Wednesday 30 September 2020

Spicing It Up

 I tidied up my herb and spice rack yesterday. A salutory experience 

Some stuff was way past its use by date. 2019 items I'll probably keep - but 2005 no way! Then there was the banana essence. I had a Margeurite Patten wartime recipe, for making "mock banana" from stewed parsnips. But I never did make it. And the label says "colouring may cause hyperactivity in children" That went in the bin too.

I've been building up my spice collection for years - and refilling jars from cheaper packets. So I have three different sizes/styles of Sainsbury's jars. I like the newest [fully recyclable] ones best with clearly labelled jar and lid. My alphabetical collection goes from Bay Leaves to Za'atar. Since discovering Yotam Ottolenghi I've acquired some fairly exotic stuff. I've bestrewn salads with crimson sumac, and sprinkled Ras Al Hanout in tagines. My dear Mum wouldn't recognise most of these. I was born the year after rationing ended. Mum's kitchen cabinet had very few spices; 

  • ready grated nutmeg for rice puddings
  • cloves for apple pies and crumbles
  • mixed spice for Christmas cakes and puds
  • ground ginger to sprinkle onto melon slices
  • caraway seeds for seed cake
  • mustard powder, made up for roast beef - a rare treat
And there was fresh mint from the garden for mint sauce or to go in the the new potatoes. 
And that was it! Pepper was a dusty white powder - never freshly ground from a peppermill. No curry powder [and rice was round, short grained, just for puddings] And saffron... despite living near the town of Saffron Walden, we knew nothing of this costly golden ingredient. How things have changed - the supermarkets stock dozens of herbs and spices sourced from all around the globe. 
But what's my favourite spice? I use smoked paprika a lot, and turmeric - but like Mum, I'm really fond of nutmeg. When I grate it over my rice puds, memories of Sunday lunches 60 years ago come flooding back.... 
What's your special spice? 

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Skins And Marrows Of Outrageous Fortune*

When I was a child, many gardeners grew marrows on their allotments. Huge great things, which were taken to the Church Flower And Produce Show, tape measures were produced, and prizes were awarded for the biggest, greenest specimens. Sometimes these generous growers would pass on a marrow or two to my Mum. But I hated eating them [one relation refused to eat them, on the grounds 'he didn't like the feel of them in his mouth'] The skins were tough and the flesh was watery and bland.

Then in the 1960s, someone realised that if you just grew small ones, perhaps half the length of a cucumber, they were much more pleasant to eat. Courgettes became popular on British dinner tables. [The Americans call them zucchini - Italian for little pumpkin - and have been enjoying them since the 1920s] As foreign travel became more popular, people started making ratatouille - that glorious slow cooked summer stew of courgettes, tomatoes, herbs and olive oil. And then someone discovered that if you had a spiralizer you could make courgetti - a low-carb alternative to pasta.

And these things do grow remarkably easily, I'm told. So all summer I have enjoyed outrageously good fortune, in that my gardening friends have shared their gluts of tomatoes and courgettes with me. I made ragus, I made ratatouille, we ate some, we froze some. [no courgetti, Bob is not keen]

But the final "courgette" I was given really was a marrow - a good 5" across and 12" long. I wanted to do something different. I came across a recipe for borani - a Turkish/Iranian dish which uses spinach, beetroot or marrow. Click HERE for Meera Sodha's recipe. [I halved the quantities for two of us] Hers on the left, mine on the right.

I think I spread my yogurt out too widely on the plate - it is not as photogenic as her dish. [ But she used thick  vegan non-dairy yogurt- mine was thinner home made regular stuff]. Bob found some yellow-stickered wraps for 15p in M&S and I quartered and toasted them to accompany our meal, rather than making my own naan bread. The meal was very tasty, and certainly made a change from ratatouille. I'll cook it again sometime

[*apologies to the bard for the awful pun]

Monday 28 September 2020

Commercial Break

I'm not always up to date with adverts. I tend to record things and zizz through the commercial breaks. However I have recently been watching something on UKTVPlay, and you don't get a choice about these things. If I am not outside filling the kettle, or nipping to the loo, I do watch the ads. But I am obviously showing my age -because some of them make absolutely no sense to me at all. Steph, who knows about such things, would probably tell me that is because these particular ads are not aimed at my age bracket. I suppose I start concentrating on Wiltshire Farm Foods, Stannah StairLifts, and Royal London Funeral Plans [the people in that all wear purple clothes]

But can anybody explain to me why that poor lady is carrying a donkey on her shoulders before she eats her Super Noodles?

And that Smirnoff one

It sounds to me just like the tune to the popular American Christmas Carol "O Holy Night"

And as for the WHO Peppa Pig Handwash advert - for a start, the little song only lasts 10 seconds - you would have to sing it four times to ensure WHO level cleanliness. It is all about "Wash your hands" - so why does Mrs Badger get them to say "Wash our hands". And with the scrubbly bubbly lather, you cannot check whether they are properly doing fronts, backs, fingers and wrists...

Bob said he thought my hand wash song was better [well, he would, wouldn't he?]
But I do like the new John Lewis Advert - having spent the summer with a bright little girl who frequently delighted in putting on a show for Mum and Dad when they collected her from Grandma's Nursery.

My foray into advertising is doing OK. The knitting machine was collected on Sunday afternoon, by a young woman collecting it on behalf of her auntie. "She had one years ago and now wishes she had still got it, she's been on the lookout for ages" She insisted on paying £5 above the asking price too. Satisfying result all round, methinks.

Sunday 27 September 2020

A Prayer For Our Times

I came across this prayer online and thought it was worth sharing. I found it attributed to five different authors, but I believe this is the lady who originally wrote it.

HERE is the link for the morning service, which should be available from 10.30 am. It will include communion. Praying the Livestream works this time - but it will be available later in the day too. We're only a couple of subscribers short of being eligible for an easier name. Thank you again to all who signed up last Sunday.


Saturday 26 September 2020

The Tooth, The Hole, Tooth, And Nothing But The Tooth

I have been finding the weirdest things as I continue my ruthless decluttering. Like the dental mould from when I had a new bridge made in 2011. It cost around £500 to replace the bridge I first had in Millennium year. "You may want to keep this, in case you have any problems, said my dentist in Leicester, handing me the plaster mould in a little bag labelled "Angela Almond"

So I kept it. It used to be in the first-aid cabinet - quite when or why I moved it into the "fancy china" cupboard, and hid it behind Bob's Travelling Communion Set, I have no idea.

I have thrown it away. Yes, I realise that the current bridge is now approaching 10 years old and so may give up soon. But it seems OK. And I am sure that the dentist will make a fresh mould next time I need a replacement. I have a [much delayed] dental appointment in three weeks' time. Hoping there will be some progress made on getting my new crown. I am still chewing on the right side of my mouth, so as not to damage the 'temporary' filling installed back in February. 

Old joke- Why is "Abide with me" the favourite hymn of the dental profession?

Because verse two has the line "Change and decay in all around I see"

Friday 25 September 2020

I Love Niblings

No, not nibblings - snacks are not good for me - but niblings. I love this word- if brothers and sisters are siblings,  then nephews and nieces should be niblings. I have 1 niece on my side of the family, and 3 nieces, one nephew on Bob's side. The two oldest Almond nieces are expecting babies before Christmas. We're past the autumnal equinox, and the weather has turned- and so I got my knitting needles out. I dug out the Sirdar Baby Book which I bought when Rosie was born. I have definitely had my money's worth with this magazine. 

Already I have done patterns G,H, J, K and L - now I have knitted a jumper in pattern F - a fairly simple stocking stitch piece, with a cable strip up the front and a modern roll collar neckline.
I did it using some Sirdar Snuggly from my stash, in a soft pastel green colour - and found two perfectly matched buttons in my jar. 
Apart from the front, where the cable pattern took a bit of concentration, the rest of the jumper was quick and easy to knit. Ideal for relaxing in front of the TV. I knitted the 6-12 month size.

On Tuesday I was in Christchurch and walked up to the woolshop. Sadly they have reduced their opening hours because of the pandemic, so I couldn't go in to browse. The corner window had a cute display of baby jumpers showing all the colours in one of their ranges- and the side window had some girls' cardis knitted in Stylecraft Regatta - a pretty random dye yarn, which comes in 6 colourways. I quite fancy knitting one of these. I shall have to price it up. 
I've put my knitting machine online this week. It's not been used since 2015, and there isn't room at Cornerstones. I'm asking £15 for the machine, plus table, 3 extra carriages, a linker, pattern books, and 4500gm of coned yarns. It will be interesting to see if it sells.
I suspect that I am not the only person who doesn't enjoy knitting in hot weather - it is definitely an "only when there's an R in the month" activity for me!

Thursday 24 September 2020

Malapropisms And Mondegreens

I treated myself to a New Book. I rarely do that. But I've made some money on Ziffit recently - and gained some bookshelf space. So I pre-ordered this one by Richard Osman. I do enjoy Pointless, and the banter between RO and Alexander Armstrong. 

It is a clever, funny book - about a group of friends living in "Coopers Chase" - an exclusive Retirement Village, who meet to discuss unsolved crimes, and then a Real One happens on their doorstep. They solve it, both helping and hindering the local police along the way.

Like Alan Bennett, Osman clearly has a good ear for dialogue. I imagine him [in the pre covid19 days when you could sit near enough to eavesdrop] listening to conversations in coffee shops and on buses. Picking up the unusual turns of phrase, the mispronunciations, malapropisms and mondegreens, which make you want to laugh out loud but you know you can't. 

I've spent most of my life around Old People, the majority of them delightful folk - when you're a Rev's wife, it goes with the territory. I can hear these pensioners saying these things ...and hate to admit it, but I am approaching the age when I shall probably be like them! 

Coopers Chase always wakes early...the first kettles whistle, morning joints creak into life. Nobody here is grabbing toast before an early train...Many years ago, everyody here would wake early because there was a lot to do and only so many hours in the day. Now they wake early because there is a lot to do, and only so many days left.

I am not giving away any of the plot - the book is clever, and we both really enjoyed it.The dust jacket describes it as "his first, and so far, best novel" - I am looking forward to the next one.

Wednesday 23 September 2020

The Kindness Of Strangers

"We seem to have had post very early today" said Bob, looking downstairs at something white on the doormat. There, tucked one inside the other, were four orders of service - from four weddings - 1979 [ours] 1987 [London friends] 1992 [Adrian and Marion] and 1996 [Leicester friends]

I can only assume that somehow these were tucked inside one of the books which was in the Yard Sale on Saturday - and the purchaser found and returned them. How incredibly kind! I cannot work out which book it would have been, and I was sure I had checked them all before they went into the box. Whoever you are, thank you! I must be more diligent

One thing I did find last week, tucked inside a book destined for departure,was an illuminated quote. It came from an "Ideals" magazine. In the late 1960s, an elderly friend in Norfolk used to get this on subscription from the USA. Glossy card covers, with heavy duty paper inside, each edition was packed with poems, short stories, artworks, beautiful photographs, 'homey' ideals and illuminated quotes. All very Norman Rockwell, Mom's Apple Pie, white picket fence America. This lady passed on her magazines to me every 6 months or so [they were themed- Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Mothers' Day, Spring Time etc] and I would cut out and save any items I really liked. Lots of the pictures and poems went into my home-made greetings cards. This is one of the few clippings I have left. Ideals magazine has been going over 75 years, and now only publishes twice a year. Here's the quote...very relevant to the current situation I think

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Love Bites

Proverbs 15:17 [trad version] says "Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith" - a more contemporary version says "Better a rusk shared in love than a slab of prime rib served in hate" 

Sunday was not a very relaxing day for Bob, disappointed by the failure of his attempt to livestream. He slept badly and woke late. He was not his usual cheery self on Monday morning, and we were both still in our pjs when the doorbell went at around 8.30am. There was Geoff, our dear friend from church, he was out walking the dog, and wanted to drop off a gift.

Geoff and family are South African, and he regularly bakes rusks. Whilst I was away over the summer, he gave some to Bob - and Bob adored them. Now SA rusks are nothing like the Farley's Rusks, those sweet, soft things fed to babies, and often eaten by their big sisters too [sorry, Adrian] These rusks have been around since 1690, also known by the  Afrikaans name beskuit, they arrived by way of the Dutch East India Company, as the ships stopped off on in the settlement on the Spice Route. [history lesson here!]

Geoff's rusks are utterly delicious, with healthy sunflower seeds, eggs, oats and more.These rusks are twice-baked [tweebak] and very similar to Italian Biscotti, so they keep incredibly well. They are the ideal dunk-in-your-mid-morning-coffee snack. 

Bake these on a day when you’re home for the long haul, as the second bake (when the rusks dry out) takes at least four hours. To this basic recipe, add seeds and nuts of your choice, coconut, more bran, dried fruit etc.

Ingredients [Yields 60 rusks]

  • 1 lb. butter, melted
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 lb. plain or bran-rich self-rising flour
  • 3 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups soft brown sugar
  • 1 ½ cups muesli
  • 1 cup oats
  • ½ cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup almond flakes
  • Generous pinch of salt


Preheat the oven to 175˚C. Grease two 9” by 12” oven roasting pans.

Let the melted butter cool down slightly, then add the buttermilk and eggs and beat together. Mix dry ingredients well and add the butter mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix well.

Scoop the mixture into the roasting pans. Press the dough into the pans evenly. With a knife, score the surface of the dough in each pan into 20 fingers.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. When cooled completely, cut into fingers (using the marked lines as a guide).

Arrange on baking sheets and dry out in the oven at 95 °C. Use a large spoon to prop the oven door open slightly. This allows the moisture to evaporate and will speed up the drying process. If dried this way, the rusks should take about four hours.

Store rusks in airtight containers.

Good biscuits are always a treat - but when they have been baked with love, and brought as a surprise gift to cheer you up, then they are extra special. We are so blessed to have thoughtful, loving friends like Geoff and his family.


Monday 21 September 2020

What A Weekend!

Saturday's Yard Sale went OK. I got rid of about 40% of my stuff, and after allowing for cost of hand sanistiser, and a small gift to church funds, I was left with around £40 [we celebrated with an M&S Chinese meal-in-a-box] 

I think around 35-40 people stopped by between 9 and 4, we chatted, and I ended up giving away stuff or charging rock bottom prices.

It was all about clearing the decks, not boosting the bank account. I had a Freebies Area by the pavement, and much of that went. I still don't understand why!

One lady picked up the big sweet jar full of corks, and said "Are these FREE?" I explained I had planned to use them for a Kids Club craft this summer, but we'd not run the club due to covid19. She said could she have them? I pointed out the other two containers [around 300 corks in all] and asked what she planned to do with them.

"I play Real Tennis, and all the balls have to be handmade - the centre core is a piece of cork" [you can read about this here] She explained that she played at Canford School - where there has been a Real Tennis Court for almost 500 years!  That was quite exciting, to think my corks would genuinely be recycled into something useful.

Someone else arrived - having been to the church car park thinking the sale was still happening there. She then rang her sister - who bought up loads of my surplus Pyrex. They left, then her parents arrived, having been for their flu jab. * of my customers were on their way back from flu jabs! [We have ours next Saturday]

"You'll never get rid of that chair - who is going to want one dining chair on its own" said Bob. I pointed out that we did, back in 2012. I put a "FREE" sign on it, and a chap from down the road said it was just what he needed for his bedroom. He carried it away very cheerfully - along with a huge box of disposable cutlery, and £7 worth of other goods. I'd brought the chair back from the spare bedroom at Cornerstones [but left the beautiful patchwork cushion behind - that is not going!]

"Oh I know who you are!" exclaimed one shopper "You're the lady who tells the brilliant stories in the little tent, every summer. You remember, dear, they were all so exciting" [teenage daughter looks totally baffled by this] I felt encouraged that my annual contribution to the Fete on the Field had been appreciated.

Dorian Gray [the picture from the attic] went, and so did my huge map of the Underground. All the cross stitch threads and surplus reels of machine cotton, the sewing kits and embroidery hoops [three ladies said they were busy making dreamcatchers]
But two perfectly good coffee makers, and a box of Dolce Gusto Pods remain. 

It was great fun, the weather held, and people behaved impeccably. We went to bed at 10, both exhausted and got up bright and early to do the Livestream. Bob wore his new shirt, and best suit [which has shrunk during lockdown] I wore a dress, heels and tights - and felt vaguely uncomfortable.

And when we got to church at 9.20, there was no internet!! After all that rehearsing, and rearranging, and hours of work. Nothing. Evie, one of the musicians, rang her husband Andy [a computer genius par excellence]. He and Bob worked out the problem - the router Had Just Died. So we put out an apology, saying we'd record the service to release later.

I kept wriggling, and tugging the neckline of my dress. Things were not right. We went home - and I discovered I'd put it on back to front [in my defence, it is a plain over-the-head shift, no zips or buttons] 

So the weekend had highs and lows, good bits, bad bits and laugh-out-loud stupid bits. But I must not complain - some people have had much worse to put up with [dear Bless, over in the USA had a minor earthquake to contend with]

Thank you to everybody who clicked the subscribe button on the UCF church site, that has really helped boost our numbers - even if the other technology let us down.


Sunday 20 September 2020


For the last six months, United Church Ferndown has posted a Sunday service on YouTube, usually available from 7am. But today we are attempting our first livestreamed service. Bob, members of the Worship Team, and the PA team will be in the chapel, and the service will go out at 10.30am. You can watch it live or you can access it later in the day. Click  to access the service using link in comments section below

It has been very strange this week to see Bob and the others working to set up the kit in the empty building, and having to remove most of the chairs, in anticipation of having a small, masked, non-singing congregation in place in a few weeks time

During Lent, we'd sorted out the Easter Banners - they are still hanging up, six months later! Marie, our cleaner, says the spiders have been incredibly busy in our absence too. 

I don't know when we will be back in "properly" but I do know that The Church is the people not the building. And as Bob said in his sermon last week, even if everything else changes, Jesus is the same. 

A SMALL REQUEST - if you feel able to, please would you follow the link to the UCF page and click 'subscribe'. This will not make Any difference to you, you won't get unsolicited messages or be on our list or anything like that BUT it will help us enormously. If we get enough clicks, we can then get a much simpler YouTube address which will make it easier for others to find and access us. Thankyou


Saturday 19 September 2020

Where Did It All Come From? Where Will It Go?

I said I would review my progress in Zero Waste Week [which ended last weekend]

My aim this year was to carefully consider what came into my house, and its eventual destination - and also to continue the Grand Declutter & Downsize, but to do it more mindfully.

I am aware that during lockdown, many of us have been having a clear out - you only have to see the queue of cars at the council tip, the people trying to deliver carrier bags of stuff to the CS, and the wheelie bins whose lids aren't properly closed when they are out on the path for the bin lorry...

But whilst I know I have Too Much Stuff, I really didn't want to divide it mindlessly between the bin lorry and the CS. So the winter coats have gone to a Bournemouth Charity who will pass them freely onto people in need [I expect they would have raised a few quid in a CS, but I'd rather they were of immediate help] Furthermore, I do not want to overload the CS with stuff they have to store but cannot sell. 

Some stuff is still usable, but maybe too bulky to go to a CS - and selling online is not always successful. Postal costs deter distant buyers, and local sites appear to be full of time wasters 

We had planned a Church Yard Sale, inviting members to come and have socially distanced tables in the Church Car Park. However the latest round of Lockdown Rules put paid to that. Unfortunately, I had already started assembling stuff behind the front door and in the hall, in preparation for this event.

Pictures, stationery items, china, bedlinen, ornaments, books,  a coffeemaker, surplus craft materials, glassware, more surplus craft materials, small items of furniture, even more surplus craft materials...

So I have decided that I will have my own Yard Sale in the front garden of The Manse. The posters state only 5 customers at a time, and please observe social distancing etc. And it will be going very cheaply. I shall even  have a freebies table at one end.

I am not expecting to raise a lot and I'll tithe the proceeds for church funds, as was my original plan. Let us I hope I can clear a lot of this stuff - then I will have to decide what to do with what remains...

I know that I do not want to continue to acquire stuff, and that many things which have been very useful in the past will no longer be needed in the days ahead...but I would rather let them go to someone who can make use of them than just put them in landfill. If something leaves my home, I would prefer it not to go to waste. Let's hope for a sunny day and lots of [distanced] punters

Friday 18 September 2020


"Do you like Terry Pratchett? Can I sell you any of his books?" said the extremely enthusiastic [bordering on desperate] chap in the Swanage charity shop. Bob politely declined, explaining he had all the TP books [and these will not be going to Ziffit any time soon, even if the rest of our library is decimated] We had a delightful day off on Tuesday - I insisted that Bob should get away from all things technical for a day. It does feel that preparing our church premises for 'livestreaming' is consuming his every waking moment lately.

Swanage was bright and sunny, and we sat on the wall by the sea, eating our fish and chips[ from the Fish Plaice] There were lots of people enjoying the sunshine, and I was very amused by the window display in another CS. Every charity shop appeared to be very aware of the need for precautions - hand sanitiser at the door, and someone counting customers in and out. The window display with this interesting DVD amused me. I don't know the film "Behind the Mask" - but you could have Mask of Zorro, Man In The Iron Mask, or Maskerade [Pratchett's from 2009, or the German 1934 comedy]

Someone in my Green Living Group sent through this chart - I thought it was very interesting - I shan't be standing indoors with a large crowd of people, singing anything, for a little while yet! [Click on the image for a larger view]

We finished our day out with a cuppa in the Garden Gate Tearooms in Wareham. The staff were very welcoming, my teacake was toasted perfectly, and Bob really enjoyed his cheese scone. He complimented the cook, and she said that she always puts a spoonful of curry powder into the scone dough, to bring out the flavour of the cheese. I had not heard of that idea before,had you?

Thursday 17 September 2020

Lick Your Lips In Lilliput

I blogged about Matteo Stucci, the young Italian pastry chef, last year. I've just discovered this delightful video clip of some of his work. [I Dolci di Guliver - Gulliver's Desserts] Just because I am trying to eat less cake does not mean that I cannot admire these glorious miniature works of art.

I particularly like these ones - a toy washing machine preparing the fruit for little tarts

A sewing machine stitching the chocolate ganache into the crepes
A cannoli pumping station
And a crane stacking the blocks of blondies and brownies

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean?

This book was on my list of 'stuff to read this autumn'. I don't know Fran Hill - but she's a close friend of a friend [and then I discovered we had yet another mutual friend on Facebook] Other blogfriends reviewed the book. And then a copy arrived unexpectedly in the post, a surprise gift from somebody else entirely....

It's the diary of a school year, written by an English teacher. She's mid-fifties, menopausal, and wonderfully human. Fran describes beautifully the complexities of juggling teaching, marking, home life, and church activities. 

The majority of my teaching has been in primary schools but I was working in secondary schools up until 1992, [and I have done loads of church youth work with 11-18s as well as some private tutoring] I recognise so many of the situations she describes so accurately...

The added stresses of impending Ofsted, the incessant paperwork, the lesson plans scrapped at the last minute because of Unforeseen Circumstances - and the way that colleagues rally round to support one another in the face of seemingly impossible demands from Senior Management Teams [SMUTS as she calls them]

But Fran also captures brilliantly the unexpected joy of a student suddenly understanding something, the question at the end of the lesson which reveals that they were listening after all, the thoughtful gesture from a friend in the staffroom at the end of a rubbish day which almost reduces you to tears, and the realisation that you will get through the rough moments, because your co-workers are helping in school, your faithful, loving spouse is picking up the slack at home, and in your feeble, doubting moments, someone out there is saying a quiet prayer for you.

There were some definite laugh-out-loud moments, some great jokes and witty puns. Fran is an English teacher herself, so she knows what she is writing about. Unfortunately I am not an English specialist, so couldn't follow a few of the literary references when it came to the newer stuff - but it didn't really matter. And I think even those who haven't spent their working life in the education sector will still appreciate this book.

This book has been published by SPCK, the largest Christian publishing house in the UK. But it is not at all 'preachy'. Yes she talks about going to church events - but that should not deter non Chritstians from reading it [after all, I read books where people attend football matches every Saturday, and I am in no way a sports fanatic] She also deals with honest doubts and difficult emotions, in a way which is quite believable. I think I'd have got on well with "Miss" if we'd met in the staffroom.

Definitely **** Here's a brief clip of Fran herself reading part of Chapter 1

Find out more about Fran, and order your own copy here

Tuesday 15 September 2020

If You Wish To Live And Thrive...

... let a spider run alive

This was one of my grandmother's saying, whenever a large arachnid crept across the floor, and I screamed in terror. She knew that house spiders eat flies and are our friends. I have learned to catch them under a glass, slide a piece of card underneath, and then carefully take them outside to run away to a neighbour's place! I usually ask Bob to perform this task for me. The other night I was on my own and a humungous beast scuttled across the floor. I kid you not, it covered the same area as one of Rosie's bath ducks.

I left her under the glass, and next morning released her outside

The Manse garden has been really blerssed with spiders' webs- in the early morning sun, they really catch the light and sparkle like diamond necklaces.

Some are just dense areas of mesh, like tulle

Others have a much more defined pattern structure. 

Humans have been making use of spider silk for millennia.  The ancient Greeks used cobwebs to stop wounds from bleeding and the Aborigines used silk as fishing. Silk was used as the crosshairs in guns until World War II.

The production of modern man-made super-fibres [eg Kevlar] involves processes which contribute to pollution.  The production of spider silk is completely environmentally friendly.  Made at ambient temperature and pressure , and drawn from water, it’s completely biodegradable.  If the production of spider silk ever becomes industrially viable, it could replace Kevlar and be used for things like bullet-proof clothing, ropes, nets, seat belts, parachutes, bandages, surgical thread, artificial tendons, supports for weak blood vessels.  But it is not straightforward.  Firstly spiders cannot be farmed like silkworms -  they are cannibals and will simply eat each other if in close proximity.  The silk produced is very fine so 400 spiders would be needed to produce only one square yard of cloth.  The silk also hardens when exposed to air which makes it difficult to work with.

In medieval times, it was considered a good thing to have cobwebs in your house - it implied that disease spreading flies were being caught and your property was more hygienic. Aren't these creatures amazing, to produce something so beautiful, strong, and useful?

Monday 14 September 2020

Dearly Departed Dame Diana

Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg, was born in Yorkshire in 1938 - and lived in India till she was right. Then she was sent back to Fulneck, the Moravian Boarding School outside Leeds [She hated it!] She trained at RADA alongside Glenda Jackson and Sian Phillips. And she was brilliant, imho. Wonderful on stage with the RSC, fantastic on TV - and stunning on the big screen. Do you remember any of these?

How I would have loved to seen her on stage at Stratford. I first became aware of her when I was about 11, as Emma Peel ['M' Appeal = Man Appeal, in case you hadn't spotted it] I so admired the leathers, the hairdo, the motorbike - and the quick wit and the feisty attitude. She became the only Bond Girl to marry him - and Lazenby was the weakest of all the 007s in my book. 

Mrs Bradley, with Neil [DCI Barnaby] Dudgeon had crazy plots and wilder costumes. I never watched GofT so cannot comment - but it was so good to see her only last week being Mrs Pumphrey, with Tricky Woo, in All Creatures.

Did you know that when she was playing opposite Patrick McNee in the Avengers, she earned £90 a week - but discovered the [male] cameraman got £120. She made a fuss, and they doubled it to £180! Sadly a lot of people ostracised her for her feminist attitude. She was fighting the Gender Pay Gap 50 years ago!

But then she returned to the RSC for just £70 a week - "Playing in the Avengers is a commercial thing - appearing in Shakespeare means more than money"She contributed so much to theatre,TV and cinema - her daughter Rachael Stirling is also an accomplished actor. In interviews Diana always appeared to have a great sense of humour and zest for life - and a good solid Yorkshire commonsense and a strong faith. 

RIP Mrs Peel - thank you 

[btw, I did get the leathers, hairdo and bike in the end - but I had to wait four decades]

Sunday 13 September 2020

Breaking The Bread...

The link for morning worship from UCF is HERE. This will include communion, so you may wish to have bread and wine (or similar) ready, so you can share this with us.  

Saturday 12 September 2020

Fat Reducing Exercise

No, not regarding my waist - but rather my waste. This is Zero Waste Week - and this year, I have been looking much more carefully at how I dispose of my waste, rather than the reduction aspect. After all, a truly ZW lifestyle is a long way off for most of us. I accept that there is inevitably some stuff to be disposed of each week. But how can I be more responsible about that?

Behold- the GunkPot. I sent off for this freebie from my local water authority. Find out more details here. The idea is that you collect gunk**, fat and grease from your cooking into this pot, then scrape it into your foodwaste bin. So much better than pouring it down the sink - where it will congeal forming ugly fatbergs in the sewers, or perhaps blocking your pipes. This little pot aims to help you, help the water industry and help the planet...

The info says "Save Money - Avoid the cost of an estimated 50% of sewer blockages by storing fat until cool enough to go in the bin, rather than pouring it down the sink. Start using your GunkPot today! Functional - It's easy to assume that the warm grease left in a pan after frying bacon or your Sunday roast would be ok to put down the sink and that if you wash it down with hot soapy water it will be fine. The reality is that the fat and grease will quickly cool and solidify, over time building up and blocking the drain or sewer. Using the GunkPot is simple and easy, simply store the fat until cooled and dispose in the waste. Easy to Use - When ready simply ensure all fats, oils and grease have cooled to room temperature before carefully pouring into the GunkPot"

The pot collapses for storage, and its efficient lid twists on and off easily.The package arrived with full instructions plus a useful silicone scraper and a bits-collector for the plughole. In the two weeks since it arrived, I have to say that the most useful part has been the plughole strainer! I have not actually had any cooking where there has been spare fat to scrape away [We've been eating far fewer fried foods recently - Bob is already aware of waist reduction] I know I could use an old margarine tub but this pot is compact, and once emptied, can be easily wiped and washed. 

In other news, a bag of winter coats, jumpers, scarves and unworn socks have gone to the homeless and needy families of Bournemouth, and some surplus crafting materials have gone to a friend who's making items for a charity fundraiser. I'll say more about my ZWW results next week.

** Gunk was originally a brand name, for a degreasing agent marketed in the US in the 1930s - but it became a popular term in the 1950s for the goo, grease, oils and fats which it removed . You can still buy Gunk today

Friday 11 September 2020

The Young Ones

Find a good character, and make what TV series you can from them...and when the plots seem exhausted, go back to their youth, and make the 'prequels'. Especially it is good to demonstrate that detectives were solving mysteries from their earliest days [my teddy bear is missing! whodunnit?]

In 1982, a fresh faced Guy Henry played Young Sherlock, in an 8 episode TV series [Guy has gone on to much greater things now] There have been other Young Sherlock films since. Basically an adolescent with a deerstalker.

In 2012, we discovered the early career of grumpy but gifted Morse, when Shaun Evans popped up to play Endeavour. I'd watch anything with Roger Allam in it, I just love his voice.

 It looks like Endeavour series 8 will happen late in 2021 [filming has been delayed due to covid19]  It is set in 1971. 

Prime Suspect 1973 - the clue is in the name - shows the beginnings of Jane Tennison's police career. In 2016 Stefanie Martini played the role made famous by Helen Mirren.

Having loved Luca Zingaretti's portrayal of Inspector Montalbano [our daughters sent us to Sicily in 2016 to celebrate our 60th birthdays] we greatly enjoyed Young Montalbano with the slightly more hirsute Michele Riondino title role.[great casting of the other members of his team too]

All of which brings us to the latest 'prequel' - Henning Mankell's lumbering, slow moving, but quick witted Swedish detective, Kurt Wallander appeared on our screens last week as Young Wallander.

Now there are problems here - Firstly, it's a bit like Poirot, or James Bond - when a number of actors have played a role, people have favourites. KW was Krister Henriksson, then Rolf Lassgard, then our own Kenneth Branagh did it in English. [Personally I like RL best] So depending on your preferred 'old' Kurt, you may or may not think the 'young' one [Adam Paisson] does him justice. But I thought he was excellent, and greatly enjoyed this series.

Problem 2 is that this is a British production - so like the new Van Der Valk, the cast are almost all Brits, with recognisable accents [Adam is Swedish though] But that's no great problem. [subtitles are tiring]

Problem 3 - this is the odd thing- the Wallander books were set in the nineties/noughties in the town of Ystad. So you'd expect this 'prequel' to be another 1970s retro production. Instead it is bang up to date contemporary in Malmo. I think you just have to forget this Kurt is going to grow up to be the other Kurt [whether KH, RL or KB] 

All of which led us to an interesting conversation over our meal the other night. My perfect Poirot is, of course, David Suchet. But if they did a Young Poirot given Ms Christie's vagueness about his age [birth between 1854& 1873] - as a young man, Hercule would be in Belgium at the time of King Leopold II [not a very nice chap imho] I think it would be hard to produce a convincing series - and who would play him? [Daniel Radcliffe is young, and only 5'4" tall] And as for a Young Jane Marple? The character first appeared, described as old, in 1927 - but Joan Hickson's TV series was set in the 1950s. So I imagine her to be in her 20s during WWI and inconveniently losing her true love in the Great War. Here's Clare Bradley, latest winner of the Great British Sewing Bee.

 Whilst I do not ever want her to give up her vital frontline role with the NHS and become an actor, I can just imagine her playing a younger Jane Marple  in the early 1930, feisty and intelligent - solving mysteries and generally being a wonderful friend to all, can't you?