Friday 30 September 2022


This is a special post on behalf of my friend
. I know many of you reading this will also be followers of ElizabethD [Barbara] at "Small Moments". She lives in Cornwall and for some years now has been primary carer for her husband. She messaged me this morning to say he is now reaching the end of his life. She is being supported by family and friends- but she has asked for your prayers.

Many of us have grown very fond of this wise and gracious lady - Bob and I were privileged to visit her and her dear husband in their home, two years ago. 

I don't want to say any more right now - just to pass on her request, at this sad time. Thank you. 

In Which Ang Becomes A Stripper

The latest Memory Bear has just been completed - this time with only three shirts, not the usual four. It is for the mother of a young man who died too soon - and lived mostly in teeshirts and jeans. So I used some denim to make the backpack. I always ask if the family would like any leftover fabric returned - they usually say "No, you can keep it"
So I have a bag of shirt bits in the loft. I got it down this week, and sorted and ironed everything. Buttons [and interesting labels] were removed and stored - and then I cut off cuffs and collars, and separated the pieces into fronts, backs, sleeves and yokes. 
I cut every piece into a rectangle, and put large trimmings into a rag bag for Bob's workshop, small pieces into the bin. I ironed all the rectangles, and got out my BigShot Die Cutter, and my fancy new dies.

The instructions say you can cut up to eight 
layers - and if you fold the fabric carefully, make strips 5 yards long!

However my strips are mostly around 24" long, which is the length of the die - and about the length of a shirt back. It did not take me very long to produce hundreds of neat strips 2½" wide.
I have another carrier bag of shirt bits to 'strip', and then I am going to start planning my quilt. I borrowed this book from the library for inspiration.
It is full of quilts made using Moda 'Jelly Roll' packs, but I want to create my quilt using Memory Bear Strips. Once I have all my strips, I shall play around with them, and see what ideas I come up with.
But Kirsten has just sent me a package- so the next instalment of The Postcard Project has to be done first.

Thursday 29 September 2022

Off The Beat, On The Box

There are fewer 'bobbies on the beat' these days. But there are still plenty of 'bobbies on the box'. I quite like Police/Crime Dramas on TV - British ones, 'Eurocrime' and shows from the USA. With the autumn setting in, and evenings growing darker, the TV schedules are adapting...
Perez [Dougie Henshall] has finally flown south from Shetland [in search of a new electric razor?] and left Tosh and Sandy to run the police station.
The ending felt a bit unsatisfactory - is his mate Duncan [Mark Bonnar] still in prison?
Ridley [Adrian Dunbar] has finished his blues number, shut the lid of the piano and shuffled away into the night. Is he embarking on travels with his wee donkey? 
I have yet to watch Bloodlands [with James Nesbitt] - I didn't see series 1, and so won't start on series 2. It has not had good reviews.Does anyone have any comments on this one?
I did watch Crossfire during an ironing marathon. Keeley Hawes was a policewoman in Line of Duty, and plays an ex copper in this one. Her spouse is Lee Ingleby [who was George Gently's sidekick for years] This one was rubbish - I ended up not really liking any of the characters [apart from one particularly thoughtful couple, who were less self-centred than all the others]  At least the ironing got done!

Ben Miller is back as Professor T [having stopped being a policeman in Death in Paradise, where he got stabbed to death] It's fun - almost as good as the original Belgian series. And Frances De La Tour continues to delight, at the ripe old age of 78, as she plays his eccentric mother.
A new series, which began on Sunday, I found really enjoyable, and thought provoking. It is set in St Andrews- a beautiful Scottish town where I have had two lovely holidays. 
And based on a book by Val McDermidd [whose crime novels are always well written] with the screen play developed by Emer Kenny [Bunty from 'Father Brown']
There are two more episodes to go, and Bob and I have been discussing whodunnit and why. KP is refreshingly 'normal' - none of the inner angst which besets too many TV cops. Lauren Lyle plays the title character in a totally believable way. I have not read Val D's KP series [yet] but I understand there have been significant changes for the TV show. Not least the decades when things happen. 
Did you watch any of these shows? How did you rate them? 
Bob is now talking about visiting Scotland for a holiday sometime. St Andrews, rather than Shetland, I suspect.

Wednesday 28 September 2022

To Die For?

One thing on my "retirement-to-do-list" was to make a quilt. There are loads of boxes of fabric in the loft, despite giving away more than my own body weight in stuff before the move. Earlier in the year we were in a CS in Norwich and Bob pointed out some boxes of Quilting Dies. "Are they any good to you?" he said. They were new and unopened 
They were for the Accuquilt system, and although two sets were for a 12" machine, I knew one box of shapes would work in my 6" Sissix Big Shot. 
I splashed out £10 on this set which would prepare shapes quickly and easily. The following day my dear friend Val and her husband visited us - they were on holiday in Norfolk. She told me she'd bought herself an Accuquilt cutter when she retired. It had a few dies, and the strip cutter was really useful. But she said the dies were so expensive!**
I was in Norwich again a couple of days later - they'd still got the two 12" sets, but had reduced them to half price, £20 each. They were soon sent off to Kent! "oh I'm so glad to get rid of them" said the Manager "they've hung about for months and I was going to bin them"
I was busy with memory bears, and grandchildren, and other stuff. Quilting plans postponed... Then in July our local wool and fabric shop in Dereham closed down. They had a pack of Sissix dies to cut 2.5“ strips, along with the cutting pads reduced to less than half price. Yippee! 
I borrowed lots of books from the library, and trawled the Net looking for ideas. I made two quilts in 2010 which are in the back bedroom, but I want to do something different this time. 
And my plans are starting to come together, watch this space...
**I've since discovered that the total cost of these three Accuquilt sets would be in excess of £700!

Tuesday 27 September 2022

I''m Spitting Horse Feathers

I am fuming. REALLY upset. Whilst the country is still getting its act together after the death of the Queen, the government is pushing through all sorts of measures to 'help the economy' which are so short-sighted, and will end up spoiling our countryside. Here's their poster about 'investment zones'
Paragraph 3 says "reforms to increase the speed of delivering development"
Which will be done through the "liberalised planning rules to release more land for housing and commercial development" mentioned in paragraph 2.
Let's look at a map
The green areas are the counties designated as 'investment zones' - yes #22 is Norfolk where I live [#12 is Dorset, #18 Kent and #14 Essex- all lovely counties where I have lived] But please note the purple and orange areas in these countries or along their coast. These are SACs and SPAs. 
And the official GovUk website will tell you that Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are protected and designated sites under the EC Habitats and Birds Directives. The Directives list habitat types and species that are considered to be most in need of conservation at a European level. An obligation for this is a programme of species and habitat monitoring across the site. 
Yet this government is planning to scrap these protections, and allow planners, builders, and big diggers tp plough up our countryside, destroy habitats and ruin the natural environment.
The RSPB have tweeted about this [and let's face it, they are the number one experts in tweeting and twitterfeed] “Make no mistake, we are angry. This government has today launched an attack on nature,” the RSPB tweeted. “As of today, from Cornwall to Cumbria, Norfolk to Nottingham, wildlife is facing one of the greatest threats it’s faced in decades.”

Beccy Speight, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Nature is already in trouble. Taken together, these announcements, combined with the rumoured watering down of the new land management schemes for farming, could be the final nail in its coffin...Our economy and our health depend on a thriving natural world.”
The Wildlife Trusts, and have joined the RSPB in criticising these plans. Craig Bennett, the trust’s chief executive, said environmental organisations were previously reassured over nature protections lost through Brexit, but now nature is in “catastrophe”. In a strongly worded tweet in support of the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts said: “Make no mistake – we are also incredibly angry. We stand with RSPB England in calling out the unprecedented attack on nature launched by UK government over the last few days. We’ll be challenging this together and asking for our supporters to stand with us....Farming reform was supposed to be the silver lining but now the government looks set to renege on that too...We need more nature.”
I have never belonged to the RSPB [to be honest, 6½ yr old Rosie can identify far more wild birds than I can] and thoughtlessly** considered the majority of its members to be middle aged men carrying fancy cameras with long lenses, chirpy children in anoraks with binoculars round their necks, or older women carrying folding stools and flasks of coffee to sustain them as they sat in the hides. All very pleasant, affable people who would not say 'boo' to a goose [in case it flew away and deserted the nest] but now these gentle nature lovers will be rising up in droves and spitting horse feathers [no birds injured in that activity] 
The National Trust is also critical of these plans [I do belong to the NT] 
As a Christian, I am called to be a good steward of Creation.  I want Rosie, George, Jess and Jacob to be able to enjoy this beautiful countryside as they grow up. 
Liz Truss is Member of Parliament for South West Norfolk - just along the A47 from here. If she ever deigns to visit her constituency, I may go and join the demo.

Monday 26 September 2022

"Pomp And Circumstance"

During the Period of National Mourning, many events were postponed or cancelled. Including The Last Night Of The Proms. So no Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March, no sea-songs, no Kanneh-Mason, no Harriet Walter, no flag waving or cheering...
But we got plenty of Pomp and Pageantry in the last fortnight didn't we? Nobody does the 'ceremonial' stuff quite as well as the Brits imho.
Many of the mourners were in sombre black, but the flags, the uniforms and the flowers were a riot of colour. Gold and jewels present everywhere - in the splendour of the crown, orb and sceptre on the top of the coffin, the bright sashes, the rainbow stripes of medal ribbons, the 'scrambled egg' braiding round shoulders, caps and cuffs.
I thought the BBC coverage was excellent [ok there was the occasional technical hitch, but given the miles of cabling, hundreds of microphones, and dozens of cameras, I thought they did Jolly Well]
One commentator said "We will each look back on this time, and have our own special memory, of something that stood out for us"
The last state funeral [not a ceremonial one] was for Sir Winston Churchill in January 1965. I was nine. We spent Saturday morning glued to our tiny monochrome TV set. 
I remember four things distinctly from that day
  1. Hearing the music "The Dead March in Saul" for the first time. Dad said it was by Handel, who wrote the Messiah
  2. Watching MV Havengore transport the coffin up the Thames- as there was an RAF flypast, and the cranes at the dockside dipped in respect
  3. Richard Dimbleby's solemn commentary in perfect English
  4. Going with Dad to join the long queue outside the chip shop afterwards - like many other families, we hadn't thought about preparing lunch!
What will I remember about Monday's ceremony?
Ten royal mourners behind the coffin, marching steadily for 1¼ miles. One of them a woman of 72 - and 5 of the men aged over 60. The oldest, Prince Richard of Gloucester aged 78. [further back were the Duke of Kent, 80, and Prince Michael of Kent, 86] 
That's a mighty long way to march when the eyes of the world are watching you. Especially when you are feeling the loss of someone you had known and loved all your life. And you are a pensioner yourself
Two BBC commentators in particular - the lovely Welsh lilt of Huw Edwards, and the rich Irish brogue of Fergal Keane. [Scots, English and other accents were available, but these two stood out for me]  They spoke wisely and well, and were not afraid to leave times of silence and reflection- no need to fill every second with pointless jabbering.
Those two little children - Prince George and Princess Charlotte. They behaved impeccably. [I recall my girls were a similar age when they attended my mother's funeral - obviously a much smaller affair, only a few hundred there - but it was still a significant event for them] 
The Queue - which we will no doubt talk about for years to come. 
But why did that woman go round seven times - and was she not therefore selfishly taking the place of six others who finally got to the front of the queue and were turned away? David Beckham humbly queuing with the 'ordinary' people, in honour of his Grandad. The initiative of the person who realised that no food could be taken into Westminster Hall, so arranged for all the confiscated, but unopened, packets of crisps, biscuits, and drinks to be redistributed to homeless and hungry Londoners. 
The rainbow over the city which summed it all up. 
"I trace the rainbow thru the rain, and feel the promise is not vain, that morn shall tearless be..."
One thing Fergal Keane said seemed so poignant that I stopped what I was doing and wrote down his words. The procession proceeded steadily at 75 paces per minute, guided by Lance Cpl Chris Diggle, on his horse Apollo. I'll always remember that FK described it as 
"The steady beat of the drum, the metronome of grief"

I refuse to be drawn into discussions about what Holly and Phillip were doing [they do not matter to me] 
Or why the Prime Minister read the Bible passage as if she did not understand the words [surely someone would have rehearsed it with her?]
Having queued for my Covid Booster on Friday, I did just wonder- couldn't they have saved a lot of time if everyone exiting the Lying In State Queue was offered their jab there and  then before they went home? That would have got around a quarter of a million inoculated!

What will you remember of the day, if anything?

Sunday 25 September 2022

Crown Jewels

My turn for the children's group this week. We are at the 'forgiveness' part of the Lord's Prayer. So I am reusing an idea I did 4 years ago in Dorset. We made crowns from paper plates. They said "wear forgiveness like a crown" and 
"be kind to one another" and they were decorated with button 'jewels'
With the Royal Funeral on Monday, it seems fitting to have a crown-themed craft. I found a free colouring picture online for the children too. We all need work hard at forgiveness - nobody is perfect, and it is important to acknowledge genuine repentance.
I am looking at that photo from 2018 and realising my hair is a completely different colour now. I had it cut on Friday, at the hairdressers in Dereham. "Have you been here before?" she said "August 24th 1979" I replied. "The day before my wedding!"

Saturday 24 September 2022

End Of Year Report [Part Two]

Continuing thoughts on my new hobby.
What are the lessons learned?
  • Constant vigilance is essential - unlike needlework or knitting, which you can leave in a basket for a month and return to later, a garden is an ongoing enterprise. After two weeks away in Manchester, I came back to lots of little jobs
  • Water butts are wonderful - I now have two - but even they were not enough in this year's very hot summer. 
  • Use nylon string, not jute, to delineate the sections in the bed- the latter rotted away too quickly.
  • Label everything carefully [sadly my "cut up yogurt pots plus Sharpie" failed, as they were not waterproof]
  • Is kale worth the bother?The crop failed, and Bob wasn't sure he wanted to eat it anyway.
  • Ditto peas - Cap'n Birdseye's and Lidl's own are both sweet and tasty. But the mice ate all mine before I had podded any. Pea shoots grown on the windowsill, however, make a good garnish for salads and soups.
  • I can now take cuttings from basil and grow my own [thank you Sue for that tip]
  • Lots of home grown veg have leaves which make great pesto
  • Relax, it was so much easier when I learned to treat gardening as a fun work-out, not as 'housekeeping in the open air'
  • It is all a learning curve - do not beat yourself up if something doesn't grow/gets eaten by wildlife/if your crop is less abundant than someone else's.
Best tip
 - do not be shy about asking established gardeners for advice. Most seem to love to share their wisdom, and are very encouraging. My two Almond SILs are top of the list for my thanks in this respect - but also the random woman in Hatfield who gave me an unexpected lesson in tomato blossom-end rot, my neighbour's daughter who pointed me towards good local plant suppliers and warned me off others, and the lovely lady on the help-desk at RHS Bridgwater last week who patiently answered many of my questions. 
Thank you to all of you!
Have I saved money through 'growing my own'?
That was the big question. I was quite surprised by the end of year accounts. I had a few 'ground rules'
  1. Money spent setting up the raised bed is "Hobby money" - one-off items of expenditure.
  2. Produce to be priced as the average organic equivalent.
Building the raised bed, and filling it with compost etc cost £140 [including metal labels for each row]
Other equipment - pots, small propagator, watering can, water butt, bean pyramid support, etc £75
Capital expenditure £215
Consumables - Seeds, plants and cuttings - £75
Value of veg grown to 20/9/22 £200+ [I have leeks, carrots, and still more salad to harvest from this year's sowings] 
£200 - 75 = £125
So it does look like I am saving around 60% of the cost if I grow veg from seed. £2.40 a week. Or to put it another way, the raised bed will pay for itself within a couple of years - especially as some seeds are saved each year so fewer packets to buy next time round.
Challenges for my second year include
  • mastering the art of good compost
  • growing some flowers as well as edible stuff
  • look again at the choice of veg for the raised bed
  • managing the windowsills better [Bob says they have all been over-run by plants!]
  • sowing seeds and thinning seedlings with less waste, more efficiency
  • improving my labelling

Friday 23 September 2022

End Of Year Report [Part One]

It seems amazing that I have been gardening for over a year now.  In September 21, I had a few rows of seedlings, growing lettuce, spinach and garlic - the rest of the rows covered with cardboard to deter weeds.
One year later, there is so much happening - leeks, carrots, various salad leaves, chard, beetroot, kohlrabi and turnips.
I have learned so much from Huw's book - but over the year have developed in confidence and realised I do not have to follow his instructions to the letter. 
When my kale crop failed completely, I decided to plant some carrots and some more lettuce leaves in rows 3 and 4 instead. The spuds worked so well, and eating my own fresh
new potatoes was a delight - so I have some buckets in the back garden with more plants, hopefully which will be ready around Christmas. 
The gift of a greenhouse [and the plants to go in it] from my SIL has made a huge difference to the selection of veg - tomatoes, peppers and even a couple of aubergines. The Subscription to Gardeners' World magazine from my other SIL provided lots of information and some free seeds too.
On my return from Manchester, I harvested the most ripe peppers, then sliced, blanched and froze them to enjoy in winter casseroles. 
I have kept diligent notes, writing up every week or two exactly what I have done, what worked, what failed, and the weight of my harvested veg. Plus the costings.
This has been a wonderful year in my garden!

Thursday 22 September 2022

Things My Children Have Taught Me This Summer

First - an update on Auntie Peggy. She was brighter than we'd expected. The change in meds clearly helped. It was good to see her and feel reassured. Thank you all for your concern
This is not a profound post in any way. Just a few observations about how childcare has changed in the last 40 years!
Safety gates - when Liz was a baby we lived in a flat and were very poor. Bob fitted plastic channels inside the door frames and we slid a piece of board in, to keep her in the room. One board, decorated with a Mickey Mouse poster fitted every doorway. "Don't put Mickey in!" was the bedtime lament. But it was effective, cheap and easy. 
In Manchester, there is a safety gate top and bottom of the stairs, and one at George's bedroom door. Every one is different! I had to remember which method to use as I went up and down stairs. 
And don't get me started on the different ways of folding buggies or fitting car seats! "No Grandad, that's not right!" says Rosie helpfully. Perhaps we need to pin up a copy of this poster 
It's not just us - we've seen others on Grands duty struggling in car parks to buckle up the child and get the buggy in the boot. 
But this summer I have picked up two very useful tips from my girls which I think are worth padding on. One you may use, the other I hope you never need. 
First - When you finish your day at the beach, and the tots' feet are all sandy, it takes forever to rinse and dry their toes. Liz taught me to put some baby powder on my hands and rub it over Rosie's feet. The sand and grit comes away easily, and socks slide back on, with no fuss. This tip works for grown up tootsies too! 

BTW, there has been much fuss in the USA about the safety of baby talc. Boots, like Johnson&Johnson now use a maize starch formula. I think the key thing is to avoid clouds of powder round the baby's face. And use a cream for nappy rash. 

Second tip - if you have children around, keep a jar of honey in the house. I knew that if a child swallows a tiny button battery, they need to get to hospital ASAP. Steph told me that you should feed the child 2tsps of honey every 10 minutes until you can get medical  treatment*. This helps reduce risk of serious injury and death. [*not suitable for babies under 12months]
As I said, I hope you never need to use this tip. But it is worth knowing and sharing. Too many children's toys rely on battery power imho, but that's a Rant for another day
My daughters are intelligent and resourceful young women. It is good that each generation can share wisdom with others. 

Wednesday 21 September 2022

Our Growing Family

Because Liz and family came up to Norfolk for the weekend, we have seen all the grandchildren twice in the past month. They all seem to be growing so fast - in that short interval we have noticed the difference.
  • Jacob is now awake and alert so much more of the time 
  • Jess is standing and getting around the room [eating lots too]
  • George's vocabulary has multiplied enormously
  • Rosie is just so much taller than she was in June
George's curls are growing back quickly following the haircut in August. He's a real cheeky chappie now.
We went to Cromer for a fish and chip lunch on Sunday. It was far too windy to consider going in the sea. As Ro looked across to the huge waves at Cromer pier, she really did remind me of Meryl Streep. If you've seen The French Lieutenant's Woman, you may remember the scene set at Lyme Regis, where MS stands on the windswept Cobb. 

Ro and Sarah - two feisty redheads braving the elements!
I am so grateful to God for all my wonderful family and the privilege of holding my grandchildren.

Tuesday 20 September 2022

The First Lady

I hesitate to review something which is not accessible to everyone - but I did want to comment on "The First Lady". This is a 10 part series, currently available on Amazon Paramount. 
Steph and Gary have AP, and she watched it recently and thought I'd enjoy it. I binge-watched it in 2 days [whilst cuddling a sleeping Jacob] The series tells the story of three women in the White House, 
at three very different times in American history. Eleanor Roosevelt [FLOTUS 1933—45] wife of Franklin, who served through the Great Depression and WW2, and died in office. 
Then Betty Ford [74-77] Her husband Gerald was Vice President, but was catapulted into the Oval Office when Richard Nixon resigned. Betty battled cancer and addiction, and sought to restore truth and integrity to the Presidency. 
Michelle Obama was wife of the first black president - like her husband Barack, she is a very intelligent lawyer, and they were in the White House 2009-2017.
Each episode shows a different aspect of 'being FLOTUS' [support through elections, health issues, the 'power behind the throne' etc] for each of the three women. 

Like "The Crown" there's a lot of imagined fictional dialogue as well as factual events. There is a stellar cast - Gillian Anderson is brilliant as Mrs R, with Kiefer Sutherland a believable FDR.  And Michelle Pfeiffer is a convincing Betty. I remember the Ford era, and the Obamas are still around - but it struck me as a good portrayal of all 3 couples [from my limited knowledge of USA history] You can see from these pictures of actor alongside POTUS/FLOTUS how hard they have worked at accuracy. If you have the opportunity, do check it out! 

Monday 19 September 2022

Monday Mourning


The Lying-in-State over, three quarters of a million people have filed past, and today the funeral at the Abbey where she was married and crowned.
Years ago, my cousin Gillian and I decided that when Her Majesty died, we'd go together and join the queues to pay respect. Our grandfather, who died before we were born, had worked in the kitchens at Buckingham Palace, and also worked at the Royal Mint, making the Maundy Money... But when the Queen died, I was in Manchester, and Gill was in Heaven. So I have just watched things on TV. My SIL was able to lay flowers at Sandringham last week. 
After watching the funeral, Bob and I will be travelling to London, and staying overnight with Liz and Co. On Tuesday we are visiting my Aunt [Gill's Mum] who is unwell. 
It has been a very strange fortnight - nationally we have exchanged one PM for another, and lost a Queen and gained a King. Personally I will have spent time with the very youngest and very oldest members of the family. And I will have travelled miles and slept in four different bedrooms!

Sunday 18 September 2022

Be Comforted

In the past week or so since the Queen's death, I've had conversations with three different people who have had family bereavements recently. They've all spoken of the difficulty of grieving for a personal loss when everyone around them seems to be upset because the Queen has died. "How can they understand my loss? My Mum/gran/partner/child has gone, the person I loved dearly, and spoke with every day... That is not the same as an old lady dying in Scotland - who did not know them, whom they'd never met..."
Last Sunday afternoon I sat in the garden with Steph and Gaz, Jacob slept in my arms, George was playing - and Gaz said "Do you realise that today is the anniversary of 9/11?" We'd all forgotten.
Collective recognition of a national loss - many people in a terrorist attack, or one sovereign who has been there for 70 years - this is important. But never let us forget the individuals who endure personal, ongoing loss. Their world has changed forever. They need our words of comfort and love.