ever climbed these steps? [they are planning to install a lift in one of the ventilation shafts as part of the current works project]
"A man who is tired of London is tired of life" said Dr Johnson...


Thursday 30 July 2020

The Library Rocks!

Last week, a lovely thing appeared on my twitter feed. A Maths teacher in Hertfordshire [as I was in 1977] living in St Albans  [as Bob was when I met him] has been encouraging people to get back to the re-opened local library. She did this by painting the covers of books on stones, and hiding them. And they are fabulous...

Classic books, modern books, crime novels, comedy pieces

Some of them are books written by friends, others are books set in St Albans, and the collection is very varied.
The gifted artist [mother of two, Cub Scout leader, teacher, cook...] is Ella Dickson, and she has a passion for learning, and enabling others to learn.
I contacted Ella and asked if I could reproduce the pictures from her Twitter feed here, and she was happy for me to do so. [Thank you Ella]
Last year she was in the local paper- when she iced biscuits for her students to help them remember their maths formulae.  The year before, she painted the covers of children's books onto stones and hid them around the library.
I think Rosie would recognise some of these- 
I bet Ella's maths lessons are brilliant too! What a lovely idea, and what joy to find one of these treasures. Below is a YouTube clip from 2018 when her children's book rocks appeared. 
A good news story indeed...

Wednesday 29 July 2020

The Windows Are Closed!

I harvested the latest rhubarb crop at Cornerstones, and brought it back to Dorset. I made some Rhubarb Windows from Jenny&Heather's recipe. One tin to eat whilst still in Ferndown,. and one to go in the freezer, for our return from holiday.  I love this recipe, and sometimes add some chopped ginger pieces to it.[This time I didn't]. You make the sponge mix, spread it in the pan, and then lay the rhubarb on top. When cooked, you cut it up into 'windows'

Except I was really tired on Saturday evening, and totally engrossed in a radio play, and laid out the rhubarb before I put in the sponge mix. Too late did I realise my error. 
So all my windows are closed. It tastes just as good though, even if it isn't as appealing visually.
Custard, as well as charity, can cover a multitude of sins.[1 Peter 4 verse 8]

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Tomorrow Is Another Day

The death was announced on Sunday of Miss Olivia De Havilland, aged 104 - the last of the glamorous actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Her parents were English, her father a lawyer, whose family came originally from the Channel Islands. Her cousin Geoffrey was an aviation pioneer, designing the Mosquito fighter plane in wartime, and the Comet airliner in peacetime. 
Olivia was born in Tokyo, in 1917, a year later, sister Joan was born.
They Los Angeles as both girls suffered with bronchial conditions, and the parents felt the climate there would better suit them. But her father was notoriously unfaithful and deserted them, moving back to Japan and marrying his housekeeper. Her mother remarried Mr Fontaine, a shop owner.
Her mother Lilian, had been an actress and encouraged both girls to go on stage. She taught them drama and elocution. At 16, Olivia starred in a school production of Alice in Wonderland. She was 'spotted' and was cast as Hermia in Midsummer Night's Dream at the Hollywood Bowl. Warner Brothers signed her up. By this time, she was engaged in a lifetime feud with her sister [Joan Fontaine] who maintained that Mum always favoured the older sibling.Joan also pursued a successful film career [Including Hitchcock's Rebecca, and Suspicion]
In the 1930s she was in a string of light romantic films, including eight with Errol Flynn, with whom she had great on screen chemistry.She declined his proposal of marriage, however, pointing out that he already had a wife!
In 1939, she landed the role of Melanie Hamilton in Selznick's "Gone With the Wind" - and was nominated for a 'best supporting actress' Oscar. That award went to Hattie McDaniels, [The first African American Actress to win an Oscar] who had played "Mammy" - but Miss McD had to stay in a segregated part of the awards ceremony. In 1942, her sister won an Oscar- the rift between them grew. In 1946 and 1948, Olivia won two of her own.
Olivia was a feisty woman, and fought with Warner brothers over unfair contracts, taking them to court, and winning the case, although it cost her a lot of money, and initially other studios blacklisted her.But most actors admired her, and were grateful for the change in the law which resulted. Even Joan grudgingly admitted that "Hollywood owes her a great deal"
Olivia married [and divorced] twice, and had two children. She is pictured here as Melanie Hamilton in 1939, and as herself in her 90s. Her last screen role was narrating a film about Alzheimers in 2009. In 2017, the Queen awarded her for her service to acting, and at the age of 101.she became a Dame - the oldest woman ever to receive this honour, 
I've always enjoyed those slushy black and white romantic 1930s films- great when there is a pile of ironing to do. So I hope they decide to show a lot of the on TV in her memory [ the Talking Pictures Channel usually comes up with the goods]
RIP Olivia-  I have no idea what your character was like in reality- but for me you will always be the sweet, but strong,  Melanie, faithful to dear but fickle Ashley, and loyally supporting the devious Scarlett. 
There are a lot of difficult issues around GWTW - both the book, and the film, and I do agree that many of the attitudes portrayed are just racist and wrong  - but I think it is important to recognise the era in which it was set, and be grateful for the changes we have seen since- but go on fighting for more equality of opportunity - for all those who suffer discrimination.
[if you ask me which GWTW woman I preferred, Scarlett, Melanie or Mammy, I actually think that Belle Watling was the best of the lot of them]

Monday 27 July 2020

Making Whoopie!

On our last day of term, Rosie and I did some baking - we made Whoopie Pies* from this book. It's not the recipe I usually use, but I wanted Rosie to follow the clear instructions as set out in the book. 
It was great fun! I was a little short of milk so we borrowed half a cup from my neighbour. Later Rosie wrote a thank you note, and we took it round with a cake on a little doily. 
Alwyn was thrilled [and politely pointed out that I had coloured sprinkles in my hair] I've done an End Of Term WP Day before, with a SATS class of just four children.  

Liz and Jon collected Ro early, as I was attending the funeral of a neighbour. Everything was clean and tidy at Cornerstones, so I altered my plans - I got back from church, changed out of my dress and heels*, and drove back to Dorset. Halfway home I stopped at South Mimms Services and called Bob. He was both surprised and delighted. I spent Saturday doing... nothing - except enjoying being back home. 
* allegedly, Amish children opened their lunchbox and cried 'Whoopie!' when they saw the cakes
**it's nearly 5 months since I put on a pair of tights. It felt weird. 
Have you ever made Whoopie Pies?
When did you last wear tights and heels?

Sunday 26 July 2020

The Shield Of Faith

Sunday's Service link is  HERE This will be available from 7am Sunday morning, and lasts about 40 minutes. The preacher is Bob Almond, and other members of the church are taking part. Do join us! 

Saturday 25 July 2020

I Am Not Interested

For the last two weeks, my comments inbox has been receiving daily comments from Anonymous and Unknown. I suspect this is the same person, and automatically generated from the repetition of similar phrases.These comments aIl relate to historic blogposts, not recent ones, and they are amazingly crude.[has anyone else been bothered by comments like these?]
So, A&U, I would just like to remind you that I am an elderly grandmother, with short fat legs, poor eyesight, dodgy teeth and no sense of smell. I am definitely not your type, and I am very happily married. I doubt that even the youngest fittest female could manage some of the activities you are suggesting. I'm deleting the remarks as soon as they arrive.
Even if we were not under lockdown, I would want to completely socially distance from you. 
Forget 2 metres...

Just go away.

Friday 24 July 2020

End Of Term Report

Today is the last day of Grandma's Nursery School here at Cornerstones. I'm pleased to report that my pupil has made good progress - but now we are both tired of formal lessons and truly ready for our Summer Holidays, and time with all the family. 
Rosie has had a balanced curriculum - literacy and numeracy, art, music, science , PE and more. Each week we have had a correspondence lesson - preparing cards and letters for family members, then walking to the post box with them. 
Lunchtime [and sometimes breakfast and teatime] has been an opportunity to learn about food, food preparation and table manners. On our walks in the village we have had interesting conversations with friends and neighbours.

What a privilege to be able to spend six weeks with this wonderful little girl. It has been a learning experience - for both of us. 
She has a colourful folder of worksheets, artwork and photos to keep, to remind her of this strange pandemic season. 
I have a thousand glorious memories. 
Tomorrow morning I will be leaving my "Norfolk Family Bubble" and going back to Dorset, and Bob. 
Utterly exhausted, but with immense job satisfaction. 
Thank you to everyone who has posted such encouragement comments along the way. 
I am sure that Rosie will start "Big School" with enthusiasm and confidence in September. 

Thursday 23 July 2020

Reading The Signs

I collected Rosie yesterday, and we went on a school trip [OK, Grandma had to sort out something in IKEA, but I made sure it was an educational outing] As I carefully reversed the car, I said "It's Bin Day, I must be careful not to knock over the wheelie bins in the lane"
And Rosie said "Oh no, don't do that, the reindeer poo will all come out!"
"Is there reindeer poo in the bin, then?"
"Yes, there's a picture"
And I guess If a child sees this, and is told it is full of dog poo
Then when they see  a larger bin decorated with a reindeer, it is an obvious conclusion
After all, we do have quite a few deer here in Norfolk

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Colour Me Beautiful

Some of you may know about CMB - it started around 40 years ago, and initially the idea was that every woman could be categorised as Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter. If she wore clothes in shades from her seasonal palette, she'd always look stunning - bright and alert, never dull and washed out. The system has been refined over the years but you can still "have your colours done".  I knew quite a few folk in Leicester who'd had a consultation - with varied results. For some it gave them confidence when clothes shopping, others stuck rigidly to the "rules" - one became known as The Purple Lady.
I never had £60 to spare for such frivolity. And one's colouring changes with age anyway. 
But I do like colour, I love rainbows, I adore being in fabric shops surrounded by bolts of fabric in dozens of shades. I'm fascinated by Pantone's announcement each December of the "Colour if the Year" [2020 is Classic Blue"] And occasionally I find it relaxing to grab a handful of "pencil crayons" to colour something in.
I'm not terribly artistic, and  I don't produce beautiful journals like other bloggers. My friend Alison Yeates, a skilled Parchment Craft artist, does amazing colouring. But my output is sporadic and simple.
When I began this stint of Grandma's Nursery School with Rosie, Liz showed me some crayons she'd just bought online. I ordered my own set. I've been really pleased with them. They give a lovely depth of colour, and they are triangular in section. Comfortable to hold - and particularly good for developing pencil control in children. They're thicker than a standard pencil but come with their own pencil sharpener.
Rosie loves using them. They are Lyra Ferby crayons. Mine are a set of 12 basic colours - red, pink, peach, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, purple, brown, black and white. But other combinations and larger sets are available.
Rosie knew the order of the rainbow colours perfectly [well done, UCL nursery] These crayons are really satisfying to use. They cost more than a pack of crayons from Wilko or The Range. But the results are extremely good.  I would rather a child used these to colour than frustratingly thin poundshop crayons, or disappointing felt tip pens.
Have you discovered any good art/craft products during Lockdown? 

Tuesday 21 July 2020

When You're Smiling...

George has been steadily growing into a cheerful little chap - clearly excited to see Mum and Dad - even if they are taking more photos

Monday 20 July 2020

A Jurassic Lark

What fun we had on was Dinosaur Day.
I'd chalked dinosaur prints up the path - then inside the house I stuck a paper trail from the door to the lounge
tip-These were made from brown paper packaging from Jon's Amazon parcels. I made a very weak water and flour and stuck them down to the tiles and laminate the night before. Afterwards they lifted up very easily and I just mopped the floors clean with a Flash solution.
In the lounge was Dino's Cave
tip- I moved the coffee table onto its side against the door, and put my IKEA igloo in front. I draped it all in the roof fabric of that dead gazebo. Some huge rhubarb leaves added character.
A sign said Dino's Cave, Keep Out. I wasn't sure if Rosie would be anxious, so just inside the cave was a letter which expolained Dino the Dinosaur had gone to visit Tom T Rex for the day and she could play there safely. In fact she was quite excited and dived in without a moment's hesitation.
tip We did all sorts of dinosaur related activities - I found a set of movement cubes online which you threw like dice, and then did the instruction which was on top [Stomp Like a Stegosaurus etc] The weather waqs good so we ran round outside stimping and roaring for that one.
We learned a dinosaur action rhyme  and added our own verses. The twinkl website had free dinosaur counting sheets to print off. GlueDots had a good pattern for chomping clothes peg T-rexes
There's pages of stuff out there if you only look! Liz had picked up Andy's Amazing Adventures Magazine, which ties in with the BBCs Andy's Dinosaur Adventure programme. So we read the story, did some of the pages - writing, counting and colouring, and made the "Gizmo" using the template on the back cover.
tip - I joined three strips of lining paper into one big square [I actually sewed it on my machine, but I could have used sticky tape or glue]
Then after some practice 'dinosaur posing' Rosie lay down on the paper. I drew round her to make a Rosiesaurus. A tail, ferocious jaws and terrible hair were added. We painted this using potato stamps.
Finally we made a Jurassic Park scene. Rosie had brought her three small plastic dinosaurs from home, plus a plastic egg [and My Little Pony Unicorn!] and these creatures went into our park.
tip - I'd made up some playdough beforehand, we pushed this into the eggbox tray and then planted sprigs of rosemary and other twigs to make a forest, I had some very dried out 'commercial' playdough in a tub - dark brown because last year, all the bright colours were mixed together into a sludgy lump. I warmed this in the microwave and made a volcano, pushing a plastic bottle top into it to form a crater for the bicarb. 
We made a little Jurassic Park Scene, and stood playmobil figures round the outside to observe what happened.
I'd asked Rosie's Mum and Dad to arrive early, and Rosie put on a wonderful display of her activities - dancing and stomping and chomping - and getting them to join in. Then we went to the dining table and they were invited to sit down and watch the volcano erupting in Jurassic Park.  I was very generous with the bicarb so there was plenty of lava!
We had a fabulous day - but it did get rather muggy inside that Dinosaur Cave - maybe it is a good thing I have no sense of smell right now. 
I've added most of the links, in case anyone wants to do dino stuff with their littl'uns. It will save you time trawling round the Internet...
This was pretty thrifty day too - scrap paper footprints, flour and water paste and playdough, a cave made from stuff round the house and garage, leaves and twigs from the garden, potatoes, bicarb and vinegar from the kitchen, and a BBC magazine - plus the few dino models Rosie had already.  You really don't need to spend a lot of money to entertain and educate the children.

Sunday 19 July 2020

Stand Firm!

This morning's service from United Church Ferndown, continuing the series on "The Whole Armour of God" can be found here

Saturday 18 July 2020

Friday 17 July 2020

Classic Cardis

My friend has just had her baby. I am so thrilled for her, and her husband. I've enjoyed knitting this cardi - the pattern book was published in 1995. 
This is one of the pattern books from my late friend Brenda's collection. This design has three bands of different stitch work across the front. The sleeves were supposed be done in the same style- but it looked too fussy, so I stuck to simple stocking stitch. George looks a cool dude in the jacket I knitted in March [Another of Brenda's patterns

Thursday 16 July 2020

Things I Have Learned Recently

1 - Paw Patrol are on a roll - and Grandma now knows they are found on a channel called "NeckFlakes"*
2 - That our generous neighbours, for whom Rosie made a Thank You card are called "The Courgette Family"*
3 - That Sylvanian Families are still popular - and to replace the collection of creatures, settings, furnishings and miscellanea which Rosie has been playing with here, would cost well in excess of £300. 
4 - That neither Liz, Steph, nor Bob knew I'd kept so much SF stuff when we left London in1995, and it was hidden in a box in the loft in Leicester 
I relocated it to Norfolk when we moved to Dorset,
 just in case I ever had any grand- children...] 
I'd forgotten how many "extras" I'd made back in the 1980s. Fresh clothes for some characters, tiny paper carrier bags, with typed labels, for the baker's shop,  bags of "oats" and rugs for the pony, pillows and quilts for the beds. 
* I love the way children make up their own words/names for things. 
They are also very quick to come up with answers when things are not quite what they want. I asked Rosie if I could borrow a Meg and Mog book. [I wanted to plan a day of themed lessons] No, she told me, it might get damaged. "Just for one night, I'd be ever so careful with it." 
It would be like borrowing a library book, and I'd like to read it at bed time." I explained. 
"Well, Grandma, why don't you just ask Grandad Bob to read you a Katie Morag Story at bedtime then?"