Sunday 31 January 2021

Let Us Praise Him Together

The link for Sunday worship is here. We are continuing to look at the book of Acts. 

Thank you for the kind words from those who have recently starting following us - you are all very welcome.

Saturday 30 January 2021

It Is More Blessed To Give Than To Receive

This verse is in Acts chapter 20 - Paul is preaching to the Christians in Ephesus and he reminds them that Jesus said this. Certainly in Luke 6:38, Jesus talks about giving. I have been so challenged by this in recent days. 

It was an absolute joy to visit a local Early Years group. Muddy Monkies is very close to Kingston Lacy. They'd asked on Facebook for 'unwanted baskets'. I'd found a huge box of them in the loft - so I contacted them and discovered they really need craft materials [the Scrapstore is shut]

They're forest-based, and have an outdoors Piklar Triangle, a campfire, an outdoor kitchen,a composting toilet, a reading shed....all sorts of great stuff. Also a bell tent, and the children were having their post lunch rest when I arrived, so I was given the full, covid-safe guided tour. [I didn't like to ask about the name] 

There were a dozen grey Oasis blocks in the loft. I advertised them free on Facebook - and was contacted almost immediately. The young woman explained she works with a group of adults with learning disabilities, and they love arranging flowers. So when she arrived I offered her a large sheaf of silk flowers too, along with some reels of floristry ribbon. She was delighted

Bob has a superfluity of technical gear. He cleaned up a complete system, removing all the personal data, then asked on our church WhatsApp group if anyone needed one. A member contacted us straightaway - she'd just been in a conversation with someone whose nephew's teacher* currently delivers worksheets to the home, because this family do not have a computer at all. When our friend collected it, she said it was amazing to see how fast the prayer had been answered.

It is exactly 20 years since the artist Michael Landy produced a drawing called "Break Down"

This represents the Art Installation he set up in the deserted C&A building in Oxford Street, He catalogued all his possessions [7227 of them] then they were loaded onto a conveyor belt, and as they went round the items were stripped down to their component parts and destroyed.5.75 tonnes of 'rubbish' sent to landfill. 45,000 visitors came to watch over the course of the fortnight's activity. And I guess ML made a lot of money out of the project.

I was appalled then, and I am still horrified by such waste. It does take longer to post these things on line, and then careful planning to arrange safe collection. It might seem easier to shove the surplus stuffing to black bin bags and send them to landfill. But I cannot do that. 

*God bless all those teachers out there, preparing online classes, delivering classroom  lessons- and providing extra resources for those children whose families lack the resources to get their children fully equipped to meet the challenge of education in this difficult time.

Friday 29 January 2021

Lost Something, Professor Jones?

As packed and sealed boxes continue to be stacked in the back bedroom, I suspect that Harrison Ford has already been searching for something in there

Thursday 28 January 2021

If You Want To Get Ahead...

 ...Get A Hat!

We've had a lifetime of school productions, and Holiday Clubs, and belonging to organisations that required hats - and we both love wearing hats generally - whether to shade us from the sun or warm us in the cold. But to possess over forty is probably a little excessive now we approach retirement

Baseball caps, berets, felt hats, straw hats, wedding hats, fancy-dress hats, uniform hats, mob caps, and warm woolly hats...and my jester hat with bells

The three oldest; Mr B's banker's bowler [1940s]. My mum's summer hat [1960s] and Bob's mortar-board [1970s]

I have been ruthless- and put crushed wedding finery and moth eaten berets in the bin. A large number are going to a local pre-school group's dressing up box. 

The ones we still wear regularly - my Tilley hat, Bob's straw panama, a couple of baseball hats...these and a few others have packed into a proper hat box ready to travel. Two warm hats have been kept back as the weather is still rather cold and we might need them in the near future.

And now I have just remembered that when I dashed up to Cornerstones at the beginning of December, I hung up a whole row of Santa hats on the pegs in the Utility Room, and they are still there.

Wednesday 27 January 2021

The Man In The Moon


A strange nursery rhyme indeed - has anybody any idea what it is about? Pease-porridge [or pease pottage] is a thick savoury pudding, made with yellow split peas. often served with ham. Not a dish I have  ever cooked. But I do enjoy regular oat-based porridge - a hearty breakfast on a cold day. Our recipe is 1 cup oats, 1 cup water, 1 cup of milk and a pinch of salt. I know that each family has their own favourite method. Bob has promised that once he is retired, he will turn me a proper porridge spurtle on his lathe.

George likes porridge. At the moment, George likes most food - and cheerfully gives his Mum a High Five at mealtimes

I saw this rather attractive textured Sirdar Pattern and asked Steph what she thought. She liked it - "it looks like porridge"

I downloaded the pattern and knitted it up in some oatmeal coloured DK I had in my stash. The pattern is very simple - only 4 rows to remember [ A - knit, B - purl, C - k1p1, and D- p1,k1below] It does look quite porridge like!

I recently treated myself to a tin of knitting clips. They have proved very useful - holding work together safely. No risk of accidentally leaving a pin in the garment - or on the sofa where I sit to sew. 
I have just used them to hold fabric when sewing on the machine -- equally good results.
Porridge in his tummy, and on his jumper -George will be well equipped to face the cold weather in Manchester [or Norwich, when he next visits East Anglia]

Tuesday 26 January 2021

Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On...

 I will admit that I cannot stand Iggle-Piggle and In The Night Garden. And don't get me started on The Teletubbies.But over the summer, Rosie introduced me to two of her favourite CBeebies TV presenters - and I think she excellent taste.

Justin Fletcher - aka Mr Tumble - is brilliant. He engages the children, is a master of costume change, 
a wizard at Makaton  - and generally very gifted. He includes children of different ages and abilities in his show - and makes learning fun. Andy Day, presenter of Andy's Dinosaur Adventures is equally talented. Under his excellent tutelage, Rosie can now explain the differences between a triceratops and a pterodactyl. Our Dinosaur Day last summer certainly benefitted from some of his teaching materials.
And these two- plus a number of other TV presenters and well-respected actors [like Annette Badlands -oldies like me know her from many radio and TV roles, lately the Pathologist in Midsomer] got together a couple of years back to produce a play. With the help of the Royal Shakespeare Company, they did The Tempest - for children.
Rosie sat and watched it with her parents over the weekend. She thought Andy made a very good monster [Caliban] Mr Tumble, not surprisingly, was in truly well-cast as The Jester.
The filming was beautifully done on stage in Huddersfield, with an invited audience of parents and pre-schoolers.
It is a truly magical show - in the heady pre-lockdown age of 2018, the sight of the children laughing, singing and clapping together is heartwarming. And the cast [plus stage sets and costumes] are superb.
Rosie's a bit young for Mr Morpurgo's Tales as yet - but this is certainly something to get a child turned on to the Bard from early years [well done Liz and Jon]
If you have an hour to spare, enjoy this production. After Rosie saw it, I made a point of watching it - a glorious romp, as good as any Christmas Panto. Link to the whole production is HERE - or you can just watch the songs


Monday 25 January 2021

Bags, One For Me!


I kept reading about Stasher Bags - these eco friendly, easy-use silicone food savers. The website tells you how they are good for you, and for the planet - how every time you buy one, a some of the money goes to clean up the oceans...The blurb is pretty compelling. Very green credentials...

"Stasher bags are multi-purpose, easy to use, easy to seal and reusable. You can cook dinner in them, use them for kitchen storage and even fill them with cosmetics for your travels.

Key features:

  • Made from plastic-free platinum silicone
  • Easy clasp pinch-and-press airtight seal
  • Reusable and dishwasher safe, but hand washing is recommended
  • Freezer and microwave safe, and oven safe to 220°C
  • Ideal for sous vide cooking
  • Complies with FDA and European food-grade standards
  • Made from platinum silicone, they’re plastic-free and cause no harmful off-gassing when exposed to the sun, making food storage and cooking healthier.

Fold them over to expel air before sealing them with a pinch and a press to make them airtight. Poach fish in them, with added herbs for flavouring. They’re ideal for marinating meat in the fridge and then simply transfer for cooking without fuss. Add a little water to steam vegetables, retaining nutrients and flavour. You can put them in a saucepan of boiling water or use them in a sous vide machine to tenderise meat for tastier meals.

Stasher bags also keep food fresher for longer. Expel the air and place half an avocado with its seed in the fridge to keep until you’re ready to eat it the next day. Take a stasher bag on your travels, filling it with cosmetics and toiletries or pens and pencils to keep kids occupied. You can even write on the bags with dry-erase markers to label your food by date for the fridge or freezer."

Then I looked into the price - Lakeland sell the smallest 'snack size' one for £9.99. No way! I asked around among my 'green living' friends and couldn't find anyone who had tried them. Then in August, I found one reduced to £3.50 in John Lewis, Norwich. So I decided to treat myself, and see how I got on.

My conclusions

This is probably the wrong size bag for me. 

  1. Size: It is OK for snacks- but not of much use for anything else. Without the rigidity of a lock'n'lock, I thought fruit etc might get damaged if the bag was slung in a backpack.
  2. Versatility: I tried all the suggested uses....
  3. Storage: Slightly too small for a my chunk of cheese - so I trimmed the Cheddar. 
  4. Sous-vide: I cooked some frozen peas - dropping the bag in the saucepan in which I was boiling potatoes. They cooked fine- but it was hard to get them out!
  5. Oven: I baked a piece of salmon. Lovely and clean, fish kept moist - but the skin stuck to the side, and again, removal was difficult.
  6. Freezer: I put stored blueberries in it in the freezer - that worked well.
  7. Seal: I found the whole 'burping' and open/close procedure rather fiddly, so did Bob
  8. Cleaning: It washed OK in the dishwasher, but I had to leave it open to dry thoroughly.
  9. Family: I'm not sure a child [eg Rosie] would manage it very well in a lunchbox.
  10. Eco - yes, they are 'green', and ZeroWaste not single-use, and ethically sound
Maybe if I had bought a larger size I would feel differently - and I am glad to have tried them out. I have an adequate supply of good quality plastic foodstore boxes, and I think this is not something my kitchen needs. I don't do 'sous vide' cooking, but I can see that if you do, they'd be useful. And my 'rose quartz' bag [the only colour in the sale] looks strangely...surgical. The mint colour is more 'food friendly' imho.
Overall I would rate this product *** which is a shame, I hoped it would score more. 
Please do let me know if you are using these- and what your opinion is. 

Sunday 24 January 2021

Rise Up And Walk

The link for this morning's worship service is here. You have to watch it just to see the lovely children from Manchester singing!

Saturday 23 January 2021

Hiawatha Made Some Mittens ...

He killed the noble Mudjokivis.
Of the skin he made him mittens,
Made them with the fur side inside,
Made them with the skin side outside.
He, to get the warm side inside,
Put the inside skin side outside.
He, to get the cold side outside,
Put the warm side fur side inside.
That’s why he put the fur side inside,
Why he put the skin side outside,
Why he turned them inside outside.

This parody of Longfellow's poem was written in 1856 by Rev George A Strong, close friend of Phillips Brooks [who wrote "O Little Town of Bethlehem] I've been muttering it since Wednesday's Presidential Inauguration, when Bernie Sanders wore his Best Mittens. Poor old Bernie has been much parodied in the press this week for his choice of clothing [give it a break, guys. This chap is 79 - and as he says, he comes from Vermont, where they know how to dress properly when it gets cold] 

But these mittens were already famous in their own right. Sanders wore them to a Women's March in New Hampshire in January 2020. 

And these mittens have a great backstory. They were made by a Vermont teacher called Janet Ellis.
She makes lots of mittens- repurposing old sweaters, and lining them with fleece fabric made from recycled plastic milk bottles. 
In 2016, she made mittens as gifts for all the staff at her daughter's kindergarten. The principal is Bernie's DIL, so she popped in an extra pair for him [he used to be mayor of the town]
Janet calls her sweater-mittens swittens - and since the Rally a year ago, there has been increase in demand. On Wednesday evening, she had received 6000 emails asking about purchasing. 
She says she cannot possibly do that - just a few local sales are enough. And anyway, she has a teaching job to do. She encourages would-be buyers to check out Etsy instead.
But what a story! Home made, recycled mittens, elderly gent is able to keep his hands and fingers warm, a committed school teacher, love and kindness all round. 
Let's hope these things mark the characteristics of the new Presidency - care for the planet, care for the elderly, care for the children, care for one another...

Friday 22 January 2021

Best Be The Tie That Blinds!

 I'd hate anyone to think that I'm doing all this  decluttering alone. Admittedly I'm probably doing more than Bob right know - he has a full time, demanding job. But he's doing his share, as and when he can.

Like Wednesday night. After chairing a meeting on Zoom, including managing a complex voting procedure, we relaxed watching our recording of The Repair Shop [new series next month!] then I suggested drinking chocolate would be a good idea. He went upstairs to switch off his computer. He I followed with mugs of drink, got undressed and climbed into bed.

I was sitting up in bed, sipping my delicious nightcap when he came in, opened the wardrobe - and proceeded to sort out his tie rack. Which is why it was midnight before I settled to sleep.

Bob loves ties - in pre-pandemic days, he'd wear them frequently. In Advent he'd wear a different Christmassy tie at each different event. He has ties for Children's events, ties for funerals, ties for weddings, college ties... Over 80 of them! 

And now there are just 26. He said he will probably prune that even further. I kept a dozen because they are attractive fabric [but in the cold light of day, I realise they aren't that brilliant. 
The duplicates —one Christmas he received two matching "computer themed" ones. The ones bought for weddings, but never worn again, the redundant Boys' Brigade tie, joke ties, nasty thin slippery ties which don't knit properly, hideously patterned ones, and pale ones with prominent stains. 
The "unwearable" ones have gone in the bin, and 40+ are rolled up into boxes to go to a CS sometime. 
I don't think I'm very good at late night decluttering though. I'm much more determined, less sentimental first thing in the morning. But I am impressed with the cool efficiency with which Bob dealt with his overabundance of neckwear. 
Today's Trivia: the necktie was invented by the Croatians. During battles, the men tied a strip of cloth round the neck - to wipe the blood from their swords! From 'croat' we get the word 'cravat'. Perhaps the odd gravy stain isn't so bad after all. 

Thursday 21 January 2021

Rabbiting On

Around 6.45 each evening, we get a WhatsApp call from Rosie "Please can I have a bedtime story?" It is good for her to have a proper conversation with someone other than Mum and Dad- and she sits, bathed and pyjama-ed, waiting on her bed for the story. "You guys, I've made a stand for the phone with my Lego!" she announced brightly. This has helped, she's a bit of a fidget and I was getting a bit seasick when her screen was bobbing about so much.

We are currently working our way through the Beatrix Potter stories. Bob holds the book, whilst I tell the tale, and vice versa.

BP was one very gifted woman. At the start of the twentieth century, she was already an accomplished artist and scientific illustrator. She wrote a paper on the development of fungi spores- but women were not allowed to present papers, so a friend presented it for her. The work was never published- but to this day, her significant contribution to mycological research is acknowledged.

BP first drew and wrote about Peter Rabbit in 1901, and self-published, as Frederick Warne had turned her down. The 250 copies were so successful that Warne recanted, took her on board and agreed to publish all her little animal stories, provided she illustrated them in colour.

BP felt strongly about merchandising her work- and that all the items should be of the highest quality, and remain faithful to her illustrations. Peter Rabbit is the world's oldest licensed literary character. Here's an early plush toy - made by the German high-end toymakers, Steiff.

She also designed and marketed a Peter Rabbit Race Game. Romance blossomed between Miss Potter and her editor, Norman Warne. The family disapproved, he was 'in trade' - but despite them, the pair got engaged- and sadly Norman died a month later of leukaemia. Beatrix was devastated. She was thirty nine when this all happened. Poor woman!

But by now she was very wealthy from her books - she moved up to her beloved Lake District and purchased a lot of land, and  Hill Top Farm. William Heelis, the solicitor who assisted her in this proposed- they were married in 1912 and lived very happily for 30 years at the farm till her death in 1943.She purchased fifteen farms, and really committed herself to helping the local community. She bequeathed 4000 acres, plus Hill Top to the National Trust on her death - requesting the Farmhouse stay exactly as it was for her. Thousands of visitors see her home each year [well, apart from 2020!]

I confess that at the moment, we are modifying the words a bit. Some of the vocabulary is a little archaic for Rosie, and we cannot stop every two minutes to explain, she loses interest in the plot. I've realised that our two large format books, which have 8 stories in them do not include The Tailor Of Gloucester. That is definitely my favourite- its all about sewing! When the girls were at primary school, we took them up to the Tate Gallery [now 'Tate Britain'] for their special Christmas BP exhibition. They had all sorts of things on show- including, on loan from the V&A the actual waistcoat she had copied for her illustrations.

Rosie seems to like the stories- but has asked where Lily Bobtail is. How do you explain to a child that this character was added in a century later, by an American production company? That this is a 'based-on the stories of..' and not true to the original?

I wonder what BP would make of it? She was a shrewd businesswoman, and might like the marketing - but somehow I think she'd be a little disappointed by the slick animation and alterations to the tales...

You can watch these new stories here on CBeebies. Personally, I'd rather cuddle up, with a little pocket-sized book and read the original tales to Rosie [with Grandad Bob supplying all the sound effects]

Wednesday 20 January 2021

Losing Weight - One Way Or Another

Right now I am working through all the tins and dried goods in the pantry, to minimise the amount we have to move in April. I recognise that having been short of cash in earlier years, I've developed the habit of keeping the larder stocked. I like to think that I can produce a passable meal 'at the drop of a hat' if visitors arrive unexpectedly. Using Roger's Wholesale is wonderful, and saves a lot of money. The box of 12 crumble mixes which cost me about £2.50 turns any leftover fruit into a quick pud. They are just past their "best before" - but honestly you cannot tell the difference.

I did consider putting a bag together for the weekly church food collection - but that needs a long use by date - and  I could only manage a bag of pasta and a can of apricots, plus pilchards from my larder - everything else was too old to give away [I ended up buying things] 

So we are "eating up the cupboards" ourselves - and a lot of the stuff is carb rich, rib sticking, winter foods. Breadmaking is a lovely thing to do, as is cake making. We had a hamper of Betty's Foods as a Christmas present - delicious cookies, sweets, jams...and there's still a Panettone in the cupboard. It must be eaten, I cannot throw it away.

Result - I am TOO HEAVY. My weight now is the highest it has ever been, even when pregnant. I'm hovering at the 70kg mark -around 11 stone in 'old money'. Perhaps hovering is the wrong word - that implies graciously floating. 

I'm working hard at doing 10K+ steps a day - even if they keep telling me this is just a figured used in a promotional thing for the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, and hasn't really any relevance [and according to an 'expert' on Radio 4, women of my age only need to do 7K daily to maintain fitness] and I am trying to avoid between meal nibbles.
I've brought all the fabric down from the loft now. The remaining stuff was sorted - and very little kept. One bag was given to a lady who makes facemasks. These final two huge bags were given away yesterday.
So this means that in the past week I have actually disposed of 70kg of fabric- that's my own bodyweight ! Which feels good. The weight has gone from the joists if not my joints!

Tuesday 19 January 2021

Goodbye Katharine, And Thank You

Two  weeks ago, the death was announced of Katharine Whitehorn, journalist, writer, radio presenter at the age of 92. She'd been living with Alzheimer's for a while.

I think she was the first woman journalist of whom I was really aware. She began her trade at a time when women in Fleet Street were meant to write about fashion, or food, or parenthood. But she was wise and witty, and honest. Early in her career, she was sent off with the paper's photographer, who needed some shots of 'young women in London'. Katharine had to carry a suitcase through the station, sit forlornly on a park bench, and huddle by the gas fire, as her washing dried over a rack in a dingy bedsit.

And she was a journalist not a model -what a cheek! but KW subsequently carved a way for women to hold their own, and many of those who followed her say they owe their success her pioneering efforts. The first woman to have a column in The Observer, and the first female rector of a Scottish University.

She wrote a piece in 1963 "Sluts" which caused an uproar at the time. Dedicated to women who have ever changed their stocking in a taxi, fixed a hem with a safety pin, or taken something back out of the laundry basket, because it had become "relatively, the 'cleaner' thing". Life was too full to bother with the little details.

I came to love her writing - she understood that some of us just cannot do it. However hard I try, I cannot manage to look effortlessly stylish [if I start that way, my hairdo is ruined by the wind, tights mysteriously ladder, and there is always a spot of gleaming white toothpaste on my otherwise pristine navy top ] and I only have to enter a tidy room for things to slide off the coffee table, or the kitchen sink to inexplicably fill with washing up, and the carefully arrange vased of flowers to suddenly shed petals everywhere.

Katharine wrote cleverly - but usually kindly - of what she saw around her. She punctured the balloons of the pompous, and praised the efforts of hardworking people - recognising that being a working mother is really difficult. 

KW wrote about more than housekeeping, style and parenthood - she was warm, and wise and witty. And she genuinely cared about the way women [and men] were treated in the workplace, and the ridiculous expectations on them. 

Her books "Cooking in a Bedsitter" is very precious - Bob bought this book as a student, and one evening in 1978 cooked a meal for his relatively new girlfriend using her recipe "The Dish". Then he proposed. Reader, I married him.

[listen to a brilliant radio play written around this book here]

KW was incredibly proud of her left-leaning nonconformist heritage - her great-grandfather was the the last person to be charged with heresy by the Church of Scotland [later acquitted] her grandfather founded the Marriage Guidance Council [now "Relate"] and her father was a conscientious objector in WW1 - and her mother had secured a place to study at Cambridge. Katharine married Gavin Lyall [who wrote spy fiction] and they had 45 happy years together. Her poignant pieces about widowhood touched many hearts. In the 1960s, they moved into a house in Hampstead, where she remained till 2018. Here she brought up her two sons. She always worked at a beautiful Kai Kristiansen desk to write all her articles, It was an inspired purchase - now recognised as a classic mid-century Scandi piece.

When she went into care, and her boys sold the house, the desk went to auction. It raised over £2000 for the 'Dementia UK' charity. In the Bonhams Catalogue, her son wrote "Dementia is an awful affliction, but one which most of us will have to deal with in one way or another. If her desk can, in some small way, help in the struggle – not just for a cure, but for a decent life for those involved – then I'm sure my mother would thoroughly approve."

That seems so fitting - in many ways in her life, and in her writing, she was committed to  'helping in the struggle, working for a decent life for others'.

She revisited her 1963 piece ten years ago - here it is

Slut, slob, slattern – what's in a name?

I feel I have to defend the word "slut". There have been parades of women defending the right to be sluttish, meaning sexually so; but the word can mean several things. In the 60s, when women were supposed to be efficient and clean, with white collars, unladdered stockings and meals punctually on the table, I wrote an article defending us sluts: those of us whose collars were dirty, who left cups in the bedroom and shoes in the kitchen and took back clothes from the dirty linen basket because they had become, relatively, the cleaner thing. And Observer readers wrote in their droves saying: "Me, too" – one woman had found herself wiping the kitchen table with the kitten, another said she'd used the buttons off her husband's pyjamas for suspender buttons until he sewed them on again, and so forth. [We had to use "slob" for American consumption, because to them a slut meant not so much a woman whose knicker elastic let her down as one who let down her own knickers (always assuming she was wearing any)

But our meaning of slut – struggling slattern or mucker – is not to be taken from us. There are still plenty of us about, even if we've cleaned up a bit over the years.   [June 2011]

Monday 18 January 2021

I'm A Spice Girl!

Recently, I have been ginger spice. Last year, in the Christmas holidays, Rosie and I had great fun making some gingerbread people. We used some premade dough Liz had bought in London [from ScandiKitchen I think]

So in mid-December, when I saw Sainsburys had packs of gingerbread dough, I bought one, fully intending to make them again. But we never got up to Cornerstones. I forgot the pack of dough, at the back of the fridge- then I noticed it was approaching its end date. 

I fished out my cutters, and when the oven was still hot, from baking breakfast croissants, I made a batch of 'mug-biscuits', and some plain circles, The random shape is for  making ginger-biscuit-crumbs to use in desserts.

All ready for our after church zoom coffee meeting!

How she has grown since this time last year - she was really excited by the snow on Saturday. She likes the Letterland book I used to read with her Mum.

Sunday 17 January 2021

Is It Sunday Already?

Sometimes it is hard to remember which day it is, living in lockdown like this. I do find that it helps to make Sunday a different sort of day, taking time out to 'connect to God' - even I cannot gather in the same room as my Christian family. It keeps a rhythm to my week.  

This morning's service from UCF includes Communion - if you are joining us, a candle, a cup of wine, and a piece of bread would be useful to have ready [and if they are not available, use something else!] The link is here - and we are continuing our studies in the book of Acts - focusing on the gift of the holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.

Saturday 16 January 2021

Had I The Heaven's Embroidered Cloths...

...Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

I've loved that poem since my teens. Partly the whole "I being poor, have only my dreams" bit - which seemed wonderfully romantic to an impoverished student - but also the idea of these beautiful cloths of the heavens. I adore fabric shops - I'm not sure if Yeats, the poet, ever went into one - but if he had, he might have found them - deep blue and purple and black velvets of night, cerulean blue silks of midday, lapis lazuli taffetas  shot with gold and silver, shimmering in the summer heat, soft grey wool of autumn twilight. I can get quite carried away in a fabric shop - just drinking in the colours, feeling the textures, going all poetic, dreaming of what I could do with just half a metre of this one or that one? [I dream, but rarely buy!]

Is it any wonder that over the years I have acquired such a huge stash? Not that I have actually paid much for this stuff- generous people have given me pieces - other friends have downsized, and not wanting to send good fabric to landfill, passed it on to me. And if a garment is outgrown, or worn out, I have often saved just a remnant, it might be useful someday. And The Great Stash has been useful - for all those play costumes, Christmas Tree Projects, little bags for school activities...

On the spare beds at Cornerstones, I have my two Heritage Quilts - and I sat and talked with Rosie in the summer about all the fabrics - "Your Mummy's School Dress" "Grandad's Shirt" "Auntie Steph's Music Waistcoat" many memories pieced together.

But I can't take all my Stash into retirement. I got all the boxes from the loft, pruned them by about 50% and sorted the fabrics into different groups: 'proper' patchwork cottons and fat quarters, black and white fabrics, floral prints, large plain lengths, 'fancy and exotics' for costume making, etc. 

I posted in our local Facebook Sewing Group - and now the bags are labelled and lined up in the hall for people to collect

One lady is just learning to sew, and wants 'practice' fabric , another is into 'vintage' stuff, so snapped up the retro florals, a third is a patchwork fiend, and another wanted all the 'plains', one makes clothes for the children. 

And they all live within 5 miles of here. "but how can you bear to part with it?" they've said. Well, I have to - I do not have the space to keep it. All seemed so excited - a carrier bag full for just a couple of pounds. 

And I'm really happy to have shared the fabrics among this group of fellow stitchers. I no longer have all the embroidered cloths - but I still have my dreams, and I am richly blessed. [and for all that I like his poem, I still think WBYeats was a decidedly weird bloke]


Friday 15 January 2021

Bringing Their Tales Behind Them

Yesterday  Sue in Suffolk asked "How many Bibles does one person need?" and posted some pictures, including one of her Sunday School prize Bible from 1968. I went scurrying off to find one of my Sunday School prizes, from 1965. I remember particularly how I received this prize-we'd moved from County Durham to Norfolk just before the SS prizegiving. I said to Mum "Will I still get my prize?" and she assured me they would post it. Then I muttered that it might be yet another Bible, and Dad said, no - I was getting Lamb's Tales. I completely misunderstood - thought it was Bo-Peep and a book of Nursery Rhymes!

When the parcel arrived [what excitement - this was before we became blasé about regular Amazon drop-offs] I was intrigued by this small blue book with gold blocked lettering. 

I learned of Charles Lamb, and his sister, Mary who lived in London and wanted to rewrite Shakespeare's work in a way which interest younger readers. And this was in 1807 - 200 years after the Bard penned his words- and almost 160 years before I was born.
I loved my little book of "Lamb's Tales From Shakespeare" - twenty of the comedies and tragedies written in a relatively accessible style. When we were doing our Great Book Cull, I insisted this little gem was kept - you never know, I may read it to Rosie or George one day...

And in the odd serendipitous way these things work out, now I've just discovered somebody else has just written a re-telling of Shakespeare for children. My great hero Michael Morpurgo! The book will be published next year.

During these strange lockdown days, The Royal Shakespeare Company have combined with MM to do performances of five of the stories. Until NEXT Monday, 18th January, you can watch and listen to MM himself, telling Twelfth Night HERE for free. They're also making the showings available free to schools over the next 5 Fridays - and on sale to the public too. [RSC site] These include signing for the deaf too.

Do check it out. I am sure MM's language will be easier for today's young people - Charles and Mary were rather fond of 'hitherto' and some of their phrases now are rather antiquated. Even in the 1960s, I remember giggling at the line "he was rudely pressing her to marry him". MM has had some flak for omitting The Merchant of Venice from his list. He says he just chose his favourite 10 tales- and MofV was not among them. His defence is here, and I for one fully accept his reasoning.

I am a passionate advocate of story-telling. It is a great way to communicate and to educate, both children and adults. Bob and I both love our bedtime internet sessions with Rosie - as does she. And I think it is good to explain 'classic' stories in a simple way when they are younger - it lays a good foundation for their reading choices later. One of our girls was aged about 6 when she went to the hatch at lunchtime to ask politely if there was any more pudding. "More?! Who do you think you are, Oliver Twist?" said the teacher on duty. I am afraid that my child turned round and smiling sweetly retorted "Children my age are too young to read Charles Dickens, Miss!" [the teacher concerned told me afterwards they struggled not to chuckle, and the story went round the staffroom]

I am not aware of any Sunday Schools doing Scripture Exams or Bible Searching Competitions nowadays. But of course we still tell them the Bible Stories.

Do day schools still have annual prizegivings and award good books in these cash-strapped days? Or are the rewards now just photocopied 'well done' certificates and extra minutes in "Golden Time" on Friday afternoons?

Did you have a favourite book as a child?

People have me asked about Ziffit, the book buying company. I've found them extremely good, the website is easy to manage - and they will come and collect the parcel of books from you- no carrying to the post office etc. The website is HERE and if you use the code IYBRCFFMI you will get £5 extra on your first trade.

Thursday 14 January 2021

Going Off My Trolley

My Permitted Exercise on Monday was a walk into Ferndown, accompanied by my Trusty Molly Trolley. She is strong, useful, and has been around for ages, rather like her owner. She's also useful in a queue - I can hold her at an angle ensuring social distancing from the woman behind me.

As I plodded along, head down, I fund myself pondering on the important questions of the day- most of which involve the Grand Downsize and Declutter.

But my mind wandered as I saw the litter left along the grass verges. By the time I got home I'd almost completely lost the plot...

Take face masks. Loads  of them. And just near the M&S Foodhall [where you  usually find such a nice people!], I saw a rather nice, clearly handmade, triple layer jobbie. It was lying sideways on the verge. I cannot believe it was deliberately cast aside. 
But it looked just like half a bra cup. And I thought about my underwear drawer. I've gone over to easy, pull on crop top underwear this past year.  I have a stash of various pretty, lacy coloured bras from days gone by which I have retained. One day I might be a 34A again [who are you kidding, Ang?] Could I recycle these bras into face masks? after all, they do come with matching coloured elastic.**

Then as I trudged on, the wind blew my hair across my face. It is 10 months since I had a haircut, and coloured my hair. I'm 'embracing the grey'.  I just passed on an unopened box of dye to a friend. But I have got two half bottles of shampoo and conditioner in the bathroom called Pro-voke. Steph did some work for the company, and they gave her samples, she passed these on to me in 2019. I'd forgotten about them.
But I ran out of conditioner, and I'd used this [in the shower] on Monday morning. I am not sure my grey was blended at all - but I was aware of the brown lather running down from my head as I showered. Thought - if this is tinting my greys, will it also give me a fake tan? Why take two bottles into the shower...
I got home, and over lunch I shared with Bob my plans to start making lacy bra facemasks, and to market an all-in-one "hair dye, shower gel, self tan" product. His unprintable response has led me to reconsider these plans.
**It turns out that a Japanese company is already doing this. I don't think I shall bother. I must bag the 'gently used' bras up and send them here