Tuesday 28 February 2023

Come Back Mrs Pankhurst!


Apologies to overseas readers- this post is for those of us who live in Britain.

Just a quick question - are you entitled to vote in public elections? Are you sure? ...
The Government has introduced a law which says that when you go to the Polling Station now, for local or general elections, you must have voter ID with you or you will not be allowed to place your vote.
The Government claims this is to prevent electoral fraud. 
Between 2010 and 2018 there were only two convictions for fraud. At the 2019 elections there were only 33 allegations of fraud - not all convicted. Our electoral system is one of the safest around. The Electoral Reform Society has calculated that this law will cost around £180,000,000 per decade - and says the Government is using [a very expensive] sledgehammer to crack a nut.
Just over 4% of voters do not have photo idea [around 2.1 million people] Since January, these people have been able to apply for a free voter authority certificate. But fewer than 21,000 have applied - I suspect the rest are not even aware of the issue.[Details here
What counts as acceptable ID? A current [photo] driving licence, passport or OAP bus card does.I'm OK then, I have two of those items.
But you cannot use a student ID card or young person's travel card.
Or a photo ID card where the photo does not accurately  reflect your appearance
It is hard not to feel that this Tory Government is deliberately disenfranchising groups who are less likely to vote Conservative. There is genuine anger in certain quarters that the right to vote will be denied many people.
Charities have warned that particular groups are more likely to be disenfranchised: just 53% of black Britons hold a driving licence, compared with 76% of white Britons, and Mencap has highlighted that people with a learning disability are less likely to have a passport. The RNIB, Royal National Institute of Blind People, noted the lack of driving licences amongst blind and partially sighted people and Stonewall say that trans and non-binary people may have been particularly vulnerable as the photo on their official ID may not reflect their gender identity. Civil rights group Liberty has also highlighted that younger people – less likely to vote Conservative – are much less likely to have a valid form of photo ID. This is particularly true given that the government has allowed more forms of photo ID that are relevant for older groups than for young people – for example, concessionary transport passes will be accepted, but not youth travel photocards or University IDs.
I can think of someone I know who is in her early 60s on a limited income. She does not drive or have a passport- and is too young for her OAP pass.
My elderly neighbour has no passport, her driving licence has expired, and limited mobility means she never uses a bus.
And another who is a student, who does not yet drive [many living in London rely on travelcards and have no need of cars] and cannot afford to go abroad so has no passport.

Were you aware of this change in the law? Will it affect you, or somebody you know?
How will you feel if you arrive at the next election and realise you are not able to cast your vote? Or if you actually do get round to applying for the certificate, and there is a backlog of requests, so you don't get your proof of ID in time for Polling Day?

Bob gave me a set of suffragette pin badges a few years back. I shall be wearing them quite a lot over coming weeks!

Monday 27 February 2023

Bowls In A FragileWorld

This was the exhibition Bob and I attended on Wednesday. It was challenging and thought provoking. Here are the words of the artist, Debra Shipley, which accompanied her work...
Please look closely at and into these bowls. I hope you will find them both beautiful and thought-provoking. Each is unique, and every one is polluted with a fragment of plastic, a fleck of laminate, or a chemical from the printing process.
My bowls have no practical purpose but they will, I hope, take on a motivational one. Our ability to care for ourselves, 
both individually and globally, is fundamental to both our own survival and that of our planet. In many cultures, worldwide and over millions of years, 
the bowl has been linked to daily food consumption - the very basis of human survival. That survival - the ability for everyone in the world to daily consume a bowl of food - is now being challenged on an unprecedented scale with the onset of climate change.
…I have used the basic form of the food bowl, a shape universally recognised, to symbolise human need. I have created my bowls using materials which are themselves part of the problem - the rubbish which we are daily putting into our refuse bins. I have also included dead leaves, petals and other organic matter, reminders of our natural environment and how vulnerable it is. Like our environment, my bowls are very fragile - without care they will disintegrate.
At first, when preparing the junk mail to make the paper pulp used to create the bowls, I carefully removed the plastic windows from the envelopes. I tried to select discarded paper which didn't seem to have any extra coating. So, I was truly shocked to find tiny bits of plastic imbedded in my final work. Look carefully and you will see dots of colour and typeface - evidence of inks and coatings. You will also see tiny flashes of reflection as the little plastic pieces catch the light. Initially, I tried to remove the bits of unwanted plastic,… but I quickly realised the removal itself was damaging. This became the underpinning narrative of my work. A metaphor for the pollution in our shared rivers, seas, earth and sky along with the realisation of the difficulty of its removal.
My hope is that when you look into my bowls you will take time to think about all this and to take whatever action you are able. During the forthcoming year, people will die in floods, fires and famine - all caused by climate change. Wth action we could prevent this.

Debra embedded nature- leaves, petals, seeds etc. into the bowls - and yet could not remove the plastic and chemicals that we have embedded into nature. These bowls were so lovely, so delicate, and so challenging. 
We all have a part to play, and we must collaborate ...

Sunday 26 February 2023

Saturday 25 February 2023

Feeling Trim

Firstly, thank you for all the recent comments - I know so many of you are equally concerned about the situation in Ukraine, and the plight of refugees from many nations. May God help us all to truly love our neighbours and to live in peace.
And thank you for the messages for Rosie's birthday - a good time was had by all. The custom at her school is for children to go to the nearby playground and share cake with friends. An easy way to celebrate, everyone is included - and no hiring of party venues or entertainers etc means it is much more affordable!
Bob’s Hospice Activity has been cancelled for two weeks due to a Covid outbreak among staff [all volunteers barred from the premises] So we went into Norwich on Thursday together. I finally got round to having a haircut. I went to Supercuts, which is a walk-in salon. Within an hour of parking the car, I was walking out to lunch! I'm pleased with the results.
It had got very long and straggly. I've stuck with the one length Bob, I find it easier to manage. [my parting on the left as always, but the 'before' picture is in the mirror.]
After lunch Bob and I went to a free art exhibition in the Cathedral. It was very good. Once I have sorted my pictures I shall post about it. 

Friday 24 February 2023

Happy Birthday, Rosie!

Seven years old today - where has the time gone? Thank you for all the joy you bring us. Grandad and I had a great half term with you, making unicorn masks and magic wands, reading together playing with your little sister, and having lots of fun.
I am so glad you like the new ducks. My favourite is the Pirate, but you were very sure that you liked best 'the one with the book and glasses. I shall call him Sir Quackingham Duck, who lives in Quackingham Palace.'
I know you will get lots of lovely gifts today. Your other gran gave me a piece of embroidery made by her late Aunt, and asked if I could turn it into something for you. 
It is now a wall hanging for your newly decorated bedroom. There are over 60,000 stitches in it! It will be a while before Kirsten and I can manage anything that good.
Have a wonderful day - looking forward to seeing you again at Easter.
God bless you today and always 🥰💕💌

Thursday 23 February 2023

What They Took With Them

 Jenifer Toksvig [Sister of the more famous Sandi] wrote this poem inspired by first hand stories of refugees and what they were able to take when forced to flee their homes.
The UNHCR asked some great actors to read the poem and made it into a brief film.
This video moved me to tears. 
Watch it, and tell me that it is still OK for our government to send people to Rwanda...

Wednesday 22 February 2023

And The Award Goes To...

Long ago, I decided that what the critics thought of a film should not influence me too much. After all, "It's a Wonderful Life" received poor reviews in 1946 and was a box office flop. Then in 1974 when copyright lapsed and it was freely available, it became a Christmas Classic. It's one of my top films. Some films I have loved, even if they are deemed failures- and others I have hated win many awards. So I do not pay too much attention to the Baftas.
The ceremony itself is very glamorous. Having often portrayed our late Queen on stage and screen, it was fitting that Helen Mirren [with an unusually severe hairdo] should deliver a tribute to the Monarch who did much to support the British film industry. [and received an honorary BAFTA herself for being a Bond Girl at the 2012 Olympics] HM praises HM, as it were.
But as to some of the awards the other night, I have mixed feelings. I have only seen 1½ of two of the nominated films, so cannot really say anything about Elvis, or other nominated films.
I read All Quiet On The Western Front a long time ago, and have forgotten much of the detail. I think I might find it too violent and sad. [5 Baftas, plus 4 nominations]
Top Gun;Maverick I might enjoy - although sometimes these sequels set decades later seem a little contrived. [eg Indiana Jones] It got 2 nominations
Mrs Harris Goes To Paris was a book I read at Uni and enjoyed, and I think I should like the costumes.[nominated for costumes, but lost out to Elvis]
Elvis ought to be great, because of the music [4 Awards, plus 5 nominations]
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse won best British Short animation, And well done! say I. Brilliant [see here] That was the only film on the list I have watched right through. 
but then there is The Banshees of Inisherin.
That got 4 Baftas plus 5 other nominations. I did not enjoy this film one bit. I had been led to believe it was a development of the whole Father Ted Irish humour genre. It wasn't. 
Halfway through I was feeling physically sick, and gave up and went to bed [we were watching it on TV, fortunately it hadn't cost anything]  Bizarrely the opening music is not Irish at all, but a Bulgarian folk tune. I think an award should have gone to Jenny, the Wee Donkey. But that was not her fate at all. Having read the spoilers, I am glad I gave up halfway.
What do I know? It will probably make millions.
Has anyone seen 'Mrs Harris Goes To Paris?' is it as good as I hope?

Tuesday 21 February 2023

Lovelace Or Verdi?

Kirsten and I are well into our latest stitching venture - the Postcard Project is passé, now we are doing the Cross-Country-Collaboration. Cross-stitch motifs on rectangles of even-weave fabric will be flying back and forth between Norfolk and Sussex. We are using 11-count Aida. But how do you pronounce it?

Is it Ay-Dar [like computer genius Ms Lovelace] or Eye-Eee-Dar [Verdi's Egyptian Operatic heroine] ? I go with Verdi everytime!**
I struggled to find the cream 11-count we wanted [ having decided10 was too coarse, and 14 too fine] Then I came across the Duftin company online. I sent off for some fabric [it comes in specific precut sizes, one was just slightly bigger than we needed] and was incredibly impressed.
When I opened the envelope I found a square package of cotton with a card label. This opened up to reveal a tote bag.
The inside of the cardboard label explained all. There was 'happiness inside' 
A statement about their commitment to zero waste- so rather than a plastic carrier, i got a cotton tote bag which could be used for the project, and personalised with our own stitching. And the blank piece on the bag printed with a dot-to-dot fto amuse the children.

Inside that was the Aida, and that was kept flat with a piece of card printed with a basic stitching guide, and right in the middle a neat packet of three needles appropriate for the work.
This was good value, and excellent quality. I cut out the two rectangles, and zigzagged the edges on my machine to prevent fraying.
All in all a very satisfactory purchase. Duftin is a Hungarian company and they have produced a lot of kits, as well as selling the basic materials. The parcel came quickly, and I think I would be very happy to use them again for supplies. 
My other recent discovery has been the website pixel-stitch [here] which helps turn your photo into a cross stitch chart [and it's FREE!] I shall be blogging about my foray down that rabbit hole later.
**There's also a female singing group called fascinating Aida. Witty, but rather rude sometimes, so I am not posting a clip for fear of offending someone. 

Monday 20 February 2023

Bolla! Bolla! Bolla!

What? Well, if you were in Iceland today, you would not be surprised if a child ran up waving a stick and shouting "Bolla! bolla! bolla!" This is Bolludagur, or Bunday-Monday
This festival, in late February or early March, happens the day before Shrove Tuesday. Children make bun wands and spank their parents with them. Each spank is rewarded with a chocolate bun. Not sure about the spanking, but a bun is a nice idea. You can buy your bun wand - but most children make their own at home or at school.
You can use fancy materials, or be eco-friendly and recycle newspapers [I am trying to think of a reason to make these with the children in church. They'd be good for Palm Sunday - for waving not spanking!]
This festival is part of the whole "eat up the rich foods before Lent starts" tradition. But Icelanders do not have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. No, that is Sprengidagur - Explosion Day. So called because people eat a soup made from salted meat, lentils and beans, and eat it till they...explode.I can live without that one!
Wednesday is Öskudagur [Ash Day] and the schools are closed. Children wear fancy dress and go round collecting goodies[a bit like Hallowe'en Trick or Treat] The run-up to Lent sounds great fun in Iceland. Bolla! Bolla! Bolla!

Sunday 19 February 2023

Brave Blue Blooms

That mysterious pot of bulbs from behind the summer house has started to bloom. They are blue hyacinths. Their leaves are rich and green and strong. But they are very meagre blooms - not the dense elongated head we usually find, just a few of the waxy little flowers on each of the three stems. Yet they still have their distinctive sweet perfume, even though they are small 

I found a poem on line, I cannot track the author, I believe it is someone called Courtney. I hope she will not mind that I have shared her words here.

We all need to be reminded of 'the glorious fragrance of Hope' when winter seems particularly bitter.

Peeking up from the soil
while the world is
still cold and dark,
some might say
you are brave
and strong.
But I wonder
if it's only this:
you know who you are
and that you were made
for exactly this reason--
to soften the bitter edge of winter
with the glorious fragrance of Hope,
reminding every weary soul
that all is not lost.

Saturday 18 February 2023

Let Us Spray


Thursday found me on my knees in the hall, sticking letters cut from an old magazine onto the back of a discarded banner, using temporary spray mount. Then we carried it outside to the carriage house, out of wind and rain. 

We used up some odd spray cans to paint stripes on the banner, then we peeled off the letters. Extra details were printed on two sheets of A4 paper, laminated, and affixed with the hot glue gun. 

Bob has fixed hooks to the front of the chapel so we can advertise this year's event. Someone has planned entertainment in the form of a quiz... Should be good fun

Friday 17 February 2023

All My Ducks In A Row

For years I have had three little ducks sitting on the side of the bath here at Cornerstones. They were Anglian Water promotional freebies collected from various events. Fun toys for the grandchildren's bathtime [no, we, the adults have showers!] I regularly soak them in a mild bleach solution [squeezing them so they fill up with liquid] to keep them clean and fit for play. However, I could see that recently, black mould had started to accumulate inside the head and tail. The grubby duck had to go! We stopped on the way to Manchester for milk and bread- and I picked up a bag of three new ducks going cheep cheap in Aldi

When we got to Manchester, Steph was a little surprised to find them in with her groceries.  I explained why I'd bought them [At that price, I'd have been quackers not to] She gave me a brilliant top tip.
Before you use them, seal the little hole on the bottom with a blob of glue from a hot-glue-gun.
 Now water cannot get in, and mould cannot form. Great result! The new ducks will definitely have a longer shelf life beside the bath.
There's only one drawback - Rosie and I can no longer use the stuck-up ducks as impromptu water pistols!

Thursday 16 February 2023

Top Marks / No Marks!

Top marks for the Yotam Ottolenghi recipe I made for our meal on Monday evening when we got home from Manchester. Bulgur with aubergine, tomato and preserved lemon yogurt was very easy, relatively fast, and very tasty. I used Steph's book, but the recipe is online here.

I did not assemble mine quite as elegantly, and my yogurt was a little more runny. But the yogurt was home-made and the mint was home grown.It was excellent as a main dish, but half the quantities would be a good side dish with a lamb chop, or a chicken breast.

No marks on my jumper now
Thank you to everyone who suggested the stain might be grease. Why didn't I realise that? I treated it with Dr Beckman 'Grease Stain Devil' , then soaked it in Vanish, then washed it as per normal. This belt and braces approach has left me with a pristine sweater. Thanks again for your ideas on that one. Collaboration is so helpful, even with seemingly simple problems.

Wednesday 15 February 2023

Gardening Gloves On...

...and then off again, because I cannot handle fiddly little seeds whilst wearing them. On Thursday I set up four small trays of 'microgreens' which are sitting on the windowsill in the Futility Room. I hope they will germinate and give me some salad leaves. Following the advice of others, I used up all the leftover seeds from the various packets in my box which are on the point of expiry!**

This seems a good ZeroWaste approach - they haven't cost me anything this year, and I've not lost anything if they fail. 

I am using my gift tokens to buy fresh seeds for the raised bed. Also on Thursday, I spotted something forgotten, lurking behind the summerhouse. A pot with some bulbs emerging. I have no idea what they are. I suspect hyacinths, but I may be wrong.

They have come inside to stand on the windowsill in the lounge. The pot is inside my great grandma's sugar bowl. That is the only piece of her wedding present china which remains now. And it is not in the best of health. But it makes a good cache-pot.

**I'm labelling everything carefully this year

Thank you everyone for the lovely remarks about The Postcard Project. Kirsten and I are so pleased with the finished pieces, and already working on our next collaboration.

Tuesday 14 February 2023

Monday 13 February 2023

Happy Families

So grateful for the opportunity to have time with our growing family. Very aware that many do not have these blessings. Our weekend in Manchester was lovely.
I've brought back a cookbook [borrowed] two huge garli naans [bought] and a jar of preserved lemons [gift from Steph] 

I definitely need a haircut!

Sunday 12 February 2023

Love, Pray, Give...


If you are in the UK, one of the simplest ways to support the relief effort is via the Disasters Emergency Committee [here]  
This organisation brings together 15 well respected British charities, to provide a rapid, co-ordinated response. Furthermore, our government has pledged to match every donation. Thank you, God bless you.

Saturday 11 February 2023

Bearing Gifts

Off to Manchester for the weekend - Steph and Gaz have an important family party to attend [for G's aunt] so we are going to look after the boys.
I have a few bits and pieces in my bag for them
That bizarre penguin [we will immerse it and see if it grows at all over the weekend] An Orchard Toys matching game for George, and treats from the Kinnerton Factory Shop in Fakenham.
The KFS** sells random chocolate related items at silly prices. I got some NOMO bars [NO Missing Out] for my lactose-intolerant SIL, and two little bowls for George and Jacob [Paddington and Paw Patrol] 
I've also got a jumper I knitted for Jacob, some books for George and Steph and a few other bits and pieces. And a memory bear for Steph - but slightly different from the previous ones I have made.

This bear is to remind Steph of the time when her boys were babies. I have use dall their first size babygros. The face, paws and ears are done with the "Sloth" pattern babygro, which was first worn by George, and then by Jacob, on the days they came home from hospital, within hours of birth. Other fabrics have dino, camo and bats patterns! 
Inside the backpack is a tag with the names, birth dates and birthweights of my two darling grandsons.
I do not plan to make any more of these - stretchy babygros are a nightmare to work with! The garments' component pieces are very small, so I had to make a patchwork panel for the back. And every part of the bear had to be stabilised with interfacing because it stretched and distorted so much. But it will be a lovely memory for Steph to keep. 
 **NOMO bars are vegan, and so completely dairy free. Bob bought himself a huge bag of chocolate pieces [aka broken Easter Eggs] for £2- dark chocolate with caramelized salted peanut pieces and pretzel pieces. I decanted it into a 2litre ice-cream tub, and we are rationing ourselves to a few shards each evening! I am thinking that if we go to Fakenham again I should buy another bag, and melt it gently and reset into my proper silicone chocolate moulds.
It will be good to take these little presentsfor the family - but imho, the greatest gift is that of having time together.

Friday 10 February 2023

Postcard #2

This is the final Postcard Project posts This is the piece which Kirsten will be keeping. I think if you click on the image, you should be able to see more details

On the right, the name, blog address, and postmark - plus British stamp. Plus the two royal cyphers marking the death of the Queen and accession of the King. And my William Morris tile.
On the left, reading from top corner
The Cat behind the Tulips, K 's cute pet
A wonderful tree of life, in Spanish Work [aka blackwork - but K chose green!]
A Delft Tile, after another of K's NT visits
A Celtic circle of flowers by K
A traditional English folk song - by music teacher K
The Magi worship the hope of the World - my Christmas piece
Cake! K celebrated a birthday in November with a cross stitch pattern
A  Patchwork Teddy, acknowledging that I spend time making memory bears for friends
A miniature square of knitting - another of my favourite relaxation pastimes
Palm leaves, the Cross, the resurrection sunrise. A Easter Celebration
Down the centre The Postcard Project. conceived, delivered, dated and signed by us both

As you can see, we used lots of different techniques over the two panels
cross stitch, back stitch, blackwork, waste canvas work, Dorset Buttons, knitting, appliqué, beadwork, boro, and a huge variety of embroidery stitches... and we worked round the panels in quite random ways. Having agreed to 'take September off', the death of the Queen meant a special royal announcement needed to be recorded on both pieces.

People have been so kind in comments, and suggestions. We hope it may have inspired some of you to work on collaborative stitching, It has certainly developed our stitching skills, and deepened our friendship.

I never dreamed I would gain so much when I began this exciting journey of discovery

Thursday 9 February 2023

Postcard #1

Here are the final two Postcard Project posts - one today, one tomorrow. This is the piece which I will be keeping, framing and displaying [along with a photo of the other piece which is now with Kirsten]. I think if you click on the image, you should be able to see more details
On the right, the name, blog address, and postmark - plus Ukrainian stamp. Plus the two royal cyphers marking the death of the Queen and accession of the King. And my washing line.
On the left, reading from top corner
Veg in One Bed my celebration of becoming a gardener
8pm Clock - K's daily time of prayer for peace in Ukraine
The sunflower and flag - my pictures for Ukraine along with the World Day of Prayer Logo
Nazanin is home from Iran - my joy at her plane landing in the UK
A view across the countryside - K's beautiful sketch interpreted in stitch
A little bird - I spent November embroidering these for my craft sale
Grandson Jacob's birth announcement
The postcard project, conceived, delivered, dated and signed by us both
A Christmas tree with K's Epiphany blessing
A patched panel - my boro stitching
Autumn leaves - K's circle of foliage
The labyrinth of prayer - K's meditative garden
The tea tray - K's appliqué and stitched homage to our afternoon delights
A Bicycle - my piece incorporating Dorset button wheels.

I cannot believe how much we stitched in one year - the notebook accompanying the fabric lists all the stitch patterns, and changed plans, and design decisions etc. 
Tomorrow I will post a picture of K's postcard.[They are about 24" x 12" in size.]

Wednesday 8 February 2023

The Lady Macbeth Spot

Many years ago, I blogged about a wardrobe inconvenience which I refer to as The Midriff Moth - when you find tiny holes on your teeshirt somewhere near where your belt buckle is. Well, I have another thing to report on now, The Lady Macbeth Spot. You will recall that the demented lady kept washing her hands over and over to remove a spot of blood - but it continued to trouble her. "Out, Damn'd spot!" she cries.

I got a rather nice Joules jumper recently. 100% cotton, with the cute little hare badge down by the left hip. Only £2.50 in a CS. "There's a stain on the front, so it is reduced" said the assistant. "I'll wash it" I said.[hubris!]

And I did. It seemed clean and spotless. I folded it and put it away. Then I wore it "Mum, have you been resting your coffee cup on your chest?" asked Liz. The stain was back!
A round grey ring. I washed it again. The ring appeared to have disappeared when the jumper was pegged out to dry. But once completely dry, it was back. On Monday I wore the top with a pink scarf carefully tied to cover the mark! But I do not want to wear the scarf every time. 
I shall try again - this time draping just the front part of the top over a bowl and applying some serious stain remover to the ring. But I really cannot be doing with a recalcitrant ring.
We had a Lady Macbeth Spot on the lounge carpet in Ferndown. We got rid of it eventually - the arrival of carpet moths meant the whole carpet went, to be replaced by laminate. I do not wish to replace the whole jumper.I wonder what the stain is, and why it seems to disappear when wet, only to reappear on drying?